Religion and Development

William Stanley



India represents thousands of years of cultures, different religions and economies. It houses nearly a billion people. India witnessed great events of national independence and an era of modern development and caught in between capitalism and communism and agrarian Vs industrial development. With the achievement of political independence, India assumed the responsibility of "economic growth and national development ".

The planners and the Governments fell into the trap of dominant development ideology - a development based on western models which lead the rich to colonise the country. The profound changes now shaping human affairs are yet to realise the promise offered by such changes, however, will require a searching re-examination of the prevailing patterns of social and economic development. Conditions for justice and equity that foster both individual and collective well being remain an elusive goal.

It has become evident that the rich minority in India continues to collaborate with world’s rich to exploit the natural resources and the poor. Such a pattern of development only permeates an unjust and an exploitative society. No religions in the world offer a better understanding of the societal context and enable the people to address them. Christianity while offering repentance and salvation miserably failed to bring the needed justice in the world. This is just due to misinterpretation of those who had spread the religion had also control over the resources through systematic economic invasion and religious colonialism.

Dogmatic religious principles were imposed in the name spirituality and faith. This faith miserably failed to provide the essence of humanity both to transform the individuals and the social, economic and political structures that the members of the society create. We need an internal reordering of the human heart and mind to transform our inner life and character of human beings and the organisation of the society.

Market forces, consumerism and the globalisation are the new entrants in India today. Growth driven economic model accompanied by greed, selfishness and unsustainable life-styles through exploitation of natural resources and the people are the root cause of all evils that affects humanity, society and our fragile eco-system a development model driven by the West‘s Judaeo-Christian philosophy . The failure of the socialist experimentation added greater legitimacy to the ideological shift to global capitalism and therefore global injustice.

Under the new regime of global capitalism, we have entered an era of neo-colonialism and neo-liberalism. Globalisation is legitimised by the international financial institutions like the World Bank, IMF and the WTO. Governance of communities is being shifted from State to governance of corporate capitalists. Capitalism has emerged apparently as the only answer to the economic ills of the world. Some ideologues see this trend as, the 'end of history', 'end of ideology' and 'end of hope’. We seem to be facing a world without alternatives.

The Reality - Unsustainable Development

Before we promote sustainable development as an alternative, it is imperative to analyse the development models we have pursued. Growth centred development have been systematically breaking down the social and economic structures. The consequent environmental implications have made it obvious that the development we have pursued cannot be sustained, and that it will never be possible for the rest of the population to reach the levels of development and life styles. India is one among the many that is accelerating the process of destruction of our mother earth. We are forced to join the rat race of development.

The global realities and the practices of unsustainable development have direct influence on our political, economic, social, cultural and environmental context and policies that govern them.

Over Consumption of Resources – The ‘Development’ Trend

The burning of fossil fuel has increased many folds. The consumption of fresh water has almost doubled since 1960. The marine catch has increased fourfold. Wood consumption, both for industry and for household fuel, is 40% more than it was 25 years ago. The rich minority consume 45% of all meat and fish, 58% of total energy, 84% of all paper, own 87% of vehicle fleet and 18% of the world’s population use 80 per cent of the planet's capacity. If seven billion people (roughly today's World population) were to consume as much as in the West today, we would need ten more worlds and not one. If we go on exploit our natural resources at this rate, by 2030, the human race will find it difficult to survive.

Taking into account the ecological space of a industrial or a developed country and if they were to consume their own resources and the space and not exploit the resources and space of what is due to others, that society by now, would have got destroyed.

As per the recent World Bank report, 100 million more people are living in poverty to day than decade ago and the gap between the rich and the poor is growing wider. Each year 2.4 million children die of water borne diseases, nearly a billion people have entered the 21st century unable to read and write, more than 1.8 million people die every year of indoor pollution in rural areas, forests are destroyed at the rate of an acre a second, with unimaginable loss of bio-diversity.

There are now 22 trillionaries with assets worth over $1 trillion. They own, collectively, more than the annual income of nearly half the world's poorest people numbering 2.5 Billion. Just the three richest people have assets worth more than the GDP of 48 least-developed countries. According to the United Nations Development Program, the assets of the world's 358 billionaires most of them from G7 and Christian countries were greater than the combined incomes of countries with 45% of the world's people (about 3 billion human beings)!

Capitalism is very good at creating capital but terrible at creating capitalists. How does a country that believes in Christianity can be part of the global plan of robbing the resources of others? What happened to the teachings of Christ? What then it means to be a Christian and to follow Christianity as a religion which otherwise should advocate peace, justice and love – the good news to the poor. The Gospel of Globalisation controlled and governed by the rich subtly uses the Biblical Gospel.

There are as many as one billion people who do not even meet the basic requirements. Among the 4.4 billion people who live in developing countries, three-fifths live without sanitation; one-third without safe drinking water; one-quarter lack adequate housing; one-fifth live beyond the reach of modern health services; one-fifth of the children do not get as far as grade five in school, and an equal percentage are undernourished.

Education for all the children who go without it, will cost $6 billion per year, while Americans spend $8 billion on cosmetics; Water and sanitation for all will cost $9 billions, whereas Europeans spend $11 billion on ice cream; The tab for basic health and nutrition is $13 billion; but Europeans and Americans spend $17 billion on pet foods; to complete the list, the Japanese spend $35 million a year on business entertainment; Europeans $50 billion on alcohol; and Globally drugs account for an annual expenditure of $400 billion while arms eat away $780 billion which should otherwise be spent on social necessities.

I am not saying that they should all stop spending and divert those resources to meet the needs of the majority. It is the political will, the economic systems and a gospel that delivers people from evil of these rich Christian countries need changes. Who will dare to do this? We will be all happy in our small worlds to continue our daily routine and raise resources by using the symptoms of unjust structures.

People may continue to give resources as charities out of concern and out of guilty. What we need today is to change our culture of development. The Church should use part of their resources towards advocacy to tell clearly their people the truth behind the root causes of misery and affluence. If we are not going to change in our thinking and the culture of development, then how we as Church going to realise our mission, our prophetic and proactive role towards a just society.

Unsustainable Development and its Impact on Environment and Ecology

Another area to confront is the ecological crisis, the product of unsustainable development. We are heading towards the mortality of human species on planet. The planet will not die, but we will, if we continue with our market economy and the goal of maximising profit. But one has to take the nature’s warning! Look the Year 1998! It could be called the year of the Undertaker. Environment was its first victim. Man-made environmental disasters saw temperatures on Earth touch the highest ever recorded, frequent cyclones, floods, landslides, earthquakes and prolonged droughts.

Prophets have predicted that our pattern of development will drive us straight into the grave. The whole planet is under continuous threat of an ecological disaster. In the name of development we have destroyed our agriculture, forestry, health, management of community resources, education and governance. We as Christians have an ethical response; the Church should seek policy changes through advocacy and promote alternatives that address sustainable initiatives both in the Church and outside the Church. Therefore, the question is what kind of policies, trade relations, political systems have allowed these developed countries to appropriate the resources of others (which has provided for thousands of years sustainable livelihood to many communities) for greedy, luxurious over consumption and unsustainable life-styles. What is the response of the Churches today and what kind of development the Churches want to advocate?

Impact on the Life Sustaining Resources

Water: Today, more than 230 million people live in water scarce countries. World-wide water shortages and contamination kills nearly 25,000 people a day. Nearly 30% of the people in the third world do not have safe water to drink. Diarrhoea kills some 4 million children every year. Acid rain affects more than seven million hectares of forests in 20 countries.

Forests: Forests play a critical role in the maintenance of the planetary ecosystem. Each year, 12 million hectares of forest (an area almost the size of England) are being eliminated. If present development trends continue, by year 2010, only 7% of the planet will be of forests.

Land: More than three billion hectares - almost a quarter of the world's land surface - are at risk from desertification and salinity. Every year, 6 million hectares of productive land is lost beyond hope of recovery. 27 Million hectares of earth's surface are lost every year.

Air : Industrial pollution has caused more damages to the nature as well as human beings.

"How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. "That was how Chief Seattle wrote in his letter to the President of the USA in 1854 when the US government wanted to take over the common property resources of the indigenous people of America. And though his words were spoken 150 years ago, and have been repeated so often, they are still the most touching issues on the abuse of creation. Should we allow these unethical practices to continue? Can’t we stop these abuses? Where is Christian stewardship towards creation?

Impact on Indigenous Communities

"Critical to the developing countries are the issues such as the destruction and privatisation of common lands, common property resources, bio-diversity, forest destruction, in-roads made by commercial forestry on forestlands and agricultural areas, plantation forestry and privatisation of the global commons. It is not only the degradation and destruction of actual habitats and spaces, but also the speed at which it happens, allowing little time to resist, stop or to undertake ecological and social restitution activities. From colonial times, to newly independent nations, the tribal indigenous populations of countries were hardly considered as constituting the nation. It is also therefore not accidental that many counter-state movements, termed as insurgencies by the agencies of state.

Under globalisation, it is the tribal indigenous areas that have come under massive projects of development. These projects whether dams, mining projects or afforestration programmes or globally sponsored scientific conservation programmes and World Bank supported eco-development programmes, they have treated the tribal populations as if they did not matter.

Cases of displacement of tribal populations are far too many to be listed and ranges from countries in South Asia like India with large tribal populations, to Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines. The tribal populations in countries like Thailand and in newer areas in India are being visited by new threats to their live styles, livelihoods and culture by new emerging forms of international mainstream environmentalism trying to preserve, conserve wild areas in regions like Asia.

Commercial activities in the sphere of mining and quarry, forestry, construction of big dams and industrial projects and defence establishment and infrastructure facilities like roads, electrification, etc., have introduced alien forces, cultures and influences into the traditionally insulated life and culture of the indigenous people. Millions of people have been displaced from their habitat.

Deprivation of land and forest are the worst forms of oppression that tribal people’s experience. It has resulted in the breakdown of community life and a steady cultural death - 'ethnocide'. Tribals are not only becoming rootless but also forced to lead a dehumanising existence without a livelihood, identity, community and culture.

The world's tribal peoples are facing death all the time. In the forests and hills of Bangladesh, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and in India they are massacred in cold blood, or exterminated by a process of attrition, through which their lands are taken away, their rivers poisoned, their cultures undermined and their lives made intolerable.

Dalits yet another indigenous community who were displaced by historical compulsion some thousands of years back from their own land and habitat. Today they have been victimised by the industrialisation wave. Millions of Dalits who have become landless labourers have been affected by the shift from traditional agricultural systems to modern agricultural practices. Most of them are constantly under social oppression, economically exploited and politically marginalised. Dalits in general are the victims of the caste system and now they are also subjugated by the powers of formal economy that is controlled by the capitalist’s corporations.

Fisher folk both inland and marine and the rural artisans are the victims of globalisation and modern development through their industrial advancement, capital intensive technology and appropriation of people’s resources – the skill, the knowledge and their life sustaining resources.

The critical fact that the people most affected by it hardly figure in the decisions made and in the grand plans made by the state, market and global institutions. It is not only a question of what does democracy mean in such contexts but also the injustice meted out to particularly poor people by excluding them out of the decision making process and then asking them to bear the costs for the decisions.

One of the major consequences of globalisation, is that the neo-liberal philosophy that underpins globalisation processes, requires that the state withdraws from as many spheres of populist activity and give the market greater role and play".

An integral part of the development of capitalism both under the auspices of the colonial state and later through the ‘modernising, ‘developing’, post–colonial state is the conflict over common property resources. Conflicts that arose not only between competing resource users and uses but also between the people who have traditionally had access to these resources and the institutions of state, thus bringing people at times directly in confrontation with the state. When common property is referred as resources it is referred not only actual physical common property resources accessible, managed and used in common such as grazing lands, lakes, ponds, watershed areas and fishing areas by particular communities but also forests, bio-diversity and knowledge commons.

Struggle and the rise of Movements around unsustainable Development

The most important side effect of industrialisation is environmental degradation. The only way to prevent this environmental degradation is to oppose industrialisation and the mega development projects. The Government and Companies say that there cannot be development without environmental destruction and displacement of people. The Governments are vehement that the environmentalists are preventing development and progress. The environmentalists and development activists allege that the government and companies are destroying the environment, making further development impossible and the development process unsustainable.

Essentially, these conflicts have related to the conversion of free community resources in commodities whose use is governed by States influenced by corporate market criteria. For example, declaring a forest as a reserved forest takes away the traditional right of local communities to the use of forest produce. Classification village commons under waste land development allow the State to appropriate for plantation of fast-growing tree species both to meet green cover and the needs of industry is questioned and the agitation are on. Incidents such as Bhopal disaster, the decline in gene diversity as a result of modern agricultural practices, the hazards posed by the nuclear industry and the research on genetics, raise questions about the rights of generations still unborn.

The 1972 Conference on Environment and Development at Stockholm set the stage for the entry of the concepts of environment and social movements. Ecological movements and people's movements against the commercial destruction of forests, women's movements have emerged to question the policies, laws and development interventions that directly endangers the life of people and the fragile Eco-systems - the forest-based struggles, struggle over land, struggle against exploitation of mineral resources, struggles against big dams, struggle against over-exploitation of marine resources. The question to the Christians and the Churches today is whether we can face these challenges? Where are we as stewards of Gods Creation? What we are doing to protect the God’s people. Is there a need for the Church to redefine the mission and accordingly contextualise theology .

Is humankind heading for doomsday? Yes and No. The future seems to be bleak, if we continue with business as usual. But there are alternatives and we can shape the future accordingly - with commitments, changes in policies, institutions and values and a sense of collective responsibility. New patterns of consumption, new technologies and greater efficiency in resource use can make resources available to poor people and minimise damage to the environment but what we need is a strong political will and willing to change.

Development Interventions

Since Independence and as of today the models of development has not brought desirable changes in the lives of the poor and on the environment. In the early 50s and mid 60s development of the communities were seen in terms of social welfare, in the late 60s to late 70s, it was seen as increase the income of the poor through economic development in the field of agriculture, industry, technology and the country witnessed green, blue, brown and white revolutions as projected by the regimes in power. The Church also toed the line of development as the State did.

However, the role of the Churches from late 70’s to late 90s changed from the conventional development approaches to liberation, people’s movements for social change and social justice focusing on political marginalisation, ecological destruction, gender oppression and unsustainable development interventions. In all these phases of development what we fail to critically understand is the development models we have pursued so far and the necessary, human resource development that we opted for were not geared to bring in any form of social justice and ecological balance. Before we enter into the next millennium at least we should start reflecting on the development models.

Aid for Sustainable Development in Doldrums

Seven years ago, the nations of the world, meeting at Rio made far-reaching promises to save the world's environment. Despite the Rio commitments, there is less money available today to implement environmental programmes than five years ago. The Bio-diversity Convention - established to safeguard the world's threatened bio-diversity has gone largely un-funded. Convention to govern the world's forests through a legally binding tool - was firmly rejected by the Southern Governments and NGOs.

The desertification convention - proposed by African nations has already come but without any money. The island nations' conference to discuss their sustainable development has gone unnoticed. As discussed in Rio the issue of poverty and environment and creation of sustainable livelihoods remains a non-starter. Why is it that our leaders have not been able to meet the environmental challenges? Why is that the Churches in the North have not put pressures on their Governments?

The popular perception of aid in both the developed and developing world is that it is geared to alleviating the suffering of the poor in the so-called Third World. For decades now, major western powers have used aid as a tool to gain political influence for the donor nation and to further its commercial interests. It is interesting to analyze why official aid has dropped sharply in recent years. Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the developed nations have lost one of their key rationales for aid: to win friends in the developing world and prevent them from allying with the Soviets. The convenient excuse that many Western powers have used to justify the reduction in aid is their new-found love for opposing dictatorships and backing democracy and good governance in the developing world and that it has a tendency to breed economic dependency and inefficiency.

The aid flow to the South is not very encouraging, but the investment flow continues to rise every year! Where does this money go? $500 billion is traded in the international capital market in 12 hours! More than $1,500 billion per year is current investment level throughout the developing world. This investment represents the age-old unsustainable pattern of development. This is enough to outsmart the $140 billion per year additional investment to change the world's behaviour. Private investment-flows are today four times larger than ODA flows and amounted to $206 billion in 1997. Again it is not the poor in these countries that benefited from such flows. In fact, they have often been losers, given the destructive nature of much of this investment in terms of both the environment (mining companies, for example) and livelihoods (traditional fisher-folk pitted against foreign trawlers). According to Reality of Aid 1998/1999, for every $1 given in aid, $10 is sent back by poor countries in debt repayment.

The Challenges Ahead

Time is slowly but surely, running out us. And yet, we steadily destroy the very things that are keeping us alive. The challenge before us is to build people’s movements on the issues around mal development and environmental degradation, ensure community control over natural resources and over the economy, promote alternative development processes based on real democracy and governance, to seek resources that address the issues of environment and development and a sustained role of advocacy and lobbying in our country as well as abroad.

Future Strategies needs past experiences of sustainable development

We have forgotten our traditional knowledge and values. Our traditional culture and the values were not only successful, but also environmentally sustainable - a culture in which knowledge and wisdom were finely tuned to values of equity, growth, sustainability and the local ecosystem. Attempt to document indigenous knowledge systems and resource management practices which is fast eroding could be one area to recapture our sustainable knowledge systems so that these systems become focus of alternatives and initiatives of future development interventions. We should learn from past mistakes. An ecological assessment is urgently needed to understand why we have got ourselves in to this deep environmental crisis in the last few decades.

Alternatives - a new paradigm - Sustainable Development ' Must be a Global Concern'

A Change in the Life style, is it possible?

Every body talks about Sustainable Development, even the Trans National Corporations, Northern Governments, Global Financial Institutions talk about Sustainable Development. What is that as Christians we can derive from the Gospel ?. What Bible say ? Did Jesus speak about love, peace and justice then why we as Christians hesitant to follow Jesus. No Governments or institutions will bring change, It is we as individuals, and families and communities have a major role to play. The rich will have to adjust to lower standards of living, because the present material flows are above sustainable limits and causing us to destroy our soils, our air, and water. The fastest, cheapest and most environmentally safe way to reduce the gap between what you need and what you have is to reduce what you need, not increase what you have.

We as individuals have the duty to fight consumerism. "If a product is so great and so essential, how is it that we have lived without it until now?" It is now up to the civil society to show industry that indeed "Less is more". Jesus of Nazareth refusing offers of unlimited power and wealth from the devil during his soul - searching 40-day wanderings should be a lesson for all of us to review our theological understanding and the consumerists way of life ? We Christians should set an example first before we advocate to others.

Review Faith and Action

What is now required is a re-evaluation of the vision, mission, goals, strategies and tactics of action in critical areas such as; religion, ethics; values, lifestyles; development; markets; consumerism faith and spirituality. Today the ecological imperative demands an ethic and values that will restrain us from ecocide and orient us beyond to a more responsible relationship with our environment – stewardship in God’s creation.

Governance and Democracy

Political decentralisation has the potential to revitalise any country in more ways than one. Democracy would increase the people's participation in determining their environment, their growth and their future. The power of the communities literally constitutes the foundation of grassroots democracy. It is also vital that women play an important role in the affairs of societal communities. Women should take an active interest in programmes designed to improve ecological conditions. The need of the hour is decentralisation of development planning and people's participation at the grassroots level.

People’s Knowledge

The indigenous knowledge, attitudes and practices of the people have great potential in promoting the management of resources around them. Traditional regulatory institutions should be revived and the indigenous practices of the people should be documented, studied with a holistic, action research approach - a people's movement in restoring harmony between human and nature.

Challenges that transforms into Action

This should lead to in protecting the resources of the people – land, water, forest, the Eco-systems and the bio-diversity, avoid abuse of these resources and not allow to over exploit these resources in the name of growth, prevent appropriation of resources by the vested interests, industries and the state, initiate documentation of traditional knowledge systems in the field of agriculture, forest, water, fisheries, education, technology and management of resources, to develop the human potential and the human resources, value based education and leadership development , and to imbibe the culture of communitarian values against individualistic and selfish motives.

Ecological sustainable development will truly emerge only when the people are empowered to determine their future and manage their natural resource base. Once this happens, traditional knowledge, or more correctly, people's knowledge, will begin to assert it. People's knowledge awaits political empowerment. Respect for people's knowledge must ultimately get translated into legal rights of the poor over their knowledge. Let the people decide how they want to shape their present and their immediate future. Advocacy, networking and strategic alliances on environmental issues, sustainable development, policies that are anti people and anti-development will enable communities towards sustainable development.

Church in India an Historical Perspective

The Indian Church has been part of the growing cultural heritage and civilization. It has accommodated itself into the changing socio-economic, political, environment and development trends. The missionaries who had come to India identified themselves with the oppressed and the poor who lived in the coastal belts – the fisher folk, the inland communities – the Dalits, and the forest dwellers – the tribes, who are now nearly 400 millions.

The approach of the missionaries focussed on preaching the gospel and introduced a new faith and a religious system which had both advantages and disadvantages. Firstly, the communities who have been continuously oppressed and who were at the lower rung of the society in terms of social relationship and economy found themselves in the new religious order – a new status and an upward mobility, a kind of liberation from the traditional oppressive systems. On the other hand, some of the communities lost their communitarian values, collective wisdom, decentralized spiritual life, human relations based on just value systems and harmonious with nature – a religious, cultural and spiritual invasion.

The new religious colonisation had the sanctions of the western imperialistic powers particularly those countries that colonized India for their own economic growth through their expansion and exploitative theory – the hegemony of the colonial invaders. As of the freedom struggle and post independence era, the Indian Church had to seek an identity in the society and thus the localization of the church administration, theology, services and congregational power found its way. Until the Missionaries were in India, there was no problem for the external resources which came in to support institutions initiated by them like the education, health, development, relief and the preaching of Christianity through established theological institutions supported by a well organized religious structure of the North.

After the 1944 Quit India movement and as of 1970’s, the Missionaries who were expatriates created new forms of administration, institutional structures, and resource mobilization patterns so that the local communities can sustain the initiatives of the Missionaries. All these efforts were only an attempt to strengthen the social welfare approach (paternalistic) and therefore did not question the unjust structures and the Church was so institutionalised in par with the other power structures around them – feudal, political, social and the economy.

The Church enjoyed the status of the State structure as part of the society. The change and role model of the Church as envisaged did not happen. The Church faces the same structural and institutional conflicts as in the society – the poor Vs the rich, literate Vs the illiterate, the employed Vs the unemployed, the marginalized, the men and the women, the high causes Vs the low castes, the powerful and powerless.

Change in Vision, Mission and Development of the Churches – A Religious and Spiritual Transformation

The so-called radical Christians, Christian activists, development practitioners and ecumenical leaders started to question the foundation and fundamental principles of the Church’s ideology and the theology as it was preached. From 1970, things started to change in the Church structures and the ideology – this happened with the influences of liberation theology, black theology, peasant theology, feminist theology, Dalit theology and may be theology of human and environment would continue to influence the Church’s role in the society not only in the South but also in the North.

A change in the life of the Church’s in its theology and services slowly moved to address the structures and institutions of the Churches and the State which were considered to be exploitative and unjust. From social welfare approach, the direction and focus became social justice approach, which means questioning the unjust social systems, unequal economic status in the society, the unjust global relations in terms of trade and market. Male domination, pro-rich policies, ecological imbalance caused through an un-sustainable development models supported by dominant political structures, social oppression and battle against untouchability became part of the Church’s concern.

There was a drastic change in the thinking of the Church to contextualise theology, a theology of the poor, the oppressed, the marginalised and the victims of the so-called western models of development. A new praxis emerged based on justice, peace and integrity of creation. Depending on the Church leadership and the radical theologians, the focus of the Church’s minority, only 3% of the total population, play a major role as a role model in imbibing just values and approaches to development of the poor by the poor. From being implementer of services it moved to be a change agent of the society.

Church as a Change Agent and Congregation as a Movement

It must be recognized that Church is the greatest gift of God in the world and one of the largest people’s Organisation in the World. The Church had performed miracles to transform the society. The Church in India particularly has contributed to the whole of the nation, new values, new understanding of service, new understanding of leadership, new understanding institutions. The Gospel in this country consequently is greatly respected by the vast silent majority of the people although a very strong religious minority deeply detests Christianity. Indeed, this is the strength of Christianity and this Church dynamic, a sacrificial, powerful whose services and sacrifices must find a new relevance and acceptance of the new challenges in transforming into a people’s movement.

Time has come therefore to review the theology of the Church, to examine, in that way the Church could be more relevant to the context of globalisation and the challenges of poverty, hunger, exploitation and corruption in the National and International context both in the Church and in the Society. It is important to review the strategies of development. For instance, we had adopted donor driven concepts of development through a project approach to eliminate poverty.

We have also been involved in emergency relief and in the rehabilitation of the victims of disasters. Flood, droughts, earthquakes and other natural and man made disasters which are beyond our control. And our approach to disaster through emergency relief will have to be same, as before but as far as the development of poor people is concerned, it is very clear that our project approach makes no impact on the vast millions of the people. In a vast country like India, it is not even fair to be satisfied with such a project approach.

The impact must be much wider and the development approach should not merely include social and economic improvement but able to challenge the policies of the state, the present economic policies, especially globalisation which is impoverishing the nation in order to preserve the hegemony through the market of rich Christian nations and causing serious threat of an a ecological disaster to the whole planet. As representatives of the Churches, let us understand that our best resource is the Church itself; the church is a community of believers, proclaiming through service the hope of a new society and a new world. Challenging the issues confronted by the people must be the concern of the Church and it must be the core of the agenda of the God’s mission through the Churches. In other words we are restoring to the Churches an agenda what Christ himself was doing .


There is seldom a joint advocacy as one voice of the Churches in the national and international arena. We should question the International policies and agreements. We should challenge the kind of unsustainable development that is imposed on the developing countries with a view to exploit our common resources and appropriate the resources of the future generations. Development today needs a careful evaluation? What development has done today? Who has benefited from these developments? What impact it has had on our fragile Eco-systems, on the poor and on the women?

Can we continue the present development models that are threat to environment and people? Can we become slaves to capital and consumerism, should we begin to act where ever possible in our day to day life, change our attitudes to bring necessary changes in society for a better future, a future for every one based on just values, gender and ecologically just, participatory and work towards a sustainable civil society.

"Dealing with these challenges will require considerable ingenuity and political commitment. Good democracy and good governance which is built on de-bureaucratisation and people's participation, good science, good values which include, a respect for nature, a respect for cultural and religious pluralism, respect for the poor, their knowledge and their capacity and ability to manage their affairs in diversity; a respect of equity, including its social, cultural, economic and gender dimensions; and the right to participate and decide is the only way left as an alternative ".

Now it is up to the Churches to decide whether or not to shift from the present role model of do gooder to an enabler or a facilitator. Churches should extend its dialogue with its own constituency – the Churches, the partners and the people. A critical and conscious analysis will become imperative to place Churches role in the present context and its continuing role, responsibilities and the typology of programmes that are being supported and its congruence to the context. Christianity as a Religion in the present context needs a total change in the traditional preaching, reinforcing faith and changes in the seminaries where many of the leaders are indoctrinated towards a spiritual philosophy that promotes injustice and unequal relations between human. It will be not too late for Churches to become a more powerful instrument of God’s people to be a change agent. Let us join the journey of our Lord without fear, in faith, and continue our role with the spirit and blessings of our Almighty to stand for justice, peace and social change – towards an ecologically secured sustainable society.