30 October 2015
Demonstrators in Bangladesh protest anti-Christian assaults throughout the Indian subcontinent. (photo: Zakir Hossain Chowdhury/ZUMA Wire/Corbis)
In the Autumn edition of ONE, writer Jose Kavi writes on the persecution of Christians in India. Here, he reflects on his experience of reporting on anti-Christian violence in the country for more than 30 years.
Christians in India seem to be jittery these days. They feel helpless amid unprecedented attacks they have been facing for some time now.
Reporting these attacks now has given me a feeling of déjà vu.
I started reporting persecution of Christians in 1982, the year I joined South Religious Asian News, a news agency, as an in-service trainee.
That year Christians and Hindus clashed in Kanniyakumari, the southernmost district of India. Police firing on clashing groups had led to several deaths. The news agency ran stories for months about sectarian clashes involving both Christians and Hindus. Hindus then formed 49 percent of the district’s population and Christians 46 percent. The rest were Muslims.
Several probes by government and independent bodies blamed a group, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (R.S.S., “national volunteer organization”), for dividing people on the religious lines.
R.S.S. was formed in 1925 as a charitable, educational, volunteer, Hindu nationalist non-governmental organization. However, its main agenda is to create a Hindu theocratic state in India. It has now become the umbrella organization for all rightwing Hindu groups in India. Its political arm, the Bharatiya Janata Party (B.J.P., “Indian people’s party”) now heads the federal coalition government.
Attacks on Christians and other minority religious groups in India have happened in proportion to the growth of R.S.S. and its affiliates in the country.
Most reported incidents of violence against Christians in 1998 occurred in Gujarat; it was the same year that the B.J.P. came to power in the state. The year began with an unprecedented hate campaign by groups espousing Hindutva (the ideology of Hindu nationalism). It culminated with ten days of nonstop violence against Christian tribal people and the destruction of churches and Christian institutions in the southeastern districts at the year’s end. Human Rights Watch investigated these attacks in the Dangs district in southeastern Gujarat. The events were preceded by escalating violence throughout the state in which many police and state officials were implicated.
Ten years later, Kandhamal district in Odisha, an eastern Indian state, witnessed much worse violence against Christians. Violence erupted upon the impoverished Christian minority in August 2008. A series of riots led by radical Hindus left roughly 100 people dead, thousands injured, 300 churches and 6,000 homes destroyed, and 50,000 people displaced — many forced to hide in nearby forests, where more died of hunger and snake bites.
The violence was carried out by mobs adorned with saffron headbands, a sign of right-wing Hindu militancy, and shouting slogans such as “Jai shri ram!” (victory to the Hindu god Ram) and “Jai bajrang bali!” (a tribute to another Hindu deity). Attackers wielded rods, tridents, swords, firearms, kerosene and even acid.
The same year, as many as 24 churches, including the chapel of cloistered convent, were damaged and several Christians were attacked in Karnataka, a southern Indian state.
All these incidents occurred away from New Delhi, India’s political capital. However, this ancient city also faced an unprecedented anti-Christian violence six months after the B.J.P. took over the national government. Over three months, at least five churches and a school were vandalized and the blame went to R.S.S. and its affiliates.
The Delhi incidents put the government in a bad light internationally. The attacks stopped suddenly and all churches in the capital were given police protection.
However, attacks now continue in villages far away from Delhi — giving me no respite from reporting on anti-Christian violence.
Read Jose Kavi’s report, ‘There Will Be More Martyrs’, in the Autumn 2015 edition of ONE.
23 December 2014
Tags: India Violence against Christians Indian Christians Indian Catholics
On 26 December 2004, tens of thousands of lives in India were changed forever by one of the deadliest earthquakes and tsunamis in history. More than 200,000 people lost their lives throughout Indonesia.
CNEWA’s program director Thomas Varghese, now based in New York, was working in India at the time. In the video below, he describes what he experienced and saw — and how CNEWA responded to this humanitarian disaster.
28 August 2014
Tags: India Tsunami
Mahinder Singh sits with neighbors in their tiny village in Gangapar. (photo: John Mathew)
In the Summer edition of ONE, writer Jose Kavi explores the life and times of “untouchable” Christian Dalits. Here, he offers further insight into what he saw while covering the story.
I was happy when I was asked to write an article Dalit Christians. The Indian Church has been demanding justice for its Dalit members for nearly 65 years.
An estimated 70 percent of Christians in India are of Dalit origin, mostly in the Latin Catholic Church and Protestant denominations that were introduced in India by Western missionaries.
The presence of Dalits among the Eastern churches, both Catholic and Orthodox, is around some 20 percent, concentrated mostly in Kerala, the church’s base in southern India. It is hard to identify these people of former low-caste origin, since they are well integrated into the mainstream churches.
So to write this story I turned to northern India, where the Syro-Malabar Church has several dioceses. Both Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Faridabad and Bishop Aboon Mor Barnabas Yacob, the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church’s apostolic visitor to North India, said their churches are currently focusing mostly on their people, who have migrated to northern India from Kerala. However, they do support the church’s Dalit struggle.
Photographer John Mathew and I asked priests in the Bijnor Syro-Malabar diocese if they are doing anything for the Dalit people. They said they have a few local converts but were not sure if they belonged to any Dalit communities. The diocese covers Uttarakhand state and parts of neighboring Uttar Pradesh.
We decided to try our luck and set out to Gangapar-Birbhanwala, the diocese’s newest parish, in Uttar Pradesh. And it was a journey into new world. After traveling about five hours, we left the highways to enter a narrow dirt road. It took an hour to cover the 12 miles. We stopped at a bridge in Dhampur built over the Ramganga, one of the tributaries of the Ganges. Its blue and clean water gave us our first shock of the trip. The Ganges we have seen downstream at places such as Varanasi and Patna is no better than a sewage drain. The new government is planning to spend billions to clean up the river Hindus consider holy.
The Rev. M. J. Joseph, the young parish priest who came to the highway to guide us, said the river had changed its course only five years ago after a flood. The flood had washed away the road to Gangapar. We negotiated through farms and gutters and reached a tiny shed in the middle of an open field as the sizzling summer sun blazed above us.
“It is the parish church,” Father Joseph said with an apologetic smile. The tin-roofed shed has no cross, a normal sign of a church. There is no altar. The only Christian reminder is a painting of Jesus on the shed’s only wall. There was neither electricity nor running water. Our driver had to go to the nearby forest to answer nature’s call, as the place has no toilet.
Jarnail Singh, the church’s caretaker who lives in a room attached to the church shed with his wife and two children, asked his daughter Pinky to bring us water, which she did from the hand pump near the entrance.
Jarnail’s wife, Malkeet Kaur, readied the lunch by the time we finished exchanging pleasantries and conducting a few interviews. The special dish for the visitors was scrambled eggs.
After the lunch we set out for the villages. Most people live in thatched mud huts. Piles of cow dung cakes used as fuel and haystacks welcomed us at every entrance. Water buffaloes were tethered to poles near the huts. You could see charpai, the traditional cot that doubles up as sofa and bed, kept in the front yards.
Despite such dreary existence, everyone we met, including the aging Mahinder Singh, looked cheerful. He described his escape from Pakistan when the Indian subcontinent was divided. “I was so thirsty and went to drink from rivers, but they were filled with corpses. Then I went to wells, there also were dead bodies,” he recalled.
We asked him, “What makes you happy?”
“Prabhu Jisu” (“Lord Jesus”), he answered.
What more needed to be said?
Read more about Dalit Christians in Caste Aside from the Summer edition of ONE.
20 November 2012
Tags: India Indian Christians ONE magazine Indian Catholics Dalits
CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar joins other dignitaries in the opening ceremony of the New Delhi event. (photo: Syro-Malabar Catholic Church)
Editor’s note: On Saturday, 17 November, CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, addressed a missionary conference in New Delhi, India, organized by Cardinal George Alencherry, major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. His exhortation, “Into the Deep,” praises the Eastern Catholic churches of India for their missionary fervor and their generosity to the universal church.
New Delhi, India, 17 November 2012
Many thanks to you, Your Eminence, Cardinal George Alencherry, for your kind invitation to join you at this very festive celebration. It is an honor for me, as a Latin-rite priest, to address all of you and to share with you my thoughts about your missionary charism and the bright missionary future the Syro-Malabar Church shares with the church universal and the world.
It is also a special honor to be welcomed into this new diocese where my friend Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara is the newly installed shepherd. I fondly remember his presence in New York when he served at the United Nations as the secretary of the Holy See delegation there. Many hearty congratulations to you, Archbishop Kuriakose, and to the wonderful faithful of your diocese.
Let me tell you a little bit about me to better situate my sharing with you.
In various interviews with the media, I have been asked: “How would you describe your role as President of CNEWA?” My answer is always, “I am just a parish priest on loan to the world.” I then add that my priesthood is intimately linked to being a missionary.
Growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I always wanted to pursue the priesthood. My heroes were visiting Maryknoll missionaries who gave presentations in our school. My ultimate hero was a Maryknoll bishop who had been imprisoned in China for many years. His suffering — including many instances of torture — and his abiding faith resonated with me in my formative years. I wanted to imitate his spirit.
While in the seminary, I had the great fortune of serving a summer in Juliaca, Peru, working in the Altiplano with an all-indigenous population. It was at high altitude, freezing cold — but the hearts of the poor were warm and welcoming and the missionary needs were great. I got the fever: the missionary fever. This was a life-changing experience. It confirmed for me some important values for my priesthood.
As a deacon in my last months of preparation for priesthood, I had the good fortune to meet Archbishop Fulton Sheen, former national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith — a role that was bestowed on me years later — a television and media star, and the personality who put the missions on the map in America. It was Fulton Sheen who boldly asserted in interventions during Vatican II that everyone is a missionary by baptism. This pronouncement would become the mantra for the Propagation of the Faith. I believe strongly this should be the mantra of the Syro-Malabar Church.
To finish up on my own missionary journey…
I was ordained a diocesan priest in 1971 and was very happy and satisfied in all of my priestly assignments, but the call to reach out as a missionary was strong and would not diminish.
I remained in my home diocese and did not join any mission society, but soon learned the lesson of St. Theresa the Little Flower that I could still be a missionary in prayer and in good works done in solidarity with missions all over the world — and remain at home.
Eventually, I became the diocesan director of Missions and then was given the honor of being national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies — a role that brought me many times to India, mostly in service to the Latin Church.
And now, I am the President of CNEWA — the Catholic Near East Welfare Association — and am learning to breathe with the other lung of the church, its Oriental or Eastern lung.
But I am still a parish priest on loan to the world.
But what has happened to the missionary spirit in my country and in much of Europe? What has happened to the spirit of Pentecost? In large part it has been overwhelmed by anxiety over legal and financial problems, an uncertainty about vocations to the priesthood and the religious life, and an unwillingness to share and reach out to the missions in our own want. Without making a sweeping generalization, the flames of the Holy Spirit and the call to be missionary in a time of Pentecost have diminished greatly.
Enter the Syro-Malabar Church. You are a missionary church to the core. You are a church alive in the Holy Spirit. You live the mandate of Pentecost.
Fifty years ago, after centuries of suffering — losing much of your identity as an Eastern church, after breaking the shackles of Latinization — the spirit of St. Thomas broke through and you undertook a bold, risky venture to go where others would not. You set out for Chanda.
Bishop Januarius Paul Palathuruthy, a Carmelite of Mary Immaculate, like the first apostles, like St. Thomas, offered himself and the Syro-Malabar Church as a loving representation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. His simple, but very measured “seven step” catechetical approach resonated with the poor. He began by teaching a simple signing of the Cross. Then came the image of Christ, who died for all, then the Bible and so on.
His abiding presence, his missionary heart, his patient endurance and especially the grace of God have brought about this miracle of evangelization in India. With a small group of migrated Catholics, the seeds of faith were planted and produced the fruits of 25,000 souls.
This has been a true Pentecost event in your history. Why did Bishop Januarius and the Syro-Malabar Church have such a miraculous harvest? You shared in your want, you served, you fed the poor and you healed the sick. All of this was accomplished through a very healthy partnership between the bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church and its religious congregations — in the case of Chanda, especially with the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate. It is not an atmosphere of competition, but one of fraternal collaboration.
Congratulations on this 50th Anniversary of this important chapter in your missionary history.
As you have set this missionary course these past 50 years, there continue to be many challenges, some sufferings, hardship and sacrifices that won’t go away — but there are blessings in abundance.
Vocations to the priesthood and religious life continue to flourish. The call to be missionary is exciting to many and is readily accepted by young people. Priesthood is not perceived primarily as a ceremonial vocation, but one of service, surrounded by a willingness to reach out “into the deep.”
I think of the marvelous example and call to serve as given by Archbishop Mar Joseph Kundukulam of the Archdiocese of Trichur. His legacy of countless social service and helping programs gave hope to the poor and disenfranchised. Having visited Trichur, I am inspired by his spirit, still alive and carried forward by Archbishop Andrews Thazhath, a dear friend who has honored me with a recent visit; Cardinal Alencherry, your major archbishop; and our dear brother, Cardinal-elect Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis, the major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Church.
I am also inspired greatly by Mar Joseph’s legacy in founding the Nirmala Dasi Sisters, who do heroic work with God’s special “little ones.” Their missionary hearts, their selfless giving is a towering beacon of service in the name of Jesus.
Their light is a beacon for vocations in your church.
There are countless religious sisters who are the “foot soldiers” of the Syro-Malabar Church. Their loving maternal affection, especially for children, gives the reassurance, the security and hope of Christ. They are catechists, formation directors, “adoptive mothers,” nurses and care givers; they are Christ.
Let me tell you about a little girl I met a few years ago here in India…
This 8-year-old girl came from an aboriginal area and was living at a hostel with some religious sisters — the only opportunity for her to receive an education. While there, she learned many hymns and songs of praise to Jesus and enjoyed learning about Jesus and his mother from the sisters.
While at home during school recess she was set upon by a group of fundamentalists, who accused her of proselytizing as she was heard to be singing songs to this Jesus. Her life was threatened and she was rescued, narrowly escaping bodily harm or even death for herself and her family.
I asked her: “Were you afraid when they threatened you?” She answered straightforwardly as she looked me in the eye and said, “No, because Jesus would watch over me.”
What a testimonial in faith from a little one not yet baptized, but led to Christ by the gentle and loving hearts of the sisters. And others want to follow in their footsteps; the Syro-Malabar Church continues to be blessed with many women choosing to be religious.
Your dynamic missionary spirit resonates at home and abroad, as it must. There is a real Pentecost spirit at work all over India.
I have been privileged to participate in a popular mission, presented by the Vincentian Fathers in Chenganassery. My hearing was a little impaired after four hours of high decibel shouting, giving praise, singing, testimonies, etc., but the fervor of the thousands of people present was dramatic and the whole thrust was missionary. It reiterated the mandate of Pentecost: “Go tell others what you know, he is risen! Alleluia!”
You present the missionary challenge very clearly to your people:
The John Paul II Peace Center, which is dedicated to the care of people of every age with severe physical and mental challenges, is part of the Paul VI Mercy Home, a complex of social service modules owned and operated by the Archeparchy of Trichur. (photo: John Kozar)
- You do not apologize for our faith, as Pope Benedict reminded us in his recent exhortation to the church in the Middle East. You celebrate your faith through our life in Jesus.
- You are not anonymous, you are followers of Christ, but you do not boast.
- You welcome and offer unconditional service to everyone, just as Christ reached out to all. In the West, we have largely separated our faith from our good works.
- You especially reach out to the poor, the lonely, the Dalit.
Ad Gentes — To the peoples of the world
First of all, in the vast mission territories of India, your missionary witness and presence is alive and well.
I am amazed and inspired that 24 Syro-Malabar bishops are serving in Latin dioceses in India, often with no recognition and little appreciation. This is an untold story, one that I personally share with audiences, especially in my own country. Almost 40 percent of diocesan priests serving in Latin dioceses in India are Syro-Malabar priests. And more than 60 percent of religious priests serving in Latin dioceses are Syro-Malabar.
The missionary outreach of the Syro-Malabar Church extends to every continent, to 36 countries. Three thousand religious sisters of the Syro Malabar Church serve outside of India, as do more than 1,200 priests, including 205 in my own country.
In some areas of the world, despite large numbers of Syro-Malabar faithful, you do not yet enjoy juridical status, but you do not retrench or retreat. You maintain your Christ-like service and missionary presence. You continue the legacy of St. Thomas. God continues to reward you with growth and vitality in your church and the refreshment of vocations.
In New York, I must comment on the missionary spirit of Father Jos Kandathikudy, Pastor of St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Church in the Bronx. At a recent celebration honoring the tenth anniversary of the parish, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and I, both privileged to join in this celebration, were overwhelmed by the dynamism of this young mission-minded parish and the Christ-like service of dear Father Jos. His missionary heart, as representative of the Syro-Malabar tradition, serves as a beacon to all of us in New York: Celebrate Pentecost, be happy, be faithful and respond to Christ. Go out into the deep.
We have just initiated a Year of Faith. Our Holy Father invites us to enter the “door of faith,” a life of communion with God, the journey of a lifetime.
He invites us, as Christ has called us, to leave everything behind to follow him, to be missionary.
In this call to be missionary, our Holy Father reminds us that faith without charity bears no fruit and charity without faith brings doubt. Charity and faith require each other. These are our walking orders to be effective missionaries.
We just concluded the Synod on New Evangelization, in which some of you participated. As Cardinal Alencherry has personally shared with me, perhaps there is nothing new about evangelization: just some humility needed to admit we have not done well the first time around or in evangelizing since Vatican II.
This reminds me of a commercial 15 to 20 years ago for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. As you have probably tasted them, Corn Flakes is the father of breakfast cereals, the simplest, most basic, probably the healthiest — no sugar coating, no chocolate covering, no nuts or yogurt flavoring — just simple corn flakes.
The commercial promoted the cereal with the motto: “Corn Flakes, try them again, for the first time.”
Maybe some have forgotten how good and tasty they are, how simple they are, how unadulterated. Maybe some have never even tried them. So: Try them again, for the first time.
Your church encourages all to experience the power of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior of the world. To those maybe in my country, in Europe or in foreign lands, your invitation as missionaries in this new evangelization to try the faith again for the first time is warm and inviting. Go and tell others: He is risen, Alleluia!
And to those who have never known this Jesus of Nazareth, the Syro-Malabar Church offers this bread of life to the hungry, the poor, the alienated and the forgotten.
There are many celebrations of interest today:
- 50th Anniversary of the beginning of Vatican II.
- 50th Anniversary of setting the missionary course in Chanda.
- The anniversary marking the beginning of reclaiming and re-discovering your roots and your identity as an Eastern church.
- The beginning of a Year of Faith.
- The closing of the Synod on New Evangelization.
- The closing of a Syro-Malabar Year of Mission, which gathers us here these days.
But more than anything else, this celebration is about Pentecost. Despite sufferings, sacrifices, disappointments, you maintain the countenance of Christ.
Thank you, brothers and sisters of the Syro-Malabar Church. You challenge the church universal to be as Christ, the supreme missionary, and as Mary, his mother, the missionary to the Apostles. You enkindle the spirit of St. Thomas, your father in faith.
Pentecost is alive. The Holy Spirit is burning in your hearts.
Cardinal Alencherry, dear bishops, priests, religious brothers and sisters and loving lay people — we who breathe from the other lung of the church, we love you and we need you.
Go tell the others: He is risen, Alleluia!
14 September 2012
Tags: India Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Indian Christians Msgr. John E. Kozar Syro-Malankara Catholic Church
A dance group from Mumbai’s Syro-Malabar Catholic eparchy rehearse a traditional Keralite routine backstage at an annual festival. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
In the January edition of ONE, we featured a story about generations of Thomas Christians from Kerala who have built a community of their own in Mumbai:
“Because the Eparchy of Kalyan was formed exclusively for the Syro-Malabar faithful, a lot of re-evangelization has taken place, meaning people who were on the fringes now started coming forward,” he explains.
“Otherwise, what happens? In the Latin Church, they were unknown. The Latin parish in Vikhroli has 10,000 people and seven Masses every Sunday. Nobody was bothered if they were there or not. But now our parish is very small: a hundred families. We have one liturgy. So if somebody doesn’t come for it, we ask: ‘Where has he gone?’ There’s much more community now that we have the eparchy.”
Mrs. John waits patiently for her husband to finish his thought before speaking. Humble and articulate, she is the perfect blend of the gentility characteristic of rural Kerala and Mumbai’s cosmopolitanism.
“With time, our roots in Kerala have diminished,” she says. “But we still follow all the traditions we learned from our parents. Like when mom passed away, we called everybody over on the 40th day. We follow all the rituals we learned to the core. All the celebrations we do in Kerala are also celebrated here in Mumbai. Basically, we just want to keep our culture alive. We don’t want our kids to lose out on that front — in the home or in the church.”
For more, read A Church of Their Own.
12 September 2012
Tags: India Cultural Identity Kerala Migrants
Staff and patients attend the evening liturgy at the Amala Hospital chapel in Trichur, Kerala. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
In the September 2011 edition of ONE, Peter Lemieux reported on the role the Syro–Malabar Catholic Church plays in India’s health care system:
For the next 15 minutes, the priest rushes through the multistory facility, distributing Communion to more than 30 patients in various wards. “Here, prayer is so much a part of the culture,” explains Father Paul. “But in a hospital setting, it’s a very fast pace. If you don’t deliver things in time, it’s a problem. Time is critical. If we’re delayed for even a minute, lives are threatened.”
Established in 1978 by the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate — the first and largest religious congregation for men in the Syro–Malabar Catholic Church — the institution consists of a full–service general hospital, a homeopathic hospital, a 100–bed ayurvedic (or traditional Indian medicine) hospital, a cancer research center, a cardiac center as well as a medical school and a nursing college.
The facility offers diagnostic treatment in almost every specialization and boasts the latest medical equipment and information technology, 25 surgical operating rooms and a state–of–the–art radiology department, which most recently acquired a new linear particle accelerator.
The medical school and nursing college together enroll 1,200 students from all over India. In total, more than 2,000 medical professionals and their families reside on the campus.
For more, read Healing Kerala’s Health Care.
31 August 2012
Tags: Kerala Health Care Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Carmelite Sisters
A marching band of special needs young adults welcomed Msgr. Kozar during his visit to the parish of St. Thomas in Kanamala, Kerala, India. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Back in March when Msgr. Kozar visited India, he received such a warm, and often entertaining, welcome from every parish, school or institution he visited. His visit to the parish of St. Thomas in Kanamala was no different:
About an hour later we arrived at the flourishing mountainside parish of St. Thomas, in Kanamala. What an amazing reception: A marching band of beautiful special needs youngsters and young adults, several hundred children, their parents and the elders of the parish, all lined up in a receiving line. There were many huge Indian umbrellas held by the women and hoisted high while twirling them to welcome the three of us. Thomas Varghese, M.L. Thomas and I were swept away by this welcome.
They led us to the beat of the marching band to the church, where we entered to say a prayer, and then on to the humble parish hall, which was packed. The welcoming continued in the form of remarks from Father Matthew, who spoke on behalf of the bishop and expressed profound thanks to CNEWA for the many facets of assistance given to this parish. Then the pastor gave a very emotional welcome to us and also highlighted the many expressions of solidarity from CNEWA from the parish’s beginning. Then came some young people who did some amazing dancing: a combination of intricate classical Indian dances and a little bit of Bollywood. They put their heart and soul into the performance.
For more, read “In the Footsteps of St. Thomas: Riches Among the Poor.”
24 August 2012
Tags: India Kerala Msgr. John E. Kozar
In this photo from 1998, novices of the Bethany community pray in their chapel near Kottayam, India. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Sisters are often the people on the ground carrying out the work CNEWA supports. With tireless effort and loving dedication, these women give the sick and poor the care they desperately need. Earlier this year, Msgr. John Kozar met a group of dedicated sisters in India — the Bethany Sisters. Sean Sprague also wrote about the Bethany congregation for the May/June 1998 issue of the magazine:
The Bethany Sisters’ motherhouse in Kottayam is a spiritual powerhouse where temporarily professed sisters spend a few years in prayer, study and work before taking their final vows. Pure and virtuous, the sisters are nevertheless wholeheartedly human and very Indian. They are fully aware of the outside world and eager to go and serve the poor and sick.
“Bethany is the church within the church,” Sister Philomena explained. “Its role within the Syro-Malankara Church is like that of the heart in the body. Its charism is the spiritual renovation of the Syro-Malankara Church, particularly through its apostolic activities. One of our main apostolates is education.”
Today the Bethany community operates some 100 lower and upper primary schools, 65 nursery schools, 28 secondary schools, 3 university colleges, a teacher-training college and several other vocational training centers. Mar Ivanios University in Trivandrum is one of the premiere institutions of higher learning in Kerala, educating more than 3,000 students per year.
Ecumenical activities, family visits, catechism, preaching, mission work, care for the sick (the Bethany community runs several hospitals, leprosy eradication projects and preventive health care programs) and care for the handicapped, the elderly and orphaned children are all important apostolates.
For more, read Following Christ in an Indian Way.
16 August 2012
Tags: India Sisters Kerala
A worker cleans a wind-powered generator at the Renewable Energy Center in Mithradham, India’s first solar-powered educational facility. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
In the current issue of ONE, Peter Lemieux writes about the effects of urbanization on the traditional way of life in Kerala. For the multimedia feature accompanying this story, Peter interviewed Rev. Dr. George Peter Pittappillil, C.M.I., director of the Renewable Energy Center in Mithradham, India’s first solar-powered educational facility. To learn more about this innovative facility, check out the video below:
9 August 2012
Tags: India Kerala ONE magazine Urbanization Environment
Kerala’s rapid urbanization often leaves behind impoverished Dalit communities, such as this one in the rural south. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
Our July edition of ONE has just been posted online. In the cover story for this edition, Change Comes to ‘God’s Own Country,’ Peter Lemieux reports on how urbanization is threatening the traditional way of life in Kerala:
While the urbanization underway in Kerala may not involve all the classic socioeconomic upheavals, it certainly has meant profound changes in the state’s traditional social fabric. These days, few disagree the once tightly woven rural extended families and parish communities look frayed and threadbare.
“In Kerala, we’ve always had a strong family tradition rooted in our agrarian culture. Family was never disconnected. There was a family oneness,” explains Father Joseph Makothakat, pastor of Little Flower Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in Fort Cochin. “But these days, we’re a professional society. Families don’t find time to be together. They work six days a week. Husband works in one place, wife works in another. They come home late at night and don’t even have time for evening prayer, nor do their children, who are too busy with their private tutors. The lifestyle is much different now.”
Check out the rest of the magazine online!
Tags: India Kerala Dalits Urbanization