On July 3, the day that is historically marked as the feast of St Thomas Day, Christians of various denominations will commemorate the Indian Christian Day (ICD), also known as the Yeshu Bhakti Divas (YBD), for the first time.
Apostle Thomas, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ, arrived in India about 52 AD. It is a historically accepted fact that he was martyred near Chennai in 72 AD. As a result, his martyrdom is remembered on July 3 to honor his sacrifice.
This year, the day will be even more special because all the churches from India will come together to celebrate the ICD to highlight the fact that Christianity is not a foreign religion in India.
In the celebration guidelines released by ICD, it detailed the necessity of the event.
“In recent years there has been increased misinformation about the historicity of the message of Jesus in India. Indians have followed Jesus since the arrival of Apostle Thomas in 52 AD. The Christian faith and practice existed in India centuries before European colonization. What is wrongly promoted is the narrative that Christ was introduced to India by European colonialists and to conclude that Christ is against the Indian cultural ethos and people,” the guideline stated.
“Celebrating INDIAN CHRISTIAN DAY/YESHU BHAKTI DIVAS (ICD/YBD) on July 3rd beginning in 2021 is to celebrate the coming of the message of Jesus Christ with Apostle Thomas’ arrival in India and to counteract attempts of promoting a revisionist history with solidarity and hope. Through celebrating ICD/YBD for a decade we want to establish the historicity of Christ in India, to highlight the impact of the person and message of the Lord Jesus Christ on India and to showcase the ongoing contribution of the followers of Jesus to the development and nation building of India. The presentation of history and legacy of Indian disciples of Christ with ICD/YBD will make generational impact and create national recognition,” the guideline detailed.
The celebration of ICD/YBD on 3 July 2021 will launch the Decade of Celebration, stated the guideline, adding that “The ten years (2021-2030) would lead to honor the 2000th anniversary of the public ministry of Lord Jesus Christ whose teaching and life principles have helped to shape and transform India and the rest of the world.”
“The success of this movement’s impact will be the incremental progress of wide-spread acceptance, appreciation and recognition of the historic presence and influence of the person and teachings of Jesus among Indians.”
According to Verbite Father Babu Joseph, a former spokesman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), the choice of Saint Thomas' feast day, “signals a positive move towards overcoming the apparent differing opinions on the history of the Saint Thomas’ arrival in India.”
“This would be an important step in making Christianity as part of Indian history and ethos,” he said. In fact, “In light of attempts by some right-wing organisation to create the impression that Christianity is foreign to India, it is necessary to highlight its antiquity in the country.”
“Christianity is part and parcel of Indian history for the last 2,000 years and has given birth to many indigenised forms of Christian life. Any effort to undo this great civilisational contribution is tantamount to negating the very foundation of India itself.”
“Christianity has introduced new social teachings which worked as [a] catalyst in several social reform movements” and “has been instrumental in introducing modern education.”