One of New Delhi’s most famous Catholic activists is applying Francis clean-up operation in his own country. “In Orissa too people walked away with donations”
PUBBLICATO IL06 Ottobre 2013 ULTIMA MODIFICA30 Dicembre 201912:12
“Can corruption be banished from the Indian Church?”: A decidedly striking title. But what is even more striking is who wrote and published the article. The person who posed the question regarding corruption and misuse of money, not just outside the Christian community but also within it, is no anti-clericalist. It is the well known Indian Catholic journalist, John Dayal and his article was published on Asia’s most important Catholic news website, UCANews.
The way Dayal – who is secretary of the All India Christian Council – sees it, is simple: we can all see how much energy Francis is putting into condemning corruption, we hear him speak out against the idolatry of money and we are all witness to the reforms that are underway to achieve greater financial transparency in the Vatican. But doesn’t all this also lead the Church in India to examine its conscience? The corruption issue is one of the most contentious issues in this big Asian country: A law that would allow members of parliament convicted of corruption and given sentences that are not final to continue working in politics is being hotly debated. A way to get around the laws passed at the height of Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement. Anna Hazare is a controversial Hindu activist who presents himself as the new Ghandi.
In actual fact, corruption is widespread in India and extends beyond the political sphere. “One of the untold sad stories of recent times in India is the corruption within churches who distributed aid following the pogrom against Christians in Orissa in 2007 and 2008. Some took cash from donors and walked away with it; others diverted funds to unrelated projects, splashed out on new SUVs or refurbished their own houses with money “saved” from rebuilding the devastated huts of the Dalits and the Tribals. No police complaints have been registered, and it remains something confined to the rumour mill. Since it was not government money, official agencies cannot confront the allegations unless someone files a complaint. But it highlights a pervasive problem in India that doesn’t spare the Catholic Church,” Dayal said.
The fact that he mentioned the events in Orissa is important: Condemnations of violence against Christians came chiefly from Dayal and he followed the legal battles for justice personally. All this therefore indicates that he experienced the events he refers to, directly.
“Corruption, mismanagement of lands, buildings and institutions, and the integrity of church personnel handling money at all levels have become a major issue in a growing section of the Protestant and Independent churches across India,” Dayal wrote. Although it is true that fewer accusations are made against the Indian Catholic Church and its NGOs than other Catholic Churches and institutions, all one needs to do is delve a little deeper into the definition of corruption to see that the picture really isn’t perfect. “If the definition were to cover, as it should, bribes given by Church functionaries and religious persons to gain government permission for projects, the figures could really shoot up”, the Indian journalist claimed.
To illustrate how deep-felt the corruption problem is becoming, Dayal mentioned a “movement initiated by a group of Christian businessmen from various cities in the state.” Disgusted with what they have seen, the group four years ago began Operation Nehemiah, which seeks to awaken the Church to the rot that is slowly setting in. Three major consultations have taken place to develop a code of conduct and transparency, both personal and corporate, to check, control and eventually weed out every shadow of doubt in the handling of money and property.” The rules in this code are aimed at fixing evils committed and reconciling those who have committed acts of corruption. They aim to do this in the spirit of the faith.
Dayal concluded his article by saying that “it is still too early to assess if such initiatives are mere pipe dreams of a few honest men and women, or whether they can become the sinew of a larger movement. But it is quite clear that if the Church does not cleanse itself of corruption, the government’s agencies may enter the scene. And that will not do anyone any good”.