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Power of faith

The Syrian Christian community in the city today has five churches and a parish of over 1000 families

When Jesus Christ set out to preach, he had 12 apostles who spread his word and Christianity along with it. It is believed that St Thomas, one of the apostles, came to India in 52 AD, and established the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. Since then, the members of this church in India, who call themselves Syrian Christians, have made Kerala their home. Many centuries later, in 1912, the church saw the establishment of the Catholicate or the Apostolic Throne of St Thomas at Catholicate Aramana, Kottayam in Kerala.

“The Indian Church entered into a close relationship with a similar church in East Syria. From them, we inherited their language and liturgies and gradually came to be known as Syrian Christians,” says Pothen Varghese, treasurer of the managing committee of the St Thomas Church at Khadki. Today, the Syrian Christians are one of the strongest Christian sects in the city.

Interestingly, World War II had a major part to play in their migration to the north. “The second World War caused the establishment of three cantonments and a number of government offices in Pune, which in turn opened many avenues. Syrian Christians were some of the first people who came to the city for employment and later settled down,” says Varghese. Today, they have five churches in the city – at Khadki, Hadapsar, Chinchwad, Bhosari and Vishrantwadi – and a parish of over a thousand families. The largest church, with 800 families, is the St Thomas Church at Khadki (Behind Railway Station, Khadki, Range Hills P.O, Pune, Maharashtra, India).

The Syrian Christians consider themselves the only original Christians in India. “All other sects are a result of conversions by missionaries and zealots in later years. Our community was established by StThomas, who was an apostle of Christ,” says Mohan John, a member of the community.

There are many qualities by which Syrian Christians differ from other sects. “Other forms of Christianity, like Roman Catholicism, worship an idol, the figure of Christ on a cross. We do not do so,” says Varghese. Various differences mark Syrian Christians as unique. “Our bible is written in Aramaic, the language of Jesus. We also believe that the three wise men, who came bearing gifts on the birth of Christ, came from Mesopotamia, whereas other sects believe they came from Arabia. We depict that they came riding on horses, while others depict them as riding on camels,” says Kadavil Chacko, secretary of St Thomas Church.

“For us Syrian Christians, the Catholicos (meaning supreme leader) is Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II, who was ordained last month, taking over from Baselios Marthoma Didimos I. But other sects have it differently – for example, Roman Catholics follow the Pope,” adds Chacko.

But, with globalisation, and changing habits, every religion has taken a hit, with people being either overzealous or disinterested with its doctrines. Do the Syrian Christians also face this problem? “As time has moved on, people have become more modern, their lifestyles have changed. However, their faith has remained the same,” says Varghese.

Source: Indian Express