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Sir.

I belong to the most ancient school of philosophical thought in India called Charvakas. The Charvakas existed during the time Upanishads in India, much before Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, Jews, Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism and other religions including Marxism emerged in India. For a person like me, I do not find God as an enemy, unlike many atheists and mechanical rationalists. The question inside me is: If God does not exist, then why should I fight it? Secondly, if God is providing hope and psychological relief and support to millions of people in India, then God is certainly doing a better role here than what I could ever imagine with myself. I believe that as a `sigh of the oppressed and the spirit of the spiritless people’, thousands of Gods are too important for the people of this country. And I am certainly prepared to support their right to faith which is getting denied under the present circumstances. This country today is burning under the violation of the Right to Faith, well-articulated by B. R. Ambedkar through the Indian Constitution.

Sir, I read the statement initiated by you representing Syro Malabar Church, first with amusement, and then with deep concern, not for the already marginalised status of Islam in India, but for the status of your own Church. Your statement pointed out that many Christian girls are `lured’ by the Muslims through `Love Jihad’. It also pointed out that among the 21 people from Kerala recruited by IS a couple of years back, almost half were converted from the Christian community. You are responsible for generating a fear psychosis among the Christian community in Kerala by targeting the Muslims by saying:  `It is a reality that ‘Love Jihad’ is happening in Kerala in a planned manner targeting Christian girls. Christian girls are killed in the name of love jihad’. I do understand that this statement from a responsible person like you representing one of the highest positions in the Church hierarchy is a major disruption of inter faith relationship among the common Christians and Muslims in Kerala. Not even the Pope would make such a disruption on religious harmony. But you have chosen to do it. You did not end with such a statement that has nothing to do with truth and reality, but demanded a campaign to warn the members of the Christian Community against such incidents. It is also unfortunate that you have not been able to prove your argument with facts and necessary details.  Sir, If this is not Islamophobia, what else is it?

`Theology students should be educated in dialogue with Judaism and Islam to understand the common roots and differences of our religious identities, and thus contribute more effectively to building a society that values diversity and fosters respect, brotherhood and peaceful coexistence,’ Pope Francis said on June 21 in front of Naples’ Jesuit-run pontifical Catholic university. Sir, it is not my intention to question your existence as a `representation of God’. My intention is only to inform you on the greatness of Pope Francis on how he looked at Islam with humility. When he said this, I could feel that the role of a theology student was still running in his blood, searching for the ultimate truth, through dialogues and discussions with diversities. It would not be wrong on my part to hope that the church in Kerala would follow the same model rather than creating divisions in an already divided society.

For your kind attention, I must inform you that you are only trying to wake up an already dead horse called `love jihad’.  It appears that you understand too little on its history, politics and its meaning. Therefore, as a Charvaka who has no part in any religion, I take it as my responsibility to share some wisdom to open your eyes on the following facts:

After a detailed investigation of 18 cases on the issue of `love jihad’ in Kerala, a Christian DGP, Jacob Punnoose stated in the High Court of Kerala that there was no organisation whose members lured girls with the intention of conversion. He expressed doubts on three cases, where he needed further information. In December 2009, the Kerala High Court stayed investigations in this case, granting relief to two people who were accused, due to lack of proof. The investigation on `love jihad’ was closed following Punnoose’s statements that no conclusive evidence could be found. Later, the investigation conducted by NIA also revealed that there were no cases of `love jihad’ in Kerala. Recently, Kerala MP Behnan Benny raised a question to the Central Government, whether `the government is aware of the observation of Kerala High Court that there is no case of love jihad in Kerala? If yes, whether any of the central agencies have reported any case of Love Jihad from Kerala during the last two years, and if so, the details thereof?’

Responding to the question, Minister of State for Home Affairs, G Kishan Reddy, replied that “no such case of ‘Love Jihad’ has been reported by any of the central agencies”. In fact, he pointed out that the term ‘love jihad’ is not defined under the current laws.  “Article 25 of the Constitution provides for the freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion subject to public order, morality and health. Various courts have upheld this view, including the Kerala High Court,” he said. Needless to say that Behnan Benny is a Christian and the answer was given by the BJP Government quoting `Indian Constitution’.

Sir, while the facts revealed so far are what are mentioned above, it surprises many secular minded people like us, raising an important political question in our mind: Why is a Cardinal Bishop siding with the Kerala State BJP and the Sangh Parivar in Kerala to attack the Muslims with an already disproven subject like `love jihad’? And remember, this question is being raised not just by people outside religions, but also important members of your own Christian Community in India and abroad. I am sure, by now, you have already received such phone calls and letters personally.

And now, I would like to share some wisdom for you on the term called`love jihad’ used by you. `Love’ is a word frequently used in the Bible as well as Qur’an. Prophet Muhammad had deep respect for Jesus. In fact, Jesus was mentioned more than twenty times in Qur’an, much more than the name of Mohammed Nabi in Qur’an.

`Jihad’ is a word frequently used to whip up the anti-Muslim sentiments during the last few decades. The word was misused in the United States first, to view all Muslims as terrorists. As per their understanding, `jihad’, meant terrorism or holy war to be initiated by Islam.

However, the true meaning of `jihad’ is `struggle’ or `effort’. This word `jihad’ can be used in many contexts, including the `struggle’ or `effort’ of a Christian girl to pass the entrance exam in one of the Medical Colleges run by your church. If a religious interpretation needs to be given to the word called `jihad’, then it would mean a spiritual `struggle’ or `effort’ within oneself to remove sin.

The Prophet Muhammad said the best `jihad’ was to speak words of truth `in front of a tyrannical leader’. Jesus Christ was crucified for this crime of speaking words of truth on the poor and marginalised. He was one of most well-respected `jihadi’ all over the world. Further, the Qur’an 22:41 specifically commands Muslims to engage in lesser jihad to protect `Churches, Synagogues, Temples, and Mosques’ from any possible attack.

Sir,  when India is on the war-path of Hindu Rashtra, it is too important that people like you remember Golwalkar’s words: `We have three main enemies,’; he said during 1930s: `The Muslims, Christians and the Communists,’ he said at a time when many people belonging to Gandhian tradition, or factions of Bhagat Singh and others, Ambedkarites, socialists, communists, groups of people like Subhash Chandra Bose, Muslim League and the Indian National Congress along with thousands of ordinary men, women and children were fighting for freedom that you and I enjoy today. They were `Jihadis’ since they were struggling for a cause, to fulfil the need for `azadi’, not for themselves, but for our generation and the future generations.  Your statement has come in a similar context of the struggle (jihad) of many diverse groups, movements and individuals who are fighting for the simple right to `citizenship’ in India. The Britishers did not deny the citizenship to Indians. Modi has done it now. Tomorrow, you will have to prove that you are an Indian. Your passport, driving license, aadhar card, pan card and church identities are not sufficient. You will have to prove that your family, especially your parents belonged to this community called `Indians’. The Muslims are immediately threatened to be persecuted, since religions excluding Islam have already mentioned by the Central Government. The Christian identity in India as `Indian citizens’ is also threatened, whether you like it or not. Golwalkar’s words were published through the publications of Sangh Parivar.

The foundations for a Hindu Rashtra are already laid by Modi today. All important institutions of the state are already captured. We have already heard the arrogance of the rulers proclaiming: `Let people protest. We will do what we want.’ It is a pity that you are siding with such forces through your words.

And remember that it is not the Muslims who butchered and killed over 100 Dalit and Adivasi Christians in Kandhamal. The Muslims did not rape, molest and abuse over 40 Christian women in Kandhamal. You and I know which force was behind such massacres. The Muslims did not force 58,000 Christians to flee from Kandhamal to preserve their religious identity, during the Kandhamal genocide. Thousands of Kandhamal victims and survivors are in Kerala also today. They are clubbed into a section called `migrant labour’, which accounts for more than 10 per cent of the labour force in Kerala.  I did not hear any word from you in the newspapers in Kerala that the migrants from Kandhamal are victims of Kandhamal Christian genocide.

The Muslim Youth Group called Solidarity Youth Movement came forward to support the struggle for justice of the Kandhamal victims and survivors. Many secular people like Brinda Karat, Mani Shankar Aiyar, Kavita Krishan, Medha Patkar, Swami Agnivesh, Ram Puniyani, Annie Raja, Dhirendra Panda, Sudhir Patnaik, Kedar Misra, Prafulla Samantara, Prashant Paikre along with CPI, CPI(M), CPI(ML), Congress and many others came to support the struggle (jihad) for justice by the Christian victims and survivors. The churches in Kerala contributed for relief and rehabilitation. But I did not see your support for the struggle for justice conducted by the Kandhamal survivors. Yet, I can not blame you. For you have several industries to protect, worth billions of rupees run by the Church in the name of service, health and education. I do understand your silence, sir.

However, I am not sure whether you have come across research studies mentioning that the Christians are being persecuted in every State in India. This includes Kerala also. The buildings that you represent today can collapse like a pack of cards in the near future. It may not take much time, sir.  But you must continue your pursuit and campaign on `love jihad’ and continue scaring ordinary Christian families in Kerala, sir, so that more Christians can understand the nature and interests of their own leadership.

In Kandhamal, I have listened and documented Christianophobia spread by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders in our documentary film called `The Voices from the Ruins’. One VHP leader was speaking just like you, though the male-female counterparts are different. His propaganda was that the Christians are using their young girls to lure the `innocent’ Hindu boys and then convert the Hindu boys into Christianity. The scenario built on Christian girls were like the role of Helen in old Hindi movies, doing seductive dances in front of `innocent’ Hindu boys, leading them into a private room for conversion into Christianity. This phobia against Christianity was spread among Hindu families much before the Kandhamal genocide on the Christians. I do not wish to go into details of that Hindutva campaign at the moment. If you need to know more, you may kindly watch our film `Voices from the Ruins’.

What is not acceptable to many in Kerala is also the implications of your statement on the ordinary Hindu, Christian and Muslim people of Kerala. When you say that Christian girls are being `lured’ by Muslim youths, you are only insulting the Christian girls. The Christian girls in Kerala are more educated, more socially connected, more independent in their thinking and more bold in their decision making powers in comparison with Muslim and Hindu girls. How can you describe such a community, as people with `no independent thinking power’? The answer to this question may be given more appropriately by many women’s groups in India tomorrow.

In conclusion, I would like to say that the most often quoted poem against fascism in Germany came from a Christian pastor. Since there are several versions of the poem, I would hesitate to use the longer versions.  Pastor Martin Niemoller wrote during the time of Nazi regime in Germany:

 

First, they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out

Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me…and there was no one left to speak for me.’

This open letter is not meant to question your integrity, faith or your role as a Christian leader, since you are a much bigger person than me. This letter is only an appeal not to enjoy the walk through the blood of other communities. This letter is only meant to remind you the words on harmony articulated by the spiritual texts in Christian tradition: `How wonderful…for God’s people to live together in harmony.’ Psalm 133.1 If you deal with proper Christian understanding of this passage, as a true follower of Jesus Christ who spilled blood on this sacred earth for justice, peace and harmony of not only Christians but humanity in general, then I am sure, it would provide hope for all persecuted sections to merge with each other for their search for truth, to build a society together without violence on each other, where children of different colours and identities can sing and dance together, around the coffins of fascism in this country. Thank you for your patience in reading this letter. With deep respect to all fellow Christians who acted without self-interests, in shaping the positive foundations of India today and their involvement in the non-violent `jihad’ for  shaping a society based on equality, justice, peace, democracy and harmony, for the children of tomorrow in India.

K.P. Sasi is a film maker, cartoonist and a writer


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One Comment

  1. Right on!