By Father Dr. Anand Muttugnal
Cover Image: Priests and seminarians in detention near Satna. (Source: Express photo)
Father Dr. Anand Muttugnal is a great social thinker and promoter of Sarvadharma. He has multifaceted qualifications – Ph.D in Psychology, Bhopal, M.P.; Master of Philosophy, (M.Phil) Psychology, Bhopal, M.P; Master of Arts, in Psychology , Bhopal, M.P.; Bachelor of Arts, in Psychology, Bhopal, M.P.; Bachelors in Theology form Khrist Premalaya Theologate Affiliated to Urbania University, Rome, Italy; Bachelor in Philosophy From Khrist Premalaya Philosophate, Bhopal , M.P. He is Founder and Director of Vishwa Kalyan Ashram, a Non-profit Organization working for community development through harmony and peace; Regional Public relation Officer and Spokesperson, Catholic Bishops Conference of M.P & Chattisgarh (From 1.06.2003 to 15.06.2012); Chief Editor and Publisher, First Edition – A bilingual weekly News paper which takes up the issues of the less privileged people; Founder and Coordinator: Madhya Pradesh Isai Mahasangh in all over Madhya Pradesh,(Confederation of Madhya Pradesh Christians). He was nominated as District Coordinator on National Minorities Educational Commission, Govt. of India, New Delhi and in July 2006 charge has been extended to whole state in the matters concerned to Christian community. His articulations have always been thought-provoking, probing and even questioning the church practices, especially in matters of temporal goods.
Fr Anand Muttungal's full profile can be viewed at http://www.franand.com/biography.htm
As per reports published in the CRUX dated 21 April 2017, captioned Archbishop in India to face trial for allegedly trying to poison priest, in a case which dates back to February 2013, when Father Anand Muttungal, a priest of the Archdiocese of Bhopal, filed a complaint alleging that the Archbishop of Bhopal, Leo Cornelio, the vicar general Father Mathew VC, and diocesan spokesperson Father Johny PJ were retaliating after Muttungal questioned an alleged misappropriation of funds from the diocesan society. Muttungal had also approached the Madhya Pradesh High Court about the misappropriation case.
The allegations in the complaint were substantiated by Father Philip KP, another priest of the diocese, who submitted an affidavit in the court alleging the archbishop and vicar general had pressured him to administer some poisonous substances to Muttungal in order to make him go crazy, and they had even approached a psychiatrist for help in executing the plot.
In previous statements to the media, the archbishop said a psychiatrist was approached, but only because Muttungal was showing signs of mental instability. Cornelio tried to get the charges against him squashed, but on April 12 the high court agreed to withdraw the archbishop’s plea, clearing the way for the trial against him to begin for the Archbishop Leo Cornelio and two of his priests to appear in court, accused of attempting to poison Fr Anand Muttungal.
Full report of the CRUX may be accessed at:
This article by Father Muttungal, though received after Christmas, counters the Hindu Fundamental Organisations' allegations of conversion by Christian Community in the name of Christmas Carol at Satna and other prayers meetings. He has rigthly argued that if conversions were real, then BJP's L.K. Advani and many other political leaders and luminaries of India would have become Christian by now and the Christian population in India would not have remained what is it today (2.3%) as per the Census Report. By this light, Fr Anand has shown us the right approach which is to counter allegations of conversion to Christianity with facts and figures and not mere rhetorics and hyperbole. Isaac Gomes, Asso. Editor, Church Citizens' Voice.
There have been times when the Christian community celebrated Christmas with a peaceful heart. Gone are those days when we thought of Christmas as times of peace, joy and happiness. Carol singing was considered as taking the message of peace and joy that comes with the birth of Christ to the people but the recent happenings of violence against the carol team in different parts of country and the threat calls issued by the hardcore Hindu fundamental organizations have made it an event inviting trouble and violence. Under these circumstances the question that comes to our minds is, will Christianity that has faced numberless persecutions throughout history, stop preaching the message of peace? Will these mindless violences force the Christians from doing charity and humanitarian services as demanded by Christ?
How much truth is there in the allegation of forced conversion of people belonging to the economically weaker sections, especially tribals and scheduled caste? The Christians in most of the states are a very minuscule minority which has no politically voice. The number of families in most village Churches can be counted on fingers. So how will the powerless Christians force the villagers to get converted to Christianity? The Churches in these villages are mostly very shabby and run in small rooms which silently proclaim the bad economic condition of the churches and families associated with it. How could one justify the allegation of alluring Hindus with regular or irregular economic aid to get converted Christianity?
The Christian community (in India) must be running more than twenty five thousand educational institutions across the country. And added to it, the Christian community in the country runs thousands of charity organizations supporting millions of peoples to improve their lives. If these organizations and educational institutions as alleged by the fundamental organizations, were working with the sole aim of conversion, then what would have been the population of Christians in the country? If these allegations were to be true then how could many of leaders of the Hindu fundamental organizations and Bhartiya Janta Party leaders including Mr. L.K. Adwani (Former Deputy Prime Minister) still remain Hindus? In the recent years in Chhattisgarh many persons working in educational institutions were attacked in very many ways including very serious allegations of sexual abuses. In spite of all these the faith of people in the services offered by the community is still in a growing pace. So do the allegations of using educational and charity organizations for conversion stand ground?
If we analyse these attacks on the institutions, some of them are organized just to popularize fundamental ideology and to stop Christians from working for the poor and downtrodden peoples belong to be lower strata of the society. Some of them are planned and executed to get access to the administration of the educational intuitions so that leaders of fundamental groups can get their students admitted to the schools. One of the major reasons could also be that the Christian community is branded as supporters of Congress Party and the socio-political organizations following Hindutva ideology take political vendetta on the Christians. It is true that there may be few incidents of violence taking place due to religious reasons.
A clear study of attacks on Christians could reveal the fact that in many of these cases fundamental organizations have executed their vicious plans with the help of the police. In some incidents the victims were beaten up, manhandled and very badly abused in the presence of the police or in police stations but police made little effort to stop them. The cases of the recent attacks on priests and brothers (Christians) in Satna and Bhuranpur and Aligarh in U.P are clear examples of police-supported violence. There are many cases reported that the members of the fundamental organizations in the midst of the prayer came with police and took away the pastor and believers who objected to the police stations. When the police finds that the arrested persons have no influence in the higher ups, then they are mentally and physically tortured and in many cases police register cases under the Freedom of Religion Act and other sections of IPC and send them to jail. One might ask the question, are these policemen safeguarding the rights of people or executors of the plans of the fundamental organizations?
There are serious violations of freedom of religion guaranteed in the Article 25 of the Constitution of India which guarantees every citizen freedom to practice and propagate his/her faith. How could one interpret conducting prayers in houses, conventions, retreats, Bible studies, carol singing, etc as methods of forcing or alluring people to conversion? The misinterpretation and misuse of the provisions in the Freedom of Religion Act is a clear violation of the spirit of the Article 25 of the Constitution of India. We need to place the Christmas and the worries of the Christians in the background of these rising unseen violent situations. In the midst of most uncertain times we pray, Oh! Lord, Have Thine Own Way, yes it calls for a total surrender of oneself at the feet of the Cross, Wish you all a Happy Christmas.
Note: Extract from Report dated 17th December 2017 in Indian Express
Father M Rony, social work director of Satna Diocese, had told PTI that a group of young men had stormed the venue of a pre-Christmas function at Bhoomkar village, about 15kms from the district headquarters, on Thursday night and created a ruckus, alleging religious conversion.
The function was organised by Syro-Malabar Church of Northern India for children.
After receiving a complaint, police had taken 32 Catholic brothers (trainee priests) and two priests to the Civil Lines police station, Father Rony had said.
"When they reached the police station, they were beaten up by Bajrang Dal activists on the station campus. Hearing the news, four other priests rushed to the police station, but they were also thrashed and their car was set on fire," he had claimed.
The police has registered a case under Sections 153 B (Imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration) and 295 A (outraging religious feelings).
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