Should Religious Leaders Loud their Voice on Political Issues? By Fr. Anand Muttungal


Though there has not been a serious debate over whether a religious leader should enter into active politics at all, some sections of political leaders, followers of different religions and opinion makers around the globe send out their dissent notes whenever a religious leader speaks out his mind on a politically important issue.
When it comes to India specific, the dissent is almost restricted to the voices of religious leaders from minority community who voice their concern of the people at times when they find the political establishment is going away from the very tenets of our constitution, despite the fact, these minority communities have been making their fair share of contribution for the welfare of the country.
We have clear historical examples of religious leaders who listened to the voice of their conscience and expressed concern about the life of people as gift of God. Among them We have Pope John Paul II during Polish martial law voiced against communists, Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu during apartheid in South Africa, and the current Hawza led by Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani for Iraqi Shiites, Dalai Lama for the Tibetans, Cardinal Jaime Sin who crafted the anti-Marcos Coalition after the natural Philippine political leader turned to be an oppressor. During the freedom struggle Hindu socio-religious leaders used Hindu Festivals to mobilize people against the British. Does it not at least once make us think that they have contributed a lot to the order of the society?
In the Hindutva dominated Indian politics the Sanyasis play a major role and even a Sanyasin became Chief Minister of a major state in the country and even get elected to the Parliament.. In the case of Christian Muslim clerics, they also indirectly help its followers to take a stand in various issues and even choose right candidates in the elections. In most cases the Christian religious leaders do not take a stand on particular candidates or a political party but issues directions to its followers to choose candidates with clear mind. In short, religious leaders play an active role in shaping the political mind of the people because they probably believe that it is fatal to lives of people.
As it happens in the US president elections, in the recent years we find a strong resistance from the political parties on the directions issued by Church leaders before elections. It definitely puts a question into the minds of believers whether the Bishops, priests, nuns and religious brothers should play any role in political spear?
The preamble of the our constitution states that “we, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic and secure all citizens Justice, Liberty, equality and fraternity.” So every citizen regardless of status of life they lead is bound to adhere to the constitution.
The religious leaders have a responsibility to guide the world into right direction. How can the Church leaders run away form the onslaught of political leaders? The Doctrinal Note summarizes Church teaching on issues of freedom of conscience, pluralism and political activity. It stresses that "that a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals." Church leaders are trying to conscientize the followers that the values propagated in the Constitution of India and the teachings of Lord Jesus are central to their faith. Even though Christians are considered one of the most literate communities, their contribution to the socio-political leadership is very limited.
So in light of these aspects, can we just ask our religious leaders not to loud their voice against the manipulation of our constitutional and teachings of our forefather on freedom, equality, liberty and fraternity? Can they keep themselves away fearing timid political leaders? Can their silence be called, holy obedience or letting destruction to hover the whole world? How long can they put deaf year to the cry of their conscience? Probably, the answer is long awaited from within…

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