CRISIS TO KAIROS
URM BEYOND 2000

 

1.0     STATE OF SOUTH ASIA

2.0     STATE OF THE NATION

2.1     The Industrial Workers
2.2     State Repression
2.3     Communalism
2.4     Repression of Minorities
2.5     Globalisation and growing Poverty
2.6     Globalisation and its Impact on Women

3.0     STATE OF THE CHURCH

4.0     THE CRISIS

4.1     From Being Action Groups to becoming NGO's
4.2     Power and Professionalism
4.3     The TINA Syndrome
4.4     Peoples Rights
4.5     Movement Orientation
4.6     Food Security
4.7     The Failure of Trade Union Movements
4.8     Remaining apolitical

5.0     FROM CRISIS TO KAIROS - URM BEYOND 2000

5.1     Becoming Action Oriented
5.2     Re-affirmation of RUAH
5.3     Search for Ideology
5.4     Creative Action with peoples Struggle
5.5     Prophetic Role
5.6     Ecclesia as an Instrument for Mission
5.7     Solidarity

 

It is indeed a privilege and a pleasure to be amongst one's peer group and senior URM' ers. As I look around I have had the privilege of possible working and learning from each one present in this room at some time or the other between 1973 and now. I specially wish to thank Joseph and CCA-URM for this opportunity to share a few thoughts on the subject under debate.

 

1.0       STATE OF SOUTH ASIA :

"South Asia fast emerging as the poorest,the most illiterate, the most malnourished, and the least gender sensitive;  indeed the most deprived region in the world. The region already has a population of 515 million, out of the global population of 1.3 billion people who live in absolute poverty."
- Human Development Report 1997

"The reduction of poverty in South Asia has been slow compared to other regions. For instance, India which contains the largest number of absolute poor in the world made no visible progress in reducing poverty. Official sources indicate that the absolute number of poor people in India increased around 200 million in the 1950s to 312 million by 1994."
- UNDP Report 1997

"South Asia's new urban population is increasingly concentrated in mega-cities. The number of these mega-cities  housing over sight million will rise from four in 1995 (Mumbai Calcutta, Karachi and Delhi) to eight by 1015.  Altogether one in 13 will live in mega-cities by the year 2015.........Along with rapid industrialisation there has been an explosion of urban poverty. Historically, urban poverty in India has been much lower than rural poverty. This has begun to change since the late 1980s. Urban poor are now beginning to exceed the rural poor".......
- Human Development in South Asia 1998 

"The current educational system in South Asia is characterised by low enrollment levels among poor and vulnerable groups, high drop-out and repetition rates, abysmally poor quality of education.....There are 50 million primary school-age children who are not attending school."

"The mean temperature of the earth has risen 0.5 degrees Celsius in the past century. 1995 was the hottest year on record. Increased concentrations of green house gases will likely to result in a rise in the earth's mean temperature of 2.0 degrees. Celesius over the next 100 years. This will result in more droughts and more extremes in winter, flooding  of low-lying areas such as Egypt and Bangladesh, dislodging millions of people, and more frequent and violent storms. This global warming is largely due to the accumulation of polluting gases in the atmosphere most of which come from  a life-style of wasteful over-consumption."
- Inter-governmental panel on Climate Change, UN, 1995 

 

2.0         STATE OF THE NATION :

2.1        THE INDUSTRIAL WORKERS :

We have witnessed the 1st National Industrial dispute in the All India Postal Working Strike. How did the BJP led coalition handle this?

After one week the Army was mobilised to take over the postal services. Signs of becoming a Police state.

When finally the Communications Minister got down to the Negotiating table - The national Industrial dispute was settled without a written agreement. This reflects the repressive character of the State.Take it or leave it. No legal binding in the form of an agreement between the workers and the state.

This is a signal to the Indian Toiling People in the organised and unorganised sectors - BEWARE - the State will not be negotiating any more.

It was in 1991 that the Indian State announced its "New Industrial and Economic Policy" (NIEP) characterised by  Liberalisation and Globalisation. This NIEP has had a very negative impact on the working class.

  • Introduction of capital intensive technology - leading to loss of jobs.
  • Industries adopting a cut back policy - leading to loss of jobs.
  • Industries adopting a golden hand shake policy - leading to loss of jobs.
  • Change in employment pattern - no direct employment - creation of contract labourers

These forms of employment have created a large pool of daily wage earners who enjoy no benefits of

  • Provident Fund
  • Gratuity
  • Leave Facility
  • Health Coverage
  • Housing facilities
  • Accident coverage

This has led to the creation of tremendous hardship and misery for a growing number of workers.   A large section of  these workers are migrant workers coming to Urban Industrial Centres from neighbouring states, towns and villages.

2.2         STATE REPRESSION :

In Uttar Pradesh under the BJP led Government more than 250 people have been killed since the new Chief Minister  took charge. Why have these killings in Uttar Pradesh not become a National Debate. Repression : Frontline had reported that the four State Governments under BJP and its allies i.e. Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh account for the largest number of custodial deaths - Maharashtra tops the list. Why no debate.

2.3        COMMUNALISM :

In Maharashtra State - finally after judicial intervention - the Sena-BJP coalition Government was forced to table the Justice Strikrishna Report which indicts the Shiv Sena. How was the duly appointed enquiry commissions report handled by the BJP - Shiv Sena coalition government - "Rejected". This was the end product of the enquiry ordered into the bloody riots in 1992 and 1993 after the demolition of the Babri Masjid.  

Never before in Independent India have religious sentiments been stoked to hatred by a small minority in the name of "Cultural Nationalism". The BJP led coalition Government's slogan "ONE NATION - ONE PEOPLE - ONE CULTURE" belies the pluralistic character of the people of India and is a blatant attempt towards "fostering cultural fascism". The unabashed patronage and protection extended by the govt. to outfits of the saffron brigade like VHP, Bajrang Dal and others have exposed the Vajpayee led govt's commitment to push India towards a rapidly intolerant RSS version of "Hindu Rashtra".

The unmitigated push that the Hindutva Agenda has had under the BJP led alliance rule is unprecedented. Its one year  in office witnessed a sharp increase in attacks on minorities specially attacks on Christians. Events in Dangs in Gujarat, Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh, Manoharpur in Orissa, Ranalai in Orissa are not merely isolated incidents, but the result of a systematic and planned campaign by the Sangh Parivar. In Maharashtra State where the BJP and Shiv Sena alliance is in power, we have witnessed attacks on Cine-stars, attacks on cinema and cinema theatres,digging of cricket pitches, attacks on artists and many such acts of vandalism. These only confirm the rabidly communal a chauvinistic character of the ruling alliance in Maharashtra State. The Nation has in the past 13 months experienced the consequences of having a communal party like BJP in power at the Centre.

2.4         REPRESSION OF MINORITIES :

In the recent past, as a part of the communal drive, the BJP and outfit of the RSS have begun concerted attacks on the Christian community in various parts of the country. It is not that up till now the majority communal forces were not attacking the Christian houses, churches, institutions, etc. However, it is the Muslims, the largest minority in the country, that, to date, been the major target of communal attacks in the form of venomous propaganda, riots etc. But now that the Muslims cannot heave a sigh of relief, Christians too are being subjected to large scale attacks by the storm-troopers of the Saffron Brigade, often with the direct backing from State Governments, as in Gujarat and Rajasthan.

The role of the BJP led state government in such episode is a too serious matter to be ignored and no words are strong enough to condemn them. For example, The Asian Age, July 27, reports that when a Congress MLA, Bharat Makewana, sought to raise this issue in Gujarat assembly through a special attention calling motion under Clause 116,  the BJP speaker Dhrubhai Shah, did not admit it. The MLA also met the speaker personally, but to no avail.  Incidently, this also illustrates how parliamentary institutions are being sought to be marginalised.

The recent actions of the communal forces of burning the copies of the New Testament at Rajkot and some other places, are an indicator of the attempts to foist barbarism on the country, and need to be condemned in strongest terms. Events in Dangs in Gujarat, Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh, Manoharpur and Ranalai in Orissa are not merely isolated incidents but the result of a systematic and planned campaign by the Sangh Parivar.

This is totally against the tenets of secularism and no government, if it wants to be called civilised, can tolerate such activities the way the BJP's Gujarat government is tolerating and encouraging them.

These widespread attacks on the Christian community have now assumed such dangerous proportions as to invite the  intervention of the Minority Commission. The latter has instituted a vie-member enquiry committee to probe into these  incidents which have exhibited a systematic pattern of prior planning and meticulous execution.

2.5         GLOBALISATION AND GROWING POVERTY

As we enter the new millennium, the population will exceed 1 billion. Of this, even according to Planning Commission's  reckoning, those people living below poverty line are 40%, that is 400 millions are below poverty line. The UN Statistics say that world's income is share as follows :

  • 20% of the population share 80% of income
  • 80% of the population share 20% of income
  • Of these 80% - the bottom 20% share less than 2% of income.

Needless to say that it is the pattern for South Asian peoples.

India announced its decision to integrate itself into the international economy in 1991 since then we have witnessed the process of

  • Globalisation of Capital.
  • Globalisation of commodity
  • Globalisation has not meant the globalisation of labour.

The process of globalisation has also resulted in the weakening of the political state i.e. the Indian State has withdrawn  from its areas of social responsibility i.e. food security, subsidies to the poor, education, health, and housing. As a result, the past years under the New Industrial and Economic Policy (NIEP) regime there is a sharp economic polarization in society. The gap between the rich and the poor is ever widening. The recent trend of small and marginal farmers committing suicide in many states is an indicator of the seriousness of the situation. While people in the villages still do not have clean potable drinking water in our urban metropolises, bottled water is being marketed by companies.

We must also recognise the integral linkage between communalism and globalisation. Both these forces are inter-dependent on each other and in fact feed on each other. Thus struggling against the forces of communalism is fighting against globalisation and struggling against globalisation is combating communalism. One of the most dangerous trends post Independent India is witnessing is the combination of communalism with weaponisation programme. In the last two years, we witnessed Pokhran II, Agni, Trishul and declaration of India as a nuclear weapons state.This is totally anti people as resources which need to be used for the people will be diverted to a non-productive purpose. Essential sectors already being neglected will be further affecting e.g. Housing, Health, Education.

2.6          GLOBALISATION AND ITS IMPACT ON WOMEN

Women and children under the globalisation regime are being reduced to becoming commodities. This commodification of women leads to a value degeneration in an already male chauvinistic society.

 

3.0          STATE OF THE CHURCH :

Pre-Independence Indian Church was a product of Missionary enterprise continued in the task of evangelism and  worked towards adding more number into its fold. So mission was seen as conversion of souls and adding to the membership of the Church. The establishment of schools, orphanages, medical work, etc. were seen only as means  to achieve such goals. Mass conversions particularly in the early days in the 16th century and again in the 18th and early part of the 20th century all show how effectively we have been able to engage in the work of evangelism and dding more to the number of the Church. During that period many mass conversions took place of Adivasis and rom Dalit and marginalized strata of society and the church started growing. Dalits in many part of India embraced Christianity and this trend continued till almost  1930 as mentioned earlier.

The social activities of the Church which were confined to institutional services with an ultimate motive of conversion  gave way in many cases to the understanding of Mission as participation in Nation building, justice,peace and creation issues. During this period the Church took development activities and in collaboration with other entered into creative and meaningful actions. We must specially note the social action groups encouraged by Christian social thinkers and theologians as well as ecumenical movement, became part of the social action scene in India raising justice questions and working for peace and harmony.

Hence, the present state of affairs of the Indian Church will include atleast a small section having different understanding of Mission from the task of Evangelism and working with people of no faith or other faiths for betterment of life here and now and the movement of the society towards the Kingdom of God. Holistic Mission became a thrust for some churches and the understanding of Holistic Mission developed as working with people of all faiths particularly the marginalized and the downtrodden, working with movements for justice, gender equality, environmental harmony and moving towards a just and sustainable society. This Paradigm shift though created tension within the church has helped the Indian Church atleast partially to rise above narrow understanding of  "evangelism" to move in the direction of Holistic Mission. 

However, the majority of the Church membership has not grasped this understanding and tend to be happy with the number game. The total person and the total human race alongwith all god's creation including environment becoming the churches' concern and Mission is yet to be realized.

In a meeting of Church leaders representatives of 29 member Churches who constitute the National Council of  Churches in India issued a statement in which they said : We recognize God's purposeful participation in the history of the world manifested in the event of incarnation. The Church at all levels, from local congregation to the highest decision making body, must witness this through her actions in society on a day to day basis i.e. participating in the struggles of people on issues of caste discrimination, gender, justice, violation of human rights, child labour, enviornmental degradation, globalization and growing poverty, and all other such issues which affect "the least of our  brothers and sisters". All these issues must become the agenda of the Church at all levels and not be delegated to specialised agencies alone.

Guided by the market principles as dictated by Bretton Woods Twins i.e. the IMF and the World Bank, we seem to  have forgotten the 800 million poor, exploited and toiling people who do not form part of the market base in our and. Uncontrolled accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few must be questioned and challenged by the Church.   In   the Jesus tradition the Church has been called to present and promote counter-culture in our society, and not to become subservient to the dominant values and culture as dictated by the globalised market.

In our effort to creatively respond to the issues confronting the life of people in our local congregations, we, the Church must deepen our relationship within the Church, extend our relationship with other churches around us and develop a working relationship with people of other faiths. Only in doing so will we attain the spiritual and moral strength to stand against the injustice and tyranny of the ruling elite unleashed upon the toiling people, the scheduled castes and tribes and other minorities within our Nation.

 

4.0          THE CRISIS :

4.1           FROM BEING ACTION GROUPS TO BECOMING NGOS :

It is disturbing to observe that the term Action Group is not used nowadays. Being a product of the historical phase of Action Groups, I personally find it very difficult to use the nomenclature NGOs, because for us who grew up in the   Action group tradition, the term NGO had and continues to have a very specific historical meaning. This shift in  self identity has also meant a move towards professionalism. This professionalism has led to a strong individualistic style of operation as opposed to the style of functioning as a community or a team i.e. we have lost all sense of KOINONIA. Professionalism has also led to a loss of a sense of belonging to each other, perhaps also led to a loss in faith perspective. There is a definite need to recapture the faith element again.

4.2           POWER AND PROFESSIONALISM :

All this had led the emergence of Power Blocks within the Action Group scenario, where the tendency is for the Big  fish to eat the small fish. In this phenomenon it is necessary to mention the role played by Donor Agencies. The setting up of National offices by our European partners would be a case in point. the evolution of Power Blocks has also meant becoming more and more National in character and orientation. The question that arises is where is the local? We need to re-affirm that LOCAL is the locus of Social Action.

Thus becoming national and Professional has essentially meant alienation from the people, their sufferings, their life situation. We have all also grown in age and seem to be settling down in life. We are being challenged to reflect on this scenario, to gain strength to go back to the people. We are specially challenged to move away from the urban metropolis and Megapolis to go to the rural areas where village communities are becoming the victims of globalisation. We are also challenged to replace our urge for power and Professionalism "with our professed belief in the "Powerlessness of Jesus".

4.3          THE TINA SYNDROME

Between 1991 and now we have been witnessing the overpowering influence of the market in our lives. In the name  of globalisation we are being told that There Is No Alternative. We are challenged to overcome the TINA syndrome. We are also being confronted with the reality of the relationship between communalism and globalisation.  Both these forces are inter-dependent upon each other and therefore both have to be struggled against.

4.4          PEOPLES RIGHTS

The market syndrome also gives rise to a change in our character from people to individuals. Sovereignty is a reflection of laws protecting people's rights. We must continue the struggle for all peoples rights to self-determination.

The concept of individual, civil and political rights tend to weaken the peoples rights.

4.5           MOVEMENT ORIENTATION :

We are also being challenged to re-capture the movement character of involvement. the overpowering tendency is to  go back to project orientation. We must re-capture our movement style and continue to be involved with the struggles of the marginalised toiling people in the urban and rural locations. How do we express our support and solidarity with peoples movement in the face of destruction and displacement of the people and their culture, to do this we need to re-capture the mission concept. Mission as God's Mission and our role as cocreators with God in the establishment of Kingdom of God.

We are specially confronted at this time with two very major concerns.

4.6           FOOD SECURITY :

The report we have been reading about suicide within the farming community are directly linked to the issue Food Security which is the result of impact of globalisation on the agrarian situation. We need to look into this concern very seriously as we will be witnessing more and more deaths in the future.

4.7           THE FAILURE OF TRADE UNION MOVEMENTS :

The globalisation process has led to the working class being decimated in the changed economic scenario. What can  be and what will be the role and function of the Trade Union Movement? is a concern that needs urgent attention.

4.8          REMAINING APOLITICAL

In responding to the people's needs, we have an option of confronting the political state or becoming co-opted into the system. What do we choose ? How long do we want to remain apolitical.

 

5.0          FROM CRISIS TO KAIROS - URM BEYOND 2000 :

The word KAIROS has been explained as "the right time for anything good". It also can mean "time is ripe" so act - a call for action.

5.1           BECOMING ACTION ORIENTED :

URM Groups must re-orient themselves to the people's needs. The vision of URM can only be manifested through working as a community. In opposition to the atomisation of the individual under globalisation, the only answer is the  community - KOINONIA.

CCA-URM must also re-oriented itself to the PEOPLE. Its structural binding within the structure of National Councils has made URM captive. Unilateral dependence for financial support on the WCC also needs to be reviewed. URM needs to break away from this historical captivity and develop bilateral links with partner agencies   to support the people's cause. it we desire to keep the URM concerns alive in action, then financial assistance to grassroots peoples struggles and peoples movements must continue.

5.2           REAFFIRMATION OF RUAH :

As a community of activist URM needs to re-affirm its faith commitment. Faith in a God of history who intervenes in  human history with intend to liberate. In a society which is becoming more and more oriented to the market which today is accepted as the instrument of intervention of society, we need to re-affirm our belief in the SPIRIT. The spirit or RUAH has the capacity to transform materiality to subjectivity. This is in total contrast to the MARKET FORCES which convert subjectivity to materiality. This affirmation of faith in RUAH is the only way to affirm the sovereignty of god and break the shackles of the TINA syndrome.

URM at some point became professionalised, dealing with our faith perspectives. We stopped listening to peoples articulation of their faith which undergirds their participation in peoples struggles, and supplementing it with theology  e.g. spirituality of combat.

5.3          SEARCH FOR IDEOLOGY :

Our Guru and Mentor Late Mr. M.M. Thomas very forcefully reminded the Vancouver Assembly of the WCC that  the ecumenical movement is a subversive movement. I am today confronted with the question - Is the ecumenical movement co-opted and put in Babylonian captivity ?

The question of Ideology keep cropping up all the time. What are we going to do with this ? In the face of global capitalism manifesting its predatory character are we still going to put ideology on the side burner, or wrestle with the  creative tention between Theology and Ideology - Are they mutually exclusive or mutually dependent ? We must be conscious of the efforts to justify and rationalise the negation of life by forces of the global market enshrined in  programmes like "corporate responsibility" working out principles and bench marks for the behaviour of TNCs. Is   this not done from the ideological stand point ? Do we as URM have a counter ideological stand ?

5.4          CREATIVE ACTION WITH PEOPLES STRUGGLES :

While focussing of peoples struggles against forces of communalism and globalisation is of primary importance URM  must also pay attention to peoples initiatives at working out alternatives.

In the Agricultural Arena :

  • Agricultural production for self consumption
  • Organic farming as a method of agricultural production
  • Intra and inter-village storage and save of agricultural produce as an alternative markets
  • Capital resource mobilisation through micro credits/formation of credit unions.

In the Industrial Arena:
It is vitally important to recapture the "Industrial Mission concept which has been totaly lost. Industrial workers are the immediate and prime victims of globalisation. Creative programme for workers education and intervention in industrial disputes becomes a priority objectives given the changing character of Industry and its organisation.

Indigenous People Arena :
Indigenous peoples lives, their cultures, their identity, stand in danger of being annihilated by the predatory market. Specific programme need to be evolved to

  • to empower them politically through building peoples organisation
  • to empower them economically for survival
  • to ensure their cultural identity through re-introduction of indigenous peoples culture and practices.

5.5          PROPHETIC ROLE :

In today's context, mission of God can only be understood as affirmation and protection of life. In all our actions, we  must look for alliances with life affirming forces recoginising with YHWH is not a ethinic god, but He/She is an ethical God.

5.6         ECCLESIA ASIAN INSTRUMENT FOR MISSION :

In our congregational life, (congregation is the body of believers) there is still a dichotomy between spiritual and social life. We need to re-affirm that issues affecting life and people are spiritual/faith concerns. As Action Groups we have a tendency to ignore and leave behind the local congregation i.e. Ecclesia, we must recognise that ecclesia is a very important instrument in society.

5.7           SOLIDARITY :

We must move from false solidarity to active and genuine solidarity. We must through our actions enter into the participative celebrations and liberative solidarity with the poor, exploited, marginalised and toiling people.

Thank you!

(Presentation made by Rajan Singh, Executive Secretary, NCCI-URM at the Consultation " FROM CRISIS TO KAIROS CCA URM BEYOND 2000 " held in Bangkok  1-4 October, 1999)