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Statement of the Indian Women Theologians’ Forum (IWTF) Annual Meeting, 21st – 24th April, 2017
We, the members of Indian Women Theologians Forum met for our annual meeting from 21st to 24th April 2017 at De Nobili College, Pune, to deliberate on the theme: The Politics of the Reign/”Kin-dom” of God in the Indian Context: A Feminist Theological Search. We based our reflections on the notion of ”Kin-dom” popularised by mujerista theologian Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, as it reminds us that we are all kin to each other in the family of God. Understanding the ‘Reign of God’ as Kin-dom has special significance in the Indian context as it serves to challenge the hierarchical implications of domination and power associated with the term ‘Kingdom’, which is an expression with patriarchal overtones.
Enacting the foot washing ritual Jesus instituted as the exemplar of service and subversion of existing hierarchies, was a spiritual experience of bonding, reconciliation and an invitation to constant transformation. Conducted at the start of our meeting, this ritual offered us an occasion also to connect to the community of some of the tribes in North East India for whom foot-washing is a gesture of purification and connectedness. It was an exercise that motivated us to assert that we are Church and to commit ourselves to the Kin-dom of God that welcomes with humility and loving care, the least and the last.
Our sharing on the lived experiences of the ‘Kin-dom’ of God in our personal lives brought out the different facets of the Reign of God in the context of India. It was an invitation to engage consciously in the politics of inclusion against the backdrop of the practices of exclusion, as exercised by the mainstream systems of power including that of religions.
Our reflections were based on a series of papers presented on the changing Indian scenario where economic and social inequalities are growing, and hyper-nationalism and communalism are surreptitiously being mainstreamed through the shrinking of democratic spaces and the tacit complicity of those in power.
We observe the deliberate attempt in the global political economy to institutionalize exclusion by focusing on growth and the supremacy of the market, and using religion to polarize people. The irreparable damage inflicted on the environment, led by the greed for profit, forces displacement of masses of people. It destroys particularly the livelihood and the cultural practices of the Adivasis/tribal communities who live in harmony with nature. This has increasingly led to the feminization of migration, exploitation of labour and increased vulnerability of the poor.
We problematized the concept of ‘kin’ in the Indian context as the caste system in our society is a hierarchy that is defined by one’s family identity. Ethnicity and religion also create barriers to kinship. Within the family itself, traditional kinship relations are marked by discrimination on the basis of gender. While we reaffirm the need for kin-ship, and interdependence even with nature as a responsibility beyond self interest, we also affirm that Jesus’ call to “Kingdom” is universal and inclusive. Being subversive of hierarchy it challenges exclusive sectarian practices and oppressive traditions. In using loving, humble service as the key to the Kingdom, Jesus binds humans to each other and the cosmos in interdependence and responsibility to the well being of all. In this context, we feel called to push with prophetic courage the existing boundaries of divisions and discriminations that mark our society and Church, in the name of blind adherence to tradition.
We see the Kin-dom as a gift and a task; a home coming of Sophia, a new wisdom that awakens us to be and become a transforming presence. The Kin-dom is at work in all social movements and various individual and collective initiatives that counter marginalization, discrimination, exploitation and exclusion – of people of minority faiths and genders, ethnicities, and caste hierarchies. We also acknowledge the liberative politics of the Kin-dom being enabled in the several initiatives that demonstrate alternate ways of enhancing sustainable development while preserving God’s creation.
We are challenged by:
- the nexus between patriarchy, religious hegemony, market fundamentalism and the exploitation of the poor;
- the various exclusions defined by caste, class, gender, religion, language and culture;
- the need of groups to assert their own identities at the risk of excluding the other;
- the market that draws us into a cycle of consumption and waste, destroying nature from both ends by depleting its resources and using it as our dump yard.
We commit ourselves to:
- Building communities of inclusion, reconciliation and service, modeling the liberative symbol of washing of the feet , as illustrated by Jesus;
- Adopting lifestyles that are marked by simplicity and harmony with nature, while making efforts to rejuvenate and conserve our natural resources;
- Entering into partnerships/alliances with individuals, groups and movements who bravely challenge the existing patriarchal development paradigm.
We draw our energies from the Spirit – Wisdom Sophia who is at work in realizing the Kin-dom of God, where all in our shared ecosystem are at peace and in harmony, and experience life in abundance (Jn10:10).
Kochurani Abraham washing the feet of women (file photo)
The members of Indian Theological Association (ITA) gathered at Montfort Spirituality Centre, Bangalore from 26-29 April 2017, for their annual meet cum seminar. This was also an occasion to celebrate the Ruby Jubilee of the Association, on the theme 40 years of Indian Theological Association: Milestones and Sign Posts.
(ITA) was founded with the vision of promoting the development of an Indian Christian theology.
Fr. Joseph Constantine Manalel CMI was the great visionary behind this venture. Over the past 40 years, ITA has striven to live its prophetic call and leave a mark not just on the theological landscape of the Indian Church, but also on the universal church, through its commitment and dedication to theologizing in the Indian context.
At the end of the conference, a new team of office bearers were elected for a term of three years. They are:
- President: Dr. Vincent Kundukulam
- Vice President: Dr. Kochurani Abraham
- Secretary: Dr. Raj Irudaya SJ
- Treasurer: Dr. Joy Pulickan SDB
Other members of the Executive Committee are Alangaram SJ, Jacob Parappally MSFS, Jerome Silvester IMS and D.J. Margaret FMA.
The Assembly thanked the outgoing team – Shalini Mulackal PBVM (President), Anandam (Vice President), Roy Lazar (Secretary), James Anaparambil (Treasurer) and the other EC members -Astrid lobo Gajiwala, John Baptist and Tony Neelankavil for the commendable service they rendered to ITA over the last three years.
The Jubilee provided the occasion for an introspection of ITA’s trajectory thus far and for a critical examination of its relevance to the Indian church and society. The conference ended on a note of deeper bonding between the members and a renewed commitment to live ITA’s vision with greater vitality in today’s context.
DAKATEO and ESCT held a joint Symposium on “Gender and Ecclesiology: An Intercultural Dialogue” at Tagaytay, Philippines, from July 14–17, 2016. The conference was organized with the participation of other INSeCT-Asia members (ACTA – Australian Catholic Theological Association, EWA – Ecclesia of Women in Asia, ITA – Indian Theological Association, and IWTF – Indian Women Theologians Forum), of St. Vincent School of Theology, Manila, and of ESWTR. Eight sessions treated eight topics, each one of them introduced from a European and an Asian perspective, followed by a generous amount of discussion and exchange. The topics and speakers were: “Women at the Grassroots’ Level of Church Leadership (e.g. BECs, social/political movements, etc.)” by Virginia Saldanha (IWTF, India) and Sr. Gemma Simmonds CJ (ET, Great Britain); “Female Deacons, Women Clergy Ordination” by Kochurani Abraham (ITA, India) and Angela Berlis (ESWTR, Switzerland); “Women from Spiritual Counselors to Confessors?” by Sr. Chris Burke (ACTA, Australia) and Sr. Rebeka Anic HSF (ESWTR, Croatia), “Women Religious as Vanguard of Women Participation” by Sr. Shalini Mulackal, pbvm (ITA, India) and Sr. Teresa Forcades OSB (ESWTR, Spain), “Women Leadership in the Bible” by Sr. Margaret Beirne (ACBA, Australia) and Rita Perintfalvi (ESWTR Hungary/Austria), “A Church beyond Clericalism” by Ramon Echica (DaKaTeo, Philippines) and Eamon Conway (ET, INSeCT Ireland), “A Gender Perspective on Catholic Sexual Ethics: Who Defines the roles and issues?” by Sharon Bong (EWA, Malaysia), Martin M. Lintner OSM (ESCT, INSeCT, Italy/Austria) and Gunter Prüller Jagenteufel (ESCT, Austria), “Women in a New Ecclesiology of the Laity” by Agnes Brazal (DaKaTeo/EWA, Philippines) and Serena Noceti (ESCT, Italy). To help contextualize the topics, the Conference began with testimonies from female victims of sexual abuse in their families. The conference was an intellectually and culturally enriching experience.
Kochurani Abraham (India): new member of the Steering Committee
James McEvoy resigned from the Steering Committee at the end of the 2016 Bangalore meeting. In accordance with INSeCT’s statutes, § 7, art. 3, the Steering Committee elected Kochurani Abraham to fill that vacancy until the 2017 General Assembly.
Dear Kochurani, welcome on Board!
Kochurani Abraham in dialogue with Martin M. Lintner, president, and James McEvoy.
Kochurani Abraham has a Licentiate in Systematic Theology from Comillas University, Madrid, and doctorate in Christian Studies with a focus on feminist theology from the University of Madras, India. She has worked as a Senior Fellow of Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) on a research project on Gender Education and has taught as a full time guest faculty in the Dept. of Christian Studies, University of Madras. She teaches feminist theology and feminist spirituality as a visiting professor in some institutes of theological formation in India. She has been the coordinator of the Indian Women Theologian’s Forum (IWTF) and Ecclesia of Women in Asia (EWA). She is also an active member of Indian Theological Association, World Forum of Theology and Liberation and Indian Association of Women’s Studies. She has co-edited with Evelyn Monteiro The Concerns of Women: An Indian Theological Response (Bangalore: Dharmaram 2005) and with Agnes Brazal Feminist Cyberethics in Asia: Religious Discourses on Human Connectivity (New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2014) and writes on questions related to ecology, feminist theology and liberation issues in the Indian context.
New publication: Theology and Power: International Perspectives.
This is a fruit of the collaboration of the European Society in Catholic Theology with the DaKaTeo (Catholic Theological Society of the Philippines) in 2011 on the research project of INSeCT (International Network of Societies in Catholic Theology).
“Questions of power, and its capacity for abuse, have emerged as urgent themes for theoretical and practical reflection within the international Catholic context and beyond. In large part, this is due to widespread revelations of sexual abuse, and allegations of subsequent cover-ups, mishandling, and safeguarding failures. But while of the utmost importance, Christian explorations of power are neither limited to, nor prompted by the sexual abuse crisis alone.
Recognising the gravity, urgency and global application of these issues, Theology and Power brings together Catholic scholars from three continents for a renewed, practical and theoretical exploration of power and its (ab)uses. Special attention is given to both the sexual abuse crisis, and the often tense relationships between religion and politics. This is an original collection of essays by leading Asian, European, and North American theologians and ethicists, exploring the nature of power and its capacity for abuse within both the Church and civil society.”
Asian Horizons, Dharmaram Journal of Theology
Vol. 10, No. 3, September 2016
Call for Papers
ASIAN CHRISTIAN HERITAGE
Christianity had its origin in Asia. In the first Millennium, Asia was the Centre of Christianity. Though Rome became the centre of Western Christianity and the See of the Papacy, all other major centres of the Church were in Asia; all the important Ecumenical Councils of the first Millennium took place in Asia; all the major doctrines were formulated in the Asian centres; most of the important theological schools were in Asia. September 2016 issue of Asian Horizons focuses mainly on the early history of indigenous Christianity in Asia. However, how this heritage continued to evolve also could be explored. Besides, how Christianity in Asia developed in dialogue with other Asian religions could be reflected upon.
Suggested Topics (only recommendations, not exhaustive):
– Indigenous Christianity in Asia
– Asian/Eastern Churches [Could be on a particular Church]
– Jewish Christianity
– Hellenistic Churches
– Syrian Churches
– Eastern Orthodox Churches
– Persian Church
– Missionary Expansion of the Nestorian Church
– Influence of Other Asian Religions on Christianity [could be also on the influence of any particular religion]
– Asian Church’s Contribution to the Western Churches
– Christianity in India
– Christianity in China [or any other Asian country]
– Colonization and Asian Churches
– Ancient Asian Churches and Inculturation
– Asian Churches: Search for Identity
As usual, we welcome other articles on any area of theological interest and research.
Please send your articles (4500-5000 words, including the footnotes) at the latest by 30 August 2016. Kindly include the abstract of the article in 150-200 words, 5-7 Keywords and a summary of the CV of the author in 100-150 words.
Other regular items: “New Scholars”: Abstract of doctoral theses (recently defended and not yet published); book reviews.
For submitting the articles and for more details: Shaji George Kochuthara (editor-in-chief): email@example.com