Kochi: A controversy has erupted within the Syro Malabar Church over its official statement that love jihad is a reality in Kerala and that it is being used as a tactic to convert non-Muslims and recruit for radical organisations.
Not just activists but priests of the church and leaders of laity groups have criticised the right-wing stand taken by the church.
Startled by the synod’s open declaration on a hotly debated topic, the National Commission for Minorities has sent a notice to the state’s director-general of police Lokanath Behera, asking him to submit a report on allegations that the police have failed to curb conversions by inducement. The DGP has been asked to submit a report in 21 days.
Love jihad is the right-wing term for tactics allegedly employed by Muslim men to entice, through love and romance, young non-Muslim women into their faith.
The official statement issued by the synod of the Syro Malabar Church had said that ‘love jihad’ was indeed happening, and went on to suggest that this has become a channel of recruitment to the Islamic State and other radical Islamic organizations.
The synod is the apex body of Catholic bishops chaired by Cardinal Mar George Alencherry.
Fr. Kuriakose Mundadan, a dissident senior priest of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese and a former secretary of the Presbyterian Council, has written an article in the latest edition of Sathyadeepam (Light of Truth), a publication managed by the archdiocese, sharply criticising the synod’s statement.
In the article Fr. Mundadan pointed out that even the courts have dismissed the notion that there is a phenomenon of ‘love jihad’. “Several girls and boys have converted to Christianity for love and marriage. Does the church have any data on such conversions?” he asked.
Fr. Mundadan has previously hit out at Cardinal Alencherry over a controversial land deal that allegedly caused a huge financial loss to the Church.
Laity groups too come out strongly against the synod’s statement.
Prof. Joseph Varghese, joint secretary of the Kerala Catholic Church Reformation Movement, said the statement is “an attempt to divert attention from serious issues in which (the Church) is entangled. From sex scandals to corrupt land deals, the Church has much to hide, and it is using ‘love jihad for that purpose.”
Jose Pallipadan, vice-president of the Cherupushpam Mission League’s Edappally unit said the statement on ‘love jihad’ is a ploy by the Church leadership to cosy up to the NDA government at the Centre.
Church leaders questioned Fr. Mundadan’s claim to speak for sections of the church. The Syro Malabar Church Media Commission’s secretary Fr. Antony Thalachelloor said the priest’s article in Sathyadeepam does not reflect the church’s stand.
“The publication is not an organ of the Syro Malabar Church. It is run by the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese. The views expressed by the priest are personal; the synod’s statement is the official stand of the Church,” he added.
The sudden and unexpected stance taken by the Catholic Church in Kerala has set social media abuzz. According to activists, it will only help the BJP and Hindutva organisations.
Senior CPM leader and Kerala finance minister T M Thomas Isaac brushed aside as baseless the allegations made in the Catholic Church statement. He said the police should be left free to conduct an inquiry if any new cases (of ‘love jihad’) are reported.
But no Congress leader has made any comment on the controversial statement released by the church.
The Syro Malabar Church’s statement contended that the practice of induced conversions through ‘love jihad’ was a growing concern in Kerala and that it is a threat to the social fabric of the state.
The synod expressed apprehensions over the killings of Christian girls in the name of Love Jihad.
The Church drew upon a 2016 report tabled by the then chief minister in the Kerala Assembly, in which it was reported that 21 missing youths from Kerala, including women and children, were reported to be in Islamic State (IS) camps.
“More than half of the 21 youths who joined IS from Kerala were Christians who were forcibly converted to Islam. There are many others who are not accounted for in the official records who are victims of Love Jihad and are being used for terrorist activities,” said Fr. Antony Thalachelloor, in an official communiqué released by the Church Media Commission.
Fr. Thalachelloor alleged that though complaints against forcible conversion of girls by seducing or blackmailing them with intimate photographs are on the rise, police have failed to take prompt action to curb such incidents,.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad and BJP leader Kummanam Rajasekharan welcomed the Church statement and sought a probe into the allegations levelled....