ASIA/INDIA - In the run-up to the elections: Bishops invite you to a prayer initiative

Friday, 22 March 2024 politics   prayer   christianity  

New Delhi (Agenzia Fides) - The members of the Franciscan religious family of India have gathered to pray and fast together with the Protestant faithful for 51 hours of continuous prayer. Large Catholic communities scattered across the vast territory of the Indian subcontinent are devoted to Eucharistic adoration; There are numerous prayer vigils organized by church groups and youth movements. In this way, the Indian Church has responded to the call of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, which had asked to organize a day of prayer and fasting at the local level today, March 22, in view of the long process of general elections begins on April 19th and ends after seven rounds of voting on June 1st (see Fides 18/3/2024). The Indian bishops identified a number of important prayer concerns affecting the country - poverty, economic development, unemployment, migration, social cohesion, religious polarization in intercommunal relations, to name just a few - and invited the faithful to a special prayer and fasting during Lent. Other Christian denominations spontaneously joined the initiative, giving it an ecumenical character.
In the letter released and signed by Anil Couto, Archbishop of Delhi and general secretary of the Episcopal Conference, calls on Catholics to "unite in prayer for at least 12 hours" to "bring our hearts closer to the will of God and make requests for the purification of the Church and the well-being of our nation." The various Indian communities that have responded to the Bishops' invitation have chosen a particular way to celebrate the day: some celebrate a Holy Mass, others pause for a time of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and still others turn to the Virgin Mary and ask her for the protection of the nation and pray the Rosary. The day will be celebrated “as a time of deep spiritual reflection, repentance and renewal for the entire Indian church,” the invitation letter says. “Let us offer our sacrifices and prayers with an open heart to God’s will and trust in his mercy and providence,” it continues. In the last assembly in February this year, the bishops expressed their concern about religious polarization, which is disrupting social harmony in the country, fueling divisions and hatred and undermining the pluralistic philosophy that has always characterized India (see Fides, 9/2/2024). Archbishop Thomas J. Netto of Trivandrum in Kerala state wanted Catholics to "raise awareness of religious intolerance in the country," which has increased since the "Bharatiya Janata Party" came to power under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is aiming for his third term in office in the elections in 2024. Faithful from various Christian denominations have gathered in the state of Assam in northeast India to pray for peace and harmony in the nation, in a climate of tension given that, in recent weeks, there have been episodes of intimidation and attacks against Christian institutions by some isolated groups. The faithful in Assam were alarmed when a Hindu extremist group gave Christian schools in Assam an ultimatum demanding the remove of all Christian symbols. The prayer meeting, held in Udalguri town, was attended by Christians of various denominations from different ethnic and linguistic communities in Assam. According to the organizers, the large spontaneous participation reflects people's concern for peace, justice and equal rights for all citizens and expresses the common desire for a more united and peaceful society. According to the latest census (2021), 79.8% of India's population (1.4 billion) are Hindus, 14.2% are Muslims and 2.3% are Christians. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 22/3/204)