Diaspora and OCYM
- Dear All
This is coming as a reply to what Mr. John Jacob has touched about the
diaspora. Thanks John for sharing your experience. I am sure there are many
who would buy your thoughts. I for one, refuse to bury such things under the
I am not sharing these out of any ill will against any clergy / laity
neither do I have any intentions in creating a divide in my Church in the
name of diaspora.
I would like to address the subject of diaspora at a larger level, not
necessarily limited to our community. One doesn't need to know any great
English to understand that there is a difference in cultural practices of
those born and brought up outside Kerala (hereto refered as the diaspora).
If you notice the impact of globalisation, diaspora from any community forms
one of the significant population which is moving around the world, in
search of job, migration and other reasons. This had started at a high rate
since the 1970s. In terms of our Church, with the many generations that have
by now come up across the world, I would refer to all our churches in the
outside kerala region as diaspora churches, to all our laity in the outside
kerala region as diaspora, just because of the context we are placed in and
the distinct challenges, diverse as they are, that it brings to our churches
much different from our churches in Kerala. Now, please don't continue to
push this under the carpet and say that all problems of our churches in
every part of the world are the same - let's not be hypocritical about this
change that has come through.
Unfortunately, we have chosen to understand this as a concept which will
divide our Church in the name of culture, language and other things. This I
would call it as an excuse to push away the challenge of facing diverse
realities in the diaspora. Many of us would like to create a Kerala around
the churches in the diaspora, which is understandable, but what is
unfortunate is that we have in this process created a huge division in the
Church. Perhaps, I may be one of the few clergy who has gone ahead to
mention about this divide in any public forum. Yes, this is a HUGE DIVIDE
that has already happened in silence, intentionally or unintentionally.
One of the symptoms of this divide is evident in the way in which. many in
the diaspora youth are unable to make the traditions of our Church their
own. It is very easy here to put this blame on the diaspora or their parents
and think that we have solved the problem. Let us accept the reality before
us, only then can we face it with courage and humility.
Our Churches in the diaspora today have become a place for the "haves," and
the "have nots" have been marginalised in the name of culture and language
at large, in many situations, class and caste differences also exist. These
may not be intentional in many cases, but it has happened because of our
insensitivity to how the diaspora understand their context, much different
from how the others understand. And the fact that one does not know
Malayalam because of his / her diverse background is often looked down upon
as if he / she is lacking something. And so what has happened as a result of
this is that our Churches in the diaspora have failed to give inspiration to
the true potential of the diaspora either by enforcing Malayalam as the
accepted medium in the Church or by encouraging Kerala traditions in the
Church. How can we call ourself a Church with an Indian identity with such
practices is a larger issue that should be dealt with elsewhere. There is
nothing wrong in having Kerala traditions in the diaspora Churches, but
balance it with the traditions of the context where the churches are. This
is where we have failed.
It is in this context where the issues of the "have nots" have been largely
left unaddressed for generations that the need for a central office of
MGOCSM at Nagpur arose, so that atleast a start could be made towards
helping our churches in the diaspora in addressing issuse concerning the
diaspora youth. Please understand, this was not something that one person
felt, the issues have been faced across dioceses in the diaspora and one
cannot be a deaf and a blind to such realities.
When you talk about OCYM, I know examples where our youth from Kerala have
walked out of meetings when the prayers have been in English or Hindi. And
still you want to push this under the great carpet of LOVE. In terms of
accountability, how many of our laity, especially youth are today worshiping
in some other community because of such reasons? Are we accountable to this?
It is not for the sake of making another organisation that the name diaspora
is mooted, but it comes out of realities that we as a Church have been
facing for years now and it is time we take a relevant decision on this.
After the Clergy conference in Mumbai, there has been a proposal to name
this diaspora movement in the name of Mar Dionysius the Saint. When MGOCSM
was formed, there were such aprehensions that existed then but see how far
we have reached in giving proper direction to many youth. It is time we take
a right decision with regard to the diaspora without further delay.
Please, for the sake of love, let us give our children their right to call
God in whatever language they are confident in, to choose friends from their
context, to wear clothes that they are comfortable in. Otherwise, you will
continue to see them walking away from our churches when they have to make a
choice, you will continue to see them walking away from marriage relations
at some point.
Ethos can never be enforced, it can be taught, but most importantly, if
there is no learning, it results in hypocrisy.
With the MGOCSM office in Nagpur, it is very unfortunate to see the
unavoidable circumstances in which Philip Kuruvilla achen is having to give
up his responsibities. It was also unfortunate to see the level of diocesan
support in terms of involvement and the financial support which was supposed
to come from the diaspora dioceses to the Nagpur office didn't happen as
It is one thing to have ideas, but when it comes to implementation, that's
where marginalisation and mismanagment has been the core reasons why much
development has not happened in our Church, not just with MGOCSM, but with
many other things as well.
For the sake of MGOCSM and the seniors in the diaspora, it is important at
this stage to do a proper needs analysis in each of our diaspora dioceses by
a credible committee before we as a Church can take a mature decision in
giving direction to it. I don't know where we head from here, but I would
request the ICON to see to it that we see some light in this regard. Often,
we see situations where we have made decisions without doing a needs
analysis and that comes to an end in time but in situations where we have
done some sort of work in needs analysis and gone ahead with a decision, it
is sad to see such ventures coming to an end, just because we as a Church
failed to abide by those decisions and all the hard work - in this case the
MGOCSM office in Nagpur.
Thanks for the patience in reading this long address.
Yours in Christ
Fr.Thomas Ninan, Pietermaritzburg
- Thanks for your response on the matter. And it is nice of you to have articulated this matter since it helps us in understanding the situation from all angles. However I am not one who believes in sweeping matters under the carpet; this was never intended. However yes, I do believe in giving LOVE the rightful place that it deserves - THE HOLY ALTAR. Considering that GOD IS LOVE, that is where it belongs within the Church!
Next, let me start off with agreeing to your point that there are many differences between the members in Kerala-based parishes as compared to the `diaspora' (I am going by your definition of diaspora to include all outside Kerala parishes in its fold). And the primary difference that especially the youth face is that of not knowing the Malayalam language properly. There could be many other differences such as some cultural differences, differences in orientation to life, openness of societies, distinctions in dress-code etc. Despite these differences, the common goal in our journey through this planet is Eternal Life. Hence all we need to see is how to fill the gap that has been identified.
Since we know that Eternal Life is our goal, we obviously need to focus on it and see what kind of heavenly habits we need to imbibe within ourselves. Drawing upon the visions of Sadhu Sundar Singh that we were recently introduced to, it is clear that the Angels & Saints etc. are busy involved with sharing and caring for others who are `different' from them so that they too could attain eternal life. We also notice that even in the Intermediate State a completely transparent system prevails where Christ is Central. There is no room for politics nor does `size' matter there. There is no partiality and connections don't help either. The only thing that helps is a life of repentence, love & togetherness in Christ. As such, the earlier we learn to live a life of love & togetherness in Christ, the better it will be for us. And the higher in the intermediate plane too, shall we be placed when we pass away from this planet. By the way, we can also expect to share heaven and the intermediate stage not just with `Malayali Souls' but also with souls from all over the world (& other worlds) and those belonging to multiple generations too!
Now let us get to our situation. Clearly, the problem-identification done by the All India Clergy Conference in 2006 was correct. But then, going by the above paragraphs the solution offered by the conference of establishing a separate new Diaspora, was clearly faulty. The Clergy Conference ought to have boldly recommended a clear shift from a Kerala-centric line of thought in MOSC to a global line of thought. This was the need of the day then, instead of recommending the establishment of a separate wing, and still expect heavenly habits like tolerance & love to be developed among the faithful. After all, those from the Diaspora only had to learn to improve their tolerance & love towards those of their MOSC brethren within Kerala; and vice versa of course. Surely this must make us wonder as to how fit we are as of now to be successfully dealing with other Souls in Heaven as also in the Intermediate State!
Further on, with the Clergy Conference identifying the problems faced by the diaspora came another problem who will bell the Cat and how do we get all the members of the Holy Synod to take this matter seriously? That is, who is going to tell the Holy Synod - "The members in MOSC not knowing the Malayalam language properly, is not something to be looked down upon; but something that needs to be accepted as a fact arising out of diversity within MOSC. As such, we expect you, the Holy Synod, to urgently come up with a multi-pronged strategy aimed at the clergy and laity alike in adjusting to such realities, and also to ensure that Satan is effectively defeated from dividing the hearts of the faithful. And of course, you the members of the Holy Synod also need to coordinate and communicate effectively among yourselves so that your commitment to this cause is abundantly clear to all alike and thus, a thorough integration between the dioceses etc. is facilitated."
Since we failed to communicate the above to the Holy Synod four years back, we are in a worse off situation now since it has only contributed to a further polarization of our hearts particularly among the Youth in Kerala as well as those outside Kerala. While many of the faithful in Kerala might have continued with their political outlook to life (what with boycotts of English prayers etc.), many of those outside Kerala might have got bogged down with `attitude & pride etc.'. In short, the US v/s THEM only got more acute since 2006 on the one hand, while most of the members of the Holy Synod remained oblivious to the importance of a proper integration, on the other. And thus, the clergy has to even today say "it is time that we take a right decision with regard to the diaspora without further delay". Luckily, even now there is not much damage done yet and we can still look forward to moving in the right direction in unison.
On its part, the Holy Synod may need to work in humility and love among themselves first for, at any cost there cannot be an US v/s THEM to be created between any two Diocese, to start with. In the relationship between Abraham and Lot, we need to have ALL ABRAHAMS in the Holy Synod ready to sacrifice their interests, as and when appropriate. There may also be a need to have a `sharing experience' encouraged between diocese members too maybe through spiritual conferences for say, office-bearers & youth of parishes of different diocese, etc.
Lastly, in the story of the Tower of Babel, diverse languages became an impediment for progress. On the other hand, in the Acts of the Apostles with the filling up of the Holy Spirit diverse languages acted as a powerful medium to communicate the Love of GOD to a diverse world. I am sure that the Holy Synod will work in such manner as to make diverse languages known by the faithful into an asset (and promote it as such) for promoting Christ & HIS Ways than see it as an impediment to progress. Thus, in a sentence let us actively reconcile our differences with our visible MOSC brethren before moving to the Altar in LOVE to offer our sacrifices to the invisible GOD!
Yours in Christ!
John Jacob, Kuwait