.- A Catholic archbishop in the southern India state of Kerala distributed free milkshakes on Saturday to protest the rampant spread of alcoholism in the region, UCA News reports.
Archbishop Maria Calist Soosa Pakiam of the Archdiocese of Trivandrum appealed to people of all religions to stay away from alcohol. His appeal was part of a new two-month-long campaign by the Kerala Anti-Liquor Committee, an inter-religious group to which the archbishop belongs.
The archbishop recently inaugurated a milkshake vending machine in the Kerala capital of Thiruvananthapuram. About 100 people attended, drinking the milkshakes in a symbolic gesture against alcoholism.
Archbishop Pakiam has accused the Kerala government of promoting liquor to increase tax revenue. The clergyman met with state officials to warn them about the state’s problem of alcoholism. “They promised many things, but never kept their word. Instead, they have promoted liquor by opening more shops," Archbishop Pakiam said.
Kerala has India’s highest liquor consumption rate. On average, its 31.8 million people each consume eight liters of liquor per year. Christians, who are 19 percent of the state’s population, are among the region’s top liquor traders.
The archbishop said that the Church has demanded prohibition in the state. "The money government earns from liquor sales is peanuts compared to what it spends on the health sector and other areas. Alcoholism is hampering overall growth and reversing development," he asserted. Archbishop Pakiam said that poor people suffered the most from alcoholism.
The head of a leading mosque in the state capital, P.K. Hamsamoulavi Farooqi, supported Archbishop Pakiam and criticized the government’s policies.
The archdiocese will concentrate its campaign in its costal parishes, where alcoholism is a significant challenge.