National convention

Forum for Religious Justice and Peace National Convention Calls for Radical Discipleship

Hyderabad: The ‘Religious Forum for Justice and Peace’ held its XVII National Convention at Montfort Social Institute, Hyderabad, Telangana from 22-24 September 2022. The theme of the Convention was Deepening our religious identity: responding to the signs of the times”. More than sixty men and women religious, from sixteen states and representing twenty religious congregations participated in the convention.

In a press note shared by Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ on behalf of the Forum Core Team, he said tn the inaugural program, Sr. M. Nirmalini AC, National President of the Conference of Religious India (CRI) and also Superior General of the Apostolic Congregation of Carmel delivered the keynote address on the theme of the Convention.

Setting the tone for the Convention Sr. Nirmalini’s speech was insightful and challenging, calling on participants to respond to the signs of the times by deepening their spirituality beginning with self-transformation. She says, “we need to take an inner journey to rediscover interiority and the capacity to appreciate what is important and to live it with passion, enthusiasm and energy. Each of us will have to go through a personal transformation and it is not magic but a slow intentional process. We will be asked to change, to adapt, to change and to live in a future that will not be the same as the one we see now. This process is a gift from God and we must be open by deepening our prayer, listening and discerning and practicing a radical openness to the signs of the times”

Bishop Raphael Thattil of Shamshabad Diocese also addressed the congregation and urged them to continue to play a prophetic role in the Church. Referring to Pope Francis’ homily on the Good Samaritan, he said many in the Church today emphasize “worship” and conveniently forget to be “prophetic.” He appreciated the important role that the participants play for the cause of justice in the Church and in the country today.

Earlier, Buddhist monk Tashi Chodup led the congregation in meditation. The national animator of the Forum, Sr. Dorothy Fernandes, welcomed the dignitaries (which also included some local provincials) and the participants. Br. Varghese Theckanath SG, the host as Director of MSI and veteran of the Forum traced the history of the Forum from its inception and also explained the dynamics of the Convention. Other highlights of the inaugural session included the publication of a booklet “The Kuravilangad Case: A Critical Study” which was published by the Forum; and a very significant interaction of the participants with Sr. Nirmalini.

Another resource person at the Convention was Meera Sanghamitra, a well-known activist who is actively involved in feminist issues, civil liberties, transgender rights as well as the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM). She provided participants with an incisive picture of the many issues that concern the poor and marginalized today.

The Convention was marked by in-depth and contextual sharing in groups and plenary sessions. Members re-elected Sr Dorothy Fernandes PBVM (Convener), Fr Antony F Thekkiniyath Ofm Cap (Secretary) and Fr Anand IMS (Treasurer), other core team members are Fr Cedric Prakash SJ, Fr John Bosco SJ, Sr Julie George SSps, Fr Varghese Theckanath SG, Sr Ancy CJ, Fr Devassay Kadaparambil SDB and Sr Anitha Chettiar DHM

A significant and contextual statement below adopted unanimously by the participants before the conclusion of the Convention calls for radical discipleship!

FORUM STATEMENT

We, members (63 men and women religious, from 16 states representing 20 congregations) of the Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace, gathered for three days (22 – 24 September 2022) at Montfort Social Institute, Hyderabad, Telangana for our XVII National Convention. We deliberated on the theme, Deepen our identity as religious: Respond to the signs of the times, in mutual respect for each other’s opinions, in deep moments of prayer and meditation, with precious contributions and a common life of solidarity.

Bishop Raphael Thattil of the diocese of Shamshabad, the participation in the inaugural session reminded us that we are prophetic people in a Church often disfigured by the predominance of worship and ritualism. Moreover, he called on everyone to be steadfast in the midst of the tribulations that necessarily come from his position alongside the poor and oppressed.

Sr. M. Nirmalini AC the National President of the Religious India Conference (CRI) delivered an insightful and thought-provoking address on the theme. Referring to Pope Francis’ apostolic letter “To all consecrated persons” (November 21, 2014), she said: “In 2014, Pope Francis asked consecrated life to “awaken the world”, to bear witness to the world that there is another way of being, of acting and of living, a prophetic way of living. To awaken the world, religious must be awakened to the joys and cries of the world around them and to the call of God. Where we are, what we see and how we listen, it all matters. A prophetic path calls because when we look at the world, we will not only see incredible love, kindness, beauty and generosity, we will also see people and the earth suffering needlessly, crying out for an answer. We are called to respond.

Meera Sanghamitra, a well-known activist who is actively involved in feminist issues, civil liberties, transgender rights as well as the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) provided an incisive picture of the many issues gripping our people today. . The way forward, she said, should be in Hope, Healing and Harmonyin the same way Sstruggle, Ssolidarity and Ssustained commitment in the current socio, political, economic, cultural and religious context.

As religious committed to justice and peace, we express our concern at the deterioration of the situation of our nation on all fronts. Fascism seems to have come to stay. We have reached abyssal depths on all parameters: be they social, economic and political. Recently, the “Global Human Index” placed India at a pathetically low rank of 132 out of 191 countries assessed. There are several other global indexes today that put India at the bottom. The poor in India are getting poorer every day; the rich and powerful continue to profit at their expense and amass outrageous wealth. Adivasis are stripped of their jal, jungle and jameen. Dalits, OBCs and other subordinate groups are still deprived of the dignity, equality and justice that are rightfully theirs. Minorities (especially Muslims and Christians) are the target of hate speech and persecution, by a regime that systematically and continuously denigrates and demonizes them with an agenda of division and violence. Intolerance is on the rise. Unconstitutional anti-conversion laws now take center stage. The four labor codes run counter to workers’ rights and clearly favor profiteering big business. The pitiful conditions of migrant workers came to the fore when the lockdown was announced in March 2020. Fishermen in Kerala and other parts of the country are battling against companies that intend to destroy their livelihoods. Unemployment and spiraling inflation have had a huge impact on the lives of the poor.

The new National Education Policy (NEP) that has been adopted is clearly anti-poor and anti-minority and only targets a small section of the wealthy and elite. Corruption is widespread, crony capitalism is endemic. India was ranked last (180th out of 180 countries) in the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) 2022. Freedom of speech and expression is in the doldrums. Human rights defenders (HRDs), (including some organizations) and many others – like those incarcerated in the Bhima-Koregaon conspiracy case – who take a stand against the regime are hoisted, bogus cases are taxed, they are attacked, incarcerated and even killed (as we painfully experienced with the death of our brother Stan Swamy who died while still in police custody)…. We know much more!

We are also deeply saddened by the silence of the Church: bishops, priests and religious on issues that are destroying the democratic, pluralist and secular fabric of our country. When we speak of “synodality” today, the Church leaders in India have still shown no signs of abandoning their clerical and patriarchal mentality. Caste discrimination is still practiced within the Church; moreover, Church leaders have not shown the courage and transparency to address some critical issues involving bishops, priests and religious. It is therefore, for good reason, that we have released a brochure on the occasion of this congress entitled, “The Kuravilangad Case: A Critique Study‘ which we hope will open the eyes and hearts of some and will be read by many, with objectivity and compassion.

We, the members of the Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace, therefore decide

  • that we continually deepen our identity as radical disciples of Jesus and that we have the prophetic courage to respond to the signs of the times
  • that we achieve and will ensure that personal transformation is the first step towards social transformation
  • that we internalize and actualize the values ​​inscribed in the ‘Constitution of India’ by giving it its rightful place in our formation, our catechesis and in all our ministries.
  • that we will continue to strive to build more inclusive communities, transcending religious, caste, gender and ethnic divisions and any form of bigotry

Further away,

We urge our congregational leadership and the Religious Conference of India (CRI)

  • ensure the integration and implementation of all General/Provincial Chapter documents and Catholic social teachings, which emphasize our accompaniment and involvement in the lives of the poor and marginalized, the excluded, the exploited and of the vulnerable. This will allow us to respond effectively and prophetically to the signs of the times for a more just and peaceful society.
  • conduct programs on the Constitution of India and social analysis with the necessary exposure to the realities of the poor, at all stages of training
  • take an unequivocal, visible and vocal position and accompany victims of abuse both within the Church and in society at large

To finish,

We, members of the Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace, commit ourselves

  • to encourage more and more young men and women religious, engaged in questions of justice and peace, to join and be active members of this Forum.
  • spare no effort to play a prophetic role in responding to the signs of the times

(The above statement was adopted unanimously by the members of the Religious Forum for Justice and Peace who participated in the XVII National Convention held in Hyderabad).