Thursday, May 20, 2010

Religious learn peace building in West Bengal

A two-day conflict resolution workshop here has given priests and nuns the practical skills to deal with unrest in West Bengal state, they say.
Conference of Religious India’s West Bengal unit organized the May 18-19 program in Kolkata in collaboration with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), a faith-based organization that helps victims of conflict and war.
Pauline Sister Philomena Joseph, the unit’s secretary, said people face conflicts in personal and community life.
“If we can resolve them in these areas, we will be able to resolve them in wider society,” she said.
Sister Joseph, one of the 20 participants from 13 congregations, said that she “learned down-to-earth skills” and expressed hope she would now look at conflicts “in a new light.”
Jesuit Father Irudaya Jothi, one of the four priests in the program, said it had helped him see social conflicts in the state “in a balanced way, without rushing to take sides.”
Father Jyothi, who runs Udayani (awakening) Social Action Forum, said messengers of peace have a “greater role to play” in society when it is disturbed by violence and conflict.
He said five districts in West Bengal experience intermittent social conflict mostly because of ethnicity, religion, and social exploitation.
Many of the Christians are involved in these conflicts. However, the “Church has not adequately responded” to the conflicts in the state, he said.
Father Jothi expressed hope that the workshop would help Religious take the lead.
Loreto Sister Christine Coutinho said conflicts are “bound to happen” in religious communities since members come from different backgrounds. The program showed them ways to resolve such everyday conflicts, she told UCA News.
MCC project officer Thomas Harris, pastor of the Church of North India’s Union Chapel, said many “look up to Christians” as peace-builders. “We have a responsibility to uphold this special privileged position,” he said.

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