ASIA/INDIA - "No" to religious polarization on the eve of the elections: Catholic religious and lay people reject the film on "love jihad"

Tuesday, 16 April 2024 religious minorities   dialogue   human rights   islam   culture   mass media  

New Delhi (Agenzia Fides) - In India, where an electoral marathon begins on April 19th - a long process in seven stages for the election of the Indian Parliament that will end on June 1st - there is no need for cultural, social and political events or actions that increase interreligious tensions. This is emphasized by a group of Indian priests, religious and lay people who are protesting against the screening of the film entitled "The Kerala Story", which focuses on the theme of the so-called "love jihad". The term refers to the allegedly widespread and deliberate practice of women (from Hindu or Christian communities) in Kerala being converted and even forced to join ISIS by Muslim men. The group of Catholics deplores the release of the film and wrote: "The film is clearly a propaganda film created to promote the narrative of 'Hindutva' (the nationalist-religious ideology that preaches an exclusively Hindu India, ed.) that seeks to undermine the secular character of our country, polarize the nation and stir up tensions between religious communities. "The film," it is said, "is full of lies, inaccuracies and half-truths; to the point that the director of the film publicly admitted the lie and had to correct the figures given, such as the 32,000 girls kidnapped and converted only three," explains Father Joseph Victor Edwin (SJ), signatory of the text and director of the Vidyajyoti Institute of Islamic Studies in Delhi, where he teaches Islamic-Christian relations, in a statement sent to Fides. "More importantly, this film violates the teachings of the Church and the person and message of Jesus," the group says, citing the responsibility to promote peace and harmony in India. In this context, he also recalls Pope Francis' call to promote respect for diversity and peace. The film was broadcast on a national television network and sparked a heated debate. The Kerala Catholic Youth Movement in the Thamarassery Diocese decided to screen the film, as did the Catholic Diocese of Idukki. The Congress party and the Communist Party of India, which rules in Kerala, noted that the performance would "exacerbate inter-communal tensions" in the run-up to the elections and was the "propaganda machine" of the "Bharatiya Janata Party", which controls the federal government under leader Narendra Modi.
According to the group complaining about the film, "the film sows hatred, intolerance and prejudice instead of spreading peace, compassion and acceptance, which are the core values of Christianity." The screening of the film arouses "negative emotions and discriminatory attitudes towards people of other faiths" and does not teach viewers, especially children, love and respect for all religions and cultures. “Such actions can have a negative impact on future generations, especially in the current political situation where hatred is being used as a weapon to undermine Indian society,” said the statement, which called on Catholic communities "not to foment conflicts", but "to do everything possible to promote interreligious dialogue, reconciliation, fraternity, harmony and peace, bearing in mind that the future of the country is at stake".
According to the theory of "love jihad", Indian Muslim men target Hindu and Christian women to convert them to Islam through seduction, fake love and deceit, and then kidnap, marry and convert them to Islam. This is a campaign that the Catholic Church in India has always deplored and rejected. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 16/4/2024)