Kerala launches project to preserve Christian heritage

Kerala, known as 'Asia's Cradle of Christianity', has initiated a project to preserve and digitise manuscripts and heritage material related to 2,000 years of Christianity in the state.

A forum called Association for the Preservation of the Saint Thomas Christian Heritage (APSTCH) has been formed to locate, gather and preserve all available documents including the manuscripts in Syrian.

In collaboration with Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR) and some leading European and American universities, the project, also aims to "promote further studies on the subject in a proper perspective".

"The purpose of the project is to preserve and maintain the St Thomas Christian heritage, monuments, manuscripts and printed books in Syrian and Malayalam to create correct data-base for the study of Christianity in Kerala, their culture and traditions," APSTCH honorary president Mar Aprem says.

The origin of Kerala's Christians dates back to 52 AD, when St. Thomas came to the region landing in the port of Cranganore near Cochin. The followers of St Thomas later were popularly known as Syrian Christians.

From its arrival, till now, historians say, several church documents, those with historic value might have been lost over centuries.

"The project is important not merely from the religious angle. The preservation of the documents that have survived the ravages of time would greatly help studies on Kerala history and eastern Christianity," KCHR director Cherian said.

According to the forum, the project will be carried out in three-phases.

"The first step involved digitising and creation of an electronic database. This would be followed by their publication in facsimile editions with scholarly descriptions. In the third stage, data obtained would be used for clarifying obscure points in the history of Christianity in Kerala."