Statement Of Concerned Catholics

The ‘Kerala Story’

On Thursday 4 April 2024, Pope Francis in a very incisive message to the participants in the First Colloquium between the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue and the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, held in the Vatican said, “We need to support each other in fostering harmony between religions, ethnic groups and cultures. In particular, I want to emphasize three aspects...: respect for diversity, commitment to our common home and the promotion of peace.”

Unfortunately, on that very day, in Kerala, the Idukki Diocese, of the Syro-Malabar Church screened a controversial film ‘The Kerala Story’. The film was shown to students of Stds. X to XII, as part of the Annual Summer Catechism pro-gramme. On 8 April, several English and vernacular media both in Kerala and elsewhere, detailed this event under the title, ‘Idukki Diocese screens 'The Kerala Story' for Catechism Students’. A spokesperson of the Diocese has gone on record saying that the film was ‘shown to Christian students to raise awareness about the issue of 'Love Jihad'.’

That a Catholic Diocese has screened this film, defies logic! First of all, the movie is clearly a propaganda film created to further the Hindutva narrative that is trying to destroy the secular nature of India. Secondly, it is replete with lies, factual inaccuracies and half-truths; so much so, that the director of the movie, publicly admitted falsehood and had to correct the figures given in the original curtain-raiser from “32,000 girls embracing Islam to just THREE!”; besides ten obnoxious scenes, had to be deleted before the Censor Board gave its certification! Thirdly, and far more importantly, this is a film which goes against the teachings of the Church and the person and message of Jesus.

The decision by the Church authorities to screen the film, is deeply concerning because it actively sows seeds of hatred, intolerance and prejudice, among children, instead of promoting peace, compassion, and acceptance, which are the core values of Christianity. By screening such a propaganda film that is filled with lies, the Idukki Church is instilling negative emotions and discriminatory attitudes towards people of other faiths and failing to teach children about love and respect for all religions and cultures. Such actions can have adverse effects on the future generation and society at large, particularly in the present politically charged context where hate is being weaponised to destroy the country.

Besides, the film has been given an ‘A’ certificate by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). How could this film be ever shown to children? Will the Diocese of Idukki now be prosecuted for screening the film to children?

The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue has emphasised the importance of strengthening and building good relations between Christians and Muslims during this Holy month of Ramadan; the Diocese of Idukki, on the other hand, seems to have chosen to promote conflict and tension between the two communities. Like in the time of Hitler, there are always those in authority in the Churches who wish to kowtow towards those who have political power in order to keep their own ‘little empires’ safe.

A contextual adaptation of Mathew 23:15 could serve as a reminder to all of us, “woe to you bishops and religious authorities, pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land, to try to ensure that your flock does not desert you, but in the bargain, you make the members of your flock twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”

We the undersigned, whilst strongly condemning this insensitive and unchristian act of the Diocese of Idukki, earnestly urge all Church authorities to do all they can to promote inter-religious, dialogue, reconciliation, fraternity, harmony and peace, remembering that our future as a country, is at stake!

Dr.Kochurani Abraham, Kerala
Adv. Susan Abraham
(Bombay High Court)
Adv. M A Britto, (Forum for Secularism and Democracy, Tirunelveli)
Dr. John Dayal (Ex Member, National Integration Council, GoI, Ex President, All India Catholic Union, New Delhi)
Brinelle D’Souza (Chairperson,
Centre for Health and Mental Health, TISS, Mumbai)
Dr Ruth D’Souza
(Citizen, Archdiocese of Bombay)
Dr. Joseph Victor Edwin SJ (Secretary, Islamic Studies Association, Delhi)
Midhun J. Francis SJ
(Doctoral Student Pontifical
Gregorian University, Rome)
Adv. Julie George, Lawyer, Mumbai
Dr. M.K. George SJ (Former Principal, Loyola College, Trivandrum)
Adv. Anastasia Gil (former Delhi Minorities Commission member)
Dr.Josantony Joseph (Human Rights Training Consultant, Former Supreme Court Advisor (Maharashtra) on the PIL on the Right to Food, Mumbai)
Ozelle Lobo (JagrutNagarik, Ahmedabad)
Dr. Frazer Mascarenhas SJ (Former Principal, St. Xavier's College Mumbai)
Anand Mathew IMS (Director VishwaJyoti Communications, Varanasi)
Dr. Suresh Mathew
(Former Editor ‘Indian Currents’)
Cedric Prakash SJ (Human Rights Activist & Writer, Ahmedabad)
Ronald Saldanha SJ (Administrator, Indian Social Institute, New Delhi)
Adv. Mary Scaria SCJM (Supreme Court of India)
Varghese Theckanaths.g. (Former National President, Conference of Religious India (CRI)
Paul Thelakat (Writer, former editor ‘Sathyadeepam’)
Adv. Henri Tiphagne (Advocate and Executive Director People’ s Watch)

9 April 2024
Joseph Victor Edwin SJ and 9868366914
Cedric Prakash SJ and 9824034536

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Vol 56, No. 44, Apr 28 - May 4, 2024