Indian state lifts ban on religious visiting prisons

Religious outfits, NGOs were recently barred from conducting worship, moral classes for jail inmates in southern Kerala

Prisoners wearing facemasks attend the launch of ‘Radio Prison’ at Sabarmati Central Jail in Ahmedabad, India, on Oct. 2, 2020.  (Photo: AFP)

Published: April 06, 2023 08:32 AM GMT

Updated: April 06, 2023 08:33 AM GMT

The communist-led government in Kerala has withdrawn its ban on religious groups conducting counseling and prayer sessions for prisoners in the southern state, following the intervention of Cardinal Baselios Mar Cleemis, who heads the state bishops’ council.

Cardinal Cleemis, also the Major Archbishop of Kerala-based Syro-Malankara Church, appealed to the state’s Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, to withdraw the government’s March 31 order banning religious, mostly Catholics, visiting prisons and offering counseling and spiritual assistance.

Cleemis approached Vijayan, the only serving communist chief minister in the country, on April 5 after the media widely covered the government’s ban on religious persons, ahead of Holy Week.

The cardinal informed Vijayan that it was not proper to deny spiritual and psychological help given to the prisoners, said Father Jacob G Palakkappilly, the bishops’ council spokesperson.

The chief minister agreed with the cardinal and decided immediately to reverse the decision, Palakkappilly told UCA News on April 6.

Vijayan also confided to the prelate that the order was issued without his knowledge and that an explanation would be sought from the officer concerned, the priest said.

Balram Kumar Upadhyay, the director general of prisons in a circular issued on March 31 banned the entry of Church groups and other Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the prisons for religious and other psychological counseling sessions without assigning any reason.

The order came as a shock to Church leaders especially those engaged in prison ministry helping the prisoners in various ways to come out of the trauma of their prison life and create a positive outlook toward their future life, said Palakkappilly. 

“We are happy that the Chief Minister understood our point and immediately agreed to lift the ban,” Palakkappilly added. 

Palakkappilly said Jesus Fraternity which functions under the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council “will hold Maundy Thursday services and celebrate holy Eucharist in various jails in the state” that will help Christian prisoners.

The Catholic bishops in a statement said the ban was not proper, particularly considering the religious service helps prisoners for a “change of heart and encouragement for a better life.”

Jesus Fraternity has been working for prisoners’ spiritual and mental uplift for over three decades, and banning them without a reason would not help anybody, Palakkappilly said.

Christians, who claim apostolic tradition in the coastal state, are a minority in the state as they make up only 18 percent of the 33 million people. 

Latest News

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *