Malankara World

General Interest Reading

Evangelization and Syrian Orthodox Church

by Rev. Fr. V.V. Paulose

Are we in the dead end?

Indian Christians believe that St. Thomas, one the disciples of Jesus was the founder of Christianity in India. He took the commission of Christ "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and of the son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." (Mathew 28: 19,20) in letter and spirit. He traveled to Nineveh, Edessa, Persia, India and china, preached and practiced Jesus' teachings, converted thousands and thousands of people, started several churches, and appointed leaders for it. He landed in Kodungallur in 52 AD and martyred in 72 AD at St. Thomas Mount and buried at Mylapore in Chennai.

Indian church has been under the jurisdiction of Patriarch of Antioch as per the record in the synod of Nicene in 325 AD. Antioch church had been doing the missionary work even in the Far East like China till the Middle Ages. At one point of time, more than 10,000 missionaries were in the field. The existence and growth of Syrian Christians solely depended upon the effectiveness of Evangelization that was initiated by St. Thomas. This is the lifeblood of Syrian community and other Christian churches, at large, for their existence and purpose.

Onset of Islam slammed and put a brake on the spirit and vigor of evangelization. Gradually a type of loathness set in; we made compromises for practical convenience that proved to be the death knell of missionary work of Syrian Christians. Now we are paying the high price for that compromise by the complete annihilation and evacuation of Syrian Christians from almost all of the Islamic countries. Even one of our Archbishops in UK advised all the Syrian Christians in Iraq to vacate the place for their own safety.

Islam will never compromise on their Pan- Islamization. They will never abandon their policy of terror and forceful conversions. It is simply murder, kidnapping, torture, and rape and has Jazeeia (an Islamic tax forced on non Muslims simply in order to be allowed to exist) for Christians. According to Islam, all those except Muslims are Infidels who are to be slaughtered.

We, the Christians in India, never ever had experienced any type of persecutions and bridle to spread Christianity in any forms in anywhere in India. Before the Christianity has entered in the land of darkness - Europe- it was already rooted and flourished in the south east Asian learned and cultured country of India. We, Syrian Christians, are proud of it. But Europe and America have been completely Christianized within a limited time. We stayed dormant; Christianity accounts for only 2.9% of population in India.

One of the main reasons for the low number of Christians in India is that we have played Brahmanism and compromised on or ignored the commission of Jesus - evangelization. We did that for convenience, for the safety and the prestige of a microscopic minority.

Now people are for the advancement of science and its application in their family. Sizing the family is the rule. We are on the way to zero population growth rates. The booming churches and their coffers are going to dry up. If this trends continues and if we won't get new members by evangelization, then within 50 years our church would be reduced to half its current size. The oversized churches and their monumental decorations will become meaningless. If there are no one to attend church services, what is the purpose of having these church buildings? Eventually, many of them will be converted to tourist spots, Cafeteria or for other spiritually unhealthy purposes like the churches in western countries have become!

Our church has no official policy of evangelization of its own. I'm not forgetting the role of E.A.E, St. Paul mission etc or the Cross-of the Servant of IOC. Our actions and words of our bishops and priests speak that we are overtly and covertly not for any types of new converts. Our talents, wealth of experience, money, energy, time, wealth, faith, history, customs and traditions and the people are all sacrificed for continuing the endless litigations and fighting. In the process we are forgetting the commission of Christ, evangelization. Archbishop Willian Temple commended, "When religion goes wrong, it goes very wrong." That is true of our church.

The modern and over secularized world is very intolerant to the freedom of conscience. Country after country are clamping the draconian rule of non-conversion, in different forms, for the sake of non-attainable societal peace. The fundamental freedom of an individual is the freedom of choice. That is inscribed in the spirit of all human beings. If that is curtailed, life would become a bonded slavery and inhuman. It's a mouse trap.

When "The Freedom of Religion Bill" was proposed in the Indian parliament by the ministry of Morarji Desai to discourage any missionary work in India, Mother Teresa reacted harshly. She wrote a letter to the prime minister. She stated that, "No man, no law, no government has the right to prevent me, or any one, if I choose to embrace the religion that gives me peace, joy and love. Religion is the worship of God - therefore, a matter of conscience. So don't destroy the freedom our country and people have had to serve and love God according to their conscience and belief."

We are somewhat in the plateau and in the downward slope of fundamental purpose of our existence on this earth. One Orthodox leader in Syria sighed: "freedom of religion in Syria has its limits. There is freedom to practice your religion but not to choose it. You are what you are born in to." In India we are in the same wavelength of thoughts and actions. Where are Jesus Christ and his sayings in our church matters? What way do we love our neighbor? Shouldn't we have any burden for the dying of millions of people in body and soul here and the life after?

"Evangelize or Perish" through our lives and actions not via media.

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