About the word Nasrani
In early centuries, the word ‘Nasrani’ or ‘Nazrani’ was used to identify the Jews who accepted Messiah. Its literal meaning in Arabic, Persian, Hebrew, Syriac etc. is Christian. It can be seen in a Persian manuscript that the term ‘Nasraya’ and ‘Christiana’ are used to identify for Syriac speaking Christian and Greek speaking Christian respectively. Therefore the English word ‘Christian’ has its root in Greek language, the language of Christians (or gentile in Pauline Christianity) who came into early Christianity from non-Israelite culture. The Christians from Jewish/Aramaic culture later emerged as Syriac Christianity.
Early Christianity from Saint Thomas, the Apostle in the Malabar Coast was among traders whose language was Aramaic. These Christians of Malabar came to be known as Nasranis in the later centuries. Therefore in India, this word refers to the group of Christians that follow the traditions of St. Thomas, the Apostle. During the British occupation, they came to be also known as Syrian Christians erroneously.
Who we are
Nasrani Foundation is a fellowship of likeminded Saint Thomas Christian laymen who are concerned about the identity of their mother Church – the Church of Mar Thoma Nasranis in India that happened to be divided into different Churches due to historical and political reasons. Historically, the faithful of Syrian Christians irrespective of their denominations were always in the forefront for preserving and promoting the richness of their Apostolic Christianity in India. This can be seen in various efforts of Thomas Christian laymen in the past by their commitment and leadership to preserve their traditions and faith against the might of the colonial forces.
This fellowship of young professionals got evolved in 2005-06 period over Internet though social networks. The group tried to defend their mother Church by exposing the attempts to dilute the rich traditions by over enthusiastic adoptions from the Western Churches by advocating for the importance of an ecclesial life centred on liturgy of the church which is in East Syriac tradition and raising their voice against the liturgical abuses that is happening in the Church.
In November 2006, www.nasrani.net – Nasrani Syrian Christians (NSC) Network was established to build awareness about Nasrani culture, traditions, heritage, sharing different perspectives of history and other relevant information concerning the Mar Thoma Nasranis. NSC Network showcased a large number of articles on the history, culture and heritage of Mar Thoma Nasranis and provided a large Internet forum for discussions and learning.
NSC Network focussed on high-level discussions and did in-depth research on Nasrani history, heritage and culture. However basic topics needed more reach among naïve readers and youngsters. To this end, as a first step a dynamic online liturgical calendar was launched in 2009 via the official website www.nasranifoundation.org to promote the East Syrian liturgy and a spiritual life centred on the Liturgical seasons. The effort was supported by a number of authentic scholars of the clergy providing articles and homilies for the calendar. The calendar became a handy tool for those who want to organize their life according to the liturgical seasons of the Church. Printed copies of the Liturgical calendar and a large number of East Syriac resources are distributed through the website.
During 2009-2012, the group worked on a project to develop an innovative online application of Liturgy of hours – the Divine Praises of Syro Malabar Church. As part of this, the group recorded more than 500 songs, a project that appeared initially a big challenge and not realisable due to a number of reasons. The application displays prayer text (official text of the Syro Malabar Church) and a playlist of songs that corresponds to the applicable liturgical day and major prayers- the Ramsha, the Sapra and the Lelya based on user’s local time detected from the computer automatically The application is very unique and is perhaps the first ever attempt to convert the liturgy of hours into a computer application. The application is used by a large number of faithful and clergy regularly on the computer, tablets and mobile phones.
Since Dukrana 2015, the web-based prayer application is available in mobile platform as well with enhanced features such as compass, prayers in Syriac, its transliterationsetc. In addition, a number of video contents are promoted over the YouTube channel.
In 2013, to make the community more structured and streamline the efforts, Nasrani Foundation has been registered as a religious & charitable society under the Travancore-Cochin Literary Scientific and Charitable Society Registration Act (Act XII of 1955).
At present Nasrani Foundation sends email alerts to thousands of users around the globe, informing them the liturgical importance of the day and the biblical reading. They have on an average 35, 000 unique visitors per month for their official website. Members of Nasrani foundation publishes and popularises articles related to Mar Thoma Margam in Internet and presents their research work in International Syriac conferences. They lead discussions in social media and promote the identity of their mother Church. They support various Syro Malabar Diaspora communities by raising awareness about the rich Apostolic faith and traditions of their mother church, providing resources, organising seminars, workshops. They also work against the widespread liturgical and spiritual abuses by influencing various leaders by leaflets, letters and personal contacts.