Churches abound, but where are the Syrians? - Deccan Chronicle 10.03.2012
- The Syrian Christians may have built more churches, some of them worth
several crores, in the last decade across Kerala, but demographic
trends show that their population is fast declining in the state as a
result of a sharp fall in birth rate coupled with migration.
A sample survey by the Centre for Development Studies (CDS),
Thiruvananthapuram, has found that the Christian population in the
state fell by nine per cent between 2008 and 2011 while the population
of Hindus grew by five per cent and of Muslims by 3 per cent during
this period. Muslim population showed slower growth, despite a higher
birth rate, mainly due to higher migration among them.
Among the Christians it was the population of Syrian Christian groups
like Orthodox, Jacobite, Marthoma and CSI that fell sharply, while the
numbers of Syro-Malabar Catholics, Latin Catholics, Pentecostal and
Dalit Christians rose.
The fall in the number of Syrian Christians cancelled out the growth
of other denominations leading to an overall decline of the Christian
population, explains senior demographer and CDS fellow K.C.
Zachariah, who had in 2001 warned of a sharp decline in the Syrian
Christian population as a result of the social and economic
advancement of the Syrian Christians over the last several decades.
While one out of eight Malayalis in 1960 was a Syrian Christian, their
numbers would fall to 1 out of 12 by 2031, he predicted.
The worried Syrian church has now come out with schemes to encourage
larger families. The Kothamangalam diocese of the Syro-Malabar
Catholic Church is offering a scheme under which a family needs to pay
only 50 per cent of the fee for a third child in Church-run schools
and no fee at all for a fourth child and more.
We are offering a fee concession as many prefer small families
because they are worried about education expenses, says Fr Francis
Alappat, vicar general of the diocese.
Worryingly, in 2031, the population of the Syrian Christians is
projected to come down to 28.5 lakh while that of non Syrians to 30.4
lakhs. (By 2021, Kerala population may actually start to show a
negative growth rate according to the CDS study)
Noting that Pathanamthitta and Idukki, have shown a decline in
population, according to the 2011 Census, Mr Zachariah points out that
Syrian Christians live in large numbers in these two southern
districts and could have impacted the overall figure.