Friday, October 17, 2014

The Anglicans: One of their finest hours. (Or, Why don't we celebrate such great stories?)

Traveling in India, one cannot help but note the influence of England: trains run on time, cricket captures and endlessly ensnares the passions of young men and the court system is based on British concepts of law.

How did all this happen? It was due to one of the Anglican's finest moments. India drew British missionaries, some of the most capable to ever graduate from Oxford and Cambridge.

Henry Martyn (1781-1812) translated the New Testament into Urdu and Persian, and this translation work founded the development of a national language. Many other scholars influenced the groundwork of education and the development of India's modern languages.

Decades of sacrificial service by Bible translators made it possible for the British government to agree to making Hindustani their court language at the lower levels of administration.

This meant that a peasant in North India could go to a British court, and understand the prosecutor, witness, lawyers and judge. Gifted Indian writers could write in a language that even the most humble could appreciate. Previous to this, the court language under Akbar (15556-1605) was Persian.

Claudius Buchanan (1766-1815), Charles Grant, Alexander Duff, Charles Trevelyan (1807-1886) and Lord Macaulay (and hundreds more) showed an interest in enriching Indian vernaculars, educating the masses and preparing India for self-government. John Borthwick Gilchrist (1759-1841) developed "Tables and Principles" of Hindustani.

These men, their wives and  others, were supported in England by giants of the faith, such as Charles Simon (1759-1836), whose ministry in Cambridge constantly challenged students in the university to serve India. Together with others, such as William Wilberforce, (1759-1833). they opposed the lucrative slaver trade, of which the British Company was most famous.

Sir William Muir, (1819-1905)  founded the University of Allahabad as Muir Central College, which influenced many of India's greatest statesmen and women. "It's educational and political culture forged by its municipality, High Court, university, press and a strategic location gave India five of her first seven prime ministers. (p. 207, The Book that Made Your World.)

Charles Trevelyan could not have been more blunt. He foresaw, and encouraged, India's Independence!

He was 120 years ahead of his time when he wrote: The existing connection between two such distant countries as England and India, cannot, in the nature of things be permanent; no effort of policy can prevent the natives from ultimately regain their independence. That was written in 1838!

The influence of the Bible and the application of the teachings of Jesus to "Love your neighbor as yourself" led to opposition of traditional beliefs and practices: widow burning, infanticide, untouchability, temple prostitution, polygamy and idolatry.

Most important of all, the concept of "one person-one vote" illustrated the dignity of all citizens, with freedoms guaranteed by a Constitution and free elections. Today, when elections take place in India, the process for so many hundreds of millions to vote is an epoch event: it takes days to vote and more days to count the votes.

Mahatma Ghandi, a Gujarati, and Rabindranath Tagore, a Bengali, met in the 1920's and decided that Hindi, not Sanskrit, and not English, had to be India's future.

For a fascinating "re-discovery" of many ways that our modern world has been influenced by these giants of literature, education, science, music and other aspects of culture, I highly recommend the book The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization, by Indian writer, Vishal Mangalwadi. (published by Thomas Nelson, 2011)

If you are looking for a great book as a Christmas present, one that will keep you going back to it over and over again (unlike most websites these days!), I suggest this book as a modern day treasure!

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