In a role reversal of history, three Indian priests are due to arrive in Scotland to revive what the bishop of Galloway called ‘tired’ faith in a part of the United Kingdom hit by dwindling church attendance and fewer people seeing themselves as Christians.
This is the latest example of Indian priests moving here over the last decade to mainly meet a shortage of priests. But the bishop of Galloway says the three priests are not coming to ‘plug gaps’ but because ‘they see Scotland as mission country’.
The 2011 census reflected the scale of decline in Christian affiliation among the British-born population, but the decline has been more than made up by immigrants over the years, including from parts of India.
In the 19th century, western missionaries trekked to remote tribal and other areas of India to convert tribes and others, who are now returning the favour by moving to places such as Wales to meet a shortage of priests there.
Among the first Indian priests to move here were Rev. Hmar Sangkhuma and Rev Z John Malsawma Colney – both from Mizoram, both now based in Wales.
Others include Rev Kesari Godfrey of the Church of South India, who moved to Bridlington in Yorkshire.
In a letter last week, Galloway bishop William Nolan told the faithful: “They (the three Indian priests) see a country where the faith is tired and the faithful lack the enthusiastic joy of the first Christians – an enthusiasm and joy that we see in the church in many Third World countries, where the faith is young and alive”.
“They come because they want to bring God to a country where so many live without God and not know him.”
The bishop added: “There is no doubt that for Catholics in Galloway diocese and throughout Scotland our enthusiasm for passing on the faith, particularly to those outside the Church, has been dented, because we have been disheartened by the scandals and criticism and negativity of recent years.”