A Christian man who married a Hindu woman ten years ago has now received a notice from a ‘Special Administrative Tribunal’ of the Catholic Church seeking an explanation.
The letter dated six days ago “requests” the man to appear before the ‘tribunal’ to discuss how he ended up getting married and living in a fashion “contrary to the rules of the Catholic Church.” (see bottom for the letter) Religious bodies like the Catholic church wield a lot of power in Kerala, a place with a long tradition of Christianity.
The notice seeking his appearance in front of the tribunal is a follow up to an earlier attempt made by the Church to get information about the circumstances that led to him living in violation of Church principles, the Tribunal said in its letter.
It was not clear from the letter which principle of the Catholic church was broken by Benny, a resident of Irinjalakuda near Thrissur in Kerala, India.
He got legally married to a Hindu girl ten years ago and is the father of two children aged five and three.
PA Mathew, who claims to be a friend of Benny and posted the letter online, said Benny continued his association with the Church even after marriage.
According to PA Mathew, church authorities tried to get Benny’s wife to convert to Christianity, but the couple rejected the idea. The children too have not been baptized.
Many proselytizing religions actively try to get non-members who marry their members to convert. At the least, they require that the children from the union should be converted to their way of life.
Many couples who get married to members of proselytizing religions often face pressure from their in-laws and sometimes from their spouse to convert to the religion.
In fact, the practice has led to concepts such as ‘Love Jihad’ or ‘Holy Love War’ under which Muslim men have been suspected of ‘luring’ women belonging to other religions with a view to convert them.
According to Wikileaks documents, Christian leaders in India were apprehensive of members of other religions trying to increase their numbers by marrying Christian girls and converting them.
“The Commission for Social Harmony and Vigilance of the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) reported that there had been 2,868 female victims of the “Love Jihad” in Kerala from 2006-09,” said a US diplomatic cable leaded by Wikileaks.
“The Commission made several recommendations to parents through its newsletter, including a recommendation to monitor children’s mobile phones and computers, to fight this “social evil.”
Kerala has a substantial population that follows Semitic religions. About 20% of the state population is estimated to be Chrstian, while another 27% is estimated to be Muslim.
At the same time, Kerala and Tamil Nadu are home to India’s strongest anti-superstition movements. Recently, rationalists in Kerala have organized themselves using social media. In particular, a group known as Freethinkers has been instrumental in creating public opinion against rising religious intolerance in the state. Many artists and actors have also protested against rising religious intolerance in India.
PA Mathew, the person who leaked the Tribunal’s letter yesterday, has received unprecedented support from social media users.
Part of the reason for the strong presence of rationalist movements in the state is its strong historical legacy of Buddhism and Jainism — both of which emphasize rationalist principles. In fact, the Christians and Muslims in Kerala refer to their churches and mosques as ‘palli’ under the influence of local Buddhists who used to refer to anything sacred by that name. Schools are still referred to as ‘palli’ by the general population.