By Special Correspondent
New Delhi: A group of Catholic women expressed deep concern over the Syro Malabar Church Pala diocese bishop Mar Joseph Kallarangatt.
Kallarangatt’s controversial statement threatens communal harmony in India. They said that a Kerala bishop used unfortunately “Narcotic Jihad,” a term coined without foreseeing its dreadful consequences for various communities in the country. Bishop Joseph has described Christian girls marrying with Muslim boys as ‘love and narcotic Jihad’. They strongly object also to the term “Love Jihad” referring to the inter-religious marriages of Catholic women with Muslim partners. This term undermines a woman’s autonomy to choose her partner in life.
In a statement endorsed by 89 Catholic women from across India urges the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India and its Kerala unit to take special steps to foster peace and avoid strife.
“A Statement by Concerned Catholic Women of India
We are living in trying times in India when divisive communal forces have become a serious threat to the secular and pluralistic social fabric of our great nation. The insecurities and vulnerabilities resulting from the deepening majority-minority divide between religious communities are increasingly unveiled and this leads to a growing fear of the ‘other’, whichever community the other may belong to.
It is against this highly volatile backdrop that we want to locate the current polemics triggered by the ‘Narcotic Jihad’ controversy in Kerala, which has fueled hate and mistrust between two religious communities that have a track record of peaceful coexistence in the state through the ages.
It is very unfortunate that the term “Narcotic Jihad” was coined and used by someone holding a responsible position in the Catholic Church leadership in Kerala without foreseeing the dreadful consequences of using such an expression.
While it is argued that Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt, the prelate of the diocese of Palai has used this expression as a precautionary measure to safeguard catholic youth from getting trapped by terrorist forces, the terminology deployed is extremely dangerous as it cuts deep into the core religious sensibilities of a community. The use of narcotics is a very serious crime in any part of the world and it is possible that there could be deeper links between the narcotic business and terrorism. If at all this is true, it is up to the government machinery to address it, not the bishops. To brand one particular community with the narcotic label and that too without substantiating evidence is an equally serious offence as it destroys the health and wellbeing of a society. Besides polarizing religious communities that have been coexisting thus far without major conflicts in this state, allegations of this nature have led to divisions even within the Christian community and its families.
Amidst this chaos, it is sad to see the Church becoming a puppet in the political games that are being played by those who want to draw mileage out of this tumultuous situation. As Pope Francis rightly states in Fratelli Tutti, “today, in many countries, hyperbole, extremism and polarization have become political tools.”(No.15).
We strongly object also to the term “Love Jihad” referring to the inter-religious marriages of Catholic women with Muslim partners. This term undermines a woman’s autonomy to choose her partner in life, as well as the freedom of the woman to change her faith if she so wishes. These freedoms are guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as by the Constitution of India. We demand that women be respected and treated as adults who can freely exercise their rights. Negating their freedom to choose their life partner or their faith violates their human dignity and deprives them of their personal agency. Using expressions like “Love Jihad” only serve to sow seeds of hate and divisiveness between communities and in the bargain and poison young minds.
These developments run counter to the CBCI Guidelines for Inter-religious Dialogue framed in 1977 and updated in 1989, which states: “We are committed to build up one nation out of many traditions.” In the ‘Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together’ jointly signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-AzharAhmad Al-Tayyeb at Abu Dhabi in 2019, it is clearly stated that “Freedom is a right of every person: each individual enjoys the freedom of belief, thought, expression and action. The pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in His [sic] wisdom, through which He [sic]created human beings.”
In spite of this call for unity and tolerance, we have failed to counteract the forces of communalism within the Church. Only dialogue with others can build a culture of LOVE, which is the only commandment that Christ has given us. It becomes imperative then that we as Church sow not the seeds of discord but of unity and peace in our country today.
We, the undersigned Catholic women, are deeply concerned about the Church becoming a counter-witness and so, we urge the ecclesiastical leadership in Kerala and at the national level to take immediate steps that will heal the wounds caused by this controversy. We hope that this crisis becomes for the Church a moment of grace to commit itself once again with renewed passion to the mission of the ‘Kin-dom of God’ founded on justice, truth and inclusive love as shown by Jesus Christ.
- Ms Virginia Saldanha, Mumbai,2. Dr. Kochurani Abraham, Kerala,3. Dr. Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, Mumbai,4. Adv. Flavia Agnes Mumbai,5. Adv. Philo Thomas, Pune,6. Adv. Sr. Julie George SSpS, Mumbai,7. Dr. Annie Kunnath, Delhi,8. Dr. Maria GorettiGonsalves, Pune,9. Dr.Brinelle D’souza, Mumbai,10. Dr.Lidwin Dias, Mumbai,11. Dr. Maureen Lobo, Navi Mumbai,12. Dr. Sr. AnithaChettiar DHM, New Delhi,13. Dr. Sr. Hazel D’Lima DHM, Mumbai,14. Dr. Sr. Jacinta D’Souza DHM Mangalore,15. Ms Aloma Lobo Bangalore,16. Ms Anita Cheria, Bangalore,17. Ms Anita Manuel, Pune,18. Ms Anita Rodricks, Belgavi, Karnataka,19. Ms Annette D’Almeida CAP, Pune,20. Ms Annie Rose Trichy, Tamilnadu,21. Ms Assisa, Trichy, Tamil Nadu,22. Ms Assumpta Selvaraj, Karaikudi, 23. Ms Beschi Trichy, 24 Buddy Ubale,25. Ms Cecilia Soares, 26 Ms Christina Samy, 27. Ms Coral D’Sylva, 28. Ms Evelyn Williams, 29. Ms Glory, Trichy, 30. Ms Jacintha W Rosario, 31. Ms Jennifer Rebello, 32. Ms Josephine Sagayam, 33. Ms Judy Siqueira, 34. Ms Lee Lobo, 35. Ms LeelaD’Sa, 36. Ms Lilly Thomas Palocaren, 37. Ms Manohari Doss , Madurai,38. Ms Marcia DCunha, 39. Ms Maria Fernandes, Cuddalore, 40. Ms Marina Colasco, 41. Ms Marina D’Souza GSPG, 42. Ms Olga Netto, Goa and others.