Is there any place for ministries of mercy in modern India?


Easterine Kire

Time and again, we read of attacks on Christian ministries in other states of India. The Catholic community has suffered the most from these attacks. Church property has been taken from the members by the government, individuals attacked, and targeted attacks carried out on believers in places where there are a majority of people of a particular faith. When it has not touched us, its easy to read these about these incidents as news items and fleetingly feel sorry for them without actually feeling to any degree the pain of the victims. There was a time when people used to say, ‘They will never dare do that in the Northeast.’ I hope so, I really hope so. But recent incidents within our own towns make me wonder how safe we are from these attacks.

When we consider the fact that we are about to celebrate 150 years of Christianity in another three to four years, the thought comes to mind that our famed culture of hospitality and caring for the weaker members probably stemmed from years of contact with Christian faith, and not from our native cultures. This is open to debate but why would it not be the case? How much of compassion was there in our pre-Christian cultures to care for the orphaned and the elderly and the disabled? Would be interesting to find out. A description of the native Indian societies before the 1800s spoke of how they would always make shelters for the weakest members first before making their own. They looked at themselves as caretakers of their portion of earth and never killed more bison than they needed for food. Makes one wonder if our ancestors had the same attitude of guardianship over our wildlife and over ailing members in our society in a foregone pre-Christian age. The minimum of evidence exists to make me believe that the number of good people who showed kindness to widows and orphans were higher than the bad characters that are pitted against them in folk narratives. Even in tales of badly treated orphans, there is always one good man or woman who comes to their rescue.Can we find a long-lost tradition of villages looking after the motherless in an age lived closer to culture? If yes, let’s make the most use of it to protect those who are defenceless. 

In our land, ministries of mercy have appeared as recently as the last century and the present one. Orphanages and homes for the elderly feature prominently among these ministries of mercy which are at the heart of Christian teaching. But even as a concentrated move by the government to persecute Christians and close down Christian work continues, one wonders how long these ministries of mercy will be allowed to go on. It is not something happening in other states of India alone. A watchdog organisation reported 1457 cases of Christian persecution in India since 2014. Accompanying cases of violence, there have been targeted attacks on Christian organisations that work for the voiceless. It is time for us to come together and say a collective no to attacks on ministries of mercy, isn’t it? 

Knowledge is empowering: accordingly, we can help provide legal knowledge to those running ministries to ensure they are not infringing or violating any governmental decree. Churches and Christian organisations can no longer afford to remain helpless when the arm of the law invades its jurisdiction and interferes with its ministries. Isn’t there a saying somewhere, fight the devil with his own weapons? When he uses law, let us be more knowledgeable about the law than he is.The best protection against the law is the law itself.

Coming back to our situation, if we do not protect the few ministries of mercy that we have, there will come a time when they will all fall under threat and people will be too frightened to protest, let alone protect.