Fraudulent arrests are nothing new in India – they’ve been happening with amazing frequency. But it has largely been the pastors of various Christian hues that have had to bear the brunt, the fake grounds being ‘forced conversions’. With the uncalled for arrest of Father V.J. Binoy and catechist Munna Hansda, working in the Rajdah mission in Godda district (Bhagalpur diocese), the phenomenon has finally entered the Catholic Church in India big time.
Various groups and individuals across the length and breadth of the country have been so seized of the situation unfolding before their very eyes as to insist on drastic steps being taken to overturn it before it gets totally out of hand with our bishops probably staring at the prospects of being wrongfully arrested for the same fraudulent reasons. One never knows which way the trend of injustice can veer. Indeed, hardly has the reality begun to sink in when along comes news of yet another obviously fraudulent arrest of a Jesuit priest, Father Julian Ekka, Vice Principal of the premium De Nobili School at Koradih in Dhanbad district of Jharkhand, along with a Class Teacher and a Nurse, on the grounds of gang-raping a Standard IV student. O! When will the woes of our beloved priests and religious who’ve given their life to the Lord in the selfless service of His people, begin to cease!
Indian University of Fakeology [IUF]
It is being widely touted in the media that the menace of fakeology that has the police arresting priests and pastors on mere suspicion or authenticated reports of forced conversions from thugs who have graduated from the non-existent IUF is all set to rear its ugly head with increasing frequency! Unless of course we as Christians, believing in the power of numbers, are willing to rise from our slumber, surmount internal differences, get our act together and respond strongly shoulder to shoulder with like-minded individuals and groups! Further, if the present situation in which we move like headless chickens is to change once and for all, we would need to have our Bishops’ conferences take visibly firm stands and make audibly bold pronouncements on every issue concerning the Christian minority in the country. Be it the CBCI or the CCBI or the regional bishops’ bodies of all rites, fearless boldness is the need of the hour.
I have in the past proposed that all bishops of India, whether Catholic or Protestant, form a united bishops' body to debate such issues as those presently raging in the country and act unitedly. In the cause of truth and justice, I re-propose the adoption of such a measure on an urgent basis right away for obvious reasons. For one, the teaming up of all bishops in the country cutting across all denominational lines, would give all believers a sense of belonging to the Christian fold in a way that would have its own significance. Next, the measure will bring together all clergy (again both Catholic and Protestant) and then all lay-folk. The focus of this unifying exercise which would in effect raise a firewall of sorts against the non-Christian public in general, would of course be to support and protect one another against what is happening and against what is likely to happen, both in and through the media, not excluding the use of legal means.
Involvement at grassroots level
The exercise can, however, never be complete and effective unless the need for the related effort is made to percolate down the rank and file of the laity in every diocese, which of course is possible most specifically through our parishes. Many parishes across the country are in the process of building Small Christian Communities [SCCs]. It is through these SCCs that all parishioners ought to be informed and their involvement enlisted whether as active volunteers or as prayer warriors, or as both. Such involvement, rather than spending one’s Sundays and holidays cleaning beaches and promenades under the guise of community service or whatever, is what living and promoting the Faith is all about and which alone is likely to bring in the desired results!
Sense of Accountability
Then, as a united body of the baptized, we need to unequivocally demand of the Central Government and the State governments—through the courts of law if necessary—the following:
*Concrete proof of the forced conversions allegedly taking place
*Those making allegations of forced conversions be made accountable for their assertions and compelled to prove the veracity of their allegations
*Explanations, both verbal and written , as to why India continues to have a Christian presence of barely 1 or 2% of the total population of the country against the background of rampant fakeology
*Protection against all harassment meted out to the community by way of interference in Christian religious services
*Cessation of all hostilities including lynchings and undue arrests.
At our necks already!
All said and done, it must be borne in mind that this is a serious matter, and doing nothing about what is happening to a fellow believer can be considered a condonation of the spread of non-truth. Unless of course we are willing to face the consequences of overlooking the need to stand up for the truth in every form! The repercussions of silence are seen very significantly in what Pastor Martin Niemoller (1892-1984), a prominent Lutheran pastor in Germany who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler, spending the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps, wrote, immortalizing the reality of Nazi horror on the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston, Massachusetts:
“First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
Well, our Indian Nazis have come for us Catholics already! Are we gonna take it lying down? Or are we, after the example of our Saviour, going to demand: “If I have done something wrong, give evidence about the wrong. But if I have done nothing wrong, why do you strike me?” (Jn 18:23)(Published on 16th September 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 38)