God! Help us to Unite! / Dr. John Kunnathu
The one primary direction that Christ gave us is to love each other, for that is the means to witness Christ to the world. “When you love each other, the world will know that you are my disciples” Christ said.
But unfortunately, the Syrian Christian community in Kerala has been fighting and killing each other, going to courts against each other — we did everything except what Christ told us to do. We have been doing this for a century now. As a result, the world around us knows that we are not the disciples of Christ. Although we honor Christ with our lips, our actions have nothing to do with it. Just as a plant can be identified with its fruit, the world around us has identified us as anti-Christians — people who dishonor the name of Christ. We have become wolves in sheep’s clothing. Pleople have been laughing at us, and we couldn’t walk along the streets with our heads held high.
This evil among us was started by an older generation; we simply inherited it. Let us not hand it over to our next generation. If we let it die with this generation, our future generations will be grateful to us.
Christian community has been in existence in India since the time of Christ. For the first sixteen centuries, we were united. We loved one another, and the world around us knew that we are Christ’s disciples. The problem started since the arrival of the foreigners for the last four centuries. The Portuguese, the Dutch, and the British people came here. They made us slaves in our own land. The Christian community in India sought the support of the Antiochian Orthodox church in defending the assault of the European colonizers. The Antiochian church helped us to get free from the Europeans, but eventually they tried to enslave us. They claimed that the Indian church has to be under the authority of the Antiochian church. Unfortunately some people in the Indian Community trusted them blindly, which started our present mess. Antiochian church still wants to keep us in slavery, and some of us seems to enjoy this slavery.
Now the Supreme court of India has clearly stated that we are a free community, and not under Antiochian church’s authority. Let us together take this opportunity and love each other, and let this evil die along with us. If we pass this down to our children, and grandchildren, they will never forgive us. We may not be able to convert this world into a heaven for our children; at least we can refrain from converting it into a hell.
I think this is a crucial time, and if we miss this opportunity, we may never be able end this evil. So the leaders of both sides need to act wisely. They need to realize that a large number of people on both sides eagerly wish for a united church. If they make a blunder and let this chance slip through their fingers, the future generations will never forgive them.
It is time for a meeting of the representatives of both sides. They need to be clear about the goal of the meeting — unity. They are not meeting to prove who is right and who is wrong. We are a broken family, and what we need is mending of broken relationship and reconciliation. They may want to come together around a table and discuss the points they can agree on and the points they cannot agree on. They need to see the issues from Christ’s perspective. If Jesus were in body among us now, how would he address this issue? As Christ promised, when two or three of us meet, he would be among our midst though not visible tour eyes. So let us make sure that our exchange of feelings and thoughts are pleasing to Christ. Also let us see give our future generations a chance to feel proud of us.
Before going to the legal and logical issues, the emotional issues need to be addressed first. The ego of one side is severely wounded by the court judgment. Their hurt feelings should be acknowledged and accepted and addressed.
Once the emotional issue is addressed, the primary issue needs to be taken, which is the place of the Patriarch of Antioch in the Malankara church. The very first clause of the 1934 constitution says: “Malankara Church is a division of the Orthodox Syrian Church. The Primate of the Orthodox Syrian Church is the Patriarch of Antioch.” Although both sides agree to this clause literally, it still needs to be clarified what they both mean by this clause. Ambiguities need to be resolved. The side that favors Antioch may want to make sure that their feelings and beliefs about Antioch are heard by the other side. Once both sides are open to each others’ feelings, beliefs and thoughts, a way will be visible for unity.
God! Help us to unite!