Although I have read Bede Griffiths on the work of the apostle Thomas in India in establishing ashrams
for Christ in the first century church, I had no idea of the current cultural expression of Christianity among Indian citizens. Recently I visited with two Christian clergymen from India. Rev. V. S. Paul Pragasam visiting from Chennai, India and Fr. David Kennedy, also an Indian Christian of the same non-caste, working among the Denver Asian community. Their anglicized given names are indicative of their status in Indian culture, according to Rev. Paul. As "untouchables", they were prohibited from studying the Vedas, sanskrit, dance, music or anything else in India. They, and the people of their flocks, are considered non-people by Hindus. So, when Christianity came to Indian untouchables, non-caste Indians adopted the culture of the missionaries and became de facto
"Westerners", taking the names of western Christian saints, studying Western music and culture which was not prohibited to them.
According to my visitors, their ministry is oriented to peace making and evangelism. The peace making is a logical extension of the cultural clash with Hindus and Muslims and Buddhists in south India. The success of their Christian evangelism has put them at cultural odds with the four recognized caste members of South India. The clash has required them to adjust the presentation of the gospel to emphasize dialogue and openness to all castes, from their side. Whereas the European missionary approach to them was a westernized cultural conversion centered on Christ, their approach is now to harmonize with the essential elements of the dominant traditions around them in order to present the gospel as an extension of the "good" in the other faiths, but also the culmination of God's work in Jesus Christ.
In later interview of Rev. Pragsam, he identified the need for the worldwide church to realize the extent that it is committed to materialism. Jesus did not start a movement and ask people to join it. He asked them to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him. Nothing less. We organize ourselves around works. He didn't ask us to do that. His message was that we should follow Him. He asked the apostles in the great commission in Matthew
, to make disciples, baptize them and teach them to follow His commandments. This is a message that we should readily receive in Denver. We can't imagine the poverty among our Christian brothers and sisters there. The average untouchable person in South India
lives on 38 rupees per day. That's 64 cents. They are persecuted and killed for their faith, as in the Middle East.
The Indian government does not allow donations to enter India earmarked for religious groups, in an attempt to subdue evangelism there. Rev. Pragsam aims his ministry at the rural youth of South India. Although adults in the cities are often technically savvy, rural youth in India have probably never even touched a computer. So, Rev. Pragsam is seeking ministry support of a like kind variety. I was very moved by his presentation and intend to discover ways to help him. Please contact me if you would like to help, too.
May God continue to richly bless the ministry of both Rev. Pragsam and Kennedy. Reverend Kennedy has applied to become a Kairos volunteer with the Colorado Department of Corrections and I look forward to working with him. Rev. Pragsam has returned to India, but I look forward to helping him with his ministry, also. Pray for the church in India.