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Ecumenism in Praxis

A Historical Critique of the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church


Joseph Daniel

The Malankara Mar Thoma Church’s ecumenical outlook – marked by twin facets of openness and autonomy – has been the underlying ethos guiding its history, helping it to establish a unique identity. The book retells the church’s ecumenical history dating back to its founding in 52 CE. This study throws ample light on the period between the significant changes of 1889 and the present times. It deals with questions such as: How did the church start practising an ecumenical outlook even before the word ecumenism was coined? Could this have resulted from the church’s interaction with Indian culture that upholds unity in diversity?
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Chapter VIII


A Church For The People

The start of Mar Thoma Church’s ashram movement reflected its active involvement in the socio-religious realms of Indian villages, which itself was a natural extension of an attitude of openness that it followed from the beginning. Such an experiment made the church aware of the hard realities of the socio-religious base of “Bharat”, or the India in villages. As a follow-up, the church has become conscious since the 1930s of the need for concerted action by joining hands with all sections of people, irrespective of caste or creed. The church got involved in the 1930s in the joint struggle by the Ezhava (Hindu), Muslim and Christian communities in Kerala for gaining proportionate representation in the government and public sector.

The church silently supported the Nivarthana (abstention) Movement, that saw the Ezhavas, Muslims and Christians unitedly agitating against the government to ensure adequate representation in the Legislative Assembly. The agitation was in protest against the Legislative Reforms Act of 1932, which did not safeguard the interests of these groups.

The Abstention Movement was a concerted agitation of the Ezhava, Christian and Muslim communities against the lack of representations in the Travancore for different religious and caste communities in the Legislative Assembly and jobs in the government offices.411

Fig. 1: Gazetted officers in government service in Travancore in 1929412 ← 141 | 142 →

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