According to a study, more than three quarters of young Catholics between the ages of 20 and 32 have chosen to leave Kerala, one of the strongholds of Catholicism in India. If the trend continues, the consequences for the local church promise to be dramatic.
In Kerala (a state in southern India) Catholics, who follow the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, claim a presence that dates back to apostolic times, when St. Thomas the apostle came to evangelize their land.
This is a Christianity that has been able to resist numerous attacks from abroad, exposed sometimes to the Romans, the Arabs, the Chinese, the Portuguese, the Dutch, and more recently to the British.
But the great threat hanging over the Church of Kerala is the temptation to emigrate. If Christianity still continues to be the third largest religion in Kerala with 18% out of some 33 million people, their proportion is constantly decreasing. They were at more than 20% ten years ago and 32% at the beginning of the 21st century.
Unlike what can be observed in other religious groups in Kerala, Christians tend to emigrate with their families to foreign countries to settle there permanently. The following generations most often adopt the nationality of their adopted country and only rarely reconnect with their ancestral land.
Thus, the countries that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have become home to almost 90% of emigrants from Kerala, to the point that an apostolic vicariate has been specially erected for them in South Arabia.
This migratory trend weakens the Catholics who remain in the country: extended families become rare, the lands formerly owned by Christians pass into the hands of Hindus or Muslims, all leading to a demographic evolution which weighs more and more on the Church and risks weakening the leading political role it has played in the region so far.
The Indian federal authorities, for their part, have no reason to curb a movement which not only allows for the erasure of Christianity, but which also allows the country's economy to be strengthened, given the volume of remittances that migrant workers send to their families back in Kerala.
With this temptation to emigrate, the Church also faces a drop in the birth rate among Catholics. If nothing is done to reverse the trend, the number of Christians is destined to decrease inexorably in this state which boasts of an apostolic heritage.