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Kerala: Orthodox Church bishops visit IUML leaders

A bishops’ delegation of Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church visited top leaders of the IUML, saying their visit was a message against the attempt to create a rift between Muslims and Christians ahead of the assembly elections this year.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram |
Updated: January 30, 2021 1:05:06 pm
Indian Union Muslim League, orthodox church, UDF, orthodox bishop IUML visit, indian express newsThe Orthodox church is looking for support from UDF in their fight to retain the ownership of the churches, consigned to them as per the top court order.

Amid the ruling CPI(M)-led LDF campaign that Congress’s ally Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) is a bridge between the opposition UDF and religious fundamentalists, a prominent Christian Church on Friday came out in support of the IUML in a politically significant move.

A bishops’ delegation of Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church visited top leaders of the IUML, saying their visit was a message against the attempt to create a rift between Muslims and Christians ahead of the assembly elections this year.

After a meeting with IUML state president Hyderali Shihab Thangal and other senior party leaders in Malappuram, Orthodox Bishops Geevarghese Mar Yulios and Yakoob Mar Irenaios told media, “Our visit is a message against the political attempt to create a rift between Christian and Muslim communities. We visited the IUML leaders as per the direction of (Orthodox Church head) Catholicos Baselios Marthoma Paulose II.’’

The visit of Orthodox bishops and their support to the IUML gain significance at a time the IUML is facing unprecedented alienation from a section of Christians, particularly Catholics, over a host of issues such as alleged discrimination in distribution of minority welfare schemes and inter-faith marriages. On several occasions in recent times, Catholic Church has come out against the IUML, dubbing it as the party that calls shots in the Congress-led UDF, and a bridge with ultra-Muslim elements and Congress.

Sensing that a section of Christians have drifted away from its traditional political choice of UDF over its electoral understanding with Jamaat-e-Islami in the local body elections, the CPI(M) has stepped up its attack on the IUML.

Two days ago, CPI(M) state secretary A Vijayaraghavan came down heavily on the UDF, saying that the IUML was fixing the agenda of the Congress. He also found fault with senior Congress leaders Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala visiting the IUML leadership.

Although Congress came out against the CPI(M) leader “for his bid to divide votes on religious lines”, Vijayaraghavan on Friday reiterated: “Congress is getting closer with religion-based political alliances.”

Another significant factor behind the Orthodox bishops’ visit to the IUML leadership is that rival Jacobite Church has recently leaned towards the LDF. Both Orthodox and Jacobite factions of Malankara Church have been traditionally Congress vote banks. But Jacobite Church lost several churches to Orthodox in the recent months after the government implemented a Supreme Court verdict of 2017.

However, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan brought out an Ordinance last year, which facilitated the burial of Jacobite members in the graveyards of their parishes even if the churches have gone into the custody of Orthodox faction. This has brought a major relief for Jacobite Church.

The Orthodox church is looking for support from UDF in their fight to retain the ownership of the churches, consigned to them as per the top court order.

Besides, Orthodox Bishops have come out to patch up the difference between Christians and Muslims after Chandy was made the chairman of the Congress election management and strategy committee. Chandy belongs to Orthodox Church.

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