India's Christians ask: What would Gandhi do?

St. Thomas brought the faith to the subcontinent in 52 a.d. and Gandhi called for peace and plurality -- but persecution is growing.

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The next day, the extremists made good on their threats and returned. They searched for the Christians from home to home in the village, then beat them publicly – this time vowing to attack local churches and kill the converts’ Christian friends, who are not foreign missionaries but Indian neighbors and co-workers.

The oldest church in India, said to have been founded by the Apostle Thomas.

Christianity is India’s third-largest religion. The faith was brought to the subcontinent by the Apostle Thomas, who arrived in Kerala in 52 a.d. to spread the Gospel. Christianity was well-rooted in India by the 3rd century, even before it spread to some nations of Europe.

Nevertheless, the majority religion is Hinduism. In the recent incidents, extremists offered a simple solution: the Christian converts could return to Hinduism by participating in a ceremony at a local temple.

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Following Gandhi's example, the new Christians refused. “Religion is a matter of the heart,” he once proclaimed. “No physical inconvenience can warrant abandonment of one’s own religion.”

He also wrote: “Are creeds such simple things like the clothes which a

man can change at will and put on at will? Creeds are such for which people live for ages and ages.”

Gandhi in 1942 with India’s first president, Nehru

One cannot give up the truth when faced with ridicule or public humiliation, Gandhi taught: “An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody will see it.”

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Rob Kerby, Senior Editor
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