Workshop Leads to Another
Bruce Van Voorhis
Three participants inspired by the workshop whose theme was “Breaking
Walls, Building Bridges” (see <http://icf.daga.org/faithpeace/2012/120229a.htm>
for a summary of this program) returned home to organize their own
interfaith workshop to share what they had learned.
Participants of a one-week
workshop conducted by Interfaith
Cooperation Forum (ICF) earlier this year in Bhubaneswar,
the capital of the Indian state of Orissa, took the initiative
organize their own interfaith workshop on March 12 in their
village of Mallickapodi in Kandhamal District.
After attending the workshop conducted by Interfaith Cooperation
Forum (ICF) from Jan. 29 to Feb. 4 in Bhubaneswar, the state capital of
Orissa in eastern India, Dillip Pattanaik, Alibha Pradhan and Chandra
Kanta Naik conducted their own one-day workshop on March 12 for about 20
people in the village of Mallickapodi in Kandhamal District, the area of
Orissa that had been the scene of violence between the Hindu and
Christian communities in 2007 and 2008.
During this workshop, Chandra described the socio-economic and political
history of Kandhamal that forms the background of the violence several
years ago. He noted the way in which the lives of people in Kandhamal
had been changed after people from outside the district had moved to
Kandhamal to start businesses, a process, he said, that created a clash
of interests and fomented animosity between different sectors of the
Alibha, or Ali, also explained the divisions in society that have been
shaped in the name of religion and in the name of caste, resulting in
different self-interests and identities that separate people. He
underlined the importance of respect, however, toward people of
different faiths, castes, traditions, etc., if peace and prosperity were
to be realized in society.
Dillip reminded the participants, however, of the rights granted to
everyone through India’s Constitution, especially the right of every
person in India to freely express themselves and to peacefully practice
their religion. He emphasized that everyone is equal before the law in
India and that no one should face discrimination because of their
religion or caste in this secular nation.
Chandra further explored the role of identity, especially within the
context of Kandhamal, and how it can affect the decisions that people
make toward those with different identities and the difficulty it can
create in building relationships between members of different socially
defined communities in the district.
He also shared about conflict, offering various definitions of it and
noting the ways it can affect people’s lives. He added though that
conflict is not always a negative force, that it can lead to positive
change, and thus, it can be a tool for transformation of both individual
and communal relationships. He also described the ways in which
engagement with those who are different through dialogue are other tools
for transformation. To use them, he said, one must have the courage to
take a risk and leave their comfort zone, to become uncomfortable, to
think new thoughts, to welcome new experiences.
In small groups, the participants discussed the causes of the conflict
in Kandhamal. Their conclusions were:
• Caste issue
• Reserved jobs
• Religious conversions
• Eating beef
• The degradation of culture
• Lack of awareness of the above issues
To address these concerns, the participants suggested that awareness
camps and peace committees, both at the village level, be organized as
well as camps to develop people’s leadership skills and programs to
inform people about their rights and government services.
In their concluding reflections about their experience at the workshop,
many participants said that the concepts that had been presented were
very new to them but that they must be shared with others. Consequently,
the participants decided to hold another workshop in a different village
to continue the process.