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Monday, October 5, 2015

Press Release – We oppose the demand for a ban of the play, Agnes of God #Censorship

Press Release – We oppose the demand for a ban of the play, Agnes of God #Censorship


mahabano

We, the following signatories,  object to Mr. Joseph Dias, Secretary, Catholic Secular Forum, issuing press statements, representing himself as the spokesperson of the entire community while he seeks bans on films and plays on the ground that they hurt the sentiments of the Catholic religious community in .  Since such demands tarnish the image of the entire community, we appeal to the press that they should not be projected as the views of the entire Christian community.

We wish to state that the views expressed by him are his own, or at best, that of his organization and this by no stretch of imagination, can be portrayed as the views of the entire Catholic community, as is being done in recent times. His demands are sensational in nature and are self serving to attract media attention unto himself and we are opposed to the same.

His recent target is the play directed by Kaizaad Kotwaal which is based on the original play by John Pielmeier performed in the US in 1979.  He claimed that it was based on a true story.  For nearly forty years no one had ever demanded a ban on it on the ground that it hurts religious sentiments of the Catholic community despite the fact that it was staged in many countries. It was adapted into a  by the same name in 1985, starring Jane Fonda, which won several Academy Award nominations.  It is styled as a murder mystery around the death of a new born infant, strangled to death at birth using its own umbilical cord. The young nun cannot explain the person responsible for the pregnancy, the other nuns in the convent, including the mother superior, feign innocence. The nun herself claims that it was an "immaculate conception", and efforts are made to project her as insane, to save her from the murder charges.

It is rather disturbing that the Catholic religious leadership, particularly the apex body (CBCI –Catholic Bishops Conference of India)  has responded to the issue and has endorsed the demand for a ban on the ground that the  play hurts the religious sentiments of Christians because it "misinterprets the religious belief of the Christian Community and wrongly portrays character of thousands of the clergy who are committed to a life of celibacy".

Ban of books, films, plays and artistic works on the pretext of "hurting religious sentiments" of the followers of a particular community have become a fad and we appeal to the Church hierarchy to restrain from subscribing to this trend. Such demands violate the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech and expression and is an affront on the democratic traditions of our country.

We endorse the views expressed by Fr. Jacob Peenikaparambil, CMI  (Carmelites of Mary Immaculate), who, in an open letter to Cardinal Cleemis (President of the apex body, CBCI), has questioned why the Church is spending its energy on a non-issue while several crucial issues facing minority communities have remained unaddressed.  According to him, it is preposterous to believe that staging of a play at a few places will tarnish the image of the Christian  clergy. "Is our faith  so weak that a book or play can destroy it?" he questions.

 

In an insightful comment, he states that "a film or a play could be a criticism of an existing evil and the intent of the author or producer could be to dissuade people from committing the evil".  This is a moot point which many  leaders within the community wish to bring to the fore and are working towards bringing remedial measures to curb such evil.

Instead of focusing on a non issue, Fr. Peenikaparambil, while commenting on the recent beef murder case, has expressed concern that the Church should take initiative to bring together all secular forces committed to the protection of  and approach the National  Commission against increasing attacks on minorities in the country.

We endorse his views and hope that the Church gets more involved in defense of democratic values, right of freedom of speech and expression and rights of minorities and concerns of  justice in the country.

Ms. Flavia Agnes, Director, Majlis Legal Centre  – Contact:   flaviaagnes@gmail.com

Ms. Virginia Saldanha, Secretary, Indian Christian Women's Movement – womynvs@gmail.com

Sr. Noella D'Souza, member of the  based organization, Styashodhak, which was formed in 1985 to bring to the fore the concerns of Roman Catholic women – Contact: noelladesouza@gmail.com

 

Sr. Julie George, a lawyer and  Director of a Pune based organization, Streevani, which works for the empowerment of women, and helps marginalized  women to access their rights in court Contact: julierosegeorge@gmail.com

Dr. Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, an expert in Christian theology and a member of the Mumbai Women's Desk Core Team – Contact:  asklobog@gmail.com

Ms. Brinelle Ds'ouza, Faculty, Centre for  and Mental , Tata Institute of Social Sciences brinelledsouza@gmail.com

Fr. Cedric Prakash, Prashant  Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.     email – cedricprakash@gmail.com

Dr. John Dayal, Member of the National Integration Council (NIC) of India and Secretary General,All India Christian Council   Coontact: john.dayal@gmail.com

 

Suren Abreu, Satyashodhak

Mario da Penha, PhD Candidate in History, Rutgers University  mario.dpenha@gmail.com

Larrisa Pitter, Freelance Consultant – pitterlarissa@gmail.com

Conrad Pereira, Mumbai

Nadia D'souza, Student, School of Fashion Technology, Pune   dsouza.nadia.5@gmail.com

​Asha Banu Soletti, Professor, Centre for Health and Mental Health, TISS

Dr. Jennifer Kipgen, Ass​istant Professor, Centre for Health and Mental Health, TISSProf. Anjali   Monteiro, TISS. monteiro@tiss.edu

Anzu Augustine, Kerala  anzu.maria@gmail.com

Fr Allwyn D'Silva, Parish Priest

Rohan D'souza, Student

Eldred Tellis, Consultant, Drug Abuse and AIDS Interventions, Mumbai  et.mumbai@gmail.com

Pooja Paul , Delhi    711pooja@gmail.com>

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