Joint initiative of the Commission on Polity and National Governance (NCCI-COP), and the Commission on Mission, Evangelism and Ecumenism (NCCI-COM) – Feb 26 to 28, 2007, New Delhi, India
The Church understands its existence as that which emerges from the call to stand out and be sent in to “proclaim the Good News”. In a context that is religiously pluralistic, and that in which faith communities are becoming more and more conscious of the their own religious tenets and its liberative motifs, traditional understanding and practices of proclamation are creating situations of Conflict.
This situation which would otherwise be resolved by local communities themselves, are more often than not vitiated by fundamentalist and fascist forces leading to a stand-off between faith communities.
Situations such as these rend the communities apart (much to their own peril) and render the local congregations and the front-line mission workers helpless and victims of intimidation in most cases, and brutal attacks in some.
Such moves, in some cases with the tacit approval of the state and supportive legislations (like the Freedom of Religion Bills / Acts in some states), also seek to slow down the impetus of the Christian Mission represented in the Healing Ministry, Education and Social Empowerment programs aimed at the emancipation of those who are perpetually kept within sociological and historical disadvantage positions and structures.
The National Workshop on “Citizen’s Rights and Christian Mission and Evangelism” sought to help the Indian Church and the Mission Agencies address the issue of the rights of Christians and Local Congregations in relation to the Great Commission to preach the Good news. Practicalities with regard to targeted attacks on Local congregations and front-line mission workers were also considered during the Workshop.
The Workshop provided an opportunity to introspect on the content of the Message (in its socio-cultural setting) and the methodology (in the context of prevailing multi-religious, political and economic climate) of Current Mission and Evangelistic Engagements.
The Workshop sought to reflect the view of the Indian Church with regard to its Mission practice vis-à-vis that of the self-proclaimed Mission Conglomerates.
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The National Workshop was called in the context of growing unrest between faith-communities –
To reflect on the alleged attack on Mission Workers and Worshippers for profession and propagation of one’s Faith
To understand the Rights available to Christians within the Constitutional framework with regard to the profession and propagation of one’s faith
To introspect on current mission and evangelistic message and practices
To explore the Christian Gospel for India in the current multi-religious situation and its socio-political setting
To evolve guidelines and suggestions for local congregations and the front-line mission workers
To put together material that will be useful for local congregations and front-line mission workers in safeguarding their rights, and upholding that of those whom they address while propagating their faith
Rev. Dr. Enos Das Pradhan, General Secretary CNI and the Chairperson on NCCI-COP delivered the Theme Address. Rev. Dr. Dyanchand Carr led two Biblical-Theological Reflection; one on Christian Mission, and the People of God (Communities of Faith) in India and the other on Mission in the Context of Indigenous Peoples and their Cultures.
A Critique of current Mission Engagements through our eyes and also through the eyes of others was attempted. Dr. Shailendra Awale, Fr. Dominic Immanuel, Bishop Anil Couto, Ms. Mabel Rebello MP, Shri Harcharan Singh Josh (Member National Minorities Commission), Fr. Khosman, Fr. Cedric Prakash were among those who facilitated the process.
Ms. Tehemina Arora and Ms. Shabnam Hashmi helped in understanding the Constitution of India vis-à-vis the rights of religious minorities. Adv. Francis Julian made a critical analysis of the esisting Freedom of Religion Bills / Acts.
Group Works, Case studies and Audio-visual presentations dealt with practical issues relating to asserting one’s rights at times of intimidation, and help formulate guidelines for Christian Mission and Evangelistic Engagements. A format for documentation regarding guidance to pastors and front-line missionaries (PIL. FIR, formats etc.) was also evolved.
Rev. Dr. Abraham Kuruvilla, Prinicpal, Marthoma Theological Seminary, Kerala and Chairperson NCCI-COM delivered the concluding address.
Twenty-Six participants from allover India and from all denominational backgrounds represnting Mission and Evangelism Department / Board of NCCI Member Churches, and Mission Agencies, including Grassroots Mission Workers, participated in the Workshop.
The Workshop evolved a consensus on two major out comes
to produce a Position paper on Mission for the Indian Church.
to publish a handbook on Mission Engagement for Christian Mission Worker and the Local Congregation
The process is in motion.
The Workshop served many purposes including
Gaining a Biblical-Theological Direction for a common pilgrimage with regard to Christian Mission and Evangelistic Engagement
Addressing Individual – personal or familial – Mission Conglomerates vis-à-vis the Mission of the Church and those Mission Agencies of repute
Projecting signposts to a situation which will help Christians and Local Congregations nourish co-existence of peoples belonging to different faiths and ideologies
Sending a strong signal to critics that Church is sensitive to ground realities and the secular fabric of the nation while taking her Mission and Evangelistic Engagement seriously
Mr. Philip Jadhav
Rev. Asir Ebenezer
Rev. Raj Bharat Patta