10/20/2009, 00.00
INDIA
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Khrist Bhakta: tens of thousands of Hindus fascinated by Christ

by Nirmala Carvalho
Missionary tells the story of a movement run by the Indian Missionary Society in Varanasi, the spiritual capital of Hindu India. Fr Anil Dev says people are fascinated by the relationship to a personal and living God who loves them without the need to be propitiated.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – About 30,000 Hindus and Muslims from different castes are united by the same devotion for Jesus. They belong to the Khrist Bhakta, a spiritual movement generated by the evangelisation work of the Indian Missionary Society (IMS) in Varanasi, a city holy to Hinduism in northern India.

The history of these “Devotees of Christ”, the literal translation of the movement’s Hindi name, fascinated the 1,500 delegates who attended the recently concluded Indian Mission Congress. It also raised many questions.

Fr Anil Dev, a delegate for the IMS, told the story. For the past 17 years, he has lived at the Matridham Ashram in Varanasi, the Khrist Bhakta centre, and described his experience as an Indian missionary among the Devotees of Christ.

How was Khrist Bhakta born?

“The movement is the result of the Satsangs (prayer meetings) held at the Ashram in 1993-1994.

At present, at least 4,000 people come every Sunday to attend such meetings out of about 30,000 members of this devotional movement, more than the total number of Catholics in the diocese.

Most Khrist Bhakta members come from a reality of spiritual and social bondage; many suffer enslavement in a patriarchal society.

Ours is primarily a movement of spiritual liberation. Encountering the Gospel is a life-changing experience; it gives a new identity, a culture of prayer and brotherhood that transforms people and the society in which they live.”

Yet these Jesus devotees stay with their faith. Why?

The Gospel is for everyone, not only for those who desire baptism, if these poor illiterate people, as well as educated people, come here to enrich their lives with the teachings of Jesus Christ. That in itself is evangelisation.

The Khrist Bhakta remains a movement for non-Christians and we are open to the Lord’s suggestions. For now, as Saint Paul put it, “Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the Gospel.”

What draws these “devotees”?

People find inspiration in the person of Jesus and his teachings. They are attracted to his suffering and his love for the poor. The experience of expressive praying, especially in community, which is not in the mainstream Hindu religious system, is a new experience that gives them a sense of freedom and contentment. Many of the Khrist Bhakta suffer social obstacles and often ostracism and here relate to a personal and living God. They experience the freedom of a relationship, free from fear, with a Father who unconditionally loves as opposed to deities who need to be propitiated.

How can you be fascinated by the Gospel and not convert?

First, we must accept the movement is a work of the Holy Spirit; it was initiated, strengthened and led by the Holy Spirit alone. Secondly, in appreciation of the values of the Lord, devotees gradually achieve certain conformity with Jesus Christ and begin to live out his values. So far though, few have asked to be baptised.

Have you ever been threatened or attacked by Hindu extremists for your work?

Why should they? We do not force anyone to come to us. All we do is freely communicate the teachings of Jesus. Some people come from neighbouring towns and villages, some walk great distances to attend out Satsangs, and they return home, transformed, their lives and burden lightened and continue to remain in their own culture. Why should anyone persecute us?

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