People from different denominations are behind the celebration, set for the feast day of Saint Thomas the Apostle, the country’s first evangeliser according to tradition. The event is designed to stress that Christianity is not a foreign religion in India, as Hindu extremists claim. For Father Joseph, “Any effort to undo this great civilisational contribution is tantamount to negating the very foundation of India itself.”
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – On 3 July, the feast day of Saint Thomas, Christians of all denominations will also celebrate Indian Christian Day (Yeshu Bhakti Divas) for the first time.
The event, which is the brainchild of members of the country’s various Churches, is meant to highlight the fact that Christianity is not a foreign religion in India.
The date, 3 July, was chosen “because it is traditionally observed as St Thomas Day, the day celebrating Saint Thomas the Apostle who came to India in 52 AD” and brought the message of Jesus. “It is historically accepted that Saint Thomas was martyred near Chennai in 72 AD.”
Thus, for the Day’s promoters, “By marking it in 2021 and every year henceforth, we, as followers of the Lord Jesus, can preserve our identity within India’s cultural heritage, while uniting with all those who wish to celebrate it, irrespective of language, custom, creed, region or religion.”
“With the celebration of Indian Christian Day,” the promoters of the initiative also want “to launch a Decade of Celebration (2021-2030) to honour the 2,000th anniversary of the earthly mission of the Lord Jesus Christ whose teaching and principles of life have helped shape and transform India and the world.”
Verbite Father Babu Joseph, a former spokesman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), is in favour of the initiative, welcoming it since it is the work of “a group of members belonging to different Christian denominations.”
In his view, choosing the feast day of Saint Thomas “signals a positive move towards overcoming the apparent differing opinions on the history of the Saint Thomas’s arrival in India.”
To further the project, Fr Joseph would like to see UNESCO recognise some of India’s ancient churches, and have some publications highlight Christian contributions in the history of India.
“This would be an important step in making Christianity as part of Indian history and ethos,” he said. In fact, “In light of attempts by some right-wing organisation to create the impression that Christianity is foreign to India, it is necessary to highlight its antiquity in the country.
“Christianity is part and parcel of Indian history for the last 2,000 years and has given birth to many indigenised forms of Christian life. Any effort to undo this great civilisational contribution is tantamount to negating the very foundation of India itself.”
“Christianity has introduced new social teachings which worked as catalyst in several social reform movements” and “has been instrumental in introducing modern education”.