STRATEGIES TO EFFECTIVELY EVANGELIZE THE MODERN URBAN South Asian Diaspora

Acknowledgements                                                                         

CHAPTER 1     INTRODUCTION      
                            
1.1         Statement of Thesis Inquiry                                                     
1.2         Significance of Research                                                    
1.3         Methodology and Research Approach                                
1.4         Assumptions and Parameters                                             
1.5         Aims and Objectives                                                 

CHAPTER 2    UNDERSTANDING THE MODERN URBAN SOUTH ASIAN DIASPORA

2.1             Modern South Asian Diaspora                
2.1.A        Who is a South Asian?                                                     
2.1.B        Why is the term South Asian used?                                    
2.1.C         Map of South Asia                                        
2.1.D        What is the South Asian Diaspora?                                
     2.1.E    Introducing the Modern Urban South Asian Diaspora                  

2.2            Evangelization in the Urban Context                             

CHAPTER 3    CURRENT TRENDS IN THE EVANGELIZATION OF THE MODERN URBAN SOUTH ASIAN DIASPORA

3.1        Mentoring Deficit in the Youth Generation                              
3.2        Mass Evangelism                                 
3.3        Maharajah Complex                                  
3.4        Ethno-Linguistic Group Exclusivism                            

CHAPTER 4     CHALLENGES ASSOCIATED WITH THE EVANGELIZATION OF THE MODERN URBAN SOUTH ASIAN DIASPORA

4.1            Rise of Major Religions

4.1.A        Hinduism – Mysterious Inclusive and Missionary             

4.1.B        Hindus – A Social System, A Cultural System, A Belief System   

4.2           Caste And Persecution                            

4.3           Impact of Modern Lifestyles and Stress on Families            

CHAPTER 5: STRATEGIES FOR THE EFFECTIVE EVANGELIZATION OF THE MODERN URBAN SOUTH ASIAN DIASPORA

5.1         Power of New Media – The Internet                    
5.2         Networking and Partnerships among South Asian Christians         
5.3         Urban Missions - Foreign Mission                       
5.4         Contextualization of the Gospel                       
5.4.A     Contextualize ion of the Theology of the Gospel               
5.4.B     Jesus Our Sat Guru – the Perfect Master/Teacher                      
5.5         Sports Evangelism                               
5.6         Small Group and One-to-One Evangelism                
5.7         South Asian Culture – Film, Food, Dance and Music                              
5.8         Illustrative Case Story: Ram Gidoomal       
                
CHAPTER 6:     CONCLUSION           
                  
FOOTNOTES                                      

BIBLIOGRAPHY                                       

APPENDIX                                           

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

                 I would like to thank Dr. TV Thomas, Director of the Centre for Evangelism & World Mission based in Canada who believed in me when I was a nobody – an unknown person from the backwaters of Singapore - carrying this God-birthed vision for evangelism to the modern urban South Asian diaspora. I am eternally grateful to what you have done  for me. You have been a mentor and friend par excellence.

                I would also like to thank Dr. Ross Hastings for journeying with me through this project during a very difficult period in my life. Your feedback and encouragement kept me focused and moving towards the goal of completing this Master of Applied Theology.

               I humbly and lovingly thank my wife Dr. Balbir Kaur Chaal, who inspired me to soar like an eagle in the good work that God had begun in my life. You saved what little we had and invested it into a theological education that will be a blessing to many. I could not have gone through this refiner’s fire process without your constant encouragement.

              Lastly but most importantly, I thank God for appointing me for this mission work to the South Asian diaspora for which the zeal of the Lord burns day and night.

Not To Us, O Lord, Not To Us,
But To Your Name Be The Glory And Honor,
Because Of Your Love And Faithfulness.”
Psalms 115:1

Chapter 1:     INTRODUCTION

1.1     Statement of Thesis Enquiry   

Christianity came to India in the first century A.D. and is believed to have been brought by the Apostle Thomas,1 a disciple of Jesus Christ but it remained confined to a small ethnic group in the southern part of the country. By the end of the twentieth century, after two hundred years of British imperialism in South Asia, most South Asians now perceive Christianity as a religion of the white Westerners. At this same time, some twenty million people of South Asian origin had left India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, or Pakistan and settled in different parts of the urbanized world, forming a diverse and significant modern South Asian diaspora. 2

This modern urban South Asian diaspora speak many different ethnic languages and most of them are comfortably conversant with the English language. This modern urban South Asian diaspora includes predominantly Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Animists, Atheists and to a lesser extent Christians, Jews and other South Asians of obscure newly formed religious affiliations.

Many South Asians in the diaspora left South Asia reluctantly to seek economic opportunities which were lacking at home. 3 While the early South Asian diaspora were generally highly educated and fluent English speakers and entered the middle and upper socio-economic brackets, ongoing modern South Asian diaspora immigration has considerably widened the socio-economic spectrum. Further, new South Asian diaspora immigration continues even as earlier immigrants have settled and raised a few generations of South Asian diaspora people with unique identities and cultures. This is the story of their often painful experiences in the diaspora, how they constructed new social communities overseas and how they maintained connections with the countries and the families they had left behind.
Fast forward to the twenty-first century which is characterized by massive migration of people groups, dynamic change, urbanization, modernization, post-modern thought patterns, the information age and  revival in ancient religions and tensions in worldviews. The world today is unimaginably complex. Globalization has further created an increasingly interdependent world and pluralistic society that challenge and engage all of us including the spheres of Christian mission and evangelism.

Focusing primarily on the modern urban South Asian diaspora, we will explore current trends in the mission and evangelization of the modern urban South Asian diaspora and seek to highlight the challenges and strategic opportunities in evangelizing this modern South Asian diaspora in the urban context.

In particular the book Missional Church by Guder et al has been a helpful guide to this paper. Mission in Guder’s terms, does not have an international focus and is always centered in the local culture. For this reason, I agree with Guder distrusts of the application of successful church models from one location to another since this lock-stock-and-barrel application is always an affront to the local culture. The book Missional Church is not primarily a book about missiology. Guder does not resent a theology of missions but rather Missional Church is a study of ecclesiology, a church that is defined by its being, not its doing! 4

The church – especially the missional church is the triune God’s primary means for the mission of the world. I believe that Missional Church is key to evangelism and mission. Missional Church effectively lays a framework for missional thinking to equip churches to seriously view the fact that North America [and by default any major city where the South Asian diaspora lives] is now itself a mission field. The book presents a biblical based theology that take seriously the church missional context, missional challenge, misional vocation, missional witness, missional community, missional leadership, missional structures and missional connectedness and draws out the consequences of this theology for the structure and institutions of the church. 5

Guder also speaks in strong terms of being a witness to the world not only in terms of the gospel but also in terms of the human calling of Genesis 1 and 2. Guder’s understanding of the Kingdom of God is broader than salvation for a life in heaven: it is humankind having dominion and exercising God’s creative ministry in His creation. Thus the workplace, the marketplace, cyberspace and home place are important to Guder not as points of evangelizing, but points of living Christianly as gathered and scattered witnesses for the Kingdom who is both called and sent by God. 6

I wish to show in this paper that the missional church and Christian South Asian diaspora has a significant role to play in world evangelization and God, the Lord of Mission has birthed strategies and plans for the effective evangelization of the modern urban South Asian diaspora in this present day and age.


1.2     Significance of Research

What is so significant about the modern urban South Asian diaspora?

    As Vinay Lal succinctly puts it, “the global South Asian diaspora has become part of world culture with its cross fertilization of ideas and emergence of new cultural forms and practices.” 7

The global South Asian diaspora, Vinay Lal contends is “increasingly being viewed as an important and intrinsic part of the story of late modernity and humanity’s drift towards globalization, transnational economic and cultural exchanges, and hybrid forms of political, cultural and social identity. These are but fragments of a story that is now beginning to be told of a comparatively small diaspora that has indubitably become a part of world culture.” 8
He further adds on the powerful influence of the modern urban South Asian diaspora:

South Asians have transformed the face of the country that once colonized them and in ‘Balti Britain’ chicken tikka masala has become, and not a moment too soon in a country notorious for its own impoverished culinary traditions, the national dish. In the 1990s, Trinidad and Fiji both saw the emergence, though scarcely without misgivings on the part of considerable segments of their population, of prime ministers of Indian descent. Meanwhile, software engineers were bringing Indians into the top echelons of the American corporate world, and graduates of the Indian Institutes of Technology were being courted the world over. Even Bollywood, which always had a global presence in the southern hemisphere, now seems poised to encroach upon territory that Hollywood took for granted. 9  

With over 1.5 billion people in South Asia and about twenty-five million in the diaspora,10 people of South Asian origin play a major role in the world today.  Many multi-nationals companies see it as a powerful emerging market for a knowledge-based economy, a pool of resource talent and rich cultural ideas.

Today’s modern urban South Asian diaspora create transnational identities, 11 bringing with them and often maintaining a home-based context for social identity, and yet also finding that the diaspora context creates new contexts and new identities. This is particularly significant as the South Asian diaspora move into new roles and responsibilities in the host nations. This paper will examine the issues of identity and evangelism strategy through the illustrative case story a South Asian diaspora Christian - Ram Gidoomal from the UK whose story can be found in Section 5.8 of Illustrative Case Story.

In South Asia, especially in India, the world’s major religions converge.  It is the birthplace of the world’s oldest religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. This region is also host to the largest Muslim population outside of the Middle East and a growing Christian population. 9 Not only do the world’s major religions converge in South Asia, there is a powerful lobby in the West to these self-organized religious communities among South Asian populations of the diaspora that further fuel the revival of these ancient religions.12

According to Ebe Sunder Raj, former General Secretary of the India Missions Association:

India is home to approximately 450 million Hindus. In addition, nearly 300 million people of lower castes have been classified as Hindus by the Census of India since1931, but since they do not practice the Brahminical religion, they are not properly called Hindus. In India we find the world’s largest block of accessible Muslims, about 123 million, as well as 22.2 million Sikhs, 6.5 million Buddhists and 3.8 million Jains.13

     South Asia is also known as a land of immense complexity and diversity. In some sense, it would be naive to use a qualifying term such as “South Asian” to define what is found among one particular people group in South Asia. Multiple languages, people groups, religions, castes, and regions make South Asia one of the most complex regions in the world. In addition to its complexity, South Asia is in the midst of tremendous change, which adds to the challenges of reaching South Asians with the Gospel, whether in the South Asian diaspora or in the sub-continent of South Asia. 14  There are those like Robin P who contend that South Asia more like a continent. 15

Robin P. contends:

South Asia is really more like a continent than a nation, with 222 languages spoken by more than 10,000 people each including 18 official languages, 25 scripts, and immense cultural differences between north and south, between west and northeast, and between urban, village and tribal. 16

If we could have the Church understand one thing about the modern urban South Asian Christian diaspora, it is that it has vision and hope.  The modern urban South Asian Christian diaspora has begun to seek its spiritual and cultural identity and is organizing itself to be more mission minded than ever before. She is potentially capable and gifted from above to engage in urban missions in the diaspora context, even in the most difficult of circumstances. The modern urban South Asian Christian diaspora is willing to suffer and sacrifice and she will be greatly encouraged if she finds churches beside her as fellow servants willing to suffer and sacrifice along side her. 
The modern urban South Asian diaspora is significant, not only because it represents part of an evolving world culture and a cross-section of the world’s major religions, but a vast mission field whose evangelization will have a positive multiplier effect to the billions of souls in South Asia and beyond.

1.3    Methodology and Research Approach

This paper will be organized from materials from South Asian historical and sociological texts including studies on South Asian culture, literature, stories, personal essay, film, internet searches [websites, blogs, on-line journals, newsletters] as well as small-circulation journals and books primarily written by a new generation of South Asian Christian scholars and lay people.

I will also draw upon a network of local and global community contacts with Christian, Hindu, Sikh and Muslim organizations of the South Asian diaspora developed over the years in my work as founder of South Asian Connection, an online portal for South Asian Christians.

I will examine the causes and significance of South Asian diaspora migration and the impact on individuals, families and communities that illuminate the experiences of South Asians who live in various cities of the diaspora. I will also explore the importance of the new media, contexualization of the gospel and the power of stories among the South Asian diaspora.

It is important to understand that the South Asian people group is extremely diverse in language, religion and culture while at the same time there is some common ground in evangelistic approaches.

1.4     Assumptions and Parameters
This paper would assume to be biased towards the South Asian Indian diaspora. This is because they are the largest South Asian diaspora group with more published articles and collected data than any other South Asian people groups.

1.5        Aims and Objectives

In this paper, I shall attempt to:

1.5. A        Identify the modern urban South Asian diaspora

1.5. B    Critically evaluate the current trends to evangelize the modern urban South Asian diaspora

1.5. C    Highlight unique challenges and opportunities in evangelizing the modern urban South Asian diaspora
 
1.5. D    Recommend effective strategies to evangelize the modern urban South Asian diaspora. These evangelism strategies are broad in scope and not exclusively only for western missionaries working among the modern urban South Asian diaspora, but inclusive of missionary churches working among the modern urban South Asian diaspora, indigenous South Asian churches working among the modern urban South Asian diaspora and mission training institutes preparing missionaries to evangelize the modern urban South Asian diaspora.

CHAPTER 2    INTRODUCING THE MODERN URBAN SOUTH ASIAN DIASPORA

2.1.A    Who is a South Asian?

A South Asian is a person whose ethnic roots originates from the South Asian countries of either Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldive Islands, Nepal, Pakistan or Sri Lanka. According to the United Nations population census survey of 1999, 17 there are approximately 1. 5 billion South Asians, out of which twenty-two million are in the diaspora.18

2.1.B    Why is the term South Asian used?

The term South Asian was officially adopted by the United Nations in 1993, 19 because it was an inclusive term that described the people groups from South Asia who had a common identity and shared culture. There was a common vocabulary to be used instead of confusing and sometimes incorrect terminological references like Asian, American Indians, British Asians, East Indians, Indo-Canadians, American Indians, West Indians, North Indians, South Indians or other regional terms. The designation "Indian" especially in the United States is scarcely acceptable, since what is now known as "Native Americans" is also known as "Indians". The term "Asian American" while widely used is misleading because it refers primarily a to people group from the Far East or South-East Asia. In the United Kingdom, Indians appear to tolerate being lumped together with Africans and Caribbean people as "Black" or with the Chinese as “Asians” or as in South Africa, South Asians prefer to be called “colored.”

South Asian as a vocabulary term has gained international acceptance and is recognized as the proper vocabulary to be used to refer to the people groups originating from the South Asian countries of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldive Islands, Nepal, Pakistan or Sri Lanka.

2.1.C    Map of South Asia 20

Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldive Islands, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
 
2.1.D    What is the South Asian Diaspora?

    It is with respect to the Jewish people that the word 'diaspora' is used. Diaspora is a biblical word and Greek technical term, occurring three times in the New Testament to describe the Jewish communities outside of Palestine.21 

Diaspora suggests the idea of dispersion, scattering or fragmentation from its source. The conditions that make for a diasporic community are admittedly complex, but there is a real and presumed link between the diasporic community and the 'motherland' or 'home' - the land from which they left and to which the possibility of return always subsists. 22 It thus appears perfectly reasonable to speak of a South Asian diaspora, as it does of the Chinese Diaspora, the African Diaspora, the Palestinian Diaspora or the Jewish Diaspora.

Hence, the South Asian diaspora are people of South Asian descent originating from either  Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldive Islands, Nepal, Pakistan or Sri Lanka and living elsewhere now. 23

In the book Catalyst for Change, 24 the writers present a diverse spectrum of the South Asians diaspora:
What do suicide bombers, millionaires, cutting-edge technologists, fusion musicians and families under pressure have in common? They are all part of the twenty-two million strong South Asian diaspora, with unique experiences of the mix of cultures and religions and the potential both for conflict and reconciliation. 25

     The twenty-two million South Asians in the diaspora is increasing exponentially as global migration of skilled and unskilled South Asians occur especially to the developed world of Europe, North America, Japan, Australia/New Zealand, the Middle East and other developing countries. Large concentrations of the South Asian diaspora are also to be found in South-East Asia, the Far East, South Africa and South America. 26

The largest South Asian diaspora group is in the US numbering close to three million people followed closely by the UK with about two million. New York, Chicago, London, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Durban, Toronto, Kuala Lumpur and Dubai have high percentages of South Asians among its city population. 27 After more than three decades of ministry, Dr. T.V. Thomas, Director for the Centre of Evangelism & World Mission observes:

In my ministry travels I have had the privilege of observing the South Asians of the diaspora seized the opportunities for change. Growing up in Malaysia, I realized that the growth of the rubber industry as one of the pillars of the economy was because of immigrant workers from India. What would the economy of Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique,   Mauritius, Fiji Island have been pre-70s if not for South Asian traders and businessmen? How would the Middle East thrive without outside manpower? A large percentage of the contract workers is from South Asia. Driving around in the cities of Dubai or Abu Dhabi will make you feel like you are in a South Asian city. 28

From his extensive studies of the South Asian diaspora, Dr. Thomas analyses that the people of any diaspora have unique opportunities for change and can be a catalyst for change in their communities. 29 In the same book, Catalyst for Change, the joint authors list a number of distinctives about diaspora people which is also true for the South Asian diaspora.

Diaspora people are open, diaspora people are flexible, diaspora people are risk takers. diaspora people are mobile, diaspora people are innovative, diaspora people can be a bridge between divided communities. 30

2.1.E    Understanding the Modern Urban South Asian Diaspora     

The word, “modern” is derived from the Latin, modo meaning ‘just now’. It originally meant something new, recent, current or contemporary. It refers to a period concept as well as a philosophical mentality - modern ideas, patterns of thought, philosophies and their expression in art and literature. “Modern” expresses the consciousness of an epoch that relates to the antique past in order to see itself as the result of transition from the antique to the new. Therefore, “Modern” seems to appear and reappear exactly during those periods in European history when people became aware of some new changes dawning against a vague backdrop of an ancient order receding. 31

    Modernity was a tremendous force that swept globally from Europe in different forms – healthcare, education, government, military, science, technology and through markets. From Europe, it has spread to the rest of the world. 32 Modernity was introduced in India through the British colonial government and Christian missionaries. While the former introduced it to the Brahmins and upper-castes, the latter spread it among the poor and the oppressed. 33
Vinay Lal in his critique argues that the arrival of the worldwide community of South Asians upon the world stage has happened for a much longer period than they have been in the West. South Asians have settled in South East Asia, especially Indonesia, the Middle East, parts of Africa and a host of other countries for a long time with little or no historical documented records. Paying due tribute to the Indian Ocean trading system, Vinay Lal writes:

The presence of Indians abroad can be attested to from the days of remote antiquity. Early Indian migration, such as to Ceylon and South East Asia, owed its origins to the impulse of Buddhist missionaries, and the well-known Hindu kingdoms of South East Asia in the medieval period continued to attract labor and craftsmen from India. Long before the Mediterranean trading routes were established in the early modern period, the Indian Ocean trading system facilitated the migration of Indians to the east coast of Africa, South East Asia, and the area that is now encompassed under the term Middle East. 34

                The origins of the modern South Asian diaspora lie mainly in the subjugation of South Asia by the British in the nineteenth century and its incorporation into the British empire.  South Asians were taken over as indentured labor to work on sugar, tea, rubber and spice plantations and to construct roads and railways in the far-flung parts of the empire in the nineteenth-century, a circumstance to which the modern South Asian populations of Fiji, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad, Surinam, Malaysia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and other places attest in their own peculiar ways. Over two million South Asian men fought on behalf of the British empire in numerous wars and some remained behind to claim the land on which they had fought as their own.35

In the 20th century, while some South Asians continued to immigrate to communities that had been established in the 19th century diaspora, others struck out for new destinations, in the U.S., Canada, the UK and European countries, and later Australia, and the Middle East.36

          In the post-World War II period, the dispersal of South Asian labor and professionals has been a nearly world-wide phenomenon. South Asians provided the labor that helped in the reconstruction of war-torn Europe, particularly the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, and in more recent years unskilled labor from South Asia has been the main force in the transformation of the physical landscape of much of the Middle East.

Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis began to come to the UK as factory workers in the 1950's and 1960's. By the mid-1980's South Asian composed more than half the non-white population in the UK. Some South Asians also settled in Australia after that country began to reverse its previously discriminatory policies in the 1960's. On the European continent, South Asian professionals were drawn to Austria and Germany. Because of liberal policies on granting political asylum, Germany was a haven for Tamil refugees fleeing from the conflict in Sri Lanka. 37

             The modern South Asian diaspora today constitutes an important and in some respects unique force in world culture today. In the International Indian Journal, 38 the writer contends that ‘the modern South Asian diaspora began in conditions of extreme adversity’, 39 and it is incumbent upon us not to allow the accumulated narratives of Silicon Valley miracles, 40 the masculinization of Hinduism among diasporic populations in the Anglo-American world and the musings of Salman Rushdie to monopolize our understanding of the South Asian diaspora. 41 As Vinay Lal brilliantly summarizes, ‘the global South Asian diaspora has become part of world culture with its cross fertilization of ideas and the emergence of new cultural forms and practices.’ 42

2.2     Evangelization in the Urban Context

Missiologist Darrel L. Guder points out that the term evangelization implies both an activity and a process and is the preferred term rather than evangelism. It is not an “ism.” Evangelization is a respected, comprehensive concept, much preferable to the ill-defined “reaching the unreached” slogan which is part of today’s popular evangelical jargon. This is the work of God through the agency of the Holy Spirit. It is not audience manipulation, and there is no place for deceptive techniques in the work of God. 43

    Evangelization proceeds from God. It is God who persuades the sinner, prepares the ground, and sends His people in witness to extend His message of reconciliation in a needy world. God is the author of every movement toward Christ. Evangelization is the presence of the people of God - the called-out ones who belong to God and who also carry out His mission in the world by proclaiming the Gospel in word and persuading the people to discipleship in Jesus. 44

As Carl E. Braaten further adds:

It lies within the nature of the Gospel to call people to reach beyond their own tribe, language, culture, class and borders, to demonstrate in action the catholicity of the Church born of the Messiah and His Spirit. 45
 
At the beginning of the twentieth century, a little over ten percent of the world’s population lived in cities, but this scene changed drastically towards the end of the century. John Palen notes that “today, we are on the threshold of living in a world that for the first time will be numerically more urban than rural.” 46

Urbanization, globalization and massive movement of people groups to the developed and developing urbanized centers of the world will be a challenge for the Church and her future missions. Since urbanization is perceived to be an irreversible trend, it is imperative for the Church to be informed and properly equipped to respond to the challenges and opportunities for evangelism.

A number of missiologists have pointed out the great importance of the city for the Church’s mission. David Barrett claims that the churches are losing the battle to disciple the cities though there is great potential. Barrett contends that ‘the world’s cities have entered a whole new era of multiracial, multiethnic, multilingual and multi-religious pluralism.’ 47 The Roman Catholic missiologist Buhlmann concurs that ‘whether we like it or not, urbanization is a pronounced trend in modern society, and this demands appropriate reaction from the Church.’ 48

Roger Greenway, an urban missiologist of the Reformed tradition not surprisingly, asserts the priority of urban evangelism:

Cities must be regarded as the modern frontiers of Christian mission. If we fail to win the cities, we shall have failed indeed. Cities are strategic, therefore we must ask what our Christian strategy should be in the cities. If we are to reach the cities first, as the apostle Paul did, we must first understand the city and its peoples. 49

    In his study of ministry in an urban context, Charles Hinton makes the startling revelation that there is a growing urban people movement to Christ in Singapore today. In contrast to previous group conversion movements which were primarily rural, Singaporeans are urbanities sharing a common race, culture and social class. Their turning to Christ has caused the Church in Singapore to expand from one percent of the population in 1959 to more than seventeen percent today. 50

In the book, Missional Church - a Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America the authors have confronted the understanding of what it is means to be ekklesia in a post-Christian historical-cultural context with its pluralistic posture, resistance to the uniqueness of the Christian gospel and slide to post-modernity. This is aggravated by the loss of the church’s dominance in numbers, power and influence within the North American society. Darrel L. Guder, in particular has been helpful in drawing attention to the growing divide between what Scripture calls the church to be and the way in which the church actually functions and imagine itself.  Starting with the observation that the church in the West has effectively shunned missions, the authors undertake to develop the concept of the church that starts from the salvific mission of God. In order to bridge this divide, Guder proposes that the church recover its true calling as the representative of the reign of God in a post-modern culture. 51

    The thesis of this book propose that the answer to the crisis of the North American church will not to be found at the level at the method and problem solving. The real issues of the Christian church are spiritual and theological, that is missional identity and missional purpose of the church. Guder urges North American missional thinkers and church leaders to re-hear the gospel narrative and allow it to inform and shape their identity and mission. Guder challenges the church to maintain its link to the inauguration of the Kingdom of God. He asserts:

If it was Jesus” announcement of the reign of God that first gathered the fledgling church in to community, and if that church grew and matured around the way that reign found meaning and hope in His death, and resurrection, then the church must always seek its definition with the reign of God in Christ as its crucial reference point. 52

However, the North American Church, largely influence by the Reformation, has weakly informed its identity with this announcement. The message of the ‘reign of God has become secondary to the ongoing programming of church activity and ‘church’ has become defined by traditions which are quite unrelated to the Kingdom teaching of Jesus. In addition, the reign of God has become separated from the message of ‘personal salvation’ particularly in Evangelical circles. This, in essence, further serves to reinforce the individualistic tendencies of church life.

Guder notes that this reign of God is similar to the Hebrew understanding of the shalom of God, which is depicted throughout the Old Testament as peace, wholeness, justice, completeness, fullness, reconciliation and celebration. This understanding of shalom according to Guder is the resulting consequence of God’s redemptive work in creation.
May the Lord of the Harvest grant that the millions of South Asians dispersed in the cities of world increasingly experience the presence of Christ through the birth of numerous missional congregations that radiate the life of Jesus. The vibrant emerging South Asian churches in New York, Chicago, Vancouver, Singapore, Jakarta, Toronto, London, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Dubai, Oslo, Durban, Sydney, Melbourne and in many major cities of the US, at the present moment shows the greatest capability for leading the way. May South Asian diaspora Christians become more sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit as they usher the South Asian diaspora of diverse religious persuasions into the Kingdom of God. The South Asian diaspora people are not closed but open to new ideas and ways of life so that there are always opportunities for the church to influence and transform them. The mission of the local churches in the urban context then is to develop vibrant, worshipping and witnessing communities.


CHAPTER 3    CURRENT TRENDS IN THE EVANGELIZATION OF THE MODERN URBAN SOUTH ASIAN DIASPORA

From my observations there are several current and disturbing trends in the evangelization of the modern urban South Asian diaspora.

3.1    Mentoring Deficit in the Youth Generation

Youth are such a great potential for reaching their generation but this potential is not tapped by leaders of the Christian South Asian diaspora. Generally there is a great neglect of the potential of the youth generation for effective evangelism. This is true from my first observation of youth evangelization of the modern urban South Asian diaspora in Singapore, Malaysia and Vancouver, Canada of which I am conversant with. Most indigenous South Asian churches and missionaries in these locations have not maximized the potentials of the youth. They have done very little to mentor, motivate or mobilize South Asian youth. They could easily adopt youthful concepts, images, music, sports and leisure or even plug into cyberspace technology and thereby immerse themselves into the worldview of the youth. Instead, most South Asian churches and missionaries have traditional and conventional perceptions about these youth and do not tap into their potential to transform their present generation.

3.2    Mass Evangelism

    Mass evangelism is the current popular trend actively promoted as an evangelism strategy in the evangelization of the modern urban South Asian diaspora, whether in New York, Dubai or Kuala Lumpur, despite its well-documented limitations.

    Mass evangelism is the attempt to proclaim the Good News to a large number of people simultaneously--whether in Gospel meetings or evangelistic campaigns, whether with print or film and whether by radio or television.

    A case in point is the recent Dr. Paul Dhinakaran’s Evangelistic Crusade held from May 2-4, 2008 in Singapore. After a one-year massive organizational framework relying on the big name of the Dhinkakaran family, involving most of the South Asian churches in Singapore and spending a budget of half a million dollars there was meager spiritual harvest from the crusade. The turnout was disappointing with about 6,000 people in attendance for all three nights in a stadium with a capacity of 45,000. In view of the large financial resources expenditure, the poor attendance and the lack of sustained added disciples to the Church, I believe that the modern urban South Asian diaspora churches in Singapore missed the unique opportunity to make a lasting impact. In Singapore, the Religious Harmony Act has proven to be a barrier to evangelism and it results in hardly any outreach happening. Hence the South Asian churches are conditioned to think of evangelism as merely "a special event." Outreach has become sporadic rather than being a persistent and personal soul-winning thrust of a local congregation. South Asian churches in Singapore should adopt sophisticated strategies in reaching people in a multi-faith  and religiously pluralistic context by adopting personal, small-group or even face-to-face evangelism which was the prevailing practice among the first century disciples.
    Mass evangelism can be a powerful means of Gospel proclamation to a community or a city but if cross-cultural impositions is imported simplistically into large heterogeneous cities, and confined exclusively to a series of public speeches, it is probably counter-productive, relatively ineffective, and an inefficient use of resources. Its limitations are real and its results must be measured in context against the investment of time, money, and effort. Mass evangelism has value as one-among-several possible strategies. The same method may be very effective at one time, in one place, with one people but quite ineffective at another time, in another place, with another people. 53

3.3    Maharajah Complex

    Most modern urban South Asian diaspora leadership style can best be described as ‘maharajah complex’ – a king of the jungle and authoritarian leadership style with a lack of ministry participation, partnership or empowerment of the congregation. This ‘maharajah complex’ leadership style hinders a high level of ownership for the evangelistic mandate and is a negative motivator for people to be trained with evangelistic skills. In light of this most South Asians Christians repeat a favorite saying “Pastor Ji knows everything! Any problem, ask the Pastor!”
    Leadership is such a critical gift to any organization and especially to the Church. Darrel Guder highlights the importance of Christian leadership that equips people in the North American context. His observation coincides with the shortcomings and weaknesses of the current trends in the evangelization of the modern urban South Asian diaspora where the Church leadership is not empowering or equipping or even uses the incarnational approach as a mission model. 16 God became flesh and taking the likeness of a man, He felt what we felt and walked how we walked. The gospel presented in such a way demonstrates to society that the gospel is responsive to real life’s needs and concerns.

3.4    Ethno-Linguistic Group Exclusivism

    This approach to evangelization of the modern urban South Asian diaspora is largely focused exclusively to a group ethnically and linguistically different from others. One example of the ethno-linguistic group exclusivism and outreach is among the Tamil language churches in Singapore. Through my involvement in Indian Christian Network in Singapore, I am aware of a particular South Asian congregation which has been in existence for sixty years. The evangelistic strategy in this church is concentrated particularly only to Tamil speaking people. Over the years this church has experienced stagnancy to declining growth. The only gain in numerical growth of this congregation is attributed to biological growth through childbirth to members or through migration of Tamils from overseas to Singapore.

    Such ethno-linguistic group exclusivism is ineffective to evangelism in the modern urban South Asian diaspora. Unfortunately, this approach is actively promoted and replicated among all the South Asian people groups of Christian origin where the modern urban South Asian diaspora is found. This approach has proven ineffective for evangelism because in pluralistic and culturally diverse contexts, ethno-linguistic group exclusivism holds little importance to the primary needs for acculturation and survival in society.

CHAPTER 4     CHALLENGES ASSOCIATED WITH THE EVANGELIZATION OF THE MODERN URBAN SOUTH ASIAN DIASPORA

At this present juncture of time, the evangelization of the modern urban South Asian diaspora has given rise to uncertainties as well as promises with the accomplishments enumerated earlier. I shall now concentrate on the challenges of evangelizing the South Asian diaspora with reference to the revival of Hinduism and Hindu consciousness while making only a very brief reference to Buddhism, Islam and Sikhism.

4.1    Rise of Major Religions

South Asian communities all over the world are showing signs of susceptibility to a resurgent and militant Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism and the revival of ancient religious practices like yoga, karmic concepts and Vashtu theology. These resurgent and revival of ancient religious practices among the South Asian diaspora communities might be assisting in transforming the nature of religious faiths in South Asia itself, especially in India. Even though Hindus in South Asia are willing to accept the idea of a pluralistic Hinduism, Hindus in the South Asian diaspora appear to know the meaning of Hinduism better than the Hindus in the 'motherland.' Likewise, South Asians in the diaspora routinely invoke Hindu civilization with a self-assurance that in South Asia would be both mocked and contested. 54

    In his book, “A Biblical Approach To Indian Traditions and Beliefs” Dr Joshua Raj argues that, contrary to historical Hinduism, recent Hindu books use terminologies such as heaven and hell, the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and even atonement through repentance. Such Christian theological terminology is finding their way into Hindu vocabulary and religious thought. South Asian Christians need to study the contexts in which these terminologies are being used as these terminologies may not have the same meaning as understood in classical Christianity. It is likely that further development of Hindu thought will occur as Hinduism confronts Western education. 55

4.1.A    Hinduism – Mysterious, Inclusive and Missionary

Hindus tend to think of Christianity as an authoritarian religion, which lays down dogmas as essential, and demands unconditional acceptance of them as prerequisites for salvation. This attitude has received considerable encouragement from the writings of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, Hindu philosopher and first President of India. He has criticized Christianity for the tendency to fix its doctrinal categories and postulates that the absolute character of theological doctrines is incompatible with the mysterious character of religious truth. 56

The modus operandi of Hindu religious fundamentalist organizations like RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal are aggressive and militant. Their insolent arrogance has been on the offensive and they promote and define their faith. They declare that Hinduism is now a missionary religion. 112 Exponents of popular and philosophical Hinduism have been thinking that the days of Christianity are over. The World Congress in Hinduism has affirmed that “our mission in the West has been crowned with a fantastic success. Hinduism has now become the decisive world religion and the end of Christianity has come near. Within another generation, there will be only two religions in the world, Islam and Hinduism.57

4.1.B     Hinduism- A Social System. A Cultural System, A Belief System

 When we ask the question, “What is Hinduism?” there are three statements that we need to take note of. Hinduism is a social system. Hinduism is a cultural system. Hinduism is a belief system. These three systems together make Hinduism what it is and these systems are so deeply intertwined that it is impossible to separate the social system of Hinduism from its cultural or belief system. This is something unique and special about Hinduism.

 The elements of the belief system in Hinduism range the religious spectrum. There are those who believe mainly in spirits and in the spirit of their ancestors referred to as animistic Hinduism. There is popular Hinduism which is the belief in various gods and goddesses. There is also Hindus who believe in the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, and their female consorts of these gods subservient to them. Some Hindu sects are totally against idolatrous beliefs and have no gods at all, except belief in a supreme being of the universe. Lastly, there are Hindus who believe in lesser local deities associated with various villages. 58 

Hinduism does not have a founder and neither does it have a creed. To be a Christian, one must believe in certain truths concerning the revelation of God. To be a Muslim, a person must repeat a certain creed, but Hinduism does not have any specific creed to believe or repeat. Hindus do not think in terms of belief in one God. They think in terms of believing in all the gods there are. You can believe in anything, or you may refuse to believe in many things. And yet, you can be a Hindu, provided you are born into a Hindu family and you are willing to acknowledge that the Vedas are given by the revelation of God. 59

    A person may believe in the existence of God. He may deny the existence of any god whatsoever. That is immaterial. One is immediately faced with rather astonishing diversities within Hinduism when the concept of God is discussed. 60 As Sharada Sugirtharajah explains:

The Hindu tradition is replete with a wide variety of images of the Divine. The Supreme is seen as a personal God, as a transcendent Being, as immanent within each person as Antaryamin - inner Controller, and in all creation. Images of the divine as lord, king, judge, master, father, mother, husband, friend, beloved and as creator, preserver and destroyer of evil, find expression in scriptures, mythology, art, iconography, music, dance and worship. The Divine is also described in terms of its plethora of attributes, such as love, wisdom, knowledge, beauty, power, and also in abstract categories such as pure consciousness, pure being. 61

    The challenge for South Asian Christians in the evangelization of the modern urban South Asian diaspora is how to remain faithful to the spiritual experience and knowledge of Jesus Christ while at the same time presenting a credible apologetic of Christianity in response to the complexity and mysterious nature of Hinduism. How can the Christian faith compatibly intersect the South Asian worldview of culture, belief and society while remaining faithful to the truth claims of Christianity? Our Christian theology, generally considered as the articulated reflections on God, Christ and the Church, must adequately address the questions that Hindus are seeking.

4.2    Caste And Persecution

One of the changes I have observed in the last few years is the growing resistance and animosity among Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims and Buddhists against Christianity - a challenge that is unique since South Asian people are known for their tolerant religious views with a favorite mantra that all gods are the same and all roads lead to 'God'. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Buddhists increasingly see Christianity as a major Western threat that will destroy South Asian social, cultural and religious identity. Compounded with this animosity, Muslims and Hindus constantly vision themselves as co-sufferers under European Christian colonizers. However, when it comes to Christianity, all religious faiths see this battle as South Asians versus Christianity.

Never before in the history of South Asia and of the South Asian diaspora has the average South Asian thought and functioned as he does today. Superstition, visiting of temples and pilgrimage are on the increase. 62 The Hindu Brahminical religion continues to have its diabolic hold on the masses through ritualism and varnashrama dharma - caste system – a fundamental social stronghold in Hinduism. Traditionally caste divisions are related to occupational groupings and endogamous marriage arrangements. However, when combined with religious ideas of purity and social practices of hierarchy, it has become for many an instrument of discrimination and oppression.

Robin P. asserts that even though caste discrimination is forbidden by the Indian Constitution, caste has been used as an instrument of discrimination and oppression.  He writes that caste strongly influences social behavior and thinking for over 80% of the population, including many Christians. At a recent UN conference on racism in Durban, South Africa, Indian Dalit leaders argued unsuccessfully for the identification of caste discrimination as a form of racism in the Indian context. 63

John Richards, Associate International Director of GCOWE 95 for the AD2000 and Beyond Movement expresses optimism with respect to the evangelization of the South Asian diaspora:

Obstacles and opposition abound. Religious and political intolerance are gaining ground. The massive blocs of Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism have yet to be penetrated in a marked way. Those ministering to Muslims are few and far between. Response from high-caste Hindus has been meager. Militant Hinduism is on the rise. Social ills are skyrocketing. In short, the winds of adversity are blowing stronger than ever before. But we fear no such
winds. After all, the Gospel has always flourished under pressure. Christ is building His Church. The Lord God Omnipotent reigns! 64
               
This challenge is encouraging because, despite the fact of caste oppression and persecution, the numbers of Christians has increased and they as a community of believers are making a significant impact on the worldview of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Buddhists. There is more conversion to Christianity among all religious, socio-economic and educational classes than ever before with many of them having a sense of ownership of the mission of God. This is especially true of first generation converts and those South Asian Christians who are followers and disciples of Jesus Christ. However, the fear of caste persecution, ostracization, the cost of discipleship and even death threats has postponed many decisions for Christ.


4.3    Im