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