Biblical Reflection on International Indigenous Issues to mark the Indigenous Day and Bible Society of India’s Celebration of Tribal and Adivasi Day on August 9, 2023.
On the occasion of International Indigenous Day, we the Bible Society of India celebrated Tribal and Adivasi Day in all the BSI Auxiliary Offices across India and Central office. In our Auxiliaries, each Secretary led the worship with meaningful reflection on the theme from a biblical perspective. At the Central Office, Logos in Bangalore, along with the staff of Karnataka Auxiliary all gathered for worship. The General Secretary of BSI, Rev. Dr. Kavito G. Zhimo delivered a very challenging message by focusing on the International Theme “Indigenous Youth as Agents of Change For Self-Determination”. GS raised a very pertinent question saying, do we give the Indigenous Youth room to be the agents of change for self-determination”? He further stated that even as the world given to them is infested with political and social hierarchical corruption where the norms of life are already within the corrupted frame, will there be any space left for the Youth to be the agents of change for self-determination? However, Rev Dr. Kavito didn’t stop on this harsh social reality but moved on to say, there are chances for the youth today if the parents, leaders in the society and political arena are ready to mend our ways for social justice by paving the way for youth to let their voices be heard.
A short biblical reflection on the Indigenous issues for our contemplation:
It is an opportunity to reflect on biblical perspectives that can help us understand and address international indigenous issues. The Bible offers guidance and principles that can inform our understanding of indigenous peoples and their unique struggles. Here are a few key reflections:
- Human Dignity and Equality: The Bible teaches that all human beings are created in the image of God and possess inherent dignity and worth (Genesis 1:27). This includes indigenous peoples, who should be treated with respect and equality. Recognizing and affirming the rights, cultures, and identities of indigenous communities is a biblical imperative.
- Stewardship of Creation: The Bible emphasizes the responsibility of humanity to care for and be stewards of God’s creation (Genesis 2:15). Indigenous peoples shared an intrinsic relationship with all creation, especially the land, seeing it as a sacred gift. Their traditional knowledge and sustainable practices are valuable lessons in caring for the environment and living in harmony with nature.
- Justice and Fairness: Throughout the Bible, there is a call for justice and fairness for all people, particularly those who are marginalized or oppressed (Micah 6:8). Many indigenous communities have faced historical injustices, including land dispossession, cultural assimilation, and discrimination. It is important to acknowledge these injustices and work towards reconciliation, restorative justice, and empowerment of indigenous peoples.
- Cultural Diversity and Unity: The Bible celebrates the diversity of cultures and languages (Revelation 7:9). Indigenous cultures contribute to the richness of human diversity and should be valued and preserved. The Bible also speaks of unity in the body of Christ, transcending cultural and ethnic differences (Galatians 3:28). We should promote dialogue, understanding, and collaboration between indigenous and non-indigenous communities to build bridges of unity.
- Healing and Restoration: The Bible offers hope and speaks of healing and restoration for individuals and communities (Isaiah 61:1-4). Many indigenous peoples have experienced intergenerational trauma and continue to face social, economic, and health disparities. It is essential to work towards healing, reconciliation, and empowerment, ensuring that indigenous voices are heard, and their rights are protected.
As we reflect on these biblical principles, let us remember that genuine transformation requires action. May this special day celebration serve as a catalyst for advocacy, awareness, and meaningful engagement with Indigenous/Tribal/Adivasi issues, as we seek justice, reconciliation, and flourishing for all peoples, by leaving no one behind.
Like many countries around the world, the Indigenous community in India, officially called Tribal and unofficially Adivasi, are the target of atrocities from the capitalist, multinational business corporates in partnership with the Central and/or State Government. Heavy political pressure is on from the business tycoon upon the Government to snatch away the land of the indigenous people for the natural resources within their habitats. The constitution of India has strong laws and many Acts to protect the indigenous/tribal land, their rights, their food, cultures, language, etc. But sad and hurting to say, there are unending attempts to take away their rights and protection from various corners in order to snatch away the natural resources from their lands. It is painful to see the rights and dignity of Tribals and Adivasis are no more respected in this country. May God help us to understand the biblical principles of love and the way of life for all human beings in this world.
By Dr. Hrangthan Chhungi
A/D Church, Public and Resource Mobilisation Department
For the upcoming World Assembly of the United Bible Societies in October 2023, one of the important subjects for discussion is serving the Diaspora communities in our regions. The BSI is committed to serving the Diaspora community individually and creating a Diaspora Response Hub to focus on serving the Communities in collaboration with different Bible Societies in the world. Not only outside of our country, but within our own country.
Under the leadership of the General Secretary, Rev. Dr. Kavito G. Zhimo, the BSI Central office, for the first time had organised the BSI Fellowship Tea with the Christian community leaders of the North East India Diaspora in Bangalore city on June 23rd 2023 in Logos building. Around 25 members across different ethnic background from Northeast India gathered in singing praises to God and prayer. It was a wonderful moment of sharing, enlightening and getting to know each other for a better relationship, and to build communitarian bond on various levels with Christian love.
Kerala Auxiliary Stories
1:1 BSI Kumily Branch Reformation: On 15th July 2023, BSI Kumily Branch reformation meeting was held at CSI Christ Church, Kumily. The Vicar, Rev Aneesh P. Joseph presided the meeting. The Auxiliary Secretary gave the inaugural address. The new Branch committee was formed with youth and women representatives. The following leaders were elected as the office bearers: Branch President, Fr. Kuriakose Varghese (Orthodox Church, Kumily); Branch Secretary, Mr. P. D. Daniel (St Peter’s MarThoma Church, Kumily); Treasurer, Mr. D. Mohan Raj (Christ CSI Church Kumily).The clergies, pastors and members from different churches graced the occasion with their prayerful presence.
1:2 Preliminary Meeting & Prayer for Manipur: In connection with the reformation of BSI Elappara Branch, the Auxiliary Secretary visited and attended the Divine Service at St. George CSI Church Pallikkunnu on 16th July 2023. It was decided to conduct the Branch Reformation meeting on 26th August 2023, 2pm at Elappara CSI Church. After the Worship, the Church conducted a rally & special prayer for the suffering people at Manipur. The Auxiliary Secretary led in the Holy Communion Service, shared from the Word and participated in the special prayer for Manipur. We are thankful to the great support & co-operation of vicar, Rev Liju Abraham, committee members and congregation.
BSI Chalakudy Branch, on 27th July 2023 conducted an intercessory prayer meeting with the special prayer subject – Manipur and the brothers and sisters of the state who are undergoing such a difficult situation of mental, physical, spiritual and social torture. This ecumenical gathering gave strength and courage that we are all one in Christ and our meaningful prayers would be answered by God. The Branch got extended and expanded with the representation of all the possible local Churches in and around Chalakudy who are co-operating in the all activities of the Branch. We appreciate the great efforts of the Branch leaders & thank all the clergies, pastors, elders and believers who took the pain in coming together for the noble cause.
1:3: New Branch formation: BSI Anakara Branch, Idukki
BSI Anakkara Branch in Idukki Region formed as the 149th branch in Kerala Auxiliary at Anakkara CSI St. Paul’s Church on 30th July 2023. The Vicar, Rev Sadheesh Wilson presided the meeting. The Auxiliary Secretary, Rev. Jacob Antony Koodathinkal gave the inaugural address. The clergies, pastors and members from various churches attended the meeting. The new Branch committee was formed with youth and women representatives. The following leaders were elected as the office bearers: Rev Sadheesh Wilson, President; Mr. Williams C Simon, Secretary; Mr. Manoj Kulangara, Treasurer. We appreciate the hard work and support of Rev. Sadheesh Achen and all clergies and pastors for making the new branch formation a great blessing.
Stories from the Telangana Auxiliary: Scripture Engagement Through Women Project. Distributions of 500 Bibles
On 30th April 2023, the Auxiliary Secretary, Rev John Basy Paul personally visited Pedapally Branch and distributed Bibles to the deserving Christian community. The Bibles were distributed in and around the Pedapally area. People of these churches are impoverished, but their love for Bibles and their support for the Bible cause is commendable. Despite their poverty and challenges, they send their yearly support to the Bible Society. The Bibles we distributed to them are our gratitude for their committed support of the Bible cause.
On 18th June 2023, the Armoor branch officers visited many churches in the interior areas and distributed the Bibles to the needy in and around the Armoor area. Branch officers got an opportunity to experience the grassroot realities through this scripture engagement program.
On 26th June 2023, the Bhadrachallam branch officers visited interior villages like Chinanallaballi village, Bhadrachalam village, Laxminagaram village, Bandirevi village, Narayanraopeta village, etc., and they distributed the Bibles to the needy with the help of the church pastors.
Tamilnadu Auxiliary Stories
Farewell of Mr. Ranjit Thomas Paul
A farewell function for Mr. Ranjith Thomas Paul was held on 31.05.2023 (Wednesday) forenoon in the Bible House, Chennai. We give thanks to God for the 38 years of faithful service Mr. Ranjith Thomas Paul had rendered to BSI. With thankful hearts we bid him farewell with many blessings as he embarks on a new journey in life.
Rev. Jacob Selvan, Senior CSI Presbyter was invited to the programme. Rev. D. Manogar offered the Opening Prayer and B. Manoba felicitated Mr. Ranjith Thomas Paul. The Sr. Auxiliary Secretary Rev. P. Moses Devadason appreciated the service rendered by Mr. Ranjith Thomas Paul and for his integrity and dedication. Mr Ranjit was presented a memento with cash gift from the BSI management. Mrs. R. Premalatha read the Word of God and Rev. Jacob Selvan shared the message.
Mr. Ranjith Thomas Paul in his response was grateful to God for enabling him to carry out his responsibilities faithfully in BSI for the past 38 years and acknowledged the support he received from his parents and his family members to join the BSI from the year 1985 till retirement in 2023. The closing prayer and benediction was offered by Rev. Jacob Selvan, Sr. Presbyter, CSI Church.
Thirappin Vasal Jebam at Jesus Redeems
On 24th June, 2023 from 9.00 am to 3.00 p.m “Thirappin Vasal Jebam (Prayer)” was held at Jesus Redeems, in Nalumavadi. Mr. J Suresh Kumar, our Marketing Assistant, shared about the formation of Bible Society (Mary Jones’ Story), Missionary Bartholomew Ziegenbalg, a German Missionary (Tamil Bible History story) and BSI Ministries of Translation, Production, Distribution & Braille Bible for Visually Challenged People in the “Thirappin Vasal Jebam”.
We thank God for the wonderful response from the congregation through the retiring offertory rendered to the BSI. We thank Evangelist Brother Mohan C. Lazarus, of Jesus Redeems for motivating his congregation to support this vital ministry.