In this hard hitting reflection, Cedric Prakash discusses ‘The betrayal of Christ and Constitution‘.
For the past couple of days, electronic and print mainstream media in the country, have been highlighting the public ‘promise’ made by the Archbishop of Tellicherry. During a protest rally of some Catholic rubber farmers he offered to help the BJP open an account in Kerala in the next election, provided the price of rubber is increased to Rs 300 per kilogram. In doing so, the Archbishop, has done great disservice to Christ and the Constitution of India.
This is on on several counts, which include: (a) no hierarchy or clergy is expected to take sides with any political party (though, in fitness of things they are duty-bound to expose the wrong that is taking place); (b) the BJP has proved to be an anti-minority party, the attacks on Christian personnel and institutions continue all over the country; (c) not long ago, farmers from all over the country protested for over a year against the anti-farmer laws being introduced by the BJP.
There are no records that show that the Archbishop took up cudgels on behalf of the small farmers of the country(including those in his diocese);he has also not condemned the minority-bashing which is taking place in the country today!
The Archbishop’s ‘promise’ has naturally drawn plenty of flak from all sections of society but particularly from those who cherish the secular and democratic fabric of the country.
Hogging the Headlines for the Wrong Reasons
The minuscule Christian community – which officially comprises just about 2.3% of the country’s population, has been hogging the headlines, recently and for all the wrong reasons!
In the past, several Christians who took part in the freedom struggle, were members of the Constituent Assembly and who contributed significantly to the visionary Constitution that has guided the nation. Christians have been at the forefront of education – educating the ‘creme de la crème’ and others of the nation, providing medicare to those who were sick and above all, reaching out to the poorest of the poor, the excluded and the exploited , through selfless services which empowered the sub-alterns with justice , dignity and equity and ensured their rightful place in society.
All these works continue today, but they seem to fade into insignificance, with the new narrative which is throttling the nation.
Unbridled Lust for Power
The last few years have witnessed a dramatic change with the political ethos and morality of the country at its nadir . Several politicians from across the spectrum today demonstrate an unbridled lust for power. Serving the people selflessly is apparently no longer the top priority for many of them. To gain power by hook or by crook) and to stay in power, is all that matters! Many of the politicians do not care about the consequences, or about the harm they are doing to the democratic structure, the diversity and the secular fabric of the country.
A New narrative of Systemic Polarization
The new narrative is made manifest with the systematic polarization which the country currently is painfully going through. The votaries of the ‘Hindutva’ ideology, which in nature is fascist, fundamentalist and fanatic – are at the helm of this. The ideology does not have any allegiance to the Constitution. The one clear aim is to make of India a Hindu – ‘nation state’ by 2025 (when the parent organization, the RSS, completes ahundred years of existence ).
A full page advertisement in Hindi in several Varanasi based Hindi dailies on 15 March 2023 entitled ‘Call to become Sanyasi’ says “ Those who have resolved to establish Hindu Sanatan Dharm as National and World Religion ” with a nine day rigorous training programme beginning 22 March and ending on Ram Navami, is a clear sign of things to come.
A visible strategy to realize this exclusive and anti – national agenda is the targeting of minorities – particularly Muslims and Christians – through a continual process of demonization, denigration and discrimination.
Manipulation, hate speech, false cases
They often succeed with their manipulative ploy. Venomous hate speeches are on the rise; those who indulge in them do so with impunity. They know well that the ruling regime will provide them with immunity and protection. Anti – conversion laws have been passed by some States. Though these laws are still in the hearing stage in the Supreme Court), they provide vigilantes, in an unhealthy nexus with the local police, to the take law into their own hands. Routine prayer services are disrupted and attacked; false cases of so- called ‘forced’ conversion are made, priests and religious sisters are arrested and even denied bail on the flimsiest of reasons. There are instances when Hindutva elements have demanded exorbitant sums of money from priests, threatening them with false cases, if the money is not received.
Christians are far from being witnesses of Christ
On the other hand, some Christians including hierarchy, clergy and laity are far from being authentic witnesses to the person and message of Jesus; there are instances of financial scams, sexual misconduct, and other improprieties, which make both individual and institution extremely vulnerable and pliable.
There are examples of how the ruling regime has hammered powerful Christians to submission, the underlying posturing is that ‘nothing will happen to you, if you join (or are with) us; if you do not do so, then we will destroy you.’
When a person has lost all credibility, the so-called ‘Christian’ has no choice but to succumb to the blackmail and the threats of the powers that apparently control their destinies.
People often wonder why MLAs and MPs who have been elected under the banner of a political party easily ‘cross the floor’ and join the ruling regime. The answer is obvious! Besides, the ruling regime has plenty of money to buy up politicians from opposition parties. The recent political imbroglio in Maharashtra, which is awaiting a Supreme Court verdict, is a case in point!
Many Christian politicians are also easy prey: we have the classic example of ‘Catholic’ politicians, in the Goa Assembly elections having absolutely no qualms of conscience to leave the party they were elected from, to join the ruling party.
The recent elections in the three North Eastern states of Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura calls for great introspection.
The Christian population of Nagaland is estimated to be around 90% and that of Meghalaya around 75%; Tripura has a much smaller Christian population of about 4%. Today, however in all these States, the BJP is calling the shots, setting the political agenda and in fact, ruling (despite getting just 2 seats in Meghalaya).
The reasons for this seismic political change are several. Many of the politicians (despite being Christian) are corrupt; this is no State secret and which the BJP can exploit to their advantage. The BJP also used the Christian card, singing ‘Alleluias’ and ‘Praise the Lord’ in their campaigning. The BJP was happily legitimizing the eating of beef in the north-east; whereas in most parts of India they and their ilk, lynch and kill minorities even if the latter just happen to ferry a cow in a vehicle. Then of course, the Sangh Parivar has its whole armoury of money, muscle, media and manipulations.
Trapped into playing the ‘religion’ card
Sadly, several of the Christian politicians (and surely some people too) were trapped into playing the ‘religion’ card whether it was campaigning with Christian rhetoric or organizing a patently unconstitutional swearing -in ceremony for the newly elected legislators of Nagaland.
Having a pastor pray and a choir sing a Christian song has only made it easier for the BJP to give legitimacy for Hindu rituals at Government functions and thus to effectively destroy the secular fabric of the country.
Of course, several Christians, (who hardly bother about Constitutional propriety and the severe repercussions such so-called ‘Christian’ acts would have on the future of the country) went ‘ga-ga’ when they watched clippings of the Nagaland swearing- in ceremony; there was a similar response when the CM of Meghalaya went to Vailankanni ; those who cheered him did not care a hoot for the fact that CM has literally sold his state to a fascist regime.
Growing Scandals among Christians including Clergy
The big news a few days ago, is that the BJP is going all out to woo the Christians of Kerala during the Easter season.
The Archbishop of Tellicherry’s public statement came only after some of the BJP functionaries met him. Several efforts have also been made in the past. The last elections however, in God’s own country was an overwhelming defeat for the BJP.
The ground realities are different now; the BJP has the upper hand in the face of growing scandals among sections of the Kerala Christians. Some Christians (including some hierarchy and clergy) are warming up to the BJP. Besides opportunism, everyone knows why!!!
Few Christians in the country stand up and speak up for the values which are so beautifully enshrined in the Constitution of India.
The nation today is suffering as never before! Communalism, Casteism, Criminalisation of politics, Corruption and Consumerism are rampant.
At the receiving end of a brutal, unjust and inhuman system are the excluded and exploited: the migrants and labourers; the minorities – Muslims, Christians and others; human rights defenders, and those who cherish freedom of speech and expression, and a free press; those who defend the right to preach, practise and propagate one’s faith; those who are victims of venomous hate speeches and attacks, of demonization and discrimination. Those who have false cases foisted on them – with Government (Constitutional and quasi) bodies breathing fire on them.
Then we have the fisher-folk of Kerala and others who have been displaced by mega projects and the mining mafia (who destroy our precious natural resources). Those who are concerned about the ecology (Josimath is a classic case) and environmental justice; the LGTBQIA community; the small farmers and land-holders; the small investors who have fallen prey to a corrupt regime which has been hijacked by crony capitalists like Adani. The Adivasis who are denied their jal, jungle aur jameen, the Dalits and other vulnerable sections of society. There are many more; the list is endless!
How many of our Christians (particularly politicians) or the Church as a body, spoken out against all these evils taking place in the country today?
A ten year old statement from Catholic Bishops
Interestingly, in February 2012 at 30th CBCI Meeting in Bangalore on the theme ‘The Church’s Role for a Better India’, the Catholic Bishops stated, “We sensed in our hearts our country’s yearning for a Better India. Our country has been noted for its deep spirituality, its saints and sages, its rich diversity of cultures and religions. People yearn for the ideal enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution of India of a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic which will secure for its citizens Justice, social, economic and political; Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; Equality of status and of opportunity; Fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation. But this yearning has remained largely unfulfilled.
Economic development has brought about increasing inequities, an ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor with consequent tensions spilling over into violence.
We see around us a betrayal of the poor and marginalized, the tribals, dalits and other backward classes, women and other groups who live in dehumanising and oppressive poverty. We witness rampant exploitation of children. There is disappointment with those in public life for whom ethical concerns matter little. The Church does not wish to rest on her laurels. She recommits herself to being a prophetic Church, taking a decisive stand in favour of the poor and marginalized “We envision an India with more attributes of the Kingdom of God such as justice and equity with its consequent fruits of love, peace and joy.”
Today, times are far worse! Will our Bishops today demonstrate the much-needed prophetic courage and speak up for truth and justice and for the values of the Constitution, in the same manner they did in 2012?
Disciples with no qualms of Conscience
Those who call themselves ‘disciples’ of Jesus have no qualms of conscience to hobnob (to sup and more) with fascists fundamentalists and fanatics, who brazenly destroy the sanctity of the Constitution and the secular, pluralistic fabric of the country.
These ‘disciples’ find it easier to indulge in a politics of convenience and compromise. They support Hindutva terms like ‘love jihad’ and ‘drug jihad’; they do not to take on the Government and police, if schools/institutions are attacked by the Sangh Parivar or if religious sisters are harassed and hounded out of a train.
They are afraid to call for the revocation of the CAA amendments, the UAPA and other sedition laws; or for the total repeal of the draconian anti-conversion laws; they are frightened to support the protesting farmers or workers or for that matter, the unconstitutional abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A where Kashmir is concerned.
For these Christians standing up to the ruling regime is just not possible. They prefer the more ‘diplomatic’ and ‘cautious’ approach: ‘silence’ they say is important for the ‘greater good.’ Some of them selectively use scriptural texts to justify their fears, ignorance and exclusiveness! All these are sinful!
Jesus and his gospel without compromise are about exactly the opposite. Jesus says “fear no one; I am with you!” When Christians have no courage to take a stand for justice and truth, because those who rule us may take away our possessions, privileges, power, position whatever – we are in fact sending a stronger message which is contra-witness: that our faith in Jesus is shallow, mere lip-service; that we really do not believe in him; that our treasures are with the rulers of this world! Ignorance is never a value: Jesus himself warned us about our inability to “read the signs of the times.”
If we don’t stick our necks out -one will perhaps still lose everything, but also one’s own credibility! Christians of India must wake up now, stop selling one’s soul, betraying Jesus and the Constitution of India!
In ‘Evangelii Gaudium’, Pope Francis reminds us that, “The dignity of the human person and the common good rank higher than the comfort of those who refuse to renounce their privileges. When these values are threatened, a prophetic voice must be raised.” Is anybody listening?
Fr Cedric Prakash SJ is a human rights, reconciliation and peace activist/writer.
THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED IN THIS ARTICLE ARE ENTIRELY THOSE OF THE AUTHOR AND ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE OPINIONS OF THE EDITOR AND STAFF OF NEWSNET ONE
The truth is sometimes hard to swallow. The truth is that there is self interest, and lust for power among ambitious clerics in all religious fields.
The church in South India needs introspection and reform.
This has to come from within.
As for politicians, there are so many within the clergy and religious houses as well.
As for the sheep, as Jesus called them, … sheep aren’t regarded as intelligent or brave!