Context based faith education

Vincent Kundukulam

Any branch of knowledge, although it may appear to be often conceptual, is born and brought up in a concrete locality and in relation to a particular event. Religious sciences like philosophy and theology are also formed in different parts of the world at the grass root level. They have to so because they are meant to be at the service of the people. The answers these sciences give will be effective only if they formulate solutions in the light of the daring needs of the people.

If the education of faith is destined to enable people to confront the realities and difficulties of life, faith-formation in India has to take place in the light of the diverse social situations of the country. The two major concerns of the Indian context are diversity of belief-systems and poverty. As part of reaching out to the context, we cannot forget those who have become poor in the country due to the unjust social economic and political structures. The daily life of the under-privileged like the Dalits, Migrants, Adivasis, Tribals, Women and Farmers must become the ‘locus’ of philosophizing and theologizing in India. The economic and political processes have to be taken not as external factors but as internal elements that determine the curriculum and that shape the elaboration of each subject.

Such an approach will necessitate the use of a variety of tools and approaches supplanted by the human and social sciences. As Jerry Rossario observes in the volume published at the occasion of the Ruby Jubilee of Indian Theological Association, without making an interdisciplinary confrontation of the findings and methods emerging from different branches of secular sciences a well-knit scientific and vibrant form of philosophizing and theologizing is indeed impossible in the contemporary scenario. Then only philosophy and theology will have the smell of the small traditions. The life style, symbols, folk art and literature, indigenous customs, etc. of the ordinary people have to be integrated into theological expressions and thus perfected for the glory of God, as states the Second Vatican Council in Ad Gentes, no. 9.

Our commitment to the context also invites us to take seriously the rich cultures and living religions of India. We have to be concerned about how these religions understand God, man and universe; how do they answer to the fundamental questions in life and how we can collaborate with them in the mission of building up a value based society in our nation.  We have to have the humility to approve, asses and accept the rich history of Indian theological revelations and religious celebrations which have more than thirty centuries of myriad traditions and magnificent texts. In the current context of growing extremist ideologies in all religions the students should be strong enough to fight against the fundamentalist and communalist trends in one’s own religion.

The context-based faith education has different models in the Early Church. One example would be that of St Paul who did not systematize theology according to a well-planned curriculum. He formed his reflections in order to respond to the problems raised by different communities that were formed by his apostolate. For example, the Pauline theology of freedom was born in his attempt to resolve the controversy regarding the circumcision. The question was whether the converted pagans must undergo circumcision as the Jewish Christians. He maintained that it is not the law but faith in Lord that becomes normative for salvation. His theology of Eucharist was moulded in the context of discrimination among the Corinthians. In I Cor 11:23-33 he established the intrinsic bond that exist between the Eucharist and ecclesial communion. In brief, theological and philosophical formation in India has to be developed in response to the varied cultures and sub-human situations of the country.

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