National Council of Churches in India- Dalit and Tribal/ Adivasi Concerns
in partnership with
Leonard Theological College, Christian Service Agency and EMW Germany
Consultation on Ecumenical Formation and Capacity Building for Young Dalit, Tribal/Adivasi Theologians
February 1-3, 2018, Leonard Theological College, Jabalpur
Ecumenism is related to the root word in Greek “Oikos” meaning “household” from which Oikoumene is derived. All of God’s creation is meant to be a household to be inhabited by all living beings. It is to be cared for and kept inhabitable for generations to come.
Yet, we in India, as Christians are still to find common ground in matters of faith, ritual and traditions. Denominationalism and Fundamentalism within Christianity lead to the formation of separate entities that isolate themselves from other Christians and keep aloof. Furthermore, they negate social commitment and fail to address unjust structures in society and to challenge them. This trend needs to be arrested by bridging gaps through dialogue and helping the churches to understand the gospel in totality, as a gospel that deals with humanity and all creation, helping people towards better life integrated with ecology, and which supports freedom and stands for human and ecological rights and human and eco dignity. This spirit of ecumenism needs nurturing.
Today, our Indian society is undergoing significant socio-political and economic changes. As a whole, traditional societies are being modernised at a more rapid pace than ever before. Latest products of information technology have brought the tools of the growth model of development to our doorsteps. However, poverty, identity crisis, caste discrimination, racial profiling are still major issues for millions of people in India. The resulting misery and disillusionment lead to communal conflicts, racial and ethnic prejudices, and threats to peace and harmony in the region. Environmental degradation and climate changes have affected food production all over India and natural catastrophes such as cyclones, floods and earthquakes still threaten marginalised communities.
In the context of the various current trends, (We) NCCI reaffirm the task which is the liberation of human beings from the clutches of all dehumanized forces at work, and to achieve authentic humanization with self respect and dignity in the midst of diabiological structures which threaten the very existence of all lives on this planet.
We are challenged to renew our faith in Christ and commitment to the gospel of the reign of God. We must proclaim a new hope and a new vision based on people’s hopes and aspirations and relates this to God’s vision of making all things new. Churches should strive hard for the promotion of peace, social justice and ecological balance. Ecumenism as a mission of all churches involves building relationships, challenging the local styles of being church and leading to the sharing of resources by establishing solidarity and accepting the fact that every church is called by God to be a partner in mission, not be isolated. A clear theological self-understanding reflected on the concept of life and mission of the church must be proclaimed with bold options in support of the marginalised people around us. Ecumenism must motivate the church and society to develop a countervailing power in the midst of gloom and despair. Dialogue with people of other faiths and respect of the religious values of our neighbour should be our lifestyle. We have to dig deeper into the Bible for a contemporary understanding of a covenant community that is inclusive and all prevailing.
The Indian Churches, which live amidst several challenges like religious pluralism, religious fundamentalism, caste oppression, land acquisition, identity crisis, persecution, violence etc have also to deal with the challenges from within. Denominational divisions, caste divisions, gender divisions, class divisions, urban-rural divisions, ethnic divisions, generational divisions etc are dire realities within the Church today.
It is in such a context that Young Theologians belonging to Dalit, Tribal and Adivasis communities need to be trained with methodological tools in leading their congregations to participate in the ministry of transformation and stand up for the rights of Dalits, Tribals and Adivasis as well as taking responsibility for the welfare of their communities. Ecumenical Formation is an ongoing process of learning within the various local churches and world communions, aimed at informing and guiding people in the movement which – inspired by the Holy Spirit – seeks the visible unity of Christians. This pilgrimage towards unity enables mutual sharing and mutual critique through which we grow. Such an approach to unity thus involves at one and the same time, rootedness in Christ and in one’s tradition, while endeavouring to discover and participate in the richness of other Christian and human traditions (and particularly dalit and tribal/adivasi traditions for theologians from those backgrounds).
Hence the endeavour of the NCCI Dalit and Tribal/Adivasi Concerns to facilitate Ecumenical Formation and Capacity Building for Young Dalit, Tribal and Adivasi Theologians. This facilitation will happen at Leonard Theological College, Jabalpur, from 1-3 February 2018.
- To encourage young theologians to participate and lead their churches towards the ministry of transformation, through reading the scriptures from Dalit, Tribal and Adivasi perspectives, and facilitating theological clarity in addressing the emerging issues.
- To motivate young theologians to be actively involved in the campaign for the liberation of dalits and tribals/adivasis.
- To eliminate caste and ethnic discriminations within the churches.
- To strengthen ecumenical fellowship in theological institutions and churches
- To listen to, and stand for the cause of, victims of injustice among us and beside us
- To facilitate peace talks and agreements among conflicting communities in their respective churches/dioceses.
- To take part in Inter-faith activity, Human Rights movement, Ecological movements, Feminist movements, Youth movements, People’s movement and refuse to take part in violent and unjust structures
- To highlight traditional cultural values
Dalit and Tribal/ Adivasi Concerns
National Council of Churches in India