UPDATE: The case of Fr. P.J. Joseph SJ


Urgent Appeal Case: UP-12-2001
ISSUES: Torture,

Dear Friends, 

We are sending you a copy of an third open letter sent today by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) to the Jesuit Supeior General in Rome regarding Fr. Pallath’s case. 

This letter is also available at: http://jjpallath.ahrchk.net 

Thank you. 

Urgent Appeal Desk 
Asian Human Rights Commission 

( This is the third of a series of letters on the issues regarding the treatment of Fr.Pallath J.Joesph Kerala Province of Jesuits- India) 

An Open Letter to: 

Rev. Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach 
Superior General 
Curia Generalize 
Compagnia di Gesu 
C.P. 6139 
00195 Roma Prati ITALY 
FAX: 39-06-686-8214 

THIRD OPEN LETTER RE: Physical assault, slander through gutter press, filing of fabricated criminal cases, denial of right to livelihood and other matters relating to Fr. Pallath J. Joseph Request for Inquiry. 

14th June, 2001 

Dear Rev. Fr. General, 

In the first and second open letters to you, AHRC raised some concerns from a moral and human rights point of view regarding all the episodes relating to the case of Fr. Pallath J. Joseph, of which you are aware. While it is not our intention to interfere with the affairs of your order, there are matters of public interest about which many persons, including our commission, are quite concerned. They are as follows: 

1. Physical assault of Fr. Pallath J. Joseph by two members of your order, together with several other hired thugs. 
2. The throwing of the body of Fr. Pallath over the wall of Jesuit premises and onto the road while he was in an unconscious or semi-conscious state. 
3. Slander of Fr. Pallath by some members of your order using a gutter magazine called ‘Crime Star’. 
4. Filing of fabricated criminal complaints against Fr. Pallath with a view to securing his arrest and preventing him from entering a Jesuit house. 
5. The failure of the Jesuit Superiors to respect an agreement entered into between Fr. Pallath and the Jesuits in Kerala with the mediation of the Bishop of Calicut. 
6. Failure to provide for the livelihood of Fr. Pallath after 33 years of service. 

THEME OF THIRD OPEN LETTER: Why a Human Rights organization is interested in this issue. 

This is my third open letter to you. Your silence is no deterrence to us, though your words may have made matters easier. In this letter I wish to clarify our interest as a human rights organization in this matter. 

Human rights can be rooted in a culture only when the ethical and moral foundations of that society are compatible with human rights concepts, norms and standards. The religions play a significant role in the formation of the ethical and moral foundation of all societies. Religion can play either a positive or a negative role in making the ethical and moral norms of society compatible with human rights. 

The following statement by British Jurist Sir Ivor Jennings, who was well known in South Asia in the middle of 20th century and played a role of writing some Constitutions in the region, is useful to illustrate the point made here. What he said about the role of public opinion relating to crime, applies equally to all human rights violations. 

“The establishment of a sound public opinion about crime is obviously not an easy matter. Perhaps at this stage I ought to try to explain how the change occurred in England during the nineteenth century. It seems to me to have been almost entirely a religious movement which became secularised late in the century. So far as the wealthier classes were concerned it was an evangelical revival within the Church of England which produced among many an acute social conscience. William Wilberforce and the Earl of Shaftsbury were the outstanding examples, and their influence on public opinion and upon public policy was profound: but it may be pointed out that those who did most to clean up the corruption of the Unreformed Constitution, especially statesmen like William Pitt, Sir Robert Peel, Sir James Graham, and Mr. Gladstone, were influenced by the same movement. The effect of the movement can be seen in the universities and schools also. Oxford and Cambridge were intensely concerned with religious questions a hundred years ago, while the Oxford Movement owns at its height. The public schools were inspired with the same spirit, especially after Arnold went to Rugby.? 

It is not possible to establish a sound public opinion on human rights in a country if the religious organisations flout human rights. In the case of Fr. Pallath, the violations by Jesuit superiors in Kerala are not only blatant and open, but also criminal. The connivance by Jesuit authorities in such actions is even more surprising. 

Thus, what we as a human rights organisation are doing is to challenge the ethical and moral basis of your actions. You are not creating sound public opinion to promote human rights, instead you are obstructing it. This debate is thus necessary. Thus we have also to say: “Here we stand. We cannot do otherwise.?

We participated in the international campaign relating to the excommunication of Fr. Tissa Balasuriya of Sri Lanka in the same sprit. Such involvement to hold religions accountable for their human rights record is unavoidable if human rights are to become a reality and not just something we pay lip service to. 

Yours sincerely 

Basil Fernando 
Executive Director

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : UP-12-2001
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Torture,