Government not responsible for Church evangelical business
by B R Haran on 07 Jun 2014 9 Comments

Two weeks after the attack on the Indian consulate at Herat in Afghanistan, an Indian national, Fr. Alexis Prem Kumar, director of Jesuit Refugee Service, Afghanistan, was abducted by armed militants allegedly belonging to the Taliban. He was kidnapped while visiting a school for refugee children in Sohadat township, 34 kms from Herat city. Before moving to Afghanistan in 2011, Alexis Prem Kumar was working among Sri Lankan refugees in Shenbaganur, Kodaikanal, for about six years, as director of JRS Dindukkal, which belongs to Madurai Jesuit Province. He completed his theological studies at the Theological Centre in Beschi College, Dindukkal.


The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is an international Catholic organisation claiming to serve “Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Internally Displaced Persons”, working in the fields of education, emergency assistance, health and nutrition, income generating activities, and social services - typical claims of any evangelical organization. The JRS was founded in 1980 by Fr Pedro Arrupe, Superior General of Society of Jesus, in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, for Vietnam refugees.


Later the JRS was officially registered as a Foundation at the Vatican State in March 2000. With a workforce of 1400 people including 78 Jesuits and 66 Religious, operating at national and regional levels in 50 countries, it claims to have benefited 600,000 individuals directly. However, the JRS has not come out with facts about the number of individuals it has brought into the order of Society of Jesus and how it benefitted by working in these 50 countries.


The Jesuit Refugee Service clearly states that, “JRS is an apostolic work of the Society of Jesus. For more than 460 years Jesuit priests and brothers have served the Church in new and unexpected ways. Men on the move, ready to change residence, occupation, and approach – whatever is necessary to advance the Church’s mission: teaching the word of Jesus Christ and preaching his Good News – a radical service of faith in a world that respects neither faith nor the justice it entreats”.


The JRS also involves in dialogue with other religions and cultures (Interfaith Dialogue). The Jesuits are notorious for their “Academic Research” on Inter religious understanding and meeting points, encounters of Christianity and other religions especially Hinduism, Christian Vedanta, and many other inculturation and interfaith stuff. With such a ‘Mission Statement’ and ‘Academic Research’, one can easily infer the main agenda of the JRS. Alexis Prem Kumar reportedly went to Afghanistan on a “Student Visa” to pursue his “Doctoral Research”, whatever that is!


Evangelists getting abducted by Taliban are not a new phenomenon in Afghanistan. In the summer of 2007, 23 South Korean Christian volunteers, all members of the Saemmul Church in Bundang, south of Seoul, went on a mission to Afghanistan. They were kidnapped by the Taliban, who executed two before releasing the rest after a 42-day detention. Similarly, in the summer of 2012, four aid workers of an international humanitarian organisation, Medair, were kidnapped. Like ‘education’ and ‘health’, ‘humanitarian work’ is another guise for indulging in evangelization. Medair, which claims to specialize in emergency relief work providing food aid and nutrition, is yet another Christian organisation. The said four workers were abducted while visiting a project site in the northern province of Badakhshan. 


In the summer of 2010, 10 people who were running an eye care operations for impoverished Afghans were killed by gunmen as they travelled between Nuristan and Badakhshan provinces. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that the workers were proselytizers; all 10 belonged to International Assistance Mission, another Christian organisation.


Meanwhile in Tamil Nadu, Fr Alexis Prem Kumar’s father Antony and brother Manoharan, who reside in Devakottai, Sivaganga district, have petitioned the Collector of Sivaganga to take immediate steps for his rescue. The Sivaganga MP PR Senthilnathan (AIADMK) has petitioned Chief Minister Jayalalithaa to seek the intervention of the Central Government to rescue Fr Alexis Prem Kumar (she has already done so).   


The External Affairs Ministry, Indian Embassy in Afghanistan and the Afghan authorities are coordinating efforts to rescue Prem Kumar. The Afghan authorities have reported that Prem Kumar is alive and that one person allegedly involved in the kidnapping has been held by the police. Search operations are going on.  


One sympathises with Prem Kumar and his family, but it is also a cause for concern that such persons are creating unnecessary hardship to the State and Central Governments and the foreign embassies. Fr Alexis Prem Kumar is an employee of a Christian evangelical organisation and has gone on his own to Afghanistan. He is not a government employee and he has not gone as a government worker. The JRS and the Catholic Church alone are responsible for his safety and security, and not the State or Central Government or the Indian Consulate for that matter. It is important to note that the JRS did not take the Indian Government’s consent to take an Indian citizen for its so-called aid work. If at all it has any official understanding with the Afghan government, it should have sent its workers from Vatican and Rome only, or taken the support of local groups in Afghanistan.   


While Government officials face huge risks in terror-infested countries like Afghanistan in the line of duty, private persons who go to such places on their own without the knowledge or consent of the Government must realise that they get into trouble because of their stupid decisions which makes the Government’s work all the more difficult. A lot of time and public money is spent unnecessarily. The Government cannot take responsibility for the security of evangelists who indulge in the business of proselytizing on behalf of the Vatican.    


Hence it is imperative that the Government place a blanket ban on private persons going to terror-infested spots and also on dubious organizations which engage in evangelical activities in the guise of aid work.      



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