Negotiating World Views: Christian Koyas and their Environment
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The thesis centres around a number of conversion stories that were related to me by Christian Koyas, most of them newly converted. While primarily attempting to understand their motivations for turning to Christianity, the analysis incorporates the traditional or non-Christian society by investigating the process which leads up to conversion, a process which usually begins with disease and suffering and the failure of traditional medicine or rituals.The evangelical work of the many Christian congregations in the area makes for polarized understandings concerning the ritual practices of Christian Koyas on one side and non-Christian Koyas practicing animistic beliefs on the other. The condemnation on part of the church of rituals involving alcohol and animal sacrifice contributes to this situation. As traditionalist attitudes grow stronger among conservative non-Christians, many Koyas strive to make sense of their lives while being influenced by both traditions, the Christian and the animistic. They find themselves confronted with a moral dilemma, having to choose between the loyalty to the church, which offers free and effective healing, and the loyalty to the clan, the village and its leaders by continuing the worship of spirits and ancestors. The choice of going to church while they desist from taking part in village festivals may have consequences for the way they are perceived by fellow villagers. It is especially what they turn down by becoming Christian, their lack of participation or compliance in ritual matters, that is particularly controversial among non-Christians.While presenting the social organisation that results from the co-existence and blending of two widely different religious traditions, the thesis argues for a processual view on ethnicity and religion against the static view reflected in the Indian censuses. It further argues that Christian Koyas of the area, in spite of the apparent inability to create a meaningful community based on their common religion, are in the process of forming an endogamous unit within the Koya society.