Welcome: An Introduction

Sharing the insights I discover as I explore and experience the mystery that is our reality. Join me in my journey and share yours.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Interview with Corinne Rodriques: A Glimpse into Christian Life in India

I have  been visiting Corinne Rodrigues' blog for just about as long as I've been blogging! I have had the pleasure of getting to know her through her writing as well as through conversation as we both share time with a great group of mutual bloggers. If you want some encouragement and inspiration make sure you check out her blog:  http://www.everydaygyaan.com/   You will find yourself coming back again and again! That has certainly been my experience.

In a recent post recognizing this blog's first year I mentioned that I will be adding more interviews with individuals I find inspiring and that I feel have something to share with us. When brainstorming those I would potentially interview, I found Corinne at the top of my list.  She is a Christian living in Mumbai India. I was interested in asking her a few questions and hearing about what her Christian experience was like, living in a country where her religion is represented by only 2 % of her country's population.

I'd like to thank Corinne for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions and for providing the images for this post. Thank you! :)

I hope you enjoy the interview and, as always, I'd appreciate any comments you might have in the comments section. Thank you!

An image of Jesus inside a Chapel in India

AscendingtheHills:   Us Americans, tend to complain a bit about such things as prayer being taken out of schools and nativity scenes being taken down from the centers of our towns. And yet, Christianity is ascribed to by the majority of our population and practiced widely. According to wikipedia The religions represented in India include : Hinduism accounting for 80.5% of the population of India. Islam (13.4%),Christianity (2.3%) and Sikhism (1.9%) are the other major religions followed by the people of India.

Ascribing to a religion that consists of a little over than 2% of your country's population..have you experienced any particular challenges in expressing your religion or practicing it in any way? What is the atmosphere like in your city towards those who practice Christianity?

Corinne:  India is a very religious country but also one that has historically been known to  assimilate and integrate various other religions. Personally, I have never experienced any bias towards me because of my religion.

I studied mostly in Catholic schools and I know that the other girls were very respectful of Christianity. Most non-Christian students of Christian institutions will very proudly rattle off The Lord’s Prayer. In many Hindu homes in India, you will see a picture of Jesus or Mary or both displayed with the pictures of their deities. Hinduism, in its truest form is not a religion, but a way of life.

However, with the rise of religious fundamentalism all over the world, we have seen the emergence of radical Hindu fundamentalism. They are severely opposed to conversion to Christianity and have been known to violently attack missionaries. They also attempt to ‘reconvert’ people back to Hinduism. I must add that this has been fanned by the over-enthusiasm of some foreign Christian missionaries who are often insensitive to the Indian culture and intolerant of Indian religions. By and large, the Catholic Church has made a much greater effort towards inculturation of religious ceremonies.

Over all Christians, more particularly Catholics are respected for their efforts in education, health care and social service. When Mother Teresa died in 1997, she was accorded a state funeral.

AscendingtheHills: Has the dominant presence of other religions and philosophies that are so strongly interwoven within the culture of India and so different from your own added to your practices in any way?

Corinne: Christianity continues to be largely Western in urban India but it is in the villages that you will find the true interweaving of Christianity with Indian culture. The early Church in India learned to be Christian in religion and Indian in culture. It was the Portuguese and later the British who attempted to give India a Western orientation. In the Catholic Church, there has been a shift post the Second Vatican Council which stated: "All nations form one human family; all of them are guided by the one God, all of them have the same destiny... The church exhorts Christians to preserve and promote the moral and spiritual goods found among the people."

We see the evidence of this change in use of Indian languages in the Church, in the building of many Christian 'ashrams' in which practice of meditation and yoga is taught, in the telling of Bible stories using Indian music and dance forms. The Catholic Church has realized that evangelization is not conversion, but bringing about the Kingdom of God - justice, equality and freedom for all.

Sadly again, some Pentecostal Churches (usually from the USA) have begun to influence certain segments of Christians and attempt to convert people.
Christians in India also struggle within themselves to get rid of the very strong influence of the caste system, which permeates even the Church.

                                                      An example of a Christian chapel in India

AscendingtheHills:  From your experience, have you found Christians in your city to be more or less tolerant of those ascribing to other religions, considering they are in the minority? Or does this create the propensity for them to stick more together, and become less tolerant and more defensive towards their beliefs?

Corinne: I find that in certain places in India, Christians do tend to stick together - and Mumbai is one of them. Also some Indian Christians considered it necessary to move to other countries - mostly Australia and Canada for fear that they would not have equal opportunities in India. However, this is a misconception. My father and his brother served in the Indian Army and faced no problem because of their religion. My husband, brothers and I have never faced any discrimination in our various careers. We, therefore, see no need to immigrate or confine our social interaction to Christians.

             Inside an Indian style Chapel

AscendingtheHills:  How has being exposed to such a diversity of other religions affected your perspective towards religions other than Christianity? Do you see elements within them that you have come to appreciate?
Corinne: I am proud to be an Indian Christian - and have never felt that my faith or beliefs have been threatened by Indians of other religious beliefs. I have been deeply influenced by the tolerance and inclusiveness of the Indian culture.

My husband practices Vipassana which is Buddhist in origin. I love listening to Indian bhajans and would someday like to read the Hindu Scriptures. I am more open to meditative and reflective practices than to the traditional rote prayers. I believe that we can learn a lot from our ancient Indian tradition and culture. I would like to share with you a poem written by one of our great Indian poets, the Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the
dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought
and action--
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
-- Rabindranath Tagore

That is my wish for all humanity that we awake to our commoness and move towards a heaven of freedom.

Thoughts? I'd love to hear them! Please leave them in the Comments section. Thank you!


  1. This post literally gave me goose bumps. Jessica you asked the right questions and Corrine hats off to you for your answers.

  2. Thank you Rimly! I am so glad you enjoyed it :) I thought Corinne gave such thoughtful and descriptive answers I can't thank her enough :)

  3. Jessica thank you for this interview..Corinne thank you for a look into Christianity in another country..I find it fascinating..and the poem is so beautiful Thank you again to you both...As always...XOXOXOXOXOX

  4. Thank you for stopping by Bonnie. I loved the poem too! :)

  5. Great interview, Jessica! I agree with Rimly that you asked excellent questions and received very thoughtful and articulate answers.

    I find it encouraging that Indian culture appears to be quite tolerant of minority religions such as Christianity and tends to assimilate rather than reject them.

    I also like the idea of Indian Christians being, perhaps, more inclined to incorporate contemplative elements of Hindu culture into their religious practice. It seems to me that Christianity needs to be much more grounded in contemplative or meditative practice, experience, and insight than it typically is here in the West.

    Again, great interview, Jessica.

  6. Thank you so much Steve :)

    I agree, I was really refreshed with Corinne's answers and to know how tolerant Indian culture is towards religions that consist of so few of its population. It seems that they only display intolerance when members of those minority religions begin to try to impose themselves on their people...which is understandable!

    I couldn't agree more...Christianity would benefit so much if we would incorporate more contemplative elements within our practices.

    Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving your thoughts. I always appreciate them :)

  7. Very insightful Corinne. I have many Christian friends and religion has never been an issue between us at any point of time. In fact, we tend to know more about each others' religion. I have a friend who really goes out of the way to make me feel at home..and giving me haldi-kumkum ( a tradition).Many Hindus follow Christianity without really converting.

    Lovely post ladies.

  8. Corinne is truly an inspiration. :-)

  9. I enjoyed that interview...very enlightening! And I also liked what Janu said "many Hindus follow Christianity without really converting"...this has always been the crux of the problem to me...semantics!! There are many Hindus who believe Christ is God incarnate and "the Light of the world"...why do we have to be called "Christians!! It's so confining and sometimes has a negative influence on people. I've always said "I love Jesus but am not crazabout his fan club" lol! Maybe someday we can all just be "the body of Christ" and not put labels on each other.

  10. Excellent interview. I loved the look into the life of a Christian of another country. Seem much more relaxed and true than what I have seen here. Very well said, thank you for this, both of you. <3<3<3

  11. Fantastic interview, Jessica! I so enjoyed getting to know Corinne better through this. You sure chose a wonderful person to interview and such an interesting topic. Loved it!


  12. Great interview..Corinne is an inspiration.

  13. Thanks, Jessica and Corinne. Very interesting perspective. I had some Indian-American friends at my last church and they really taught me a lot.

  14. Very interesting and insightful answers from Corinne (we went to school together).

    As a Hindu living in a New Christian land (Australia), it's interesting how the corollary to Christians in India doesn't seem to apply anywhere else. Until recently, I haven't seen anyone here try and adopt aspects from the Australian Aboriginal way of life (which, like Hinduism, is a Way of Life)into the predominantly Christian culture in Australia. I know from growing up in India that that land and it's people are quite unique in this regard.

    Thanks to both of you for a very interesting interview and answers. Really got me thinking.. :)

  15. fantastic job both of you. love this post. god bless

  16. This post was such a joy to read. Jessica, you asked thought provoking questions, and Corinne, your answers were interesting. Learning about other cultures and beliefs are just one of the many things I enjoy so much about blogging. Thank you to both of you! You did a great job!

  17. Wonderful interview Jessica! I’ll have to agree: you asked all the right questions. An interviewer par excellence!
    And Corinne, being the fascinating character that she is, answered all the questions with poise and grace. I found this topic of discussion captivating.
    Contemplative spirituality seems to transcend barriers, don’t you think?

  18. I wish there was some way I could give you a standing ovation Corinne..whatever I write here will not be enough to say what I feel after reading this,I always admired you and looked upon u..but today my respect for u has grown in leaps and bounds...Love u always.
    Thank u dear Jessica for letting us to know a woman like Corinne better,through this great interview.

  19. Fantastic interview, both the questions and answers were amazingly touching and insightful. Corinne and Jessica, you both are stars.

  20. I found that very instructive and fascinating. Both of your blogs i read regularly, but i've learnt lots about one of you, and seen the other to be a great interviewer, Pierce Morgan watch out

  21. Very interesting and educational! I especially love, love, love the poem at the end! Thank you both -- wonderful post ;-x

  22. Fantastic job on this blog Jessica. I was wondering if India only practiced one religion. Very interesting, and I loved the poem. Corinne, you do inspire me.