Some 200 years ago, in the small town of Basel, Germany, an event took place, which seemed quiet ordinary, but which was later to gain momentum and take on a gigantic proportion. Six young protestant priests, with definite calling, filled and guided by the Holy spirit, decided to start a small mission with the sole aim - to take the good news to the ' ends of the earth'. So with a vision to preach, teach and heal, the young missionaries went to different parts of the world. One such group came to India, South India. The rest that followed is as they say- history.
To commemorate this event that has had far reaching consequences, the four Dioceses of the Church of South India, the Coimbatore, Karnataka Northern, Karnataka Southern and North Kerala, got together to celebrate the occasion in a grand manner and in a meaningful and befitting way. The celebration which will have its beginning in Karnataka Northern Diocese will be carried on throughout the year with final ceremony at Kerala Diocese.
The yearlong celebration commenced with the inaugural of the Bicentenary Celebration at the Hebich Memorial Church, Dharwad. 12th October 2014 was the day earmarked for the commencement of the grand celebrations. The day dawned with perfect weather. The church saw a gathering like never before. During the Service, the Moderator of the Church of South India the Most Rev. Dr. G. Dyvasirvadam inaugurated the yearlong celebrations envisaged by CSI Synod by lighting the lamp. The Moderator then shared the Word of God with the gathering. During his speech the Moderator spoke on the significance of the celebrations and recollected the contributions of the Basel Mission to the Church and the wider society in South India. Apart from propagating Christian principles, the missionaries also made significant contributions to Malayalam and Kannada literature, cultures, and for the welfare of people in Kerala and Karnataka states. Their holistic approach in mission is a challenge to the present day Christians, he added.
The Deputy Moderator and Bishop in Madhya Kerala Diocese, Rt. Rev. Thomas K. Oomenn, Bishop in Karnataka Northern Diocese, the Rt. Rev. Ravikumar J. Niranjan, Bishop in Coimbatore Diocese, the Rt. Rev. Timothy Ravinder, General Secretary of CSI Synod Rev. Dr. D.R. Sadananda, Directors of various Synod Departments Rev. Asir Ebenezer, Rev. Christopher Vijayan and Rev. James Cecil Victor, CSI-EMS Liaison Officer Rev. Dr. Royce Manoj Victor and representatives from Karnataka Southern Diocese and North Kerala Diocese are also participated in the Service. Mr. Lutz Drescher, India and East Asia Liaison Secretary of EMS represented EMS and Basel Mission in the celebrations.
The day-long events began with the inaugural of an exhibition in the premises of the Hebich Memorial Church which showcased photographs of missionaries who served in the area along with their mission field and the various churches, schools, hospitals and hostels established. This was immediately followed by the consecrated Thanksgiving Service that was well attended and blessed. The service included the lighting of the lamp symbolizing the start of the celebrations. Soon after the service, there followed the wreath laying at the churchyard which houses the tombs of the missionaries who served at Hebich Memorial Church Missionaries' Resting Place, a small token for the remarkable and priceless service. The Rt. Rev. Timothy Ravinder offered a prayer thanking God for the lives and ministry of the missionaries. As a mark of the celebrations, the dignitaries let sail colourful balloons and pigeons. The next venue of the celebration was the statue of Rev. Dr. Ferdinand Kittel, the notable missionary who wrote the first ever Kannada-English dictionary of about 70,000 words in 1894, which stands tall and magnificent near the church, which the dignitaries garlanded.
Soon after, the gathering moved forward to the Seminar organised in the Baselian Auditorium specially decked up to host the commemoration of the Contributions of Basel Missionaries to the Karnataka. The Seminar was well attended with The Moderator, Deputy Moderator, Office Bearers of the Synod, the Bishops, Clergy, congregation and the who's who of the literary world of Kannada- writers, critics and the press.
The Seminar was inaugurated by Nadoja Dr. Na.D'souza, with the watering of the plant. He also delivered the inaugural address. In his speech, he claimed that Christian missionaries were instrumental in sensitising the Indian people to the significance of education in their lives. However, despite laudable contributions in the field of education and health, the missionaries from Basel Mission are yet to get due respect and honour in the country, Mr. D'souza pointed out. He recalled the enormous contributions of the missionaries to Kannada literature, art and culture.
This was followed by paper presentation by three well versed scholars. The first paper- “Contribution of Basel Missionaries to Kannada Language and Literature” presented by Prof A.V. Navada, Research Co-ordinator, KTC Research Centre, Mangalore, a scholarly deliberation that threw light on the development of Kannada Language and Literature. Shri Dinesh Naik, Senior Reporter, The Hindu, presented a paper on “Contribution of Rev. Hermann Mogling to Kannada Language and Journalism”. The third paper was presented by Rev. Dr. Ratnakar Sadananda on “Contribution of Basel Missionaries to Medical and Educational Field”. All the papers were well received by the august audience. Deputy Moderator Rt. Rev. Thomas K. Oomenn, gave the Presidential remarks. The Seminar was followed by lunch.
The daylong celebrations ended on a positive and festive note with the “Cultural Evening”, which focused on the life and mission of the Missionaries. Plays, skits, tableau and songs were presented on the life and works of various missionaries by Students of our Institutions, members of the Women's Fellowship and Worker's Fellowship. The violin music presented by Mr. Christian Kim Siztmann, a renowned violinist from Germany, who has been in India as a volunteer from EMS, was an added flavor to the function.
The entire congregation along with the Pastors, Pastorate committee, faculty, and administrative staff of all the Schools and Colleges coming under the ascendancy of KND and the Basel Mission Higher Education Centre took active part and contributed to the success of the inauguration of the Bicentenary Celebration of the Basel Mission.