Re-Cast(e)ing Conversion, Re-visiting Dialogue: Indian Attempts at an Interfaith Theology of Wholeness
Keywords:dialogue, Christianity, Hinduism, caste, conversion, liberation
AbstractIn India the Christian commitment to interfaith engagement produces a paradox. On the one hand dialogue between Christianity and other religions, especially Hinduism in this context, is seen as an advance in redressing an earlier unjust position of assumed religious exclusivity, triumphalism and superiority on the part of an evangelical missionary Christianity. Dialogue presumes mutuality of recognition, respect and religious value, including freedom from coercion and freedom of personal choice. However, on the other hand, in the Indian context, the caste system presents intractable problems which, in being identified with Hinduism and thus, in the context of dialogue, to be recognised and respected as a religious value on the part of the Christian dialogue partner, then results in the Christian colluding with a manifest injustice with respect to Dalit and Adivasi (tribal) peoples for whom the caste system is oppressive and restrictive. Can Christian values of justice, liberation and ‘fullness of life’ be upheld in the context of interfaith dialogue in India, especially in relation to the religious conversion of the Dalits and Adivasis, who choose conversion as a means of escape from the caste system? This article seeks to address this and related questions.
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