Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, writes to Shri Sunil Arora, the Chief Election Commissioner of India

Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, writes to Shri Sunil Arora, the Chief Election Commissioner of India

 

Port. 155/Sec.Gen. 2019 /2-b-13/GOVT                                                                        15 March 2019

Shri Sunil Arora

Chief Election Commissioner

Election Commission of India- ECI HQ

Nirvachan Sadan, Ashoka Rd,

Pandit Pant Marg Area,

Sansad Marg Area,

New Delhi –110001

Honourable Shri Arora ji,

We send you greetings from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI).

The CBCI is the apex body of the Catholic Church in India which has over 20 million members. I am writing to you in connection with the Election Schedule announced for the General Elections for the 17th Lok Sabha

At the outset, I wish to point out that we are not writing to you on the grounds of religious sentiments but rather in view of the difficulties of logistics as well as hardships that may be faced in view of the election date fixed for 18 April in the states of Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur, Odisha, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

Perhaps many may not be aware that Christians celebrate Easter with three intensive days of prayers: Thursday before Easter called Maundy Thursday which commemorates the Last Supper Jesus had with his disciples after which he was arrested, Good Friday which observes the day of the Crucifixion and death of Our Lord Jesus Christ and Easter Sunday which celebrates his Resurrection. While Good Friday is a public holiday and Easter is on Sunday and the Election Commission has rightly and respectfully kept no voting on that day, the day preceding it is also a day on which almost all Christians come to Church to pray.

I am writing to you to express two difficulties.

1. We know that 18th April, Maundy Thursday is not a public holiday but most Christians either take leave from work or come back early to participate in the Sacred Worship. Since we Christians would like to give our full services to the Election Commission and the Country in this important event, with the important election date clashing with the Religious services of Maundy Thursday, Christians may find it difficult to fulfill both the calls for worship and for electoral duties specially those called to be poll officers or are placed on other active polling duties. They will still perform their sacred duty towards the Country but the Election commission could make it easier for them to participate in the process by shifting the voting to another nearer date.
2. Historically, we have seen, that a large number of booths are placed in the vicinity of our places of worship and in schools run by the Church which are very close very often less than 100 meters from our places of worship.  Given the exigencies of the mode of conduct of Elections as well, as special security needs for polling, your office also may find it difficult to conduct the elections as I am sure you would not like to deprive millions of Christians the opportunity to worship in their stipulated and consecrated places worship during days which they consider most holy.

I am writing to you dear Sir because all our Christian Religious leaders of Churches and a large number of practicing Christians have asked me to request you to either anticipate or postpone the elections scheduled for Thursday April 18th, 2019.

I am aware that a change in the announced date may cause inconvenience to you, your office and to your collaborators. But our apprehensions are that, not changing the date may create avoidable but much bigger difficulties for all in the conduct of the Polls.

We assure you our full cooperation of participating and encouraging polling in great numbers and pledge to give every assistance in the conduct of a free and peaceful polls.

We pray to God that He may be bless you and all those who work with you in conducting the elections so vital for our democracy

With our blessings and prayers,

 

Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas

Secretary General

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India                                              



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