The Church in India Seeks Harmony and Peace

Editors’ Note: In “Persevering in Changing Times” in the March 2024 edition of ONE magazine, Anubha George reports on the church’s efforts to reach young people in India amid rising tensions. In her audio report, she discusses her visits to Millupady and Angamaly, where she witnessed solidarity between minority Muslim and Christian communities. A full transcript is available below.

Listen to the audio report:

Can you hear the rain outside, even faintly? Or the splash of water from the cars and bikes driving by?

It’s been raining in Kerala almost every day for the last two months or so. And the days when we visited the three places we chose for the ONE magazine assignment? Yep, it was raining.

So, we went to Kolbe Ashram Seminary in Millupady, a major seminary of the Conventual Franciscan Order. We went to the Nazareth Novitiate House in south Angamaly, and also to a catechism class on a Sunday.

This time, we were trying to find out how the church is working around the problems that arise from a [extremist] Hindu agenda against minorities in India.

We were looking at how the Syro-Malabar Church is dealing with the different facets of the formation of its priests, sisters, lay ministers and catechists in this changing landscape.

There’s so much in the Indian, as well as international, media about how the Muslim and Christian minorities are sidelined — that policies in India are changing to put them at a disadvantage. Minorities are pitted against each other and the belief that the minorities themselves aren’t united to fight the system.

At the Kolbe Ashram, though, the truth is far from how it’s presented in the media. Despite minor skirmishes pre-COVID, things are now very different. The Ashram has these beautiful, well-manicured gardens. The local Muslim families come to the seminary to take their wedding photos. The doors of the Kolbe Ashram are always open.

Ditto with the Nazareth Novitiate House. This place is off the map; you can’t find it easily, but its chapel is open to the locals. The locals believe that whatever you wish for in the chapel — things like maybe you’re not able to have a child, or your marriage is delayed — that wish is always granted. And so, people come here from far and wide, irrespective of their religion or religious beliefs.

We met Father Peter Kannampuzha, who’s the director of catechism and moral education in the Ernakulam-Angamaly [arch]diocese. He looks after 306 catechism units. He’s in charge of more than 65,000 students and 5,000 teachers.

He told us things are okay in Kerala for now, the church is not really affected by hate speech or communalism, but that they are worried and there is some anxiety about the rise of nationalism in India.

Father Peter believes as Christians we should pray for peace, harmony and progress of the country — and not just in India. We should be peacemakers wherever we are in the world. Amen to that.

Read “Persevering in Changing Times” in the March 2024 edition of ONE magazine.

Anubha George is a former BBC editor. She is a columnist and writer for various publications. She is based in Kerala, India.

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