‘Local incidents exaggerated as Christian persecution’

Major Archbishop Cleemis urged the Indian Christians to become open minded.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias lighting the lamp

By Philip Mathew

Some fragmented and provincial incidents are exaggerated as national scene of persecution of Christians in India, says the head of the Syro-Malankara Church.

“We have to acknowledge that India’s vast majority of Hindus has protected us from the time Christianity arrived in India,” Major Archbishop Baselios Mar Cleemis told the opening session of Mission Congress the Conference of Religious India organized at Bangalore.

Some 300 priests, brothers and nuns are taking part in the April 17-18 event that has chosen the theme, “Let your light shine brighter.”

Major Archbishop Cleemis, who heads the younger of the two Oriental Churches in India, urged Christians to become “realistic” and “open minded and respectful” to followers of other religions, especially Hindus.

In his keynote, he stressed the need to proclaim the Gospel in India since salvation is made available to all.
Major Archbishop Cleemis, who has a doctorate in ecumenical theology, said Catholic Church is grounded on the vocation of evangelization.A major obstacle to evangelization in India is the impression created by some that Christianity is an “offshoot” of the colonial rule.

Christianity in India is “in no way” attached to the Western colonial power as it came to India much before it reached Europe and America, asserted the major archbishop, whose Church traces its origin to Saint Thomas the Apostle.The “so called” Christian persecutions take place only in some pockets but they are “exaggerated” as happening all over India, he regretted.

States such as Gujarat, Karnataka and Orissa have witnessed Christian persecution in the past.

“The gift of faith is free and so we must share it freely,” he told the participants. Witnessing to an ‘’authentic Christian faith’’ is evangelization.

The Major Archbishop highlighted preaching, verbal proclamation, Christian worship, multiple means of communication and utilization of Church institutions such as educational and healthcare institutions as the best means to spread the gospel message.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias, president of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India who opened the congress at Dharmaram College campus, underscored the need to begin evangelization from “ourselves.”

The Church needs to be evangelized and then evangelization must happen among those who believe and those who do not by telling the story of Jesus, he said.He noted culture, economy, civics and politics need to be based on ethical and gospel values if they have to benefit people.

Archbishop Bernard Moras of Bangalore, who attended the opening session, regretted that secularization of Church institutions has become a major hurdle in promoting Christian values and evangelization.

He called the Church to involve and engage in the neighborhood and cultivate a sense of belonging among people to strengthen the ecclesiastical communion in India.President of the CRI priests section Carmelite of Mary Immaculate Father Jose Panthaplamthottiyil, said that“our light must shine brighter among the poor and the marginalized” if Christ’s message is to take roots in India.The inaugural meeting was followed by Holy Mass in Latin.Three presentations, including the one on “Evangelization through youth ministry,” were made in the afternoon.

The Congress will conclude with five presentations, a Mission Congress Message and planting of Mission Tree.