By Jose Kavi
New Delhi: Christians in India must come out of their big institutions and celebrations of feasts to redeem the country through the power of Christ, says a former Air Force officer who became an ascetic after a near-death experience.
“The Church in India has been on a picnic mode so far. We celebrate festivals. We have big institutions but Christ and cross have no place in the Church,” regretted Acharya Sachidananda Bharathi on April 13 at the opening of a historic national seminar in New Delhi.
The 71-year-old former atheist, who encountered Christ during an air accident in 1982, wants Christians in India to come on the mission mode and work for “dharma rajya” or kingdom of God that Christ preached.
“Our mission is to bring the kingdom of God in this land where great sages have visualized the dharma rajya from the beginning of human history,” the acharya told some 75 Christians from various parts of the country attending the three-day seminar on “Christian Leadership for a Culture of Peace in the Multi-religious Context of India.”
Six observers from other religions are also attending the seminar at Navjivan Renewal Centre that aims to create a task force of 72 Christian leaders who are guided by the Spirit of Christ to work for what is called the second freedom struggle through “tyaga archana” (sacrificial offering).
The acharaya described a Christian as someone who carries Christ within, not just a baptized member of a Church. “I am told there are 40,000 churches in the world. Being a member of a church is not being a Christian in the real sense,” he asserted.
The saffron-clad, balding sanyasi, who founded the Disciples of Christ for Peace, also noted that the distinguishing mark of a Christian is their faith in Christ’s assurance, “Be not be afraid” and their willingness to become carriers of peace that Christ gives.
“Christians must be at their best when the world is at its worst. Because Christ is with us. When Christ is with us nothing can be against us,” he added. He also asserted that the world can be redeemed only by the power of the cross.
He said Mahatma Gandhi gave expression to the power of the cross in modern times when he adopted satyagraha (truth force) to fight an external enemy, the British colonists. “We have to embrace tyaga archan and sahana (suffering) yoga as our mukti marg (liberative path) to fight the enemies within such as greed, lust, anger and selfishness,” he explained.
A person can help end the slavery to karma, caste and destiny in the country only when he or she is free from within, he asserted.
Acharya Sachidanananda also noted that it was the first time a national seminar was organized in the Indian Church without the blessings of the hierarchy or help of NGOs. “This is not an ecclesiastical seminar or an NGO seminar. It is a unique seminar where every participant registers, pays for the expenses and stays at the venue during the entire period,” he explained.
The seminar was opened by Bishop Thomas Thuruthimattam of Gorakhpur, who is also a participant.
The Acharya also noted that the seminar coincided with the national celebration of Vaisakhi that commemorates the establishment of Khalsa Panth in Sikh religion by Guru Gobind Singh to protect their Guru Granth, their sacred scripture.
April 14 also marks the birth anniversary of B R Ambedkar, the father of the Indian Constitution who worked for the annihilation of caste, the Christian sanyasi noted.