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Fall 2007 · Vol. 36 No. 2 · pp. 144–58 

Shaping Christian Higher Education: Toward a Relevant Anabaptist View of Education

I. P. Asheervadam

We are living in the era of information technology and digital revolution. At the same time the problems of this century include crimes, wars, nuclear weapons, atrocities, persecutions, and tribulations. Emerging “isms” include atheism, guruism, heroism, capitalism, fundamentalism, rationalism, and liberalism. Further, due to liberalization and globalization, the gap is widening between rich and poor. In this general world context, how does our 500-year-old so-called evangelical Anabaptist theology fit today?

Anabaptist theology is still relevant and can be a source of inspiration. It is therefore essential that Indian Mennonites strengthen their institutions of higher education and teach an Anabaptist approach to faith and life.

In the Indian context, for the past two decades there has been an aversion to so-called “Hindu Brahmanic” and Hindu philosophical interpretations of Indian Christian theology. 1 In academic circles an interest has developed in theological thinking, reflection, and research in Dalit, tribal, women, eco, subaltern, and marginalized studies. Today the Dalits 2 and subaltern communities are proud of their identities. As a result there has been a marked paradigm shift in Indian theological thinking. Today people- and praxis-oriented theologies—for example Dalit, tribal, subaltern theologies—are the theologies relevant to the Indian context, and these have emerged forcefully. In this Indian context, is Anabaptist theology meaningful for the Dalits and the subalterns?

Historically, the Anabaptist-Mennonite movement of the sixteenth century church originated not only for spiritual values and biblical spirituality but also in relation to social concerns. It challenged the powerful established structures in the sixteenth century “to restore the church of God to the outcast” and those who were suffering. Thus, the vision of Anabaptism is for human liberation, transformation, and empowerment. I will briefly examine this movement from the perspective of Dalits to emphasize the transforming power of Anabaptist theology.

CONTEXT, GENESIS AND CORE BELIEFS OF ANABAPTISTS

Anabaptists used the weapon of pacifism and demonstrated the power of non-violence in the sixteenth century to bring radical reformation in the context of the oppressive powers and structures of that day. When we hear the word “power,” we think of money power, war power, and mind power, because the concept of power is associated with domination, control, and authority over others. But power also means ability to do or act; strength or force. Anabaptists in the sixteenth century demonstrated this concept of power in the exploiting, suppressing, marginalizing context of their day.

The Anabaptist movement arose contemporaneously with Lutheranism and Calvinism in the first half of the sixteenth century. The Anabaptist Reformation originated in A.D. 1525 at Zurich, Switzerland, where Zwingli’s Reformation was at its height, and in neighboring south German areas. Many Mennonite historians believe that this movement arose because of the belief of Anabaptist-Mennonites that the Reformation launched by Martin Luther and Zwingli was incomplete, inadequate, and partial. Anabaptists emphasized believers’ baptism and separation of church and state. Anabaptists insisted on breaking the alliance between state and church because Protestant reformers such as Luther and Zwingli “accepted the notion that Church and State must live side by side supporting each other.” 3 In Switzerland, Zwingli’s reformation was sponsored by the government. A link between religious leadership and political power arose because the Swiss government and Zwingli found them to be mutually beneficial. Lutheranism followed a similar pattern. 4

Following the beginning of this movement, Conrad Grebel, 5 Felix Manz, and others went on preaching their faith. Those who responded to their preaching were baptized by water. This movement soon spread rapidly and widely “into nearly all European countries, but especially in the German and Dutch-speaking areas of central Europe. Ultimately it became a very large movement with adherents probably numbering thousands.” 6

This movement had tremendous impact among the common people and peasants. According to Peter Clasen, more than 98 percent of all Anabaptists were common people and less than 2 percent were intellectuals and noblemen. Among them, peasants formed the largest group, about 68 percent. 7 This is not surprising, since peasants constituted the majority of the population. In some urban areas, as in the towns of the Netherlands, Anabaptists were often craftsmen. Why did peasants and common people join this movement? A brief study of the context in Europe in general and Switzerland in particular would help answer this question.

EUROPE IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY

Before the sixteenth century, Europe was under the direct domination of the Church of Rome. The activities of various governments were influenced by the policies of the popes. But by the sixteenth century, England, France, and Spain had separated and established strong national governments. Germany and other European countries directly or indirectly ruled by Rome were also tired of the interference of the popes in their civil affairs. As a result the native rulers made efforts to limit the power of the popes over the people in their countries.

This century was not only marked by the rise of nationalism but also by transitions in the social as well as the intellectual condition of people. Economic changes were also taking place, affecting everything from agriculture to commerce and trade. As a result, a wealthy commercial middle class and also classes of peasants arose. The conditions of the peasant class were worsening due to the increase of taxation and economic exploitation. Attendant social pressures made peasants prone to revolt. 8

The Church had been declining in moral standards. Immorality, corruption, and other social evils were even common among the clergy. Preaching was neglected, and many suspicious beliefs and practices increased. The popes paid less attention to their religious duties and sought economic and political power. Indulgences were sold to people for the remission of their sins and to raise money for the building of St. Peter’s dome in Rome. As a result, when “the fifteenth century came to a close, it was clear that the church was in need of a profound reformation and many longed for it.” 9

SWITZERLAND

Ulrich Zwingli was the major leader of the early Reformation in Switzerland. This Reformation was not a direct result of Luther’s Reformation in Germany but was a parallel movement that soon established contact with its counterpart in Germany. 10 By now the major Swiss cities were independent cantons, with their own laws, commerce, and religious interest. 11 But they were “banded together in a common language, and they had a federal flag—a white cross on a red ground, which bore the motto ‘each for all and all for each.’ ” 12

Zurich, where Zwingli was pastoring and from where he launched his reformation, was also a major center of the birth of the Anabaptist movement, and was a rich commercial town. It was said that the king of France and the Pope used to finance the leading citizens of various Swiss cantons to promote their influence. 13 However, the living conditions of the peasants were very difficult:

[Their] houses were wooden frames filled in with sun-dried bricks, and were thatched with straw; chimneys were of wood protected with clay. The cattle, fuel, fodder, and family were sheltered under the one large roof . . . and the peasants had leave to collect the fallen branches for firewood, the women gathering and carrying and the men cutting and stacking under the eaves. 14

These poor peasants were not even exempted from paying tithes and extortions to the clergy. Lindsay says that the tithes, great and small, and the means taken to exert them, were a galling burden. 15

Anabaptists in their preaching and writings constantly addressed the socioeconomic plight of the masses and they also offered encouragement and comfort to the people. On the other hand, they confronted the authorities for their failure to govern justly. 16 It can therefore be inferred that the common people and peasants who were restless under the exploitation of church and state were longing for freedom. In this economic, social, political, and ecclesiastical context, the Anabaptist movement arose as both spiritual and social movement to empower the people.

CORE BELIEFS OF ANABAPTISM 17

1. Believers’ baptism and church membership: The congregation of yielded, regenerated, faithful, baptized, committed and a community of “living saints.” Arnold Snyder writes: “the anchor of Anabaptist theology and spirituality was this community, formed first by the spiritual, and then the water baptism of believers, maintained by fraternal admonition, and nurtured by the Supper of the Lord, by communal worship and visible expression of love among the members of the body.” 18 Hence, it is said that the people were running after them as though they were living saints to become part of this “visible community of saints.” 19

2. Bible reading as key for faith and life: The Bible was to be read in community and individual devotion under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

3. Centrality of the church/congregation: The church is more than a Sunday morning worship service. It is the body of Christ; it is a part of God’s presence on earth. The church is the place where first steps can be taken to overcome gaps between social classes, generations, the sexes, cultures, etc., and to experience reconciliation and correction.

4. Priesthood of all believers: The church comprises a great variety and diversity of gifts, talents, and ways of serving. No single believer has everything. Every believer has something to offer. We live with the consciousness that we need each other.

5. New life and discipleship: In the everyday life of the believer something is visible of God’s transforming power and therefore something of God’s intentions and possibilities.

6. Independence from political and state-church authorities: The first loyalty of disciples is to Christ, and they must be ready to pay a price for the cause of Christ. They seek a balance between being “in the world” and being “not of the world” (John 17).

7. Peace witness: Disciples remember a God who in Jesus Christ preferred to surrender himself to his enemies rather than destroy them with power and violence. They seek to love the enemy and to overcome evil with good (Romans 12). Their “peace witness” is not only at an international and national political level but also in relation to ecology, the neighborhood, family, and churches.

8. New solidarity: Due to their own historical experience, Anabaptists have a special concern for the poor, refugees, and the oppressed. They cultivate hospitality.

9. Credibility and authenticity: Disciples of Jesus set themselves to live what they say and believe.

10. Collective identity: Despite severe persecution, Anabaptists had a solid sense of their identity as God’s people. They assumed that their behavior would set them apart from the behavior of people in the world.

ANABAPTISTS AND THE POWER OF NONVIOLENCE

Why did many Anabaptist-Mennonites consider pacifism and non-violence so important? And how did they demonstrate these commitments for the furtherance of their witness? Anabaptists believed they were guided by the Holy Spirit in their attempts at spiritual regeneration, church renewal, and human transformation. The power of the Anabaptists was evident not only in their protest against the established church but also in their willingness to suffer severe persecution and martyrdom. They courageously bore all persecution and martyrdom to bring about change in church and society.

The first baptism of Anabaptists on January 21, 1525, took place under the threat of persecution. A series of persecutions by Roman Catholic and Protestant governments followed immediately. Beheading, burning at the stake, drowning, and various forms of torture were the terrible travesties done to them in the name of Christianity. 20 The story of the persecution of the movement was presented in the Martyrs’ Mirror, a lengthy book published in the Netherlands in 1660. 21 The numbers of martyrs were countless, perhaps more than those who died during the three centuries of persecution before the time of Constantine. 22 The authorities are said to have had “great difficulty in executing their program of suppression, for they soon discovered that the Anabaptists feared neither torture nor death, and gladly sealed their faith with their blood.” 23 This widespread persecution and martyrdom of Anabaptists testifies not only to the great extent of the movement but also to the power of the vision that burned within them. 24

Seeing the strength and power of the movement, Zwingli was said to have complained that the “struggle with the Catholic party was ‘but child’s play’ compared to the conflict with the Anabaptists.” 25

RELEVANCE OF PACIFISM AND NONVIOLENCE

In the world and in India today violence has become a philosophy of life. Religions that are supposed to promote peace are promoting hatred and violence. Religious fundamentalism, terrorism, Naxalism, 26 class-caste tensions, and suicide bombings are common. Someone has said: We need a person of the same caliber as Gandhi. Gandhi not only interpreted the power of pacifism and non-violence but demonstrated it and showed us that pacifism and non-violence are still relevant in this age of violence, war, and weapons. Gandhi is remembered for a peace-loving outlook that guided all his actions. Hence, Nelson Mandela once said, “Gandhi holds the key to human progress.” Mandela meant that the teaching and preaching of pacifism and non-violence serve world peace and human development.

Gandhi was influenced greatly by the teachings of Jesus and perhaps even by Mennonites. 27 He explained vividly how this instrument of non-violence is a powerful tool in any context. Among his interpretations of non-violence, Gandhi wrote in Harijan of March 14, 1936 that non-violence is not a negative force though it has a negative particle. It is the greatest and most active force. For him “non-violence is not only non-killing or non-injury but an inner feeling of the mind and heart; it means ‘the largest love and greatest charity.’ ” 28 For Gandhi, “non-violence in its dynamic condition means conscious suffering. It does not mean meek submission to the will of the evil-doer but it means putting one’s soul against the will of the tyrant.” 29 For him non-violence was not for the weak but for the strong. It does not mean passivity or inaction because it is a dynamic living force. He insisted that just “as one must learn the art of killing in the training for violence, so one must learn the art of dying in the training for non-violence.” An adherent of non-violence “has to cultivate the capacity for sacrifice of the highest type in order to be free from fear.” 30

Gandhi advocated the practice of non-violence in individual life as well as in political, social, and economic institutions. He demonstrated its effectiveness in his fight against racial discrimination in South Africa; against the exploitation of laborers in Ahmedabad, India; against Untouchability; against the Rowlatt Bills; in Salt Satyagraha; 31 and in his struggle with the British government to achieve independence.

The power of pacifism and non-violence thus holds the key not only for spiritual power but also for human progress. The disciples in the first century, early Christians in the first few centuries, Anabaptist-Mennonites in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and Gandhi in the twentieth century demonstrated it. This historic peace perspective is therefore very important in higher education in the present context, because education is the most effective instrument of empowerment for peace.

EDUCATION AS EMPOWERMENT: THE CASE OF THE DALITS

Why was education considered to be an important strategy by the missionaries? Why did missionaries invest so heavily in education, and how did they think that this investment furthered their aims? W. J. Emslie, writing in 1873, said education is the only key to open the door to the inner social life of India. 32 In several ways this was true in the transformation of Dalits in India.

For almost 3500 years, the right to acquire education was denied to them. Dalits, considered as untouchables, had no right to education and were not admitted into the village school to acquire knowledge. Dalits, being outcastes, could not even think of going to the schools. Those who dared to break these rules of the established order created by Brahmans were severely punished by the Hindus. Hence, the mission movement in the modern period made education a top priority in order to bring about the equality of the Dalits. 33

The British administration in India was not much concerned with the problem of Dalits or their socio-economic development. However, some of their policies and practices opened up new avenues for them. In 1858, government schools in Bombay were declared open to all castes, including Dalits. Although the law did not become effective immediately, the Dalits got a right which had been denied them for centuries. Hence, when new employment and educational opportunities became available, the Dalits too were able to take advantage of them. Some Dalits entered new jobs in the army, factories, and mills. These new employment opportunities began to give them social advantages.

Protestant missionaries in the modern period had come to India with a background in evangelical revival and industrial revolution. This context shaped their ideology and theology. Missionaries were therefore inclined to take an active part in the struggles of the poor, the exploited, and the marginalized. Thus, missionaries set themselves to improve the conditions of the subaltern, mainly the Dalits, through education. As a result, several educational institutions and colleges were established.

MB MISSIONARIES AND EDUCATION

Dalits in the region of Mennonite Brethren mission work were also denied education till the missionaries opened schools there. Before that time, education was limited to high caste people. American Mennonite Brethren (AMB) missionaries quickly realized that education could be a powerful tool for reshaping the socio-economic conditions of the Dalits and for raising the social status of converts. But missionaries were also convinced that education would serve a spiritual purpose. As one observed: “Education not only puts the tools of learning into the hands of the children, but it also moulds their way of life . . . The ability on the part of the children to read the Bible provides an avenue for the Holy Spirit to speak to them through the written word of God.” 34

Furthermore, from the missionaries’ point of view, through education they could prepare future Dalit Christian leaders. Hence, they opened schools in almost all of the mission stations. The first primary school of the AMB Mission was opened at Malakpet in 1904. 35 The first primary school in Mahabubnagar district was opened at Nagarkurnool in 1909, 36 followed by Devarakonda in 1910, and Wanaparthy in 1916. These schools attached boarding facilities for preachers’ children and the children of economically poor families. 37

Later, seeing the need for further education, the primary schools at Shamshabad, Devarakonda, Mahabubnagar, and Wanaparthy were upgraded to middle schools. The enrollment figures of both boys and girls were between 300 and 350 per year. 38 The school at Shamshabad was upgraded to a high school for all fields in the 1940s. This high school was moved to Mahabubnagar in 1949. Teaching Bible and everyday morning devotions were daily activities in these schools.

In addition to these primary, middle, and high schools, the Mission also opened schools in various villages with a view to teaching adults and children who could not come to the regular schools. In these village schools, local evangelists or pastors served as teachers. In 1939 the AMB Mission had 124 such schools, providing education to between 1600 and 1700 students. 39 By 1947 the number of such schools were increased to 150, educating about 1900 children and 500 adults. 40

After Independence in 1947, these schools continued to play an essential role. However, since the late 1980s the eight main schools 41 continue to exist but have been reduced to nominal operation. This is due to the lack of financial resources in the Conference. These schools receive state government grants, so the Conference does not have full control over the appointment of headmasters and cannot impose values. The establishment of the MB Christian Junior College in Mahabubnagar in 1988 has brought hope that the Conference might shape higher education in a Christian way. This college is supported by the Conference through the Kroeker Foundation and also has a residential facility.

SHAPING AN ANABAPTIST VIEW OF HIGHER EDUCATION

Bible training had been a core program for the AMB Mission from the beginning. The beginnings of Bible training go back to 1920. Since then, the MB Conference in India is doing a gigantic work in the area of theological education. One of the reasons for the rapid growth of the MB Conference, compared to the six other Mennonite Conferences in India, could be because of the importance of theological education and leadership building through our biblical training. During the 1970s, Rev. N.P. James, the first national principal of the Bible Institute, commented that, “had it not been for the Bible Institute, our churches would not have progressed to this present state either spiritually or numerically.” Further, James said that the theological school is the “power house for all our M.B. fields.”

The uniqueness of this theological school, before we upgraded to the B.Th. and B.D. level, was that the curriculum was designed by the school in such a way that a student could gain a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. As a result, graduates of the school were well versed in the Bible. Some of the graduates were known as “living concordances” in the field for some missionaries. Even those who took one year of training were sound in biblical knowledge. Graduates were also effective in street preaching. Their study of Mennonite history and distinctives taught them simplicity and aroused a passion to win souls. Even women were trained and given opportunity in evangelism as Bible women.

The MB Bible Institute offered different levels of theological education 42 before it began the Bible College in 1989. Since upgrading to B.Th. and B.D. 43 levels, the Bible College has been guided by its syllabus. However, during the past few years we have been attempting to introduce some Anabaptist-oriented subjects. In 2003-2004, a course called “Anabaptist History and Peace Theology” was introduced and this proposal was sent to Senate of Serampore College. It is interesting to note that the Serampore College is proposing to revise its curriculum, introduce subjects on Mission and Peace, and provide space for denominational histories. 44 I hope this gives us the opportunity to focus increasingly on an Anabaptist view of education. Some of the other theological colleges in India, such as ACTC-Hyderabad, Leonard Theological College, Jabalpur, and Glosser Theological College, Ranchi, invite us to conduct “peace workshops” in their colleges. The MB Centenary Bible College would like to develop a Center for Anabaptism in order to promote biblical spirituality and peacemaking in India.

THE RELEVANCE OF ANABAPTISM IN INDIA

Gandhi, who at one time used to attend church services, finally stopped going to church altogether. When he was asked why, he said the church worship services had not made a favorable impression on him:

. . . the sermons seemed to be uninspiring. The congregation did not strike me as being particularly religious. They were not an assembly of devout souls; they appeared rather to be worldly-minded people going to church for recreation and in conformity to custom. Here, at times, I would involuntarily doze. I was ashamed, but some of my neighbors, who were in no better case, lightened the shame. I could not go on long like this, and soon gave up attending the service. 45

To Stanley Jones’ question as to how he would advise the Christians as one of the Hindu leaders of India, Gandhi answered:

. . . firstly, I would suggest that all of you Christians, missionaries and all, must begin to live more like Jesus Christ. Second, practice your religion without adulterating it or toning it down. Third, emphasize love and make it your working force, for love is central in Christianity. Fourth, study the non-Christian religions more sympathetically to find the good that is within them in order to have a more sympathetic approach to the people. 46

Gandhi was not a Mennonite in faith, but in teaching and practice he showed some similarities to Menno Simons. Writing to the church, Menno wrote, “be like-minded all of you with Christ Jesus: be zealous to hold the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace, for indeed you are all one single temple, house, city, mountain, body and church of Christ Jesus.” 47 Furthermore, Menno Simon appealed to Christians to behave as Christians in all things because they are called by the Lord’s name. 48 By this he meant that Christians who are named after Christ have to live together as one family, without divisions and conflicts. Otherwise, Menno felt that the “unleavened lump of the Church would be changed into an ugly leaven before the whole world.” 49 Menno Simons not only wrote and taught this truth but also applied it to his own life.

Though the Mennonite Churches of India 50 sprouted from Anabaptism, they are not well rooted in its teachings. 51 There may be several reasons for this, but the most important is that their leaders have not received their higher education in an Anabaptist environment. 52 Most leaders have taken their primary education in Mennonite schools. However, where Mennonite churches did not have their own higher education programs these leaders studied in other schools, colleges, and theological seminaries. As a result, there is now not much to distinguish them from the leaders of other churches. At the same time, Anabaptist theology is still relevant and can be a source of inspiration. It is therefore essential that Indian Mennonites strengthen their institutions of higher education and teach an Anabaptist approach to faith and life.

NOTES

  1. See Ravi Tiwari, “Theology of a Convert,” paper presented in SATHRI Consultation, KTC, Mangalore, October 18, 2006, 1-2.
  2. The word Dalit has come to be the new identity of the marginalized communities, viz., those who were till recently de-humanized and marginalized by the caste system. “Dalit” also affirms and asserts the fact of their distinct identity as a positive notion. See Prakash Louis, “Preface,” in Pain and Awakening: The Dynamics of Dalit Identity in Bihar, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, ed. Fernando Franco (New Delhi: Indian Social Institute, 2002), xv.
  3. Justo L. Gonzalez, The Reformation to the Present Day, vol. 2 of The Story of Christianity (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1985), 56.
  4. The Lutheran movement was supported by local princes. These princes enjoyed great authority in matters both civil and ecclesiastical. In Zwingli’s Zurich too the council of government had the final word in religious matters. See Gonzalez, The Reformation, 56.
  5. Conrad Grebel (1498-1526), the pioneering leader of Anabaptism, was the son of an upper class Zurich family. He was one of Zwingli’s close disciples and helped to promote the Zwingli Reformation after his conversion in 1524. By the end of 1524, Grebel began to differ with Zwingli on certain teachings, such as the validity of infant baptism and the nature of the church. Grebel also believed that the church should be set up as was reflected in the Book of Acts—a free church of converted people, not an organization established and maintained by the state. See also Leroi E. Kennel, Mennonites: Who and Why (Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1963), 2; Walter Klaassen, Anabaptism: Neither Catholic nor Protestant (Waterloo, ON: Herald, 1973), 78.
  6. Klaassen, Anabaptism, 2.
  7. Claus Peter Clasen, Anabaptism: A Social History, 1525-1618 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1972), 323.
  8. See Carter Lindberg, Third Reformation: Charismatic Movements and the Lutheran Tradition (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1983), 23-24.
  9. Gonzalez, The Reformation, 6.
  10. Ibid., 49.
  11. Cornelius J. Dyck, An Introduction to Mennonite History, 2d ed. (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1981), 37.
  12. Thomas M. Lindsay, A History of the Reformation, 2 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1950), 2: 21.
  13. Ibid., 24.
  14. Lindsay, History, 1: 91.
  15. Ibid., 96.
  16. Wilbert R. Shenk, By Faith They Went Out: Mennonite Missions 1850-1999 (Elkhart, IN: Institute of Mennonite Studies, 2000), 26.
  17. Derived from Arnold Snyder, Anabaptist History and Theology (Kitchener, ON: Pandora Press, 1995); Arnold Snyder, From Anabaptist Seed (Kitchener, ON: Pandora Press, 1999); and Hanspeter Jecker, “The European Mennonite Experience and the Global Story,” a presentation delivered as part of the Global Mennonite History Project Seminar at Fredeshiem, Netherlands, 2000.
  18. Snyder, Anabaptist History, 155.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Kennel, Mennonites, 4.
  21. Felix Manz, one of the founding members of the movement, be-came the first martyr of this faith by being drowned at the hands of the civil government and the Zwinglians. This drowning was a mockery of their faith in baptism. This took place in January, 1527, in the River Limat in Zurich. Manz’s mother and his sister witnessed his execution and loudly urged him to remain faithful.
  22. Gonzalez, Reformation, 57.
  23. The Recovery of the Anabaptist Vision, ed. Guy F. Hershberger (Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1957), 32.
  24. Ibid., 33.
  25. Ibid., 32.
  26. An informal name given to a contemporary Indian communist movement that advocates violent revolution. Naxalites have used violence to further their ends, hence are considered terrorists by the Indian government.—Ed.
  27. The story is that Gandhi read Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy’s writings, which helped him solidify his nonviolent stand. Tolstoy quoted Daniel Musser in The Kingdom of God is Within You, published in the 1890s. Daniel Musser was leader of a very conservative “Reformed Mennonite” group and wrote a book during the American Civil War entitled, Nonresistance Observed (1864). This book was distributed by Quakers to many libraries and got into the hands of Leo Tolstoy. Gandhi’s nonviolence was also an important ingredient of the African National Congress (ANC) which led the independence struggle in South Africa where Gandhi lived for 25 years. See also John A Lapp, The Mennonite Church in India (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1971), 92-93 and I.P. Asheervadam, Interview Tapes, MCI Leaders for the GMHP.
  28. Harijan (March 14, 1936), 51.
  29. Ibid., 51-52.
  30. Ibid., 52.
  31. Satyagraha literally means “truth force” or “truth power.” Gandhi expressed the meaning of Satyagraha when he said we can resist any evil through an act of nonviolence, which is an active force. If blood be shed, let it be our blood. Cultivate the courage of dying without killing; for man lives freely only by his readiness to die.
  32. Jonathan Ingleby, Missionaries, Education and India: Issues in Protestant Missionary Education in the Long Nineteenth Century (Delhi: ISPCK, 2000), 362.
  33. This is why almost all Protestant missions in India were involved in the education ministry.
  34. “Education—The Schools,” Foreign Missions (1948): 53-54.
  35. Ibid., 54.
  36. B.Z. John, Mennonite Brethren Church History, India (Shamsha-bad, India: Mennonite Brethren Bible Institute, 1960), 56.
  37. “Education,” 54-55.
  38. Ibid., 60.
  39. Our Mission Among Telugus (Board of Foreign Missions of the Mennonite Brethren Church of North America, 1939), 22.
  40. “Education,” 58.
  41. Devarakonda, Gadwal, Hughestown, Mahabubnager, Nagerkurnool, Narayanpet, Shamshabad, and Wanaparthy.
  42. See I.P. Asheervadam, “Eighty-three Years of Mennonite Brethren Theological Journey in India,” presentation on June 5, 2005, Shamshabad.
  43. June 5, 2005 onwards.
  44. See, “Report,” Senate of Serampore College Consultations on Curriculum Revision (Shillong: February, 2007).
  45. Stanley Jones, Mahatma Gandhi: An Interpretation (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1948), 55.
  46. Ibid., 51-52.
  47. The Complete Writings of Menno Simons (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1956), 222.
  48. Ibid., 224, 221.
  49. Ibid., 1043.
  50. There are seven Mennonite and Brethren in Christ Conferences in India with a total membership of about two hundred thousand. Among them the Mennonite Brethren is the oldest and largest, numbering more than one hundred thousand.
  51. See John Lapp, The Mennonite Church, 91. However, there are one or two incidences where Mennonites in Dhamtri took a stand not to join the army, wrote to the Prime Minister of India while drafting a constitution asking that it not be made mandatory for citizens to join the army when it is against their faith.
  52. V.K. Rufus, “Response,” in Theological Education on Five Continents: Anabaptist Perspectives, ed. Nancy R. Heisey and Daniel Schipani (Strasbourg, France: Mennonite World Conference, 1997), 121.
I.P. Asheervadam is General Secretary of the India MB Historical Commission and Asst. Professor at the M. B. C. Bible College, Shamshabad.

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