'Women, poor ultimate victims of religious fundamentalism'

Religious fundamentalism is a big challenge to society, said Karnataka Theological Research Institute former director Dr Godwin Shiri.

He was delivering a lecture on ‘Reflection of struggle for justice, mission legacies and the need to move,’ arranged as a part of the session on ‘Towards a just society’ during an international seminar organised in the city on Friday.

The seminar was organised as a part of the bicentenary celebrations of Basel Mission.
Dr Shiri said “all religions have segments of religious fundamentalism. Ultimately, it is the poor, Dalits and women who are the victims of religious fundamentalism. India is a pluralist society. The vision of creating a just society is possible by joining hands with all the religions.”

He said that lopsided economic policies of the country promote injustice in the society. With the growth-oriented development policies being followed by the country, the poor are becoming poorer. There is a need for people-oriented development policies, he added.

Dr Shiri said the introduction of education and industrialisation by missionaries created an awakening on justice and freedom in India. It created a climate for rejuvenation of social order. Injustice is persistent and deep-rooted in India through caste system. Though many claim that casteism is no more an issue in India today, it is deep-rooted in the society. Stating that caste is the “mother of all injustice,” he said that caste in India was well fostered and promoted by the hegemony of religious orthodoxy.

“Lack of political will, corruption, bureaucratic apathy and disinterest of the civil society are the basic reasons for the pathetic condition of the poor, Dalits and backward classes in the society. Christian Dalits continue to face the injustice meted out to them. By denying reservation facilities to the Christian Dalits, the government is doing an injustice to them,” he felt.

Citing the condition of the Dalit Christians in Hyderabad Karnataka region, Dr Shiri said that female literacy rate was very low in spite of the government claiming that female literacy rate had increased over a period of time. They continue to undergo harassment at the hands of men and dowry system has infiltrated into the Christian community, he said.

Dr Parinitha, Professor in English, Mangalore University said the Basel Mission with its missionary zeal and commitment made people to pioneer in the area of education, language and literature. The Mission brought about radical changes in women’s education in the region. The first vernacular school for girls was started in 1855. The education made teaching a respectable position in the society. The early girls’ schools transformed the lives of women in the region.

“The Christianisation” brought in by the Basel Mission enabled radical questioning in society. The Christianisation led to the creation of liminal location where dialogue across religions and traditions were carried out. When the radical questioning is reduced due to various factors in the society, then the possibility of a just society are diminished,” she added. Karnataka Theological College Faculty Dr Gladson Jathanna said, women missionaries in India were like “white subalterns” where male missionaries were free to take a decision unlike women. The voices of the wife of a male missionary went unheard, though they also played a pivotal role in the field of education.

Rev Dr C L Furtado said that peace and justice go together. “All of us have a duty to work towards a just society.”

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