Declining rate of Syrian Christian population worries Kerala church

Published 09 February 2006  |  
Kochi – Increase in rate of emigration and decrease in birth rate are endangering the Syrian Christian population in Kerala and unless taken seriously, may threaten the community to enter the zero population regime, a popular Christian magazine has warned.

Sathyadeepam, a popular Christian magazine in South India, has echoed the concerns of the Syro–Malabar Church that feels that the birth rate in the Syrian community has fallen below the replacement rate. According to news reports, the birth rate today stands at an all–time low of 1.7 children per couple.

Quoting former World Bank demographer K.C. Zachariah, the magazine has warned that high emigration rate, desertion to non–Syrian Christian denominations or fellowships and inbreeding habits have also put the community at the cross–roads – a situation that is similar to the one faced by the Parsi community.

“The community is facing a Parsi syndrome. Already about 25 percent of Syrian Christians live outside Kerala with a huge population living outside India. Very soon, the majority of them would be living outside and in 50 years time, the demography of Christian population in the state would change drastically,'' the Church has warned.

According to Zachariah, though "Christianity in Kerala was once synonymous with Syrian Christians,” yet, over time, “Christianity in Kerala would lose its Syrianness.” The community has today become one of the smallest among the majority sects like Muslims, Nairs and Ezhavas.

The demographic study has revealed that though fifty years ago, 40 percent of the population were children below 15 and hardly four percent were elderly, yet, over the years, the pattern has changed and 50 years from now, hardly 15 percent would be children and 35 percent would be elderly. This structural change will badly affect the community, the study added.

The study has also warned that though the percentage proportion of Syrian Christians against total population was 9.7 in 2001, it would fall to eight percent in the next 25 years.

Besides, high contraceptive practice rate and abortion rate within the community are also affecting the population growth, Zachariah has warned.

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