Kottayam, Apr 1: Abstaining from non-vegetarian food and being immersed in prayers for a 50-day period has been the tradition of the Kottayam-headquartered Orthodox Church of India, but this time it has also included a "cyber fast" for a 24-hour period starting 6 p.m. on Thursday.
The Orthodox Church observes 50-day Lent (season of penance and prayer before Easter), which comes to a close on Easter Sunday.
What is popularly known as the Orthodox Church, the second largest faction of the ancient church of the St. Thomas Christians in India has asked its more than 3.5 million laity to switch off their mobiles, computers and even TVs for a 24-hour period starting Thursday 6 p.m. till the end of the Good Friday service.
Speaking to IANS, P.A. Phillip, who heads the human empowerment department of the church, said this is a new concept and the response to it has been good.
"The new generation is hooked to gadgets like mobiles, computers and TVs. Hence, we felt that as part of the traditional 50-day Lent being observed by our laity, we should include a 24-hour 'cyber fast', and the response to it has been good," said Phillip, a senior priest in the Orthodox Church.
Phillip is banking on the church's youth wing, which has taken up the initiative and is all set to ensure that their objective is achieved.
"In the modern world can anyone think of not having a mobile in one's hand. So much so that a new word has been coined for it - 'nomophobia' (no-mobile phobia). The church is doing its best to instil better values among the new generation, and tackling the cyber world is one," said the senior priest.
Phillip's department is also running a special family enrichment programme called 'Neruvazhi' or the right path.
The highlight of this programme is to use different forms of media for the betterment of one's lives, added Phillip.
The concept of "cyber fast", billed as the first of its kind, appears to have enthused parents and has been welcomed by them.
"Yes, we appreciate the efforts of the church as the use of mobiles and computers at the moment appears to have crossed all limits, and the new generation spends the maximum time on it," said Reena Cherian, a housewife with three children.