Thursday, 10 May, 2012

BTESSC National Level Theological Students Conference


Participants of the NLTS Conference
BTESSC organized the National level Theological Students Conference from 5th to 8th May 2012 at UTC, Bangalore on the theme God of Life, Lead us to Justice and Peace.  More than 130 students from different parts of India and belonging to various denominations and seminaries actively participated.  Representatives from Korea and Sri Lanka also attended.   The  chairperson of BTESSC Rt. Rev. Dr. Isaac Mar Philexinos inaugurated the conference.  In his inaugural address, he narrated the background of the WCC Assembly theme.  Rt. Rev. Dr. Geevarghese Mar Coorilos gave the key note address.  He challenged the students by highlighting present day realities in the light of the theme.  The following resource persons presented papers on specific topics:

Rev. Vinod Victor on Asian Realities and Challenges
Rev. Deenadayalan on Indian Realities and Challenges
Dr. A. Wati Longchar on Theological Education in India: Development, Problems and Challenges
Mr. David Selvaraj on Transformative Learning
Dr. Packiam Samuel on Theological Education in Multi faith context
 
Rev. Raj Bharath Patta and SCMI members conducted worship on all days and bible studies were conducted by Dr. Atula, Rev. Vincent Rajkumar and Ms. Sweety Helen.

The following resource persons led workshops on various issues:

Dr. George Zachariah on Climate Justice
Dr. Samuel George on Disability
Rev. Christopher, Mr. Manohar and Ms. Shubha Chacko on LGBTQ
Dr. Richard Devadoss and Rev. Chandra Mohan on Violence and Peace

The following resource persons led the interest groups on different movements

Dr. Joseph Prabhakar Dayam on Dalit Movement
Ms. Geetha Menon and Rev. Margaret Kalaiselvi on Women’s Movement
Dr. Roy David on Tribal Movement
Rev. Fr. Selvinraj on Students Movement

The secretary of the BTESSC Dr. Mohan Larbeer reported on the conference and stressed on the role of students in theological education. The students who participated in the conference brought out a statement.

"We the 115 theological students from the 37 Senate of Serampore College affiliated colleges and seminaries in India and Sri Lanka with a theological Student representative from South Korea, student representatives from the All India Catholic University Federation, Student Christian Movement of India  including 38 women students send this message to the theological fraternities and Churches in India and at large. This conference was facilitated and organized by the Board of Theological Education of the Senate of Serampore College (BTESSC) collaboration with several organizations including the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), Students Christian Movement of India (SCMI), Christian Institute for Study of Religion and Society (CISRS) and aimed to facilitate dialogue between different student communities, cross-learnings and cross fertilization.  There were several theological educators, theologically trained social workers and present students of theology served as resource persons. This conference was held from 5th – 8th May 2012 at the UTC Campus, Bengaluru, India on the theme: God of Life: Lead to Justice and Peace (Forth coming WCC Assembly theme).
We the participants dealt with and discussed the issues related to the relevance and challenges of the Students of theology by reviewing the issues including ‘Transformative Learning’, ‘Right to Education’, ‘Eco-Justice’, ‘Disability’, ‘Human Sexuality’, ‘Dalits’, ‘Tribals’, ‘Asian pluri-faith and political  Scenario’,  issues related to ‘Peace and harmony’, ‘neo-developmental policies and polity’ of the states and ‘peoples movements’ including the anti-nuclear movement in Kudankulam, Tamilnadu and Anti-POSCO movement in Jagatsinghpur, Odisha. These were eye opening sessions and all the worship services and Bible studies were centered on the main theme and the issues empowered us and our spirituality to recommit ourselves for the mission of God and to thevarious ministries of the Churches and Society.
We learnt that ….
·         theological studies is not only to serve the Church as pastors and church workers but also to serve the society at large.
·         theologically trained persons must play a major role for the development and growth of any society at large.
·         The God of Bible is the God of all, therefore our services need to be made available for all.
·         the persons with disability and transgender also created in God’s image and they need to be treated with proper respect and dignity.
·         our ecological sins cause pathos for the earth community as climate-refugees, global warming and all kinds of ecological catastrophes.
·         Since the church as a body of Christ will be irrelevant without his presence and agency in remedying the need of the society we affirm that “a church which does not care for and minister in the entire society is not church”.
·         Missio- Dei or the Mission of God needs to be an imperative and therefore, the communities who live on the edges of the societies are to be made participants in mission. This mission in our specific context as in India is imperatively interfaith and social action oriented. Therefore our missions should move beyond to specific faith and confessional and social traditions. We are expected to exhibit sensitivity to plurality of resource for care giving, networking and advocating. This would lead to a meaningful collaboration of all.
We urge that ….
·         the theological fraternities especially the Senate of Serampore to move from notions of the mark-oriented academic programmes in which students are considered and treated as objects. Instead we appeal the concern body to adopt the transformative educational methods to train the students as agencies of God’s image, voice and activity in this world.
·         in the light of the pedagogical discourse at present  the Senate of Serampore present programmatic notions need to relook frequently and regularly from the emerging needs of the society and its relevance. 
·         proactive attention should be given while doing theologies to the already marginalized and discrimination groups and communities such as persons with disabilities, sexual minorities, aged women and children in order that, the theology of today will be just-theology OR justice- based faith expressions. 
·         more theological literature both as reference material and as sermon aids needs to be developed for pastors and church workers and also materials which will aid in conscientization on social issues to be produced theologically as workbooks  for  Sunday School curriculum and other Christian education fora in order to provide a strong basis for building up an inclusive church.
We Propose that……..
·         the Right to Education be advocated through the senate of Serampore designed community based theological educational programmes suitable to all irrespective of  faiths including for atheist and agnostics. 
·         the senate should initiate networks of like-minded individuals locally through its affiliated colleges and organizations to reach out to conscientize the local congregations and local communities in the society at large.
·         the church needs to encourage ordained ministry to include women and persons with disability and transgenders as the history of the church and church leadership has been inclusive of those belonging to the excluded communities.
·         theological institutions should be the  advocates and  initiators of net-work with the states and other stakeholders in making the Church ‘society-friendly’.
·         the theological education in India should keep  students at the Centre in its focus, in formulating its polies, curriculum etc. 
·         to make field exposures not less than six months instead of present three months and enforce the affiliated colleges to follow it strictly.
We demand that…
·         the Senate of Serampore to provide participatory rights of students in all its decision making bodies including curriculum revision since the programmes revolve around students.
·         there should be a Senate level autonomous  grievance and redressel cell.
·         the Senate should facilitate all the affiliated institutions to have a work place policy on gender and sexual harassment and make all the institutions by having a women redressel commission as per the Government norms since it is mandatory and compulsory.
·         a National Forum of theological Students be formed and recognized to dialogue among themselves on issues pertaining to the Church, Society and Theological education vis a vie theological students.
Further, we the participants of the National Theological Students Conference affirm that we will not follow the caste system, accept dowry, follow discriminative regionalism, fanatic denominationalism, patriarchy, classism, corruption, power politics, stigmatization and discrimination etc. as a response to the call of God of life, who leads us to justice and peace."

Adopted by:
The  Participants of the
National Theological Students Conference
08th May 2012, Bengaluru, India.

From left to right: Bishop Dr. Gheevarghese Coorilos, Rev. Dr. Mohan Larbeer (Secretary, BTESSC) and Bishop Dr. Issac Philexinos (Chairperson, BTESSC)

Mr. David Selvaraj taking a session on "Transformative Learning."

   

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