Monday, April 23, 2007
Indigenous Tribal Theology
Northern Thailand is the home of numerous hill tribes. Since we move here we have been a part of a multi-ethnic church and welcome all people from different ethnic origin. Ministering with them made me ask some theological questions on how they do indigenous theology. Although tribal people share some religions and worldviews, it is amazing to know how diverse their cultures are.
I know I need to learn more about the recent issues in tribal theology. But there is a scarcity of materials and my resources are limited. Yesterday, while I was looking at our collection of books in my pastor's cabinet, I happened to find The Journal of Theologies and Cultures in Asia (JTCIA). Obviously, an inaugural issue and I don't have any idea if there is succeeding issues. I hope there are because the journal is delightful to read and rather enlightening. If you, my readers, happen to know if there are succeeding issues please let me know. I would really appreciate it.
Nevertheless, I would try to post some of my reactions and reflection to the articles I will be reading and hoping to share with you the emerging theologies here in Asia. I will look at the emerging indigenous tribal theology. A paper entitled An Emerging Tribal/Indigenous Theology: Prospect for Doing Asian Theology written by Dr. A. Wati Longchar, a Baptist Theologian from Nagaland in Northeast India.
The paper is very useful in understanding the presuppositions of the tribal people in doing their theology. This understanding is very helpful for missionaries and Christian workers who are ministering in Asia. Here Dr. Longchar traces the origin of the indigenous tribal theology. This theology emerges as a response to different forms of barbaric atrocities, human right violations, ethnic conflicts, poverty, injustice, ecological destructions, philosophical and anthropocentric traditions of Christian theology. Several movements helped in emergence of this relevant theology like Program for Theology and Cultures in Asia (PTCA) and programs organized by World Council of Churches (WCC) around the theme of indigenous tribal people. These movements strongly influenced the formation of the indigenous tribal theology.
From the very beginning, the PTCA has been engaing in doing theology within the rich traditions found in Asia. One of the significant contributions of it lies in its effort in making apparent that it is impossible to achieve an authentic and meaningful theology without taking into account the unacknowledged richness of God's movements in the living traditions in Asia. This endeavor helps us to recognize that God has been working through and in all religions and cultures of Asia and thereby widened our understanding of the mystery of God. More specifically, by pointing out that God has entered into a dialogical relationship with humaity, religions and cultures, the PTCA has made many people hesitant to say that indigenous people's relgions are "devilish," "satanic," "pagan," "irrational," "immoral," and "untrue."
As I said, I will post on my reactions and reflections on the papers I will be reading. I hope this will give us another perspective on how theology is being done in the different people groups in Asia. Theology that is radically different from the traditional Western formulations.