As Christmas is not far away and All Saints Day has recently been observed in India and other parts of the world by Christians, efforts to bury the differences between Catholics and Protestants so that they can work vigorously for society and country, are happening. It should be celebrated.
On All Saints Day, some Catholic and Protestant priests met in Rohtak, Haryana and discussed how to work in tandem as much as possible. To cement their ties with the Catholic Church, the Delhi Brotherhood Society organizes a series of interfaith and intercommunity seminars and meetings to strengthen their ties with all communities/religions across India.
Meanwhile, it should be mentioned here that All Saints Day is a day of prayer and remembrance for the faithful departed, observed as Christians on November 2 every year. Through prayer, intercessions, almsgiving and visitation to cemeteries, people commemorate the poor souls in purgatory and earn them indulgences.
It is high time that we know what divides Catholics and Protestants? Well, they worship the same God and for both of them the Bible is a holy book, but the tenets of their faith are different. Catholicism and Protestantism are two denominations of Christianity, just as Shiites and Sunnis are sects of Islam. While the Pope is the head of the Catholic Church, Protestantism is a general term that refers to Christianity. Although we have seen a lot of bad blood between Catholics and Protestants in the past, things have never been so bad in India despite having separate churches.
“Certainly much of this animosity has dissipated around the world, including in India. The thaw between Protestants and Catholics is a thing of the past,” said Brother George Solomon, a Christian scholar and priest based in Delhi. And yet, the theological differences between Protestants and Catholics are there. The battle between Catholics and Protestants is steeped in history. The degrees of reaction varied from friendly disagreements to differences of opinion on certain religious issues.
Protestants accuse Catholics of worshiping Mary, and Catholics believe that Protestants are apparently too stupid to understand the distinctions Rome has made in this regard.
While many organizations outside India have been striving to bring the two Christian sects closer together for centuries, the Delhi Brotherhood Society (DBS) is doing great service in getting Catholics and Protestants to bury their hatchet for the cause. wider society, country and humanity. DBS was born out of the rich history of the Brotherhood of the Ascended Christ, with a story no less unique. He established great institutions like St. Stephen’s College and St. Stephen’s Hospital and other similar organizations across India. Since its official inception, it has continued its quest to uplift the downtrodden and downtrodden according to these principles and has expanded to neighboring slums and beyond. Currently it manages 19 projects for the betterment of society and is involved in women’s empowerment, community development, education, abuse prevention, vocational training, academic work, interfaith dialogue, shelters by night,
“In India, Protestants and Catholics were working together to provide relief and shelter to all those who were hard hit by the tsunami and the devastating floods in Kerala. Thus, the two clearly showed the world that they could and that they would work for the needy when the situation called for it,” says the famous scholar Joseph Gathia.
And if we talk about Christianity in India, we say that it dates back to the time of Saint Thomas. He was one of the twelve disciples of Christ, who arrived in India around 52 AD. Although Christians have been here for centuries, their presence is known primarily through their service and their contributions to society which are largely reflected in the communities and villages in which they dwelt. They chose to live in a well assimilated way and the most recorded history of their contributions begins around four hundred years ago. With the emphasis and importance given to the social needs of education and health, it is not surprising to see the high literacy rates of states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu, which were among the first areas of Christian growth.
And Christian missionaries were pioneers in education. The Santa Fe School of Goa, founded in 1540 by the Franciscans, was the first formal Christian educational enterprise outside of Europe. In 1542 it was taken over by St. Francis Xavier and in 1548 it was elevated to college status and renamed St. Paul’s College. Soon other missionary schools appeared in other parts of India – in Bassein (1546), Cochin (1549), Punnaicayil in Tamil Nadu (1567), Madurai (1595), Pondicherry (1713) , a Tamil high school at Ellacurichi in Tamil Nadu (1731) and a Sanskrit school at Mannanam in Kerala (1846).
And Christians were also at the forefront of the liberation movement. Those who look objectively at the history of the freedom struggle in India would agree that there were Christian missionaries who fully supported the nationalist cause to the embarrassment and outrage of the British colonial government. Among these missionaries, the best known names are: Stanley Jones, CF Andrews, Sushil Kumar Rudra. CFA Andrews was part of DBS. The Indian Christian community played an influential role, especially in the first phase of the Indian National Congress.
The influence of Christians has been impressive in the various sessions of the Indian National Congress. For example, at the third annual session of the Congress in 1887, out of 607 attendees at the session, 15 were Indian Christians, and among those who addressed the assembly was Madhu Sudhan Das (1848-1934, popularly known as ‘Utkal Gurab’), a well-known leader of the Christian community in Orissa. The number and influence of Indian Christians continued to be impressive in later sessions of Congress. Kali Charan Banerjee (1847-1907), a Bengali Christian and a good orator, regularly addressed the annual sessions of Congress to shape National Movement policy. During the 1889 Congress session, among the ten women delegates, three were Christians: Pandita Ramabai Saraswati (1858-1922), Mrs. Triumbuck, Mrs. Nikambe. There are records of active Christian participation in the Swaraj movement, the non-cooperation movement, the civil disobedience movement and the “Quit India” movement.
And cut to now. Surely, when Catholics and Protestants would work together for the welfare of society and the country, they would do wonders.
(The author is Delhi based senior journalist and writer. He is the author of Gandhi’s Delhi which brought out many hidden facts about Mahatma Gandhi)