Migrations, low fertility leading to decline in Kerala’s Christian population, not ‘jihad’ campaigns

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While many Christian church leaders in Kerala have been lamenting over factors like ‘love jihad’ for the decline in the community’s population, the massive migration of community members with families to foreign countries as well as the preference for smaller families are considered to be the real reasons.

Recently, a Christian bishop in Kerala, Metropolitan Archbishop of Thrissur Mar Andrews Thazhat, stated that in the last 18 years the number of believers fell by 50,000 and accused vested interest groups of trying to distance believers, including young women, from the church. A few years back, another church head stated that over one lakh Christian grooms above the age of 30 couldn’t find life partners. Over the last few years, many church leaders started accusing Christian youths being lured by forces like ‘love jihad’ and ‘narcotic jihad’.

However, various studies in Kerala have cited that low fertility rate among the Christian community as well as migration as the key reasons for the decline in the community’s population.

Known demographer and chairman of the International Institute of Migration and Development, Kerala S Irudaya Rajan told DH that Christians were found to be generally migrating with families to foreign countries to settle permanently. Their next generations become foreign citizens and prefer not to return to Kerala. In the case of Muslims and Hindus, the general trend is that only men migrate in search of job and their families remain at home.

According to 2011 Census, 54.73 per cent of Kerala’s population were Hindus, 26.6 per cent were Muslims and 18.4 per cent were Christians.

However, as per a 2018 study of the the Centre for Development Studies (CDS), about 42 per cent of the total emigrants from Kerala were Muslims, followed by Hindus at 35 per cent and Christians at 24 per cent.

Another study pointed out the decline in growth of Christians in Kerala. In 1901, Muslims constituted 17.5 per cent while Christians were 14 per cent. By 2011, the Christian population increased to 18.4 per cent while Muslim population reached 26.6 per cent. Going by this trend, the Muslim population may reach 35 per cent by 2051 and the Christian population would be only half of that. The Hindu population was witnessing a declining trend of 68.5 per cent in 1901 to 54.7 per cent by 2011 and may fall below 50 per cent by 2051, the study indicated.

The Christian community was practicing the small family culture much ahead of other religions, said Rajan.

Christian Association and Alliance for Social Action (CASA) state president Kevin Peter said the reasons for Christians migrating and settling in other countries need to be examined. Lack of adequate government support of protection, compared to other minority community in the state, was a reason. The Christian community was also campaigning for social reforms like having only one of two children for quite some time.

Christian theologian and former principal of Delhi St Stephen’s College Valson Thampu said that if believers were distancing from churches, it was the failure of the church heads in properly educating them. The church leaders were now triggering fear factor by propagating that the religion is under threat by raising issues like ‘love jihad’.

This article first appeared on deccanherald.com

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