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Church leaders in Kerala opine ‘Hamas’ terror organisation, Vatican lost in linguistic ambiguities

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While Pope Francis and leaders of the Catholic Church in Israel, and other parts of the world failed in simple and direct words to condemn Hamas, an Islamic terror organization that unleashed a brutal terror attack on innocent Israeli civilians, leaders of the Catholic Church in Kerala are not being politically correct but calling out Hamas for the terror organization it is.

The Pontiff of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis in his initial public remarks about the atrocities at the end of his Sunday Angelus address on Oct. 8 said: “I am following apprehensively and sorrowfully what is happening in Israel, where the violence has exploded even more ferociously, causing hundreds of deaths and casualties. I express my closeness to the families and victims. I am praying for them and for all who are living hours of terror and anguish. May the attacks and weaponry cease. Please!”

He continued, “And let it be understood that terrorism and war do not lead to any resolutions, but only to the death and suffering of so many innocent people. War is a defeat! Every war is a defeat! Let us pray that there be peace in Israel and in Palestine.”

On October 11th, Pope Francis expressed, “Terrorism and extremism do not help to reach a solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestinians, but fuel hatred, violence, and revenge, causing suffering to both sides.”

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, condemned Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attacks against Israel, called for peace in the Holy Land, and said the Vatican is ready to help mediate a peace agreement, in an interview published by Vatican News.

Cardinal Parolin told Vatican News that the Hamas attacks were ‘inhuman’ and that the Holy See expresses complete and firm condemnation. We express our solidarity with the affected families, the vast majority of whom are Jewish. We pray for them, for those still in shock, for the wounded.

He also expressed the Vatican’s concern for the civilians in Gaza and the men, women, children, and the elderly held hostage. He said, “It is necessary to regain a sense of reason, abandon the blind logic of hatred, and reject violence as a solution. It is the right of those who are attacked to defend themselves, but even legitimate defense must respect the parameter of proportionality.”

The Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, a body that brings together the Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and Protestant leadership of the Holy Land, has issued two statements on the conflict so far, both of which have brought swift responses from Israel.

On October 7, the day that Hamas’s surprise attack on Israel triggered the present conflict, the Christian leaders issued a statement saying that “our faith, which is founded on the teachings of Jesus Christ, compels us to advocate for the cessation of all violent and military activities that bring harm to both Palestinian and Israeli civilians.”

This statement by the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem faced cynicism from the Israeli Embassy to the Holy See, which complained of “linguistic ambiguities and terms that allude to a false symmetry.

The embassy further expressed, “To suggest parallelisms where they don’t exist isn’t diplomatic pragmatism, it’s just wrong.”

In Kerala however, leaders of the Catholic Church have come out boldly against Hamas and have condemned its terror attack on innocent Israeli civilians, termed Hamas as a terror organization and called out the hypocrisy of the Islamic community in the Pro-Palestine and Pro-Hamas protests in Kerala.

The deputy secretary general of the Kerala Catholic Bishop’s Council (KCBC), Fr Jacob G Palackappilly, a few days ago opined: Although Christians have faced persecution in many Muslim countries, we are not witnessing any solidarity programs. Then why the uproar when only Muslims are persecuted? Why are Muslims not labeling Hamas as a terrorist organization?

In his Facebook post, Thomas Tharayil, the auxiliary bishop of Syro-Malabar Church, Changanassery Archeparchy, stated that attempts are going on in the state to whitewash Hamas and depict its attack against Israel as a defensive act is scary.

He further expressed in the FB post: We have to doubt that the ongoing arguments and counter-arguments about the war in West Asia are a symptom of communalism affecting Kerala society. It is alarming to witness secular parties competing with each other to gloss over the actions of the terrorist organization ‘Hamas,’ which had launched an attack against a country where life had been progressing peacefully, placing the blame on Israel. Every responsible political party should understand that using vote banks as a basis of truth would ultimately erode the cherished social values of Kerala. This would also contribute to the polarization of the non-partisan population.

It is not the first time that leaders of the Catholic Church have shown courage to expose Islamic radicalism. In what is considered to be arguably one of the first instances in recent times of the Catholic Church in Kerala coming out openly against the dangers of Islamic radicalism, on January 14, 2020, a prominent Catholic Bishop in Kerala claimed that young men and women, belonging to the Christian community and other non-Muslim faiths, were being lured and targeted through means such as ‘love jihad’ and ‘narcotic jihad’ in the state.

Addressing the laity on the occasion of the Eight Days of Lent of Mary earlier this week, Joseph Kallarangatt, Bishop of the Palai diocese of the Syro-Malabar Church, alleged that those who claim that ‘love jihad’ doesn’t exist in Kerala are “blind to reality.” “Such people, be they politicians or those from social and cultural spaces, media may have their own vested interests. But one thing is clear. We are losing our young women. It is not just about love marriages. It’s a war strategy to destroy their lives,” he claimed.

He further elucidated, “In a democratic country like ours, since it’s not easy to use weapons to destroy people of other faiths, jihadis are using means which are not easily identifiable. In the view of jihadis, non-Muslims are to be destroyed. When the objective is an expansion of their religion and the destruction of non-Muslims, the means they use are of different forms. Two of such widely-discussed means today are love jihad and narcotics jihad. The Bishop went on to claim that schools, colleges, hostels, training institutes, and business establishments were being used by ‘jihadis’ to lay traps and lure young women.

Post the horrific terror attack by Hamas on innocent Israeli civilians, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) taking a cue from Pope Francis expressed deep sorrow at the loss of lives and the suffering caused by the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.

In a press statement, CBCI president Archbishop Andrews Thazhath, said, “Innocent lives have been lost on both sides, leaving a mark of pain and suffering. It is our fervent hope that both nations can come together to find a peaceful resolution. May Almighty God inspire the leadership of Israel and Palestine to prioritize peace and dialogue over violence.”

Similarly, Archbishop Felix Machado, CBCI secretary general, said, “As people of faith, we believe in the power of prayer. We call upon all our fellow citizens to join us in praying for the safety of all, especially our Indian brothers and sisters living in the affected region, and for an enduring peace that will bring an end to this conflict.”

While Catholic Church leaders in Kerala show the spine to call out Hamas for the terror organization it is, Pope Francis and the Vatican seem to be lost in linguistic ambiguities and diplomatic parlance and resorting to only terming the Hamas attack as ‘inhuman’.

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