WCC YATRA 2017 – Passionately Christian and Compassionately inter-religious; This theme still resounds in our minds as three of us represented the Church of South India in the Inter-religious faith training/seminar held by the World Council of Churches at the Jakarta Theological Seminary, Indonesia from July 8th to 22nd. This training and fellowship of 34 individuals from 14 different countries was not an ordinary meeting or a conference that happens regularly but an opportunity that exposed us to the various faith contexts each of us, as a Christian, came from. To Miss. Sharon, Rev. Pratap and Devin, this event was a life changing one where we witnessed the harmony and cultures of foreigners despite the contexts we came from.
In the deep expressive words by Rev. Pratap, he says “I was enriched and equipped by powerful discussions, deliberations, Group Bible studies, experienced theologians, presentations, Theological engagement. field visits, especially meeting social activists in the field, group discussions, group activities, engaging with different religious leaders and visiting worship centres of the different religions and etc., made me to think very critical and sensitive to the people of other faiths…“ Indeed it was as unique training session which was well curated by Dr. Sathianathan Clarke from the Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington DC, USA. Dr. Sathi’s insight of the Bible, his theological wisdom and his teaching method enabled us to dwell in the world of theology and religion to address the various inter-religious conflicts that exists in our world. The engagement of sessions where we were exposed to the radical truths by studying the religions i.e. Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Atheism and then exposed to the realities by visiting their respective place of worship enables us to judge the truth and understand the underlying conflicts in an inter-religious context.
Everyday was new at the YATRA 2017. We would start the day with worship, Bible studies, Religion studies, Talks by religious leaders and end the day with open-end discussions. Each of the sessions we attended had the resources of the Jakarta Theological Seminary to theologians from Islam, Hindu and the Buddhist widened the space in our mind to learn more of them. And each of these exercises were strengthened by the apt Bible study topics we had every morning. These Bible studies helped us prepare our minds to re-learn and learn God’s word in the context of His Mercy and Grace. Theological engagement. field visits, especially meeting social activists in the field, group discussions, group activities, engaging with different religious leaders and visiting worship centres of the different religions and etc., made us think to be very critical and sensitive to the people of other faiths.
WCC- YATRA 2017 program is a unique program for youth, to mould ourselves to be passionate Christian and compassionately towards other religions. It's a rare opportunity, since representatives of this program comes from 14 different countries of the world. This YATRA program challenged and provoked me to strive for the peace and harmony between the different religious people. “Specially I come to know the importance of the inter faith dialogue at the grass root level as well as at larger level. at the same time carrying the mission of God is also very important in this context” says Rev. Pratap.
However, learning from this seminar is unique. And promising that we would like to continue our interactions and dialogue with other religion people to bring peace and harmony in our own context. We as participants of YATRA 2017 took it up as a challenge to present this learning once we returned to our countries and start practicing this within our Church context. The desire to first start this at our homes was our theme! And then share this love with our neighbours where ever we were. We learnt that the Church is important at every stage of striking the chord of harmony with our inter-religious friends/neighbours. We as participants at JTS were grateful for Rev Dr Peniel Jesudason Rufus Rajkumar, the Programme Executive for Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation at WCC, who challenged us at every stage of learning to put to practice what we learnt. We, together, drafted a letter to the Churches in the world too statin our common goals and objective.
As participants from India, we were totally 10, decided to take back the message of peace and harmony through Inter-religious dialogues. All of us coming from the backgrounds of CSI, the Methodist, Lutherans, Syrian Orthodox realized that we had our own unique challenges to address first to overcome the barriers for an inter-religious dialogue. So we decided to regroup with our YATRA counterparts from previous years and connect to their works in our Indian context so we could join them in the mission of working for peace and harmony with our inter-religious brethren.
We, Miss. Sharon, Rev. Pratapa and Devin are grateful to the CSI SYNOD for giving us this opportunity to attend the WCC-YATRA 2017 event especially to Rev.J. Solomon Paul for identifying and supporting us in all our application processes and preparation for the event. OUR sincere gratitude to CSI - Moderator, Deputy Moderator, General secretary, and the Treasurer for their support and last but not the least a special thanks to the CSI SYNOD YOUTH DEPARTMENT for all the communications and assistance provided.