A state-level body of bishops and church heads in Andhra Pradesh has asked all Christians to vote for secular leaders in the May 7 polls in Seemandhra, to defeat communal forces.
For the first time, the Andhra Pradesh Federation of Churches has issued such a ‘Pastoral Letter’ urging all its members “to elect leaders who uphold secular and pluralistic character of our nation and promote communal harmony”.
While the letter makes it clear that the federation, including its member-churches, is not inclined towards any political party, the message is being seen as a tacit declaration of support for the YSR Congress Party of Jagan Mohan Reddy. Minorities, including a large number of Christians in Andhra, are wary of the TDP-BJP tie-up in the state.
The letter would be read on May 4, Sunday, in all the churches in Seemandhra. While the federation had also issued a letter before voting in Telangana on April 30, it only talked about making the “right choice”.
“We need to elect leaders who are close to people and respond to their needs; who strive for social justice and equality of the marginalised groups like the tribals and Dalits especially Dalit Christians and protect the rights of the minorities; who are determined to advance an inclusive economy that supports the poor especially to (sic) the unorganized labourers and marginal farmers by ensuring their basic human rights to food, water, shelter, health, education and employment; who strive to ensure the safety and security of women and children and their essential rights to life and livelihood; who lay focus on youth for ensuring their holistic development with character building, critical education and life skills; who make every effort to curb corruption and bring about good governance with peoples’ plans and decentralized, transparent, accountable and responsible administration; and who endeavour to protect the environment with sustainable development and (to) safeguard the rights of Tribal and Local communities over land, water and forests,” the letter says.
It adds that the federation considers it its duty to work with people to “effectively contribute to shaping the future of our State and Nation”, and urges voters not to be swayed by money and liquor or considerations of caste, creed and clan.
“We are deeply concerned about the pressing needs of our Christian Community in State,” the letter goes on. “Our State records one of the highest numbers of atrocities committed on Christians and pastors. During the recent months these attacks have increased in some districts. Organized mob attacks are taking place on Christians during their worship.”