The Malankara Church isn’t what most people would think of when talking about Syrian religion, yet its members are known for their devotion to Christ – despite the fact that Asian Christian churches aren’t too common, Malankara Orthodox practitioners believe themselves to be as close to the original Biblical teachings as is possible. More about that here.
The Malankara Church’s beginnings
Many who are just becoming familiarized with Malankara might wonder: how did devout Christianity of this type get started in India? As it turns out, a good part of Saint Thomas’ teachings took place in India where he slowly but surely converted more and more people to Christian faith. Back then, the world was transitioning from Roman to Ottoman empires and Christianity wasn’t nearly as favored as it is today, meaning Malankara practitioners at the time often had to keep their faith and practices secret.
While Saint Thomas preached way back in 52 AD, it would take many centuries for his Eastern disciples to establish sovereignty: the Malankara Church as it’s known today established sovereignty in 1806, although there was already a well-established hierarchy in place and practitioners were somewhat integrated into other Orthodox parishes and religious bodies.
During the period leading to sovereignty and for some time after it (some would say even to this very day), Malankara Church members were at odds with Catholic practitioners: while both hold roughly the same beliefs, the small differences have driven quite the wedge between the two Christian groups over the years and have caused plenty of conflict early on.
Among other things, one look at historical records shows us the resilience of the Malankara Church: its practitioners endured a transition between empires, Spanish and Portuguese influence during the Age of Discovery as well as multiple internal conflicts like the difficulties of appointing a new leader of the religious branch after the former’s passing.
Modern day Malankara
As already noted, the Malankara Church existed in some form for centuries but only claimed sovereignty in 1806. Likewise, a formal constitution that establishes rules and encouraged practices was only formed in 1934 which was fairly late into Malankara’s history.
In the late 19th and throughout the 20th century, the Malankara Church faced considerably less adversity than was previously the case and was free to focus on expansions Prominent members of the church started immigrating to the U.S. around the middle of the 20th century, paving the way for Malankara to gain true worldwide recognition and representation in the West.
Around this time is also when the first American congregation was held: a decade later, Malankara’s presence in the U.S. was widespread and masses weren’t hard to come by. By 2009, the American branch of the church was so large that it split into two districts, or ‘dioceses’: Northeast and Southwest.
These days, the Malankara Church numbers over a million members throughout the world and no shortage of places to worship at. The members have certainly come far, from worshipping in hidden locations and in secret to praying in glossy sanctuaries adorned with beautiful carpets and items of great value. And with the members’ historic devotion to the Church and its doctrine, the religious body is only bound to grow larger as time progresses.