EXCHANGE PROGRAM AND THE PASTOR’S REFRESHER COURSE AT AIZAWL, MIZORAM
The Church of South India, Department of Pastoral Concerns has organized an Exchange Program and the Refresher Course for the Clergy of Church of South India with the Presbyterian Church of India, Mizoram Synod from the 5th to the 15th of October 2018. Sixteen Presbyters from various Dioceses, under the leadership of Rev. K. James Cecil Victor, Director of Pastoral Concerns, have participated in the Program, after a brief orientation at the CSI Synod Secretariat. Rev. Dr. D. R. Sadananda, the General Secretary, CSI briefed about the importance of this program and encouraged the participants to ‘walk together’ to learn from one another. On our arrival, the representatives of the Synod have received us at the Airport and accommodated us at the Synod Conference Centre, Aizawl, adjacent to the Mission Veng, known as the Mother Church. The Program started with the meeting with the officers of the PCI Synod where CSI team was extended a formal welcome and explained the entire 10 days program.
Mizoram has its own history of its land and people. Mizoram was termed as the ‘Excluded Area’, by the Act of 1935. With the Indian independence in 1947, it was declared a Union territory in 1972 naming the land as Mizoram and in 1986 it became a federal state of the Indian Union. Obtaining the temporary Inner Line Permit (ILP) within India was a new experience for us. When we visited Mizoram, the land was preparing for the general elections as the date was declared by the ECI on the eve of our arrival there.
Unlike the other parts of the country Elections are significantly different here with the intervention of MPF (Mizoram People’s Forum) playing a watchdog role. Aggressive campaign and illegal means of alluring the voters is strictly prohibited in Mizoram. One interesting observation was that the Election Commission of India works with the Church, particularly the PCI for a fair and free election.
The Youth of Mizoram are the center of their activities. The Young Mizo Association (YMA) is the first to respond to any crisis and they are vigilant 24/7, voluntarily. The Role of women is highly commendable. Women are involved in every sphere of life, such as commerce, religion, art, dance, culture and family. Women’s presence in the market and in the business, centers is an evidence for their contribution. It is said that the women organizations are empowered to challenge and restrict those who do extravagant and lavish expenditure in celebrations particularly in Weddings; this is done in order to maintain equality among its people. Social and cultural life quite unique as women and men relate to each other in order and dignity. Women are well protected and respected, though they find limited space in the decision making in the church.
Worship is integral to their day to day life. They give utmost importance to the word of God and Christian education. Dance and drum in the church connect their rich legacy and tradition. Though the church is modern, yet the basic traditions are incorporated and upheld. Every church has the traditional drum to play, and men, women and children irrespective of age dance, and praise in the presence of God. Women wear traditional PUAN to the church. The discipline in individuals and community is something to emulate. Another remarkable characteristic of Mizoram church is – Giving. They offer “tithe” to God, give to the missions and for charity. Handful of Rice is unique practice through which the mission is supported. Since the rice is sold for a subsidies price, the poor could easily avail rice which is their staple food. Lay participation in the ministries and affairs of the church is an outstanding feature of the Presbyterian Church. Ordained ministers have rather limited role to play in administration. The elders shoulder tremendous responsibility in spiritual and administrative matters of the church. The Important observation was the absence of local church elections as the term of an elder is for life time.
Our visit to the Missionary Training Centre helped us to understand about two important aspects. One is imparting theological training and the other is sending missionaries to other parts of India as far as Jharkhand and Utter Pradesh and also to the neighboring countries such as Nepal and Myanmar. Places such as the Synod Hospital, the Rescue Home, the Grace Home HOSPICE, the TNT Centre, and so on draw one’s attention to the presence of social and health issues of the region. However, the church is addressing those issues through radical engagement. Being a Christian State, the church holds a vital position in the administration and development of the State and at the same time the church takes up the responsibility of alleviating poverty and addressing the social evils and stigma. The members have experienced their spirituality, traditions and customs, commitment to serve God and people, and their hospitality. Visit to Aizawl Theological College (ATC), Synod Printing Press, Presbytery Meetings, Worship services, Community Service Centers, the Raj Bhavan and Deputy Commissioner’s Office have made an indelible impression about the way in which Mizos organize themselves, work in unity for the progress of their society. Their commitment and cooperation were appreciated by the Hon. Governor and the Deputy Commissioner.
The team is greatly indebted to the Bishops, officers of the respective dioceses and the Officers of the CSI Synod and the PCI Synod, for providing us with the opportunity to be part of this educative and inspiring program. It is our prayer and wish that this exposure visit and refresher course between CSI and PCI Mizoram would continue reaffirming the historical connections and traditions. The memories of Mizoram will stay with us for a long time to come.
REV. PAUL SUDHAKAR REV. K. JAMES CECIL VICTOR
Participant- Diocese of Madras Director, Pastoral Concerns