Chandra MallampalliMay 1, 2023
South Asia's Christians
Between Hindu and Muslim
Oxford University Press 2023
South Asia is home to more than a billion Hindus and half a billion Muslims. But the region is also home to substantial Christian communities, some dating almost to the earliest days of the faith. The stories of South Asia’s Christians are vital for understanding the shifting contours of World Christianity, precisely because of their history of interaction with members of these other religious traditions. In this broad, accessible overview of South Asian Christianity, Chandra Mallampalli shows how the faith has been shaped by Christians’ location between Hindus and Muslims.
South Asia's Christians: Between Hindu and Muslim (Oxford UP, 2023) begins with a discussion of south India’s ancient Thomas Christian tradition, which interacted with West Asia’s Persian Christians and thrived for centuries alongside their Hindu and Muslim neighbors. He then underscores the efforts of Roman Catholic and Protestant missionaries to understand South Asian societies for purposes of conversion. The publication of books and tracts about other religions, interreligious debates, and aggressive preaching were central to these endeavors, but rarely succeeded in yielding converts. Instead, they played an important role in producing a climate of religious competition, which ultimately marginalized Christians in Hindu-, Muslim-, and Buddhist-majority countries of postcolonial South Asia. Ironically, the greatest response to Christianity came from poor and oppressed Dalit (formerly “untouchable”) and tribal communities who were largely indifferent to missionary rhetoric. Their mass conversions, poetry, theology, and embrace of Pentecostalism are essential for understanding South Asian Christianity and its place within World Christianity today.
Byung Ho Choi is a Ph.D. candidate in the History and Ecumenics program at Princeton Theological Seminary, concentrating in World Christianity and history of religions. His research focuses on the indigenous expressions of Christianities found in Southeast Asia, particularly Christianity that is practiced in the Muslim-dominant archipelagic nation of Indonesia. More broadly, he is interested in history and the anthropology of Christianity, complexities of religious conversion and social identity, inter-religious dialogue, ecumenism, and World Christianity.