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The YMCA and the Making of Modern India (A Centenary History).

If indeed "no other Christian organisation so objectively identified itself with the aspirations and needs of people during the most formative decades of Indian history as the YMCA" (p. xiii), this centenary history is a vital contribution to missiology. Historian M. D. David, a prominent YMCA lay leader, makes a convincing case. Through the YMCA, "Christians pioneered social relief, medical work, educational work, tribal welfare, development of modern languages and literature ... undiscriminating service to all irrespective of caste or creed" (ibid.).

Although at the outset the association served principally British troops, Anglo-Indians, and the Indian urban elite, it led the process of indigenization when K. T. Paul became general secretary in 1916. V. S. Azariah, the first Indian bishop of the Anglican Church, had been a YMCA secretary for seventeen years. Though some Westerners "felt it humiliating to obey an Indian boss," and though a mini-revolt was staged by some American staff, indigenous leadership was strongly supported by such giants as John R. Mott and Sherwood Eddy. J. N. Farquhar, as student secretary and literature secretary, set a new theological direction in studying and appreciating Hinduism and Islam.

The Indian YMCA also provided significant leadership in physical education (sponsoring and training India's first Olympic team in 1924), in rural development, in refugee work during war years, in establishing hostels (in London, Edinburgh, and Glasgow as well as scores in India), and in education and shared activities across communal lines.

There have been peaks and valleys in the century of YMCA work in India, including conflicts between national or international committees and local associations, problems of financial dependence, and tensions between imperial ties and nationalist aspirations. Like other YMCAs, the Indian association has been charged with abandoning its religious origins and evangelistic purpose. David concedes that it "had followed the growing humanitarian movement in the Church and had itself gone into social service." But he insists confidently, based on the requirement of Christian membership for all boards of directors, that "religious values could be found underlying all activities of the YMCA" (p. 292).
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Author:Lacy, Creighton
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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