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.
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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.

 

Marriage beyond Infidelity April 30, 2009

Filed under: Culture,Family,Ministries,News — Sam George @ 6:37 pm

I cam across this interesting article in Daily Mail in UK (leading daily with over 6 million circulation). It was titled – My husband’s affair was the BEST thing that ever happened to our marriage. Check it out entire article for yourself.

I wish that was true for more women who made surprise discoveries of their husband’s extra marital affairs. Infidelity wrecks marriages. Restoring broken trust is a near impossible task, especially when a third women is involved. Whether it is a casual one night stand on a business trips or affair with a secretary or old school mate who is unhappy in her marriage, it permanently damages your marriage. But yet it is not beyond redemption, as we can see from this story.

There is growing group of support network for individuals whose struggle in marriage where their mate is found unfaithful. It is called Beyond Affairs Network – http://www.beyondaffairs.com/. If you or someone you know is hurt by extra marital affairs, refer them to support groups in this network. They have several good resources to prevent affairs and recovering from affairs.

Prevention is better than cure. Avoiding the third person in the marriage, whether it be other women or man or mother-in-law, is always the best policy. Loosing it need not be the way to discover worth of something you always had. Cherishing your spouse with love and care that nothing else will come in between. Nurturing and growing your marriage is best way to keep off extra marital attractions and infidelity.

Go and build your marriage!!!!

 

Challenge to religous leaders March 4, 2008

Filed under: church,Culture,Leadership,Ministries,Resources — Sam George @ 4:48 pm

No matter what media you turn to – Christian or secular, everybody is talking about the recently released report from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life on American religious landscape. Christian radio, tv, magazines, blogs, emails etc are filled with commentary and ‘expert’ opinion about the future of religion in America. Even many secular media dissecting this report with much delight, especially in light of Presidential election.

I had blogged on the same day as this report came out with some of my initial observations. But there is so much in it and many analysis continue to emerge. I am confident that for many months church and ministry leaders are going to chew upon this and try to understand its implications for themselves.

Mainline Protestant denominations continue their plunge downward through mediocrity to total irrelevance. No surprise there. Non-denominational evangelical churches continue to grow.The “unaffiliated” camp shows a rapid increase. Roman Catholicism is declining more quickly than any other “faith tradition” in One in four adults age 18 to 29 claim no affiliation with any religious institution.

One comment really caught my attention recently. Greg Smith, the researcher at the Pew Forum behind these report stated, “There is no question that the demographic balance has shifted in the past few decades toward evangelical churches. They are now the mainline of American Protestantism.”

It could mean two things: Evangelicals have taken the center stage in American Christianity or it is predicting the soon coming demise of evangelicalism like that of current mainlines. In many circles both of this reality is becoming more evident than ever before. Younger evangelicals are dropping out of established and mega churches. Emerging movement seems to be gaining strength. Religious leaders are throwing up their hands in the air at the challenge of the postmodern generation.

We are truely living in dangerous and exciting times! Leadership challenges we face have no precedents. How do we make sense of tumultuous shifts in demography? What does future looks like when faith allegience is so fickle? What do church leaders do when people are change churches like changing clothes? Something to really think about.

 

Why Young People Stay in Church February 21, 2008

Filed under: church,Leadership,Ministries,Youth — Sam George @ 4:39 pm
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We all have seen many studies on young people who have dropped out of immigrant churches. Ever wonder if those of next generation who stay in the church, why they do? Or those who dropped out, if they ever join another church, what makes them stay there?

According to a recent study by LifeWay research, the most common reasons young people keep attending churches are:
a) Church is vital to a relationship with God(65%), b) They want church guidance in everyday life decisions (58%), c) It helps them become a betterperson (50%), d) They are committed to the purppose and work of the church (42%).

Two-thirds of the teens who stay in church as young adults describe the church as “a vital part of my relationship with God”–demonstrating the importance of each teen having a strong relationship with God, as well as the importance of church attendance.

 

Why Abortion in US is declining? January 18, 2008

Filed under: Culture,Family,Ministries,News — Sam George @ 3:47 am
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Abortion in US had the lowest level since 1974 and everybody is trying to find out why? The study was done by Guttmacher Institute and it was a nationwide survey to back this abortion trends. They are involved with many sexual and reproductive health studies. See also news report at ABC News, Associated Press etc.

The study reported that in 2005, there were 1.2 million abortions in US that comes to 19.3 women in 1000. Highest in DC, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Florida and California. Lowest among Wyoming, Kentucky, Missippi and Idaho. 60% of abortion happens within 8 weeks of pregnancy. 

Both pro-lifers and pro-abortion groups are claiming a victory. Pro-lifers are saying more women are choosing to keep their babies (even in case of out of wedlock or pregnancy teens). Pro-choicers are saying their safe sex message or pills are keeping women out of unwanted pregnancies. Some have condemned the study saying ‘abortion numbers are bogus.’ Some even attributed to the shift in culture as a result of a movie called Juno, where a pregnant teen decides to keep the baby and give it for adoption.

America’s abortion rate is one of the highest in the world. In spite of the drop, on the global scale US abortions are still very high. Who will claim the responsibilities of millions of babies whose life has been stifled in the womb by ‘professional’ doctors all for the sake of an ideology?

 

Desi TV making inroads in America October 24, 2007

Filed under: church,Culture,India,Ministries,News — Sam George @ 2:51 am
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Walk into any  desi homes in America lately and you are likely to see them huddle around the tv program beamed from India. The latest player to enter this market is StarTV program thro DirectTV.

There are plenty of viewers in America for the programs in Gujurati, Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu. Besides entertainment value, this also provides a cultural link to India. They are fed with masala stories, news and their favorite stars. Of course, Indian brands and products are growing its market share for dollar value.

The Indian TV producers are discovering the small but economincally strong Indian American community and have started marketing their programs to them, much like what Bollywood has been doing lately. They are also weaving into NRI stories to attract them. Many young Indian American producers have also entered the rings.

Part of this package deal is channels and programs in Indian spirituality – AASTHA spiritual network hopes to fill the spiritual vaccum for mainstream American audience. Yoga, new age gurus, Indian devotional music etc will find a much larger viewership in America. But what happens when New Age spirituality gets old ?