Another influential Christian body publicly acknowledges the much-suspected ‘love jihad’ phenomenon, and expresses concern over the targeting of Christian girls.
After an influential Christian sect in Kerala raised its voice against “love jihad” incidents in the state, a high-power decision-making body of the Catholics has said that “secular political parties” should accept that it existed.
Kerala Catholics Bishop Council deputy general secretary Varghese Vallikkat told The New Indian Express that “love jihad” should be addressed at a broader level and “secular political parties should at least accept” that it existed in Kerala.
“A small group of people in the state is continuously getting radicalised and it has its links to international and global Islam. It varies in names, but people and the leadership of these groups are almost the same,”said Vallikkat.
Secular parties in Kerala were not interested in discussing “love jihad’, he said. A series of killings had taken place but no mainstream party had addressed the issue, he added.
“Love jihad” was not about a girl getting married to a boy from another religion. “In these cases, we don’t see them living happily after the marriage,” said Vallikkat, adding that love was being used as a weapon.
In a related development, the Syro Malabar Catholic Church, an influential Christian sect in Kerala, has its allegations on “love jihad” disrupting religious harmony in Kerala and said it should be considered “terrorist activity”.
In a circular read to the laity in churches on Sunday (19 January), the Syro Malabar Church Cardinal George Alencherry reiterated the decision taken at the Synod last week.
Alencherry, however, replaced the words “love jihad” with “inter-religious love affairs with bad intentions”.
Alencherry, in the circular, said that love jihad incidents were true and “well-planned activities targeting Christian girls are happening and they were being “lured and killed” by radical elements.
Referring to the different usage of words, Antony Thalachelloor, Secretary, Media Commission, Syro Malabar Church, said the Cardinal had taken a “pastoral approach” to address the laity.
He said while the communication to the general public was written by him, the circular was drafted by Cardinal Alencherry.
The circular to the laity comes on the heels of a division within the church with some criticising the church for taking a “right wing stand”, while some alleging that Kerala politics has made the state “a fertile ground for radical elements”.
A dissident senior priest of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese and former secretary of the Presbyterian Council, Kuriakose Mundadan, wrote an article in a journal Sathyadeepam (Light of Truth) run by the archdiocese, hitting out at the synod’s statement.
Mundadan said even the courts have dismissed allegations of “love jihad”.
“Several girls and boys have converted to Christianity for love and marriage. Does the church have any data on such conversions?” he wondered. The priest had earlier attacked Cardinal Alencherry for a controversial land deal that allegedly caused a huge financial loss to the Church.
Joint secretary of the Kerala Catholic Church Reformation Movement, Prof Joseph Varghese, said the “love jihad” statement was an attempt to divert attention from issues such as sex scandals and corrupt land deals that the church was entangled in.
Another church official said the “love jihad” statement was the Church’s way of cosying up to the Narendra Modi government at the Centre.
Referring to Mundadan article, Thalachelloor said the article did not reflect the church’s stand and Syro Malabar Church had no connection with the journal.
A section of the laity feels that the church’s stand would mainly help the Bharatiya Janata Party and its sister organisations.
Soon after the Synod meeting last week, the Syro Malabar Catholic Church came out in the open against “love jihad” in Kerala, saying Christian girls were being targeted and killed through “love jihad” in Kerala.
Pointing out at various reports, Thalachelloor said that out of the 21 persons who left Kerala to join ISIS, half of them were Christians.
“Recently, there have been incidents in which women have been increasingly lured, raped, tortured and forced to convert. Authorities have failed to act cautiously in almost all these incidents,” he said.
This is the second time the Syro Malabar Church has come out against “love jihad”.
In September last year, following the alleged rape of an 18-year-old Christian girl by a 19-year-old Muslim boy, Thalachelloor charged that Christian girls were the most targeted.
Vice-Chairman of the National Minorities Commission, George Kurian, has taken up the issue with Union Home Minister Amit Shah. He has sought a probe by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) into the conversions of Christian girls to Islam.
In 2017, Mathew Mar Gregorios, the Bishop of the Syrian Independent Orthodox Church, told the media that ‘love jihad’ is a reality and a systematic campaign to convert Christian girls to Islam was going on in Kerala’s Malabar region.
The term “love jihad” came to existence in 2009 when the parents of four Christian girls filed habeas corpus petitions in the Kerala High Court after their children were converted to Islam.
The latest criticism of “love jihad” by the church comes at a time when major political parties such as the Congress and CPM have been accused of turning a blind eye to this burning issue.
These major parties depend on the support of the Muslim community, which make up over 26 per cent of the population, politically. Christians make up 19 per cent of the population and Hindus the rest.