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Mongolia’s young Church is growing from seeds planted by missionaries, Indian bishop says

By Nirmala Carvalho

The archbishop of Guhawati speaks to AsiaNews about his trip to Mongolia, which he visited to know more about its young Church. Although small, the latter has great potential.

9/28/2010 Mongolia (AsiaNews) – “Seeds have been sown in many places of East Asia through the blood of early Christian martyrs. Those seeds must grow. Can we play a helpful role?” asks Mgr Thomas Menamparampil, archbishop of Guwahati. In an exclusive interview with AsiaNews, he spoke about his visit to Mongolia last August. The local Church is small but is growing in a country with great potential thanks to the help of Indian missionaries.

What is this your fascination for Mongolia?

As you know, most communities in northeast India are part of the great Mongol family. Though I do not pretend that they all migrated from today’s Mongolia, they are aware that they have their origins in the heartlands of the Mongol races.

I have often thought that Indian self-understanding is not complete unless we go beyond the Aryan-Dravidian cultural alliance and recognise the strong Mongol composition in our society and contribution to our civilisation. Aside from the Mongol element clearly visible among the northeastern tribes and the sub-Himalayan communities, undoubtedly Mongol blood runs in the veins of a number of ethnic groups in the Eastern regions of India. Many of their concepts have gone into the mainstream thought too. Buddha, Asoka, and several other great figures in the early history of India were of Mongol stock. That is why the religious proposal they made (Buddhism) found wide welcome among the Mongol people of Asia.

However, for me as a missionary, the interest was not merely anthropological and cultural. I keep wondering what great plans God has for the great Mongol family. Seeds have been sown in many places of East Asia through the blood of early Christian martyrs. Those mustard seeds must grow. Can we play a helpful role?

What is the position of the Church in Mongolia today?

The Catholic population is small. It is still less than a thousand. But it is a good start when we realise that Bishop Padilla began his work in 1992 from zero. His missionary team of priests and sisters has grown to over 70. They are enthusiastic and zealous and are opening up missions even in more remote areas, even up to the borders of the Gobi Desert. Most of the country is undulating hills covered with grass, on which horses, camels and sheep graze. The temperature dips 50 degrees below zero and more. It is very challenging for missionaries, especially those from warmer countries. The people are followers of Tibetan Buddhism and are mild in nature. However, they are cautious about proselytising. Having inherited traditions from the Soviet culture, the government does not encourage private institutions, though they do not forbid them altogether. The Church runs a few educational and health services, Mother Teresa’s work among them.

I think it was in the 8th century that Padmasambhava took the message of Buddha from the Indian plains to the Tibetan Plateau. It was again a few centuries later that zealous missionaries brought that message to Mongolia. I was amazed to see the vastness of the area within which that local insight from an Indian village had spread.

There is no limit to possibilities when you are certain that the message you carry has something valid to offer. It is bound to make an impact even if it takes time. What the carrier of the Good News has to do is to work according to the rhythms of human nature and the processes of history . . . and wait for the action of the Lord.”

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