I would have loved to write a blog post about ‘Love in times of destruction’ and describe the return to peace at home during Advent, but it is the big religious institutions that are building themselves up as instruments of power and going to war against other religious institutions. It is not the fine, educated ones who get their hands dirty, they prefer to manipulate and so a mob is formed from ‘poor rowdies’, the underprivileged, who are incited by these power apparatuses to look for the enemy among the other religions.
A friend told me the other day that it sounds like Base is pure paradise. I would like to make it clear here that we are fighting, in the truest sense of the word, for the preservation of nature and nothing is being laid in our laps. Anyone who builds something like Base in such an unjust and divided world has to work very, very hard to preserve and protect it. And anyone who has connections to the Catholic Church should get in touch and help us and read the facts I am about to list carefully:
Currently, some small farmers formed a mob that threatened our employees in Base on Friday, Nov. 24, when they planted trees under the small church – dedicated to St. Ignatius and under the control of the Vatican. (at planting time in November we recruited workers from the valley) The mob consisted of parishioners of this church and they claim that the land belongs to the church.
When we signed the land papers eight years ago, it was clear that the church was half on our land and we accepted that. Since then it has extended further forward and cemented a large forecourt into our land and widened the path that runs through the side of our property. We have given the church right of way and signaled that we want to live together in peaceful neighborhood and that they may now be happy with their place for celebrations, but not expand further onto our land.
Unfortunately, several years ago there was a slash-and-burn operation in which all the trees on our land between the main road and the church were torched, leaving the church looking over at empty cleared land in front of it. We don’t know who laid the fire, but have fears that it may be parishioners. (This is not the big major fire that broke out in 2018 from the other side due to another neighbor .)
During the service, the pastor at the time, a very peaceful pastor, told the members that they would see us (me and Ralph) as sisters and brothers. We took communion together. The priest preached to those present that the church was partly on BASE land, but that we had long since made it clear that we accepted this, but did not want any further expansion. The members should please refrain from claiming our land for themselves. At that time, almost only women and children sat in the service. After thh mass, this friendly pastor said to me, ‘Unfortunately, this congregation has a lot of male rowdies and they are difficult to control.’
The following year a new pastor arrived, Mr. Anthony Durairaj. He immediately made an inaugural visit to Base, brought flowers and said the church wanted to buy the cleared land from us. When I asked him what they needed it for, he said they wanted to cement a large staircase and erect small asphalt church buildings (shrines?) and install more masts for the sound system with music for the whole area. Since we live close to the jungle and have built BASE to protect the trees, animals, plants and even biodiversity, such a staircase seems like a bombastic sign, a demonstration of power, especially since the service only takes place twice a month and the church is barely a third full.
We explained to him our desire to protect nature and the forest, as stated in Base’s statutes, and refused to sell it. We then built a wooden fence behind the cement platform and next to the path to the church to mark the boundary. It was soon torn down by the parishioners.
Last winter, a big forest fire had broken out over the church land and our staff along with R. Sriram, my husband, fought all night to whip out the fire that would have destroyed the surrounding area and damaged the church-building. There were no members of the community to be seen anywhere, none of them helped. This shows our goodwill towards the church.
Mr. Xavier, the neighbor who owns a large property next to us and is constantly picking fights by damaging our water pipe on our property, is one such parishioner who has helped lead the current mob. The church leaders should seek a conversation with him and give him guidance on Christian coexistence.
Further, the mob was led by Mr. Vairamani, who is employed by the Forest Office as something like a forest ranger, a parishioner who has shown himself to be shady in many situations. As well as Mr. Jegannathan, a landless community member who has also joined the two. He is the cook at community festivals and tells ‘the land belongs to the church’. He even works as a carpenter partly for Base.
We don’t understand why the church members don’t want to live in peaceful neighborhood with us. Who are the big church representatives who need bombastic and ostentatious buildings supposedly representing the church, here in the nature reserve, to preach to poor landless people? Is this posturing supposed to feign the power of religion? (In Germany, the government would declare it a nature reserve and restrict any construction work – and it is the same in India, unfortunately laws are too often not respected here).
During a phone call, our lawyer said that the Catholic Church is notorious for expanding and land grabbing in this way. But what good are the right papers if such abusive actions happen all the time. (A sign from Base has already been removed there)?
We are now politely asking the Madurai diocese to replace the pastor and to make it clear to the congregation that they cannot expand into the land of other citizens just because the church declares itself to be charitable. Even if we are legally on the safe side, the constant aggression against us by parishioners is threatening. The spirit is not Christian. I grew up in a Christian country and am familiar with Christian values through school and culture. These are crooks who are using the church. This is not an isolated case in India and must be checked and stopped from the top.
Peace must always be fought for, but not with violence or weapons, but with acts of understanding and mutual tolerance.
Letters have already been sent to the diocese of Madurai, to the diocese of Mainz and to the universal church.
Can anyone now name a responsible person who will serve as our contact person for the Church? As this church is under the authority of the Vatican – and this can be read on the plaque on the church – we will ultimately need a contact to the Vatican, as the world church has already affirmed that it cannot help here…
Of course, there is now a danger that these members of the community will go to the tahsildar (mayor’s ) office and find someone there, whom they can bribe with money to issue them with papers proving that all the land under the church belongs to them. Or there just has to be a Christian in the office who is biased to do that. Someone now advises us to go to Modi’s fanatical Hindu party BJP and tell them about the abuses in the church community…
This is perhaps how the war in the Holy Land began….
We would rather lose the land than participate in such wars.
Base is a non-religious place. People are born, live and die no matter what religion they belong to. I believe in non-conditioned humanity as a way into the future, where you can still live the culture of your ancestors with dignity.