Wednesday, June 23, 2010

MGOCSM ,Spiritual Dynamo of the Malankara Indian Orthodox Syrian Church

MGOCSM ,Spiritual Dynamo of the Malankara Indian Orthodox Syrian Church

Prof Joseph K Alexander
Hon. Treasurer . MGOCSM.

Malankara Indian Orthodox Syrian Church evangelized and started in Kerala, India, by Apostle of Jesus St. Thomas in 52 AD is the second oldest Christian Church in the World, the first being the Antiochan Orthodox Church preached mainly by St. Paul immediately after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Protestant Churches come into being only after 1596. Even the Roman Catholic Church formed in 869 AD separated from the main stream of Orthodox churches by claiming Papal Supremacy.

Mar Gregorios Orthodox Christian Student Movement (MGOCSM) of the Malankara Church started in 1907 is the oldest student organization in Asia. It is second only to the WSF started in Sweden on 1895 Since its inception in 1908 the MGOCSM then known as the Student Conference directed its attention to the spiritual upliftment of the students and youth. With this in view it emphasized the importance of Sunday School activities and evangelism .It used to publish an official organ called “The Vedadhyapakan” M/s N.I.Pilipose C.O.Oommen, K.C.Chacko, P.K.Varki, and ,P.K.Mathew were the persons mainly associated with that work N.I.Pilipose, Nalathra, Olassa was specially deputed for the propagation of this organ, who was actively helped by his cousin Rev.Dn. Kanianthra J.Alexander who went from parish to parish for the propagation of the Vedadhyapakan and for starting Sunday school in all the parishes.

It was this initiative of the MGOCSM that later led to the Sunday School Movement in Malankara Church, thus providing basic structure for the growth of spiritualism within the Church. When the Sunday school Movement became a structured organization of the Church, MGOCSM directed its attention to the College and School going student community.

With Universal Education and a plethora of students attending the annual conference of MGOCSM, the leaders were experiencing the loss of the spiritual atmosphere of the conferences. So they started organizing its units in the colleges and Schools. Under the guidance of the staff the students used to meet regularly for spiritual enrichment. This work was actively taken up during the president ships of H.G. Daniel Mar Philexenos and H.G. Philipos Mar Theophilos Despite this, the Movement felt its knees weakening under the impact of the general deterioration of moral and spiritual values

So MGOCSM devised short term Educational Orientation Programme for the Pre-SSLC and later Post-SSLC students. They have the most impressive and clean uncluttered minds to imbibe spiritualism and churchmanship. The products of this - now 30 year-old- scheme is at present the sheet anchor of and the spiritual dynamo of our Church. It is no exaggeration to state that MGOCSM has been providing the leaders for our church and the society all these hundred years. Its commitment to this cause even today enables it to provide outstanding leaders to the Church and the Society at large. Ever since 1908 the influence of MGOCSM in the spiritualism of the Church has been so total that one can in retrospect say that most of the Church leadership in all these years have come from the MGOCSM fold. This is the reason of calling it as the spiritual dynamo of the Church.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Christians of Keralam and Uliam work in Temples

Christians of Keralam and Uliam work in Temples

Dr.C.Issac in his article “ The spread of Christianity and Islam in Keralam- a study on trend and pattern “ in Itihas Darpan, New Delhi, Vol.iii No.1 Nov. 2001 pp-41-48, quoting Cosmos Indicopleustus (550 A.D), says that “Christians are not Masters in Malabar, but Salves”; and that “ they were Sudra Jatis doing uliam work in temples.”

It is a fact that they were not masters. But they were not slaves either. By the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century some of the Christians including St. Thomas Syrian Christians were doing some work for certain temples like giving rice or “Aval”.But this was being done as a privilege and right conferred on them by the temple Some others were supplying rice to the temples as rent for the Dewaswam lands given to them for cultivation.
These were not uliam work. Compulsory labour for the temple for a meager wage or reward is uliam. This was uncommon. That might have existed in rare situations. But to make an all pervasive statement, that Kerala Christians before the advent of the European colonialists” were slaves; were of Sudra jatis like Nairs, Elavas doing uliam work in temples, is preposterous.” This is like the remarks of the four blind men who went to see elephants and described them as broom stick, pillar and so on.
Uliam is not the word. It is “ozhyam or Varuthi”.It was a feudal exaction made by the state. Such collections were later demanded from cultivators by the Brhamaswams and Dewaswams of Brahmin and temple lands. These payments were rent of that land and not ozhyam exactions. But the margin between the two was often indefinite.
If a work is to be called an ozhyam exaction, it should be one exploitatively and compulsorily demanded from some kind of a bonded labour. St. Thomas Christians were not bonded labourers before the coming of the Portuguese.
The fact is that there are a number of documents and books to prove that Nazarenes /St.Thomas Christians of Kerala occupied a very important place in the social, economic and political arena and had a reputation of maintaining very high ethical values in life. Here I am giving a few references out of the many, which are available in umpteen libraries in Kerala. (A).

The following facts are worth mentioning.
1. The coming of Aryans to South India and Kerala were in trickles and later in the AD era, probably in waves. So one cannot deny existence of pockets of Aryan Brahmin colonies in Kerala even before the first Century A.D.
2. Before the coming of the Portuguese in the 15th century, there were Christians in Kerala having life pattern and customs of upper caste of Kerala. They might have been descendants of Brahmins converted to Christianity either by St. Thomas in the first Century itself or by some others at a later time. Most of their customs were of the Brahmins of Kerala. A scientific testimony is the “Anthropology of Syrian Christians” written by Ananthakrishna Iyer L.K (B).
3. A good number of the early Christians other than the converts were emigrants from Persia and other parts of West Asia.They were not part of the four varnas of the Kerala caste system. They were not Sudras.
4. These Semitic emigrants and the upper class converts maintained their class exclusivism of Judaic origin, very meticulously till the last quarter of the 20th Century.
5. Many Keralites (including the later Christians) had trade contacts with the foreign traders from Egypt or Rome even before the birth of Christianity. Afterwards they continued their trade relations with the West Asian Arabs and still later with the European traders. So naturally they were financially well off than their fellow Keralites.
6. Kalari piatte and army service was another occupation of the St. Thomas Christians ( later came to be known as Syrian Christians because of their spiritual contacts with Syrians of West Asia) .With the disintegration of the Kulasekhara empire and the Chera- Chola wars of the 10th and 11th centuries AD, a number of petty principalities and chieftains came up. They required warriors and “chaverpadas” for their internecine wars. The Kalari trained and dependable Christians were thus employed by these chieftains.(C)
7. Their catechism had made Christians honest, upright, just, trustworthy, non-practioners of polyandry or polygamy.and monotheists. So the community respected Nazarenes more than anybody else.

In short most of the Christians in Kerala before the coming of the Portuguese were an exclusive group outside the Caste System and were socially on a par with the upper castes of Kerala. If any traveler or others saw them then as slaves, it was due to the difference in observation. It was the coming of the Portuguese with their ignorance about Christianity other than the Roman Church, their militant proselytism among the lower castes of Kerala, their inter marriages with these new converts and immoral colonial behavioral patterns that lead to the destruction of social, economic and political status of Kerala Christians The Portuguese perhaps might have converted some of lesser castes who have been doing ozhyam work in the temples. The British colonialists tried to retrieve this decay of the status of Syrian Christians to some extent with their own motive of winning them to their Protestant ways.
So the statement that the Christians in Malabar were slaves and were doing ozhyam work for the Hindu Temples apply, if it applies, only to some microscopically few of them that existed outside the mainstream.
A.! Gibbon. E. -Decline and fall of the Roman Empire-p. 826
2. Rev. James Hugh- History of Christianity in India-p.102
3 Sankunny Menon.P. - History of Travancore pp 150-154
4. Prakasam Publications- Christava Vinjanakosam (Malayalam) Alleppy. Pp 193-199
5. Z.M.Parret- Malankara Nazranikal- (Malayalam) First 8 Volumes.
Specially: - Malankara Nazranikal- Padaviyum Jathyacharangalum
6. Menacherry George- The St, Thomas Christian Encyclopedia of India- Vol II-
7. Prof. Joseph K.Alexander-“Political- Economic Contributions”- in“. Fr. T.G.Sacharia
& K.V.Mammen- Twentieth Century Malankara Sabha (Mal) pp. 381-445”
B.Anantha Krishna Iyer. L.K. - Anthropology of the Syrian Christians.
C. Padmanabha Menon K.P. - History of Cochin Vol.II (Mal)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Urban politics and administration in Kerala.

Urban politics and administration in Kerala.

Prof. Joseph K. Alexander
Chairman, Kerala Regional Branch
Indian Institute of Public Administration.

All modern governments assume responsibility for protecting the civic rights of their citizens. The protection of individual rights has taken two principal forms:
1, Protection of liberty of the individual against governmental oppression of its executives and
2. Protection of individual rights against hostile majorities / minorities within the State.

Political systems recognize certain functions as belonging to the government. These functions are devised and performed in such a way that the individual’s liberty and rights are protected from infringement by any power center.

In modern days these functions include the maintenance of domestic peace, public education system, hospital and health facilities, aid to the indigent, traffic control, supply of electricity, transport system, conservation of natural resources, flood control, fire protection, postal services, garbage disposal, commercial slaughter houses, laundries, ice plants, liquor sales, etc. They are, far more needed and rendered in the urban cities vis-à-vis rural areas

In Urban administration, urban planning and development movement arose in the West as a response to the disorder and squalor of the slum areas created by the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century. Urban city planners imposed regulatory laws establishing standards for housing, sanitation, water supply, sewage, parks and playgrounds. They also introduced regulations in building activity to set limits of height and density of habitats to protect neighborhoods. Recently urban scholarship has steadily progressed towards a conception of cities and urban cultures that is free of ethno-centrism, and with broad cross-cultural and historical validity.

In India this kind of city plans came up much earlier due to enlightened insights of the kings and rulers. With increase in population and large scale migration of villagers in the last century to towns seeking better employment opportunities, Indian cities also have now became congested slums. Thus we in India also face these very same problems as in the West

Organizing Govt. functions without infringement on individual liberty and effectively for the urban dwellers warrant a large amount of decentralization of political authority and functions. Empowerment of especially women at the grass root level of local wards and Panchayats are also necessary. To ensure this local initiative, Government of India introduced the 73rd and 74th Constitution Amendment Acts.

Kerala Government adopted these Acts and tried to implement them on the planning set up of the State with the following measures:

I Congress (I) Government in power enacted Kerala Panchayat Raj Act, 1994 and the Kerala Municipalities Act, 1994 to transfer to the Local Bodies; all schemes, institutions, building and other properties connected with the subjects listed for transfer.
2 .The first elections to the three tiers of Panchayat Raj set up in Kerala were held and the new Local Bodies came into being in October 1995.
3 .A comprehensive Government order was issued, transferring various institutions and staff to the Local Bodies

Thus the LSGs in Kerala got newly elected rulers, new staff devolved from other related offices, and power and money for implementation of their own programme.

But the new rulers were
a, untrained in administration,
b. staff disgruntled because of the displacements and
c, there were no detailed guide lines for working the new system.

4 .The new Left Democratic Front Govt. that came into power in the next election, riding on the shoulders of the previous United Democratic Front Govt.’s initiatives, embarked on a policy of Massive decentralization during 1996-2001.The attempt was to formalize and institutionalize the paradigm shift to the people-centered, bottom-up approach to planning and development and giving a direct and continuing role to the people. Thus the De-centralized Planning campaign was launched in Kerala on 17th of August 1996.

Kerala Model of growth. Kerala was first to achieve wide-spread literacy, health and a high Physical Quality of Life (PQLI) index and to introduce land reforms. This was made possible due to the early start in modern education and health facilities brought in by the European Christian missionaries and the consequent enlightenment of the rulers and the public.
The communist parties in Kerala make a claim that it is their work among the masses that brought this higher quality of life in Kerala. People of Kerala and their rulers (Rajas) became enlightened even before the birth of communism in Kerala, It is true that the political parties implemented more land reforms and made the masses to fight for their equality and rights in the society. But enlightenment and higher physical quality of life came because of their health conscience and interaction of masses with modern education, educated persons and social leaders like Sree Narayana Guru The political party’s claim is an effective propaganda to elicit votes of their ranks.

These higher standards got augmented after the 1970s with inflow of foreign money send by expatriates working in Gulf and other outside countries. But since independence in 1947, there was practically no growth in the Agricultural and Industrial sectors. Service sector was growing recently because of the large foreign remittances. Kerala Model of growth was a growth-less shine of the economy.

.This “Kerala Model” which was loosing its shine, got a boost with this new “People’s Plan Programme” of the LDF. But when it was implemented, it was not only politicized, but also failed to cut down the high cost and low productivity syndrome of the Public Sector. The managers of the People’s Plan were mainly CPI (M) controlled volunteers from Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad and Total Literacy Programme.

Urban Programme.
Kerala was again one of the first few States in the country to formulate and declare a policy framework for urban development. An Urban Regulatory Authority was created. All problems relating to housing, unemployment, private participation in development were all worked out.

Kerala’s contribution in making the process of decentralization on a firm footing was also evidenced by the following administrative decisions and reforms introduced in several sectors of governance during 1994-’04.

1. Creation of an Administrative Reforms Committee. Their reports came in 2000; and another in 2001.
2. A white Paper on State Finances was issued in June 2001 for public debate by the newly elected UDF Govt.
3. Ombudsman for Local Self Government Institutions has been set up to enquire into allegations of corruption and mal-administration against members of Local Self Government institutions
4. The State Election Commission has been formed and the commission conducted two general elections to the LSG institutions.
5. The right to information has been given statutory validity by incorporating it in the two Kerala Decentralization Acts of 1994. This brought in transparency.
6. The State appointed two State Finance Commissions. The State Government implemented almost all the recommendations of the 1st Finance Commission.
7. The New Bill System of 03-11-‘04 gave detailed guidelines for devolution of funds to LSG Institutions.
8. Citizens charter of rights have been drawn up for 18 departments including Revenue, Land Records and Treasury,
9. Kerala also introduced a number of measures to implement e- governance in the State government and local self government institutions.

By these steps Kerala became a model for South East Asian countries regarding Decentralization laws and their implementation. The Kerala Institute of Local Administration (KILA) is considered to be a premier center in South Asia for capacity building in decentralized government.