4. Today’s Indian context is highly complex. On the one hand, many positive events have taken place: our growth rate has touched 9 % for two years running; we have successfully put satellites into space, and India is an acknowledged economic power in today’s world. Yet, we need to critically analyze today’s society that keeps persons and communities divided on the basis of class and caste. Economic security is enjoyed by a select few but there are many who have to accept insecurity, ostracism and even death for no fault of their own. Since Indian society is not monochromatic but composite, its richness lies in the variety of the different segments that make up the whole. The richness is present in the wholeness when one accepts unity in diversity!
5. As we scrutinize Indian society, we discover many forces and movements that buffet it. The tribals of Central India face the threat of being displaced from their homes and land, being caught up in fratricidal conflict because of movements like the Salva Judum and being forced to accept Hinduisation. Those of the North East have to contend with insurgency, violence from terrorists and even the state, a sense of being rootless and intra-tribal conflict.
6. Democracy itself is under strain because of explicit fascist methods and tactics used by right wing parties ruling over particular states and, on occasion, the nation. Often enough there is violence of a planned nature on minority religious groups like the Christians and Muslims.
7. Peace continues to elude the people of Kashmir who live with the constant presence of armed personnel. In addition, the instances of persons who disappear without a trace, the destruction of property and the desecration of women are factors that add to the anxiety and fear of the local people. India’s policies of non-alignment and non-violence have given way to a course of action that includes armament build-up and the consequent diversion of resources that would have supported universal literacy and primary medical care. Finally, even among those serving society in the fields of education and health there are some who follow a hidden agenda or who work for selfish interests.
8. The continuing practice of untouchability has been not only institutionalized but also sanctified by caste ideology. Unfortunately, even though Christianity does not accept such an ideology in principle, in practice, we find that caste, even though it militates against human dignity and basic equality, exerts an impact on some Christians greater than that of the Gospel values! Such practices are diametrically opposed to the Creator’s design for an egalitarian society as proclaimed, inaugurated and fostered by Jesus Christ.
9. We live in a society where men wear a patriarchal lens and look down on women as inferior. Gendered socialization has created a patriarchal mindset in men and women. There is an urgent need to address the challenges experienced by migrant women and those victimized in human trafficking, to work for women’s emancipation, and to create gender-justice both in the Church and in society.
10. Today’s educational system by and large mostly preserves the status quo in society. Besides, education is seen more as a lucrative business rather than a means to build the human person. Some Christian educational institutions too have succumbed to this temptation. There is a real need for basic, informal, liberative and alternative models of education geared to personal as well as social transformation.
11. Politicization of criminals and criminalization of politics have increased. Exploitation, oppression, and dehumanizing praxis occur partly because the state machinery permits power to be concentrated in the hands of a few. Building people-based movements from the grassroots level is a task that remains to be done.
12. Mass-media was meant to establish communication, to facilitate human relationships and to empower the masses to assert their dignity. However, today’s information technology has become a commodity to manipulate the masses and fashion their values. Often enough it creates behaviour patterns primarily to support the market economy in its profit-making objectives. To offset the evil effects of information technology, media education and a prophetic critique of modern media need to be seriously explored.
13. While acknowledging some of the positive consequences of globalization, one recognizes that the capitalistic mode of development takes place at the expense of an ecological crisis, e.g. the rise in the ocean level and increased global warming. Further, the unrestrained use of natural resources and non-renewable sources of energy portend a bleak future for the world as a whole. Besides, globalization has fostered interests that favour mostly the elite groups in the world. Today we face the challenges posed by an ever-pervasive market economy with its neo-liberal capitalistic ideology propelled by globalization, liberalization and privatization. We experience the ever-widening disparity between the rich and the poor, and individual groups and nations. The vast majority of people in our world lack basic needs. The price rise of basic food commodities has created an intolerable situation for numerous governments and their people.
14. The impact of globalization has affected the Church in India yet the Church is seemingly unaware of it. It still thinks of itself as a religious entity that must keep its distance from the goings-on in civil society. Yet, it is only when the Church gets involved in civil society, that it will be able to witness to Gospel values (e.g. human dignity, justice, truth, love, etc.,) and serve God’s Kingdom on earth.
15. The ever-growing democratic aspirations of suffering people to build a new society (an alternative world as spelt out by the World Social Forum) are the hopeful signs of today. Many common people have been protesting against the New Economic Zones. Many groups of women, tribals, Dalits and fisher people are fighting for their due rights. The Right to Information act, employment guarantee act, forest act and the umbrella legislation for the unorganized workers are very encouraging signs of the times. Through these, the Divine powerfully calls people to join the marginalized and engage in civil society critically and creatively so that humankind truly becomes one family as envisaged by Christ.