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There is only one faith amidst Tribals

Ashirvad Xaxa, Bhubneswar, Odissa


Acceptance of Christianity by some tribal people resulted in the emergence of a new religious community called "Tribal Christians" with double identity - one as Christian, loyal to Rome if Catholics, to England if Anglicans, to Germany if Lutherans, and the other; simultaneously  as tribal, loyal to the tribe to which on ethnically belonged. Before their adoption to the Christianity the Sarna tribals had loyalty to the Sarna faith and the tribal  society. Now their religious loyalty has seen a radical change but their ethnic loyalty persists. This is complex, as religious, social and ethnic identities can't be compartmentalized, and this more so in a tribal context. But the fact remains that there is an emergence of a new community of "Tribal Christians" who are very much tribal socially, but not religiously. The "tribal religiously" continues even after their adoption of Christianity, but it is no smooth sailing. The Christian tribals have rights and duties as Christians on the one hand, and as tribals on the other. But the Sarna tribals have rights and duties only as tribals. Hinduized tribals too, had their double identities as Hindus and as tribals. Tribals are not "backward Hindus" as claimed by G. S. Ghurye in "The Schedule tribes (Bombay: Popular, 1963). Tribals too, can be Hinduized as much as they can be Christianized or Islamized. Christianity had came in Chotanaghpur in 1845 and in the subsequent years had far-reaching demographic, religious, spiritual and political repercussions.

     The fusion of Christian faith and tribal culture creates a lot o confusion. A discourse on Christian faith and tribal culture necessarily takes into consideration the problematic of the encounter between the two. Tribal culture has a typical way of perceiving reality, its own thought-pattern, and practices determined by its belief system. The tribal system of belief, knowledge, and the construction of the self in relation to the tribal community, etc., are absorbed by each tribal. They  experiences tribal solidarity. This experience is transmitted from on generation to another, Hence Christianity, in the garb of western culture, is soon in conflict with the tribals in relation to their attitude to nature, economy, social organization, politics, art, literature, music, religion, and philosophy.

      But now a days times have changed and tribals are now considered as much "faith" as in that of religions in other culture. Christian and tribal faith are a result of a God-experience. There is only one faith, both in Christianity and tribal religion. They worship an almighty and  supreme God; who is know as Dharmes among tribal community. In Christianity, the expressions of belief are culled from sacred scriptures, dogmas, and liturgy etc. unlike tribal society that has only oral tradition to go by. The tribals express faith through primal fables, legends, and rituals. In Christianity religious education in forms of catechesis, theological teaching, and praxis facilitated the process of the assimilation of beliefs. In tribal society the processes of assimilation and transmission of beliefs, and the processes of initiating the members into the tribe and training them in the ways of the tribe, are done through socialization and re-socialization. In earlier times dhumkuria (youth dormitory) had been served to trained youths. The tribal society transmits its beliefs from one generation to another by word of mouth, for instance, about the worship of one God, and village deity, who resides in the sacred grove. But the personal devotion to certain deities are left to the discretion of the individuals; in the same way as some beliefs in Church are held by only a few individuals and are not universally accepted.

Ref: Christian Faith and Tribal Culture, page no.165 & 168, written by Joseph Marianus Kujur

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