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Alarming Silence

Julian S Das Julian S Das
31 Jul 2023
We have seen over the years that to speak up when our people’s constitutionally granted fundamental rights are forcefully taken away from them

It is frightening and bone-chilling to realize that the Church in India has become insensitive to the plight of her worthy neighbours in the country. There are people being killed on bright day light, women paraded naked and gang-raped in public, innocent shot dead by military and para-military forces in the name of bringing peace and order under control, political scores set right over the corpses and the blood of people who seek identity as citizens of this great nation.

But honestly, none of these horrendous incidents and bone-numbing events disturb me in any way, as I feel comfortable and cosy within the fortified four walls of my house. I can shut down the doors and windows so that the ‘cry of the poor’ and hapless victims of violence for help and assistance may not reach my ears. And yet, I do not miss the Sunday mass and any special novena conducted in the Church. What more can I really do in order to show that I am a practicing Christian?

The Church lay leaders call us for a rally (it is not a protest rally, but a silent rally of solidarity with the suffering), and I dish out an hour or two to show my face, so that no one accuses me of not going to the street to express our solidarity with the people who matter to us.

Inaction, part of our patrimony

The inexpressible events which have unfolded in Manipur in the past two months have brought to fore how powerless the Church is in condemning such inhuman acts, not only killing so many lives but also destroying so many places of worship. If it were temples or mosques, will the respective religious community be as silent as the Christian community is? Except for praying for these victims of political vendetta and religious bigotry, we have too little to do anything in order to show the power and the strength we have, as a minority religious community, giving the best of educational and human formation.

Is it not possible for all Christian schools, colleges and institutions in the country close for a day in protest against the inhuman violence unleashed in Manipur, in order to convey to those who are behind these well-orchestrated and calculated moves that we do not accept, nor agree to their vile plans and executions. But the master-minds behind these barbaric acts know as well as we do, that the Church in India is incapable of doing anything as a strong national protest, even if something serious were to happen to a section of the Church or her people. Unfortunately, our silence has become deafening, and our inaction monstrous.

Surely, it would be wrong to say that there are no individuals in the Indian Church who are not affected by what is happening around; but these “voices in the wilderness” are silenced by the deafening silence of the leaders and the masses. Often these individuals are relegated to our closets, branding them as loud-mouths, people who are over-sensitive to what is happening around.

Trouble at Door

We have seen over the years that to speak up when our people’s constitutionally granted fundamental rights are forcefully taken away from them, would mean we would come under the scanner of the Income Tax department, the Intelligence Bureau, and our Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) certificate may not be renewed for unknown reasons, we may be branded as anti-national, and even sedition charges may be levelled against us; we realize it is better not to stoke the embers, lest a forest-fire should unleash from our courtyards.

We ask ourselves, is it all worth the trouble? Why should we risk the peace and comfort that we have been enjoying, by having a safe-distance from our unholy alleys, keeping them in good cheer, by inviting them to occupy chairs of eminence in our school and college programs, showing that we are more nationalists than the hard-core nationalists. Sorry, we cannot afford to face the seizure of our bank accounts and freezing of all financial transactions. We have seen enough troubles because we were vocal standing by the fishermen and women of Tuticorin diocese against the Kudankulam atomic plants. We are fighting a losing battle against the Goliath who is far more powerful and prepared to wipe us away from the land.

I must admit that I have become all the more insensitive to the injustice and cruelty done to innocent men and women, some of them my own relatives, friends and neighbours, and my feelings for them have numbed me, so that any amount of injustice and murders in front of my very eyes, do not disturb me. Tomorrow if the ‘enemies of the nation’ were to lay their icy hands on me, and drag me to the court and central agencies, I know I would have to go through them silently, without uttering a word.

If the world around is in the process of evolving an alternative narrative, where might is right, killing of innocent powerless men and women can be justified in order to climb the political ladder or curry favour with those who are the creators of the neo-narrative of means justify the end, then we too bolster their arguments by our inaction and silence. But the fact is, silence could be so transformative as in the case of the germination of a seed, but the silence that the Church in India showcases is the sterile silence, which can be compared only to the silence of the non-existent.

I am the Church!

I find no better word to express the state of the Indian Church than to borrow one from a poem of Thomas Stearns Eliot (popularly known as T. S. Eliot), The Hollow Men, 1925, which talks about the spiritually dead people, who have lost all their enthusiasm and zest for living, and are counting their days to escape from this world of harsh reality. 

The Indian Church needs more Oscar Romero’s who would dare to challenge the lopsided policies and irrational laws of the government even if it meant that there would be attempts made to eliminate them. But that is how the Church can be a true leader, a true champion for even the sheep outside the fold, standing by them, and with them. Hopefully the lone voices heard from different corners of the nation would, one day, prick the conscience of the leaders who for personal gains perpetrate crimes against humanity and help them take up corrective measures to bring peace and harmony in the nation.

(The writer is a freelancer and film-maker, specialised in the production of ‘massive open online courses’.)

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