Father Kuriakose Mattam in southern Kerala opted for the ruling pro-Hindu party, known for its anti-Christian stance
Father Kuriakose Mattam (second from right) after joining the pro-Hindu party. (Photo: Facebook)
A senior priest from a southern Indian diocese has been temporarily suspended from all pastoral ministries after he became a member of the ruling pro-Hindu party, which is accused of tacitly supporting anti-Christian activities.
The Eastern rite Syro-Malabar Church's Idukki diocese suspended 75-year-old Father Kuriakose Mattam on Oct. 2 after he joined the local unit of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The priest, who was serving as a parish priest, has been asked to move to the diocesan home for elderly priests, said Father Jins Karackatt, diocesan public relations officer.
Mattom has been suspended from parish ministry "as a temporary measure,” Karackatt told UCA News on Oct. 3.
The diocese acted after photographs of Mattam receiving party membership were shared on the party's social media feeds.
Media reported claims of local party leaders that Mattom does not think the "BJP is an anti-Christian party.” The priest joined BJP "impressed with its development work," they claimed.
Karackatt dismissed allegations that Mattom was suspended because he joined BJP, which is widely seen as an anti-Christian party.
Mattom has been suspended because priests joining a political party is "totally against the rules of the Church,” he explained.
The party has ruled India since 2014 under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and looks for a third term in general elections next year.
Christian groups say Modi tacitly allows pro-Hindu groups, which support his party, to vandalize churches and disrupt prayer meetings across the country.
The United Christian Forum, a New Delhi-based ecumenical body that records anti-Christian persecution in India, said 525 cases of violence were reported so far this year against 505 cases in 2022.
This year’s figures exclude incidents of violence including rape in the strife-torn northeastern Manipur state, where tribal Christians are being targeted by the majority Hindu community.
Nearly 200 people were killed, over 300 churches were destroyed and more than 50,000 people were uprooted since the violence started on May 3 in the hilly state, ruled by the BJP.
Eleven Indian states, most of them ruled by the BJP, have enacted a draconian anti-conversion law that criminalizes religious conversion.More than 520 Christians have been arrested for allegedly violating the stringent law.
In 2020, Modi amended the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) to reduce foreign funding to Christian groups, including mission stations.
Since 2014, the pro-Hindu government also revoked permission for more than 16,000 non-governmental organizations to receive foreign funding using the FCRA.
In southern Kerala, his party has been trying to improve its electoral prospects as it does not have a lawmaker in the state assembly.
Mattam did not respond despite repeated attempts by UCA News to get his version.
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