WE OWE A COLLECTIVE APOLOGY TO MUSLIMS – Rev. Valson Thampu

The Love Jihad allegation which our Syro-Malabar Synod has brought out against Muslim community in Kerala is really shocking. There could be girls who have loved men from other communities – there is nothing unusual about it. Many Catholics also have married from other communities. Here, this untimely statement has become a threat to the smooth going social life and existing communal harmony in Kerala. Much before a complaint is filed on this ground and without any solid proof given along with, our prelates are playing with the self-esteem of Kerala Catholics. Shame to the Synod; they should have been a little more responsible when reporting such sensitive statements. Do not miss to read carefully this touching write up from Rev. Vason Thampu. Joseph Mattappally Asso editor CCV


Rev. Vason Thampu writes:

I was in Alwaye Advaita Ashram for a few days. An inter-religious  consultation was in progress there. I had to stay overnight there for logistic reasons.

A group of Muslim brothers came to visit me at night. They wanted to hear me on how I viewed the emerging situation in the country. It is immaterial what I told them. What matters is what they told me.

They told me that the Muslim community is living in deepening fear. They feel besieged from all sides. That the ground is slipping away from under their feet. They feel deeply traumatized.

I knew that to be the case, even before they told me. My memories went back to 2002 when I travelled through Gujarat in the wake of the massacre of Muslims unleashed there. I saw a traumatized people. Many of them kept asking me: “Are we not citizens of India? Why is this being done us to us?”

Sadly, the answer to that question  – Are we not citizens of India? – has come now via the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019.

It should not be difficult for my readers to imagine what it feels like to live in such a state.

At a time such as this, what should be the attitude – or the sense of responsibility – that Christians have – if we are Christians – towards our Muslim sisters and brothers? What is akin to our spiritual calling: to stand with the oppressor or to bind the wounds of the injured?

Worldly smartness would make us think that it is foolish to be in solidarity with victims. We could be wounded too. On the positive side, it is profitable to be in collusion with the aggressor and join in kicking the fallen.

But Christianity, folks, is not book-keeping: of maximization of one’s profit at the expense of one’s fellow human beings. There is a Malayalam proverb to the effect that ‘when someone’s house is on fire you should feel a responsibility other than lighting your beedi with the raging fire.’

The Syro-Malabar Church is mindful more of its beedi, than of the burning house of the Muslim community. It is an attitude that should embarrass all of us. It is so murderously un-Christian.

The Synod of that church is mumbling in the borrowed lingo of Sangh Parivar. It is crying wolf against Love-Jihad!

[Here’s an aside: The Synod of the Church of North India used to meet in St. Stephen’s College. Whenever a notice came up to that effect on college notice boards, my non-Christian colleagues used to ask, “What is Cyanide?” (That is how they pronounced Synod) I am struck by the relevance of their query on this occasion.]

In case the Synod of the Syro-Malabar church does not know the meaning of the love-jihad hue and cry, here is an indication.

It’s rooted in the Nazi obsession with racial and ethnic purity. Hitler promulgated (in Sept.1935) a set of laws known as the Nuremberg Laws. They were meant to protect the purity of blood and racial honour of Germans. Jews were sought, through this legislation, to be stigmatized as a source of pollution. The Nuremberg Laws expressly disallowed marriage and sexual relations between Jews and Germans. It was Hitler, not somebody in Nagpur, who imagined love as a weapon first!

It is to re-conjure racial-religious intolerance and to stigmatize the Muslim community that the Sangh Parivar invoked love-jihad.

Think of the Syro-Malabar Synod parroting the same! (If the church worthies needed to tell an earth-shattering lie, they should at least have shown a spark of originality and invented a different title or label for it.) And they are the followers of Jesus who touched the leper and made his body and soul clean like that of baby!

The church has its compulsions. We all know what. There is no need to state the obvious. Suffice it say that the readiness to attack a traumatized community to save one’s own skin, one needs not the role model of Jesus, but that of Hitler.

The present stance of the Syro-Malabar church reminds me of Dostoevsky’s story, The Grand Inquisitor. I urge my readers to go through this profound story carefully. You will not be able to forget the Spanish Cardinal for the rest of your life. The Cardinal, in that story, arrests Jesus and orders to have him burned in auto-da-fe (fires of Inquisition), if he meddled with the business of the church.

When the church ceases to be a spiritual organism and becomes a political organization, laden with worldly wealth (via the pledge of poverty) with all the aberrations that accompany this, it is natural that it needs the patronage of the high and mighty. The idea that God is our refuge makes no sense in such a context. Only men in power seem to be worthwhile as our refuge.

You shall know your church by the refuge it seeks.

I have faith in my fellow Christians. They have hearts. Conscience. They still care for Jesus. They love God. They have no need to support cruelty and self-seeking.
To them I appeal: reach out to those who are in fear and trauma. You don’t have go to Africa for mission fields today. Where you are is the mission field. Read the Parable of the Good Samaritan. It assumes extreme relevance and intensity today. The wounded people are right in your neighbourhood. If, in Jesus’ parable, the priest and the Levite turned their faces away from the wounded man, today our bishops and priests torment the wounded to appease those who wounded him.

We demand: if you say Christian girls are being targeted, in pursuance of a malevolent strategy to despoil the Church, please publish evidence to support this. For God’s sake, do not make incendiary allegations in public without bothering to provide a shred of evidence. If you have no evidence, please withdraw the allegation and apologize to the Muslims first and to the rest of the society next.

If you don’t do either, please explain the difference between Synod and Cyanide.

Since the truth is obvious to me, I tender my apologies to the Muslim community. ‘Dear Sisters and Brothers, please forgive. Some among us have said what they should not, perhaps, but have said. Forgive them, and us, for the compulsions under which such inhuman utterances were made. Forgive, all the more, the cowardice that makes the same people repeat the allegation, though even the Central Government affirms again and again that there is no love-jihad in Kerala. As a matter of fact, Kerala Christian churches are in danger not because there is love-jihad, but because there is no love in our midst for God or for one another. There is only money, property, and petty monarchs who have a gala time in the name of Jesus who did not have a place, as he said, to lay his head.

Also, I appeal to you, my Muslim brethren, please ask yourself: Is there anything that you need to outgrow to be happy and harmonious with the forward march of time? How can a community do justice to itself, if it does not outgrow the distant past and accept the challenges and opportunities of today? I have a charge against you. It is not that you use LOVE as a weapon – as Syro-Malabar church alleges – against us. It is that you do not love yourself. The energy of love seeks perfection. It thirsts to excel. Please love yourself. We love you. Let us walk hand-in-hand and dare to be wounded, if need, for loving each other.

God bless your our sisters and brothers.

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