FIACONA (Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America) has compiled a list of 761 attacks, a large percentage of which are mob attacks. As a Christian in India today, it is increasingly possible that at church practicing their ancient tradition and worshiping Jesus through prayers, songs and fellowship, a screaming crowd of hundreds of angry young men , many of whom are armed with iron bars and other weapons, could burst into the quiet prayer hall beating worshipers and dragging them out of the sanctuary as they destroy everything in sight. It is not a fantasy, but it has become a reality in today’s India under the rule of the BJP.
The Indian Christian community in the tri-state area is gearing up to celebrate Indian Christian Day on July 3. This can also be a good time to review its relevance and related history. July 3 is celebrated as St. Thomas’ Day around the world. The New Testament considers Thomas – also known as “Didymus” (meaning “twin” in Greek) – as one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. He was born in Galilee, Israel, and died on December 21, 72 AD. According to Christian tradition, Thomas was killed with a spear at Mount St. Thomas (Parangi Malai), and his body was buried in Mylapore at St. Thomas Cathedral. Basilica.
Saint Thomas was one of Jesus’ disciples. He is perhaps best known as “doubting Thomas,” who wanted proof of Jesus’ resurrection. While Christianity was spread in the West by apostles like St. Paul, the mission to the East was undertaken by St. Thomas. Tradition says that it was Saint Thomas who brought Christianity to India in the first century, making the religion older in India than Sikhism or Islam. The ancient Syrian Christian community of India finds its origin in Saint Thomas. Christianity is the third largest religion in India after Hinduism and Islam. There are approximately 28 million adherents in India, or 2.3% of the country’s population. The first Portuguese built the current Basilica-Cathedral of St. Thomas in 1523 AD Long before the current building was built over his tomb, Marco Polo visited the tomb in 1292. He wrote that Christians in India went on pilgrimage to the shrine to be miraculously healed. by the saint.
Lately, there is a lot of speculation about the story of St. Thomas, and a concerted effort is underway to discredit the entire episodic story and call it nothing more than a myth. Entities closely associated with the current government are busy portraying the history of Christianity in India as merely concocted in a clandestine conspiracy. They are keen to connect the whole history of Christianity with the infamous colonial heritage characterized as a dark period in Indian history.
Of course, at present, there is no way to scientifically prove or disprove this tradition. However, one thing is certain: since the discovery of monsoon winds in 45 AD by Hippalos, an Alexandrian ship captain, land and sea routes were open from the Mediterranean via the Persian Gulf to India, and there were intense contact between these areas. The mere fact that first century Roman coins are found in several parts of South India simply adds credence to these historical contacts. Many historians have also acknowledged that Jewish settlers existed in Cragnanore even before the Christian era. There is a general presumption that Saint Thomas may have visited this flourishing colony of Jews at Murziris (Cragnanore). It is said that these Jews arrived with King Solomon’s first fleet.
Historical debate aside, why must there now be controversy about the origins of Christianity in India and who is behind this debate? Obviously, this debate is being orchestrated as part of the Hindutva group’s propaganda campaign as 2021 has become the most violent year for Indian Christians. FIACONA (Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America) has compiled a list of 761 attacks, a large percentage of which are mob attacks. As a Christian in India today, it is increasingly possible that at church practicing their ancient tradition and worshiping Jesus through prayers, songs and fellowship, a screaming crowd of hundreds of angry young men , many of whom are armed with iron bars and other weapons, could burst into the quiet prayer hall beating worshipers and dragging them out of the sanctuary as they destroy everything in sight. It is not a fantasy, but it has become a reality in today’s India under the rule of the BJP.
Although India’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion to all its citizens, the political dogma of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), the parent organization of the BJP, enunciated by its former leader and theorist MS Golwalkar is still primarily the guideline for many of his devotees. members. In fact, he argued in the book ‘Our Nationality Defined’ that until Muslims and Christians gave up their own religion and culture, they could only be foreigners in this country, and if they remained here without losing their “separate existence”, they could be treated as “enemies”, at best as “idiots”. His arguments lean more favorably towards treating all Christians as “hostiles” who are agents of the movement international for the spread of Christianity. In Modi’s India, Christian institutions are strangled by FCRA denial, freezing of bank accounts, endless investigations, frequent audits and harassment of the main official. These measures seem to be consistent with the philosophy of Hindutva which the Modi government has adopted to push forward the saffron agenda which challenges the very idea of India as a multicultural and pluralistic society. seems to pay lip service to Gandhiji’s concept of India during his visits abroad, but remains silent when institutions supposed to promote these principles are attacked at home. As first generation immigrants to this country, we demand that our culture and traditions be respected here and have never wavered in our pursuit of equal treatment when violated. Currently, we are urging lawmakers to rightfully make Diwali a holiday here in New York. However, back in India, Modi came up with the idea of replacing Christmas Day with a birthday to commemorate the birth anniversary of the late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and renamed it “Good Governance Day”. The festive season vacation has become a working day for bureaucrats. The great irony is that the deed was done to a minority religion that has existed in the country for almost 20 centuries. Therefore, the purpose of these attacks, whether physical or symbolic, as well as their efforts to rewrite the origins of Christianity could be multiple. The Christians, although they represent only a fraction of the population of India, exercise enormous influence in the social, educational and health fields. Many charitable institutions in India are started by Christian missionaries and still operate with foreign funds. Many on the far right of Hindutva philosophy dream of creating a Hindu Rashtra. In order to realize their dream, Christians, along with other minorities, must be marginalized. The way to do this is to diminish their contributions, thereby reducing their visibility to the public. It’s a concerted effort that seems to be paying off.
I’m not sure Indian Christians have the means or the theology to stand up to the Modi juggernaut and fight back. However, they can come together in unity and proclaim that judging the Indianness of its nationals solely through the prism of its faith is not only unjust but absurd. By celebrating Indian Christian Day around the world on July 3, they can not only reaffirm their identity through the renewal of their faith and convey to the world that their cherished heritage is real, but they are forever committed to proclaiming it.
(The author is a former Chief Technology Officer of the United Nations and is the Vice President of the CIO USA)