Syrian Refugees Should Head to Kerala, Like They Did 2,000 Years Ago

Sometime between the 4th and the 9th century, Thomas of Cana, led a migration of Syriac Christians from the Middle East to India. This historical migration strengthened the ties between the Indian church and the Church of the East.

Ancient Malabar Christians. Photo published in the ‘Cochin Government Royal War Efforts Souvenir’ in 1938.
Ancient Malabar Christians. Photo published in the ‘Cochin Government Royal War Efforts Souvenir’ in 1938.

Thomas of Cana led a group of 72 families, as well as clergymen, to the Malabar (modern Kerala) coast. There they met and supplemented the Syrian Christians (also know as Saint Thomas Christians), who had been evangelised by Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century.

Thomas is said to have been a Syrian merchant, distinct from Thomas the Apostle, who preceded him in evangelising in India.

The western coast of India has served as the safe shore for many from the west, especially the Middle East, fleeing percussion. Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Bahai, Tibetans, Hindus, Muslims… the list goes own. There is no reason why we should stop now.

Even today, Syrian Christians of Kerala are referred to as Nasranis the Arabic name for Christians. Until the later part of the 20th century, prayers and rituals were conducted in Syriac Aramaic. You can read more about the Lifestyle of Kerala Syrian Christians here.

If we are truly want to be a global power, we need to do our part. Accept and offer refuge to those in need is vital for us, not just for PR or image building but for us to become a more mature and civil society. Perhaps we will see that our caste based issues are nothing compared to being forced to flee your home due to the treat of IS.

Syrian Christians in Kerala in 1872. John M. Barton

After a call by author Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir, more than 10,000 Icelanders offered to house Syrian refugees. Iceland is a country of just 300,000 people. How many refugees do we have now? 200,000 according to latest numbers, not any Syrians. Yet.

Tharisapalli Copper plate grant (9th century) – One of the reliable documentary evidences of the privileges and influence that Saint Thomas Christians enjoyed in early Malabar. The document contains signatures of the witnesses in Pahlavi, Kufic and Hebrew scripts. It is the oldest documentary evidence available to attest the presence of a Persian Christian community in South India.

Let’s change this. Let’s offer refugee to Syrians in need. We have done this in the past, Antonio Guterres, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says India is an example for other countries to emulate. We can’t let they Syrians down and we shouldn’t wait for our government to take the lead.

By User:PHGCOM (Detail of 300px) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Write to the PMO, MEA and your local MP to ask them to consider hosting more Syrian refugees. We have offered scholarships to those from conflict environments like Afghanistan. Several million young Syrians are missing out on an education. We can do out part. Think and act before it is too late.

Main photograph by Trocaire from Ireland (DSC_0871 (Syria 1, Emergencies 6)) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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