Dalit Christians accuse Catholic Church of caste discrimination – MISNA

Dalit Christians protest against discrimination in the ChurchMISNAA DCLM delegation asked the UN and other organizations to urge the Holy See to eradicate the caste discriminatory practices and to withdraw the Permanent Observer position of the Holy See in the UN if the Vatican does not take the necessary steps [to end untouchability]. – MISNA

Cardinal Archbishop Baselios CleemisThe Dalit Christian Liberation Movement (DCLM) accuses the Vatican and the Indian Catholic Church leadership of caste-based discrimination “by way of allowing it directly and indirectly in their spiritual, educational and administrative places”.

“We have submitted seven copies of the complaint to Rajeev Chandran, assistant director of the UN Center in New Delhi addressed to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and different human rights organizations”, Mary John, president of the DCLM, told ucanews.com.

A DCLM delegation asked the UN and other organizations to urge the Holy See to eradicate the caste discriminatory practices and to withdraw the Permanent Observer position of the Holy See in the UN if the Vatican does not take the necessary steps. Dalits, or untouchables, are the lowest caste within Hindu society. Huge numbers of Gregory XV (9 January 1554 – 8 July 1623)Dalits have converted to Christianity and Islam over the decades, though in reality the religions offer limited protection from societal prejudice.

“The discrimination against Dalit Christians in the Catholic Church* is a human rights issue and it would be right if we approach the UN to find a solution to it”, Mary John said.

“There are separate cemeteries for Dalit Christians. Even in the church there are separate seating arrangements for those from the Dalit community and others. The festival choir processions do not enter the streets where Dalit Christians live”, said Kudanthai Arasan, president of the Viduthalai Tamil Puligal Katchi, adding that in some churches even the dead body of a Dalit Christian is not allowed inside for funeral Mass. While Dalit Christians form 70 percent of the total Catholic population in India, said John, their representation in the Church leadership is only 4-5 percent. Out of about 200 Salvatore Pennacchio is Papal Nuncio to Indiaactive bishops in India, only nine are from the Dalit community.

“We have raised our voice time and again to end this practice in the Indian Church, but our pleas have been falling on deaf ears. … They do not take our case seriously to the Vatican”, John said.

Father Joseph Chinnayyan, deputy secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), said that as far as the Dalit Christians’ complaint about the issue to the UN is concerned, “we are not aware of any such complaint and will only respond once we receive any communication about it”. – Euroasia Review, 30 June 2015

Reference

St. Thomas and Caste – Ishwar Sharan: “Scheduled Caste Christians demonstrated against the untouchability practiced in the Church when Pope John Paul II visited India in 1986. They probably did not know that Pope Gregory XV (1621-1623) had sanctioned caste within the Indian Church and that his edict has never been rescinded. Earlier in 1599 the Council of Diamper and again in 1606 the Council of Goa had sanctioned the same. These sanctions have governed Catholic practice ever since — though Christians piously maintain that caste is contrary to Christ’s teachings.”

» MISNA, or the Missionary International Service News Agency, provides daily news ‘from, about and for’ the ‘world’s Souths’, not just in the geographical sense, since December 1997.

Dalits for Equal Rights in Churches

Caste-segregated Christian graveyard in Tamil Nadu: Dalits are buried on the left side of the wall, caste Christians on the right.

Native Americans say Junípero Serra enslaved them; Pope Francis says he saved them – Jack Jenkins

Native American demonstrators protest the proposed sainthood of Junípero Serra outside Mission Dolores in San Francisco, California.

Jack Jenkins“‘It is imperative [Pope Francis] is enlightened to understand that Father Serra was responsible for the deception, exploitation, oppression, enslavement and genocide of thousands of Indigenous Californians, ultimately resulting in the largest ethnic cleansing in North America,’ a MoveOn.org petition read.” – Jack Jenkins

Pope FrancisPope Francis has been widely lauded as a champion of the oppressed, advocating for the victims of war and passionately declaring that “to discriminate in the name of God is inhuman.”

But in September, the pontiff is planning to canonize, or declare a saint, a man who some Native Americans say not only discriminated in God’s name, but also subjugated thousands of Indians along the West Coast using missionary tactics that effectively enslaved his Christian converts.

Spanish Franciscan missionary Junipero Serra (1713-1784)On [May 6th], the Vatican formally sanctioned plans to proclaim the saintliness of Junípero Serra, an 18th century Franciscan missionary who converted thousands of Native Americans to Christianity in California before his death in 1784. The Spanish priest is renowned by many Catholics for his devoutness, and Francis is scheduled to make his sainthood official in an elaborate outdoor mass during his papal visit to the United States this fall. The pontiff has expressed deep admiration for Serra, showering him with praise in a recent address to seminarians for exhibiting “generosity and courage” while “usher[ing] in a new springtime of evangelization in those immense territories, extending from Florida to California.” 

“Such zeal excites us,” Francis said.

But many argue the impact of Serra’s “zeal” is more complicated than the pope suggests. Native American activist organizations such as Mexica Movement have staged several protests outside Catholic sites across California since January, when Francis first announced his intention to canonize Serra. On Monday, demonstrators gathered outside of Mission Dolores in San Francisco, making speeches condemning Serra and unfurling banners emblazoned with slogans such as “No Sainthood for Serra” and “Native Lives Matter.”

“My ancestors were directly enslaved at Mission Dolores here, and at Mission San Jose in Fremont, and I want to make sure that the Vatican knows that we, and Native people allies, do not agree with the canonization of Junipero Serra,” said Corrina Gould, a woman who claims Karkin and Chochenyo Ohlone ancestry, according to Indybay.org.

Organizers have also launched Facebook groups and online petitions urging Francis to reconsider.

“It is imperative [Pope Francis] is enlightened to understand that Father Serra was responsible for the deception, exploitation, oppression, enslavement and genocide of thousands of Indigenous Californians, ultimately resulting in the largest ethnic cleansing in North America,” a MoveOn.org petition read.

Protest against Serra's canonizationA saint who beat Native Americans?

Credited with baptizing around 90,000 Indians during his lifetime, there is wide agreement among historians that Serra’s evangelism tactics were harsh by any modern standard. George Tinker, Professor of American Indian Cultures and Religious Traditions at Iliff School of Theology and author of Missionary Conquest: The Gospel and Native American Genocide, described to ThinkProgress what he called the “almost slave-labor conditions” that Native Americans were subjected to under Serra’s leadership. Citing accounts from Serra’s own lieutenant, Tinker said the Franciscan priest prohibited converts from leaving his Christian compounds, often called missions, and forced them to endure grueling labor on Spanish-run farms. Any attempt to flee was met with brutal reprisals.

Protest against the canonization of Junipero Serra at Mission Dolores, California“The army would round the person up, bring him back to the mission compound, and then the person is punished,” he said, “The mission compound was run kind of like a military boot camp.”

The mission compound was run kind of like a military boot camp.

Tinker, himself a Native American of the Osage Nation who practices traditional spirituality, said Indians were often unwillingly compelled to convert, and that Serra housed women and unmarried girls in tight quarters until he chose spouses for them.

“Indian people had little free choice,” he said. “Conversion [was] almost a last desperation in order to stay alive.”

Native Americans and even some Catholics have opposed the Church’s celebration of Serra for several decades. In the lead up to his beatification — a preliminary step on the road to sainthood — in 1988, advocates in California penned op-eds demanding Church officials acknowledge Serra’s role in harming indigenous populations. In response, the Diocese of Monterey issued a 90-page report rejecting the accusation that Serra mistreated Indians, with one contributor saying “there’s no evidence that Serra ever instituted physical punishment or any kind of unusual punishment.” But several Indians pointed out that the document, which was compiled by a public relations specialist, did not interview any Native Americans, and that Franciscan historians had already acknowledged that Serra “upheld the custom of whipping.”

ThinkProgress contacted the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for a response to the recent wave of anti-Serra protests, but did not receive a reply by press time.

Protest against the canonization of Spanish missionary of Junípero Serra in CaliforniaAn agent of colonialism

Some Catholics and scholars have sought to re-examine Serra — who was a member of the Inquisition — as a product of his time, when missionaries all over the globe were encouraged to treat their converts like misguided offspring. Robert M. Senkewicz, history professor at Santa Clara University and co-author of Junípero Serra: California, Indians, and the Transformation of a Missionary, told ThinkProgress that Serra was actually arguably more benevolent than other missionaries, and tried to protect Native Americans from additional exploitation at the hands of the Spanish military.

“In California, [political leaders] always wanted the Indian labor force available to themselves, a sort of series of personal servants,” he said. “Most of the fights Serra had in California were over trying to restrict the military settlers’ access to Native labor.”

Catholics who support Serra’s canonization, such as controversial San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, say his relative altruism toward Indians justifies his sainthood, and that Native life under missionaries was preferable to battling European armies.

“European powers were going to discover this continent and settle here,” Cordileone told the New York Times in January. “Were the indigenous people better off with the missionaries or without the missionaries? I would say they were better off with the missionaries.”

Pope Francis expressed a similar sentiment in his homily over the weekend, claiming that Serra defended “indigenous people against abuses by the colonizers.”

Protest against canonization of Junipero Serra at Mission DeloresBut Tinker and other Native Americans say Serra couldn’t have protected Indians from colonialism, because he and other missionaries were colonial agents of deeply Catholic Spain. Tinker noted that Serra’s first task after making landfall in San Diego in the 1700s was to celebrate mass on the beach with Native American observers, all while ships offshore fired canons overhead. Tinker also said Serra had at least partial control over the military that accompanied him, and regularly used soldiers to keep Native American converts in line — presumably with whips, which historical records imply he ordered for use on his flock.

Indian people [of the time] would agree that they were better off dead than living under a Franciscan rule.

“Indian people [of the time] would agree that they were better off dead than living under a Franciscan rule,” he said. “How is that better than what the Puritans did? It’s the same results. Invariably, mission work was a component of colonization, either explicitly or implicitly, and in the case of Serra it was inordinately explicit.”

“This [was] an act of pure colonialism, of nailing down territory.”

Senkewicz also acknowledged that Serra, despite representing the “softer side of colonialism,” was undeniably a willing participant in Spanish conquest and the mistreatment it entailed.

“Violence and coercion were an integral part of the colonial system,” Senkewicz said, referring to the use of flogging in Serra’s missions. “This was justified by a frank paternalism, [the idea] that these people are children, and this is what you do with children.”

Pope Francis and Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles Pope Francis’ saint

Pope Francis has been unusually involved in Serra’s soon-to-be sainthood. Normally, a person is vetted for canonization after being approved by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, a Vatican group which traditionally requires that at least two miracles be attributed to someone before they can be recommended for sainthood. But the congregation actually never approved a second miracle credited to Serra, issuing their endorsement seemingly because Pope Francis had already scheduled the canonization for September. This makes Serra part of a growing list of people deemed saints primarily through the will of Pope Francis, twice without the number of miracles historically needed to do so — including the recent canonization of Pope John XXIII.

Whatever the reasoning for Serra’s sainthood, however, the controversy largely centers around one question: should the pope elevate a man who played a key role in a colonial campaign that harmed Native Americans?

“It legitimizes the conquest,” Tinker said. He predicted the looming canonization will only worsen a longstanding chasm of mistrust between the Catholic Church and Native Americans in California — a rift that largely began under Serra’s ministry.

“Part of me wants to say, ‘Oh yeah, we would like the church to come to its senses,’” he said, audibly sighing. “But as far as I can tell that’s a lost cause.” – ThinkProgress, 7 May 2015

» Jack Jenkins is the Senior Religion Reporter for ThinkProgress.

Jose Gomez

Protest statement against Junipero Serro's canonization

Anti Serra Poster

Anti-Colonialism Poster

Gay orgies and ‘murder’ scandals engulf the Vatican – Rose Troup Buchanan

Rose Troup Buchanan“In these online interactions, the priest admitted to sexual relationships with other religious figures – as well as members of the Vatican’s elite Swiss Guard – using the internet to find new partners and engage in sexual encounters online.” – Rose Troup Buchanan

Gratien AlabiThe Vatican has been embroiled in two separate, highly embarrassing, scandals.

In one, a north Italian priest has been removed from office after allegations emerged that he had been surfing the internet to find gay lovers and had been involved in gay orgies.

The other, which has generated – if possible – even more lurid press coverage in Italy, alleges a priest in the south of the country is under investigation on suspicion of murdering one of his parishioners.

Guerrina PiscagliaFather Gratien Alabi, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, is under investigation for murder following the discovery of female bones under the flagstones of an ancient mountain chapel.

The bones are anticipated to belong to Guerrina Piscaglia, 50, who disappeared from nearby Arezzo in Tuscany last year, The Times reported.

The case has generated intense media interest, with some papers claiming that Father Alabi had engaged in an affair with the woman, a parishioner of his and another priest’s church, and fathered a child with her.

Father Alabi has denied all claims, protesting his innocence.

Meanwhile, to the north of the country, the local Curia is scrambling to address the allegations made by a 32-year-old man from Rovigo, midway between Bologna and Venice.

The unidentified man apparently approached the media after church authorities failed to take action following his official complaint to the Ecclesiastical Court of the Puglia Andrea Baldonregion against the unidentified 50-year-old priest.

The younger man claimed he met the priest through Facebook, forming a close friendship with the clerical figure who then confessed his homosexuality to his online correspondent.

In his complaint, according to Italian newspaper Corriere del Mezzogiorno, the man included a record of his conversations with the priest.

In these online interactions, the priest admitted to sexual relationships with other religious figures – as well as members of the Vatican’s elite Swiss Guard – using the internet to find new partners and engage in sexual encounters online. 

Following the involvement of Archbishop of Taranto Filippo Santoro, the individual involved was immediately removed from office, once the “reliability of the facts” had been established.

He added that the allegations included behaviour that was “absolutely incompatible with the priestly ministry”.

“Needless to say, the feelings of the archbishop and the Curia are those of the regret and dismay,” a Vatican spokesperson told the Italian newspaper. – The Independent, 8 April 2015

» Rose Troup Buchanan is an online news reporter for The Independent, London.

Swiss Guard saluting a  Novus Ordo Cardinal

On Sunday, January 5, 2014, the Swiss weekly paper Schweiz am Sonntag broke the story of a former Vatican Swiss Guard, who claims to have received offers for homosexual acts  from Cardinals.

Pope Francis 'the Humble': This pope is not what he appears to be!Swiss Guard Breaks Silence: “Cardinals solicited me for sex” – Henry Habegger and Beat Kraushaar

Now the Swiss Guard joins the sordid circle of the Vatican’s Gay Lobby. A former guardsman tells for the first time that the Pope’s Swiss protectors are one of its preferred objects.

The young Swiss native claims to have been the desired object of a number of clerics. This includes a high dignitary who was inside the Vatican’s center of power. The ex-guardsman tells in detail how this person called him on his cell phone to invite him to his room after midnight. This person, who was lodging in the papal palace near the Holy Father, is considered by insiders as directly linked to the Homosexual Network.

The Swiss Guard explains that this was not an isolated case. While he served [in the Vatican], he allegedly received unambiguous offers from up to 20 clerics. This includes bishops, cardinals, and priests.

Swiss Guard at Vatican GateThe unambiguous offers included also a dinner with a priest who confided to the guardsman that he was going to be the “dessert.” A member of the Holy See’s Department of State, too, is alleged to have made close advances — the man was later transferred to another post. Reports according to which obscene sexual behavior was practically occurring under the eyes of the Pope, so to speak, are raising troubling questions. And these would have to be coming at a rather inopportune time for Rome: for on April 27, John Paul II will be canonized a saint.

Is the guardsman just a blowhard and a troublemaker? Vatican insiders consider his story to be credible, not only overall but also specifically with regard to the high dignitary close to the Pope. According to his own testimony, he did not receive any support from the Swiss Guard itself when he reported the incidents to his superiors. He was accused of having misunderstood something.

The press office of the Swiss Guard in the Vatican has responded to the accusations of the former guardsman: “The rumored ‘Homosexual Network’ does not pose a problem for the papal Swiss Guard,” spokesman Urs Breitenmoser says. According to him, “The young Swiss natives who sign up for a two-year term in the Guard, sternly follow military and religious values. For them, there are completely different issues at the center of their camaraderie and recreational activity,” Breitenmoser says. – Schweiz am Sonntag, 4 January 2014

Swiss Guard & Bishops

See Also:

Pope Francis must right the wrong and tell the truth – Hilda Raja

From top-left, going clockwise: Leo XIII with Otto von Bismarck (Germany, 1862-1890), Pius XII with Benito Mussolini (Italy, 1922-1943), Pius XII with Adolf Hitler (Germany, 1933-1945), John Paul II with Augusto Pinochet (Chile, 1973-1990), Benedict XVI with Álvaro Uribe (Colombia, 2002-2010), Francis [as a priest] with Jorge Videla (Argentina, 1976-1981), Pius XII with Rafael Trujillo (Dominican Republic, 1930-1961), Pius XII with Francisco Franco (Spain, 1936-1975). Photo collage courtesy Selecting Stones.

THE POPES AND THEIR FASCIST FRIENDS: From top-left, going clockwise: Leo XIII with Otto von Bismarck (Germany, 1862-1890), Pius XII with Benito Mussolini (Italy, 1922-1943), Pius XII with Adolf Hitler (Germany, 1933-1945), John Paul II with Augusto Pinochet (Chile, 1973-1990), Benedict XVI with Álvaro Uribe (Colombia, 2002-2010), Francis [as a priest] with Jorge Videla (Argentina, 1976-1981), Pius XII with Rafael Trujillo (Dominican Republic, 1930-1961), Pius XII with Francisco Franco (Spain, 1936-1975). Photo collage courtesy Selecting Stones.

Pope Francis the ActorThe Indian Express (dated 13th April 2015) carried a news item under the caption “Pope calls Armenian massacre first genocide of the 20th century”. It must be stated that Muslim Turkey has not denied that Christian Armenians had died in clashes in 1915. But it disagrees that this amounted to genocide. Granted it did, what I would like to raise is what Pope Francis would call the genocide undertaken by the Vatican in the 20th century in 1941. How did the Vatican turn a blind eye when Hitler invaded Yugoslavia, when he partitioned the defeated country, and detached the Catholic Croatia from the Orthodox Serbia? When Hitler’s fascist army known as the Ustashi under Pavelic set out on a cleansing drive, this was not only recognized by Vatican but was met with great rejoicing by Vatican.

Aloysius Stepinac with Ante PavelicPavelic and Archbishop Stepinac then embarked in a massive and brutal cleansing spree. The ‘Aryanization’ brought into force a number of laws and decrees. This meant anti-Semitic laws were passed, Jews were deported to concentration camps. All political opponents were banished, imprisoned, freedom of speech was suppressed. Nuns and priests marshaled children to salute Pavelic, Hitler, and Mussolini.

The insidious plan was one of the vilest and brutal in world history. Over 200,000 Orthodox Serbs inhabited the country along with 700,000 Muslims and 45,000 Jews. Between 1941 and 1942 about 40,000 Serbs and another 66,000 Serbs including 2,000 children were put to death. Many of the commandants at these death camps were Catholic priests. What would Pope Francis call this? A massacre? Genocide? Pogrom? Or Slaughter?

Pope Pius XII This terrible holocaust produced great financial gains for Vatican. Despite adamant denials, the Vatican gave its blessings. Pope Pius XII was fully informed of the death camps, the forced conversion, etc. He even sent his personal representative to bless the Ustachi.

To make matters worse and as though to reinforce the approval of the Vatican, in 1998 Pope John Paul II journeyed to Croatia to announce the beatification of archbishop Stepinac. It is stated that from 1941 to 1945 over 500,000 Orthodox Serbs were massacred along with 80,000 Jews and 30,000 Gypies. This is the greatest genocide of the 20th century, unless Pope Francis thinks otherwise. But can he deny world history records?

An article by the New York Times dated 15 December 1915 states that one million Armenians had been either deported or executed by the Ottoman government.Pope Francis at the start of the Armenian rite in St Peter’s Basilica described the massacre of the Christian Armenians as the first genocide of the 20th century. He termed it ‘senseless slaughter’ and rightly so. But what was intriguing is that Pope Francis should state that “genocide continues today against Christians, who on account of their faith in Christ or their ethnic origin, are publicly and ruthlessly put to death, decapitated, crucified, burned alive or forced to leave their homeland”. This coming from one who heads the Catholic Church with its history of slaughter, persecution, ethnic cleansing, concentration camps, forced conversions, et al, makes one wonder why and how can the Pope cover up the history of the Catholic Church. The Croatia genocide is not ages ago to be buried in the archives of the Vatican. What was the treatment Vatican meted out to the Jews right in Rome?

Francis XavierWhat about the conversions that was undertaken in India? For that matter right from the beginning Church history has not been taught to ordinary Catholics or even priests. It is a question of selective amnesia or partisan history that it upholds. May be Pope Francis has only started his condemnation of the genocide of Christians Armenians. It is only the beginning. He may, I fervently hope, continue and condemn Vatican’s role and abetment with Mussolini and Hitler and in its brutal massacre in Croatia, and Vatican’s conversion strategies right from the start. One must not forget the Crusades, the burning of the witches, the destruction of temples and synagogues. Let us wait and give Pope Francis a chance to right the wrong and uphold the TRUTH. – Dr Mrs Hilda Raja, 14 April 2015

» Dr Mrs Hilda Raja was a Professor in the Post Graduate Social Work Department at Stella Maris College, Chennai. After retirement she has been a consultant on various government and international development projects. She lives with her son in Vadodara, Gujarat.

Inquisition Victims

OLD GOA: Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, and Christian victims of the Inquisition, their hands nailed to posts, listen to a Catholic padre read out charges against them. A Portuguese nobleman waits on a horse. He and the Church will get the confiscated properties.

Who really oppresses Christians in India? – Rajeev Srinivasan

Rajeev Srinivasan“A case could be made that it is internal issues that haunt Christians in India today. In fact, unlike, say, in Pakistan, Christians have almost never been hurt by Hindus (although the reverse is not true, for instance the assassination of octogenarian monk Swami Lakshmananda in Kandhamal, Odissa). The average Christian enjoys constitutional and other privileges the average Hindu can only dream of.” – Rajeev Srinivasan

Thomas & JesusAt this time of one of the biggest festivals of their mythology, the death and resurrection of their founder-deity, I wish all Christians a happy Easter Sunday. A time of new beginnings, the arrival of Spring, and a Jesus rising from the dead is a metaphor for the revivification of the earth and the beginning of a new cycle. In Kerala, the extraordinary spun gold blooms of the Indian laburnum, kani konna, gladden the heart as we await the Spring festival of Vishu on April 15th.

This year, of course, we have heard a great deal about how Christians are oppressed in India. Famous people including an admired chief of police and a former chief of naval staff have said that they feel uncomfortable in India because of their Christian faith. There was also the case of a 71-year-old nun in West Bengal, who was allegedly raped by some young men (although she has since mysteriously disappeared). There is a meme that implies that the new dispensation at the center, with the Narendra Modi administration, is deliberately hounding Christians.

I admit that there is in fact a lot of oppression of Christians in India, except it’s not coming from the PM or Hindus, but rather from certain Christians themselves, which is a sad fact that’s seldom commented on. Let me present to you three nuns whose stories are startling. All three of them are from Kerala, which has the maximum number of Christians in India. These are Sisters Abhaya, Anita and Jesme.

Sister AbhayaSister Abhaya was found dead in the well of a convent exactly 23 years ago: on 27 March 1992, to be precise. The teenaged girl’s death was ruled a suicide. In a sense, this is not unusual, because young nuns are periodically found dead, some of them in wells, some pregnant: a sad commentary on their lives. But something was not right in Abhaya’s case, it was rumored.

An activist named Jomon Puthenpurackal took up the case; he found certain irregularities in the conduct of the investigation, including what appeared to be the willful destruction of evidence such as Abhaya’s viscera and clothes. Jomon reasoned that someone was trying to sweep things under the carpet, and so he and other activists went to court. The case wound through the courts, and eventually, based on suspicion that the local crime branch’s inquiry had been compromised, the CBI was brought into the picture. There were some irregularities with the forensic lab in Bangalore, too: a sitting judge in Karnataka who had nothing to do with the Kerala case was fully briefed on the lab’s findings, which I find distinctly odd as he had no locus standi.

Yes, twenty-three years later, Sister Abhaya has not gotten justice.

The CBI conducted a detailed investigation, and the results were sensational: under truth serum or sodium pentathol, three people confessed to the crime. Father Puthrakkayil and Father Kottoor and Sister Seffi confessed that they were engaged in three-way sexual activity in the kitchen of the convent at 2 am. Abhaya chanced upon them when she came for a drink of water. Seffi beat Abhaya over the head with the blunt end of an axe and apparently killed her, and the trio threw her into the convent well.

Unfortunately, and very conveniently for the accused trio, the Supreme Court ruled that narco-analysis or truth serum would no longer be accepted as evidence, with the result that it was mistrial, and the trio walked free. Yes, twenty-three years later, Sister Abhaya has not gotten justice.

Sister AnitaAnother story that broke on 27 March 2015 was that of Sister Anita. The 40-year old nun had embarked on a hunger strike, alleging that she had been sexually harassed by a priest in her Madhya Pradesh convent. When she protested, she was packed off to Europe. Then she was sent back to Kerala, and when she appeared determined to seek justice for herself, she was physically thrown out of the convent. She threatened to sit in hunger strike, supported by local activists. The latest news was that the church had settled out of court with Sister Anita, offering her twelve lakh rupees and defrocking her. It was not immediately known what happened to her alleged assailant.

Sister JesmeThen there is the story of Sister Jesme, who published a sensational autobiography titled ‘Amen’ in 2009 in Malayalam, about rampant abuses in convents, including non-consensual sex with senior priests, and forced lesbian experiences with another nun as well as “humiliation, sexual abuse and mental torture”. Jesme was also expelled from the order after serving it, including as a college principal, for 33 years.

There have been serious allegations of sexual predation by priests in an official document published by an investigating Vatican official some time ago. It appears that many nuns find themselves as captive sex objects for predatory priests. In fact, there was the case of a nun in Europe just a few months ago who claimed when she delivered a baby that it was an “immaculate conception”.

Beyond this level of exploitation of vulnerable women (which is not unusual: there is the story of the Magdalene laundries in Ireland where generations of unwed mothers and other ‘fallen women’ were brutally abused and used as slave labor in nunneries) there is also the allegation about ‘nun-running’ of Indian nuns to Europe to do the cooking, cleaning and other menial tasks there, as the supply of natives there dries up.

Swami Lakshmanananda SaraswatiThus a case could be made that it is internal issues that haunt Christians in India today. In fact, unlike, say, in Pakistan, Christians have almost never been hurt by Hindus (although the reverse is not true, for instance the assassination of octogenarian monk Swami Lakshmananda in Kandhamal, Odissa). The average Christian enjoys constitutional and other privileges the average Hindu can only dream of.

As an example, consider two cases, both from Kerala. One is a small boy, seeking admission in 5th grade in a Christian school. Despite good grades from his prior school, he ‘flunks’ the entrance test. His professor parents get a recommendation from a Christian friend of theirs, and the boy is admitted. Thereafter, he stands first in his class, and the school, and upon graduation, he is a topper in the state.

The other is a teenager, an average student. His parents try to get him into the most prestigious and exclusive college in the country. The parents are confident that he will St. Stephen's College, Delhiget in because he is a Christian and the college is run by Christians (it is St Stephen’s, Delhi). In fact the boy manages to get admitted.

I have intimate knowledge of both situations, as I was the boy in the first case. I remember some of my teachers from that school fondly, and my best friends there were Paul, Mathew and Tony, but the injustice of the shabby treatment I got – the blatant discrimination in admission – I have never forgotten. I have not been back to that school even once after I graduated decades ago.

The average Christian enjoys constitutional and other privileges the average Hindu can only dream of.

The second case is that of a neighbor of mine; his father and he consulted me on how to conduct himself in the interview. The kid is a decent sort, and I was happy to advise him. But I was appalled at how the father said, at least four times in the hour we spent together: “We Christians have preference in admissions at St Stephens”, as though it was an entitlement. And of course it is. That is astonishing in a secular nation where I imagine a good bit of the funding for the college comes from the public purse.

The same discrimination holds good in many other educational institutions, for instance at a famous medical college in the south, which discriminates blatantly in favor of Christians. In Kerala, more than 70 per cent of the educational institutions are run by Christians, including those ‘aided’ schools and colleges where the management chooses teachers, and their salaries are paid by the taxpayer.

Bishop of Tuticorin Roman Catholic Diocese Rt. Rev. Yvon Ambroise offering juice to a protester at Idinthakarai The preference for Christians runs deep in Kerala where they are nominally about 25 per cent of the population, but given the massive conversion drives and the very large number of churches there, it is likely they are already in a plurality there, as in southern Tamil Nadu. Many converted Christians still retain their Hindu names, often to continue to enjoy government affirmation action programs to lowest-caste Hindus.

The Christian hold on Kerala was demonstrated when the current state government was formed: it was negotiated by two Christians and a Muslim. No Hindu leader was involved. Similarly, during the UPA days, with Sonia Gandhi, a devout Christian in charge, it was clear that all the plum positions in the center would go to Christians – an example is Leela Samson, who became culture czarina. Indeed, quite unlike the US, where any Indian who wants to seek electoral office has had to convert to Christianity, Christian politicians are in senior positions not only in Kerala, but also in Karnataka. During the UPA regime, a remarkable number of Christian IAS officers were deputed to Delhi. If you look at the media, there are disproportionately more Christians in positions of power.

Immaculate Conception Cathedral, PuducherryA remarkable factor about Christians in India is their real-estate ownership. In particular, large grants under British rule have ensured that Churches have enormous land holdings, worth billions of rupees and generally untaxed, in every city center. The Church is said to be the largest landowner in the country after the central government. A particularly telling example is in Trivandrum. There is a large cathedral in the city center, a prominent mosque, and next to them, a tiny postage-stamp sized Hindu temple. Behind the temple, there is another large church. It is a vivid demonstration of the status of Hindus in the state: dominated by Christians and Muslims.

Prof C. I. IssacAcademician C. I. Issac has pointed out, with voluminous data to support him, that in Kerala, Christians own twice as much land on average, have 50 per cent more in bank deposits, and run the vast majority of trade and education. A telling statistic: 92 per cent of those committing suicide in Kerala, mostly due to financial problems, are Hindus.

There is a fair case to be made that there is an elite group of privileged Christians, and that includes the priests in the church hierarchy as well as politicians. They are the ones oppressing or exploiting poor Christians, as well as Hindus. It is not at all the case that Hindus are oppressing Christians, although that fits well with the (fake) martyr meme. The biggest martyr story in India, that of Apostle Thomas being killed by Hindus in Chennai, is a complete fabrication, as Thomas never even arrived in India, as certified by the Vatican. From that myth to the current myth of Hindu oppression of Christians is but a small leap, a lie that is highly damaging for India, nonetheless. – IndiaFacts, 6 April 2015

» Rajeev Srinivasan is an author, columnist, and consultant in sales in the software industry. He lives in Thiruvannanthapuram and blogs at Shadow Warrier.

Sister Mary Chandy

Ex-Priest K.P. Shibu

Ivan Cardinal Dias

Our Lady of Madhu Church is built on an ancient Pattini Amma Temple site – Shenali D. Waduge

Madhu Church, Mannar, Sri Lanka

Shenali Waduge“The site where Madhu Church presently stands was the original site of a Pattini Devale (later called Amman Kovil) since 114-136 CE under King Gajabahu. This means that the Pattini Devale has been where the Madhu Church now stands for 1850 years. If the Pattini Devale is no longer in its original site it is because the Portuguese Catholics destroyed every place of worship that was non-Catholic and converted non-Catholics to Catholicism.” –  Shenali D. Waduge

Goddess PattiniWith the recent calls to rewrite history it is no better a time than now to bring out all the hard facts that have got both hidden or buried (pun intended). Every time the topic of colonial atrocities are brought forward for debate the quick response is to claim these as history pushing to the background the crimes committed in the name of peaceful coexistence.

However, when most of the laws in place today were created with the intention of putting past crimes into the background and to ensure the continuance of the reign of white rule over the rest of us. Given that we are all victims, it is time we started to remind these very nations of some of their crimes. The background of the Pattini Devale is important for many reasons – it is where the Madhu Church presently stands, the Pattini Devale has a history beyond 1850 years whereas the Madhu Church is hardly 150 years old. Misappropriation of sacred sites belonging to other religions need to stop. The Church has to apologize and return the site to its original owners.

Of late the media attempts to portray the Madhu Church as being more than 600 years old which is proven an exaggeration for the Portuguese Catholics came to Sri Lanka in 1505 – Catholic history starts after conversion of Sinhala Buddhists and Tamil Hindus. In fact a recommendation was to be made under the Ranil Wickremasinghe Government to recommend to the Vatican that the church be sanctified as a National Basilica of the Roman Catholic Church. How historically and morally incorrect this move is to the Pope Francis with Sri Lanka flagHindus who are well aware of the history behind the ‘church’.

If anyone contests this claim they have to only refer to Brief Notice of the Origin and History of the Sanctuary of Madhu by the then Bishop of Jaffna to Mr. E. B. Denham who had tried to conceal that the church was on top of the ancient Pattini Devale as admitted by British civil servant R. W. Levers. They would also need to refer to Manual of the North Central Province by R. W. Levers who says “At the present day the offerings are generally taken to St. Mary’s Church at Madhu, which is considered by the Buddhist and a great many of the Tamil pilgrims, who resort there, as the Temple of Pattini Amma (Amman Kovil).” – these are historically recorded truths by the British themselves.

Chronology:

  • Portuguese Catholics arrive in Sri Lanka – 1505
  • Dutch Christians arrive in Sri Lanka – 1602
  • British arrive in Sri Lanka – 1796
  • Dutch Protestants drove out Portuguese from Mannar – 1670 (344 years ago)
  • Madhu a Catholic shrine only since 1870 (a history of 144 years only)
  • Even though the Bishop of Jaffna initiated the Madhu Festival since 1870, it did not have a church.
  • The foundation stone of the church was laid only in 1876. (so the church itself is only 138 years old and thus the claims made by the late UNP minister that the church is 600 years old is a total fabrication). Moreover, even by 1911 there were no permanent residents at Madhu. The Census of 1911 recorded 320 pilgrims, 230 of whom were Sinhalese from Colombo and the rest from Chilaw.

Gajabahu I also known as Gajabahuka Gamani (c. 114 – 136 CE) of Rajarata in Sri LankaHindus have greater claim

The site where Madhu Church presently stands was the original site of a Pattini Devale (later called Amman Kovil) since 114-136 CE under King Gajabahu. This means that the Pattini Devale has been where the Madhu Church now stands for 1850 years. If the Pattini Devale is no longer in its original site it is because the Portuguese Catholics destroyed every place of worship that was non-Catholic and converted non-Catholics to Catholicism. These conversions were done by force and anyone resisting faced death. We are well aware of the suffering the Catholic Inquisition since 1233 caused for all non-Catholics and heretics, and it was because the Dutch themselves were victims that they avenged the suffering they were put through by the Catholics when they arrived in Sri Lanka. The 1638 Treaty between the Dutch and the Sinhala King provided a clause to expel all Catholics.

The Madhu site is where the Hindu Amman Kovil has stood for at least 1850 years as against 144 years for the Madhu Church. What needs to be reiterated and what the Catholic Church needs to accept is that the Church usurped this ancient Hindu temple, not only that they desecrated the Durgai Amman Silai and built a Catholic church in its place in 1876 though the annual Madhu Festival has been held since 1870.

Cankili II (Cekaracacekaran IX)The usurping of the Hindu kovil is very much part of the inquisition objectives and a continuation of the wanton destruction of scores of temples, kovils and murder of Muslims by the Portuguese Catholics. The Church clergy may not like to be reminded that they ordered the beheading of the last Tamil Hindu ruler Sangili Kumaran and conversion of his family. Tamils should not forget that it was the Sinhalese king who sent his general to rescue the Hindu Tamils and in so doing sacrificed his life. Was it not a repetition of this very same scenario that occurred during the final phase of the war when 5000 military lives was lost to save 300,000 Tamils many of whom were possibly LTTE family members or even LTTE in civilian attire.

Therefore all Catholics in Sri Lanka descend from Sinhalese and Tamils who were forcibly converted by the Portuguese Catholics. 

At this point we need to also remind the Hindus that prior to the arrival of the Portuguese in 1505 the Sinhalese and Hindus were living amicably. It was the spectre of the arrival of the white man that brought a curse to the country since 1505.

Hindus and Buddhists became united through the efforts to bring about the anti-conversion legislation. We recall the efforts of UNP MP Maheswaran who tried his best to reconvert Tamils to Hinduism but he fell prey to LTTE’s guns.

So did six soldiers who were cleaning the Madhu Church premises on 12 Feb 2008.

Cardinal Malcolm RanjitWhile the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka says sacred places should be kept free of violence and bloodshed we cannot but wonder why they are silent about very prominent Catholic clergy who had been and continue to be very much involved with the LTTE and their sponsors both locally and internationally. The accusation against the Church of connections to the LTTE could have been easily negated by the Church taking action against these Catholic clergy by defrocking them. The golden question is – why has the Church not taken action against these clergy who have been very much aligned to terrorist activity.

Rayappu JosephIf Father Rayappu Joseph opened Eelam House in London, allowed the Madhu Church to be used as an LTTE office. We also recall the arrests of 3 priests on 1 February 2008 carrying suicide jackets and interrogations revealed that these priests had brought down 30 suicide cadres from Mannar to Kandy and Nuwara Eliya. These priests had even transported several suicide kits and weapons. One of the 3 arrested was a pastor of a church in Mannar. The previous year on 20 February security forces also recovered cyanide capsules and equipment from St. Mary’s Church Jaffna. What we can make out is that the Christian clergy had been used to transport weapons and explosives across the country – this is aiding and abetting terrorism.

Fr. S. J. EmmanuelWhat individual priests do using the cover of the religion can be effectively responded to not simply by issuing a statement denouncing the action. Given the innumerable cases of involvement by priests with a banned terrorist movement what the Church and its headquarters in the Vatican should have rightfully done was to defrock those like Father Emmanuel and Father Rayappu Joseph.

Returning to the issue of the ownership of the Madhu site – all that needs to be repeated is that the place is rightfully that of the Pattini Kovil of the Hindus. It is immoral for the site to be usurped and made into a holy site for Catholics totally ignoring the history behind the site. Numerous other sites across the country where churches stand were all formerly sites of Buddhist temples as well. The exact positions of these churches where former Buddhist temples once stood are given in the Portuguese chronicler Queyroz’s works.

Sri Lankan Catholic priests demonstrating in support of LTTE chief PrabhakaranWhat needs to be also said is that the continents of Asia, Africa and Latin America were all invaded, occupied and systems put in place to convert the natives, kill those who refused, plunder the wealth of the lands and devise devious ways to play the natives against each other by creating sub-cultures that would create the necessary environment for these white Western nations to prevail over the ‘uncivilized’ world. Has any of this colonial mentality changed at all over the years?

 Be that as it may what needs to be said is that the very countries ignoring their own track records are dictating the rules of law to us the victims and all we can say is to return all that they took by force and level the playing field first. – Express, 25 January 2014

 » Shenali Waduge is a Sri Lankan civil society writer concerned about fair play in all matters that concern citizens of her country as well as the world at large.

Devi Kannagi-Pattini

Evangelization of Asia: Significance of objections to Pope’s visit to Sri Lanka – Shenali D. Waduge

Madhu Church, Sri Lanka

Shenali Waduge“On the one hand while there is no grudge against the Pope arriving to bless Catholics, we need to look at the ulterior motives behind the visit of the Pope while also highlighting that he is obliged to offer Asia and in particular India a long overdue apology complimented with compensation. It is poignant that Asia is reminded that the Pope arrives not simply to bless his people but with the intention to encourage lay and Church clergy to advance their agenda of harvesting more souls.” – Shenali D. Waduge

Pope Francis In Sri Lanka 2015The US and Western Christian nations have made clear their foreign policy objectives in Asia. The focus of Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic faith and the State of Vatican, is also Asia. Asia is seen as having the greatest potential for the expansion of Catholicism. When the Church declares the Third Christian Millennium as “a great harvest of faith will be reaped in this vast and vital continent,” it definitely means harvest of souls and conversion of non-Catholics to Catholicism. Should non-Catholic nations and nationalities not therefore have the right to prepare for eventualities and raise these concerns in public without being told that objections to conversions is against reconciliation, amity between religions and people?

Pope Francis hugs Cardinal Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, Archbishop of Colombo, at St Peter's Basilica, on February 8, 2014 at the Vatican. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYSObjections to Pope’s visit to Sri Lanka

While Sri Lanka’s Sinhala Buddhists, Tamil Hindus and Muslims do not have any objections to a leader of a faith coming to bless people of that faith, what the Church and the Catholic public need to realize is that the objections have historically justifiable reasons. Anyone who has committed crimes over 500 years cannot be offended when they are reminded of them. The Church showed no remorse for any of the crimes committed upon inhabited lands that colonial crusaders were given orders to declare as Christian ‘discovered lands’ and confiscate them from the indigenous while converting natives and killing those that refused. Present day lay Catholics need to realize that these crimes were committed on behalf of the Church while confiscating artefacts, goods and wealth that belonged to these nations – these confiscated and stolen treasures are all lying inside the Vatican.

  1. The Church has committed millions of murders in the name of God and while the Church has apologized to the rest of the world an apology to Asia has yet to be given as well as compensation for these crimes.
  2. The crimes cover the missionary activities under colonial rule, Goan Inquisition, forceful conversions or death for those that refused and these are documented crimes admitted by Catholics themselves.
  3. Thousands of Buddhist, Hindu, Islam places of worship were destroyed and in its place Churches were built for which an apology has yet to be given. The works of Queroy lists out all such churches built on top of Buddhist/Hindu temples and kovil. The Madhu Church to which the Pope is scheduled to hold prayers was originally a Hindu temple
  4. The present efforts by the Church through their priests and lay advocates to use poverty and other social ills to cunningly draw people to embrace their faith as salvation and the manner the Church uses the power of wealth and Western governmental/non-governmental Catholic/Christian associations and leaders to influence Asian politicians against protecting non-Catholics is a case in point.

Francis XavierEvangelizing Asia/Africa

Asia is a continent that holds 60% of the world’s people. At the end of 2007, 1.15 billion people were Catholic, and approximately one billion were non-Catholic Christians. Fifty nations where Catholicism is spreading rapidly are all in Asia & Africa. Between 1542 and 1552, St. Francis Xavier converted an estimated 700,000 souls in modern-day India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Japan. Between 1610 and 1651, St. Peter Claver baptized some 300,000 slaves in Cartagena, Colombia.

At the conclusion of the final message of the 10th General Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences in 2012. Excerpts from the statement issued, “The mission of new evangelization, new in its ardour, its methods and its expressions, is urgent. … We are a community of faith called by the Lord to a mission of evangelization in the world.”

Catholic Church in South KoreaLessons from South Korea

South Korea was a formerly Buddhist nation. Today South Korea is under the Western thumb and the Catholic faith. The Korean Catholic Church traces its origins to 1784 and foreign missionaries took up the task of converting non-Catholics. Catholics make up almost 11% of South Korea’s 50 million population. In 1960 there were just 2% Catholics. At the end of 2013, South Korea’s 5.4 million Catholics were served by 4,261 priests, with a further 1,489 seminarians in the pipeline. Catholics in South Korea are increasingly prosperous – Bishop William McNaughton attributes the financial success of Catholics there to the excellence of Catholic education. The flip side is that as people acquire more education and money, they no longer need God attributed to the decline in Catholicism in Europe. However in South Korea, where wealth, education and church expansion continue to go together – this is the template being used for the rest of Asia. Tom Fox, author of Pentecost in Asia, said, “the starting point of the Asian church has always been the local church. “This is the model of local governance and evangelization that Pope Francis encourages and promotes. Korea was largely evangelized by lay activists, not organized missionary campaigns. Charity and Giving are slogans to draw non-Catholics of Asia to embrace the faith and it is working in a region that is POOR. The message is clear: want education? want to come out poverty? want employment? want key places in state and private sector? want a better life and belong among elite society? Become a Catholic!

Representatives of the Korean churches agreed to reorganize the ‘Conference of Christian Unity of Korea’ into the ‘Commission on Faith and Order of Korean Churches’ in 2012. The member churches of this newly reformed Commission are 11 religious bodies: the Catholic Church in Korea, the Orthodox Church in Korea, the National Council of Churches in Korea , the Presbyterian Church of Korea, General Assembly of Presbyterian Church, the Korean Methodist Church, the Anglican Church of Korea, the Salvation Army of Korea Territory, Korea Evangelical Church, the Korea Assemblies of God, Lutheran Church of Korea.

The South Korean success story provides the inspiration for the Church as its stamps forward to evangelize the Asian continent.

Mihintale Buddha  The case for defense

The Church and missionaries have identifiable goals, they have funds and other means to enforce their objectives. The question is what have non-Catholic organizations (Buddhist and Hindu) done to protect their people against conversions and the social ills of poverty, unemployment, good education etc that are key areas that enables the Church to draw people to their fold to embrace their faith because they are promised to be given what people are seeking.

How far have Buddhist/Hindu organizations/associations that are constantly bickering amongst their own done to address fundamental areas where their people live in poverty (at different levels), people want education but lack even the fundamentals, people desire employment and social status but have not been given the tools to enable them to rise and create for themselves a better living standard? How far have Buddhist/Hindu associations established programs to keep people informed while also addressing the core reasons why people are prepared to give their ‘souls’ to another faith simply because their faith has not addressed simple aspirations. Why can’t the Buddhists galvanize themselves to address these core areas – empower the poor, show ethical livelihoods in keeping with the philosophy of Buddha, sustain these teachings to education, enable employment and address other social ills that entice people to do wrongs. There is much that Buddhist societies and in particular the Buddhist clergy can do and must do instead of the present manner that they function.

Pope FrancisThus, on the one hand while there is no grudge against the Pope arriving to bless Catholics, we need to look at the ulterior motives behind the visit of the Pope while also highlighting that he is obliged to offer Asia and in particular India a long overdue apology complimented with compensation. It is poignant that Asia is reminded that the Pope arrives not simply to bless his people but with the intention to encourage lay and Church clergy to advance their agenda of harvesting more souls.

Sri Lanka that weathered Western Christian missionaries, criminal colonial rule and numerous other Catholic Action initiatives must remain alert in spite of a thin Constitutional provision that establishes the Buddhist identity of the nation that has been diluted by multicultural political leaders with no grasp of or interest in preserving the historical heritage of Sri Lanka but who need it nevertheless to come into power and remain in power. – Sinhalanet, 30 December 2014 

Sri Lankan Catholic priests supporting LTTE leader Prabhakaran

Further reading:

» Shenali Waduge is a Sri Lankan civil society writer concerned about fair play in all matters that concern citizens of her country as well as the world at large.

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