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The Jacobite Syrian Church should focus on the rape culture in Churches instead of Sabarimala

Unlike female devotees of Bhagwan Ayyappa, victims of sexual abuse by Christian priests are desperate for their help. And Churches have been protecting paedophiles and rapists amidst them for decades.

People must have noticed, Christians are quite heavily invested in the Battle for Sabarimala. They have been celebrating and appear overjoyed at the prospect of desecration of the abode of Bhagwan Ayyappa.

Recently, the Jacobite Syrian Church had supported the Women’s Wall initiative of the Kerala government. The Church announced that it intended to gather 1 lakh women for the event that was organized to felicitate the desecration of the Hindu Temple. Several such are celebrating and even supporting the Communist regime in Kerala in their bid to desecrate Sabarimala.

It’s particularly infuriating because there are various other avenues where the efforts of Christians are required for the sake of women empowerment. Churches, all over the world, have become a breeding ground for sexual predators. The religious institutions of Christianity are infested with rapists and paedophiles. And yet, every prominent person from the community appears more interested in the desecration of a Hindu Temple than they are about the welfare of Christian women and children.

For instance, a recent investigation by the Associated Press revealed the horrific extent to which nuns are exploited in Catholic institutions. The nuns were raped repeatedly and yet the Catholic hierarchy completely ignored the sex pests within their midst. Many of them have accepted sexual abuse as a part of life, they are just too scared of the backlash from powerful priests. They are reluctant to even speak about their experiences. And why shouldn’t they be? We all saw what happened when a nun dared to confront Bishop Franco Mulakkal.

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In June last year, when a nun from Kuravilangad convent accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the Malankara Orthodox Church of raping her multiple times for years, the entire Church Machinery rushed to the Bishop’s defence. Not only her, but even her supporters are now banished and treated as outcasts inside the accuser’s convent in rural Kerala.

The Catholic federation threatened nuns that they will be thrown out if they protested against the Bishop. Father Augustine issued warnings of disciplinary actions by the Church if anyone dared to protest against the Bishop. Upon his return from prison after bail was granted, he was welcomed by his diocese in a grand ceremony. This is what rape culture looks like, this is what prominent people from the Christian community should fight against, not the pious devotees of Bhagwan Ayyappa.

Incidentally, while the Jacobite Church was busy gathering support for the desecration of Sabarimala and Christian journalists were celebrating the desecration, Christian women and children were holed up in a Church after being molested by DYFI activists. They feared for their lives and were scared to even step out of the Church. No Christians in the media chose to spoke out against the Communists in Kerala. There was and still is a stoic silence on the matter.

Then there is the ‘small’ matter of rampant paedophilia within the Church. Almost every month, a new horror story of paedophile priests breaks out into the public domain. 2018 was a terrible year for the Catholic Church. In July, the Vatican was rocked after Chile raided various church offices in a massive crackdown after child sex abuse allegations surfaced against the clergy. Then, in August, a Grand Jury Report stated that the Catholic Church had covered up sexual abuse by its priests in Pennsylvania, USA for decades.

Later in the same month, the Pope himself was accused of covering up sexual abuse within the Church by an Archbishop. What is worse, the Archbishop, who is a former papal nuncio to the United States, claims that the Pope had knowledge about the sexual predatory behaviour of a particular priest and yet promoted him to an extremely powerful position. And not too long after, a study commissioned by the Church itself revealed that over 3,600 children were sexually abused by its men in Germany between 1946 and 2014.

Pause for a moment and try to imagine the enormity of the crisis within Christian institutions. The Pope himself is accused of covering up paedophilia, perhaps the most horrible crime of all. And yet, the Christians from the ’eminent class’ in the media, in politics and Churches are not willing to deal with the sexual predator in their own home at all.

Why does it seem like prominent people from the Christian community hate Hinduism far more than they love their own children and women? Even when they do speak out against the Church, they do so to prove their ‘secular’ credentials, not because they are really interested in helping these poor women and children.

I find it extremely hard to believe that ’eminent citizens’ from the Christian community are celebrating the desecration of Sabarimala because of their commitment towards women empowerment. If they were indeed serious about their commitment, there wouldn’t have been an utter lack of effort to fight the rape culture within their own institutions. Charity begins at home after all.

Defiling the sacred spaces of pagan cultures has been the endeavour of Christian fanatics ever since the inception of Christianity. It’s deeply worrying that even at an age where sexual crimes appear to be rampant in Christian institutions, powerful people from the Christian community appear to be more concerned with the desecration of Hindu Temples.

Consider this, they are more concerned about Sabarimala than the fact that the Vatican Church is being headed by a man who has been accused of covering up paedophilia himself. There is no victim at Sabarimala. There are no sexual predators either. And yet, Churches and Christians in the media are far more concerned with Hindu ritualistic practices and traditions of the one shrine among the crores of shrines dedicated to crores of deities than the rape culture within their own institutions. Under such circumstances, could they really be believed when they say they are fighting Hindu traditions for the sake of women empowerment?

As for the irrationality of the Hindu tradition at Sabarimala, as hinted towards by the journalist, religion by its very nature is beyond the scope of conventional rationality and logic. Therefore, religious practices should be understood in their own terms. For instance, to ancient pagans, many aspects of Christianity appeared extremely comical. Try as they might, they could not fathom how were Christians so convinced that a God who could not even save himself from being crucified would save them from the fires of hell. As a Hindu, monotheism itself appears ridiculous to me. For I am convinced that a belief in the multiplicity of the Divine is the natural order of things. Even secular religions are pretty irrational. I can never understand how anyone could possibly believe in the existence of something as vague as human rights.

Besides, Hinduism is not a religion based on what book. There is no uniformity in Hinduism. Where one temple doesn’t allow women of a certain age group, another temple doesn’t allow men at all. To view Hinduism through the prism of Abrahamic religions is a folly.

Therefore, instead of mocking people for their irrational belief, we all have them, Churches and ’eminent’ citizens from the Christian community should focus a little less on Sabarimala and more on the sexual exploitation of women and children by the Churches and Christian priests. Unlike female devotees of Bhagwan Ayyappa, Christian victims are desperate for their help.

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K Bhattacharjee
Black Coffee Enthusiast. Post Graduate in Psychology. Bengali.

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