Parish Priest, Fr. Caesar D’Mello answers an interesting question.
Q: We need to be witnesses to the truth and make disciples of all nations. How can we implement it daily and preach to non-Catholics effectively.
A: The question is very real and appropriate in the year 2018.
A BRIEF LOOK AT THE PAST: In the colonial past, it is quite possible that some evangelisation was carried out with the use of force. In the middle of the 15th century, some missionaries were convinced that if children were not baptised they would all go to hell. At that time religion and culture were indistinguishable, so conversion meant not only getting baptized, but adopting a new language, new way of dressing and new food habits. That is why even today many Hindus continue to look upon Christianity as something alien, something foreign imposed on the Indian people. We are also familiar with what is referred to rice Christians. People who accepted Christianity as long as they were getting benefits like rice. We need to guard against the danger of judging the excellent work of missionaries by our present knowledge.
Recent Past: In 1974, Pope Paul VI summoned the chief Bishops of the different countries for a Synod on Evangelization. After the Synod in 1975, the Pope wrote an exhortation entitled “Evangelii Nuntiandi”. The Pope explained what evangelising meant:
“evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity and through its influence transforming humanity from within” (EN 16) in a way that permeates cultures “without being subject to any one of them” (EN 20).
Coming back to the original question, What does Evangelisation mean in today’s world?
It is a broad term that can encompass a range of activities:
- Proclamation of the Good News to those who have never heard of it.
- Ecumenism working to bring together the different Christian groups.
- Dialogue with peoples of other faiths:
- Getting rid of prejudices about other faiths to understand them better. (cfr. BIRD, Basics of Inter-Religious Dialogue)
- Coming together to pray on special occasions like Republic Day, Independence Day, important festivals.
- Working with people of other faiths for the uplift of the poor on civic issues, environmental issues, etc. Working with people to understand them better and is better than discussing purely religious issues.
- Even in mission areas like Raigad, priests, sisters and lay people are starting Bal wadis, Mahila Mandals, improving the quality of life and helping the adivasis become better persons.
- In Varanasi, Fr. Anandeo, of the Indian Missionary Society, has several followers, who call themselves Christbakts or devotees of Christ. They continue to remain Hindus even while learning more about Christ and his teaching.
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