by Shimada Naomi
Kwansei Gakuin University, Theology Department
I enrolled in the youth camp that was sponsored by CSI and held Nov. 12-17, 2012 in Chennai (Madras), India. The camp was international and ecumenical, with 85 participants from Nigeria, Scotland, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Japan, and all over the India.
The title of this camp was FEST-ZOE, which means “celebration of life,” and so Indians, who love to dance and sing, were singing and dancing all throughout this camp. There was a campfire on the last night, but for some reason, it actually started from 8 p.m. inside the room. We just sang and danced to loud music. Finally, we went outside at 1 a.m. and had the campfire until 3 a.m. People asked me, “What did you do at the camp?” I said, “Just danced and sang.” It was like being in Bollywood.*
Of course, we did not only dance and sing. There were sessions about globalization, youth culture, mission, and leadership. What really left an impression on me was the discussion about the influences of the caste system on Christianity and women’s rights. Although 80 percent of Christians are Dalits (untouchable), many churches refuse Dalit pastors. Even though they are Christians, they are only allowed to marry people of the same caste. If a person likes someone who is Dalit and wants to get married, the parents and society will never allow their marriage. I asked young people, “If your child wants to marry a Dalit, will you agree with that?” They replied that they would.
Thus, it seems that with the change in generations, along with the change in society, this issue is being resolved. When it came to the issue of women’s rights, I was very shocked and even had tears in my eyes. In Hinduism, women who are menstruating are not allowed to enter a temple. Even in some Christian churches, while they are allowed into the church for Sunday services, they are not allowed to participate in communion. Likewise, in recent years, while women are being accepted for ordination, I heard that they are sometimes not allowed to officiate at a communion service.
In my daily life, I just live, go to church, and go to school, normally. However, I learned that my normal life is not normal for other people. Also, I learned that we are all equal in God’s sight, but there are lots of unequal things in Christian society.
*"Bollywood," a portmanteau word derived from Bombay (the former name for Mumbai) and Hollywood (the center of the American film industry), has become the informal term popularly used for the Hindi-language film industry based in Mumbai in Maharashtra, India. The term is often incorrectly used to refer to the whole of Indian cinema.
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