Monday, March 16, 2009

Christian clergy playing politics again in Kerala

Various denominations of the Christian church organised a prayer meeting and a protest meeting in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday March 15th against the alleged persecution of the church by the Left Democratic Front government in Kerala.

They maintained that the government was making concealed attempts to destroy the unity of the church and distance believers from the clergy.

Thiruvananthapuram Archbishop Susaipakiam, who addressed the protest meeting, said the church was being persecuted indirectly. Cases had been filed against church-owned colleges, he said. The Archbishop said that believers should vote for those who respected the Constitutional provisions and pray for an end of the persecution.

Speakers at the meeting referred to various measures of the Education Department, including the controversial textbook prescribed for seventh standard.
The programme was jointly organised by the Catholic Church, the Church of South India, the Orthodox Church, and the Jerusalem Mar Thoma Church.
There was allegation that the Government had pushed the state’s education sector into a crisis. It took exception to the reported proposals to hand over the control of schools to local bodies, stop prayers, remove religious figures from schools, and make teachers attend training classes on Sundays.

Things had been hurtling towards a flash point since Andrews Thazhathu, Archbishop of Thrissur, threatened to launch a “second liberation struggle” to free the church schools from the hands of the “authoritarian political leadership”.

Church versus the Left

The battle between the Left Front and the Church dates back to the first Left Government in the State in 1957. Kerala had a large number of schools and Colleges run by the Church. As they were the only educational institution available in many remote areas the Government before and after independence used to give working aid to the schools and Colleges.Many other caste and religious organisations like the Nair Service Society also were running such Aided Institutions.

Even though a big part of funding including the salary of the teachers were from the tax payers money, Government never had any control over the administration.Huge amount was taken as bribe by the management for appointing not so qualified teachers.
The Left Government with the learned academician Joseph Mundasserry as the Education Minister tried to get some Government control over the appointment of teachers in Aided Schools.
The infamous vimochana samaram ["liberation struggle"] organised by the Church and Nair Service Society and supported by the Congress and Muslim League in 1959 was against this step by the EMS Ministry. Citing poor Law and Order situation Nehru dismissed the Left Government.This was the first time the article 356 of the Constitution was used to dismiss an elected State Government.

Since then no Left Front Government was brave enough to touch the issue.Since all communal organisations belonging to all religions were together in siphoning off tax payers money no real protest was raised.
The current Left Front Government with a record majority in the Assembly is again trying to put these institutions under some Government control. The Government was also trying to get some public control in to the money-making self financing College Industry.This is being opposed strongly by the Church and other communal organisations.
This allegation of 'persecution' by the current Church leaders is because of their fear of huge economic lose if the Government had some say in the administration of such Institutions.

Church and Lok Sabha elections

There were also brazen attempts by the Church to influence the selection of Congress Candidates from some constituencies in Kerala.A letter reportedly sent by the Varappuzha Archbishop to Congress president Sonia Gandhi recommending Hibi Eden for the Ernakulam Lok Sabha seat has stirred up a wave of protest in the political class as well as church circles.

Sebastian Paul, current MP has termed the Archbishop’s recommendation as “inappropriate and unbecoming of his office.”
“It’s an affront on Kerala’s tradition of democracy and secularism,” Mr. Paul said. “The Archbishop has clearly strayed from his spiritual role by asking a political party boss to field a specific person as the candidate.”
Some days ago the Thrissur Archbishop had come out openly supporting Tom Vadakan's candidature from Thrissur.
A sane voice
Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, has said that it was not right for the Thrissur archbishop to call for the candidature of Tom Vadakkan in Thrissur in the coming Lok Sabha elections.

Asked for his response to the issue of the church backing Mr. Vadakkan in Thrissur, he said that though he had nothing against Mr. Vadakkan it was not right for the archbishop to support his candidature and ask people to vote for him. “It is a decision for the people to make” .

Such voices of sanity are rare from the Christian clergy of Kerala, some of whom had openly supported and prayed for the accused clergymen in Sister Abhaya murder case.

13 comments:

  1. This is an old tactic...Whenever a person or institution is under attack for something not related to religion or community, communalism is blamed...Azharuddin,the ex cricket captain of India, blamed the BCCI for banning him from cricket not because he may have been guilty of matchfixing but because he was a Muslim...He had to retract his statement eventually...

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  2. pretty informative, I had never known about this issue before.
    Schools get the money from Govt, but they are not under Govt's control?Thats sad.!! But why do they call Kerela a socialist state then?I mean, if Govt seems to be having no conrol??Its not capitalist either.:). Wonder what system is this, get the money from Govt, but let churches run the show??Rather, what era are they living in?

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  3. Bones, very true

    Chikki,not only the churches but Hindu and Muslim managements also involved.But majority are under Church control. Now many such schools closed down due to lack of students and the Govt had to take those teachers in to Govt service.

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  4. you can indulge upon the clergy but one thing you have to admit, if any of the keralites speaks english or writes it in a good manner thats because of the christian missionaries. Its their swet that made the prestigous schools & colleges in kerala.

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  5. Anonymous welcome to this blog. Yes the Christian missionaries have played a great role in spreading education. But at the same time they have used the Aided schools to enrich their coffers. Also the Clergy is demeaning themselves by playing petty party politics

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  6. Christian Clergy Playing Politics Again in Kerala

    This is a very good heading. Christian clergy instead of seeking the furtherance of the Kingdom of God is spending more time playing politics. It is a fact that christian churches are not using their schools for furtherance of christianity but to fill their coffers. If we study this issue to its roots we will find that the church has vested interests. Instead of launching so called "liberation struggle" we need to be liberated from the politica motives of clergy and the church in Kerala.

    Even the evolution of the churches are steeped in political maneuvers so what moral rights do they have to be the "ambassadors of christ." Even a relook at the history of the various church in an objective way will show that there has been more political maneuvering than meets the eye. It is my prayer that God removes the blindness of the people to see the truth.

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  7. Ipe George, welcome to this blog.
    Yes it is a shame that the Clergy is indulging in petty politics.

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  8. There are Christians wolves in sheeps'clothing - those who attack the Church from within by calling themselves Christians. The high rate of literacy in Kerala is not there by accident. Many Christian missionaries and institutions run by Christians have had a big say in it. Do we need Soviet style communism in Kerala, which is part of a democracy? Banning religion is part of Soviet and Chinese style communism. It can never be part of a democracy, a secular democracy where freedom is given to practice religion. Why does a government seek only to banish Christian influence in Christian schools? Would they dare go to a madrassa run by Muslims and insist that Islam should not be taught and Muslims should have no say in the running of the school? Have these communists ever read what Jesus Christ taught and how He lived, to feel threatened by any Christian teaching in any school. Loving one's enemy is the highest ideal a Christian is taught to strive for. Is that dangerous as an ethic? What are the communists and Hindus afraid of anyway?

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  9. There is a fundamental difference between Hinduism and Christianity. And anyone who cares enough about the real welfare of all people should know what they are. Hinduism has no concept of helping all the poor and needy. The rigid caste system based on religion prevents that. So it is that for millennia, Brahmins kept all their learning to themselves. Every caste kept their knowledge to themselves and passed it on only to their children. No Hindu feels a qualm when members of other castes do not have access to the advantages in society they themselves enjoy. Their belief in Karma and Reincarnation permits them to believe they earned it with good deeds in a previous lifetime and those suffering are paying for their sins in their previous lives.
    But Christianity brought a different spiritual understanding of God. The Christian God reaches out to all as His children. To reach out to the disadvantaged is the duty of a Christian.
    Should not a Christian be allowed to practice their faith in the schools they run? Does the communist government seek to make state atheism the religion in Christian schools - like in former Soviet Union and current China. Just in a case anyone cared to notice, communism collapsed in former USSR and people in China are increasingly wanting religion, so much so the government is forced to permit religion in increasing degrees. Does Kerala communists want to go backwards and remove religion, a right that is enshrined in the Indian Constitution?

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  10. What is pathetic is the dog-in-the-manger attitude of many Hindus. While Hinduism has no concept of reaching out to the poor and disadvantaged, they ridicule Christianity for having such a concept. It is amusing to read the commentaries of some well educated high caste Hindus who mock celebrities who give to charity as part of their Christian religious conviction. Instead of feeling ashamed that they themselves don't reach out to people in need, they mock those who do. They even try to stop them if they can. The whole drive to stop conversion of the Dalits to Christianity is based on the dog-in-the-manger attitude. Dalits are no more Hindus than they are Christians. Hindus never cared about them until Christians began to reach out to them. Now Hindus insist they are entitled to convert Dalits to Hinduism (assigning them to the lowest caste of course) but Christians are not supposed to convert them. Why? Look at it with the eyes of a dog-in-the-manger and it all becomes clear. So much for their concern for the real welfare of Dalits.

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  11. Catholic clergy of all the three Catholic Churches in Kerala - Syro Malabar, Roman Catholic and Syro Malankara - are celibate. So no children get to inherit any property of any priest. If ever the koffers of these churches increase because the clergy dedicate their whole lives to their work and religious vocation and live very simple lives of self sacrifice - it is merely used to build more institutions to help others.

    It is embarrassing to Jesus Christ and Christianity as a religion when Christians from other Christian denominations seek to destroy Catholic Churches in Kerala. I wonder which part of the theology they read teaches them to do that.

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  12. The church (or anyone else for that matter) is welcome to spread education, English or anything else. But the point is why should they take the government's (i.e. the people's) money and then cry fowl when the government tries to regulate such institutions.

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  13. The Christian God reaches out to all as His children. To reach out to the disadvantaged is the duty of a Christian.

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    You are right, the clergy gods reach out to all their almayers for money, and help the church to achieve its hidden political agenda.
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    Should not a Christian be allowed to practice their faith in the schools they run?
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    Why can't they do it at church, the real place for them to pray!!!!
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    Does the communist government seek to make state atheism the religion in Christian schools - like in former Soviet Union and current China.
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    Education itself is atheistic, it rejects everything that religion stands for. So why the religious racket is involved in running so many school?. The answer is just money!!!!
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    Just in a case anyone cared to notice, communism collapsed in former USSR and people in China are increasingly wanting religion, so much so the government is forced to permit religion in increasing degrees.
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    Soviet Union collapsed for the same reasons the West Bengal government collapsed in the recent election. A new generation of ITs, driven by their greed for money and ambition voted against the W.B CPIM led government. This is exactly what happened at Soviet Union. A new generation soviets not bounded by any ideology, decided to play into the hands of Western power.
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    Does Kerala communists want to go backwards and remove religion, a right that is enshrined in the Indian Constitution?
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    Sir, our constitution is purely secular, the nasty religion is your own business. Keep it that way

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Comments are welcome especially if you do not think like me. But anonymous comments behind masks and those not relevant to the post are not encouraged.