Jesus Bhakti Divas: Indian-American Christians celebrate unity in diversity

Church of South India Moderator Rt. Rev. Dharmaraj Rasalam, Deputy Moderator Rev. Dr. Ruben Mark, Episcopal Bishop Johncy Itty lighting up the lamp at the Indian Christian Day July 3, 2022, in Elmont, NY. Photo: Johncy Itty courtesy FIACONA

Indian Christian Day or Jesus Bhakti Divas was held in the tri-state area with the goal of bringing together diverse Christian communities of India living in the U.S., and to raise awareness of its thousands of years history in India, and that it was not a product of British colonial rule.

A press release organizers said the event was “organized to celebrate the Indian heritage and Christian spirit.”

Organized by the Federation of Indian Christian Organizations of North America (FIACONA) the event held in St. Vincent de Paul Malankara Catholic Church in Elmont, N.Y. was attended by Christians living in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut who hail from various states in India.

Christians from many denominations and regions of India attended the Indian Christian Day July 3, 2022 in Elmonth, NY, and Bible passages were read aloud in many languages. Photo: Photo: FIACONA

Attendees read aloud passages from the Bible in their own language and sang prayer songs. Bible readings took place in Malayalam, Telugu, English, Tamil, Punjabi, Kannada, Hindi, and Gujarati. Prayer songs were sung by choirs from Saint Mary’s Syro Malabar Catholic Church, St. Paul’s International Lutheran Church, CSI Jubilee Memorial Church, Immanuel Lutheran Church, and Bethlehem Punjabi Church. A group of nurses from Saint Mary’s Syro Malabar Church entertained with a Marggam Kali, a traditional Christian dance from Kerala.  The program was moderated by Shre John and Leno Thomas.

The event of July 3 is traditionally celebrated as St. Thomas day by Christians across India. FIANCONA said it also wanted to raise awareness that Christianity had “two thousand years” of history in India.

Rev. Dr. Itty Abraham addressing Indian Christian Day held in Elmont, NY July 3, 2022. Photo: FIACONA
Koshy George, president of FIACONA, speaking at the July 3, 2022, Indian Christian Day celebrations in Elmont, NY . Photo: courtesy FIACONA

Starting from 2021, the day is being celebrated as Indian Christian Day in India and among the global Diaspora of Christians, the press release said. According to FIACONA “in the United States, it is estimated that Christians from India constitute about 20% of the Diaspora, which amounts to close to a million non-resident Indians and people of Indian origin.”

Several bishops and priests from various churches were present at the event which began with a chendamela and a procession.

The conference started with the bishops lighting the lamp as a symbol of Indian heritage and patriotism.

A section of the audience at the Indian Christian Day celebrations held July 3, 2022, in Elmont, NY. PHoto: FIACONA

President of FIACONA Koshy George pointed out in his welcome speech that the established belief is that Saint Thomas brought the gospel to India and was martyred in AD 72.

To mark its 1900 years, the government of India issued a postage stamp in 1972, Koshy George noted. Hence, this year marks the 1950th anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint Thomas he pointed out.

Postal_stamp_of_St_Thomas issued by India. Photo

Moderator of the Church of South India, Reverend Dharmaraj Rasalam, PhD, dwelt on the arrival of St. Thomas India and how it impacted the lives of Christians. He paid tribute to the sacrifices of the Christian community to the nation of India in uplifting the poor and oppressed.

Deputy Moderator Bishop Rev. Ruben Mark, spoke about the love Indian Christians in the Diaspora have for their ancestral homeland and encouraged them to continue with the unity they have exhibited at the gathering.

Rev. Mark described how the arrival and activities of St. Thomas influenced India and how his work is crucial in the Christian faith.

Bishop Johncy Itty, Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Long Island, New York, also spoke at the event.

Rev. Dr. Itty Abraham of the Indian Pentecostal Church, in his speech, encouraged Christians to be steadfast and also emphasized that Christianity was an old religion in India. Father John Thomas representing Orthodox Church, urged his fellow Christians to follow the path of St.Thomas in taking the message of Christ across the people.

CSI Church General Secretary Adv. Fernandez Rathinaraja said secularism is enshrined In the preamble of the Indian Constitution.

Several important clergy from around the tri-state and the country, addressed the July 3, 2022, Indian Christian Day celebrations in Elmont, NY, Bishop Joy Alappat, Bishop of Syro-Malabar Catholic Church of Chicago Diocese can be seen on the Dias (to the right). Photo: FIACONA

Bishop Mar Joy Alappatt who has just been elevated to the head of Syro Malabar Eparchy of Saint Thomas the Apostle of Chicago, said he was thrilled to participate in the program. This gathering on St. Thomas Day is significant, he said, adding that the contribution of Christians to the development of India is inestimable.

George Abraham, one of the leading organizers of the program began his vote of thanks by quoting from the Bible “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity” like the one at the meeting.  “We have witnessed an extraordinary manifestation of unity, unity of Christians from India, across regions and languages despite the denominational differences,” the press release quoted Abraham saying.



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