Government not responsible for Church evangelical business

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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