Face-to-Face 2023: Young peacemakers explore what challenges inclusivity

by Cheon Young Cheol

With peacemaking more important than ever, the Face-to-Face programme by the Council for World Mission (CWM) helps young people become leaders in breaking the chains of conflict, reached a better understanding of each other’s world views, and strengthen their framework of faith.

India: Where social structures and religion mesh

Twelve unordained ecumenical participants—from Taiwan, Zambia, Samoa, Tonga, England, Madagascar, Myanmar, and Botswana—came together for the six-week Face-to-Face programme from 27 October to 25 November to immerse themselves in the religious diversity that is India.

They examined the roles of religion not as a dividing tool, but as an active player that contributes to building peace for life-flourishing communities.

India presents the unique environment of a post-colonial society characterized by religious pluralism. Missional and theological work in India is challenged by the inequalities rooted in the caste system and other forms of socio-economic oppression.

Participants reported that this made for an intriguing training ground for Christian activism.

“In India, religion has been used to both reinforce societal status quo and for the legitimization of exploitative poverty and the immoral accumulation of wealth. Resistance and activism against these systems of exploitation are also continually stymied as religious resources have been galvanized to quell the voices of dissent,” explained Rev. Dr Amelia Koh-Butler, CWM’s Mission Secretary for Education and Empowerment.

Putting your ears to the ground

In India, 80% of the populace is Hindu, 14% Muslim, and 2.3% identify as Christian. The Face-to-Face experience meant immersion into inter-religious conversations and engagements that articulated informed Christian responses and effective ministries geared towards liberating the oppressed and exploited.

During the programme, the participants had numerous informal conversations with members of a range of communities and families. Family and temple visits offered times for questioning and dialogue, encounters with local hospitality, and participation in various spiritual practices.

Participants said they were able to learn how to break down walls that dehumanize foreign cultures and peoples, and create a new perspective that actively seeks unity among disparate communities.

Participants kept a daily log of their experiences, where they were encouraged, through their notes, to reach a personal conclusion on how to effectively relate to people with different worldviews, cultures, and life experiences. They asked themselves: “How might evangelism be reimagined as shared good news between different religions?”

Ireen Phiri, a participant from the United Church of Zambia, had this answer: “Ecumenism and interfaith relations can greatly help to create an inclusive church or society. Inclusiveness can be a powerful evangelism tool for those people who do not belong to any religion.”


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