What is our reponse?I am appalled at the rampant insensitivity in most Indian-Christian responses to the gross human rights violation in Orissa. In 1999, We didn’t know how to respond to the attacks against the Church in Gujarat. It’s been almost a decade now and We still haven’t learnt to respond to attacks against hapless tribal christians.

We can only view it ‘religiously’. We speak about the glories of martyrdom. We resort to jingoism and claim it to be signs of an impending explosion of churches. We moralize and ask our brothers to forgive the perpetuators. We treat these ghastly acts as events that would bring revival. Sadly, we do everything but stand alongside our brothers and sisters in Orissa.

It is ironic that we who speak loudly about urban missions speak about persecution of Christian tribals shamelessly when it is about persecution. As urban christians, we stand guilty.

Firstly, we have not shared our resources with our brothers and sisters living in tribal belts.
Secondly, we hide them under the rubric of statistics.
Thirdly, we have placed less value on these christians apparently becuse of their tribal backgrounds. In the last decade or so we wanted to reach out to the educated middle classes to the total neglect of work among tribals. Now, we do the “speaking” about their situation and how they need to respond. We tell them to forgive. We tell them not to harbour hatred. We tell them that their martyrdom is good for the Church etc.

Why do we remember the tribal Christians only when they are persecuted? God forbid we do this to find our place and significance in the global arena. While we get to talk ABOUT them, they get to face the trauma, hurt and threats. While we do the globe trotting in the name of missions, it is they who get to be hit because of supposed foreign connections. Ironic!

We (you and me) stand guilty. Despite our work among the intellectuals, opinion makers and cultural influencers in urban areas, We have not made any inroads into the national mainstream. We cannot plead ‘helplessness’, definitely not the urban middle class Christians. We must not confuse ‘helplessness’ with ‘powerlessness’. Let’s face it. We are ‘powerless’ and we have no one but ourselves to blame. Despite our urban presence (and pride), we have not gained political significance. And worse, we have not worked towards it and we don’t care simply because we can view issues through ‘devotional’ lens. The attacks have been gruesome and it must be the Church’s concern.

The need of the hour is to stand alongside with our dear brothers and sisters in Orissa. And we must leave space for christians in Orissa to respond. We must not tell them “what to do?” and “how to do?”. We must stand with them. Nothing more! Nothing less!

What can we as Urban Christians do? Let’s not plead helplessness. Let’s not get into the preaching mode. We need to be engaged with the issue of attacks against christians. We must work at different levels.

Firstly, there must be a political response. We must rally support of all secular parties and individuals to speak out against the attrocities.
Secondly, we must work towards an intervention at the societal level and build a nation wide consensus on the issue of religious rights.
Thirdly, we must lend a helping hand (without being patronizing) and share our resources  with our dear brothers and sisters.
Contrary to our beliefs, there’s so much we can do (if only there is a heart for it). We must charter a future course. As someone said, ” If you don’t know where we are going then any road is Okay”. Do we know which way forward? or is any road okay?

Samuel Thambusamy