Bishop Joseph D’Souza, president of the All India Christian Council and a well-respected human rights leader in an detailed talk with Samuel Smith of The Christian Post during his visit to Washington DC states that India is in dire need of its own #ChurchToo and #MeToo movements as recent reports of clergy-related sexual abuse cases in Kerala have shocked the Christian laity.
Speaking to The Christian Post earlier this week, Bishop D’souza is quoted saying, “It would be great to have the #ChurchToo movement in India because India probably needs it more than the West because the #MeToo movement in India is far more needed on several fronts. India’s chauvinistic society has bred much male aggression against women and girls even inside the church.”
Five priests of the Malankara Orthodox Church in Kerala sexually abused a woman by using her confessions as blackmail to force her to have romantic encounters. The allegations led to the suspension of five priests, four of whom have been charged with rape.
On June 29, an unnamed Catholic nun complained to police that she had been raped in May 2014 by Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar and sexually abused by him multiple times over the course of the next two years.
Over the last 18 months, as many as 12 priests from different churches in Kerala have reportedly been arrested on accusations of sexual abuse.
The Christian Post reported that D’Souza believes more women will come forward with their stories of being abused by church leaders.”There will be other cases in India that will come out in this area,” he predicted. “We have to be very humble because we are Christians but we also have sin in our midst. When it is talked about, we don’t need to hide it.”
D’Souza warned that Indian churches must not ignore reports of sexual abuse against clergy and also must not get defensive or try to cover up such abuse. “The Church must know that apology and acceptance of wrong is a Christ value and that Jesus had very strong teachings about abused children and women,” he added. “We should in this situation, be careful that we are not too worried about the damage to our name because of a few cases but more concerned about making sure righteousness and justice rules for the women of our country.”
Speaking on cooperating with the authorities on sexual abuse cases D’Souza expressed that cases of sexual assault are against the law in India, churches should not be afraid to let authorities come and investigate whenever a report of abuse is made. He suggested that churches shouldn’t rely solely on internal investigations.