The inauguration of Face to Face India took place on 3 September 2016 at St. Thomas’ Chapel in Bishop’s College. The theme of the Face to Face, India programme is the Many Faiths and the Many Poor. It is inspired by the writings of Fr. Aloysius Peries of Sri Lanka. The theme takes into account the unique South Asian reality of religious pluralism and extreme poverty levels. The fourteen participants are students drawn from eleven different countries including Guyana, Zambia, South Africa, the Philippines, Bangladesh, New Zealand, South Korea and the Pacific.
Rev. Dr. Shantanu Patro, Registrar of the Senate of Serampore College presided over the launch of the programme, representing the organizing body of theological education in India. Rev. Dr. P.G. George, the Dean of the South Asian Theological Research Institute and Dr. Sudipta Singh, Mission Secretary Empowerment and Training of the Council for World Mission also participated in the inauguration of the programme.
The registrar of the Senate of Serampore, who is a religious scholar, spoke about the need for religions to engage with social reality in ways that lead towards social transformation. Rev. Dr. Patro echoed the call for theological education to make deliberate moves towards changing the social order. Dr. Sudipta Singh outlined the rationale for the CWM Face to Face programme and encouraged participants to be open to the new experiences that the programme will expose them to. He argued that “Theological education can be transformative when we are able to open ourselves to others as well as to commit ourselves to justice.”
The Principal of Bishop’s College, Rev. Dr. Sunil M. Caleb welcomed the participants and guests, outlining features of the Indian context which participants would be exposed to. He underlined the necessity of engaging with the many living faiths and the structural inequality that leads to the juxtaposition of extreme poverty and wealth in India. Mrs. Rupkatha Sarkar, Principal of La Martiniere School for Girls who was a delegate to the CWM Assembly 2016, also welcomed the participants, lauding the joy of learnings through intercultural exchange.
The students of Bishop’s College presented traditional gifts, songs and dances to welcome the Face to Face participants.
The programme is co-hosted by Bishop’s College and Henry Martyn Institute in Hyderabad. The participants will also spend some time at Henry Martyn Institute. The Programme will conclude on 15 October 2016.