Leaders of this Eastern rite claim Christian girls are being lured into marriages with Islamist militants.
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Leaders of the Indian based Syro-Malabar Catholic church have stirred controversy after a pastoral letter was released which cautioned the community that Christian girls were being lured into terrorist activities by love and marriage to Islamic men, also called a “Love Jihad.”
The letter came after a week-long Synod of the Eastern rite took place, in which 57 of 64 Bishops of the Syro-Malabar church took part. Although they did not use the term “Love Jihad,” they did describe the practice before requesting that the government investigate their claims further.
UCA News reports that Cardinal George Alencherry, Major Archbishop and the head of the Syro-Malabar Church, suggested that young women were being lured into situations where they could be used in terrorist activities. He cautioned against interfaith romance, which he felt could cause disharmony between the faiths.
The priest claimed that 12 Christian women have been converted to Islam in the last three years. He went on to explain that they have since lost all contact with these women, who have been taken abroad.
The statement was met with criticism from some who feared that it could create interfaith disharmony. Father Kuriakose Mundadan, a senior priest of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese, said that there have been instances where Islamic women have converted to Christianity for love. He challenged the synod to compile data about this trend for comparison.
Others suggested that the Syro-Malabar Church is raising these concerns to draw attention from their own problems. Riju Kanjookaran, an office-bearer of the Archdiocesan Transparency Movement, noted that recent years have seen reports of the Church falling for scams, selling properties, and even becoming involved in sexual abuse scandals.
Father Antony Thalachelloor, secretary of the Syro-Malabar Synod Media Commission, however, was adamant that the report presented by the synod is based on evidence gathered through their own investigation. He told UCA:
“We have records of more than 40 incidents related to different forms of love jihad activities only from the Malabar region in the state. Such details the Church has not released in the public domain for safety and security of the victims. Many did not complain to the police fearing for their life and their family members and also public defamation.”
Fr. Thalachelloor said that it was unfair to attack the Church for bringing up this concern while maintaining the confidence of the victims. He added that the report is not meant to attack a particular people, but to raise awareness of this concerning trend.