KOCHI: In a pastoral letter, Changanacherry Archbishop Mar Joseph Perumthottam has expressed concern over the declining number of Syro Malabar faithful in Kerala, and said over one lakh grooms over the age of 30 belonging to the Church are unable to find life partners.
“Over one lakh grooms over the age of 30 under the Syro Malabar Church are unable to find life partners,” said the letter, which was read out in churches during Sunday Mass on October 6.
The letter viewed the issues brought out as “precarious to the existence of the Christian community”.
The pastoral letter also raised issues like low birth rate, unemployment, agricultural crisis, and even the recent floods that adversely affected the Christian community. Increased numbers of Christian youth are leaving the country for better employment opportunities and living conditions, propelled by the high unemployment rate in Kerala, which is a matter of concern.
“Many Christian homes in the state have only elderly folks residing there while the younger generation prefers not to return home,” the letter said, referring to information presented in June this year by Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi in the Lok Sabha.
Statistics available in parish registers of the Syro Malabar Church were utilised to substantiate the findings. “When the state of Kerala was formed, Christians were the second-largest community. Today, only 18.38 per cent of the state’s total population is Christian.
Birth rate amongst Christians has fallen to 14 per cent, leaving us to face an alarming situation,” said the archbishop in his pastoral letter.
With a view to creating awareness about these issues affecting the Christian community as a whole, various steps have been proposed by the Church, including publishing a book highlighting them and forming a teaching team under the archdiocese to create widespread community awareness.
“The team will organise classes at the parish level to discuss the issues. A help desk to explain details of government schemes that are available and the modalities involved in applying for them will be started in each parish and school under the archdiocese,” said the pastoral letter.
The letter also decried the serious crisis being faced by many sections of the Christian community. “Farming, fisheries and small-scale industries in which the community was actively involved in the past, are facing a huge crisis, affecting all of us,” it read.
“While the Union Government in 2006 formed a Minority Department and allotted Rs 4,700 crore for minority development, and the state and Centre also provided educational opportunities, the Christian community failed to utilise government assured benefits and job opportunities,” it said.