Christianity in India started with the arrival of Apostle Thomas to India in 52. With the discovery of the sea-route by Vasco-de Gama in 1498, path was opened for the arrival of several missionaries to India.
Missionaries like Robert De Nobile, Francis Xavier, Veera Ma Munivar, followed Apostle Thomas and in addition to preaching the word of God, practiced social welfare values thereby leading to genuine social transformation. Thereby, after reformation, Protestant missionaries soon followed the Catholic missionaries.
Several voyages, missionary arrivals and introduction to Christianity saw the birth of the first diocese in Goa in 1534. From the beginning of 16th century, Christianity slowly spread to different parts of India. Eventually, the Portuguese, British, Dutch, French, and German set forth establishments, learned local languages and culture and supported traditions with the sole aim of converting Hindus to Christianity or so it is believed.
The Portuguese, for instance ordered that all Hindus in their territory to be converted and gospel preaching was made compulsory. The Roman Catholic and Protestant missionaries opened several schools, colleges, orphanages, hospitals, home for the needy in several places in India, and offered employment aiming to change the social-economic situations of the people and through these services, conversion was done. Indeed, it needs to be said that the role of missionaries in introducing new religious pathway and shaping Indian identities has been significant.
Amidst this scenario, a remarkable person to bring Christianity to India (particularly to Madurai) was Roberto de Nobili, an Italian who moved to Madurai in 1606 with the sole aim of winning people to Christ. He set to work by learning Tamil culture and adopting Brahman Hindu practices, in order to understand the sentiments and culture of the land and thereby bring conversion to thousands of high and low caste Hindus. De Nobili has the credit of converting over 200 Brahmins (higher caste).
In spite of all these, Christians in India amount to a meager percentage of 3% of the total population.
What went wrong?
Christianity has been around in India for so many centuries. In fact, missionaries and evangelists from several parts of the world had seen India as a great ground for instilling Christianity. However, what has gone wrong?
Scholars state that repeatedly only Christians become the targets for evangelism in Western and developing countries, including India, while millions of non-Christians have not heard the Gospel yet.
In fact, reports show there are around 2,700,000,000 people who are unaware of Gospel, and there are only 5,000 to 7,000 missionaries worldwide, trying to reach these unreached groups of people. Moreover, about 5199 distinct languages do not have Bible translations; about 80,000 unsaved people die every day.
So, what is happening in the mission field?
Missionaries work with various agenda. Some are focused on number of conversions, others in church planting, yet others in popularizing themselves and others in building empires through educational institutions, political affiliation etc.
Against all these, there are very few working with diligence in spreading the Gospel of Christ. Therefore, it is high time that we take stock of the situation and seek God’s guidance in understanding how, where and when one can involve in mission service.
For further insight, please read:
Tony Joseph., 2015. Why Christianity Failed in India? Available from: https://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/why-christianity-failed-in-india/293895
Philip Jenkins, 2015., Has Christianity Failed in India? Available from: https://aleteia.org/2015/05/11/has-christianity-failed-in-india/
Amutha.B., (2016). Endeavour of The Missionaries To Spread Education In Tamil Nadu – A Study On Jesuits. International Multidisciplinary Innovative Research Journal.1(1).1-5. September 2016. [online]. Available from: http://www.vvvcjournal.in/assets/journalsnew/september2015/2016article31.pdf
Green, K. (2007). Why you should go to the Mission Field. Last Days Ministries. [Online]. Available from: https://www.lastdaysministries.org/Articles/1000008651/Last_Days_Ministries/LDM/Discipleship_Teachings/Keith_Green/Why_YOU_Should.aspx
Lawrence, C., & Selvaraj, C., (2012). Education Under The British Rule In Tirunelveli District – A Study. Indian Streams Research Journal. 2 (11). [online] Available from: http. s://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/pfigshare-u-files/994122/1749.pdf
Marak, K.C., (2010). Developing Mission Curriculum In Theological Education To Impact The Local Churches For Missions In India Today. Edinburgh.org. [online]. Available from: http://www.edinburgh2010.org/fileadmin/files/edinburgh2010/files/Resources/UBS%20Marak%20-%20Developing%20Curricula.pdf
Pillai, M.S., (2018). The Italian ‘brahmin’ of Madurai, Livemint. 5 min read. [online]. Updated 06 April 2018, Available from: https://www.livemint.com/Leisure/xbIdhcI8xdmU9BgBsrOmxJ/The-Italian-brahmin-of-Madurai.html
Punniyavathi. J.M., (2015). Contribution of Swedish Missionaries for Women’s Development in the Field of Social Recognition in Tamilnadu (India). Research on Humanities and Social Sciences. 5(3). 65-74. [online]. Available from: https://www.iiste.org/Journals/index.php/RHSS/article/download/19819/20453