The largest Christian gathering in Asia is taking place in India this week. The 112th Maramon Convention, which runs through to 18 February 2007 in Kerala, is organized annually by the Mar Thoma Evangelistic Association, the mission and evangelism wing of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar ‚Äì which has roots in both the Anglican and Orthodox traditions.
The week-long event brings some 200,000 Christians to each session from all over the country and Diaspora Indians from other continents to the dry sandbed of the river Pampa between the villages of Maramon and Kozhencherry, in South Central Kerala. World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary the Rev Dr Samuel Kobia is the chief guest and a main speaker.
With over 24 million Christians, comprising 2.3 per cent of the country's population, Christianity is India's third-largest religion. The first Christians in India were converted by the apostle Thomas, who arrived on the Malabar Coast in Kerala in 52 AD; Christianity in India underwent major transformations during the colonial and post-independence periods. The two main regional concentrations of Christian population are in Kerala, South India, and in North-East Indian states.
WCC member churches in India are: the Church of South India (CSI), the Church of North India (CNI), the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar, the Methodist Church in India, and the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in India. There is cooperation with the Roman Catholic Church.
Dr Kobia will address the Maramon Convention on two occasions. On 17 February, he will inaugurate the year-long celebrations of the Platinum Jubilee (75th anniversary) of the Mar Thoma Youth Association - The Mar Thoma Yuvajana Sakhyam - which has over 900 branches in India, the Middle East, Africa, North America and Europe. He will preach at the convention later the same day, and on 18 February will speak again at the convention's valedictory session.
Dr Kobia's week-long agenda in Southern India will also include meetings with the executive committee of the Church of South India at the church headquarters in Chennai, and with the Holy Episcopal Synod of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church at its headquarters at Devalokam in Kottayam.
In Bangalore, Dr Kobia will participate in the inauguration of the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society (CISRS), and address a national ecumenical youth gathering. In Kochi, he will inaugurate the Cancer Care Programme of the Shanthigiri Ashram, and lay the foundation stone of a multipurpose community disaster shelter in a Tsunami-affected village sponsored by the Christian Agency for Social Action (CASA), a member of the ACT (Action of Churches Together) International.