A leadership Training camp was organised by the Dalit and Adivasi Concerns at the 'Light to the Blind' in Varkala, under the Kollam Kottarakkara Diocese, from 20th to 22nd November 2017 for the Dalit and Adivasi youngsters from the six CSI dioceses in Kerala.
The camp had a solemn beginning with the inaugural session on Monday morning. Rt. Rev. Oommen George, the Bishop of the Kollam Kottarakkara Diocese inaugurated the conference. He stated that the injustice meted out to the Dalit Christians by the infamous Presidential order in 1950, which caused the expulsion of the Dalit Christians from the Scheduled Caste list, is highly condemnable. He encouraged the young Dalits and Adivasis to face the challenges of discrimination by keeping their faith in Christ deeply rooted. Earlier, Rev. Sunil Raj Philip, the Director of the Dalit and Adivasi Concerns Department of the Church of South India Synod, welcomed the gathering and gave the orientation to the camp.
Rev. Dr. Bhanu Samuel, the Vice- Chairman of the Kollam Kottarakkara Diocese, gave the keynote address. He encouraged the youngsters for focusing more on studies and thus equip themselves. He narrated the trials and tribulations he had to face to secure his doctorate in Theology. He described the discriminations he faced as a Dalit and the ways in which he prepared himself to overcome those painful discriminations.
Rev. Aby K. Thomas, a promising young Dalit Theologian from the Madhya Kerala Diocese, led the session on “A Theological Approach to the self- esteem, resistance and resilience of Dalit Tribal Youth”. He has narrated the biblical-theological framework for a leadership paradigm for Dalit and Tribal youngsters.
Rev. Dr. Maxcin John, the Director of the Department of Mission and Evangelism of the CSI Synod, led a class on “Dalit Tribal youth: A Jesus Model of Leadership”. He presented different angles of the leadership model by Jesus Christ with the help of skits.
Mrs. Jiji Melvin, a professional Counsellor from the Malabar Diocese, took the final session of the day on ‘Dalit Tribal discrimination: Wounded memories and aspirations against odds’. The first day of the conference had a close with prayer and benediction.
The second day started with the morning worship service and Bible study. Rev. Aby K. Thomas led another session, which dealt with the “Socio-political framework emerges from the theology: A Dalit Tribal youth perspective”. His presentation, in which he explained how his faith is rooted in Christ and how he uses Ambedkarite thought along with Christian theology to address the discrimination on Dalits and Tribals in India, was an eye-opener for many of the delegates.
Dr. George Behanan, a prominent Counsellor and trainer who is a well- known writer/ columnist, led sessions on ‘Building and strengthening leadership: Perseverance, confidence, self- affirmation, overcoming fear, and goal- setting: A personality development training from Dalit Tribal perspective’. These interactive sessions were well- taken by the delegates who actively participated in the assignments, which were given to them.
In the evening, an outing to the Varkala beach strengthened the relations amongst the delegates.
The third day of the Leadership training camp for the Dalit and Adivasi youngsters in the Kerala Region started off with the worship and Bible study. Dr. Ajayakumar, the Director of the organization RIGHTS, Trivandrum, which is actively involved in the matters related with the educational rights of the Dalits and other marginalized communities, talked about ‘Education as a tool for emancipation- challenges and way forward: A Dalit Tribal Approach’. Rev. Biju Joseph, the Clergy Secretary of the East Kerala Diocese of the Church of South India, led the next session and he spoke on ‘Church as a space of leadership development: An effective use of space for the space-less Dalit and Tribal youth’.
In the plenary session, the delegates shared their bitter experiences of facing discrimination. But at the same time, they expressed their determination and endurance to face these odds and to become leaders who challenge the caste- based discriminations.
In the concluding session, which was led by Rev. Bhanu Samuel, Mr. Varkey Jacob, the Secretary and Er. P. D. Benedict Raja, the Treasurer of the Kollam Kottarakkara Diocese addressed the delegates of the camp. The Synod Department of Dalit and Adivasis extended their gratitude to the Bishop and the office bearers of the Diocese. The delegates, under the leadership of the department, expressed their gratitude to Rev. Rajesh Charles and Rev. Thomas George (Diocesan Leaders), Mr. Josh Victor (Varkala CSI Church Secretary), and the staff and cooks in the ‘Light to Blind’ School, by giving them bouquets.
There will be a follow- up conference of the same at the synod level in the next year after finishing the Regional level camps of the same.
Rev. Sunil Raj Philip
CSI Synod Department of Dalit and Adivasi Concerns