Reflections on Christianity
Apostle Thomas and Bartholomew came to India over 2000 years ago and they lived and died here. The St. Thomas Mount in Chennai is a testimony for the same
Persecution against Christians continues unabated in several parts of our country even during this Christmas season. It is sad that despite our contributions in the fields of education, health and social development sectors, even after 75 years of Independence the Christian community still faces insecurity and uncertainties due to politics of hate and vicious propaganda.
Many a time, Christian missionaries have been erroneously projected as agents of British imperialism nursing ulterior motives of conversion. This falsehood has been peddled repeatedly to the point that large number of gullible people believe it. Do they however know that Apostle Thomas and Bartholomew came to India over 2000 years ago and they lived and died here in our country? The St. Thomas Mount in Chennai is a testimony for the same.
In fact, the western world got the Gospel several centuries later and today they are known as Christian nations. On the other hand, in India, Christian missionaries focused more on social justice and have greatly contributed to the development and modernization of our nation. Christianity was never meant to be a political or imperial religion as falsely claimed by its detractors. This is evident as the British with all their might didn’t attempt forceful conversions here over 200 years that they ruled over us.
While the imperialists looted India, missionaries on the other hand sacrificed their lives to enhance social development with their blood, sweat and tears. Authentic historical accounts provide proof of the pioneering contribution of Christian missionaries.
Ironically, allegations of forceful conversions also belie statistics. Christians comprise around 2.5 per cent of India’s population, a statistic that has remained more or less unchanged since Independence – and mind you, these are government statistics.
Yet more than 40 per cent of healthcare institutions for the marginalized sections especially among the rural population are undertaken by the Christian community. The community strongly believes in the transformational power of education. In spite of its minuscule presence, the Christian community runs a large number of educational institutions, many of them in rural areas, and is actively engaged in transforming lives without proselytization and fulfilling our commission as the salt of the Earth, adding flavour and enriching society.
In any cuisine, salt is the least ingredient used; but without salt every dish is tasteless and insipid. Likewise, the Christian community is just a minuscule 2.5 percent of the population but adds immense value and flavour to India. Our educational, medical and health care institutions along with other socio- economic advancements are a testament to our contribution to our great nation.
Yet, we sadly witness sporadic acts of persecution of Christians being reported from across the country. Even as the scent of another Christmas wafts through unmistakably in the air, for the joy it proclaimed to all men over 2000 years ago. Sadly, too many people identify Christmas with Santa Claus and the Christmas tree while Christmas is about the birth of the Saviour of this world and it’s time, we restored the true significance of Christmas. I reproduce below what has been reiterated over the years.
Christmas reminds the world about a Man born more than 2000 years ago contrary to the laws of life; about how this man lived in poverty and was reared in obscurity.
He did not travel extensively, crossing the boundary of the country in which He lived only once. He possessed neither wealth nor influence. His relatives were inconspicuous and had neither training nor education.
In infancy, He startled a King, in childhood He puzzled doctors, in manhood He ruled the course of nature, walking upon billows as if they were pavements and hushing the sea to sleep. He healed the multitudes without medicines and sought nothing for His services. He never wrote a book, yet all the libraries of the world find it difficult to hold the books that have been written about Him.
He never wrote a song but He has furnished the theme for more songs than all the songwriters combined. He never marshalled an army, drafted a soldier or fired a gun, yet no leader has ever had more volunteers who under His orders have made more rebels stack arms and surrender without firing a shot.
Every seventh day, the wheels of commerce cease their turning and multitudes wend their way as worshipping assemblies to pay homage and respect to Him. Names of past and proud statesmen of Greece and Rome have come and gone, and I’m sure that names of the present proponents of hatred will come and go, but the name of this Man abounds more and more.
Herod could not kill Him, Satan could not seduce Him, death could not destroy Him and the grave could not hold Him. He stands forth upon the highest pinnacle of heavenly glory –proclaimed of God, acknowledged by angels, adored by saints and feared by devils. I am sure you know whom I am talking about. He is a friend of sinners, father of the oppressed and Saviour of the world...Lord Jesus Christ - God’s greatest gift to all mankind and the reason for this season.
Whenever I share this beautiful description, I am filled with awe about the Majesty of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us.
In the midst of persecution of the community, along with false accusations of forceful conversions, the peace-loving Christian community has chosen not to retaliate but to show the other cheek when attacked as per the teachings of Christ. Instead, we have chosen to transform the arena of persecution into a platform showcasing the virtues of Christ which hold together a society torn apart by strife.
Even when we are hated, persecuted and victimized, we will continue to respond with love, forgiveness and reconciliation as taught by our Lord.
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New year.
Love, humility, kindness
Here are some recent tweets from the handle of Pope Francis:
• The season of #Advent is meant for us to stop and ask ourselves how to prepare for Christmas. We are so busy with all the preparations, with gifts and things that pass. But let us ask ourselves what we should do for Jesus and for others.
• Let us choose a concrete commitment, however small, that’s adapted to our situation in life, and let’s continue to do it to prepare ourselves for Christmas. Call a person who is alone, visit that elderly or ill person, do something to serve a poor person, someone in need.
• Let us look into the eyes of the discarded people we meet, let us be provoked by the faces of children, the children of desperate migrants. Let us allow ourselves to be moved by their suffering in order to react to our indifference
• The first act of charity we can do for our neighbour is to offer a serene and smiling face. It is to bring them the joy of Jesus, as Mary did with Elizabeth
• The Christmas tree is a symbol of rebirth, God’s gift by which He is united forever to humanity. He gives us His life. The lights on the fir tree recall the light of Jesus, the light of love that continues to shine in the world’s nights
• There are many local Churches, religious congregations and Catholic organizations who are ready to welcome and accompany migrants toward a fruitful integration. All that is needed is an open door!
• This is the lesson of Christmas: humility is the great condition for faith, for the spiritual life and for holiness. May the Lord grant it to us as a gift.
(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday)