The Delhi based Poor Christian Liberation Movement popularly known as PCLM established a decade ago, has put forward a 10-point agenda to the Catholic Bishop Conference of India and the National Council of Churches for the development of Dalit Christians. PCLM has demanded a blanket ban on conversion related activities, and a leadership role for the minority Christians in institutions run by the Church.
They had also demanded for transparency in foreign grants, elimination of the role of the Vatican in the selection of bishops and constituting bodies for the protection of Church properties. The Church leadership had shrewdly suppressed these reformist voices. But, the supporters of the organization kept spreading awareness and similar voices have now started coming from inside the Roman Catholic Church.
Former Justice Michael F. Saldanha has lot of influence on the Church leadership. He had also reportedly submitted a report to the Vatican representative Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio following the report of Somshekhar Commission constituted by Karnataka government regarding attacks on the Churches.
Now, he is advocating for the rights of laity in the Church. However, there is an urgent need to make a transparent policy in this regard. The Church has huge resources but these are managed by a handful of clergy. This is why the Church controls 30 percent of the educational institutions in the country but more than 40 percent of Christian population is illiterate.
In 2008, the demand for setting up a national board for Church properties has come to the fore. The movement demanded that the government to intervenes on the matter. Madhya Pradesh Minority Commission started working on such proposals. The angered Church tried to socially outcast the Anand Bernard who was then a member of the Commission. The Supreme Court former judge Justice KT Thomas, former Union Minister Eduard Faleiro and Christian thinker Joseph Pulilkel supported for a board in which government will have some intervention. The Church leadership rejected this proposal. However, in many western countries, the government intervenes when needed.
The Indian Church enjoys immense clout and it is the sole owner of properties in the Church. The clergy does not want to loose its clout. They know that it is in their interest if the Vatican and other western countries have power to intervene in India. The Church wants to shirk away from its responsibility for the welfare of its people. It wants to pass the buck to the government. Rangnath Mishra Commission is the latest example of the Church’s real intentions.
Time has come when Christians should change their thinking. Debate should start about how to face serious challenges confronting Christians. Matters such as conversion, dependence on the western countries to solve petty problems, the worsening condition of Dalit Christians and corruption is deep rooted within the Church.
The caste system is alive in Christian society and is increasing day by day. For example, in Andhra Pradesh, the Mala become Mala Christains, Madiga become Madiga Christians and Reddy become Reddy Christians after conversion. But the conversion has not helped in dismantling the caste system in Indian society. And, the Church is not an exception to that.
The worsening relationships with other faiths and loyalty towards a single political party and influence of Vatican in the selection of Bishops in India are other issues that require to be discussed at length. Church should come out of its ostrich like mentality. They have to face the reality and try to integrate with the democratic powers. They will have to participate actively in the democratic process. Their existence will always be in danger unless they adopt these steps to bridge the gap.
Christians should have a clear understanding of their responsibility towards their religion, society and the country. Only then, they will be able to flourish in India.
(President, Poor Christian Liberation Movement), New Delhi, India