The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Go forth and multiply, Church tells members

13/06/2008 15:28:31
Pioneer News Service
Thiruvananthapuram

Some years ago, the pseudo-secularists of Kerala had criticised a national BJP leader for his statement on the high growth rate of the Muslim population in India, but the Christian Church in the State has taken this matter seriously and would soon launch a campaign for expanding its population base by asking their community to have three or more children each.

The larger family concept is mooted by the Church in the context of the fall in the population growth at a rate of -0.40 per cent a decade. Sources in the Roman Catholic Church said Hindus in the State also should view the situation seriously as their rate of fall of population growth, at 1.55 per cent a decade, was far more critical in the context of a growth in the Muslim population at a rate of 1.75 per cent in ten years.

The Catholic Church has taken a serious note of the situation and would soon launch a campaign right from the level of parishes, the minutest community body. The plan is to reach the message of the urgent need for giving up the small family concept and to ask each and every man and wife to have at least three children.

In Kerala, Hindus constitute 55 per cent of the total population, while Muslims form 24.7 per cent. Christians constitute 19 per cent or less.

The worry of the Church, which had come out in a Christian publication in the form of an article by a high-ranking Church official two years ago, is no more informal. A recent two-day meeting of the Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council (KCBC) at Kochi discussed the issue at length and officially decided to initiate the campaign for "larger Christian family". A KCBC office-bearer said the issue would be discussed again in detail at the next KCBC meet scheduled for August. He said the formal launch of the campaign would be after that but the ground work would start immediately.

"Some work has already been done," he said. Bishop Mathew Anikkuzhikkattil of the vast Idukki Diocese, who was also the chief of the KCBC Family Commission, had put forward the idea of larger Christian families. Church source confirmed that a strategy for implementing the concept in the parish or diocesan level would be formed at the August meet of the council. He added that the concept would be named "respect for life" for this was not only because of the concern for the falling population but also because Christianity is based on life and family.

He also said that ideas like giving special support to families with three or more children in Church-run hospitals and educational institutions would also be considered.

"This is the only way to circumvent a huge threat we are presently facing, just like Hindus, in the case of population. As far as the Christians, especially the Catholics, are concerned, the number of children belonging to the community, which had stood at 40 per cent of our total population 50 years ago, is alarmingly shrinking. At today's rate of population fall, this would shrink to 15 per cent of our total population by 2050. We have to correct the course," he said.

A KCBC official said the demographic studies were showing an alarming trend in Kerala where Muslim families alone were showing increase in children, while the number of kids in both Hindu and Christian families had been falling sharply.

Among the chief seven denominations of the Christian Church in Kerala, Syrian Christians, who constitute 80 per cent of the total Christian population, are the most concerned about this fall in population. "Our men and women had got good education and this had contributed hugely to the shrinkage of the population. We will have to use our means to re-educate them to have more children," said the KCBC official.

Catholics had the right to decide on the number of children according to their economic and health indications, which had undergone a good growth in the peculiar Kerala conditions. Those who were more prosperous and healthy were opting for fewer children.

The official said the Syrian Christian population, which stood at 9.7 per cent of the total Kerala population just a year ago could plummet to a mere eight per cent in another ten years. "The children-per-couple status among us is less than 1.7 while that of the Muslims is above three, he said.

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