Witnessing to the Gospel in a Polarized India

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By , April 28, 2015

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Vidyajyoti College of Theology

Two-Day National Seminar on

 “Witnessing to the Gospel in a Polarized India”

Concept Paper

16-17 February, 2015

2014 witnessed the Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP), the political wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), regaining power at the centre. The Hindutva agenda of the ruling dispensation is weakening, even destroying, the secular fabric of the Indian polity and polarizing the communities on religious lines. Sri Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister, has been a strong catalyst in this change. Besides, the RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, in his recent comments declared that “India is a Hindu state and citizens of Hindustan should be known as Hindus.” But political analyst Zoya Hassan describes the present Indian predicament accurately: “It is clear that the Hindutva movement encourages the marginalization of religious minorities in India, and is thus an anti-democratic force in the country” (“Politics without Minorities,” The Hindu, 05.09.2014).

 

Article 26 of the Constitution of India 1949, categorically affirms in no uncertain terms that “… every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right (a) to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes; (b) to manage its own affairs in matters of religion; (c) to own and acquire movable and immovable property; and (d) to administer such property in accordance with law”. The secular space provided by the Constitution of India honors and empowers the minorities and marginalized groups their rightful place in Indian democracy by safeguarding rights and privileges. But these democratic values are threatened in the present political scenario jeopardizing the poor, minorities and the marginalized communities and their future. The conflictual discord gets further intensified when the church chooses to stand in solidarity with them which is abusively construed and cunningly misinterpreted as hindrance to the progress of nation, which is anyway curtailed by the unfortunate and one-sided economic decisions of the present regime.

 

What is the response of the Indian Church or the Indian Christian citizen in this particular conflictual situation? The response must emerge from the situation of today’s context of polarization of religious communities and of the poor and the sad shrinking secular space carefully conspired by the ruling government. God is surely active in conflict situation be it in the history of Israel or as manifested in the solidarity of Jesus with the poor of his time. God summons us to transformation. We are led by the Spirit (Sakti) coming from above and from below in and through the ever hopeful disposition of the anawim. In their life of pain and struggle the poor experience the Spirit of God at work.

 

Living an authentic Christian life in a nation of many faiths is to live the life of Jesus Christ based on his teachings of peace, forgiveness, love, justice and fellowship (Kingdom of God). We are called to promote dialogue between the Gospel and culture (cf. Acts 17:22-28). In the Indian situation, dialogue becomes the characteristic of our life of witness (cf. Ecclesia in Asia, 3) and mission.  It means we proclaim or share the Good News of Jesus in dialogue. Emphasizing the centrality of human person and the right to otherness, Pope John Paul II stressed that the wellbeing of people is the way for the church’s mission in the world. FABC clarifies it in terms of triple dialogue with the poor, cultures and religions. The Atharvavedic poet prayed: “May Earth who bears humankind, each different grouping maintaining its own customs and its speech, yield up for me a thousand streams of measure…” (Bhumi Sukta).

 

It is in this background that Vidyajyoti College of Theology is organizing a Two-Day National Seminar on “Witnessing to the Gospel in a Polarized India”. As an academic institution sensitive to the living situation of multi-religiosity and multi-culturality, Vidyajyoti has consistently promoted the study of religions, cultures and social situation. The proposed seminar is part of its ongoing efforts to reflect on issues that significantly impact the lives of ordinary people and find responses and solutions to conflict situations, especially in the dangerously changed political scenario.

 

The first day is kept for situating the context with assistance from experts from the academia and the second day is devoted to the theological reflections. The main presentations will be as follows:

 

First Day: Situating the Context

Paper I: Nationalism at crossroads: the struggle for political ‘common sense’.

Paper Presenter: Dr. Mukul Kesavan

Response: Dr. Victor Edwin

 

Paper II: Religious Freedom: The Constitutional Debate and the Law Today

Paper Presenter: Rudolf C. Heredia

Response: Dr. Denzil Fernandes

 

Paper III: The Challenges of Minorities (Christians and dalits) in India in the present context of

Hindutva

Paper Presenter: Dr. Ambrose Pinto

Response: Dr. Maria Arul Raja

 

Second Day: Theological Reflections

Paper IV: Witnessing to the Gospel: Gift and Task in the present day India

Paper Presenter: Dr. Jacob Parappally

Response: Dr. Francis Minj

 

The faculty of Vidyajyoti solicits your support and welcomes your participation in the proposed seminar.

 

Note: We encourage a limited number of participants from outside to participate in the seminar.  However, they have to make their own arrangements for accommodation and Vidyajyoti will not be able to provide accommodation due to space constrain. Kindly contact P. R. John (prjohnsj@gmail.com) for further details and consent.

Organizing Committee:

P. R. John SJ

Victor Edwin SJ

Anil Almeida SJ