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Indian diocese screens controversial film for catechism students

'The Kerala Story' is known as an Islamophobic misadventure promoted by the ruling pro-Hindu BJP since 2023
Moviegoers pose for a picture next to the poster of the film - The Kerala Story - at a theater in Mumbai on May 10, 2023.

Moviegoers pose for a picture next to the poster of the film - The Kerala Story - at a theater in Mumbai on May 10, 2023.  (Photo: AFP)

 

Published: April 09, 2024 12:01 PM GMT
Updated: April 09, 2024 12:25 PM GMT

An Indian diocese in southern Kerala state, under the Eastern rite Syro-Malabar Church, has courted controversy after it screened a sensational movie for its catechism students.

The Kerala Story, a Hindi language movie directed by Sudipto Sen in 2023, is regarded as Islamophobic as it is based on “Love Jihad,” a derogatory term used to describe Muslim boys feigning love to marry Christian and Hindu girls and convert them to Islam.

The Kerala government and socio-political leaders say the movie is not based on facts and aims to disparage the state.

But Hindu groups and the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi support the movie, saying it exposes the Islamic agenda for India.    

Marketed as a true story, the movie depicts the ordeal of three young women from Kerala, where the Eastern rite Syro Malabar Church is headquartered, after they fall in love with Muslim youths to end up in the custody of the Islamic State (IS).

The movie falsely claimed that thousands of Hindu women from Kerala have been converted to fight for the Islamic State.

Ahead of the polls, the Church hierarchy is accused of supporting Modi’s party, which is yet to have a lawmaker from southern Kerala. The BJP is banking on the Christians to open its account in India’s most advanced provincial state. 

While the BJP has been friendly with Christians in Kerala, Christians have faced violence at the hands of Hindu groups in the northern part of India. 

After Modi came to power in 2014, persecution against Christians increased in the country, Christian leaders say.  

All the parishes in the Idukki diocese screened the controversial movie on April 4 “to create awareness on unmindful love” among its catechism students,  said Father Jins Karackatt, director of the diocesan media commission.

One of the topics for the annual summer vacation camp was love, admitted Father Karackatt.

"We screened The Kerala Story to highlight the dangers involved in different forms of love,” the priest told UCA News on April 9.

The priest clarified that they never spoke ill of any religion in our training session.

“We, in our wildest imagination, did not think of creating a communal divide,” the priest said.

The screening became prominent after state-owned Doordarshan aired the move on April 5, inviting criticism from the ruling communist government in Kerala.

Father Antony Vadakkekara, spokesperson of the Syro-Malabar Church, refuted the charge that the Church had ulterior motives behind the screening.

“The diocese specifically made it clear to students that true followers of Islam do not subscribe to the hardline jihadist agenda," Vadakkekara added.

There was no effort to gain political mileage, the priest said.

Christians make up 18 percent of Kerala’s 33 million people, Muslims 26 percent and Hindus 54 percent.

Christians form 2.3 percent and Muslims 14 percent of India’s 1. 4 billion people. About 80 percent are Hindus in the world's most populous nation.

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1 Comments on this Story
CHHOTEBHAI
The Syro Malabar prelates in Kerala are playing with fire by propagating this communal and divisive agenda. Shame on them.
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