ECCLESIA IN ASIA Today is the Day of Christian India

On July 3, the feast of Saint Thomas, Indian Christians of all faiths celebrate a day to remember that Christianity is not a foreign religion in their country. This year, the date takes on special significance as it coincides with the 1950th anniversary of the apostle’s martyrdom in Chennai. The prayer of Monsignor Poola, whom Pope Francis chose as the new cardinal: “Help us to be strong in our faith”.

Mumbai() – From last yearon July 3, Christians of all confessions celebrate in India the Yeshu Bhakti Divas, Christian India Day. This year, the date takes on special significance as it marks the 1950th anniversary of the martyrdom of the Apostle Thomas, a disciple of Jesus, who according to tradition arrived in India in 52 AD and was martyred in Chennai in 72 AD.

This is how the Archbishop of Hyderabad, Archbishop Anthony Poola, the prelate of Dalit origin who will be created cardinal by Pope Francis in the consistory of August 27. In a video message sent to he says: “Millions of Christian Indians all over the world rejoice for this jubilee. For us, the disciples of Jesus in India, it is the moment to celebrate the person and the message that one of his disciples brought among us, by that we venerate as the Apostle of India. It is an invitation for us to bear witness to the message of Christ with courage, renewed vigor and strength. May unity among Christians on this day be a true witness to the love of Christ. I wish you everyone peace, joy, unity, prosperity and good health. May Saint Thomas help us to be strong in our faith”.

The Day of Christian India emerged in 2021, from an idea of ​​the members of the different Churches of the country. It is intended to underline the fact that Christianity is not a foreign religion in India. Father Babu Joseph, of the Institute of the Incarnate Word and former spokesman for the Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), told that this date “was born, first of all, from the need to eliminate a misconception: that Christianity in India is a European religion. It also wants to affirm our historical and cultural roots in India. It is believed that St. Thomas came to India as early as the 1st century, which shows the antiquity of the Christian communities settled here”.

It is not just a matter of pride in one’s own roots: “In the socio-political context of India today – continues Father Joseph – the media promotes erroneous stories about the Christian community. People have the right to know the truth and it is with the humble effort of making ourselves known that we conceived the idea of ​​celebrating Christian India Day. We have learned to affirm that we are an integral part of this great country and that our services, always and everywhere, are to promote our brothers and sisters. India is a melting pot of creeds and cultures: for example, the Syrian Christians in Kerala’s eating habits, dress and festivals take on Hindu aspects; likewise, tribal Christians have accepted the Christian faith but continue to live their own culture.Even the architecture of some churches, shrines, some of the rituals associated with birth, marriage and death are in sync with the c Hindu customs”.

Christian India Day is also an invitation to reflect on one’s own history and the wounds to be healed, as it reminds Father Devasagaya Raj M. Zackarias, former national secretary of the Episcopal Commission for Scheduled Castes: “Christianity in India began in 62 AD with the arrival of St. Thomas, but at first it remained among the so-called high castes and did not It didn’t reach the others or the Dalits,” she recalls. It only began to spread with the arrival of European missionaries in the 16th century. The Jesuit missionaries divided into Brahmin Sanyasis (to serve upper caste Christians) and Pandara Samigal (to serve the lower castes). Unfortunately, this division continues even today in the churches of Tamil Nadu; It happens that there are two cemeteries, two churches and in many churches Dalits cannot be altar boys or choir members. Even the processions, in some places, do not pass through the Dalits’ streets.

As the Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, Monsignor John Barwa, explains, July 3 is, however, Everyone’s Day: “We Christians from the tribal communities of India are also disciples of Jesus, we are devotees of Jesus, we love Jesus: Christian India Day is lived in our daily lives, Christianity is not something foreign to people and tribal communities. We live Gospel values ​​in our daily lives. The tribal church observes this day With gratitude for faith, I am a tribal Oraon and we believe in the supreme God who is almighty. Our tribal culture cannot be separated from faith, our culture is united with faith.”

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Written by Editor TLN

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