“’Products Of The Soil’: Identity Crisis In An Indian Catholic Church”

“The Syro-Malabar community has been called Christian in faith, Syrian in worship, and Indian in culture, a fitting trichotomy for a religion whose center is the Holy Trinity. The term Syro-Malabar comes in part from the religion’s binal roots: Syro-Malabar masses used to be held in Syriac, and Malabar is the name of India’s lush, southwestern shore, where the community originated…
From the time I was young, I have heard and repeated the faith’s origin story my parents passed down to me: that St. Thomas the Apostle visited Kerala in the first century A.D., bringing Christianity to a state whose tourist bureau has since labeled it “God’s Own Country.” There is no historical proof that St. Thomas actually visited south India, but there are records of Indian Christians in Kerala dating back to the third century. Syro-Malabar families believe they are descendants of high-caste Brahmin families who were converted by St. Thomas himself.
Jaisy Joseph, author of The Struggle for Identity Among Syro-Malabar Catholics, remembers being told by a Hindu classmate that she was the product of colonization. Her rebuttal was simple: “We are products of the soil.”
Syro-Malabar Catholics, she said, were not created by conquerors or inorganic to India. Rather, the community takes pride in knowing it was Christian when the Vatican was still a pipe dream.”

There were parts of Northern/Eastern Africa that has Jews, Christians, and Muslims before parts of Europe had been converted to Christianity at all. I learned this in a college history course and for some reason it has really stuck with me, something about how much we lose so much knowledge when we center Europe.

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