Coconut Generation

The Next Generation of Asian Indians

The Silent Exodus of Syrian Christians and the Next Generation from the Indian Immigrant Churches in North America February 9, 2013

Filed under: Culture,Leadership,Ministries,News,Psychology,United States,Youth — Sam George @ 10:39 pm

A recent news report about Christians in Syria in the Christian Post and a seminal article in Christianity Today by my friend Helen Lee over a decade ago, stimulated me to connect some dots and make following two critical observations.

The common phrase between both reports is “silent exodus”, which has generally come to refer to defection of the American born children of immigrants from the immigrant churches in the US. More about it later, but first about ethno-religious cleansing of Christians in  Syria.

The church in Kerala (India) had long historical link with the church in Syria from ancient days and is obvious from thriving Christian communities in Orthodox, Catholic and Reformed traditions in Kerala.  Once Syrian church send their priests and bishops to oversee the growing Christian community in Southwestern India. Many of the Kerala churches still maintain ‘Syrian’ in their names like Malankara Syrian Catholic Church, Syrian Orthodox Church of India, Mar Thoma Syrian Church etc.Many in Kerala claim to have Syrian ancestry as some early Syrian Christians married Malabari Christians and settled in India. Except for few splinter groups, there are no official connection now between the churches in India and Syria, but for the face they are part of the Church of the East..
The ongoing war in Syria has decimated the minority Assyrian Christian community of the East. Many of them fleeing their homeland of their forefathers and historic Christian heritage, much like Christians in Iraq few years ago. The relatively wealthier Christians in Syria are being kidnapped for ransom or raped and killed mercilessly. This 2000 year old history of the Church of the East is being destroyed before our very eyes. The so called Syrian churches of Kerala have a moral obligation and responsibility to come to the aid of Christians in Syria. The Kerala Syrian Church must speak up against atrocities leveled against fellow Christians and the growing persecution of Christians in Syria.
What could Syrian Church in India really do? a) Establish a coalition of Syrian Churches in India and express solidarity with church in Syria, b) Put pressure on Syrian and Arab leaders for protection of all minority groups in Syria,  c) Offer help to the Syrian Christian refugees in the region (Can Kerala or India open doors for these refugees?), d) Indian Syrian Christian diaspora churches could  connect with the Assyrian diaspora churches and explore partnerships to handle this crisis in Syria and e) Indian American Syrian churches must put pressure on American and NATO forces to decisively handle the Syrian crisis and to protect its Christian population.
There is another “silent exodus” happening in diaspora Syrian Christians of Kerala that most seems to be oblivious or not willing to admit. It is the mass exodus of its young from its churches. In the 1970s and 80s, the Kerala immigrants in the West were quick to establish churches in their host countries with links to their respective denominations in Kerala and become bastions of cultural preservation. However, their children who grew in these community churches were quickly assimilated into the Western host culture and ended up losing much language and cultural competency. As they went away to college and got married, they began to drop out of their parents churches in astonishing numbers. Yes, immigrant churches are often viewed as parent’s church, NOT my own. This is true across language, denomination, doctrinal beliefs.or leadership styles.
In recent years, many scholarly researches have come out with studies on children of immigrants in the US and higher levels of assimilation among Asian Indians on account of professional education and higher household incomes. The growing influence of Evangelical groups in college campus and thriving multiethnic, multicultural churches can be obviously seen in a significant sections of immigrant church defectors. Not to mention a sense of disillusionment they feel about immigrant dynamics and unwillingness of the church hierarchy to accommodate changing needs of a new generation.
Youth leaders and pastors in immigrant churches often face a strange dilemma. When some active youth, newly marrieds or ministry leaders stop coming to the church they had grown up in and prefers to go to a local American churches, how would one respond. Whether to make them feel guilty of such eviction and pride in the rich cultural history they areabout to squander or let them find their place in their native land by breaking out of cultural ghetto. Whether allow them to plug where they feel at home and escape the dysfunctionality of ethnic churches, yet knowing that they will never feel the same way about the church no matter where they go.
Moreover most are not prepared to theologically handle churches of different kinds and baggages of having grown up in an Indian immigrant churches. But what is more disturbing to me personally is that majority of second generation who are dropping out are not going anywhere at all –  not their parents church nor any local churches. They are in fact falling through the cracks of cultural disparity and getting  dechurched and lost completely. Sadly, nobody seems to care, neither those who go or those who stay; neither parents nor immigrant church leaders. They simply do not seem to appear on anybody’s radar!
The Kerala Syrian Churches in India and in diaspora have an urgent task at hand engaging the people in silent exodus.
 

Connext Conference in Chicago July 6, 2009

I am very excited about the forthcoming gathering of young South Asian Christian leaders of North America. Last one was in New York in Sept 2007 and we saw great momentum in what happening among South Asians Christians all over the continent. This time, it is going to be in Chicago and I am part of the local organizing team. See details at www.connextonline.org flyer1Focus this year is going to be on leadership development and we have a great line up of leaders as resource people. Theme is Unleashing the Leadership Potential. If you are serving South Asian community in any capacity or would like to, this is a must attend event for you.

Who are South Asians – people from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Myanmar, Maldives and Bhutan. But it is not limited to them, but also those who work with them in some capacity. If you are a pastor, missionary, involved in campus ministry, marketplace leader, businessperson, youth leader, musician/artist, work with a parachurch org, studying in a bible college or seminary or actively serving in some capacity, this is an ideal event to hone your leadership skills.

See website and register early.

 

Deadly Pessimism of the Youth June 30, 2009

Filed under: church,Culture,Family,health,Leadership,News,United States,Youth — Sam George @ 2:35 pm

A  new study has found almost 15 percent of American teens believe they will die before age 35 — a perspective strongly linked to risky behavior. Read the report in Forbes. ALso see NIH findings on Adolescent Mental Health.

Last week, I lost a friend and he was only 30. Recently I was speaking at a youth camp and I was shocked at a their sense of doom awaiting them. They are living with a sense of fear about their uncertain future and dabble with risky behaviors. Such widespread teen pessimism is dangerous to church, society and nation. Economic uncertainity, living under foreign, prevailing media coverage of glooming national scenarios and what not.

The study also found that a teen’s mental state and behavior were mutually influential. A teen who predicted a short lifespan, for instance, during an early interview was more likely to engage in subsequent risky behavior, and teens who engaged in risky behavior throughout the first year of the study were more likely to develop a pessimistic view of their future.

Kids begin to think, there is no point in studying hard, if they cannot find any reasonable job. When they see their parents loose jobs, they doubt their own future. With looming terrorist threats and alerts at airports affects teen psyche more than we think. They take it seriously and begin to see monsters behind every bush.

Will you pump in some optimism to teens around you? They desperately need them.

 

Anti-Dowry Laws May 13, 2008

Filed under: Family,India,Leadership,Youth — Sam George @ 3:20 pm
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The Indian government is working on an amendment to dowry laws.

Dowry is an age old social evil in India. Everyday dowry related abuse and deaths go unnoticed in India. Battered women, domestic abuse and violence continues across all socio-economic sections of Indian society. A practise that prevails even in educated, well to do communities including Christians. Gender inequality and expolitative socio-economic forces lies at the heart of this evil practise.

Will a new set of law help reclaim diginity of women in India? Legislation banning dowry was passed in 1961 but is still flouted. According to police records, a woman is killed every 77 minutes due to dowry-related issues.  According to a study by the United Nations Population Fund, 60 per cent of married women are victims of physical torture or forced sex by their husbands.

So what we need to law enforcement and more accurately a change in mindset in the Indian society. We got to change how woman are viewed in the society, eliminate social stigma and empower women. We need a new worldview on genders.

But the popular feminist approach to dealing with this issues undermines and distorts our understanding of masculinity. I think that might do more harm than good in the long run. We need to develop a healthy and balanced view on genders.

 

Abortion in African American community March 24, 2008

Filed under: church,Culture,Family,Leadership — Sam George @ 1:38 pm
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I came across this disturbing report – since abortion became legal in America in 1973, life was snuffed out of more than 15 million black babies! Also in this community is one of the largest out-of-wedlock births in the country. All this statastics proves ramphant sexual activity before and outside of marriage, a low view of life and poverty ridden ethos to get rid of babies, instead of valuing and nurturing new borns.

This is in the scale of genocides that are going on many part of the world. Systematic eradication of black babies from the world. Some might argue, it is better off to abort than grow up under neglect, without father and in poverty, only to end up pushing drugs and joing gangs. Pragmatic as that solution may look like, a society that does not defend its most vulnerable is destined toward self destruction.

Last month was Black history month and abortion among the African American community is a tragic reality. Sadly most conversation I hear during this season is on schooling, economic advancement, state support, ‘I-have-a-dream speech’, great black preachers etc. Wonderful as they are, I see many overlooking moral and family issues.  Only few social or political organizations dare to challenge moral vaccum, fatherlessness, abortions, sexual promiscuity etc.

See National Black Pro-life Union for what is being done among black communities to get the pro-life message across. I wish more social and religious organization will speak up for the innocent victims and abstinence based view of sexuality will make more inroads in this community.

 

Low Marriage & high Abortion in parts of Canada March 19, 2008

Filed under: Bible,church,Culture,Family,Leadership,News,Youth — Sam George @ 2:40 pm
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I was recently searching for some pro-family organizations in north of the border and came across some really distrubing trends among French-Candiaans. Of all the Canadian provinces, Quebec has the lowest marriage rate. It also has the lowest birth rate—the province is literally dying out. Quebec’s abortion rate is higher than all other Canadian provinces! Quebec leads the other provinces in divorce and suicide rates as well. See reports in Montreal Mirror, Maclean’s, Christian News, New York Times etc.

Montreal has become a notorious haven for pedophiles. Abortion rate is right up there with impoverished developing countries. The 2002 abortion rate was 42.6 abortions per 100 births—over four times that of Holland, over twice that of France and well ahead of the rest of Canada and the States.

Some calls this the Quiet Revolution of declining marriage rate, growing cohabitation,mouonting divorce and rising abortion rates is changing the face of the province. It is not simply quiet or silent, but a clearn sign of end of civilization or should I say the province. It has not only moral and legal implications, but is sure to affect demographic, economic and immigrations policies in the state.

Once a traditional Catholic society that maintained high moral and ethical standards in the communities. It had  lower marriage age, cohab was unheard off, sex was permitted strictly within marriage. As the liberal culture makes inroads and brushes aside what held the society together and helped to prosper, is self destructing itself. Also a clear warning to other nations.

Read an excellent article in First Things by John Neuhans.  Another good read would be “What happened to Christian Canada?” by Mark Knoll. I generally enjoy Mark’s insights and hope to get my hands on understanding Canadian Christianity. If any of you read this, please give your inputs on what is causing this cultural shift in Canada?

 

Missing girls in India March 7, 2008

Filed under: Bible,Culture,Family,India,Leadership — Sam George @ 3:36 pm
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India is facing a new problem – girl deficit! Economy is booming and so is confidence level among the young generation for their palce in the world. Surplus can be seen in almost all facets, except for girl babies. Another progress paradox. Problem is more acute in North India and even in developed states like Punjab.

UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children report found that India’s already abysmal sex ratio is getting worse, with 80% of its districts recording declining child sex ratios (more male births than female) since 1991. Kerala, Pondicherry and the Lakshadweep islands were notable exceptions.

For those girls who do make it out of the womb, survival isn’t a guarantee, say child rights activists. Many die in their infancy because they are given less food and medical care than their brothers. Those who do survive will generally get less of an education — in both quality and quantity — than the boys in the family. Life isn’t always fair to the fairer sex.

Stricter laws against abortion, feticides, infanticides may be easier to pass, but harder to implement. The abhorrent practice of pre-natal sex determination and the many bogus doctors waiting exploit pregnant women cannot be easily contained. The cultural view of a girl child as burden got to be changed. Gender equality need to upheld. THey are not a liability or an investment without return.

Only a worldview that values and nurtures life in every forms can release us from the bondages of the traditions and form a life-affirming culture. We become so self-absorbed that we stake our future with our own. A soceity or nation that does not defend its most vulnerable is destined for doom.

Bible says, “God created human beings in his own image. God created them male and female” (Gen 1:27). After creating woman, God was very pleased and said “very good.” We are created beings and we bear a divine image. God values, affirms us and loves us dearly. That’s why God send Jesus to die in our place.