“When Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon, a Malayali rushed to him with a cup of hot tea?, goes the famous joke, which is descriptive of the Keralaite'sinborn trait to go anywhere and adapt to the surroundings. Similarly, not a joke but a fact, anywhere in the world one goes, one can see Christian nuns and fathers from Kerala, even in Vatican!
For centuries, ever since Christianity came to India, Kerala has been the factory producing nuns and brothers for export into other parts of India and the world.
This factory is running at peak production-mode now, since the contribution of the West to the nunnery bank is coming down alarmingly. Even the Vatican has admitted that the shortage of nuns is to the tune of 10,000 every year and it is increasing sharply annually. The number of churches is also dwindling and many churches are brought by wealthy Indian NRIs and converted into temples. In 2005 Pope Benedict'sXVI observed: ?The West is a world that is tired of its own culture, a world that has arrived at a time when there'sno more evidence of the need for god, much less Christ, and in which seems that man alone can make himself.? The Pope also lamented the situation in Europe, Australia and US where great churches are dying and the faithfuls? flock diminishing.
Pope John Paul II publically issued an apology for all acts of sins committed in the name of Christianity. In Kerala, for centuries, poor girls who are forced to become nuns due to poverty at homes are being sexually abused by a section of the Christian priests. They are forced to suffer the agony or in extreme cases, murdered, which is covered up as suicide. Due to political and social clout of the Christian hegemony, who lord over the 23 per cent of Kerala'sChristian population, the agony of the abused nuns is swept away. Innumerable are the cases of such abused nuns, the latest being the mysterious death of Sister Abhaya at a Convent in Kottayam. The CBI probe, in relation to this is dragging on for years together and since two fathers are involved, the Church machinery is working overtime to torpedo the case.
Now, in a debatable decision that will have far-reaching consequences, the Kerala Women'sCommission led by distinguished former High Court Judge, Justice T. Sreedevi has given following recommendations to the CPM-led regime for immediate implementation:
1. A girl should not be made a nun unless she attains the age of 18 and without her individual convent. If this is ignored, action should be taken against the parents who force a girl into becoming nun and against the Christian institution.
2. The Church has a practise of usurping the share of property of the girls who become nuns. The Justice has called for retaining the inherited share of property of the nun in the family itself.
3. In many cases, girls who become nuns return to family life some time later. The Commission has opined that when the girls return, the Church, which had earlier usurped their share of property, should return it to the nuns, who go back home.
In short the Commission has strongly hit back against the forced nunnery and conspiracy of the church hegemony to usurp property.
Naturally, the Christian hierarchy who are hit by these recommendations has strongly protested. Joining the chorus are Major Archbishop Catholic Moran Mar Baselious Clemis and Archbishop of the Thrissur Diocese who have described it as breach of individual freedom and threat to minority rights.
Joseph Pulikunnel, a rebel against the Christian hierarchy, who says what is followed, is not ?Christianity? but ?Churchianity?, a strong votary of church reforms and Indianisation of churches has hailed the landmark recommendations. ?Poor girls who are not even 15 have been forced to became nuns due to poverty and the Church'sconspiracy to fill churches all over the globe. Also the Church is enjoying the crores worth of property, of affluent girls, who become nuns out of devotion. Even if the nuns go back, the church does not return the property. These are gross human right violations and asking the faithful to protest in the name of Christianity is shameful and an insult to Jesus Christ,? Joseph Pulikunnel said.
Renowned writer Sara Joseph has hailed the opinions of the Women'sCommission and said that the Church should search for truth, have commitment to justice and struggle for righteousness. She opined that the bishops should not communalise this issue as it is purely a human rights issue.
At a time when old nuns are being thrown to the streets, to fend for themselves, forsaken by the church and bereft of any property, this landmark opinion of a just Justice will provide hope to the millions.