Between 1971 and 2011
The State has undergone major changes in terms of religious demographics during the last four decades. In 1971 Christians were only 0.8%. The figure jumped to 30% in 2011 (Census of India), becoming the largest group in the State. The growth curve shows below its progress.
Source: Religion Data of Census 2011: XIII Arunachal Pradesh (accessed: 16 July 2016).
Next graph is this decade’s status of religions in Arunachal Pradesh. Next to Christianity are Hindu, Others (mostly Donyi-polo) and Buddhist. The converts to Christianity had been primarily from “Others” and very minimal from Hindu, Buddhist and other religions.
Source: Religious Composition of AP (Census of India 2011).
What people say are the reasons for conversions
An article in NY Times listed several opinions:
- Christianity’s infiltration into Arunachal Pradesh began slowly, mostly through locals who descended into the Assamese plains to be educated in well-regarded missionary schools there, only to return with a new religious zeal, as well as English-language skills and new names like John and James. – Anthropologist – Stuart Blackburn.
- Some practical, like the need for better education and healthcare, which churches promised to bring, and others more spiritual. “Our people are religious by nature. – Mr. Stephen, Catechist at St Joseph’s Cathedral.
- Many tribals converted out of a desire to be modern, since Christianity was often seen in the same boat as modernity. – Prof. Nani Bath of RGU.
- For those with a 21st-century mindset, the traditional wedding practice of slaughtering dozens of mithuns, a type of mountain bovine, was disagreeable. – Lisa Lomdak, Linguist at RGU
The above talks about why conversion took place. The Operation World (2000) mentioned who did the work: by Indian missionaries from Nagaland and other North Eastern states. At that time, there were 1,000 churches. 90% of those were from the Baptists.
Wikipedia talks about 101 recognized tribes and classified them by religions:
- 37 are having an animist majority (Nyishi, Adi, Galo, Tagin, Adi Minyong, Adi, Apatani, Bugun etc.)
- 23 are having a Christian majority (Wancho, Dafla, Mossang Tangsa, Bori, Yobin.etc.),
- 15 are having a Hindu majority (Mishmi, Mishing/Miri, Deori, Aka, Longchang Tangsa.etc.), and
- 17 are having a Buddhist majority (Monpa, Khampti, Tawang Monpa, Momba, Singpho, Sherdukpen etc.).
- The remaining 8 tribes are multi-faith, i.e. doesn’t have a dominant religion (Nocte, Tangsa, Naga etc.)
The Census revealed majority of converts to Christianity occurred from animist background; less from other religions. That means more missionary work could have been focusing on them.
In the days to come, it would make sense to focus missionary/church work among the Hindu majority, Buddhist majority and multi-faith tribes.
Scriptures that brought attention:
For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the sea is covered by the waters – Habakkuk 2:14
And in the days of those kings, the God of heaven will put up a kingdom which will never come to destruction, and its power will never be given into the hands of another people, and all these kingdoms will be broken and overcome by it, but it will keep its place for ever. Daniel 2:44
Jesus told the people another story. He said, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like this. A man took a mustard seed and planted it in his field. A mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds. But the plant that grows from it is bigger than other plants. Matthew 13:31-32