While witnessing to the world is essential for every Christian, it must be done according to Gospel principles, with respect and love for all human beings, states a new document that serves as a protocol for Christian witness in the pluralistic context of India.
The document, which was the result of a national level consultation taken part by Christian leaders from across the country, exhorts to follow the example and teachings of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life, especially while witnessing.
“Christian witness must reflect the fullness of life that Jesus came to offer. We oppose any inappropriate methods of exercising mission, such as resorting to deception and coercive means, which betray the gospel and may cause suffering to others. Such departures call for repentance and remind us of our need for God’s continuing grace,” states the document which was endorsed by delegations from the Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Churches.
Some fifty Christian leaders including bishops, pastors, missiologists, theologians and representatives of the NCCI, CBCI and EFI took part in the consultation that was held from February 29 – March 2 at Ecumenical Christian Centre, Bangalore.
The event also saw the participation of international communities, including the World Council of Churches and World Evangelical Alliance.
Led by the Board of Theological Education of the Senate of Serampore University, the consultation was designed to address practical issues associated with Christian witness in multi-religious and cultural contexts of India, especially with mounting tensions between people and communities of different religious convictions.
“Christians are called to conduct themselves with integrity, love, compassion, and to overcome all arrogance, condescension and disparagement. Power and authority in our Churches and institutions needs to be exercised in the spirit of humility and service,” states the recommendations for ‘conduct’, which will be widely circulated among churches and society at large.
It calls to build relationships of respect and trust with people of all religions, in particular at institutional levels between churches and other religious communities, engaging in interreligious dialogue as part of Christian commitment.
In certain contexts, where years of tension and conflict have created deep suspicions and breaches of trust between and among communities, it suggests “interreligious dialogue can provide new opportunities for resolving conflicts, restoring justice, healing of memories, reconciliation and peace-building”.
On conversion, the document says Christians are to acknowledge that changing one’s religion is a decisive step that must be accompanied by sufficient time for reflection and preparation, through a process ensuring full personal freedom.
It further encouragesChristians to strengthen their own Christian identity and faith commitment to Jesus while deepening their knowledge and understanding of different religions. “Christians should avoid misrepresenting the beliefs and practices of people of different religions.”
Urging to be peacemakers, the joint document calls to reject all forms of violence – “physical, psychological and social, including terrorism, ethnic, sexual and caste-related”.
It also calls for denouncing repression by any religious or state authority, including the violation or destruction of places of worship, sacred symbols or texts.