Asian Christians

BBC Asian Network allergic to Asian Christians

Discrimination and persecution make a hearty meal of silence and invisibility.; Right – a typical Asian Church in Souhtall, London!

BBC Asian Network delightfully intersperses the United Kingdom’s Asian Diaspora issues with music, news, interviews and phone-ins.  When relevant, the DJs often collectively address Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, but I have yet to hear them including the quarter million or so Asian Christians or Zoroastrian subjects flitting on the Kingdom’s landscape. And so, wherever they might be, oriental Christians remain invisible to the Western World waiting to be brutally killed before catalyzing dead-end political semantics.

Discrimination and persecution make a hearty meal of silence and invisibility.

Accordingly, Invisible Diaspora, edited by Knut Jacobsen and S. J. Raj and published by  Ashgate (2007), draws together studies of South Asian Christians in Europe and North America.

“The Christians concerned are doubly invisible: firstly, because the majority of Christians in Europe and North America are either white (of European background) or black (of African and African-Caribbean background); secondly, as most South Asians are Hindu, Muslim or Sikh, many people – whatever their own ethnicity – are unaware of the presence of Christians from Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan backgrounds in countries such as Britain….  local and central Government grants are available for non-Christians for building community centres but not for South Asian Christian communities”.

Perhaps that is why The Hindu, one of India’s major dailies, ran this headline on June 29, 2010:

“Indian Christians feel unwelcome in U.K. churches”.;

Be that as it may, the BBC Asian Network seems to be tight on space for Asian Christians.

Yet, South Asia itself is home to nearly forty million Christians, exceeding the total population of explosive Afghanistan by ten million.  And back in South Asia, they are pretty visible.

In 1960, the lyrics of Mukesh’s hit theme song for Bollywood’s original Chhalya addressed all communities: Chhalya mérà naam, Chhalya mérà naam, Hindu Muslim Sikh Isai sab ko méra sala’am— Chhalya is my name, Chhalya is my name, To Hindus, Muslims Sikhs and Christians I give my sala’ams— (BBC Asian Network’s DJs need to listen to this song!).

Hardly surprising, considering that the movie was inspired by  Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s White Nights and focused on the anguish of family estrangement as a consequence of the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan:

All the same, up until recent times, Lollywood and Bollywood’s recognition of India’s over thirty million Christians wasn’t worth writing home about. Just as Sikhs were depicted as recklessly courageous buffoons with doubtful IQs, Christians were gold-hearted Anglo-Indian secretaries in skirts, had off-beat morals and spoke Pidgin Hindi— the residue of colonialism who bore the brunt. Even after shedding most of the stereotyping, pidgin Hindi lingered on until the nineties. Christian characters consistently said ‘Hum God ko bolta (we speak (to) God’ while speaking Hindi, reminiscent of Hollywood’s depiction of Native Americans grunting Injun brave-um kill-um white man ugh!

One only has to walk past a church on a Sunday mid-morning to hear charged voices crying Rabb, Khudawand, Allah and Prabhu (Punjabi, Urdu and Hindi for God) while one of the most popular hymns in North India and Pakistan is Jai Jai Yesu— musically, a classic Hindu bhajan with Christian lyrics:, sung by the Cornerstone Asian Church choir to desi instrumentation.

This century has ushered in a refreshing change that may be noted in hugely popular movies like 7 Khoon Maaf (2011) and John Day (2013), in which the main protagonists are Christians who can actually— wonder of wonders— speak Hindi!

These changes in India might outpace Lollywood on the issue but being stuck in the Strait of Jabal Tariq leave the Brits blissfully unaware of the existence of a quarter-million Asian Christian subjects languishing for recognition by the BBC.

Attacks on Christians in India and Pakistan affirm the visibility of South Asia’s exposed Christians.  That should not be the price for South Asian Christian recognition in the United Kingdom on Malika Elizabeth’s watch.