Christians of various denominations in India announced that they will celebrate for the first time what they described as “Indian Christian Day” on July 3, feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle.
According to tradition, the saint supposedly traveled to India, as far as the Malabar Coast, which is in modern-day Kerala State, to preach the Gospel sometime in 52 AD.
Saint Thomas was reportedly martyred near Chennai in 72 AD and many Christians in India regard the saint as the patron of the country.
“By marking [Indian Christian Day] in 2021 and every year henceforth, we, as followers of the Lord Jesus, can preserve our identity within India’s cultural heritage, while uniting with all those who wish to celebrate it, irrespective of language, custom, creed, region or religion,” said organizers of the event in a report on AsiaNews.
They said they want people to understand that Christianity is not a foreign religion in India.
The celebration also aims to promote initiatives to launch a “Decade of Celebration” starting this year to mark the 2,000th anniversary of the “earthly mission of the Lord Jesus Christ whose teaching and principles of life have helped shape and transform India and the world.”
Father Babu Joseph, former spokesman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), welcomed the initiative, saying it “signals a positive move towards overcoming the apparent differing opinions on the history of the Saint Thomas’s arrival in India.”
“This would be an important step in making Christianity part of Indian history and ethos,” he said in an interview with AsiaNews.
“In light of attempts by some right-wing organization to create the impression that Christianity is foreign to India, it is necessary to highlight its antiquity in the country,” added the priest.
“Christianity is part and parcel of Indian history for the last 2,000 years and has given birth to many indigenized forms of Christian life,” said Father Joseph. “Any effort to undo this great civilizational contribution is tantamount to negating the very foundation of India itself, he added”
The priest said “Christianity has introduced new social teachings which worked as catalyst in several social reform movements” and “has been instrumental in introducing modern education.”
Christianity is India’s third-largest religion after Hinduism and Islam, with approximately 27.8 million followers, constituting 2.3 percent of India’s population.
During India’ colonial period, Anglicans, Methodists, and other Protestant denominations flourished in the country. Protestantism later spread to India through the work of independent non-denominational missionaries.