Christian intellectuals say church screening The Kerala Story parallel to Hitler era

“Like in the time of Hitler, there are always those in authority in the Churches who wish to kowtow to those who have political power in order to keep their own little empires safe,” read the statement.
Actor Adah Sharma in The Kerala Story
Actor Adah Sharma in The Kerala Story
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Amid the controversy over Idukki Catholic Diocese’s screening of The Kerala Story for catechism students, St Joseph Church in Sanjopuram on April 10 screened a documentary titled Cry of the Oppressed on the Manipur violence. The Kerala Story, directed by Sudipto Sen and released on May 5, 2023, has been accused of peddling misinformation and unleashing targeted propaganda against Muslims.

Fr James Panavelil, vicar of the church under the Ernakulam-Angamaly diocese, stated that the children should watch the Manipur story, which is factual and not fabricated. “Every summer, we conduct classes for children, and on the last day, we decided to screen this credible documentary, which is socially relevant,” he said.

He added that The Kerala Story is controversial and was a propaganda film similar to The Kashmir Files, which was released a year prior to Sudipto Sen’s film. “In such times, it is more relevant to show the true story of Manipur than The Kerala Story. Even the children who watched The Kerala Story have asked, ‘Is this our story’?” Fr James said.

Meanwhile, a group of Catholic scholars, including Dr Kochurani Abraham, Fr Paul Thelakkat (former editor of Syro-Malabar Church’s mouthpiece Sathyadeepam), Dr Frazer Mascarenhas SJ (Former Principal, St Xavier's College Mumbai), Adv Anastasia Gil (former Delhi Minorities Commission member), and advocate Mary Scaria SCJM, have issued a statement against the screening of The Kerala Story by the Idukki diocese.

The statement highlights that the Idukki diocese screened the movie on the same day that Pope Francis emphasised the need to support harmony between religions, ethnic groups, and cultures in the Vatican.

“That a Catholic Diocese has screened this film defies logic! First of all, the movie is clearly a propaganda film created to further the Hindutva narrative that is trying to destroy the secular nature of our country. Secondly, it is replete with lies, factual inaccuracies, and half-truths. Thirdly, and far more importantly, this is a film that goes against the teachings of the Church and the person and message of Jesus,” the statement reads.

The scholars expressed regret that by screening the movie, the diocese was sowing seeds of hatred, intolerance, and prejudice among children instead of promoting peace, compassion, and acceptance, which are core values of Christianity. The statement also criticised the Idukki church for instilling negative emotions and discriminatory attitudes towards people of other faiths and for failing to teach children about love and respect for all religions and cultures.

Comparing this to the time of Hitler’s rule in Nazi Germany, the statement said, “Like in the time of Hitler, there are always those in authority in the Churches who wish to kowtow to those who have political power in order to keep their own ‘little empires’ safe.”

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