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Indian nun seeks police action over morphed picture

Kerala bishops call for social media laws to tackle posts that defame the Christian faith

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Indian nun seeks police action over morphed picture

A photo of Sister Lucina Porunnedam was altered by adding anti-Church slogans in place of slogans against alcohol. (Photo supplied)

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Catholic bishops in the southern Indian state of Kerala have urged the state government to enact stringent laws to curb misuse of social media after a nun’s picture was morphed and shared on social media with offensive slogans.

Sister Lucina Porunnedam said a social media user altered one of her photographs holding a placard with a slogan against alcohol consumption. The morphed picture had anti-Church slogans.

“It is a deliberate attempt to defame Catholic nuns and portray the Catholic Church in a poor light,” she told UCA News.

She lodged a police complaint on May 18 seeking action against the social media user.

Sister Porunnedam, who coordinates an anti-liquor campaign in Tellicherry Archdiocese in Kerala, is a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart.

The accused used offensive slogans against Catholic nuns and priests, she said. “The morphed photo also took pot shots at Christ and belittled Catholic priests,” the 45-year-old nun said.

The accused will face charges of outraging the modesty of a woman and obscene acts, among others.

“Generally, we don’t respond to such acts, but now there is a tendency among many social media users to target the Church through demeaning posts,” Sister Porunnedam said.

“Unless we take legal remedies against such troublemakers, they will continue to tarnish the image of the Church, its priests and nuns,” she said.

The Kerala Catholic Bishops' Conference (KCBC) has deplored the misuse of social media to target Christians.

“Some people are spreading falsehoods through social media to defame the Christian faith, priest and nuns,” the bishops said in an official statement.

“Many posts attack the Church without following even the basic ethics and decency. Such acts are highly condemnable.” 

The morphed picture of Sister Porunnedam tried to “spread totally baseless and false allegations against Christian life,” the statement said.

The vilification of the Church through social media is increasing, said Father Varghese Vallikkatt, deputy secretary of the KCBC.

“The government should enact stringent laws to effectively deal with social media slander campaigns targeting individuals and communities,” he said.

No national or state laws exist to deal with the misuse of social media platforms, the priest told UCA News.

“The government must enact a special law to deal with this menace,” he said. “Most often radical groups under the cover of good Samaritans are also using such public platforms to defame others whereby even a genuine person’s reputation is destroyed in public.”

The priest said that in recent months the Church has filed more than 1,000 complaints with police seeking action against social media users for maligning the Church and its personnel.

The police have not completed investigations even in a single case for want of a clear law to deal with such crimes, the priest said.

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