Since last Sunday, I’ve been hanging out with a Chinese church group that my distant relatives have been involved with for over 30 years. This has been my third time that the group has invited me to an event, but this was a particularly special occasion: a baptism. Growing up in the South, I was always surrounded by religious or spiritual people, but I never exactly participated in it or got close to it.
There is nothing new about Hakka Christians. While many still practice ancestral veneration, Taoism and Buddhism, Hakka have a long and unique history with Catholicism. Some people believe Hakka were perfect ‘targets’ for conversion, considering that they were historically impoverished and oppressed by local populations. Nonetheless, the transnational nature of the Hakka community, even in rural areas, has given rise to a local Catholicism with Chinese characteristics. Evangelical Protestantism is not exactly new to the Hakka community either; the Basel Mission Society seemed to mark Protestantism’s initial presence in Meixian, Guangdong since the 19th century. Christianity, therefore, is very much a part of many Hakkas’ lived experiences.
I personally grew up Catholic, like many Hakka Indians. So I was a bit surprised to find that this church has 6 or 7 Hakka families, some of whom were baptized or helped with the ceremony. I was really blown away when I realized that we were actually doing a baptism in a river. Specifically, the Danube.