Kerala Christians: the temptation to emigrate

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According to a study, more than three quarters of young Catholics between the ages of 20 and 32 have chosen to leave Kerala, one of the strongholds of Catholicism in India. If the trend continues, the consequences for the local church promise to be dramatic.

In Kerala (a state in southern India), Catholics, who follow the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, claim a presence that dates back to apostolic times, when the apostle Saint Thomas came to evangelize their land.

It is a Christianity that has been able to resist many attacks from abroad, sometimes exposed to the Romans, the Arabs, the Chinese, the Portuguese, the Dutch, and more recently to the British.

But the great threat to the Church in Kerala is the temptation to emigrate. While Christianity continues to be Kerala’s third largest religion with 18% out of some 33 million people, their proportion continues to decline. They were over 20% ten years ago and 32% at the start of the 21st century.

Contrary to what can be observed in other religious groups in Kerala, Christians tend to migrate with their families to foreign countries to settle there permanently. The following generations most often adopt the nationality of their country of adoption and only rarely reconnect with their ancestral land.

Thus, the countries that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) welcome nearly 90% of emigrants from Kerala, to the point that an apostolic vicariate has been specially erected for them in South Arabia.

This migratory trend weakens the Catholics who remain in the country: extended families are becoming rarer, the lands formerly owned by Christians are passing into the hands of Hindus or Muslims, all of this leading to a demographic evolution which weighs more and more on the Church. and risks undermining the prominent political role it has played in the region so far.

The Indian federal authorities, for their part, have no reason to curb a movement which not only allows the erasure of Christianity, but which also makes it possible to strengthen the country’s economy, given the volume of remittances that migrant workers send to their families back in Kerala.

With this temptation to emigrate, the Church also faces a drop in the birth rate among Catholics. If nothing is done to reverse the trend, the number of Christians is bound to decrease inexorably in this State which boasts of an apostolic heritage.

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