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Church divided, faces internal issues, as anti-Christian crimes rise under Modi: Report

During a September 2018 nuns' protest against Malakkal in Kochi
By Our Representative
A top US-based Catholic 'voice', "National Catholic Reporter" (NCR), which claims to provide the "only significant alternative" to diverse Christian perspectives, has said that during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent visit to the United States was greeted with "a lack of enthusiasm from Christian groups", as they are "aware of the rising violence against religious minorities in India fueled by the government's Hindu nationalist ideology."
Pointing towards the reason, NCR quotes Jesuit Fr Stanislaus Alla, theologian and professor at the Vidyajyoti College of Theology in Delhi, to say  that the Church in India is "paying the price for standing up for human rights." Alla said this on a recent trip to the United States to present a paper on public health in South Asia.
At the same time, the top Christian media site notes, "The Catholic community in India is also besieged by internal issues that have rocked the church in the past few years", citing the public protest by nuns in Kerala against Bishop Franco Mulakkal, accused of raping a nun.
The Missionaries of Jesus "flouted" the country's anti-rape laws and publicly released the picture of the survivor, causing a massive public uproar. The church was criticized for its inaction against Mulakkal, despite a "written complaint by the survivor".
Regretting that though many within the Church consider such issues as "internal matters" and choose to resolve it without going to the police, Alla says, "We also suffer from 'minority persecution syndrome.' Since we are a minority in India, we tend to not let issues blow up. And that has backfired badly."
The NCR report by Sarah Salvadore, a researcher, says, "The case polarized the community. While many felt the nuns shouldn't have protested publicly, others called for introspection and transparency."
Pointing out that "with cases of clerical sex abuse in India making headlines, the Church has also come under fire for protecting the institution and victim-blaming", Alla says, "We are still in the cover-up and denial mode. Things aren't transparent. We are not ready yet, as a church, to open our eyes and see what's happening. We need to be accountable."
The report says, "Although there are child protection policies within the Church in India, there is a reluctance to implement them. The draft Child Protection Policy] is at the Catholic Bishop's Conference of India-level, but "the bishops and superiors have to implement it, and not many are serious about doing so. They always want to 'manage' things."
Fr Alla
Asserting that it's this attitude that has "caused problems" for the Church, the report says, "When India's Hindu nationalist party, the BJP, declared victory for the second time in the general elections this year, a sense of unease engulfed the country's minority communities, who make up 18.2% of the country's population. Since 2014, under Modi's watch, religious persecution rose.
"Christians in India have been active contributors to its education system. But in an atmosphere of growing right-wing fundamentalism, Catholic educational institutions have come under attack. They often face criticism and are accused of proselytism", Salvadore believes.
"State level anti-conversion laws have been enacted to regulate conversions to other religions. These laws are now used to harass Christians, and divide and polarize people", the report says, adding, "Studies have shown that the number of Christians in India has gone down from 2.5% to 2.3%. There is absolutely no truth to the claim of forced proselytization." It claims, "Some people convert on their own accord, but there's no forced proselytization."
According to the report, "In the past few years, Christians in the country's Hindi heartland have been facing a series of attacks from Hindu extremists. More recently, outright violence has taken a backseat, and coordinated efforts are in place to shut down institutions."
"A recent example is the police raid conducted at the home of Jesuit Fr Stan Swamy, a prominent human rights activist. Swamy, a critic of the government, has been an advocate of indigenous people undergoing trials who he said were falsely accused and imprisoned for protesting violations of their constitutional rights", it underlines.
However, Salvadore quotes Alla to dismiss the idea that the current BJP government is particularly harsh on Christian minorities. "To be fair, Christians have suffered under other political parties as well. And it's not just this government BJP." Citing examples of missionaries being deported from India during the 1960s and 1970s under "secular" Congress, Alla adds, however, that the present situation is a lot "different and difficult."
"With the BJP government's implicit support of its fringe elements, lynchings against minorities in India, especially Muslims, have increased drastically since Modi came into power for the second time. Data shows that 90% of religious hate crimes in India in the past decade have occurred under the Modi government. In most cases, despite overwhelming evidence, the accused have walked free", the article says.
Lamenting that Church leaders have been "measured in their response", Salvadore says, "They've often reached out to Modi in an effort to build bridges", even though BJP has been accusing the Church for being anti-Modi and encouraging Catholics to vote along communal lines. "Though the church is supposed to be apolitical, there are times when priests do make their political leanings public."

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