Synod on Youth 2018

Christian Voices from Mumbai

CCRI, Mumbai

Mumbai is a city that never sleeps. It is the industrial capital of India and much of the international business and offices are situated in the city, employing staff that are familiar with or getting familiar with the international culture. The lifestyle is fast and highly competitive for young professionals. With unforgiving workplaces that often result in people working anywhere between 8 to 14 hours a day mostly six days a week, young adults are quickly moving towards a burnout at an earlier stage of their lives. Thus, the underlying stress only seems to get carried over every weekend and entertainment or social networking becomes an easy outlet.

Amid all this, religion, faith and the family have a great potential to bring a balance in the lives of young people. However, many Christian youth in Mumbai are disillusioned by what is offered by the institution of the Catholic Church. I worked with youth for years as a student and a young professional and have had such discussions with numerous colleagues, classmates and neighbours. For this report, I invited over 20 youth to answer the questionnaire, and while all were interested, only eight could make enough time to answer a few questions and present their views about the Catholic Church. Most of the respondents informed me that they did not attend Mass regularly. They respected the Institution of the Church but could not relate to its current way of functioning. While all attended Mass regularly with their families when they were children, this practice has waned for most of them. Some found peace and solace in the quiet at home rather than the repetitive ceremony at Mass, while others found peace in the atmosphere of their church. Some attend only because they want to spend that time with the family or because of familial pressure (in Asia, most young adults either live with their parents or in-laws in a joint family system). Considering the stressful work life in Mumbai, some respondents simply chose to rest on Sunday. Mass isn’t the only place we find God. Sunday School prepared us to understand our faith, yet, it was better understood when we made our own inward journeys, analysed what we learned and applied it in our lives. Because of this, the compulsion or the dependence on Sunday Mass is reduced and we continue to live Christian lives and only attend Mass when our minds and bodies are prepared for it and are capable of making it a complete spiritual experience.

From the responses, it is evident that the youth feel that the church refuses to move with the times. However, all agreed that they noticed attempts by the hierarchy of the Church to catch up with the modern times (such as equality in the washing of the feet, mercy towards refugees, etc.), although the traditions still remain medieval. We have observed a contradiction that Christianity is about love but forces the followers to fear God with the threat of eternal damnation. The church must move ahead from believing that ‘only prayer can solve problems’ to a more realistic approach of ‘action can solve problems’ – keeping in mind the inequalities and poverty that exists in the world.