What comes to your mind when I say I am a Christian?
Maybe I have a wrong belief. Maybe I take pride in what I believe in. Maybe I’m “extra” when it comes to my faith. Maybe I can’t really have fun because my values restrict me from participating in certain activities. Maybe I choose to ignore certain perspectives about science. Maybe I’m against the concept of the LGBTQ+ community. Or maybe my goal is to transform everyone to attain an eternal life.
I was born and raised in a very devout and religious family. I regularly did my devotions, participated in several church activities and composed, recorded, and translated several worship songs. My father and I used to go to rural villages and visit hospitals, education centers, and children’s home that my grandfather had set-up more than fifty years ago.
Reminiscing back to 2016, I remember the day I was accepted into Woodstock. I was extremely happy and excited, looking forward to what this new place might have in store for me. But this excitement soon turned into shock when I realized the reality of my new situation.
It’s not very easy to follow what you believe in, especially when people around you have different beliefs. You have to strive and survive through the struggles alone with very less support.
I was used to living in a gated community where most of my friends and their families were Christians. That was my safe space. But after coming here, and being exposed to such a diverse environment, I realized that my faith had been viciously stereotyped–an image of my faith that I was uncomfortable with was being widely spread.
I was made fun of when some of my classmates heard that I read the Bible every night. They laughed when I went to Bible studies and to Church. They were startled when I sang along to the Praise band during chapels and criticized and questioned me all the time about my belief. There are no words I can use to describe how offended I felt when my friends made jokes about me trying to convert them, and all I could do was to sit with them quietly, without having any power to speak for myself.
However, I found comfort in a small community of people in my Bible study and home church who let me share my feelings and beliefs with them. Gradually, I started finding the feeling of belonging again.
That’s when the thought struck me — I was (and am) studying in a Christian heritage school but still, I did not have the power to express my faith freely. The majority of voices here had suppressed my freedom of speech.
Today, I am writing to express my faith without hindrance. I represent a minority in my school. I represent a minority in my country. I feel like I don’t have the freedom in my own country to express what I believe in. Why is it then that India is called a secular nation that holds equality among all religions?
I know that in the past there was a time when India faced increased enforced evangelism, which led to an abhorrence towards Christians by Hindus, Muslims, and Jews. Either voluntarily or by force, Christianity spread like wildfire across the country. Leaders such as Mother Teresa proved that my faith is more than just a vocation to convert. The Bible teaches us to accept others, to follow Jesus’ teachings of serving the meek and the poor, and to simply live a life that pleases God.
Hebrews 13:16, “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” is a verse to which many generations of my family have been living up to, and it has been several years since we have been serving the community in North India. Our aim is not to convert the people, but to be able to provide, accept, and be of help to others who are in need. Just like my family, there are a lot of other people spread across the country who serve the community for the same reason.
The point I am trying to make is very simple: Why should a stereotype from the past be enforced upon the minorities now even though they don’t engage in forced conversion anymore? It just leads to people questioning their freedoms and restricts them from working to their full potential which is not what we are looking for as human beings.
What is promising for the future generations of India, is to love one another and build a peaceful society. But if misconceptions such as these, formed by majorities, will keep creating countless communal violence, India won’t be able to live up to the term “secular.”
This is my third year here at Woodstock and now I have learned to stand up and defend my faith with the help and support of certain teachers, classmates, and seniors. I still continue to follow the values that were taught to me by my parents, which are to respect and help the communities around us inspired by my faith. I dreamt of, and still dream of devoting my life towards the upliftment of the underprivileged in our country. Other people talking bad about my faith does not stop me from doing what I already am.
Edited by Priyansha Agarwal