Indian church group airs controversial film about the danger of “love jihad.”


MUMBAI, India – Just days after a local Catholic diocese screened the controversial film “The Kerala Story,” a church youth movement has decided to distribute it to other Syro-Malabar Church dioceses in India.

The film tells the story of four women from Kerala, a state in southern India, who converted to Islam and joined the Islamic State, with the filmmakers claiming that thousands of women from that state fell victim to this fate.

The film faced several lawsuits before its release in May 2023. Some say it is a cautionary tale about so-called “love jihad,” in which Muslim men allegedly seduce non-Muslim women in order to convert them. Others claim it is a Hindu nationalist fiction and that the church should be more concerned about the persecution of its believers in several parts of India.

The film was first screened on April 4 in Idukki Diocese for students participating in a summer catechism program and was also scheduled to be screened at gatherings and family reunions of the Kerala Catholic Youth Movement (KCYM), a youth organization of the Syro-Malabar Church in the Muslim dominated dioceses of Thalassery and Thamarassery.

Kerala has 6.1 million Christians – over 18 percent of the southern state's population – and 60 percent of them are Catholics, divided between Latin, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara rite jurisdictions.

Kerala's Catholic Church is very influential across India – where the national Christian population is just 2.3 percent – as many priests and religious in other parts of the country come from the state. Muslims make up 27 percent of the state's population.

The Archdiocese of Thalassery distanced itself from KCYM's announcement that it would screen the film at the parish hall. The archdiocese said it has not made a decision to show the film in churches.

The archdiocese said it doesn't want to cause discord between different communities but wants people to remain vigilant about “love traps.”

A day after the film was screened in Idukki Diocese, the KCBC's Social Harmony and Vigilance Commission released a statement – without referring to the film – saying that terrorism and betrayal in the name of romantic relationships were a reality at the time the church issued warnings in recognition of this fact.

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This exposed the conspicuous moves by some interest groups to take advantage of the loopholes and advantages of the law, the commission said.

In a Facebook post, the commission accused the authorities of inaction, despite repeated allegations that the girls were cheated and abused the Special Marriage Act.

“In such circumstances, when administrations continue to ignore such issues and the media hides the facts, the Church creates awareness among believers. There is no need for anyone to be upset or misunderstood,” the commission added.

It said that the church leadership will definitely carry out continuous awareness campaigns against social evils to prevent youth from falling into any trap.

The KCBC Social Harmony and Vigilance Commission's reaction comes amid opposition from various political leaders, including Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, to the screening of the controversial film by the Idukki diocese.

Vijayan criticized the film as “violating the cultural ethos of the state”.

“The film is shown with a certain agenda. Canards are being spread to insult the state. Nobody should fall into the RSS trap [the main Hindu nationalist organization], which sees communists and minorities as its enemies. They want to destroy Christians. We saw it in Manipur,” he said, without mentioning the church itself.

Opposition leader VD Satheesan said the film had nothing to do with reality.

“Kerala has no such problem. It is a deliberate attempt to denigrate the state.”

Father Jacob Vellakkamkudy, director of KCYM, Thamarassery diocese, said several girls from Kerala were caught in love and recruited by the Islamic State.

“The screening of the film is not directed against Muslims… In recent years, we have rescued many women from the traps of love jihad,” he said.

The country's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is trying to gain a foothold in the Kerala state government and has “love jihad” as its favorite theme, has welcomed the church's move.

Father Antony Vadakkekara, the spokesperson of the Syro-Malabar Church, said core The Indian Censor Board has given permission to screen “The Kerala Story” across the country.

“Recently, the Eparchy of Idukki, which belongs to the Syro-Malabar Church, organized a special summer coaching for the students of classes 10th, 11th and 12th for three days from April 2nd to 4th like every year.” he said.

“Previously, a booklet was prepared for them with a very important topic called “LOVE”, in which we gave them the understanding and enlightened the children that false love affairs have the possibility of later falling into difficult and problematic experiences – That's why we have to Be aware of this. That was the intention of the given conscientiousness,” the priest continued.

“As part of their work during catechism class, they were shown 'The Kerala Story' just to understand the theme of the film that there are people who get involved in unnecessary love affairs and end up in disappointment. To make them aware and aware, the church has done this,” Vadakkekara said.

He added that it had been portrayed as a controversial issue “by the media”.

“I don't know if there is anyone who has a vested interest in this – neither political parties nor other communities.” However, the church is not affiliated with any of these groups or political parties, but we have a clear intention to support our children to educate and also to make our people who come to church conscientious. “That is the only intention we had in this matter,” the priest said core.

Vadakkekara noted that the Indian Constitution provides protection against exploitation.

“That is why our teenagers and young people should understand that we need protection from exploitation, especially in this regard, from failed and forced love relationships that lead them into all kinds of problems. This was the intention of the Eparchy of Idukki, the catechism department, when it set this particular topic for the study on the subject,” the priest said.

“At this moment I want to tell you, because it is this [national] I think that during election season some people want to deviate from the real issues that people are facing. The church cares deeply about people’s problems,” he said.

“The problems like attacks by wild animals; farmers face problems because they do not receive adequate prices for their agricultural products; And there are problems, including Manipur, where Christians are facing problems, where churches are being burned down, Christians are being killed and beaten, and holy statues of Jesus and Mother Mary are being thrown away and broken, and also where people are starving and the grocery store problems said Vadakkekara core.

“There are people who are not getting enough money that the government used to give them every month; also the uncontrolled campus problems in schools and colleges and also qualified people not getting jobs; People of Kerala are making a mass exodus to western countries etc. We need to know the Constitution of India which guarantees democracy and coexistence of all religions also needs to be protected,” the priest added.

He said individual and personal freedom must be protected.

“The minority community should have the protection of their rights and historical needs to remain the same, and there should be no deviation from the historical facts and the like. These are certain issues faced by the people of Kerala and India,” he said.

That's why we want the media to address such matters and not forget people's concerns during unnecessary controversies like the screening of The Kerala Story. I demand that we must end all controversies of this kind,” Vadakkekara said core.