02/20/2006, 00.00
INDIA
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One of India's largest Christian gatherings begins

by Nirmala Carvalho
Organised by the Mar Thoma Syrian Church, the convention is open to Christians of all denominations. The first gathering of its kind took place in 1896; now it is celebrating its 111th edition.

AsiaNews (Thiruvalla) – The 111th edition of the Maramon Convention began yesterday near Thiruvalla in the South Indian state of Kerala. It is one of the largest Christian gatherings in the country, if not the continent.

The week-long event is organised by the Evangelistic Association, which is the missionary wing of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church, and, following the tradition since 1896, it is being held on the riverbank of the Pampa River at Maramon, 16 km from Thiruvalla.

"This convention is not just a meet of Marthomaites alone. Instead, all sorts of Christians and people of all religions are coming to hear the speeches," said Rev Joseph Mar Irenaeus, Suffragan Metropolitan and chairman of the Evangelistic Association of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church.

Almost 100,000 people are expected every day to sit under the huge pandal, a pre-fabricated structure that is set up to accommodate those who want to take part in the convention activities or listen to prayers, sing and participate in Bible studies.

Yesterday however, there was little time and virtually no space for any activities because of record crowds.
In previous years, when the convention was mostly attended by the Mar Thomaite community, it was a meeting ground to renew old friendships and talk about possible marriage alliances among church members.

In Kerala Christians constitute 23 per cent of the population of 30 million. The Mar Thoma community has about 800,000 members.

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