Death is a great level-player. The rich and the poor; the literate and the illiterate; the handsome and the ugly; the generous and the miser …. All reach the same state. It is humane to give respect to the mortal remains, though it matters little to the body itself. At least from the time of pyramids we learn about humanity’s regard for the dead. This tradition is beyond the barriers of religions. But struck by religious madness, people act cruelly even to bodies as it happened recently when two factions of Malankara Orthodox Church and Jacobite Syrian Church of the same parish fought a bitter battle over the body of a 94-year-old man. They refused to give a respectable burial to the old man and the body was kept in a mobile mortuary for ten days at his residence in Alappuzha district of Kerala. In a mindless act, the Orthodox church authorities did not allow the diseased person’s grandson, a priest belonging to the other faction, to lead the funeral prayers in the church. The body was kept in limbo. It was only after the intervention of the Human Rights Commission and a steely district administration that he could be interned, that too in the presence of a heavy police force.
The abominable incident has brought shame on Christians as a whole. It is not the first of its kind among Christians. Neither will it be the last one as people, drunk by poisonous orthodoxy, have lost sight of values. The rot is not limited to one or other Christian denomination. It has sunk deep into most, if not all, Churches. There were incidents among Catholic churches which had to shell out lakhs of rupees as fine on court orders for their denial of permission to bury their members on the plea that the deceased had not been regular in religious practices. In the Catholic Church, especially in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, caste considerations have forced people of the same parish to opt for two cemeteries to bury their dead. The so called ‘high caste Catholics’ have raised a banner of revolt on several occasions and prevented ‘low caste Catholics’ from enjoying the right of burying their dead in the same cemetery. It is an irony that Christianity claims itself to be a casteless religion.
Christian communities have buried Christ’s values. They trample upon the core values of love, forgiveness and compassion preached by Christ and propagated by his disciples. The spirit of ‘we are all brothers and sisters in Christ’ has given way to factionalism based on rituals, man-made laws and dogmas. It seems that spreading the Good News of Christ is no more the priority; church leaders are more involved in dirty tricks. When a religion becomes institutionalized with rituals, dogmas and laws, and controlled by money and muscle power, spirituality takes a back seat. The recent incident is an outrageous scandal to the public. The two Christian groups failed to practice the most important commandment of Jesus, love one another, which should be the mascot of a Christian. It is time to go back to the roots; to bury the hatchet; to rediscover the lost values of Christianity; and live a life accordingly.(Published on 19th November 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 47)