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Ecumenism in India The struggle to survive

· General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, Olav Fykse, visits Kerala ·

Kerala’s Christians find themselves in front of an important challenge: that of unity. This is what Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, Secretary General of the World Council of Churches (WCC), explained during a keynote address he gave last Saturday on the occasion of the 175th anniversary of the reform of the Christian community of Malankara in the Indian state of Kerala.

During the course of his speech at the ceremony held at the headquarters of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar, the Secretary General of the WCC stated that “the reform of 1836 was accomplished thanks to the spirit of mutual responsibility which leads each one of us not to look to our own interests and go our own ways but, on the contrary, to be liable together for the other vocations and decisions within the community”.

During his first visit to India, the Secretary General of the WCC has been able to deepen his contacts with the leaders of ancient Christian communities especially in the southern region of the sub-continent. The faithful of Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar lay the roots of their faith back to the year 52 AD, when St Thomas, one of Jesus’ 12 apostles, arrived on a boat to the port of Kodungalloor, in the region of Malankara, where at that time there was a Jewish community. According to tradition, St Thomas started to preach the Good News of Christ and there were many conversions among the local populations.

Referring to the historical tradition of that ancient Christian community in Malankara and to the unity of faith that unites these Christians in India with those who have emigrated all over the world, Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit said: “In every place where  today your communities are present, we affirm the need to advance ecumenical dialogue on both the local and national level”. Such communities of faithful belonging to Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar are found in North America, Europe, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. For the Secretary General of the WCC “the rich tradition of Christians in Malankara, based on the spirit of reform, has given the possibility to your communities to cast yourself onto the wider horizon of the ecumenical movement, independent of the place they currently have in your communities”.

In India today, Christians represent a minority with a percentage of the population ranging from 3 to 6 percent depending on the region. Beside the Catholic Church, the majority of Christian communities in India adhere to the National Council of the Churches and to the Evangelical Fellowship of India.

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