LINC Houston mission pastor and University of Houston outreach chaplain Rev. Vijay Gurrala is a native of India, but his heart is for ministry here in Houston. Serving as a chaplain and working with Our Redeemer Lutheran Basilica of India he reaches out to Asian-Indian immigrants in a variety of ways, celebrating Jesus and Indian culture through events and activities all year round.
Each year at Christmas, Gurrala and several other Indian Christians in Houston partnering with LINC Houston and the Indian mission agency, the Friends Missionary Prayer Band to organize their own unique Indian commemoration of the birth of Christ - a "Hamara Desi Christmas" celebration.
Meaning "Our 'Indian' Christmas" the event is not limited to just Indians. "The Hamara Desi Christmas celebration is put together by individuals and families from the Houston metroplex who have origins from different parts of India with the objective of conducting one united Christmas program among Indians" said Gurrala.
This year's event will feature a distinctly Indian retelling of the Christmas saga, all performed in dramatic fashion and in English, with special Indian music by some of the best Asian-Indian performers in the United States.
India, a majority Hindu and Muslim country has a sizable minority of Christians, predominantly in the south near Chennai and Hyderabad who openly celebrate Christmas in India even though it is not a state holiday. The Hamara Desi celebration is organized by Indian-Americans from some of those areas.
However, Vincent Manoj, the organizer for this year's event, says Hamara Desi Christmas is aimed at Indians of all backgrounds and religions. "The event started four years ago as an informal event for Indians living in Houston," said Manoj, "now over 300 people attend each year from different cultures, backgrounds and creeds. It is not just a Christian event. It is not just an Indian event."
India, a country that enjoys relative religious peace given its deep dogmatic diversity including Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist and Christian traditions, has had its share of religion-political conflicts in the last decade with flare ups between Muslims and Hindus, Sikhs and Hindus in Punjab and claims of Christian-Hindu persecution in various states. Events such as Hamara Desi Christmas in the United States aim to help unite Indians around a celebration of joy, new life and hope.
Interested parties can register on-line at www.hamaradesichristmas.org.