UPDATE: The Sixth Open Letter on the Issues Regarding Fr. Pallath’s Case


Urgent Appeal Case: UP-20-2001

Dear Friends,

We would like to send you a copy of the sixth open letter sent by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) to the Jesuit superior general in Rome regarding Fr. Pallath’s case.

For further information, including this letter, please visit http://jjpallath.ahrchk.net.


Thank you.



Urgent Appeals Desk

Asian Human Rights Commission




(This is the sixth of a series of letters on the issues regarding the treatment of Fr. Pallath J. Joseph of the Kerala Province of Jesuits in India.)


July 9, 2001


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


SIXTH OPEN LETTER RE: Physical Assault, Slander through the Gutter Press, Filing of Fabricated Criminal Cases, Denial of Right to Livelihood and Other Matters Relating to Fr. Pallath J. Joseph Request for an Inquiry


The Theme of the Sixth Letter: The Primacy of Common Sense


Dear Rev. Fr. General,


In the first and second open letters to you, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) raised some concerns from a moral and human rights point of view regarding all of the episodes relating to the case of Fr. Pallath J. Joseph of which you are aware. Our third letter to you outlined in detail why we as a human rights organisation are concerned about Fr. Pallath’s case; and in the fourth letter, we questioned the manner in which the leaders of the Jesuit order have dealt with this issue. In our last letter to youour fifthwe raised the issue of racism in regards to the treatment of Fr. Pallath by the Jesuit order in this case. While it is not our intention to interfere with the affairs of your order, there are matters of public interest about which many people, including our commission, is quite concerned. They are as follows:


(1) The 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 the Jesuit’s premises and onto the road while he was in an unconscious or semiconscious state;


(3) Slandering Fr. Pallath by some members of your order using a gutter magazine called Crime Star;


(4) The filing of fabricated criminal complaints against Fr. Pallath with the view to have him arrested as a way to prevent 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 through the mediation of the bishop of Calicut; and


(6) The failure to provide for the livelihood of Fr. Pallath after 33 years of service.


In this letter, I would like to discuss something general that is still very valid to this casecommon sense. The great Danish Lutheran bishop, democrat, social reformer, poet and the founder of the folk school movement, N. F. S. Grundtvig, emphasised the primacy of common sense over academic knowledge. His beautiful theology was summed up in the theme “Nature First and Grace Builds on It.” He went on further to say that, if Nature fails, there is nothing on which grace can build. Thanks to his contribution and that of the folk school movement, Denmark was able to build a humane democracy.


The important thing is that in a tradition which gives primacy to common sense a clear distinction can easily be made between what is simply stupid and what is not. In human relationships, this is so important so that disputes can be limited and charity can always prevail. Charity and common sense are twins; abstraction and cruelty can go together as Sartre pointed out. Disputes, when taken out of common-sense levels, try to demonise every opponent. In the Indian context, Brahmins created untouchability, creating a complete severance of human relationships between people. The absolutisation of differences has an element of untouchability. Here anyone who engages in dissent is painted as someone unsuitable of association.


The way Fr. Pallath has been treated reflects this element of demonisation and sense of untouchably. One is reminded of the medieval treatment of heretics, for the physical assaults, slander by the gutter press, the denial of food and means of livelihood are all matters of no concern for society and are permitted, and those who refuse to ill-treat such a person and, in fact, treat him humanely are treated like untouchables as well. Looked at from a common-sense point of view, all of this looks simply stupid and petty.


We in the human rights movement treat such demonisation and the creation of a sense of untouchability as indecent. That is why we have tried to create a dialogue on this issue. If your sense of the sacred does not favour such a dialogue, then there is something wrong with that sense of the sacred.


Kerala once had a very great humanising tradition that was created by a man, not a god, named Gotama Buddha. He too had a huge following of disciples. Naturally, there was a code of discipline for them, which was called the Vinaya Pitaka. This code guaranteed complete due process rights to any person accessed of a breach of society’s mores like the rights that Western civilisation created much later in the 19th century. There is a great deal of literature on this aspect of Buddhist teaching, and the text of the Vinaya Pitaka is also available in many languages. This experience of the Sanghas in Buddha’s time was referred in the Indian Constituent Assembly when the draft of the Indian Constitution was discussed: “The study of the Buddhist Sanghas discloses that, not only were they parliaments, but the Sanghas knew and observed all the rules of parliamentary procedure known to modern times?(proceedings of the Constituent Assembly on Nov. 25, 1949, from a speech by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar). These humanising practices were lost when Brahmins reasserted their position in a bloody way and introduced the draconian Law of Manu and with it reinforced untouchability.


We may review the present dispute in Kerala from the point of view of humanising religion. What we have at the moment is one more instance of the practice of dehumanising religion. We still believe that common sense will prevail and that the dehumanising aspects of the religion that has got into the Jesus tradition due to some unfortunate historical reasons should be demolished. After all, recent Jesuit experience includes the inspiring life and work of Fr. Arupe. As admirers of the Council of Vatican II, we still maintain our hope. People like Fr. Pallath who understands the problems of the culture in Kerala will remain a great asset.


Since we are part of the human rights movement which wishes to base itself on the best aspects of the humanising experience, we offer our services for decent and principled negotiations. It would be a pity if you treat us as people unworthy of attention. This dispute, which has received the public’s attention and sympathy it deserves, can be turned into a creative religious experience and not an embarrassment as it is treated now. Of course, it will also help the people of Kerala grow out of the pernicious influence of Brahminism in which Christianity remains shackled. A religious order that follows Brahminical practices will receive the same condemnation as Brahminism itself.


Sincerely yours,


Basil Fernando

Executive Director

Asian Human Rights Commission

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : UP-20-2001
Countries : Pakistan,