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December 24, 2001
THE PRINCESS MARY CHRISTMAS GIFT OF 1914
"The Christian religion was a sacred trust in our family. It has cost us a great deal to hold onto the faith, to the extent that my father had to pay for it with his very life" -- The Late Dr. Mrs. Shanti Solomon, Founder of the International Fellowship of the Least Coin.
By Rev Isaac Newton Johnson
While America is fighting a war against terror and U.S. and Japanese veterans gathered at Hawaii on December 7, 2001 for a ceremony to mark 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor attack by Japanese in 1941 which forced America to enter World War II, my thoughts have gone back to August 4, 1914, the day the lights went out in Europe as Great Britain declared war on Germany. This was also coincidentally the 14th birthday of the present Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother of England.
My paternal grandfather, the Late Chaudhry Nanhe Mall Singh, a resident of Sahaswan Tehsil, District Budaun, U.P. India also fought in World War I under the British Royal Army and was abroad in the King's uniform on December 25, 1914. For his military service, he was the recipient of the Princess Mary Christmas Gift 1914 which was an embossed brass box presented by Her Royal Highness Princess Mary, the seventeen-year-old daughter of the then King George V and Queen Mary of Great Britain. The inscription read, "A Gift from the nation for the every Sailor afloat and every Soldier at the front."
The lid of the box bore the head of Princess Mary, with the words, "Imperium Britannicum" above and "Christmas 1914" below. At the sides and corners were the names of Britain's allies -- France, Russia, Belgium, Japan, Serbia and Montenegro, who all fought in the Great War. Though my father and grandfather are not alive, the HRH Princess Mary Christmas Gift 1914 is still part of our family's pride and reminds us every Christmas that our grandfather was on British Royal Army duty during Christmas 1914 at that terrible time in world history.
During this war a hundred thousand Indian ethnic minority recruits were killed or wounded. My grandfather was severely wounded, became partially handicapped and was retired from British Royal Army around 1916. It was commonly said in our family that when King George V visited New Delhi in 1911 my grandfather gave salute to him in military parade at the Red Fort.
My both paternal grandmother and grandfather came from Hindu families in the business community in western U.P. From my grandmother's maternal side, Anglican missionaries who lived in Park Bara in Moradabad District (U.P.) in the early twentieth century converted the whole family to Christ. My grandfather, Late Chaudhry Nanhe Mall Singh thought he was the only child of his parents and believes he was born in around 1872 in his family home in Sahaswan Teshil of Budaun District (U.P.). But since he came from a Hindu joint family there were several cousin brothers living together. When they had grown up my grandfather and one of his cousin's brother, Late Chaudhry Badan Singh Budaun (who was lately elected from Budaun as the first member of Parliament in 1952 on Congress Political Party ticket in the first Indian Parliament under Late Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, were sent to boarding school at Parker Boy's School in Moradabad (U.P.)and passed their Matriculation examination in around 1890.
In those days a very few elite class of Indian society sent their children to the reputed Parker Boy's School run by Christian missionaries. During his school time my grandfather came to know about Christianity and accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Savior and became clandestine converted Christian believer. However he did not want to hurt his Hindu parents by telling them that he had changed his religion, so he kept his conversion secret until they died. My grandfather was married when he was only nine years old and his bride seven years old. But she never joined the family as she died of smallpox before reaching her adulthood.
After completing his matriculation examination in around 1890 my grandfather was married again. This time his marriage again ended with sad note as his wife died in her first childbirth. The little baby boy survived but later died due to virulent flue epidemic in India that occurred during the World War I when my grandfather was on war front abroad with British Royal Army.
By now his parents had also died and my grandfather was left alone. So, he thought it was the right time to declare his Christian faith publicly and went to British Methodist Christian missionaries in Budaun and was baptized by them. Then he looked for a Christian wife and got married to my grand mother Lizzie around 1906 at the age of 34 and my grandmother was only 14 years old. My eldest paternal Aunt Miss Helen was born in 1908.
My father Late Mr. Johnson Nanhe Mall was born in 1916 and passed his matriculation in 1934 from the same Parker's Boy High School in Moradabad (U.P.) from where my grandfather and his cousin passed their matriculation in the previous century. My father became a stenographer to Dr. Brown, an American missionary, and founder of Christian Medical College and Hospital, Ludhiana, in 1940. He rose to the rank of Secretary to the Registrar in this mission hospital and after serving 29 years in this mission hospital; he died on 19th October 1969.
He started the Newton Commercial College at Ludhiana in 1964 teaching typing and shorthand and now we teach computers to whom this reputed Christian college I am leading since 1969 after the death of my father).
After retiring from the Army in 1916, my grand father Chaudhry Nanhe Mal Singh got a government job as naib tehslidar(executive magistrate), the senior post as the next category of tehslidar (magistrate), which was reserved for British citizens only in that time in India. My grandfather lived with his family in his ancestral home in the village surrounded by acres of land and rode off to the tehsil headquarters everyday on his horse. By now the parents of 11 Hindu cousin brothers of my grand father also died and the question of dividing the huge joint Hindu joint family property arose between all cousin brothers.
My grandfather's conversion to Christianity angered his Hindu cousin brothers and they determined that he should not inherit and occupy the Hindu joint family property. They filed a case against my grandfather in the district court pleading that since my grandfather had changed his religion he could not claim share in Hindu joint family property. The case went on for a few years and the judgment was given against my grandfather. But my grandfather being as educated ex-serviceman and a man in position appealed in the High Court, which decided the case in his favour. By the time High Court decision came in his favour my younger paternal aunt, the late Dr. Mrs. Shanti Solomon was born on June 10, 1920. She was four years younger than my father. My grandparents decided to call her "Shanti" which means "peace" and she came in the house and thanked God that He delivered them from all the trials and tribulations of the court proceedings! . (This is the same Late Dr. Mrs. Shanti Solomon whom God rose to the rank of founder of the International Fellowship of the Least Coin, an international movement of prayer, peace and reconciliation -- supporting women's project in more than 85 countries at present. She was the first Executive Secretary of Asian Church Women's Conference for 20 years. She died on 15th October 1998 at Delhi.
To cover her 42 years of Christian missionary contribution to the Indian Churches and International Church community and for the uplifting of women in the twentieth century, I am going to write up another article "Shanti Solomon As I Know Her" on her life and work in the next issue of Masihi Sansar (Christian World) newspaper with 100% accuracy as her all relevant documentary evidences, her manuscripts, diaries, degrees, photographs and trophies are preserved with us in Shanti Solomon Memorabilia so that the 21st century International Church Women leaders can draw inspiration from her life story, specially Presbyterian Church Women of U.S.A and Canada those are presently holding and running International Fellowship of the Least Coin in more than 85 countries).
But the peace in the family was not to last for very long. The cousin brother who lost the case in the High Court from my grandfather decided to take the law in his own hand and bribed a halwai (sweet seller) to mix poison in the milk which my grandfather used daily for his mid-day refreshment near his tehsil office in Baduan (U.P.). After consuming the milk my grandfather, Nanhe Mal Singh, collapsed when little Shanti (my paternal Aunt) was merely six weeks old.
His dead body was brought to the ancestral home and by 4 p.m. he was cremated immediately according to the Hindu rites. When the funeral rites were over my grandmother was given with ultimatum that either she had to return to the Hindu faith and be part of our family or leave the house in three days. My grandmother decided that she could not live in this family, whom he suspected of killing her husband and also that she wanted to remain a Christian. She was therefore turned out of the house with just the clothes she stood up in and Rupees 3/- in her hand and three children my paternal aunt Helen, my father, Johnson, and little baby Shanti of six weeks on her shoulder. She had to left her-in-law's house and huge Hindu joint family property share for the sake of her Christian faith. It was the month of July 1920.
My grandmother waded across the river with three children and reached the home of a pastor's house in Baduan (U.P.) 20 miles away from her husband's ancestral home. The British missionaries who were there helped my grandmother to pass VIII class Board Examination, which she completed within six months and started teaching primary school children in Christian School. My elder aunt Helen also became teacher and supported the family and she did not get marry. My younger aunt Shanti passed her graduation in 1949 from Lucknow and my grandmother married her to Mr. Reuben Newton Solomon, who was a District Collector in Mainpuri, U.P. in May 1950, a man in high government position and leading figure in United Church of North India of his time. My grandmother died in 1957 at Baduan (U.P). My elder aunt Ms Helen died in 1977 at Etwah (U.P.).
Thus British missionaries converted my grandparents to the Christianity in the earliest twentieth century and my family and I are their spiritual children. My grandfather Chaudhry Nanhe Mal Singh who fought World War I for the physical survival of Great Britain and was martyred for the sake of his Christian faith.
The Lord has chosen his grandson (myself) to fight for the spiritual survival for the Great Britain and the whole of the West in the end of 20th century. I have been researching the reasons for the "Decline of Christianity in the West" for the last two years and have written three parts on it, which have been published in Masihi Sansar newspaper. I am researching and writing on "Decline of Christianity in the West" Part IV in which I am going to challenge the head of Catholic Church in England and Wales for his statement which published in the leading newspapers of U.K. in September 2001 that "Christianity Almost vanquished (dictionary meaning overcome or conquered) in the U.K." I do not agree with him. It is my strong belief that Christianity may have declined in U.K./West but cannot overcome or conquered by any force or power which may does exist on the earth.
We should not forget that Christians always multiply when they mow down (cut down) in world history. Conversion to Christianity took place on such a large scale in the last five years in India since Hindu fundamentalists started to persecute Christians in 1996. Such revival and conversion did not occur in the whole twentieth century in India. Hallelujah!
As a monarchist and evangelist, when I look back at present Britain I weep from my inner soul and pray for Britain's revival. Perhaps Britain is at U-turn from her living God of Israel. Perhaps what she did is not righteous in the eyes of the Lord. The British Monarchs in their life times once identified with militarism and expansionism did not forget to make House of God (Churches) where ever they went and the Lord had blessed them abundantly and that the sun never did set in their regime.
But now the Churches in England are being sold, turning into restaurants and are being given to the people of other faiths. I have written exclusive articles on the revival of England /Europe and North America in my so many "Spiritual Food - Window on the West" columns and fervently pray that may the Lord again re-revive England/Europe and the whole North America in the 21st century. May God Bless And Re-revive whole North America/Europe
To be concluded in next issue.
By Rev Isaac Newton Johnson Click here