A group of Catholic women under the banner Concerned Catholic Women of India said they were deeply concerned about “a controversial bishop’s statement” that could threaten community harmony in India. No less than 89 Catholic women from across India have urged the Indian Conference of Catholic Bishops and its Kerala unit to take special action to “promote peace and avoid conflict.”
The statement laments that the Bishop of Kerala used “narcotic jihad”, a term coined without foreseeing its terrible consequences for various communities in the country.
We live in difficult times in India, when communal forces that divide 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 exposed and this leads to a growing fear of “the other”, regardless of which community the other may be. belong.
It is in this very volatile context that we want to situate the current controversies sparked by the controversy over “narcotic jihad” in Kerala, which has fueled hatred and mistrust between two religious communities which have a history of peaceful coexistence in the country. State through the ages. .
It is very unfortunate that the term narcotic jihad was coined and used by someone in a senior position in the leadership of the Catholic Church in Kerala without foreseeing the terrible consequences of using such an expression.
Although it is claimed that Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt, the prelate of the Diocese of Palai, used this expression as a precautionary measure to protect young Catholics from the traps of terrorist forces, the terminology used is extremely dangerous as it is sinks deep into the religious core. sensitivities of a community.
Drug use is a very serious crime in any part of the world and there may be deeper links between the drug trade and terrorism. If this is true, it is up to the government apparatus to deal with it, not the bishops.
Marking a particular community with the drug label and that too without supporting evidence is an equally serious offense because it destroys the health and well-being of a society. Apart from the polarization of religious communities which hitherto coexisted without major conflicts in this state, allegations of this nature have led to divisions even within the Christian community and its families.
In the midst of this chaos, it is sad to see the Church become a puppet in the political games played by those who want to profit from this tumultuous situation. As Pope Francis rightly says in Fratelli Tutti, “today, in many countries, hyperbole, extremism and polarization have become political tools” (no. 15).
Despite the call for unity and tolerance, we have failed to thwart the forces of communitarianism within the Church.
We demand that women be respected and treated as adults who can freely exercise their rights. Denying their freedom to choose their life partner or their faith violates their human dignity and deprives them of their free will. The use of phrases like “Love Jihad” only serves to sow seeds of hatred and division between communities and, in addition, to poison young minds.
These developments run counter to the Indian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CBCI) guidelines for interfaith dialogue drawn up in 1977 and updated in 1989, which state: “We are committed to building a nation from 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-Azhar Ahmad Al-Tayyeb in Abu Dhabi in 2019, it is clearly stated that:
“Freedom is a right of every person: every individual enjoys the freedom of belief, thought, expression and action. Pluralism and diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in His [sic] wisdom, by which he [sic]created human beings.
Despite this call for unity and tolerance, we have not succeeded in thwarting the forces of communitarianism within the Church. Only dialogue with others can build a culture of love, which is the only commandment that Christ has given us. It then becomes imperative that we, as a Church, do not sow the seeds of discord but of unity and peace in our country today.
We, the undersigned Catholic women, are deeply concerned that the Church is becoming a counter-witness and therefore urge church leaders in Kerala and at the national level to take immediate action that will heal the wounds caused by this controversial. We hope that this crisis will become for the Church a moment of grace to re-engage with a renewed passion in the mission of the “Kingdom of God” founded on justice, truth and inclusive love as it did. shown Jesus Christ.