Updated: January 20, 2020 02:22 PM GMT
Hindus hold placards as they take part in a rally against love jihad in Ahmedabad on July 22, 2018. SAM PANTHAKY / AFP
The Synod of the Eastern rite Syro-Malabar Church is in the eye of a storm after it sought a probe into alleged incidents of Christian girls being lured by love and marriage into Islamic terror activities.A pastoral letter exhorting Catholics to be aware of the reality of “love jihad,” without mentioning the term, was read out in all in the parishes of this Kerala-based Church on Jan. 19.The week-long Synod, which concluded on Jan. 15, also asked state authorities to probe such alleged incidents. Of the 64 bishops, 57 attended the top decision-making gathering of the Church at its headquarters in Kochi, Kerala.
The Synod in a statement on Jan. 15 alleged that nearly 12 Christian women have been converted to Islam through “love jihad” in the past three years and taken to Syria where some of them might even have been killed.
The Synod’s call did not go down well within a section of the Church and people outside.Father Kuriakose Mundadan, a senior priest of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese and a former secretary of the Presbyterian Council, has sharply criticized the Synod’s statement.
Father Mundadan in his column in Jan. 22 issue of Sathyadeepam (Light of Truth), a church-run weekly, pointed out that it is only common sense not to make statements that belittle a particular community when the entire nation is facing a crisis due to politics of religion.
Since December, the country has been facing massive protests against a newly amended law--the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)--saying it discriminates Indians on the basis of religion and adversely affects. The law refuses to grant citizenship to Muslim refugees in the country.
The Church’s stand on CAA, which reportedly discriminates against Muslims, has not been clear, the priest said.“Several girls and boys have converted to Christianity for love and marriage. Does the Church have any data on such conversions?” he asked in the weekly that he once edited.
Riju Kanjookaran, an office-bearer of the Archdiocesan Transparency Movement, a predominantly lay group of Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese, told UCA News on Jan. 20 “the Synod’s allegation is an attempt to divert attention from the internal problems in the Church.”
“The Church has witnessed an unprecedented number of financial scams, clandestine sale of Church property, sexual abuse cases against bishops and priests and priests and bishop getting arrested,” he added.
The Synod’s stand, he says, “will disturb the social harmony in Kerala and encourage communal hatred.”
The Democratic Youth Federation of India (DFYI), youth wing of Kerala’s ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist), also slammed the Church over the issue, urging it to produce evidence of love jihad in the state.
The youth wing alleged that the propaganda unleashed by the Church against love jihad would only help the Hindu fanatic groups to turn India into a Hindu theocratic state.
However, a hard-core Hindu outfit, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad has welcomed the Church’s statement and called for a united fight against love jihad in Kerala.
Denying the allegations as baseless, Father Antony Thalachelloor, secretary of the Syro-Malabar Synod Media Commission, told UCA News Jan. 20, “the Synod’s stand is based on information the Church collected through different sources within and outside.”
“We have records of more than 40 incidents related to different forms of love jihad activities only from the Malabar region in the state,” he said.
“Such details the Church has not released in the public domain for safety and security of the victims. Many did not complain to the police fearing for their life and their family members and also public defamation,” he said.
“Many cases were recorded during counseling and hence we have kept it confidential.” Therefore, he maintains, “it is not true to attack the Church for taking up a genuine issue for the benefit of all in the state.”
The priest also noted that attempts are being made to portray the bishops and the Syro-Malabar Church as creating communal discord, which is not good for society.
The Church, he asserts, “in no way targeted any particular religion, but tried to point out an issue of serious concern for all.”
The priest also urged the government to take pro-active steps to contain this menace instead of waiting for the victims or their families to come forward to lodge complaints.
Meanwhile, the National Minority Commission has also taken a suo- moto notice of the Synod’s finding and served notice to the director-general of the police seeking a report.