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Mission India: LifeSiteNews.com’s Journey to India

LifeSiteNews.com

By John-Henry Westen

LifeSiteNews.com director Steve Jalsevac found himself in India seeking health treatments a couple of months ago, but the trip was more of a learning experience of the Indian state of Kerala’s strong Christian culture. However, not long after being there, Steve noted with dismay the lack of children even among strongly Christian families. The numbers of children being born to Christian families, which in all India represent a mere 2-4% of the population and in the southern province of Kerala represent about 19%,Âwas discovered to beÂnot even close to replacement rate. The trend of families having only one child was quickly replacing the already below replacement rate of only two.

After discussions with Christian leaders in India regarding these matters he wrote several articles about what he realized would be the impending inevitable collapse of Indian Christian society if the situation did not change drastically.

  See Steve’sÂarticles here:
  Christians in India facing Major Decline Because of Low Birthrate
https://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2006/jun/060612a.html
  Priest Says Kerala Catholics Use “Whatever Savage Method They Can” to Limit Children
https://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2006/jun/06061303.html
  Kerala Cardinal Says “Loose Catholic Doctrine” From West Has Influenced Indian Catholics to Accept Contraception
https://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2006/jun/06061507.html
  Indian Church Leaders Respond to Anti-Christian Violence and “Forced Conversion Laws”
https://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2006/jun/06062011.html

Shortly thereafter I was asked if I’d be open to going to India to speak at the Divine Retreat Centre, the world’s largest Catholic retreat centre which runs conferences and retreats for hundreds of thousands of people each and every year. Pro-life, with a strong emphasis on openness to lifeÂwas the topic I was requested to speak on.Â

I was scheduled to speak to a couples’ conference, and a youth conference being held at the centre and then another couple of conferences and meetings being held in surrounding areas. A total of nearly 10,000 would hear this message of openness to life.

My wife Dianne travelled with me with our baby Lucas, the youngest of seven children, accompanying us. The remainder of the Westen clan were evenly divided between grandparents.Â

The trip was an adventure fromÂjust before we leftÂuntil we returned a few weeks later. The week prior to our departure was a very lively one with all of the children coming down withÂflu, and baby Lucas taking a frightening tumble down the stairs on the day of our departure.

We flew from Toronto to London England, and from there to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, and finally to Cochin in Kerala - a journey of aboutÂ26 hours.ÂThe adventure began in earnest in Toronto as we were informed we had to repack our luggage due to overweight baggage. Our baby-food had to be repacked into boxes.Â

In London we were informed that our bookings on our connecting flight had somehow been cancelled, and we would have to wait for over three days in the airport for the next available flight -Âa ather upsetting prospect especially since most of our baby supplies were now in boxes which were checked luggage. Although all the other passengers for the flight had arrived at the airport and checked their luggage, somehow one family did not turn up at the gate. After delaying the flight over half an hour, airport officials took the family’s luggage off the plane and allowed us to board in their stead. Providentially this afforded us extra seating so that the baby could sleep peacefully on the 7+ hour flight.

In Dubai we had another adventure getting separated and having a hard time finding each other in the massive airport. Our mission there had been to ensure that our luggage was still with us given the booking mishap we’d experienced in London. With the assurance that all was fine we continued onto the next flight to Cochin where we found our luggage had not made the trip.ÂIt arrived the following day and we began our journey.

The first thingÂthat startled us about India was the driving. Beyond driving on the left side of the road, traffic seems to know no boundaries as what would normally pass for a one lane road here is often used as if it were a four lane highway in Kerala. The horn seems to be a method of incessant communication with drivers, not in a menacing or threatening way as it is used in Canada, but as a means of letting others know your whereabouts.

Striking too was the preponderance of cattle seemingly pegged to every bit of available grassland, even the small grassy divisions between roads. Some were not tethered and roamed freely and unaccompanied along roadways.

The condition of many of the roads was deplorable with potholes filled with murky water, sometimes so large as to make a pond out of the road. The side-walks with gaping holes made our efforts in lugging our stroller from Canada an exercise in futility.

The heat, an average 35 Celsius, was aggravated considerably by high humidity, but helped by frequent rains which offered a temporary cool-down.

However, the beauty was truly breathtaking. The lush green everywhere, with coconut, mango and rubber trees covering the landscape was a welcome sight. The mountains and hills topped, not with white caps as in Canada, butÂdeep, tropicalÂgreen, were simply stunning.

The beauty and friendliness of the people was also fascinating. This was especially true regarding their great love for babies. We could hardly get two blocks with our ten month old without being approached by several women and also men cooing over and some asking to hold the baby. A situation the baby took a fancy to more quickly than his parents.

Visits and interviews with pro-life and religious leaders took up the first few days after adjustment to the time change was complete.Â

See articles based on those meetings and interviews:
  Indian Cardinal Warns Catholics it is Sinful to Refuse God’s Gift of Children Without Grave Reasons
https://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2006/aug/06081502.html
  Indian Catholic Prelate Sees Faith in India Drying Up Within 20 Years
https://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2006/aug/06081601.html
  India Pro-Life Leader Explains How West Hurts India with Imposed Population Control
https://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2006/aug/06081701.html

Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of LifeSiteNews.com’s Mission to India coming up next week.

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