September 27-30, 2008
The members of ECHOS, the World Council of Churches (WCC) commission on Youth visited the SCM of India from 27-30 September, 2008 as they came in advance for their recent meeting in Bangalore. The 25 members of ECHOS represent a variety of WCC consultative commissions, Central and Executive Committee, the Catholic and Pentecostal Youth and Students Networks as well as regional and global youth organizations, like the World Students Christian Federation (WSCF). Their goal is to facilitate more coherent youth participation within the WCC.
We had an exposure with them to the Yelagiri Hills, 140kms from Bangalore where Dr. Bennett Benjamin, a senior friend introduced the group to the situation of the now so called “Scheduled Tribes” and “Scheduled Castes” (otherwise known as “Untouchables”). Coming from all over the world, the ECHOS members are used to the conditions of poverty and social injustice, but confronted with the Indian caste system, they experienced injustice in a different way.
We also had a one day workshop on “Overcoming Violence”. Taking the recent violent attacks on Christians in some parts of India, four young leaders shared their perspectives on the nature of the violence. Mr. Vineeth Koshy, Youth Secretary of the National Council of Churches in India, addressed “Religious Violence” by saying that “the origin of many religious conflicts is that one compares one's own ideal religion against others' real religion, leading to differences, complexities, distortions and enmity.” Ms. Anita Hepsibah, a student at Tamil Nadu Theological Seminary spoke on violence and the caste system. “Changing faith doesn't change social conditions. The caste system has an especially devastating impact on women in India. “Ninety-five percent of all abortions in the country are female fetuses”, says Ms. Latha Paul, General Secretary of Bangalore YWCA. She further says that “Traditional attitudes towards gender roles need to be addressed by educating young women and men. Ecumenical formation can play an important role in this education.” Speaking on the topic of economic justice, Mr. Lukasz Nazarko, member of ECHOS and the Commission of the Churches on International affairs (CCIA) stated that “economic violence occurs in all other kinds of violence—religious, caste and gender, which can be witnessed in many of the social problems in India.”
For the ECHOS team there was a connection between what they saw in India and the study process of the WCC decade-long initiative, the Decade to Overcome Violence. “Youth can play an important role in overcoming structural violence like racial separation and class divisions, because they did not take part in creating or maintaining them”, says Mr. Itayi Ndudzo, from the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe and member of the WCC Central Committee.