This morning when preaching I shared with the congregation some pictures of southeast India from the trip I took in 2003.
The above photo was the place we spent our first night in India. It is directly on the coast just north of Chennai. Our group from Eden went swimming here just after arriving. If the building is still intact and the people working there alive it would be nothing short of a miracle.
These folks are all members of a congregation near Chennai that is part of the Church of South India. Chennai itself is a city of nearly 11 million people. The Church of South India was formed in 1947 following a merger of Methodists, Congregationalists, Anglicans, and others. This is a model for the ecumenical movement. Only 3% of Indians are Christian. Some of the churches we visited - like this one - seemed very Western. Other congregations incorporated local languages, music, and other customs into their worship practice.
Christians in India are fierce advocates for the rights of the Dalit people. Dalits are the “lowest of the lowest” in the caste system. The government harasses Christian workers because of their support for Dalits and their opposition to economic globalization. These women all lived in a slum in Chennai that served as both their home and a garbage dump for the city. Our hosts in Chennai where the faculty, staff, and students at Gurukul Lutheran Theological College and Research Institute. The school is deeply involved with the lives of those living in the slums. This picture is from a group of women working in an employment program sponsored by Gurukul. You have to hope and pray that they and their families are safe.
India is a country of children. Over 1 billion people live there and somewhere around half are under the age of 18. It is thought that more than 50% of those killed in the massive tidal waves were children. The kids in this picture are from another dalit slum. You can find some good background information on the Dalits at the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights web site.
Make sure to visit the Church World Service web site for updates on the relief efforts.