Why the Indians were not able to impose Christianity

"Go teach all the nations"

With the emergence of each new religion, the desire of its followers to share new knowledge with their neighbors naturally arose, while some sought to convert those who lived at a considerable distance to their faith. Not all confessions tend to expand the number of their followers in this way (some, Alawites, for example, do not involve anyone in their teaching and generally do not spread information about it). Yet proselytism, the desire to convert others to their faith, is an old and common phenomenon.

This is done mainly by representatives of world religions, while the very word "missionary" is associated with Christians. Missionaries' missions have varied over the two thousand years of this religion. What does it mean to "convert to Christianity"? Once upon a time, this meant the baptism of all dissidents in a row, by whole villages - and, of course, far from voluntarily. Success in these cases was measured by the number of "converts" - the more there are, the more successful the mission.

Another option for missionary work is the promotion of Christian values ​​where previously life was based on other values. For this they used sermons, communication with future co-religionists, sometimes even martyrdom took place - having gone to foreign lands, the believer was ready to go with his truth to the end. In any case, they communicated with the Gentiles, studied their languages ​​and culture. But at first they used forceful methods - they were baptized under the threat of reprisals.

With the Enlightenment, the methods of missionary activity changed: instead of forcibly imposing their values, Christian missionaries aimed to spread knowledge, for which many schools were built, and in addition to them - hospitals and orphanages, because this all increased loyalty to strangers who came "to a strange monastery."


Thomas the Unbeliever - First Missionary in India

The first who brought the word of Christ to the Indian subcontinent is considered to be the apostle Thomas - the one who was an unbeliever until he touched the wounds of the Savior after the Resurrection. “So, go, teach all the nations,” read the Great Commission of Christ, and the Apostle Thomas got these distant lands to fulfill the commission. The church, founded by Saint Thomas in India, now has about two million followers, at the site of the alleged death of the apostle, in the city of Chennai (formerly Madras), there is a basilica where the relics of the saint are buried.

Starting from the XIV century, monks of some Catholic orders were engaged in missionary work in India - the first were the Dominicans, followed by the Franciscans, Capuchins, and Jesuits. Two centuries later, the southern part of India was the sphere of influence of the Portuguese: they, in exchange for their services to protect the shores from Arab ships, demanded to convert to the Catholic faith and baptized the Indians immediately in villages. The Western world at that time needed to resist the influential Ottoman Empire, so the issue of Christian expansion to the east was more urgent than ever.

And by the 18th century, India was the subject of interest of several major European powers, and above all - England, which saw the Christianization of the population as the main means of strengthening colonial power. The missionary work of that time is associated with the name of William Carey, a Baptist preacher and scholar who, while working in India, translated the Bible into several languages, including Bengali and Sanskrit.

The conversion of Indians to the Christian religion met with serious difficulties: the caste system of society, and a large number of dialects, and centuries-old traditions and rituals of local beliefs hindered this. The interest of missionaries of the past was not directed to India alone: ​​the preaching of New Testament truths was sent to other continents, including Africa and the Americas, and in Asia, the work of preachers of Christianity was also carried out in China.

Missionary work in the modern world

After World War II, the attitude towards missionary work changed, it was now perceived as neo-colonialism and caused opposition. But the phenomenon itself is not a thing of the past, it continues to this day. There is a certain paradox here - Christian preachers go to countries whose culture is older, and religion is certainly no less complex and global than the one that is brought from outside.

But the same India, and with it other countries of the "window 10/40", that is, located between 10 and 40 degrees north latitude, are also considered promising in the sense of missionary work, that they are experiencing great difficulties in the socio-economic sense, it is easier speaking, these are poor countries, where the population is deprived of even the most necessary from the point of view of a Western person. Coming with sermons, they come there with projects for the construction of hospitals, with medicines, with schools and even just food, therefore the demand for sermons does not decrease.

Meanwhile, in recent decades, there has been an increase in aggression against missionaries working in the country, including attacks on Christian missions. And from the point of view of the authoritative figures of Hinduism, missionaries arriving from the Western world often do not respect local traditions and religions, brush aside the rituals that have developed over the centuries and impose their own.

The apogee of this rejection of someone else's interference was the attitude towards the guests of the inhabitants of the North Sentinel Island, a territory formally belonging to India, but not in any way controlled by it.

With the tribe living on the island, there has never been and still is not any contact, these are extremely warlike and at the same time extremely vulnerable people. Any contact with them can turn into bloodshed - the natives actively use weapons and do not allow arriving boats to approach the shore.

And besides - due to isolation, which lasted thousands of years, these people are completely deprived of protection against infections of the modern world, and, most likely, they will die soon after communicating with the newcomers. Nevertheless, attempts to land on the island are being made, including by those who pursue missionary goals. In 2018, a young American, John Allen Cho, arrived on North Sentinel Island to "carry the message of Jesus to these people." It all ended tragically - the young man was killed by the natives while trying to land on the island.


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