Sunday, November 04, 2007

Church History in Kerala,, post 1500 AD - part I

Kerala is the cradle of Christianity right from the days of the arrival of St. Thomas in 52 AD on the Cranganore coast of kerala ( as recorded in the travels of west Asian travellers and religious books in Iraq). Act of St. Thoma which did not get into the final set of compilation of the Holy Bible also points to the travel and the preaching of St. Thomas in Kerala. St. Thomas the apostle came to Kerala with followers of Christ from Nazareth, called Nazaranes). The first Prime Minister of India Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru in his book, Discovery of India talks of the Syrian Christian faith in Kerala being older than other forms of Christianity elsewhere in the world. Indian Christianity preceded other forms of Christianity by more than two hundred and fifty years.

It was only after 1500 years that Portuguese came to Kappad, near Calicut, Kerala with their brand of aggressive Christianity, the Roman Catholic faith, under the garb of maritime trade. They were driven out by the ruler of Calicut. They went to Goa and did some forcible conversions to Catholic faith which is even to this day resented by the people of Goa. That is history and we should not try to right a wrong which was done four hunderd years back.

With the help of Bishop Menezes from Goa a meeting between the heads of the indigenous brand of Christianity, called the Toma Christians and the Roman Catholic brand was arranged at a place called Udayam peroor in Ernakulam district ( the famous church is now under Catholic control and is on the Ernakulam Vaikkom highway). The Roman Catholics acted with deceit in the famous church at Udayam peroor by putting all historical records of one thousand five hundred years under the matchstick. All ancient Bibles, some belobing to 300 AD also got burnt in the process. History got destroyed for ever.

It was the greatest damage the Roman Catholic brand of senseless fanaticism imported from Portugal could inflict on a strong and thriving indigenous Christian community in Kerala who were insulated from the power mongering western brand of Christianity thriving in the western hemisphere. This same people have also been accused of trying to anglicise an essentially coloured Christ of Nazareth.

The papal overlordship from 1599 to 1653 was essentially the golden period for the Catholics from Portugal in Kerala ( the darkest period for the indigenous Christians) who managed to convert lot of Thoma Christians to the Roman Catholic brand of faith. In 1653 at the famous Koonen Kurissu in Mattancherry, the Thoma Christians asserted themselves and shrugged themselves off from papal control. Being robbed of their original liturgy by the Catholics, the Thoma Christians had to turn to Syria, the Church at Antioch, who were more than happy and helpful in sharing their liturgy with the hapless Thoma Christians from Kerala. The trouble was only in the brewing in accepting what looked to be a helping hand in times of dire need for establishing an identity.

The second affront on the Thoma Christians (now called the Syrian Christians) came with the British traders.

( to be contd in Part II)

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