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The Andaman Vision

P.O. Box 941, Adyar P.O.,, Adyar • Chennai, Tamilnadu 600020 • India • 91-44-2446 4286/see/charmin/CM04698

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Welcome to The Andaman Vision - serving the communities of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands in the name of the risen Lord, Jesus Christ.

THE PURPOSE OF THE ANDAMAN VISION

The purpose of The Andaman Vision is to make known these islands, the people and their needs to the Christian World so that more and more of God's people may be moved by the Holy Spirit and develop a real burden in their hearts to uphold these islands, the people and their needs in prayer, encouragement and support.

THE ANDAMAN VISION is committed to:

- the proclamation of Jesus Christ in word and deed to make disciples and help build His Church in these islands:

- to pray and generate prayer partners to pray for these islands and their needs;

- to sharing God's love in these islands by encouraging evangelistic, educational and social activities in partnership with like-minded God's people.

THE BEGINNING OF THE ANDAMAN VISION

The Andaman Vision is what the Lord put upon the heart of one that was once the manager for a business firm that was distributing liquor to the entire Andaman & Nicobar Islands. It was here that he took to alcohol regularly, first as a status symbol and in the course of time became a slave to it ending up as an alcoholic. Leaving the islands he was treated at many hospitals in Chennai but they could not help him until on the 30th of September 1988 that He gave his life to the Lord Jesus Christ and accepted Him as his personal Saviour. Miraculous indeed, the moment he totally submitted himself to the Lord and uttered the acceptance of Jesus Christ as his Saviour he was healed. He was cleansed by the BLOOD of Jesus Christ and was transformed by His LOVE.

Then in the year 1996 the Lord led him and his family back to the Andamans on April 17th as a missionary, a servant of the Lord. On the 6th of October 1996 the Lord led them to begin a Worship Service their home in Port Blair, the headquarters of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands with his wife and two children as the first congregation members. The very next week itself they were invited to conduct the service in the home of a local resident and soon the Lord began to add more and more local people to the congregation and what began with just the four of them grew into a congregation of 26 in a period of one year. As the congregation began to grow there was the need for a separate and more spacious place for worship. Thus the Lord provided a suitable place for the church on the 7th of March 1999. All throughout the ministry God's hand was upon it.

In another few months i.e. on July 1999, they had to leave the iwith a very heavy heart. Even after they returned from the Andamans, the love for these islands and the people continued to weigh heavily upon their hearts. They could not rub off the burden for these islands from their hearts and thus the Lord continues the vision as they continue in prayer and to inspire God's people to prayer and action to reach the Andaman & Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal through The Andaman Vision.

THE ANDAMAN & NICOBAR ISLANDS

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal were little known to the rest of the world before the British rule in India, being the abode of some of the most primitive aborigines.

Later under the British, these Islands came to be known as "KALAPANI" or black-waters, considered to be a dreaded and dismal place fit for the criminals and the riff-raffs of the society. The British used these islands as a Penal Settlement to house serious criminals and political prisoners.

Today the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is a Union Territory of India headed by a Lt. Governor. It is described as a miniature India comprising of people from different parts of India. These islands are an amazing racial and cultural mix. People of different religions, caste and creed live together in peace and harmony. They continue to be the abode of the most primitive aborigines existing side by side with a civilized society. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands is a tourist haven today.

PEOPLE & CULTURE

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are characterized by two distinct native cultures. One is the Negrito population in the Andamans and the other is the Mongoloid population in the Nicobars.

During both pre and post-British periods, and even after Indian Independence, these cultures have maintained their distinct identities. With the British occupation of these islands and the establishment of the Penal Settlement, the cultural scenario started changing. As a large number of aliens were brought from different parts of India and Burma and settled in the Andamans, the cultural pattern of the islands began to change. This became even more so after Indian Independence with a greater influx of settlers to the islands from other parts of India and refugees from East Pakistan. When the immigrants from the mainland settled in the islands, they brought with them their own cultures and rituals.

RELIGION

Before the establishment of the colonial rule in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the islanders had animistic beliefs. But with the establishment of the Penal Settlement and the other colonies and the migration of people thereafter, mainly from the Indian mainland and some from Burma, these islands became multi-religious in nature. Today, the three major religious groups in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are the Hindus, the Christians and the Muslims.

WHO WILL BE READY TO STAND IN THE GAP TO INTERCEDE FOR THE SALVATION OF THESE ISLANDS? We urge you to pray for these islands as the Holy Spirit leads you.

Secondly we have the command of the Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 28:19 "to go and make disciples of nations". The Word of God exhorts us to 'go' where the need is and share the Good News. So 'go' to these islands if you can!

If you cannot go then you could give towards His work. This maybe for the special needs of the body of Christ, for various ministries or for special projects that would further the spread of the Good News in these islands.

BECOME A PARTNER WITH THIS VISION!

The apostle Paul writing to the Ephesians in Ephesians 1:3-5 writes like this: "I thank my God everytime I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with you because of your partnership in the gospel."

Hence we see that partnership in spreading the gospel is God designed and God ordained so that "the whole body[of Christ], is joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each does its work." [Ephesians 4:16]

Partnership is a covenant or a relationship between different parties with a common interest or goal. The purpose of the partnership is to accomplish a goal that neither of them could do alone.

In the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus Christ in Mark 16:15, He commissions each of us to "Go into the world and preach the goodnews to all creation." If you personally cannot go, then you the the responsibility to send someonelse by being a partner in a ministry that is committed to the proclamation of the goodnews.

Now the same annointings and giftings that are in full manifestation in that ministry becomes available to all those who become partners with that ministry.

There are various ways in which you can be a part in this great Vision of the Lord for these islands:

6 WAYS YOU CAN BE A PART:

1. You can make a commitment to pray regularly for the salvation of these islands and their people.

2. You can start a prayer group at your home to pray for these islands and their people.

3. You can introduce some friends and relatives to this ministry.

4. You can serve as a volunteer to promote this vision.

5. You can go as a missionary to these islands.

6. You can support God's work in these islands as the Lord leads you.

THE CHALLENGE

WANTED MEN & WOMEN OF GOD WHO WILL STAND IN THE GAP TO INTERECEDE FOR THE SALVATION OF THESE ISLANDS! WHO WILL BE PREPARED TO GO! AND WHO WILL GIVE FOR HIS WORK IN THESE ISLANDS!

I still remember with great pain the words of a senior-most Christian leader, when I mentioned to him about God leading us as a family to minister to the people of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. I surely expected a pat of encouragement, but the words that came from him shocked me instead. Very sarcastically he said: "Well that is a place for criminals and the rotten people in the society."

Since these islands have been a place for deportment of criminals during the early times, known as "KALAPANI" or black-waters, many people still consider them a dreaded and dismal place fit only for criminals and the riff-raffs of the society.

The urgency to make known these islands, the people and their needs came to me while I was a missionary in the Andamans. I realized how little people knew about these islands. As these islands were cut off from the mainland of India, very few people really have any clear idea about them and whatever little idea they have are blurred and tainted.

Many a times we tend to forget that the Andaman & Nicobar Islands are a part of India. As we were recently attending the Sunday Worship and the church had just had their mission conference, we had the map of India projected on the LCD projector, which showed India but the Andaman & Nicobar Islands was not there in the map. Is it that we fail to see these islands as a part of India because they are cut off from the mainland of India? Or is there something more to it.

Most of the Christian organizations, even though they have their representation in these islands do not take these islands seriously. Why? This is what has been troubling us so much in our Spirit.

Could it be because of the stigma that it is a place where criminals and their descendants and the riff-raffs of the society live? Or is it because the work is tough and the results are not as rewarding? Or could it be because we pride in the Census Report that show about 23 percentage Christianity in these islands.

If is for any of the above reasons that the Andaman & Nicobar Islands are being neglected, they only make these islands all the more a prospective field for serious missionary work.

If it is a place where criminals, their descendants and the riff-raffs of the society are found, then we are all the more compelled by the love of Christ to preach the gospel to them because Jesus Himself did not come to save the righteous but to save sinners. In the words of our Lord, "It is not the healthy who needs a doctor, but the sick." [Matthew 9:12]. Many of us Christian have a spirit of self-righteousness like that of the Pharisees and do not like to be associated with sinners.

Since, during the British rule in India, these islands served as a settlement for convicts sent from India and Burma to serve life sentences, a good portion of the local inhabitants of these islands are the descendants of these people. The other group of people who were settled in these islands or later migrated to these islands were those who could not making a living for themselves in the mainland of India. Hence we see a very low level of ethical and moral values among these people. We may say that the moral values are so low in these islands and most of the people have accepted it as the way of life.

Another serious problem is that the majority of the islanders are habitual drinkers and most of them end up as alcoholics and many of them die in that stage. Rich or poor, high or low, alcohol has a very prominent part to play in the lives of most of the islanders.

If it is because the work is tough and the results are not rewarding, our drive should not be merely to show numbers, but the burning desire to save perishing souls. Many Christian organizations and missionaries are content to work in familiar and easy grounds so that it may be easier for them to project results. Many do not want to venture into difficult territory for fear of failure. Support and encouragement for such areas are limited or almost nil.

Now if it is because the Census Report shows that about 24% of the population are Christians that we take pride in, then we need to understand that even with such a large percentage of Christian population and the presence of a good number of churches and Christian organizations; and with the migration of many Christians to these islands since Independence, the Christian population in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands continues to decrease year after year since 1951, when Christianity was the largest religious group in these islands and Hinduism the second largest group. Today the Christian population has fallen to the second place while Hinduism has taken the first place comprising 68% of the population. Now this should be a cause of serious concern in Christian missions, and definitely a great failure on the part of Christian missions in these islands. If this trend continues very soon we will have only a handful of Christian witnesses in these islands. Of the 24% of the Christian population in these islands the majority of them are just Christians by name and not by the Spirit.

In 1991 the Christian population which was the highest in the islands in 1951 had fallen from 30.65% to 23.95% taking the second place. The study of the Population Census from 1951-1991 shows that there has been a gradual decrease in the percentage of the Christian population from 30.65% in 1951 to 28.28% in 1961 to 26.35% in 1971 to 25.58% in 1981 to 23.95% in 1991.

Now of the total Christian population in these islands about 70% is made up of the Nicobaris who belong to the Church of North India and the members of the Roman Catholic Church of which nearly 80-85% is made up of the Chotanagpuri tribals commonly known as Ranchis, put together.

As regards the Nicobaris, it is pointed out the success of Christian missionaries like Solomon and Bishop Richardson in converting the Nicobaris to Christianity, lies in the fact that, they did not make the mistake to interfere too much with their old traditional and animistic customs and the result is that even today the Nicobaris continue to observe certain animistic customs. Social scientists find that the Christian faith as observed by the Nicobaris is not true Christian in all its perspectives. It is a strange blend of the modern outlook of the Christian faith and some old, traditional practices of animism. Thus one cannot say that animism has become obsolete in these islands [the Nicobars]. They have retained much of their essential characteristics despite the change of religion.

The Ranchis that make up 80-85% of the Roman Catholic Church in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands were an oppressed and exploited group in their hometown in Chotanagpur. It is said that their condition were so bad that they were ready to follow anyone or do anything that would bring them some relief and it was at this time that the Gossner Evangelical Lutheran and Catholic missionaries came to Chotanagpur. The majority of Ranchi Christians in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are those who were thus converted by the Roman Catholic Missions and a few by the Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Missions.

More than 80% of these people left their villages and went to places like Asam, Bhutan and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in search of a livelihood.

The Catholic Missionaries opened a Labour Bureau at Ranchi to organize these people and contract for them with employers at distant places. The earliest groups of Ranchi tribals that arrived in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands were recruited as labourers for road-lying, felling trees and other such developmental work in the islands. Others were later brought in by Christian Missionaries during the Pre-Independence period.

We may say that these Ranchi tribals are very casual about their faith. Despite the change in the religion they too have retained much of their earlier characteristics. Most men and women drink rice-beer (Handia). It is the women who assist in the preparation of the rice-beer for their own consumption and for sale to the other communities. Handia or country liquor is indispensable to festive occasions. Most of them chew betel leaf and smoke beedis. Thus the change of religion seems to have only touched the outer grab of the Ranchi tribals.

Amongst those who accepted Christianity in the Andamans are some of the Locals and the Bhantus. The 'Locals' are the descendants of the convicts who were brought from different parts of India to the Penal Settlement at Port Blair between 1858 and 1942. They are the real inhabitants of the Andamans after the aborigines. Though a few of the locals accepted Christianity, the majority of them are Hindus. The Christian Locals mostly belong to the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of North India respectively. The Bhantus or Bhatus, from Uttar Pradesh, were brought to the Andamans as convicts. They later settled down in Caddlegunj and Anikhet villages in South Andamans. The majority of the Bhantu Christians are members of the Church of North India and the Roman Catholic Churches Both these groups are tolerant enough to let inter-religious marriages among them. Religion to them is the personal affair of an individual. So one very commonly finds a Christian Local or Bhantu married to a Hindu or Muslim and so on.

And the very sad thing is that even among the rest of the Christian population in these islands the majority of them are just Christians by name and not by the Spirit.

It is high time that the Christian world realized that the Andaman & Nicobar Islands needs Jesus Christ as much as any other state in India.

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