Statement of the Indian Women Theologians’ Forum (IWTF)
Annual Meeting 26th – 28th October, 2012
We the Indian Women Theologians’ Forum met at Canossa Ashram, Andheri , Mumbai to reflect on “Food for the Hungry – Towards an Indian Feminist Theology of Transformation”.
The growing disparity in our country caused by neo liberal globalization has resulted in chronic malnutrition particularly of women and children. Despite India’s claim to economic growth and the abundant stocks of grain beyond the capacity for safe storage, there are alarmingly large numbers of people that still go hungry. In Maharashtra alone, 77 children die every day as a result of hunger. We realize that the nature of the political economy together with exclusion caused by our
entrenched caste structure adds to this hunger. But it’s not just a hunger for food; people are also hungry for social inclusion and recognition.
The strategies adopted by the government in the name of development have served only to feed corporate greed. It has caused the alienation of people from their lands, suicides among farmers, the loss of bio-diversity and traditional knowledge of tribal peoples. The appropriation of agricultural land for Special Economic Zones (SEZs), industry, real estate, land banks and the like, has pushed people to migrate to urban areas. This has increased the burden of women’s labour and their struggles for survival. Such development in the absence of discussion with the stakeholders is a form of corruption that goes unrecognized. Tragically it has become systematized in the various laws of the land.
Thus we are concerned that the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill treats land which is a national resource, as a commodity, that can easily be bought by fixing a rehabilitation package. Having no clear definition of ‘public purpose’ for which land can be acquired, will further deprive the small producers access to livelihood.
While attempts are made to respond to the situation of hunger with the introduction of the Food Security Bill in Parliament, we feel alarmed by the inadequate allocations proposed and the fact that cash transfers for purchasing of food is also an option. Therefore we assert that the Public Distribution System (PDS) be strengthened and made more transparent.
We are alarmed that the introduction of the Seed Bill aims to control the right of small farmers to develop their own seeds, and effectively hands control to the Corporates opening the door to genetically modified crops.
In the light of the forthcoming water policy, we strongly feel water must remain a public good which should not be privatized. We strongly oppose the plan to link the rivers as it will cause havoc to the living organisms in them.
In the context of the situation described, we are deeply concerned about the alienation of the faith life of the Church in India from the stark reality of chronic hunger of large sections of Indian people. We also see a disconnect between the priorities of the Church’s education institutions and the survival struggles of the indigenous and other marginalized sections of society. There is little attempt to address their needs and preserve their traditional wisdom and practices.
The celebration of the Eucharist has become ritualistic. We have lost sight of the vision of Jesus who shared bread with the multitudes, excluding no one from his table fellowship and ultimately breaking bread in giving himself as food for all. We are challenged by the poor who live the Eucharist in their daily lives sharing whatever they have.
Bread is the symbol of communion, togetherness and interconnectedness, uniting the divine, the human and the cosmic dimensions. The kenotic process involved in the making of bread invites us to partake in this cosmic kenosis enfleshed in Jesus’ life.
We are convinced that our Eucharist will have a deeper meaning when the Church involves itself in the various efforts that are made by people to alleviate hunger. At the start of the Year of Faith, we feel called to join hands and support peoples struggles for justice and a world free of hunger, be it in Kudankulam, Jaitapur, Jharkhand and other areas where the livelihood of people is threatened.
In this context we understand New Evangelisation as entering into the struggles of people for a life lived with dignity. We take it as an opportunity to sow new seeds of faith that an alternative society is possible where all can live as a true children of God beyond the discrimination of gender, caste and class, sharing and caring together for the Earth that has been entrusted to us.
We commit ourselves to living our faith by taking concrete steps for the realization of the vision of the Magnificat (Luke:1- 52,53) so that the hungry are filled with good things and the lowly are raised to a life of dignity and fullness.