The Telegraph
Tuesday , June 10 , 2014
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Special tribute to torchbearers of the faith

- GEL commemorates first baptism by German missionaries 164 years ago

Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Church (GEL), Ranchi, the oldest church in Chotanagpur, commemorated the first baptism of four Oraon tribals by four German missionaries way back on June 9, 1850, by holding a special thanksgiving service on Monday.

On November 2, 1845, four German Lutheran missionaries — Emil Schatz, Fredrik Batsch, Augustus Brandt and E. Theodor Janke — sent by Fr Johaness Evangelista Gossner of Berlin, arrived at Ranchi, erected tents and conducted the first church service at a makeshift chapel inside what is today GEL campus.

The four Germans were the first Christian missionaries to have landed in the Chotanagpur region. Roman Catholic Church missionaries came much later.

The first Belgian Jesuit, owing allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church, to land at Chaibasa was Auguste Stockman, who travelled by bullock cart from Midnapore and after a difficult fortnight-long journey reached Chaibasa on November 25, 1868.

According to records at the GEL church, orphan Martha was the first girl child to be baptised by the German missionaries on June 25, 1846. However, the first major baptism took place on June 9, 1850, when four adults belonging to the Oraon tribe — Pahan Naveen Doman, Kesho Bhagat, Bandhu Oraon and Ghuran Oraon — were baptised by the missionaries.

More than a year later, two Munda tribesmen were baptised on October 26, 1851, nine Bengalee speaking men were baptised on June 8,1866, while two men belonging to the Kharia tribe were baptised on May 10, 1868, GEL records revealed.

“This event went on to change the lives of the people of this region. Over the past 164 years the church has grown, despite numerous challenges,” said Nelson Lakra, moderator, GEL Church, during the service.

Later talking to The Telegraph, Lakra pointed out that amidst a fast changing social milieu marked by shrinking job opportunities, precarious and unpredictable global economic conditions, a much longer period of education, postponement of marriage, parenthood etc, the GEL Church, was today required to devote its energies in addressing these concerns among the younger generation.

“We need to strengthen the belief in young minds that God exists. We need to tell them to rediscover love in their lives. We need to tell them that there is an urgent need to protect family values. In times of adversities, we often forget the existence of God,” the GEL moderator stressed.

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