The history of the Christianity can be traced back to two thousand years started with the birth of Jesus Christ, in a village called Nazareth. Total number of followers of Christ is in Asia 306,401,000 out of 1,974,181,000 in the world. Christianity marked its beginning in India with the arrival of St.Thomas, one of the Apostle of Jesus, in 52 A.D. The works of St.Thomas gained its fruit and the number of Christians in India is 19640284 (census 1991), 2.34% of the total population, and have 16.89% growth rate which is below the national average. Few states of country like Kerala, Goa, Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, and Manipur has notable presence of Christians while Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Rajastan & Gujarath has less than one percent of the total population of these respective states. The Christian population in respective states is: Kerala has 28.62 percent, 16.18 percent in Tamil Nadu, 4.37 percent in Karnataka and 6.19 percent in Andra Pradesh. These four states account for 55.36 percent of the total Christian population in the country. In the North East, the states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland , Meghalaya, Mizoram and Manipur together have 21.67 percent of Christians. In Goa, Christians constitutes 29.86 percent of the total population. Elsewhere, Christians are much more scattered and they form just 0.44 percent in Gujarath, 0.10 percent in Hariyana and 0.09 percent in Himachal Pradesh. Over 31 percent of Indian Christian population is an urban one, the rest rural. According to the census of 2001, the number of Christians in India is 2.18% of the total population 105 crore people. Not only is the greater part of the Christian population found in these regions, but the south and the west of India were also home to Christian traditions very early on: the Syrian Christians of Kerala, for example, trace their origin in A.D. 52 while Catholicism in Goa is no less than 400 years old. This may points to the fact that the orientation of the Christians was not conversion but social development.
1. Historical analysis of the Christian contribution in the field of social work
1.1 Early Ages 52 A.D to 1498
The presence of Christianity in India is aged almost two thousand years commencing from the arrival of St.Thomas, one of the Apostle of Jesus Christ and martyred in 72 A.D. in Chinnamalai, Mylapore Chennai. Since then Christianity spreads its roots in different parts of the country mainly in south India. Commenting the contributions made by Christians Dr.Rajendra Prasad said on December 18, 1955, “Remember, St.Thomas came to India when many of the countries of Europe had not yet become Christians, and so those Indian who trace their Christianity to him have a longer history and a higher ancestry than that of Christians of many of European countries. And it is really a matter of pride to us that it is so happened”. Early history of the community is fables and traditions and only few records exist. Their contributions are outstanding in preserving the culture of the place. They occupied a significant place to reach the country far through their trade and commerce. They practiced best form of participatory decision making in their Palli yogams which is the final decision making body in aspects of their life both material and spiritual spheres. The yogam is constituted by priests, faithful, social leaders etc. and it is the highest authority of the place as far as Christians are concerned. The yogams make decisions about the services to be rendered irrespective of religion, caste etc. The values of justice and equality are practiced. The yogams are still exists in south India especially in Kerala. There were education centers which provide schooling to the children irrespective of religion. But these centers were not as systematic as of today. There was no separation between education, religion and social work.
Christianity developed in India as an indigenous religion, not as an alien religion imposed upon a people by superior physical forces. Under the fostering care of the local princes and with the friendship and tolerance of the Hindu brethren, it developed as an essentially Indian religion in all respects except in matters of faith and forms of worship. They were best soldiers of the country and their patriotism and services are hailed by local kings. In the pre-colonial period Christians were more predominant in the areas of agriculture, commerce and welfare of the people. Welfare of the people was more important than war. The contribution of Christianity of early ages, before the arrival of Portuguese is the inculturation and spirituality which provides social and socio-ecclesial life. The individuality and uniqueness of Christianity lasted until the Christianity of India came into contact with Portuguese missionaries who arrived in Kerala after the epoch-making discovery of a sea route form Europe to India by Vasco Da Gama in A.D 1498.
1.2 Middle ages 1498 A.D. to 1947
The middle ages of Christianity in India marked with the arrival of Fraciscan John Monte Corvino in the year 1291. But history was created by Vasco Da Gama. The existence of Christianity found in north India in two different regions; Agra Ecclesiastic Region and Northern region. The history of Christian existence dates in the reign of Emperor Akbar who, being heard of the scholarship of Christian priests, wanted to have them at his court, and for this purpose he invited th Jesuits from their colony Goa. The first batch of Jesuits arrived at the court of Akbar at Fatepur Sikri on 20th February 1580. They had the patronage of Akbar and his successor Aurangazeeb
Among the Eastern Indian states (Bihar, Madya Pradesh and Orissa) has the oldest Christian community (380 years) and largest number of Christians. The first Christian establishement in the region was in 1620 by a Jesuit Missionary Simon figueredo, under the invitation and patronage of Mughal governor of Patna John Maquirrum Khan. The Tibet-Hindustan Mission began in 1703 and Bettia Mission 1715. Today Dalit Christian community of Bihar comprised of 17 communities of Scheduled caste origin. Out side South India and western India, Bihar has the largest Christians (815,000). Christian presence in Orissa can be sketched in the 18th Century by the arrival of Jesuit missionaries. The majority of the Christians in the state is tribal and form 1.25% of the total population of the state. In the state of Madhya Pradesh the Christian presence is found from 1750 onwards. A great majority is tribes. An understanding of the impact of the Christianity in eastern India can be had by reviewing the development of Church institutions, which may indicate the volume of humanitarian work done by the Christian churches in the area on the one hand and the extent of mobility achieved by the Christian communities, on the other hand.
The presence of Christianity in north east states, the seven sisters (Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland , Meghalaya, Mizoram and Manipur) is found with the arrival of two Portuguese missionaries on 26th September, 1626. Assam was acted as spring board to Tibetan mission of Christian missionaries. Major population is tribes and fast changes are taking place which throw light to challenges for Christian mission. Christianity acted as a stimulus, an inner urge, providing them with a new dynamism from within setting them on a path to transformation and change. It led to self awareness and made the people conscious of their own collective identity which provided vision that went beyond one’s village, clan or tribe and gave a world view based on the Christian message of love, equality and pardon and peace and justice.
The high level of literacy, the low level of infant mortality, improved status of women, the increased desire for ongoing education, health care, efforts to expose oneself to change etc. are signs of integral growth experienced by north east people when they came in contact with Christianity. “Perhaps nowhere else in India has the encounter between society and Christianity so profoundly affected and transformed as in the tribal society of north East India.”
Christianity in west Bengal reached in the 16th Century. But it was subsided and later rejuvenated in the 19th century. To note Christian contribution it is befitting to start with the William Carey, the first Baptist missionary to arrive at Serampore in 1793 and laid foundation for Christian contribution. In later period Methodist missionaries completed Carey’s work successfully rendering service in the health and allied field in the rural areas of West Bengal (1903)
The presence of Christians found in western region by the end of Sixth century. By the 14th and 15th Century Goa, Thane, and Konkan regions was Christianized by Jesuit missionaries. The prominent leader was St.Francis Xavier. By the beginning of the 19th century, there were Catholic communities in Chaul, Pune, Tarapore, Ashin and Manora in North Konkan and at Daman, Due and Surat at Gujarat. The establishment of village Christian communities in rural areas to promote development providing primary education to all irrespective of caste, creed and sex and promotion of equality and human dignity among the villager is the salient feature of the Christian presence in the region.
The Christian presence is very vivid in the southern states of the country from the beginning of the first century. Though we find Christians in Kerala and Tamil Nadu had Christians in the early centuries, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh had Christian presence later in the beginning of 13th century commenced with the coming of Dominican missionaries. In later stage the work of the missionaries both Catholic and protestant have gained drastic changes in the social stratification and social mobility. Christians in Kerala bearing 2000 years of history constitute one third population of the state. Christians in south induced a movement to empower through enlightenment.
1.3 From 1947 onwards
The age of Independence marked the fast growth of the country economically, socially and culturally. The improvement in transportation and communication facilities facilitated the Christian missionaries to reach the unreachable areas of mission and development. Since the independence the number of services rendered by Christians have multiplied in various forms like schools, rehabilitations centers, leprosy homes, orphanages, hospitals, dispensaries, colleges, vocational training centers, printing and visual media, social uplift programmes, social development initiatives etc. The Christianity in India, at present, rooted from south Kanyakumari to north Jammu and Kashmir. It has 143 catholic dioceses and 107 non-Catholic dioceses. Within the jurisdiction of these dioceses thousands of educational and non educational institutions are functioning as an expression of its social commitment. Various developmental activities are taking place under the registered social service societies of each diocese. Rural development activities and conscientization activities are initiated in recent times amidst strong opposition from fundamentalist and political parties who see the Christians as hurdles to gain their vested interest. Even they struggle to gain the constitutional provision, religious minority status, in the name of cultural and social advancement they achieved and it promotes.
2. Contributions of Christianity in the social services and social work
2.1 Contributions of Christianity to Reformation, and Modern democracy
The modern social awakening of the oppressed groups in India had its beginning with the conversion of some untouchables, out casts and lower casts of people into Christianity. It strived against existing in equalities. The marginalized were mainstreamed and gained opportunities for education, new occupation for life with personal dignity and social acceptance. Prominent among them was Madras Native Christian Association (1893). It appreciates, “Christianity wrought miracles in our midst. It has lifted many of us from the mire of social degradation; it has enlightened us, liberated us from the trammels of superstition and custom and has planted in us the instincts of a free and noble humanity”. It exploded caste structure, helped to humanize cultural ethos and structures of the society. It protested against division, exclusion and exploitation. Swedeshi banks were started and cooperative societies were on boom.
William Carey and his team studied Indian languages and translated Bible. In 1802 Bengali translation of Mahabharata and Ramayana was published by Carey. In 1818 Bengali newspaper was published in vernacular language as a means of social education. Carey’s contribution as a social reformer is unforgettable. He pioneered the movement that led to the abolition of the inhuman practice of Sati. He relentlessly fought against other social evils such as infanticide and caste system. Alaxander Duff played significant role in the foundation of Calcutta University and influenced the thinking of Raja Ram Mohan Roy. St. Xavier’s college (1835), La Martiniers in 1836 etc are among few colleges that missionaries started as part of their contribution to the society.
International congress started in the year 1885 by A.O.Hume which was a community for temporal interest. In its 3ed Session 15 members were Christians. Prominent among them were Madhu Sudhan Das from Orissa who raised voice for expansion of legislature, N Subrahmanyam who asked for separation of judiciary and executive and Pandita Ramabhai Saraswati who raised voice for women empowerment. She said that ‘It is not strange; my country men that my voice is small, for you have never given women the chance to make her voice’
The modern elementary school system was almost entirely supported by Christian mission. In the educations sphere, the opening of schools, colleges and hospitals for India women was undoubtedly the effort of the Christian mission. The coming of missionaries from America in 1857 and their financial resources facilitated the development of medical and social work in India. In 1842 they started first school in Himalyan Region. And at the end of 19th century there was general consciousness among Indians to take up the work of education for them. The presence of H.L.Beutal and A.B. Chandu Lal in Simla and the medical service rendered to patients suffering from cholera in the year 1917 was remarkable. Apart from Catholics various denominations of protestant church like the Church Missionary society, American Presbyterian Mission, American Methodist Episcopal Church, Baptist Church, The Oriental Missionary Society etc were present in the region.
Christians raised voice against evil practice of widowhood of child widows before attainment of 18 without her consent to be widow. Kali Charan Banerjee, Bengali Christian proposed government administrative reforms through educational system. Swedeshi Movement of 1905 and Non-cooperation movement was supported by Hindu Christians believing “It is not religion but human values and patriotism stands first. Brahma Bandhab Upadhya was in forefront of the movement as leader.
In the case of Civil disobedience, Bombay Christian movement in its first resolution stated that Members of Indian Christian community were one with other communities in their desire to win complete Swaraj. Thus Christian contribution in the country marked with: Democratization of the government, women empowerment and pro-democracy movement, pioneering force in nationalization- Young Christian council of Action established in 1930- and to the Reform movement especially to Bengal Reform movement through education, awareness creation and mission of charity. The Serampore Mission helped for cultural renaissance in Bengal under the leader ship of Raja Ram Mohan Roy. It not only manifested a spirit of emancipation from social and religious bondages, but also infused a sense of creativity into modern intellectual history. Kesheb Chandra Sen (1838- 1884) Advocated that political, social and moral regeneration is possible through the practice of Christianity. He states “we breathe, think, feel and move in a Christian atmosphere.” The contributions of the Christianity in the field of social work are mainly in four aspects. They are: education, occupation, religion and social and ethnic identity.
2.2 Contributions of Christianity to Social education and media.
The Nazrani Deepika established in the year 1887 is a clear example of Christian contribution in the field of literary and art field. The contribution to the culture through the scholarly work of Christians is to be appreciated. Max muller, Herman Gundert etc was prominent figures in the field. The concept of one country was possible through the spread of English as medium of communication. The Indian vocabulary was enriched with contact to the foreign languages. New ideas and ideals, institutions and establishments, types and styles and genres in literature (eg.Novel, the travelogue) and government were introduced to the Indian life by them. The effective establishment of Indian journalism was due to the missionaries of the Serampore. In 1818 missionaries began to publish a weekly newspaper in Bengali and English; and following their example Indians took up their profession in earnest. The modern sciences, educational pattern, manners, customs and practices relating medicine, health, hygiene and cleanliness, food habits and dress,- all found their way into Indian Society and culture and were often blindly imitated and often, irrelevantly copied and propagated, the contribution of both native and foreign Christians of the country.
2.3. Contributions of Christianity to Education highly valued services
Educational service of the Christianity has been admitted as highly valued service to the nation. In spite of oppositions they function well and almost 90% of the beneficiaries of such institutions are non-Christian brothers and sisters. In India there are thousands of schools and hundreds of colleges offer accommodation for poor children as well as provision for free education. Thus the Christian mission in the education sphere helped in elevation of the status of women by giving the lead in female education. Dr.Muthulakshmi Reddi comments about the Christian contribution to the women emancipation,“ I honestly believe that the missionaries have done more for women’s education in this country than the, government itself.” The mission sponsored education among the weaker sections of the society facilitated alternative more remunerative and higher status employment. Educational contributions have helped form a literate culture among the Christians and the nearby community to follow. Christian education has also fostered the formation of students’ movements which had impact in the universities. For eg. World Students Christian Federation, All India Catholic University Federation etc. social services and social service camps have also been a regular feature of many Christian colleges.
The employment generating training institutions, financial institutions like credit societies and mutual help societies helped the improvement in the life standards of the Christians and neighboring people. The educational quality promoted occupational mobility and societal mobility in the caste ridden society. Obviously, educational mobility led to occupational mobility. Christians were pioneers in the field of education in Kerala. It is impossible to find out from the decrees or any other reliable source the exact nature of these schools or how far they conformed to the requirement of any organized system of education. But it has produced remarkable changes in the society and culture.
2.4. Contributions of Christianity to Social Change
The church agencies first rendered their services in the field of education and later extended their services to the areas of socio-economic development. The Christian communities are the bases from where the missionaries reach out to all sections of the people through the services rendered in the field of education, medical aid and social aid. The church opened stations in remote areas and has been undertaking literacy campaigns, adult and child education, relief work, social service, health care services, family visits. The entry of the Delits and backward classes into Christianity has become a means for dignified life and higher status in the society. One of the significant aspects of Christian contribution among the people is linguistic unification. Besides education, books and literature denouncing social evils helped break down caste barriers. The more important among these books were the Jati vicharana by Dr.Moegling and journals like Satya Deepika, Sbhapatra etc.
Christianity in Tamilnadu was a liberative force from the caste ridden society, particularly to oppressed and lower castes of the society. A purposeful and concerted attempt in ameliorating the conditions of the untouchables was made by the Christian missionaries. Thus, there created an ever-increasing movement of Depressed Class children to missionary education centers, which later termed as “the mass movement of the mind”. This helped Adi-Dravida to become a high official of the land outstrips and prided upon social respectability of his decent. Christians were against slavery. As a result of the sustained effort taken by the missionaries in this regard, the Raja of Thiruvithamcore issued a proclamation on June 24, 1855 emancipating all slaves and withdrawing legal recognition for all aspects of slavery. The western education helped to bring out radical social changes in the states which served as groundwork for the ushering era of social mobility and to mitigate the evil traditions of the society. The literacy rate among women in 1901 was 31 out of hundred in Kerala while it was one out of thousand in other parts of the country.
2.5 Contributions of Christianity to Impact among tribes and Delits.
Most of the tribes were under the clutches of money lenders causing to dispossess their land, lose control over their own community based socio-economic structure and indigenous culture. The scene is changed by the arrival of the missionaries. A strategy of purposive actions such as formal education, alternative employment, financial support through institutional means and so on for socio-economic uplift and liberation from fear of spirits was initiated by the missionaries. A significant and far reaching step towards making the tribes self-sufficient was the introduction of certain socio-economic measurers such as establishing Catholic co-operative credit society, cooperative societies, mutual help societies etc.(established in Chotanagpur in 1909, 1913). Though substantial socio-economic changes had initiated among them they have retained their indigenous values of gender equality, dignity of women, consensual procedure in community, actions apparel, language, cuisine, traditional customs, indigenous festivals etc. Though we are able to eliminate bonded labour, we are unable to stop the racial and structural discrimination faced by the weaker and marginalized sections of the society. Pondering this we find that the role played by the Christians in the North East in this respect is pivotal, especially in North East. Christian impact on the North East varies from tribe to tribe. Christianity has been he primary agent of change among the hill tribes of North East. “It is in fact,” Mukhim writes, “that without missionary activity, the North East would have been a very backward region even today”. The mass movements to embrace Christianity represented the intense desire of the oppressed sections of the society for their emancipation by a new awareness brought about by western education.
2.6. Contributions of Christianity to Centers of Mercy
There are hostels and orphanages for boys and girls attached to educational institutions to help the children of poor parents. Great care is given to deaf and dump, mentally retarded, aged, destitute, lepers, aids patients etc. there are thousands of such centers and committed personals doing voluntary services in the field. Amidst oppositions it runs rehabilitations centers for HIV/AIDS infected persons, mentally ill, prisoners etc as an expression to the commitment to humanity.
2.7 Centers of Conscientization
Conscientization is one of the three level of social concern expressed by the Christians -Beneficence, Development and Conscientization. Conscientization to execute justice, develop the socially backward, downtrodden and marginalized. For this purpose technical schools and nursing centers are run by Christians. Today, Christian centers have become centers of conscientization which is a process of awakening the total person to a fresh discover of his or her dignity and potentialities. Special efforts are made for female education. These centers brought about awareness, an insight, a cultural transformation and offered opportunities for a better standard of living and scope for creativity. It also led to the opening up of the villages and gave them an exposure to the outside world leading to social transformation. Conscientization is one of the new venture of Indian Christians. This is clear from the famous ‘breast-cloth’ agitation in Travancore in the early nineteenth century, which met with a measure of success. As early as 1812, Colonel Munro, the British Resident of Travancore, issued an order that permitted ‘women converted to Christianity to cover their bosoms as obtained among Christians in other countries.
2.8. Contributions of Christianity to Medical Mission
The contribution of the church in the field of health services has been well appreciated by all sections of the people as well as by government. Quite a few church personnel are fully involved in public health services, nutritional programmes and hygiene and sanitation programmes. There are mobile clinic and awareness programmes run in the rural areas. In the field of medical care the contribution of the Christianity is meritorious. The healing mission received some priority in the agenda of the missionaries and churches. Health centers run by Christians originally meant to serve the poor. Many of well equipped and well established hospitals render service in rural areas and slums others do not reach
2.9. Contributions of Christianity to Development Apostolate
Liberating people from bonded chains of all forms of oppression has always been main goal of the church initiatives. The church’s development schemes consist not only of providing food, clothing and shelter to the needy, but also helping people toward the achievement of self-reliance and dignity. The missionaries introduced new methods or techniques of their social work in the hills and remote areas. The introduction of cultivation of apples (in Kullu and Kotagrh), potatoes in Lahul starting training centers for knitting and house building etc were noteworthy. It may be noted that the dominant majority of the beneficiaries of the Christian’s educational institutions, health care centers, and development schemes are non-Christians. In recent times several non-Christian subaltern communities and marginalized sections of the society also seem to have benefited through certain purposive action for empowerment such as, mass literacy programmes, adult education programmes, conscientization, legal aid, self help groups, and credit societies and so on. The Basal Commission of 1846 to remove social difficulties and Basal mission to produce sugar out of toddy, imported technology of fly-shuttle as a part of employment generation and industrialization, production of machine roofing tiles in 1864 are few of the social endeavours of Christianity to uplift the poor and marginalized. The establishments of institutions and workshops to train blacksmiths, fitters, welders, printers etc are some of the contributions in southern region of the country.
2.10 Contributions of Christianity to National integration;
Reflecting on the impact of Christianity and national integration, Patricia Mukhim, teacher and member of State planning Board of Meghalaya, affirms that, “the history of the Christian movement in the North East can only be understood as an integral part of a larger process of political, social, cultural, economic and religious change. Government policies are directed only at physical integration of the population with the rest of the country. But Christian message fosters a feeling of solidarity among the tribes.”
The pioneering endeavour of Christian inspiration, initiated both by the missionaries and others, in the educational, literary, medical, social, moral and religious spheres was highly productive and, on the whole, the missionaries and Christian institutions in the state have rendered immense service to the advancement of the public in general an to Christian community particular. Christianity has, in fact, played a crucial role in the emergence of modern Karnataka - helping the region to open to world and world to the region.
3. Features of Christian social work
The effects produced by the work of the Christian missionaries were of far-reaching consequences. Some appreciated, some tried to reform their own religion in the light of what they learnt in the Bible classes and missionary institution, and other by passionately clinging on their ancestral faith. The idea of social service is certainly derived in part at least, from the principles of Christianity and their application in practice by its followers. The option for the poor is also a rallying call to focus the spiritual, cultural, and physical energies towards saving society form the injustice in perpetrate on a great number of people- on all condemned to remain in inhuman poverty at the bottom of the social scale because of economic, social and religious structures of the present or of the past.