Ideas

Even As Indian Govt Rescues Christian Priests From War Zones, Church Continues Its Propaganda

Uzhunnalil (ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images) 
Snapshot
  • While it is theologically impossible for the Church to respect a pagan society and/or a secular state, the least that it can do is to refrain from false propaganda against Hindus and India

After months of sustained effort from the External Affairs Ministry, Catholic priest Tom Uzhunnalil was freed earlier this month. He had been abducted by the Islamic State terrorists in Yemen. The 59-year-old priest, who belongs to the Salesian order of the Catholic church, and is a native of Kerala, was held in captivity for one and a half years by the terror group.

Earlier, in 2015, another Catholic priest from Tamil Nadu, Father Alexis Prem Kumar, who was abducted by the Taliban in Afghanistan for eight months, was also freed by the efforts of the Narendra Modi government. Besides the Jesuit priest, it also secured the release of another aid worker belonging to the Catholic denomination, who was also abducted by the Taliban.

But that did not prevent the Congress party spokesperson from accusing the Modi government of partiality when rumours of Islamic State having crucified the Catholic priest surfaced.

From left, Father Alexis Prem Kumar, aid worker and Uzhunnalil From left, Father Alexis Prem Kumar, aid worker and Uzhunnalil

This writer has written earlier about how even as the Modi government secured the release of abducted Catholics of Indian origin from the Taliban, the Catholic media worldwide, as well as its Indian arm vehemently attacked Prime Minister Modi, raising the bogey of persecution.

This time too, the same has happened. Even as the government rescued the priest, he chose to go to the Vatican first. Then the announcement came from Vatican sources that he would meet the Prime Minister on 28 September. Meanwhile in India, the Catholic church started attacking the government.

Opposition To Jai Hind

In Madhya Pradesh, the Education Minister had suggested that students in government schools can say ‘Jai Hind’ instead of ‘Yes sir/madam’ during the daily roll call. Jai Hind is a slogan that was originally coined by the South Indian freedom fighter Chenbagaraman Pillai and was popularised by the legendary icon of Indian freedom struggle Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Cutting across party and religious lines, the slogan is used in all national events in the country. It is the quintessential patriotic slogan for our country.

However, the Catholic church in Madhya Pradesh condemned the slogan.

The Union of Catholic Asian News, “Asia's most trusted independent Catholic news source”, in its report filed in September 2017 gave a communal twist to the slogan Jai Hind, arguing that the word “Hind is a shortened form of Hindustan (land of Hindus), which excludes India's religious minorities such as Christians and Muslims”.

Bishop Anthony Chirayath of Sagar, heading the powerful education commission of the regional Catholic Bishops' Council said that making students say Jai Hind was “not good for a healthy democracy”.

Father Maria Stephen, public relations officer of the Bishops' Council, called the order asking the students to answer the roll call with Jai Hind as “more or less a cultural invasion”.

Dr Chenbagaraman Pillai, left, and Subhas Chandra Bose Dr Chenbagaraman Pillai, left, and Subhas Chandra Bose

But this objection is consistent with a pattern well known among the Catholic institutions in India. While they hobnob with every force that weakens India, they consistently attack any attempt at strengthening the emotional bonds that unite it.

There is a remarkable consistency across decades. A Jesuit missionary working almost in the same area as what is now Madhya Pradesh, lamented in 1932 of “the awakening in them (Hindus) of unhealthy nationalism” and also about “government colleges in India … breeding vipers”, and asked rhetorically, “How can you expect to convert them?” Now in 2017, almost 85 years later, similar phraseology is used by the church to counter any efforts to inculcate an emotional attachment to India.

Despite what the Indian state does in rescuing its citizens irrespective of their religion (and it so happens that the high-profile cases here are all Catholic), the church continues its propaganda against the Modi government. They seem to want a weak India and an educational system that will never help develop an emotional attachment to the nation. Cultural illiteracy in India is a great evangelical asset. Unfortunately, the Nehruvian education system has helped the evangelists tremendously in this regard. And any attempt to disturb the status quo is met with unleashing of a virulent propaganda and it’s not just against the Indian government. The attack on the government is not limited to local opposition and propaganda. They want to shame India in international forums as well.

Even as the Salesian priest was secured from the grips of Islamic State by the Modi government and was on his way to the Vatican to meet His Holiness Pope Francis, Reverend Father Selvaraj Arulnathan was delivering a speech on the ‘violation of Human Rights in India’ in the thirty-sixth session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) at Geneva on 21 September. Father Arulnathan is a Jesuit priest . He is also Secretary of Indian Social Institute, a Christian organisation with a deceptively secular name. Here is an excerpt from his speech:

Cultural imperialism and state-sponsored terrorism are being silently imposed on the people. This has disempowered millions of poor and marginalised from their villages and states, who migrate in huge numbers to other places and states. This has resulted in huge distress and internal migration. This in turn has created huge social and cultural unrest including economic crisis in the state. The people of India are deeply concerned about the growing violence and unrest across India. Taking into consideration the serious situation prevailing in India, I appeal to the honourable vice president to send special envoys to study the situation and initiate immediate action against the injustice and violence...

Anyone in India, whatever his or her political affiliation, can see that the “millions of people” displaced by “cultural imperialism and state violence” creating “huge internal displacement” and so on are nothing but lies and Goebbelsian propaganda. This is the modern-day equivalent of false propaganda indulged by the missionaries about Hindus throwing children to the crocodiles in the river Ganges. And this happens despite the Indian government constantly rescuing Christian missionaries of Indian origin who proselytise in foreign countries.

Of course, Christian gratitude towards any Pagan society and/or secular state is a theological impossibility, but the least that they can do is to refrain from false propaganda against Hindus and India. Is it too much for Indians to ask Christian Indians to give precedence to secular, humanistic values over the Christian theological disposition towards false propaganda, for a change?

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