World Christianity - Part 2
3 and 4
World Christianity - Part 2
To introduce students to an aspect of world Christianity, in this case Christianity in India.
If possible, some pictures or tourist posters of India and a disc of Indian music.
LEADER: If I say 'India' to you, what images come to mind? Snowy mountain ranges? Gorgeous Goan beaches? Crowded slums? Exotic bazaars? Sacred Cows? The Taj Mahal? Trains overflowing with people?
READER: NEW DELHI, MAY 2. News from 'The Hindu' Newspaper.
India and China are among the top 10 countries registering the maximum number of dotcom companies this year with Network Solutions, the global leader in domain registrations.
LEADER: Did you know that India is one of the most computer literate countries in the world? What else do you really know about India? Even for those who live in, or come from, this vast country there are many aspects of it that remain unknown. And whenever things are unknown, people like to make stereotypes from them. Holiday brochures are all about stereotypes. People pick up certain ideas - like that the Taj Mahal's romantic by moonlight, or that long train journeys are exciting - and the myth is born (show posters here, if they are not already displayed). Not that such myths don't have some truth, but it's not always quite like that when you really come to do or see it.
Today we are thinking about Christianity in India. Most people would probably make the connection straight away with Mother Teresa, poverty and charitable works - perhaps also the work of agencies like Christian Aid and Cafod. That's only a very small part of the story, though. Christianity in India is a minority faith, sometimes still persecuted. Christians account for no more than 3% of the population (although as India has a population of about a billion - reached in May 2000 - that's a fair number).
Being in a minority isn't something so very special for Christianity. After all, that's the way it started out. But think about India for a moment. Why do so many young - and older - people from the West want to go there? People often talk about 'searching' - finding something that can't be found in our western world. Mark Tully, one-time India correspondent for the BBC, says that 'the West starts from estrangement, the East from familiarity. The West starts from dogma taught from outside, the East from the inner conviction that there is a God'. Bede Griffiths was a Benedictine monk from Wales who went to live in India and started an ashram - a simple place of worship and community where he spent his life living like an Indian holy man, dressed in saffron robes and learning from Hindu and other local religious traditions. He lived like this until his death in 1993. People came to visit him as pilgrims. They wanted to know more of what he had to say about the insights that could come from India. Bede spoke about, 'the extraordinary sacredness which attaches to every created thing in India'. There God is known as present in all nature, in earth, fire, water, plants, animals and humans as well as beyond them.
Let's stop and think for a moment about what that says about the world around us. It's quite a thought... (Pause)
A country where the life of faith is in tune with its environment, where nature is seen as helping us get close to God and respect for creation helps us be in tune with the whole created world. Perhaps that is one of the most important insights of Indian Christianity, keeping us in touch with deeper reality in a world of fast food, fast travel and temporary dreams.
If there is an Indian student who is prepared to do so, ask him or her to read a Bible passage of their choice in their own Indian language. Something about the wonders of God's creation would be suitable. The reader could be dressed in Indian national dress. Another student could then translate, phrase by phrase. If no translation is available, or cannot be made by someone locally, contact the Bible Society (www.biblesociety.org.uk) and ask for a small sample of text.
There is a very strong tradition of meditation in India. Explain this to the students, then spend a few minutes in silent, wordless prayer.
Any recording of Indian music, for example sitar music by Ravi Shankar, to provide atmosphere at the beginning and end of the collective worship.
- Find out about Christianity in India. There is a very informative site at members.tripod.com/~Berchmans/chridx.html which gives details of history and practice. Although it is mainly suitable for older and more able pupils, teachers will find some interesting background facts there. The story of St Thomas as founder of Christianity in India is particularly important.
- Mark Tully's book Lives of Jesus (BBC Books, 1996, ISBN 0 563 37148 X) contains records of several of his conversations with Indian Christians and is full of though-provoking ideas, accessibly presented.
- Discuss the responsibility that Christians have to the environment. Resources are available in the our resources section