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Indian bishop urges Catholics to vote for secular govt

Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore said the upcoming general election is ‘very important and a historic one’
A file photo of Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore.

A file photo of Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore. (Photo: AFP)

Published: April 10, 2024 11:23 AM GMT
Updated: April 10, 2024 12:18 PM GMT

An archbishop in the southern Indian state of Karnataka has urged Catholics to vote for a secular government in the country’s upcoming general election.

“Choose a leader who is secular, non-communal, believes in the constitution, and is less corrupt,” Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore (now Bengaluru) said on April 7.

He explained that by secular he meant one who respects all people without any discrimination, and non-communal meant one who accepts all religions.

Machado, while delivering the homily at Logos Retreat Center in Bengaluru, said that all Catholics must cast their vote as the coming election was very important and a historic one.

“It is a sin if we don’t vote,” he said adding that it was futile to later sit and complain about growing persecution against Christians and their institutions in the country.

Machado, who is also president of Karnataka Regional Catholic Bishop's Council, said those eligible to vote “should take time out by canceling all other engagements on the day of voting.”

The national election will be held in seven phases in April, May and June. Karnataka state will vote on April 26 and May 7.

Father Faustine Lucas Lobo, spokesperson of the regional bishops’ council said the archbishop’s guidance will help people to choose the right candidates to represent them in the national parliament.

“Archbishop Machado is right… as the situation in the country is quite difficult for religious minorities who are facing increasing persecution since the past decade or so,” he told UCA News on April 10.

The Indian constitution gives all citizens equal rights and the freedom to choose and practice any religion of their choice, the priest added.

Lobo said the archbishop has been a vocal defender of human rights and had called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to act against those who “fail to rise above petty politics and indulge in hate speeches.” 

Catholic bishops in India had urged their people to pray and fast on March 22.

The intention was “to intercede for our nation, especially in the forthcoming general election this year,” said Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi, secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.

Christians make up 1.87 percent of Karnataka’s 68.4 million people.

The state recorded 21 incidents targeting Christians and their institutions in the year 2023, according to the New Delhi-based United Christian Forum (UCF), an ecumenical body that records Christian persecution across the country.

India witnessed 720 attacks in 2023, the UCF report said.

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