Participants in the World Council of Churches' Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME) pre-assembly event bring conconcerns of the marginalized, including women, young people, Dalits, indigenous peoples and other minorities into the heart of the debate about mission and evangelism.
On March 23, the event here focused on the theme “Mission from the margins: Salt for earth.” The discussions were part of developing draft of a statement on mission and evangelism titled “Together towards life: mission and evangelism in changing landscapes” which will be presented at the WCC 10th Assembly in Busan, Korea in 2013.
“The marginalized are usually recognized as recipients of mission instead of being recognized for their true identity as the active agents of mission,” said the Rev. V. Devasahayam from the Church of South India in his presentation. Speaking on the history of mission and Dalits in India, he called Dalits “privileged mediators of God’s salvation to humanity and creation.”
“The Christian missionaries in India started with the preaching of individual salvation. In their encounter with the Dalits their theology was challenged and widened,” said Devasahayam.
Pointing out the shift in mission regarding caste-related mind sets, he said “missionaries who started with an aim of redeeming slaves, through their encounter with Dalits, recognized the need and worked for the abolition of slavery of caste.”
The concerns of women, minorities and people with disabilities were addressed by the Rev. Tabita Kartika Christiani in her reflections at the event. She used her personal identity as a woman and Chinese-Indonesian coping with scoliosis, a not so apparent disability, to speak about the mission.
“Mission as healing and reconciliation for marginalized people goes beyond giving charity,” said Christiani. She went on to say that “mission as healing and reconciliation for marginalized people is solidarity to live together in appreciation with, and care for another. For persons with disabilities it means celebrating the wholeness without being healed.”
Juan Jacobo Tancara-Chambe, a presenter working with the Pentecostal communities in Chile, stressed the need for education of the people living at the edges.
“The historical example for us to follow is Jesus’ journeys and struggles alongside the poor of his times, the marginalized, needy, sick, despised, children and ordinary men and women. By means of education, creativity and resistance, we must contribute to the empowerment of people,” said Tancara-Chambe.
In her presentation, Rachele E. Vernon said that “mission from the margins evokes a wonderful picture of the church receiving energy and help from those pushed to the periphery.” She urged people to listen to the voices of the excluded, including young persons at the margins. “We need to be able to listen, with respect and careful attention to the voices of your young people,” stressed Vernon.