Christians in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh state, or anywhere in neighboring central India, have not heard of the Kerala-based Syro Malabar Catholic Church and its several bishops. They don’t seem to be in a hurry to get to know each other.
In all fairness, it can be said that most of the wonderful, powerful, wealthy and ancient Catholic Eastern Rite may never have heard of these first generation Christians and the persecution they endure almost daily at the hands of non-state actors from pro-Hindu groups, state police and sometimes Maoists. blame their brethren in Christ, judging their evangelism too provocative or their theological knowledge too superficial. They have done this several times in the past. âTheir brother’s loveâ is often not even a metaphor. Relations between the three rites of the Catholic Church – Latin, Syro-Malankara and Syro-Malabar – have never really been the warmest. They had sunk before the Pope granted the two eastern groups independent status and pan-Indian jurisdiction, overlapping that of the Latin dioceses. They are still not completely in a state of equilibrium as several issues remain unresolved. All three coexist under the aegis of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, but have distinct working apparatuses in critical areas such as laity and gender. In the area of ââpolitical openness, the relationship becomes more complex, with the Syrian Church firmly focusing on the territory of Kerala, while the Latin Church must necessarily adopt a more nuanced, diplomatic and subtle attitude. Inevitably, other large denominations that have large congregations of socially poor Dalits find themselves more in tune with the Latin Church than the Eastern denominations. It doesn’t help that the Syro Malabar is the largest component of the Christian community in India, and also the richest and most politically influential. Many would see it as a Church with attitude and arrogance. Inevitably, there would be those who would smirk if they were otherwise secretly happy if misfortune should befall them. Which he does, with failing regularity. The Cardinal President faces court over allegations of alienation of Church land. At one point, Rome appointed a senior bishop to look after his diocese, which comes as close as possible to an informal forced vacation. Much of the clergy had rebelled, many marching in the streets in front of the cardinal’s house. Various members of the clergy have been charged with sexual offenses and some with rape. Just to dispel the fog, the bishop on trial after being accused by a nun of raping her was born in this church but was ordained a Latin rite priest. We can say that the Protestant nuns almost all belong to the Rite. The other two rites were grateful that their men were not involved in this, although cases of police rape were also repeatedly reported according to the Latin rite. The Kerala press, and sometimes the English and Hindi national media, have lapped up all the scandals. As they have the last downpour following the address of the Bishop of Palai Joseph Kallarangatt to his community. He said the jihadists were trying to sow the seeds of communalism and intolerance in Kerala and forcibly convert people of other faiths. The bishop is said to have suggested that Muslims are now trapping young Christians and turning them into drug addicts.
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This fuels the Islamophobic rhetoric of Love Jihad which has been militarized by ultra-radical Hindu groups and its political wing, the Bharatiya Janata Party, which controls the national government and rules many states. Almost every one of these states has now enacted anti-conversion laws, which in the past were directed against Christian evangelism, but now specifically punish Muslim men who marry Hindu women. Coincidentally, the term Love Jihad was coined in Kerala at the turn of this century. There was only a gentle response from the other two Catholic groups to the bishop’s pastoral address. Other denominations in Kerala were louder. Church Metropolitan Mar Thoma expressed disapproval of the Bishop of Palai’s statement, scoffing at attempts to deepen community divisions in Kerala. Metropolitan Yulios Geevarghese of the Malankara Orthodox Church has demanded a public apology from Bishop Kallarangatt. medications. Drugs are indeed a threat in Kerala, as they are in the rest of the country. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s condemnation of the bishop’s statement was as expected. His Marxist party has a grouse with the church that dates back almost seven decades. The historic “liberation struggle” of Kerala Catholics toppled the elected Communist government in 1959. The bishop’s statement also had political overtones. The protest march by Muslim groups to the bishop’s seat was unusual. Relations between Muslims and Christians have deteriorated sharply in recent years, not that the two were close friends in the past. Experts said relations were peaceful but cold between the two since Muslims became the main recipients of workers’ remittances from oil-rich Gulf sheikhs. The economy of the state, and to that extent the economy of the communities, depends too much on these remittances. With wealth comes political clout, and as Muslims’ clout in state government increases, the reach of the Church weakens to that extent. It’s a highly competitive political landscape for both, and no one wants to come second. There have been many skirmishes. The Christians won the last round when they managed to force the state government to renege on its promise to Muslim youth of a significant share of the treasury scholarship. The scholarships may again be based on their population in the state. bishop being politically incorrect. They are worried about its impact on the country. Civil society fears that such statements add to the demonization of Muslims in general and put their youth at risk. As it stands, government agencies are targeting Muslim youth and students, arresting many of them using strict laws of sedition and war. Popular movements that oppose the racist and religious policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government see the developments in Kerala as playing out in the hands of Hindutva policies and polarizing society. The collateral damage is in the secular image of Kerala. But it also undermines the image of the Catholic Church in civil society as a bulwark in the struggle for truth, justice and the rule of law. they fear that such developments will weaken the church in India at a time of its greatest crisis. Persecution, ever more severe with new laws against evangelism, has become the order of the day. The systematic impoverishment of the church by punitively restricting Western funds has deeply affected Christian institutions working for the empowerment of the poorest sections of the population of the country. The church alone is unable to reverse the actions of the government. At best, court decisions can go both ways. The political appeasement of the ruling group, even in the short term, is doomed to failure. The community needs all the friends it can reach in civil society, in other religious minorities and in the vast but silent majority of Hindus.
And this can happen if the community is not seen to be suffering from the thirst for power of the Hindu forces and the governments they control.