Emerging Christian Leadership in Central India. By Father Anand Muttungal

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The emerging of Christian leadership in Central India can be better understood against the background of Anti-Christian violence in Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh. The taking over of Uma Bharati as the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh in 2003 boosted the Hindu fundamental organizations to attack Evangelists in Jhabua. The violence that began in 2003 accelerated into major anti-Christian violence with finding of the body of an eleven year old fruit vender girl in the bathroom of a mission school situated in the Church campus in Jhabua. The incident paved way for much false propaganda against the Church and Christian community as a whole leading to large scale violence against Christians from January 14 to 17 of 2004. This threw the Catholic Church and non-catholic churches off the track.
The baffled Church heads realized that money and institutional power will not help much in tackling violence and vengeance of the fundamental organizations but developing Christian leadership. The visionary, Bishop George Anathil along with Archbishop Pascal Topno planned an organization and entrusted the duty to Father Denis Carnerio and me (Public Relations Office). We formed the Madhya Pradesh - Chhattisgarh Christian Forum in Archbishop House Bhopal but due to internal pull and push the organization had a natural death.
After much of meditation and discussions we launched Isai Maha Sangh, the new organization. Bishop Sebastian Vadakkel played a great role in shaping the organization. This organization assimilated able Christian leaders of old organization from all districts of Madhya Pradesh. We aimed at motivating and providing a platform to Christian leaders for socio-political leadership and collectively help them get into as many political parties as possible. The second aim was to develop constant dialogue with fundamental organizations regarding the teachings of Lord Jesus and the mission of Church organizations.
Isai Maha Sangh from day one started to knit network of leaders in and outside of Madhya Pradesh. We motivated Christians to enter into local political parties and local body elections. On the other side we continue the dialogue process with fundamental organizations to build a confidence and trust in the society. In the assembly election 2003 only one Christian was in the election, in 2008 the number grew to 11 and in the 2013 Assembly Election we see 17 Christians fighting election from various political parties and one candidate as independent. The Christians are fighting election from almost all major political parties except BJP. We also see many candidates even BJP approaching the Christian leaders in the districts to get their support in the election.
Just before election the M.P Congress Party to please a top Church official and a gang of old leaders removed a Christian leader from the post of the State Congress Secretary who was a senior leader of the Isai Maha Sangh but growing demand from various parts of Madhya Pradesh made the Congress realize the strong leadership of Christians and they reinstated the person with same dignity. Besides the Bharatiya Janata Party has appointed one of the senior leaders of the Isai Maha Sangh as election in-charge of Christians in M.P and other Christian leaders are playing an important role in Bahujan Samajwadi Party, Samajwadi Party and Communist Party of India are signs of growing Christian political leadership in central India.
We have succeeded in bring up at least one strong leader in every important District of Madhya Pradesh to deal with issues related Christians in the local level itself. The success story of Isai Maha Sangh has made Christian leaders from North Indian states to start there too. Responding to their demand we have begun in neighbouring states like Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. It is all set to be become Rashtriya Isai Maha Sangh with strong units in North Indian states. I believe that if one of the smallest communities in India, the “Sindhi Samaj” can give a Deputy Prime Minister to India and a Prime Ministerial Candidate, then why not we?, we can also; if we stand together to create platform for our upcoming Christian leaders in India.

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