We Christians Are Indians and Part of 'Bharatiya Ethos' - Eastern Mirror
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We Christians Are Indians and Part of ‘Bharatiya Ethos’

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By EMN Updated: Dec 29, 2022 7:20 pm
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By M Chuba Ao

There are an estimated 28 million Christians living in India. Christianity is India’s third-largest religion after Hinduism and Islam in a population of 1.35 billion people. Religion-wise population breakup in India is Hinduism — an estimated 79.8%, Islam 14.2%, Christianity 2.3%, Sikhism 1.7%, Buddhism 0.7%, Jainism 0.4% and others 0.65%. While there is no clear majority denomination among Indian Christians, most of the Christians identify themselves as Catholics followed by Baptists.

It is believed that Christianity was first introduced to India nearly two thousand years ago by St. Thomas who was a disciple of Jesus. However, the spread of Christianity in India began much later, from the 16th century onwards, with the arrival of European missionaries. The earliest of these missionaries were Portuguese and the Dutch followed by French and the British. Gradually, Christianity also made its entry into the north-east frontiers of India in the 17th Century when American Baptists started proselytizing the local Assamese people in Sadiya. Soon, it started spreading into the other parts of north-eastern region.

Though Christianity is a minority religion in India, people of the faith have been making crucial and vital contributions to nation building since centuries in the field of education, social service, economy, literature, health care, etc. Christian missionaries can be considered the pioneers of the Indian education system that we see today. The missionaries preached in the native languages and also used English to introduce the local people to Western ideas. This led to growth of modern vernacular education as well as English language. The Europeans were also among the first promoters of women’s education in India. Today, all the states with large Christian population enjoy healthy literacy rates. In fact, a vast number of the prominent citizens of past and present have received their education from one of the plethora of Christian missionary schools dotting the landscape of India. In the social space, western ideals introduced by the Europeans inspired the social reformers of India to fight many prevailing socially evil practices such as sati, female infanticide, purdah, polygamy, etc. Christian missionaries from the very beginning worked towards abolishing these anti-social systems. In the economic space, there is hardly any state or a region of the country which has not been influenced by the works of Verghese Kurien. Knows as the father of White Revolution in India, he transformed the dairy sector of India making it a self sustaining industry and largest rural employment sector providing a third of all rural income. There are many other Christians who have made such equally vital contributions in diverse businesses.

Proud but ‘shy’ Christians:

While these achievements make me swell with pride as a Christian, I can also easily say that Christians are often ‘shy’ of their contributions and rather peculiarly tend to behave defensively. I fail to understand such a predicament. Yes indeed, some kinds of complexities have been created by irrational linking of Christian religion with negative aspects of Colonial history. But Christianity or not, we Christians and our forefathers cherished Indian freedom as much it was done by a Hindu or a Muslim brother in 1947. Ordinary Christian citizens had been actively involved in the Indian Independence movement. The All India Conference of Indian Christians advocated for Swaraj and opposed the partition of India. Christianity never forced Indians or Indian Christians to give up their love for the country. Then, why as an individual and as community we should not be more assertive! Why should we not tell anyone and everyone that India is very much our own country! We belong to it as do people from other communities and Bharatiya or Indian ethos are also as much our own. Whether one is a Naga Christian, a Mizo Christian, a Khasi Christian or a Catholic or a Baptist, we are all equal citizens of India and I can say confidently that most Christians are patriots and nationalists. Christians’ contribution in nation building is something we should be proud of. And I am confident that a number of non-Christians and perhaps an overwhelming number of them appreciate our contribution, patriotism and overall social service.

Underlining these points has become imperative for some of us because as Christian politicians our association with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is frequently manipulated and twisted by trying to show the Party in the bad light; as being opposed to Christianity and its followers. The Hon’ble PM Modi has time and again assured that his government does not differentiate between people on the basis of their faith and religion. Founded by illustrious leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani, this party has always believed in Gandhian socialism and true secularism. BJP’s concept of secularism is akin to the Father of the Nation where he thought all religions were true and the State should be secular to protect all subjects.

Advani ji himself was a product of a Catholic Institute, Saint Patrick’s High School of Karachi in un-divided Akhand India. Union Minister and my young friend Piyush Goyal did schooling from Don Bosco High School, Matunga in Mumbai. Former Punjab Governor J F R Jacob was born in Calcutta to a deeply religious Jewish family originally from Iraq. At the age of nine, Jacob was sent to Victoria Boys’ School, a boarding school in Kurseong near Darjeeling. By citing these antecedents, I am laying emphasis on the spirit of inclusiveness and Bharatiya spirit of Vasudeva Kutumbakam that the Party embodies. Narendra Modi has been crystal clear and very articulate on the matter by urging people to appreciate the importance of self-discipline and the spirit of Vasudeva Kutumbakam. His slogan ‘Sabka Saath and Sabka Vikas’ is essentially based on the doctrine that all development and peace and progress in a multi-religious and multilingual India is based on the doctrine of equality of the human race. And so why should Christians presume that the BJP will be against them? It is a fatuous argument, therefore, that Christianity as a religion and the BJP as a political entity are in a state of confrontation. Nation building cannot be compartmentalized — like we cannot say — ‘my India and you are not Indian’ kind of rhetoric. The BJP is never anti-Christian.

(The author, M Chuba Ao is national vice president, BJP. Views are personal)

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By EMN Updated: Dec 29, 2022 7:20:37 pm