22 October 2018
Fr. Rector's Note of Appreciation
Bro. Joseph Kochuputhenpurayil, III Theology, won the second prize in the ‘Zeitler Memorial Essay Competition’ conducted by Ishvani Kendra, Pune. The competition was conducted in September, 2018. The topic of the competition was “Patriotism and the Church in India.”
Hearty congratulations to you Bro. Joseph for making this attempt and making it glorious. We are proud of you! Thanks to you for your valuable share in keeping the name Mangalapuzha alive in competitive academic circles. Let more seminarians be inspired to venture into competitive fields.
Fr. Mathew Illathuparampil
INDIAN CHURCH; EVER PART OF INDIAN ETHOS
Many authors, ancient and contemporary, have branded India as a land of wonders. An astonishing facet many long to esteem about India’s heritage is that, it is a land of diverse races, religions and cultures. True to the Upanishadic axiom, Adihidhi Devo Bhava India has welcomed a countless ethnic group, a host of religious beliefs and cores of cultural strains. But the recent socio-political environment pictures Christianity as an outsider. By evoking nationalism, racism the leaders inject the acrimony of communalism among the people, it is a self-deception and contradictory to the Indian ethos. Thus, this paper is an attempt to have a critical appraisal of the criticism raised against the church in India and objectively present the unique contributions she has rendered in India to measure is Christianity an outsider or not?
2. CHRISTIAN CONTRIBUTION TO THE NATION BUILDING: A HISTORICAL OVERVIEW
The rulers of the past maintained a hospitable attitude towards the coming religions, in contrast the present socio-politico scenario is coloured with hostility towards foreign religions and cultural traditions especially with Christianity.One of the growing tendencies of this political regime is the tendency to belittle and downgrade the role played by Christians in India’s freedom struggle and thereby to assert the supremacy of ideals of Hindutva. Certain sections with ulterior motives to stigmatize the Christians as antinationalist and pro-British are also going on. How far these premises as close to reality? An objective evaluation of the history may tell us that they dream of an India with uniform culture and tradition and thereby form a Hindu Rashtra. Is it true to history and reality? Obviously not. Without diversity India has no more existence.
An unbiased exploration of history may tell us that a process of homogenization is undergoing. The champions of homogenization seeks to reinforce the deception in a variety of ways. The most important of which is the attempt to equate the religion in question with the fundamental ideology. The Sangah Parivar for example is keen to persuade the people that Hinduism is Hindutva. This often forget the dangers inherit in these positions. It is a sign of spiritual and emotional deficiency rather than of religious vitality.
The principle of homogenization is contrary to the logic of nature, history and spirituality. Nature if homogenized becomes a wilderness! History homogenized can only be a playback of pure determinism with no scope for either evolution or revolution. If homogenized, human relationships become unnatural. Lesbianism and homosexuality, in a sense, are models of homogenization. They denote the rejection of heterogeneity in relationship of intimacy. Heterogeneity, rather than homogeneity is the logic of life. It is when light and particles of water come together in appropriate conditions that the rainbow is born. Rainbow when homogenized ceases to be a rainbow. A homogenized rainbow is no better than a bow.
The periodic incidents of violence and human rights violations perpetuated by the Hindu fundamentalist in the recent origin in its meticulously planned activities. Even without making a research on the origin of the communal riots engineered by the Sangh Parivar against Christians. One can easily find association of the growth of such attacks with the growth of BJP in the national politics. At first, they tried to tame Muslims, sensing the danger in taming the Muslim the Sangh Parivar, RSS turned to Christian communities which is highly institutionalized, highly passive and easily vulnerable. RSS had no other option but to drag the Christians into their dens. In order to appeal to reason as well as emotion of the majority Hindus they have the handy tool of idealistic forcible conversion in their country.
Responding to the accusations of Mr. Ashok Singal and Chinnubhai Patel, Jacob Kaniyaraseril says:
No one can deny that the anti-nationalist have no place in a country. What right do they have in this great country as they are not ‘patriots’? It is all the more since VHP, has recently defined patriotism as per its new dictionary. When four nuns were raped by dozens of people at Jhabua, VHP leader and former Member of Parliament described it as rightful act of patriotic Hindu youths!! Measured by this yardstick no doubt the Christians in India are unpatriotic and antinational. Since they form the “cancer of Hindu society” their eradication is justifiable.
In this way he opens up the sparseness of their thinking. If Hinduism could grow in this country at a time when neither the Sangh Parivar nor leaders life Ashok Singal were there to protect it, today it can survive without any fear of the minorities or even without its self-proclaimed guardians. Church never stands for conversion. By conversion church never meant a transition from one religion to another instead She in speaking of conversion always meant a more developed life, a shift from the lower to the higher self, from self-centeredness to selflessness, from despair to hope, from apathy to altruistic activism.
In so far as we were exposing the emptiness of the accusation over Church in India by the proponents of Hindutva, the agenda forced them to attack the Christians in India. The following section is a humble attempt to highlight to ever shinning, unbeaten Christian contribution to the nation building with special reference to freedom struggle and nationalist movements which obviously mark the place of Christianity within the heart and soul of Bharatham. By quoting C.F. Andrews, Pala K.M. Mathew asserts that in the course of the struggle the Christians contributed proportionately and qualitatively equal to that of all other in national fights, in building up of national unity, in enriching the cultural and social life, in finding out and identity for the country in the development of democratic, federal and secular values and in the spread of education etc.… lack of space limits any elaboration on these fruits. The Indian Christians were in the forefront of the fight against colonialism, imperialism, slavery and all kinds of social and economic injustices. However, answering the question of Christian contribution to the freedom struggle acquires much importance in this juncture since Indian Church is very much criticised or questioned for promoting anti-nationalist tendencies.
As mentioned Christianity has been frequently asked about her contribution, involvement in the freedom struggle. Because no one ever in the secular history mentioned the Christian contribution in freedom struggle. Is it a solid base to avoid or negate the Christian participation in the freedom struggle? Obviously not. An objective investigation through the pages of history may tell us that Christians played crucial role in carrying out the freedom struggle. India’s war for freedom from foreign yoke which started in 1857, ended on August 15,1948, when she earned her independence. Knowing the Christian participation in freedom struggle Vishal Mangalwadi states, “To help India achieve her freedom, the humanitarian Christians, struggled against the British as well as the oppressiveness of traditional Hinduism and Islam.”
Contrary to the popular view of Christian’s non-participation in the freedom struggle, history sheds light upon the truth of their active participation in transforming India from a colony to a sovereign nation. By quoting C.C. Gorai, Binu John finds that C.F. Andres and James Long made tremendous personal sacrifices and identified themselves with the freedom struggle. Besides, Binu observes that Christian institutions were the soul force in moulding the great personalities like netaji Subhash Chandra Boss and Swami Vivekananda to be a part of freedom struggle. He also notes down the contribution of A.C. Hume, Stanley Jones, and Bishop Pickett in sorting out and solving national problems when there were community clashes between Sikhs and Hindus, as well as lead the ruling body. In addition to this, Christian participation in the Nationalist Movement is also commentable.
It is indeed a matter of great pride that Christians have played a very conspicuous part in pioneering the nationalist movement in its early stages and in creating and fostering national consciousness among Indians. There were Christians who were actively participated throughout the national movement and civil disobedience movement. These movements in turn awakened the people to a sense of nationhood. The book titled Nagaland church and Politics clearly states the influence of these movements in shaping Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda and Rama Krishna. All these developments contributed the emergence and growth of National congress, swadeshi movement and the Gandhian movement. In all these movements decisive role of Christians can be seen to a great extent.
Indian National Congress was founded on December 28, 1885, in Bombay, in connection with then actively participating leaders. They were Krishna Mohan Bannerji, Lal Bchau Day, Hunie, William Wedderburn and C.F. Andrew. C.F. Andrew’s role was very worth mentioning and Gandhi called him friend of India and other leaders gave him the title Deenabhandu. Another movement that had a far reaching effect in kindling the nationalist conscience was Swadeshi Movement in 1905. This movement also flourished in relation to the activities of the Christians in the southern India. In south India there existed large church and nationally minded Christians such as V. Chakkarai and P Chenchaiah. They were determined to exhort the Christians to work together for the nationalist cause in pursuing the freedom of the country.
The Gandhian Movement was started under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and captured the imagination of a number of Christians. Some of them gave notable service in his constructive programmes. They were Rajkumari Amrit Kumar who was a Christian lady of aristocratic lineage, J.C. Kumarappa who hails from Old Christian family. Two other eminent Christians that took an active part in politics were K.T. Paul and S.K. Dutta. Mathew lists a number of personalities both men and women who drove the Indian freedom fight and dedicated themselves for the cause of freedom. Allen Octavian Hume, W.C. Banerji, George Joseph, Joseph Baptista, George Joseph , Dr.F.X. D’Souza, Nidhirikal Manikathanar, Cryic Nidhri, Akkamma Cherian, Roamma Cherian , Cherian Kappan are few among them.
Christians played a significant role in the formation of independent India and it can be rightly concluded that India had been set on the road of self-government by active participation of the Christian community along with the farsighted freedom fighters of India. As regards the freedom struggle the Indian Christians were inseparable part of the mainstream fight against the foreign rulers. The vigor, sense of sacrifice, nationalist spirit and courage shown by Christians were proportionately far greater than those of the majority community. Thus the facts, events and personalities mentioned in the foregoing passages shows that Christians were strong in the fight for the liberation of our motherland. Indian church was one of the sole forces in promoting the patriotic sense, spirit of oneness among the Indian folk through the active involvement in all those national movements. By recalling the remarks of Dr. G.A. Oddie, Mathew condenses the Christian contribution. He says:
It its early [stages],Indian Christians enthusiastically supported the National Congress and attended its annual meetings…..R.S.N Subraminaia, a Christian barrister and Municipal Councilor, proposed the resolution urging the separation of judicial and executive powers in Madras. Another prominent Christian Madhusudan Das, lawyer and subsequently deputy magistrate in Orissa, a man who became well known as a champion of the poor and oppressed, spoke on the need to expand the Legislative Council.
It is self-evident that no one can expunge or erase what Christians has been rendering to the growth and development of the nation as part of its nationalist and patriotic spirit.
3. MAKING INDIAN CHURCH MORE INCULTURATED: PRACTICAL GUIDE LINES
Church is not a static reality it is ever dynamic and evolutionary towards the end times. The growing criticism and accusations over Indian church shows that church is to be inculturated more. The following section points certain action plans to transform the Indian church more inculturated and win the hearts of many.
1) Discourage the growing fundamentalism with the Christian communities against other religious traditions and culture.
2) Teach the faithful to respect and accept the good elements in other culture and religious system.
3) Build up situations in which people come together irrespective of cast, creed or religion.
4) Maintain a situation where constructive dialogues are possible.
5) Above all help and teach the faithful to see every event through the spectrum of spirituality.
6) Teach the people to be among the people as one of them, keeping the unique identity.
A quick glance through the foregoing pages exhibit the fascinating description of the Christian contribution to the nation building, that stands as a proof against allegations held against Christians. A retrospective look into India’s past toward the end of the 18th century unveils an embarrassing picture. Meanwhile it was the Christian missionaries who laid foundation for a new India through the education, health care etc. Most important among them is the Christian’s active participation and support to get freedom and destroy the yoke of slavery. All such epoch making event were carried out by Indian Church backed by the belief and conviction that though she is of foreign origin, Indian church is ever part of Indian culture and tradition. As a conclusion it may be good to recall what Jawaharlal Nehru noted in his autobiography regarding the Christian contribution in nation building.
We record our grateful appreciation of the fact that all major and minor communities and classes in India have joined together in the great struggle and given their best to the cause of , particularly the minority communities-the Muslims, Sikhs, Parses, Christians, and other who, by their valour and loyal devotion to the cause of the common motherland, have helped in building up a united and indissoluble nation, certain victory, and resolved to achieve and maintain the independence of India, and to use this new freedom to raise the shackles from, and to remove the inequalities among, all the classes of the people of India, and thus also to serve, to larger cause of humanity. And with this splendid and inspiring example of sacrifice and suffering in India’s cause before us, we repeat our pledge of independence…
Christianity is ever part of Indian history and tradition. Indian church has been trying to render level best to give the finest to the well-being and prosperity of the country. An impartial treatment of the history will reveal the pain and stress the Christians, as one among the indigenous religion, have shown to end the yoke of slavery and oppression of mother India and bringing her children to a dignified lives over the years. The biased and baseless allegation can never make Indian Church and Christians outside of Indian tradition and culture. Indian church will obviously drive the history further. Those who tries to picture Indian Christianity as outsider is caught by the danger of homogenization which is to be prevented and discouraged.
John, Binu, A Study on Christian Contribution to the Nation Building (New Delhi: ISPCk, 2001).
Mangalwadi, Vishal, India: The Grand Experiment (New Delhi: Pippu Ranu Books, 1997).
Mathew, Pala K.M., “The Role of Christians in India’s freedom Struggle” in Christian Contribution to Nation Building: A Third Millennium Enquiry Ed., Selvister Ponnumuthan (Cochin: Documentary Committee of CBC, 2004) 28-36.
Ponnumuthan, Selvister, ed., Christian Contribution to Nation Building: A Third Millennium Enquiry (Cochin: Documentary Committee of CBC, 2004).
Doyal, John, “Hindutva Group Says It Will Drive Missionaries out of India” in Indian Currents XI (1999) 24.
Gonsalves, Francis, “Destroy Christians, Kill Them, Jai Sree Ram: The Traumatic Experience on a Black Christmas Day” in Indian Currents XI (1999) 20-22.
Kaniyaraseril, Jacob, Hindutva and Liberation: The Compulsions and Contrasts in Indian Currents XI (1999) 18-24.
Mathias, Edward, “what is the Hidden Agenda behind the Attacks on Christianity” in Indian Currents XI (1999) 24-28.
Thampu, Valson, “National Debate on Conversions” in Indian Currents XI (1999) 10-17.
Umi, Tissy Jose, “Conversion: A Convenient Mask” in Indian Currents XI (1999) 10-13.