Thought for the day

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."
- Matthew 7:7-8

Daily Reading



  • Researchers infused with a Gender Perspective through GEET Theological Colloquium CSI SEVA

    Research is always for advocacy. Research is political. Research can never be neutral. Research has to be in the service of social justice. The commitment to challenge and question the existing frameworks is the mandate of theological research that is supported by the church of South India - These were some of the key takeaways presented by the General Secretary and the panellists who addressed Research scholars of the Church of South India at the Theological Colloquium that began today at CSI Centre, Chennai.

    The keynote on Diversity and Intersectionality and the fluidity of knowledge by the General Secretary of the CSI Dr Rathnakara Sadananda, who inaugurated the Colloquium, set the trajectory for the panels to follow.

    Speaking on "Disability as Diversity: Rights, Recreation & Livelihood" disability rights activists Dr Aiswarya Rao and Dr T.M.N. Deepak highlighted that design for access and breaking down of barriers to accessibility is a key challenge. Ability and Disability being part of the spectrum of diversity; the necessity to understand disability rights as rights and not as charity; ability meaning nothing without disability and the need to recognise that the church, though a forerunner in earlier times, has now sometimes lagged in disability rights and accessibility were other key points both these panellists stressed. Both panellists, however, acknowledged that the CSI DISHA initiative has set an encouraging precedent in recent years by engaging genuinely with the disability sector in various ways.

    Panellists who tackled "Capturing Resistance, Resilience & Gender Justice in Research” spoke from different perspectives. Dalit women's activist and academic teaching sociology in Loyola College, Semmalar Jebaraj, challenged the research scholars to eschew tokenism of using puppet women leadership in the churches and asked those present to introspect if each was able to truly accept strong women's leadership that challenges, questions and tackles patriarchy within the church head-on. Does the church have a strategy to break the Varna system of Brahmiminicalpatriarchy? Or are we content to be tacitly encouraging the dowry system and arranged marriages that favour endogamous marriages and the preservation of the caste system were her strong critique of the mainline churches' praxis?

    Dr David Joy stressed the importance of having to step out of protocol consciousness in research and stressed that the change in the researcher, what the researcher unlearns and whether the researcher develops a perspective were more important. He invited researchers to practice “Crisising in Hermeneutics, Deconstructing historiography, identify the politics of interpretation, identify native ideologies and practice a resistance hermeneutics. Dr Jathanna rooted the context of research in the Imperial colonized context and pointing out the tendency to domesticate Christ researchers were invited to dare to dream in their research. Affirming the necessity for non-conformism in research and pointing out that research was a political activity, Dr Jathanna highlighted the dominance of surveillance in the milieu of academic research that needed to be challenged. Pointing out that liberation theologians these days were “fascists on vacation”, the importance of framing the question and questioning the frame were seminal affirmations from the third panellist in this panel Dr Gladson Jathanna. LGBTQ Activist, motivational speaker and independent filmmaker Ms Sonal Giani dispelled frequently held misconceptions about those with different sexual orientations in the community.

    "Our church now listens to us and consults us in decisions relating to us. After hearing from us about what we learned through CSI SEVA's Focus 9/99 initiatives to raise awareness on child rights and child abuse, our congregation now creates spaces for us to be heard. Heeding our challenge about our exclusion from the Eucharist, our church now distributes cakes as an alternative to bread and wine" - These were the highlights of the sharing from the journey of children, Mr Ezhil Joshua and Ms Karishma, who have been part of accompanying the CSI towards becoming a Child friendly Church through the Focus 9/99 Campaign and the Girl Child Campaign. They shared how they themselves now are ambassadors for girl child rights and the rights of children in their communities. Speaking eloquently to the research scholars in sign language, Amal Panyal from CSI School for the Deaf, Santhome, poignantly captured the yearning and vision of children with Disabilities about an inclusive and accessible church when he said "I dream of the day when every CSI congregation will have sign language for sermons so that we too will feel welcome in the church". He thanked the CSI for inviting him and children with Disabilities like him to forums like this so that they could both learn and voice their concerns. Joshua, Karishma and Amal comprised the panel on "Children: Protection and Agency" which concluded with a presentation of highlights of the draft CSI Child Protection Policy by Ms Jessica Richard, Coordinator, Campaigns & Advocacy, CSI SEVA.

    Stressing the importance of enhancing their research through the opportunity offered in this Theological Colloquium, Rev. Solomon Paul, Director in-charge, CSI SEVA, urged the research scholars present to actively participate in the deliberations over the next two days of the Colloquium.

    This Theological Colloquium is organised by the CSI SEVA's Gender Equity Enabling Timetable (GEET) Campaign, to infuse in theological students and educators with a gender justice perspective, awareness of the intersectionality of gender, disability and child rights and the necessity to sharpen theological research to become a tool of social transformation in the communities we serve. Starting today and ending on the 14th of August, this Colloquium will give space for over 42 researchers who have been supported by the CSI for their theological studies at the BD, MTh and DTh levels to present their research and get valuable feedback to sharpen their work in terms of gender perspective.

    This Colloquium is coordinated by GEET Program Executives Ms Glory Thomas and Ms Merlin Jocebeth and assisted by Mr Daniel Solomon Raja, Ms Aruna Stephen, Mr Praveen Daniel, Mr George and Mr Jason of Team SEVA.

    Ms Jessica Richard

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