1. As member churches of the Council for World Mission, we lament that this Asian context in which we live, is fractured by oppression, violence, war, hatred and crippling fear. Some examples are the abandonment of Rohingyas in Myanmar and Bangladesh, the plight of manual scavengers in India and the intolerance towards the minority due to fundamentalism. It is also a world of diverse religious traditions with diverse understandings of the roots of violence and oppression; a world overwhelmed by nation-states that seem locked into rivalries and enmities that threaten the human future.
2. We also confess that as Disciples of Christ we are ourselves sinners in the midst of this violent turmoil in the world, and we have often perpetuated misunderstanding, marginalized strangers and believed falsehoods about people from other cultures and religious traditions.
3. We affirm our belief in God, the Creator, revealed in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, who reconciled the world to Himself through the Holy Spirit. We affirm that God loves all creation and that all people are created in His image. We acknowledge that through God’s love, all people are related to one another as His children and understand this common humanity and relationship to be gifts from God. Thus we accept God’s mandate to engage in relationships with creation that give life and encourage life to flourish. In this process, we recognize the need to move from institutional church-centric towards people-centric spirituality and life experiences.
4. We celebrate our distinctive identity as Disciples of Christ and openly seek opportunities to share the good news of God’s covenant of love in Jesus Christ with the world. Yet we must confess that we have not always embodied this love in our relationships with people of other religious traditions. We have at times allowed a woeful lack of understanding and respect for other faiths to result in fear, distrust, and the dehumanization of our brothers and sisters.
5. We affirm that, we as Displaced Disciples often find ourselves face-to-face with neighbours and co-workers, relatives, strangers, and friends who belong to different religious traditions. Relationships with such folks offer us unique opportunities to witness, love, and serve “to the ends of the earth”. Moreover, because we believe in a God who creates and interacts with the entire cosmos, we seek through relationships with people of other faiths to learn more about the God we know through Jesus Christ.
6. We affirm that Scripture offers many paradigms and perspectives for building peace and harmony. Jesus taught that the whole of the law and the prophets are summarized in the commandment to love God and to love one’s neighbours. This then becomes the first and guiding commandment for Christians. Loving others surely entails respecting them, listening to them, and treating them as we would want them treat us. Loving means not only the authentic sharing of our truth, but a deep listening to theirs. In this light, we remind ourselves of the Scriptural injunctions that loving one’s neighbors takes priority over our dogmas and rituals that we observe.
7. We affirm that ecumenism needs to become missional in journeying with the people and standing in solidarity with them. We acknowledge that ecumenism should take place at the grassroots level and dialogues need to take place in people's ordinary lives, crossing borders of denominationalism, faith and other identities. We affirm the need to conceptualize and create a neutral space for people of other faith to ‘come and see’, ‘come and witness’ and ‘come and dialogue’ to recognize and celebrate the richness of each religion and its spirituality. Alongside we also affirm the need to enter into their space to listen, experience and witness the ‘other’ and their spirituality only to re-affirm our weaving together in the web of life.
8. We affirm that culture and its elements are a common platform for people of different faiths to come together. Celebrating culture and its diversity as common platforms where people from different faiths can stand in solidarity in building peace. We also affirm that spirituality is not mutual consolation or toleration, but a discovery of truth together, not only in and through scriptures, but through other forms like poetry, art, music, folklore and other forms of culture which needs to be recognized and embraced.
9. We also affirm the dialogue with other movements which work for peace and justice in building an egalitarian and just society in crying in solidarity with our neighbours and their life struggles. We as a Church have to listen to the voice from those who are in need and identify the 'brokenness' and 'gaps' in the world and consider how we as a Church can be bridge builders to promote 'hope' and not build walls of animosity and hatred.
10. We as a Church also affirm the need to do a ‘Mission Audit’ of our mission priorities and mission agenda, to evaluate how effective we are in employing techniques in peace building and communal harmony.
11. We affirm the need to advocate for the cause of the wider community through campaigns which affirm the life and dignity of every individual irrespective of his/her identity. We need to address issues within and also outside the fold of the church only to recognize that we all with the other are one ‘flock’ to journey with one another.
Evaluation report by Rev. V. Paul Robert Kennedy, CSI Vellore Diocese.
CMW South Asia Region conference was held at CSI Synod, Chennai on the theme Ministerial Formation towards Building Communal Harmony: A Spirituality of Harmony.
I Rev. V. Paul Robert Kennedy from CSI Vellore Diocese, Rev. Prema Latha from Rayalaseema Diocese, Rev. Booshanam from Medak Diocese and Miss. Priscilla from Kanya kumari Diocese, were attended from Church of South India. We were enriched by the above subjects through well experienced personalities. The following topics were dealt very clearly by various resource persons namely ‘Theological perspective, A Theological Understanding of Religious plurality by Rev. Dr. Dexter Maben from United Theological College, Bangalore. And the stories member churches called PCM, GPM, HKCCCC, PCK, PCS, and PCT were shared on the day I on 3rd Nov. 2017. On the 2nd day and 3rd day Bible study was conducted on the topic, Healing the Broken Body: Hope for Renewal, by two eminent people called Rev. John P. Hira and by Rev. G.S. Lyttan. The topic on Missiological perspective, Ecumenical Mission in a Pluralistic, Globalized World was dealt by Rev. Sameer Isaac Khimla from State of Maharashtra. Thereafter the delegates were taken to Immersion programme, Dialogue of Action. Delegates were given opportunities to have interaction with Muslim leaders. Delegates were taken to other places like Gurukul Lutheran Theological College, where everyone was exposed to the arts which embraces all elements of major religion in India. That was a eye opener for everyone to have the mind of searching truth in other religion also thereby we may have respect towards other religion as well. 3rd day, delegates were taught advocacy skills Towards Building Communal Harmony: A Spirituality of Unity which was dealt by resource person Rev. Asir Ebenezer who is the director for Department of Seva, Synod. All the three days, group discussions were taken place to arrive at a point where we could find common ground among people of other faith to live a life of harmony and peace in the respective locations where the delagates come from. Finally all the delegates were asked to engage in Discerning Responses as Churches and led into the Adoption of Communiqué.
Programme was so nice, well organized. In a pluralistic society like India, it is the need of the hour to promote interfaith dialogue in order to mitigate the tensions that are prevalent in all over the country. Personally, for me it is the first time in attending South/East Asia level programmes. I gained a lot in order that I may also be a resource person in promoting interfaith dialogue in my location. Contributions of both resource persons and participants were very enriching and challenging. I would like to appreciate and congratulate the Director of youth board, Rev solomon paul and his team for all their meticulous work for success of this programme. Under the leadership of our Moderator, Rt Rev Thomas K Oomen and Officers of the synod, let the CSI church continue to be relevant and more vibrant to bring healing to the broken society.