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Snapshot

Several kids had written a letter to the Prime Minister recently requesting him to secure the release of Father Tom Uzhunnalil from Islamic State’s clutches.

The four- to five-year-old kids, who obviously cannot have thought of writing such a letter on their own, have more to learn about this matter than they are told.

This is a letter to help them understand the developments clearly.

Several news outlets recently published a report that said many four- to five-year-old “tiny tots” had written a “letter” to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting him to secure the release of an evangelist Jesuit from the clutches of terror group Islamic State (IS).

Let’s leave aside the pertinent question of how four- to five-year-olds came to ask for the release of a Jesuit missionary from the custody of IS. Let’s also leave aside the equally pertinent question of how these kids managed to write a coherent letter (even as they were helped by their parents and the church).

Instead, what this article will focus on is the “ends justify the means” mentality of the church. Here are some points to consider:

1. The church has been a vocal critic of the ruling political dispensation at the centre, going as far as to complain – beyond borders – to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), the Vatican and many non-governmental organisations about the “atrocities against minorities” committed under this government’s rule. It has been crossing the lines of public discourse routinely in a secular state by endorsing and vetoing the political choices of its community. This has been seen especially in Kerala.

2. Through its actions – using kids to advance public policy positions, it’s clear that the church doesn’t care about its own moral or political stance when it comes to saving one of its own, and little can be done to change their mindset. However, talking to the “tiny tots” and explaining to them the ways of the world is definitely possible. With that in mind, here’s a letter directed to them.

Dear children,

We read in several newspapers that you have written to the Prime Minister of India. We are happy that you are so concerned with someone else’s life at such a young age. However, there are some hard truths that you need to know about this particular incident. While it may be difficult to comprehend, we are sure that, with your level of maturity, you will be able to see the truth in it.

First, Father Tom Uzhunnalil was sent to the troubled area (where IS militants operate) by the same church that today helped you with this letter. They decided to send him there despite the Government’s warning to Indian citizens not to travel there in any capacity.

Second, Uzhunnalil went there on an evangelising mission. He was not sent for any humanitarian purposes. He was sent there by the church to evangelise, despite the government’s warning not to do so.

Third, Uzhunnalil stayed on in the war-torn area, even as the Indian government directed all its citizens, irrespective of religion, caste or creed, to vacate the terror-hit area. In fact, the government had taken measures on a war-footing to evacuate Indians because of the possible dangers that they may have to face. However, he did not heed the warnings of the government and went on a mission as directed by the church.

Fourth, Uzhunnalil did not go alone. He went there with a few nuns. All the nuns were killed by IS, and he was captured. But, the church that sent them there despite government warnings never took responsibility for the death of the nuns.

Fifth, Uzhunnalil’s case is not the first such incident where the church has put Indian lives in danger. In Afghanistan, it sent Indian nationals into territories under the Taliban control, knowing fully well that they will be in mortal danger once there. Indians were kidnapped then too, because the church put its religious (perhaps political) ambitions ahead of the lives of the Indian-origin priests serving in it.

Sixth, the church that has put Indian lives like Uzhunnalil’s in danger, has vilified this government before foreign agencies such as the USCIRF, and has used you as a media prop to advance their religious aims, swears its allegiance more to the Vatican than to the Constitution of India.

Having said this, here is my advice. Do write to the Prime Minister asking for his help in freeing the abducted pastor, who happens to be an Indian citizen. But, also, some day, write to the church demanding that it should not put Indian lives at risk to further their religious goals. It should not put adherence to the church ahead of their loyalty to the Indian Constitution. More importantly, it should not use children without a voice for pursuing their religio-political goals.

Yes, the truth may hurt now. But it also liberates. Our wish for you is that this truth sets you free.