Kerala church feud hits new low, kids seen writing in own blood during protest

The incident took place on Sunday as children wrote ‘Sathyam’ (Truth) in Malayalam as part of the protest.
Kerala church feud hits new low, kids seen writing in own blood during protest
Kerala church feud hits new low, kids seen writing in own blood during protest
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With index fingers pricked and a rubber band tied around it (to allow more blood), some children were seen writing ‘Sathyam’ in Malayalam with their blood on a piece of white paper, on Monday, in Ernakulam district.   

This was a scene at a protest as part of the latest standoff between the Orthodox and Jacobite factions of the Malankara Church at the Kothamangalam Marthoma Cheriya Palli (church) in Kerala’s Ernakulam district. On the order of the Supreme Court, the priests of the Orthodox faction tried to enter the Kothamangalam church to conduct religious services. However, Jacobite priests and devotees protested and prevented their rival religious leaders from entering the premises on Monday.

According to reports, the Jacobite faction allegedly used students from the catechism classes (religious education). Among over 700 children gathered, some were writing the word ‘Sathyam’ (Truth) as a proclamation of faith or an oath to uphold their belief in the Patriarch of Antioch (Syria), who is considered the head of the Jacobite faction.

As media reports, videos and pictures of the incident surfaced, the Kerala State Commission For Protection Of Child Rights took suo motu notice of the matter and has sought reports from the Director-General of Police and the Ernakulam District Collector.

“Children have every right to unite among themselves and stage protests for safeguarding their rights. However, the law forbids the use of children, especially minors, as tools in the hands of adults. Such acts of proclaiming their faith using blood are a violation of the rights of children,” said P Suresh, Chairman of the Commission.

However, the Jacobite faction has denied the allegations of forcing children to write using their blood.

While admitting that the incident took place, Sleeba Paul Cor-Episcopa, a priest trustee of the Jacobite Syrian Church, told TNM, “Children did it of their own accord, to show their faith. This had no support from the Jacobite church. The parents were well aware of this. There is no need for the child protection panel to intervene.”

Meanwhile, although the police have not received any complaints, they have started a probe.

The Rural Superintendent of Police (SP) K Karthick has directed Muvattupuzha Deputy SP Anilkumar K to submit a report. “It needs to be verified whether the children were minors. Video recordings of the protests will be checked,” Karthick was quoted as saying to the Times of India. 

On Sunday, the Jacobite faction, including devotees and children, had camped inside the church premises to prevent Thomas Paul Ramban, the vicar of St. Thomas church in Kothamangalam, from entering the church. Armed with the court order, Ramban, along with bishops and priests of the Orthodox group, tried to enter the church and had sought police protection. 

By Monday evening, the Revenue Department and police managed to persuade the Orthodox group to move out of the area. According to reports, they are planning to approach the High Court, like how they did in the Piravom church.

On September 26, the Kerala police were on a deadline to allow the Orthodox faction to enter the St. Mary's Church in Piravom, Ernakulam. Amidst intense dramatic scenes, state police and riot police used cutters to break open the iron rods of the gate, which was being guarded by scores of Jacobite devotees.

It was in July 2017 that the Supreme Court gave the Orthodox faction the legal mandate to administer 1,100 churches and parishes under the Malankara Church, according to the 1934 Malankara Church guidelines. Despite the order, the decades-old conflict snowballed and turned uglier with even the burial of dead bodies being delayed for weeks and months.

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