The National Dalit Christian Watch (NDCW) has expressed its “anguish and displeasure” against the Bishop of Pala, Mar Joseph Kallarangat of the Syro Malabar Church’s remarks suggesting that ‘Narcotics Jihad is being used to lure Christian Youth’. The NDCW has called those utterances “unwarranted, unethical and un-Christian” adding that the “disparaging remark has caused, not only an unprecedented controversy in the socio – religio- political spheres of Kerala and across India, but also has an adverse element of instigating all Religious Fundamentalist outfits, to take advantage of their Islamophobic perception and position.”
The group said that the damage now caused “could have been averted, provided the Church leadership has a proper perception on ‘religious freedom, hate speech, patriarchy, Casteism, Indian Constitution and also Universal Declaration of Human Rights’.” It highlighted that Indian Churches including the “the Roman Catholics, Mainline Protestants and the Independent-Charismatics, mainly in Kerala, have a unique heritage with distinct history and communities drawn from various cultural, caste and denominational backgrounds.” With such a back-drop, the remark made by a Church leader, “not only disturbs the sentiments of Christians mainly the Dalit Christians, who form majority within in Indian Christians, but also is detrimental to the very secular fabric of this great nation, which is known for its laudable Constitutional values” stated NDCW in its response to the ongoing controversy.
The NDCW stated that it “stands for ‘Caste Free Church, Ecumenism and Communal Harmony among all Faith based Communities’,” and “does not advocate the terms “Love Jihad and Narcotic Jihad”. Such terms, it said, go against “a particular religious sect, accusing it as the main reason for all what happens in this soil and elsewhere in the world in the name of religion.” Most importantly the NDCW has condemned those, who its says “safeguard the remark of the Clergy, with a justification that ‘The Bishop voiced this statement for protecting the Youth of Christian Community’, which is still worse, as it trespasses into the very liberty and freedom of youth, who have a ‘mind and choice’ to look for their life partner and lifestyle.” They state that such “supportive voices, affirm the ‘Patriarchal and Casteist’ mindset of the Clergy and also the Lay, who go against to the Christian Teaching and Faith that ‘All are Created in the Image of God’; There is ‘neither Jew, nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female-but all are ONE’.”
According to the group, “Protecting the Church and the Christian Community should be based on how the Clergy and the Lay inherit Christian insights and follow the Scriptural values and see that their ‘preaching and practicing go together’ and not through other means like making derogatory remarks.” It added that terms such as ‘Narcotic Jihad’, are against the Secular spirit of Indian Constitution that upholds religious harmony among its citizens and the bishop’s argument “Protecting our own Youth with such remarks” is also “against to the very principles that were enshrined in the preamble of the Constitution – ‘Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity’ and also the Fundamental Rights ensured to its Citizen.” The group warns that such remarks can also have ramifications that can lead to the further marginalisation and oppression of religious minorities and other vulnerable communities.
The NDCW has urged the Indian Church leadership to restrain themselves from making such “scathing attacks in the name of protecting their own community” and asked them to address the issue of ‘Caste based discrimination’.