Wind of change in the Christian society
The Christian society has been at the receiving end due to the ongoing bitter fight between Hindu and Christian organizations for the last one decade. Church has used them as a safety jacket and despite lot of problems it has not deviated from the core agenda.
Foreign grant to the Church has enormously increased over the said period and Church has used this fund to set- up new Churches, schools and convents in various states. In order to influence media, they have established separate media wings in their diocese. Church intends to use this platform to highlight the issue at the national and international level in order to help them. Their tussle with the anti-conversion organizations has increased in Karnataka, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra.
The race for the conversion and re-conversion activities by the Christian and Hindu organizations respectively was responsible for large scale violence in Kandhamal in Odisha. A large number of people lost their lives in this communal riot. It has led to the homeless for more than 10,000 people in the violence hit district in Odisha.
During this period, the clash between Hindu and Christian organizations was witnessed in some parts of Karnataka also where BJP is in power. Similar clashes between the two communities took place in Andhra Pradesh also.
Due to these tussles, the main issue of common Christians has been neglected. This is a cozy situation for the Church. Whenever an issue of administrative corruption in the convent school comes into the light; Church immediately terms it as an attack on Christianity.
Media becomes tool in the hands of Church in this process. Church claims to fight for those children of minority Christians who have no place in their convent schools. The presence of specially Dalit and Tribal Christians in the Church run educational institutions and hospitals is negligible. The Church leadership runs the educational and hospitals with a profit motive where the poor Christians do not have any place.
The Government and Christian society are dancing on the tunes of handful of priests who have vested interest. They are sitting on the huge assets of the Church in the name of conversion and they have created war-like situation in many parts of the country. Christian society has started understanding their real game. Voices for rights having started coming out from within the Church.
Christian society in Mangalore recently had decided to pressurize Church to give preference to the minority Christian community children in the educational institutions being run by the Church. A meeting was reportedly chaired by a former Justice of Karnataka High Court. In the said meeting, it was said that 1.3 percent of clergy takes decision on all matters pertaining to the Church and 98.7 percent laity has no role in policy related decisions. The members in the meeting have expressed displeasure on the issue that the Church administration is involved in property transactions on bigger scale. In Mangalore alone, Church has sold property worth of two billion rupees and where this money has gone nobody knows. There are seven thousand Churches in the country where 25 lakhs rupees are collected every year. Why not church spends this amount on the welfare of poor Christians?
The Church targets Dalits and Tribals for conversion. They run after them till they are converted. Once they are converted into Christianity, then the Church never bothers about their welfare. The social and financial condition of these Dalit and Tribal Christians remains the same even after the conversion.
The Delhi based Poor Christian Liberation Movement popularly known as PCLM, a decade ago, had put forward a 10-point agenda to Catholic Bishop Conference of India and National Council of Churches for the development of Dalit Christians. PCLM has demanded blanket ban on the Conversion related activities, leadership role of the minority Christians in institutions run by the Church. They had also demanded for transparency in foreign grants, elimination of the role of Vatican in the selection of bishops and constituting bodies for the protection of Church properties. Church leadership had shrewdly suppressed these reformist voices. But, the supporters of the organization kept spreading awareness and similar voices have now started coming from inside the Roman Catholic Church.
Former Justice Michael F. Saldanha has lot of influence on the Church leadership. He had also reportedly submitted a report to Vatican representative Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio following the report of Somshekhar Commission constituted by Karnataka government regarding attack on the Churches.
Now, he is advocating for the rights of laity in the Church. However, there is an urgent need to make transparent policy in this regard. Church has huge resources but these are managed by handful of clergy like Corporates. This is why Church controls 30 percent of the educational institutions in the country but more than 40 percent of Christian population is illiterate.
In the year 2008, the demand for setting up national board for Church properties has come to the fore. The movement demanded from the government to intervene on the matter. Madhya Pradesh Minority Commission started working on such proposal. Angered Church tried to socially outcast the Anand Bernard who was then member of the commission. Supreme Court former judge justice KT Thomas, former Union minister Eduard Faleiro and Christian thinker Joseph Pulilkel supported for a board in which government will have some intervention. Church leadership rejected this proposal. Though, in many western countries, the government intervenes when needed.
Indian Church enjoys immense clout and it is the sole owner of properties in the Church. Clergy does not want to loose its clout. They know that it is in their interest if Vatican and other western countries have power to intervene in India. Church wants to shirk away from its responsibility of welfare of its people. It wants to pass the buck on the government. Rangnath Mishra Commission is the latest example of Church's real intentions.
Time has come when Christian society should change their thought. Debate should start about how to face serious challenges confronting Christian society. Matters such as conversion, dependence on the western countries to solve petty problems, worsening condition of Dalit Christians and corruption is deep rooted within the Church.
The casteism in Christian society is increasing day by day. For example, in Andhra Pradesh, the Mala become Mala Christains, Madiga become Madiga Christians and Reddy become Reddy Christians after the conversion. The conversion has not helped in dismantling the caste system in Indian society. And, Church is not an exception to that.
The worsening relationships with other faiths and loyalty towards a single political party and influence of Vatican in the selection of Bishops in India are other issues that required to be discussed at length. Church should come out of its ostrich like mentality. They have to face the reality and try to integrate with the democratic powers. They will have to participate actively in the democratic process. Their existence will always be in danger unless they adopt these steps to bridge the gap.
Christians should have a clear understanding of their responsibility towards their religion, society and the country. Only then, they will be able to flourish in India.
(President, Poor Christian Liberation Movement)
New Delhi, India