A striking case of minority appeasement has erupted in Kerala against the draft Kerala Church Bill, showing that the state government under Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in catholic Christians’ pocket. The Joint Christian Council under the aegis of All Kerala Church Act Action Council (AKCAAC), which took out a Secretariat march with over 50,000 people, asking the state government to enact the proposed Church bill.
The draft Kerala church (properties and institutions) bill 2019 which is stated to promote more democratic, efficient and just administration of the temporal institutions connected to the Christian community. The draft bill seeks to ensure fair and transparent administration of properties and funds of the churches of Kerala. The bill mooted by the Kerala Law Reforms Commission headed by former Supreme Court Judge Justice KT Thomas seeks to end the maladministration of funds and properties in Kerala by subjecting churches to a process of accounting.
The All Kerala Church Act Action Council, a collective of believers from various denominations, organised a mammoth march to the Secretariat on Wednesday demanding that the State government implement the Kerala Church Properties and Institutions Trust Bill, proposed by the State Law Reforms Commission chaired by Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer in 2009. The representatives of the action council later met Governor Arif Mohammad Khan to discuss their demand.
This massive push for reform in the affairs of the Church, comes after the Bishop Franco Mulakkal rape case, the protests against the Bishop thereafter and the push-back by the Church. Inaugurating the ‘Church Act Crusade’, Sister Lucy Kalapura who was dismissed from the Franciscan Clarist Congregation for participating in a protest against rape accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal said that the implementation of the Act would put an end to the ongoing corruption and oppression under various denominations of the church.
“The churches which were built up on the hard work and the seat of the common devotees, are under the control of the heads of the various denominations, while the rest of us continue to remain as slaves. They indulge in avarice and sexual exploitation, and have destroyed spirituality with their lust for power and money. This anti-Christian behaviour is now being questioned by a united brotherhood of believers, using the Church Bill as a tool. This is a new dawn, it will deliver us from slavery to freedom. I hope the LDF government under the CM Pinarayi Vijayan will implement this act,” said Sister Lucy.
The Bill’s supporters include the church management committee of St John the Baptist Church at Kumarakam in Kottayam district, which is one of the prominent parishes of the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Church.
On the other hand, under immense pressure from all denominations of the church, the Pinarayi government had put the proposed bill on hold. Several Christian organisations in Kerala, cutting across denominations, are protesting against this draft Bill that aims to bring transparency in the administration of the Church.
Notably, the protests had soon began after the Law Reforms Commission of Kerala, an autonomous body constituted by the state government, published the draft of the Kerala Church (Properties and Institutions) Bill, 2019, on its website earlier this year and urged stakeholders to submit suggestions to be incorporated in the draft.
Members of the Christian community allege that the Bill is a ploy by the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front government to control the Church administration and threatened to mobilise members of the community against it. Christians form 18.3% of the state’s population while Catholic Christians constitute 61% of Kerala’s Christians.
This incident has exposed the hypocrisy of Pinarayi Vijayan government in Kerala which has practiced control over Kerala temples with a heavy hand while it refuses to enact the Church Act which only proposes more transparency in Church affairs.