A few days ago, I visited India and participated in an National Ecumencial Youth Workshop “Youth, Dignity and Spirituality” in Jeypore, Orissa. I was the first time in India and it is really a fascinating country (I even gained some weight because of the great food).
Angelious Michael, the energetic youth secretary of the Jeypore Evangelical Lutheran Church, organized not only the youth workshop but also the celebrations for the 125th anniversary of the Jeypore church. In the workshop, he brought together young participants from most Lutheran churches in India and some ecumenical friends. I enjoyed very much the discussions and conversations. In my presentation, I spoke about how the concept of “human dignity” became the basis of human rights and how we find the basis of human dignity in God’s love for us.
In our discussions, we came up with a definition of “human dignity” that I consider quite helpful: “Human dignity is the right to be respected.”
In groupwork, two topics came up that I found most interesting:
– Dignity and gender. Some young women in the group pointed out that the very fact of distinguishing the genders and assigning specific roles to one gender threatens the dignity of one gender. To be more specific: If the society tells young women exactly how they have to behave they are not really respected for who they are. They are only respected if they limit themselves to a maybe narrow understanding of what it means to be a woman.
– Dignity and displacement. In the Indian state of Oriss, there were several large industrial projects. The industry claimed large areas of inhabited land. With government approval and only a small financial compensation in their hands, farmers had to leave their land and had nowhere to go. Many of these often illiterate or at least poorly educated people are dependent on the care of others.
There were a lot of others issues. I am going to write about one or two in an upcoming post.