Indian nun challenges Asian theologians to share poor’s suffering 

Published on: 9:46 am, April 21, 2016 Story By: Matters India reporter

Kochi: Christian theologians will have no credibility unless they are willing to share “the minimum amount of suffering with the poor,” says a Catholic nun who teaches in a Jesuit theologate in the Indian capital.

“Theologizing needs to be a credible exercise,” asserted Sister Shalini Mulackal, president of the Indian Theological Association, while addressing the eighth Congress of Asian Theologians (CATS) at Kochi, the commercial capital of the southern Indian state of Kerala.

More than 100 theologians from around Asia attended the April 19-22 congress organized by the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) and hosted by the Senate of Serampore College (University).

Sister Mulackal, who delivered a thematic address on the second day the congress, said the challenge before the Asian theologians is to bridge the gap between theological articulations and their own life style.

The traditional way of doing theology, she added, has no relevance for people at the grassroots unless theologians are willing to share the pain of the poor.

The member of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Union of Sisters) congregation, who finds time for human rights movements while teaching systematic theology at Vidyajyoti College of Theology, says, “Theology is never done once and for all. The way we understand God and God’s action in our history needs fresh understanding and fresh articulation. Theologizing therefore is an ongoing task.”

Reiterating the need for ‘re-articulation of theology in the emerging context,’ the Catholic nun theologian lamented, “Poverty in Asia is still a glaring reality” while “there is a gradual moving away from the concerns of the poor in general in our Asian theologizing.”

Sister Mulackal described as “heartening” that Asia has developed new theologies based on people’s struggle. She also welcomed more women coming forward to do theology from feminist perspective.

Opening the congress, president of the Senate of Serampore Bishop Issac Mar Philexinos said the congress aimed to help theologians to “feel the wider theological pulse of Asia.”

The Orthodox prelate says the Churches do not want “arm-chair” theologians but “grassroots” theologians concerned with issues relevant to the local churches.

Huang Po Ho, a prominent Asian theologian from the Chang Jung University in Taiwan, in a keynote address, stressed the need for theological endeavors “to respond to the chaotic situation and work for a new world order that can lead to justice, peace and fullness of life for all.”

He sees globalization as “a contemporary human attempt to overmaster the house of God with market principles under a dominant power of capitals.”

Po Ho regrets that although Asia birthed and nurtured all world religions, including Christianity, Christian theologies were imported to the region as missionary instruments to convert people under the wider circumstances of political contexts of colonization.

CCA general secretary Mathews George Chunakara, who welcomed the delegates, the Asian conference will continue to be committed to provide space for more frequent engagements for Asian theologians, despite facing financial and human resources constraints.

The conference launched CATS in 1997.

Bishop Daniel Thiagarajah of the Jaffna diocese in Sri Lanka, who shared a reflection on the story of the Caananite woman during the morning worship, pointed out that Jesus emphasized the need “to cross the boundary between Jews and Gentiles.”

“Boundaries that keep people in or out are to be broken,” asserted the Church of South India prelate.

During a panel presentation on ‘Overcoming religious intolerance and building communities of peace in Asia,’ Joseph Deva Komar from Malaysia said, “Billboards may declare unity, however to suffer indignity is painful. To tolerate religious intolerance is becoming the chosen way.”

Rev Yusak B Setyawan from Indonesia focused his presentation on the need “to recognize religious fundamentalism and terrorism as challenges in building up God’s Oikos.” The ancient Greek word oikos refers to the family, the family’s property, and the house

“The minimum standard in defining religion is to reinforce peace and promote a situation of living together in social harmony, justice and preserving human dignity,” Setyawan added.

Santanu Patro, professor of religions and registrar of the Senate of Serampore College (University), called for “the need for churches to shed the ‘non-responsive’ attitude to growing atrocities against religious minorities by religious extremists.

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