The purpose of this blog is to recapitulate the Syrian traditions of Orthodox Christians in Kerala and to make a call to conscience in this time of unparalleled humanitarian crisis in Syria and neighborhoods.
This picture taken on Jan. 31, 2014, and released by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), shows residents of the besieged Palestinian camp of Yarmouk, queuing to receive food supplies, in Damascus, Syria (UNRWA via AP, File)
Early this month viral news spread about a three year old Syrian boy who drowned while the boat in which his family was trying to flee to Greece capsized in the Aegean sea. Here is a picture of the family before the tragedy.
Let us examine what the reference of Antioch in Bible is.
Antioch is about 15 miles inland from the Medeterranean sea, in what today is Turkey, just north of Syria. This city became home to the first Christian church outside of the land of Israel and was the first place in which followers of Jesus were referred to as Christians.
Apostle Paul’s first missionary journey passed through Syrian Antioch. It was in Antioch that the famous dispute with Peter occurred. Subsequent synod at Jerusalem purportedly approved Paul’s views about Christianity, particularly about circumcision and clean foods.
(The dispute of Paul with Peter is described in bible like this. “But when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.” Galatians 2.11).
Patriarch of Antioch is the Bishop of Antioch. He is the Head of the Jacobite Syrian Christians in Kerala. Referring to the chart below, the two factions Jacobite and Malankara traditions of Syrian Christians of Kerala differ in that the former group still accepts the Patriarch of Antioch as their Bishop. To reiterate, the Chathoth Vallamkulam family has always stood for the local church leadership and is part of Malakara tradition from inception. However, my point here is that all the offshoots of ancient Christians in Kerala call themselves Syrian!
The Syrian tradition is very deep-rooted in among ancient Keralite Christians. An account of an ancient migration of Syrian families into Kerala is a part of folklore and supported by copper plates. Thomas of Cana is traditionally believed to have come from Syria and settled in Kerala with 72 families. This probably happened in the first millennium. It is interesting to note that Kerala was a favored destination for Jews and Syrians in the first millennium.
Those who are interested to look at a few more pictures of the current Syrian humanitarian crisis, please see the following pictures.
What is my point here of mentioning the Syrian Crisis of today, ancient Syrian migration into Kerala and the Syrian tradition of Keralite Christians? Well, I believe the Syrian Christians in Kerala have a moral duty to support the Syrian Christian refugees today. Our churches are immensely rich and can support a few hundred refugees easily and that appears to me as the right thing to do.