The feud between the Jacobite faction and the and the Orthodox faction over the ownership and entry into Church in Kothamangalam in Ernakulam, Kerala seems to now have taken a distressing turn with the involvement of children. Reportedly, small children were allegedly forced to write “Sathyam” (truth) in blood as part of its protest against the Orthodox Church allegedly by the Jacobite faction.
Around 25000 Sunday school students from various parishes across the state had gathered at Kothamangalam to pledge their allegiance to the Patriarch of Antioch. Reportedly, the children’s index finger was pricked and rubber bands were tied around their finger to allow more blood to flow so they could use their blood as ink.
This protest by the Jacobites has shocked and angered child rights groups. The Child Rights Commission has asked for a report from the District Administration, District Child Protection Officer, and the police chief about the incident where children were made to write ‘Sathyam’ in blood. “It is an offence if the act has been committed by children below 18 years of age. We have registered a suo motu case based on the news reports and action will be taken against organisers if any compulsion is reported,” said P Suresh, chairman of the Child Rights Commission. Based on the direction from the Commission, Ernakulam Rural SP K Karthik has sought a report from Muvattupuzha DySP about the incident.
The Vicar of the Jacobite Church, though, has resorted to obfuscation. The Jacobite vicar of the Kothamangalam church Fr Jose Paruthuvayalil said that the children were not forced to write in their blood and whoever did so, did so voluntarily.
“Out of over 25000 students, only some were engaged in writing with their blood. We did not force anyone, they voluntarily came forward in pledging their allegiance to Patriarch of Antioch. People have several ways of expressing their faith, there are even those who are ready to sacrifice their life for the faith”, the Vicar said, as reported by the New Indian Express.
While the Vicar would have people believe that little children volunteered to write “Sathyam” in blood to protest against the Orthodox faction, it seems a little far-fetched that children came up with this idea on their own and even executed it.
The Kerala High court had in September directed the police to arrest the supporters of the Jacobite faction who had blocked the police the previous day from implementing the controversial Supreme Court 2017 verdict regarding the Church’s management. The supporters belonging to the Jacobite faction, under the leadership of a few Metropolitan priests, had locked the gates and assembled inside the St Mary’s Church in Ernakulam district’s Piravom in Kerala, barring supporters of the Orthodox faction to formally take over the administration of the church as instructed by the Supreme court in its 2017 verdict.
In a landmark judgement delivered on July 3, 2017, the Supreme Court had ruled on a centuries-old dispute between Jacobite and Orthodox factions of Kerala’s Malankara Church. The SC had ruled that 1100 parishes and their churches under the Malankara Church, which were until then controlled by the Jacobite faction should be controlled by the Orthodox faction, as per the 1934 Malankara Church guidelines.
The dispute between the two Christian factions are not new, in fact, it is about a century old. Last year, the situation at the Piravom Valiyapalli remained tensed after one member of the Jacobite faction threatened to jump off the Church building, while others poured kerosene over their heads and threatened to set themselves alight, as police then too tried to implement the SC verdict.
Essentially, the feud between the two factions is an ownership and property dispute. The dispute, if resolved, will decide who gets the ownership of about 1000 Churches – the Jacobite faction or the Orthodox Church.