Today the National Council of Churches in India in Partnership with Church of South India, EMW Germany and Christian Service Agency commenced its three day program on the “Prophetic Role of the Church leader in the midst of Injustice”. The program started with the inaugural worship led by the Executive Secretary of Dalit and Tribal/ Adivasi Concern Mr. Pradip Bansrior, followed by the inaugural message to encourage and empower the participants who came for the three days of deliberation.
Inaugural Message - Rev. Dr. A.G.Augustine Jeykumar
The inaugural message was given by Rev. Dr. A.G.Augustine Jeykumar accentuating on the reading from the book of Amos Chapter 5:18-25. Rev elucidated on the comparative response of the prophets who tried to gain the favors of the kings and on the flip side Amos who bluntly tells about the social injustice done by the people of God. Rev. Jeykumar reminded the leaders that our responsibility is to provide social and spiritual nourishment rather being a pretentionist . Let the works of the contemporary prophet i.e the leaders of the church make way towards the life of light. Providing Justices to the subjugated were his key concerns over the talk, The Old Testament teaches about the Justice and Peace established by the leaders of the Israel which flowed like river similar is our response to the calling, for which we are been chosen by God.
Felicitation Speech - Rt. Rev. Jayraj George Stephen
The bishop of the Madras Rt. Rev. Jayraj George Stephen pinpointed on the Egalitarian attitude that Christian leaders should inculcate for serving justice and liberating those who are oppressed. The time calls us for the re-reading of the Bible through the spectacles of marginalized. The speaker highlighted the two different attitudes of Church leaders towards issues of Dalit/ Tribal atrocities, some keep mum towards the issue and others enjoy the discrimination been done on others. Just as Christ who lived, worked, preached and taught about the Kingdom of God among the marginalized, so is our responsibility being the disciple of Christ. Rt. Rev Jayraj reminded us the words of St Paul to Galatians 3:28, when all are equal in Christ then why we create segregations.
Keynote Address – Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad
The General Secretary of NCCI articulated the key note address on the Response of the Church leader towards the marginalized making the Nazareth Manifesto as the base line for the plan of action. A holistic approach was been dealt by Rev. Gaikwad highlighting the socio-political, economic, legal and cultural condition of subalterns in India. The Supreme Court enforced stringent guideline to protect the public servants and private employees on the Prevention of Atrocities Act which was discussed at length by the speaker. Rev Gaikwad threw a challenging question to the floor, how can the Church respond to the issue? Surely it requires a critical and pragmatic approach to deal with it. The Church need to be self critical, there is cast system within the church which need to be addressed, the speaker reminded that no one can serve Christ and Cast at the same time. Speaker emphasized on the empowerment strategies executed by different National Church Organizations over the years. The modus operandi of the atrocities carried on the subjugated populace was explained in details such as political, land mafias, coal mining, poor education, administrative attitude etc. Political parties take up the issue only for gaining political mileage rather finding solution to the problems. There has been a steep increase in crime rate towards the marginalized under the saffron regime. The need of the hour is to sensitize the issue among the Churches and frame guidelines or policies to protect and empower the indigenous people in India. The prophetic role traditionally involves forth telling and foretelling but today we need to go one step ahead, it requires facilitating the protection of rights of Dalit and Adivas for a dignified life.
First Panel Discussion: Insight from the life and History of Dalit and Tribal Church
The first panel discussion was been moderated by Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad and the panelist who chaired the discussions were Rev. Samuel Logan and Rev. Biju Joseph.
Rev. Samuel Logan concentrated on the Life and History of Dalit Church especially focusing on the Mission perspective of the Arcot Luthran Church and its evolution. Arcot Luthran Church was sprouted with the efforts of Danish Missionary of Society. Rev. Logan narrated how missionaries toiled at different parts of south India and evangelized. One of the incident which was an eye opener for the missionaries towards the dynamics of caste system and its challenges was the incident related to the first catechist Nala Thampi who was been elected to be ordained as the first Minister but did not eat or drink the food which was served to him as it was been prepared by the outcaste person of is village. The caste and class practices tormented the missionaries, they brought out the solution that there won’t be any discrimination in the church towards the people of low cast, there will be only one Chalice at the Lord’s Table and no mission work should refuse to officiate or do an act of love out of caste consideration. The speaker also shared the hardship of the Dalit as they were members of the Church but didn’t have the right of administrative representation. The Luthran Progressive Movement and its objectives of creating a classless church were shared on the occasion.
Rev. Biju Joseph who shared the space and presented the paper on the Life and History of Tribal Church on behalf of Rev. T.J.Bijoy. Rev Biju narrated the origin of Christianity in Indian with the coming of St Thomas and how the tribal people were been neglected initially and the gospel reached the tribal community through CMS Missionaries. The faith of the tribal is so firm and deep rooted that they would leave their family and house for the sake of Christ. The floor was open for discussion which was well participated and articulated on the agenda of the hour by the participants.
Second Panel Discussion: Dalit and Tribal/ Adivasis: Struggle for reclaiming Constitutional and Democratic Rights
The discussion was moderated by Rev. Immanuel Nehemiah and panelists for the discussion were Dr. K.Krishnan and Dr. Simon John.
Dr. K. Krishnan gave a detailed study about the community of Tribal people; on what grounds they get neglected. In the name of development they get exploited, displaced, discriminated, marginalized, occurrence of deforestation and exclusion. Rights of the STs under the Constitution of India and the 5th and 6th Schedule were been discussed at length. The Nehruvian perspective of tribal development under PANCHSHEEL and role of the Government departments for ST development was shared by the speaker. Dr. Krishnan told how and Self help group can initiate to help the Tribal populace to develop.
The Second panel speaker Dr. Simon John spoke on the Imperial hanger over of the color and semi racism that prevails among the Dalit and Tribals of India. Before getting into the full swing of the presentation, Dr John raised a question: who are the supporters of Dalit?. He mentioned that the people who are Dalit but part of government employment or department would hardly react to the core problems of their community. The history speaks quite evidently that the people who have fought for the right of Dalits were not Dalits but from general background, the need of the hour is to have strong dalit leaders who can voice the problems and challenged of Dalit. As Martin Luther Jr. said” Injustice somewhere is threat to Justice everywhere”.