By Anto Akkara
Bangalore, India, 16 July (ENI)--The governor of southern India's Karnataka state, where most of the recent atrocities on Christians have been committed, has paid tribute to the Christian contribution to national life.
"We are privileged to have so many Christian institutions to bring dignity of life and knowledge to the poor," said Hansraj Bhardwaj in an 8 July address at the concluding celebration of the centenary of the United Theological College in Bangalore, Karnataka's state capital.
"Christians have truly followed the message of love preached by Christ by serving the people with the spirit of sacrifice in this country," noted Bhardwaj, who was the law minister in the federal government before he assumed the office of governor in July 2009.
Despite accounting for only 2.3 percent of India's 1.2 billion people, he noted that Christians run nearly 20 percent of the educational, primary healthcare and social welfare centres in the country.
Bhardwaj pointed out that he was shocked when the Christian community came under a series of vicious attacks in 2008-9 - with the state government controlled by the Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP, which has been accused of having a Hindu nationalist agenda.
This, he pointed out, forced him to speak out against the anti-Christian violence. Some Christians say his tough talk had an impact as incidents of anti-Christian violence subsequently were reduced.
Since the BJP assumed office in May 2008, the state had recorded more than 200 attacks on Christians, the highest number of any state in the country during the period.
Extremists who "preach hatred and violence" in the name of religion ", are spreading darkness", added the governor.
Addressing the closing centenary gathering, UTC principal the Rev. John Samuel Raj said that the theological college, which was started on 8 July 1910 with eight students and one classroom, has helped the Indian Church "stand on its feet".
True to its united name, he noted that the college now has students from 80 church denominations in India among the 200 students on its roll.
"The seeds of ecumenism (in India) were sown by UTC and it was the catalyst behind bringing the churches closer," the Rev. K. C. Abraham, a church theologian associated with UTC since 1971, told ENInews.
The Church of South India, which was formed in 1947 in a merger of Anglican, Methodist, Congregational, Presbyterian and Reformed churches, originated from the "ecumenical living experience at UTC", Abraham pointed out.
Similarly, the formation of the Church of North India in 1970 was inspired by this experience, he added. [431 words]
[COURTESY TO ENI AS SOURCE]