Thursday, May 13, 2010

Christians in Northeast India

Most people, when they think of India, come to the conclusion that it is primarily Hindu and the second largest Muslim nation in the world. That’s all true. Statistics vary but, but generally speaking 75% of the country are Hindu, 15% are Muslims, 5% Christian, 2% Sikh and various other religions. But there is, in this vast country, a “Christian corridor,” which is in the northeast. Hovering and surrounding Bangladesh is a group of states that are predominantly Christian. With roots that go back to William Carey, the states of Meghalaya, Assam, Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram, the early pioneer missionaries from England and America established Baptist and Presbyterian churches that are still strong today. Though not the most unreached areas of India, the church in the northeast faces the common problems of Christian nominalism that is often associated with established churches of over 150 years.

This past month I was in Meghalaya to conduct a cross-cultural communication seminar with missionaries working in the northeast. Most of these good people work with various churches and organizations but they received training also from TENT, a bi-vocational one-year program located outside of Hyderabad. I have been working with for nearly six years now, and it is always my privilege to be associated with their projects and ministries.

One of the unique things about Meghalaya are the Khasi people, which is the largest tribe in the state. The Khasi’s are a matrilineal tribe where the lineage is traced through the female. All the children take their mother’s surname and they hold most of the economic power.