Scandalizing Christian Witness (Thalikulam Property Issue)

Unlike the Syrian Churches which had been in existence in Malabar/ Kerala, what is distinctive about the Church of South India is its evangelistic heritage inherited from the Missionary societies that constituted it. Missionary societies acquired large tracts of land all over the country for their evangelistic efforts which they had understood as brining wholeness and healing to individuals and cultures and working against all forms of dehumanizing tenancies in the existing social conditions.

They acquired large tracts of land for creating Christian communities that model the values of God’s kingdom and to carry forward the work of evangelization through our schools and hospitals. The missionary history in Kerala is one of transforming the total life of its social and cultural life.

With the formation of the Church of South India in 1947, these lands and institutions were transferred to the CSI Trust Association (CSITA). The transfer was fully completed in the North Kerala Diocese only in the 60s. The properties were transferred not to be sold away, but for their safe keeping and protection and use them for continuing the evangelistic ministries’ of compassion.

One of the arguments for selling these lands is that they are remaining without being put to proper use and hence, likely to be encroached upon. Surely that will happen when the inheritor’s of this legacy has no sense of mission and vision. Look around and you we will see a multitude of people who are “like sheep without shepherd, harassed and helpless” and “a field that is ready for harvesting”. But our church leaders do not have the eyes to see this, but rather their eyes are set on making quick money selling these lands and institutions.

Under an episcopacy that has become monarchical and a mafia of power mongers that develop around the episcopacy, our inheritance of valuable immovable assets are reduced to objects for sale and their illegal gratification. The stories of such instances of illegal land transactions abound and are shocking. They are done under the garb of good stewardship of resources and development of the church properties.

The mission of the present bishop of the North Kerala diocese, the Rt. Rev. Dr. K. P. Kuruvilla, and the treasurer, Rev. B. N. Fen seems to be that of engaging in shady deals of selling church properties or giving them for long lease in the shortest possible time without following the strictly laid out norms and procedures for selling them.

Such illegal transactions have already taken place in Munnar, Fort Kochi and Irutty and in many other places, the details of which are yet to be unearthed. One such land transaction in a long neglected congregation in Thalikulam, near Thrissur, that took place on 21/12/2009, is lifted up as a classic case for our further study and action.

In 2007, the Rt. Rev. K. P. Kuruvilla and the diocesan treasurer, Rev B. N. Fen entered into an agreement with Sri Abdul Khadar, Puthiya Veettil Kottalingal House, Uurumaniyoor P.O, Thrissur district, Kerala to sell Church properties surveyed under 101/5, 101/1A and 101/3A belonging to Chavakkadu Taluk, Thalikullam Village, totalling 2 acres and 73 cents for one lakh per cent and this agreement was continued to be revised every six months.

Finally, after almost three years , the Bishop of the Diocese, Rt. Rev. K. P. Kuruvilla and the Treasurer of the Diocese, Rev. B.F.Fen, as power of attorneys of CSITA in North Kerala Diocese, on 21st of December 2009, executed three sale deeds, in violation of the directive from the CSITA against the sale of the said property and without following the procedures and norms demanded of selling trust lands. Thus, they sold 2 acres 23 cents to Sri Abdul Khader, 0.02 cents to Shri. P.G.Koshy, President, Sharon Fellowship, and 0.48 cents to Mohammad Salim, Ponnayur, Andathode P.O. Thrissur for a total amount of Rs. 95 lakhs 20 thousand.

While this is the amount shown in the sale deed, the proceeds from the sale are to the tune of 2 corer 73 lakhs, as per the agreement, is shown to be deposited in the CSITA account of the North Kerala Diocese in Shornur. The nature of the monetary transaction is not clear except that the amounts were deposited at different dates in the account of the CSITA Account in shornur.

It has also come to light that the final deposit of more than one crore was deposited only after a fortnight of the date on which final sale deed had been executed. These facts lend credence to the fraudulent and criminal nature of this deal. The following questions remain without any answer. The Bishop and the treasurer and the coterie of working committee are bound to answer these questions.

1. Some of the land transactions that have taken place in the recent past of the diocesan property in interior areas are for 1 to 2 lakhs of rupees per cent. The Thalikulam property which is by the side of NH17 should fetch at least a minimum of Rs. 4 lakhs per cent. Land worth Rs. 12 crore, by lowest estimates, has been sold for Rs. 2 core and 73 laks. Who are the persons in the administration of the diocese that have been illegally gratified themselves by this land deal and brought such heavy loss to the church and the CSITA?

2. How could they sell the land against the directive of the CSI synod not to sell it and by passing all the norms of transparency to be followed in the sale of Trust properties such as advertising the proposal for sale in leading news papers?

3. How could a public institution like the church, which should be above board when it comes to probity in public life, (leave alone any concern to be salt and light in a murky world), be party to a shady deal in which the financial transactions are not transparent and mostly unlawful.

4. How can they be party to falsely undervaluing the property in the sale deed and thus cause such heavy loss to the state exchequer.

What has been lost through these land transactions which are illegal and against the norms of truthfulness and transparency in public life is the credibility of Christian witness. These facts which are brought to your notice are true to the best of our knowledge and have been raised with at most responsibility. If any of my allegations are false they should prove it to the church and the public. Civil and criminal proceedings have been initiated against culprits.

The people in pew should not be mere spectators to this unfolding drama of nepotism and looting and besmirching of Christian faith. The rich inheritance that we have received from the missionaries is not to be squandered by a few within the church, but to be used for bearing credible witness to our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is only a tip of the iceberg. More are to be unearthed. It is a time when we should be vigilant and join in protest against such tarnishing of Christian witness and take a stand for truth, justice and love that has been exemplified in the person of Christ and to which we have been called to be witnesses.

A.D. Kurian George
Anthikat House
Nattika P.O

PS: Subsequent to this reporting, I filed a civil suit in the Hon. Munsiff Court in Trichur and the court has passed a restraining order to the buyers from alienating the land, developing it and also burying the dead (a piece of the cemetery was also sold to Pentecostal Church). The court instituted a commission to visit the said property and satisfy for itself the nature and character of the land.


Anonymous said...

The issue here is not corruption but corruption at a large scale.Bishop or if he deserves to be called that has been infected with avarice.The Jesus calls theory in the csi church has been replaced by the money calls jitterbug.The asinine brains and the draconian actions of Kuruvi and his minions are a sturdy warning to all that there is more to come.He stated that he will continiue his modernisation of the church.It means only one thing,that he will continiue to do exactly as he pleases.He hasnt lost many screws but just one .To be specific his main screw the CENTRAL BOLT.

Bhibhin Sundardas said...

Where is the bishop taking all this money..Hello! you cannot enter the heaven with an advance need something else. Poor man! No guilt..No faith..No responsibility..No integrity.. I pray for his family..


Bhibhin Sundardas

Anonymous said...

We salute the extra ordinary braveness shown by Mr.Kurian George when fights with a shameless bishop

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