- Hosted by the Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America (FIACONA), the Indian Christian Day event in New York celebrated Indian heritage and Christian spirit.
Indian American Christians from the greater New York area came together on July 2 to observe Indian Christian Day and to pray for members of the community in Manipur, who are facing calamity during the ongoing surge of violence in the northeastern Indian state. The celebration, which was supposed to be held on July 3, the day of St. Thomas, was held a day earlier at the Cathedral Hall of the Malankara Catholic Church in Elmont, New York. It was hosted by the Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America (FIACONA) to celebrate Indian heritage and Christian spirit.
Several church priests, and dignitaries addressed the gathering including Rev. Mark Mang, Bishop Mar Joy Allapat of the Syro-Malabar Church, Bishop Isaac Mar Filoxenos Episcopa of Marthoma Church; Bishop Mar Joy Allapat of the Syro-Malabar Church, Rt. Rev. Dr. C.V. Mathew of the Evangelical Church, Rt. Rev. Johncy Itty of the Episcopal Church, and FIACONA President Koshy George.
Bryan Nerran, who had to spend seven and a half months in prison in India on trumped up charges, and Rev. Mark Mang, a native of Manipur whose cousin died at the hands of the militants and others, pointed to the rapid changes that are taking place as regards curtailing of religious freedom in India. “The riot could have been stopped in one day,” Rev. Hang said., adding that “it didn’t happen.” Three hundred fifty-four churches were destroyed, “and it continues,” he told the gathering.
Chief guest Bishop Episcopa talked about the new trends by those in power to rewrite history. Although they may have political and social reasons to indulge in those efforts, he facts will not be erased from history, he warned. “We should be proud of our history and heritage,” he said. Although “we are safe and content here in America, we cannot accept the pains of our brothers in India,” he said. “Let us pray for peace to be restored there. Let human rights be restored there.”
Speaking of the uncertainty of the future, Bishop Allapat feared that after Manipur, Kerala would be the next target. Rt. Rev. Dr. C.V Mathew also spoke about the Manipur situation and wondered aloud why the Indianness of Christians is being questioned. He implored the authorities to respect the constitution that guarantees the religious freedom of every citizen. He also encouraged the people to unite and support those in harm’s way. Rt. Rev. Itty applauded the organizers of the Indian Christian Day, pointing out that we would never give up faith because of persecution.
FIACONA President Koshy George pointed out the significance of celebrating Indian Christian Day, and urged Christians of different denominations to “set aside all our differences and meet at least for one day.”
Guests were given a history of the seven and a half churches founded by St. Thomas and a report on atrocities in India. Rev. Wilson Jose offered the opening prayer, and Father John Thomas offered the closing prayer. Rev.N.K. Matthew offered a special prayer for the people in Manipur. Members of the CSI Jubilee Choir, New York Men’s Voices, IPC Jamaica Choir Rev. Milton James (solo), and Bethlehem Punjabi Church performed at the event. New York State Senator John Lou, Sibu Nair of the Asian Outreach Officer in Governor Kathy Hochul’s office, and Rev. Jacob George also spoke at the event. FIACONA estimates that Christians from India constitute about 20 percent of the diaspora.