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Monday, November 5, 2012

A Tribal Theology From A Tribal World - View

 KPAleaz*

Tribal theology in India is in the making. There are more or less three approaches t6 tribal
world-view evident in Tribal theologians while theologising. First is the approach of
contextualisation and lndigenisation represented by senior thinkers lik~ Nirmal Minz and
the late Renthy Keitzer. Here the suggestion given is for adaptation of the Tribal cultural
values. The second approach takes a perspective that the gospel-values are already present
in the Tribal culture and world view. For example, Timotheos Hembrom would hold that the
Santhal creation stories are in line with the Genesis creation stories. The third approach
insists that a Tribal Christian theology has to emerge from a tribal world-view. The spacecentred
tribal world-view contributes to the very content of Tribal theology. The younger
,creative theologian A. Wati Longchar is a major exponent of this approach. We briefly
cover these approaches and their outcome in this paper. The first section is on some important
characteristics of Tribal religion. Space-centred world view is the focus of section two. The
third section deals with the myths of creation as well as understanding of land and Supreme
Being. A reconception of Christian theology is attempted in the fourth section. The fifth
section discusses contextualisation and indigenisation. Gospel-values which can be identified
within Tribal culture is analysed in the sixth section and the seventh andlast section provides
our concluding observations.
]. Some Im portant Characteristics of Tribal Religion
The key characteristics of Tribal Religion are identified as the following):
(a) There is an absence of any written scripture in Tribal religion. It is the religion of oral
traditions. It is the religion of corporate 'memory' passed on from ge,nerations. Religious
rituals, teachings and principles are transmitted orally from one generation to another.
(b) No human-made images or temples are used for worship ofthe Divine. Natural objects
are accepted as symbols of the divine presence and adoration and oblations are given
seasonally. Life-cycles, birth, marriage and death, and annual cycles of major seasons
and changes of nature accordingly form an integral part of occasional and seasonal
festivals and scarifies.
(c) A nature-human spirit continuum is the key to the tribal vision of life. All religious
rites, observances, festivities are based on this holistic vision of reality. Tribal religion
accepts the integral relationships of nature, humans and spirit in their experiences. The
Tribal totem is one of the concrete examples of this continuum.
(d) Another-iInportant characteristic of Tribal religion is '{he worship of ancestors: And~st9rs
are part of the life of those who are alive and they are interested in the welfare of the
living. The Tribals offer grains of rice at the beginning of their meal to the ancestors and
the faith is that they partake of the meal with the living one~.
2. A World-View in which space (the totally of creation) is Central
Today's ecological and human survival crises, particularly of the poor and marginalised are
the product of the anthropocentric ideology. The tribals who live and work close to the soil
are the worst affected community.2 The tribal religion is very unique because of the affirmation
of the centrality of space in understanding all realities.3 The distinctiveness of tribal tradition
lies in affirming the centrality of land/creation or space as the foundation for understanding
the tribal people's culture, identity, personhood and religious ethos.4 Tribal theology seeks
liberation of whole humanity and God's creation. The distinctiveness here is, liberation is
sought from the perspective of 'space'; space meaning not mere natural objects outside of
us, rather a place, a sacred place which gives us an identity and sustenance.5 Tribal people
always understand themselves as an integral part of creation/land and not apart from it. The
issue of , space' is not merely aju~tice issue to be set alongside other justice concerns. Rather
it is the foundational theology of self-understanding out of which liberation, justice, and
then peace will flow naturally anq necessarily.6 Harmony with 'space' is the starting point of
the tribal people's spirituality arid, their search for liberation. An awareness of being one
wjth the whole of creation is the ~spiritual foundation of the tribal people.?
In the tribal world view sp~~e is the basis of all realities. Realities are not perceived
dualistically. There is no clear cut distinction between sacred and secular, between religion
and non-religions etc. The self of the Supreme Being is seen in space and not in history. We
cannot perceive the Supreme Beirig apart from space. The earth is the focal point ofreference
for tribal religion, not any historical person. Creation is the scripture and creed, there is no
written scripture and creed other than that. 8 If in the dominant Christian traditions, humanity
is the central point of reference and norm, creation is the key and central point of reference
and.norm in the tribal worldview. The whole reality, including humanity, the Supreme Being
and the spirit or spirits are approached from the perspective of creation. In short, while the
doctrine of creation is subordinate category in the main line Christian traditions, 'space' is
the central for understanding all realities in the tribal worldview.9
Christian theological responsesIO such as process, the eco-feminist and justice, peace
and integrity of creation seem to view reality mainly from the anthropocentric perspective
and not from the perspective of space itself. That is why, for them, the integrity of creation
is one of the agenda along with other justice concerns. Huma~ity and their liberation is the
central focus. Liberation of creation follows when humanity liberation. For example, the
eco-feminists though they see the oppression of women and eco-justice and one whole, their .
mairi thrust is liberation of women. The justice, peace and integrity of creation process also
approaches the issue of creation in the same way. Human liberation is placed as the central
concern, making tribals, dalits and women as object of liberation. I I In these different Christian
responses, the tribal or indigenous people's view of space is not integrated. An insensitive
attitude towards the rich space-centred spirituality of the tribal people within the ecumenical
family, gives an impression that all the Christian theologies of space are approached from
the perspective of the western progressive and linear interpretation of history and philosophY.
The theologies of space developed within the ecumenical family are not directly relevant to
respond to the aspirations and the problems of the tribal people. Unless the perspective of
space-centred spirituality of the tribal people is made a central focus in our effort to develop
a theology of space, a genuine understanding of interrelatedness of creation may not be
attained. 12
3. Myths of Creation, Understanding of Land and Supreme Being
For the Tribal people space understood as totality of creation is the point of reference and
the key to understanding human selfhood and liberation, God and spirit. Tribal myths of
creation, their understanding ofland and Supreme Being point to thiS.13 The creation myths
tell us that reality is one coherent whole. Everything is organically related to each other. All
creatures, including the Supreme Being and the spirits mutually affect each other. Though
the Supreme Being and spirits are understood as creators and sustainers of all living things,
they are also perceived, though distinct, as part ofthe total eco-system. In the tribal worldview,
humans, nature, animals and insects have the same ancestral roots and therefore, they have
a personal and social relationship. Animals participate in decision making; they too possess
a strong sense of discernment and a sense of gratitude. Humans are integral part of creation
and not above creation. People, the world and divinity form one family. Hence, humanity
loses the status of primacy and dominion over other creatures. The myths reveal that we
cannot separate creation, humanity and religion. It is not possible to under~tand the religious
meaning ofthe people without referring to space. Creation is life, a scripture and a treasure
of all knowledge. The love and wisdom of the Supreme Being are mediated through creation.
People derive moral and spiritual teaching and wisdom from it, and make use of it in their
daily life. 14
The land occupies a very central place in the tribal worldview. Land is perceived as
scared and co-creator with God. It is the land that owns people and gives them an identity. It
is the temple through which people become one with the Supreme Being, their ancestors, the
spirits and other segment of creation. The land belongs to the Supreme Being. Human
ownership of the land is only temporary. The Supreme Being is 'the real soil' (Lijaba). The
Supreme Being is the one who enters or indwells, into the soil (Lizaba). The Supreme Being
is believed to enter into the soil with the seeds and rise again along with the crop;'l. Thus the
blooming flowers and rice signify the presence of the Supreme Being. The whole creation is
the manifestation of the Supreme Being. Without the land the Supreme Being ceases'to
work. The land is the symbol of unity of all living creatures and the spirit and the Supreme
Being. The land is not a mere space to be exploited, but it is a place which gives identity to
the community; it owns people. Without the land, there is no personhoodand identity. The
land is the symbol of unity. The land holds not only the clan, village and tribe as one, but it
also unites the Supreme Being, spirits, ancestors and creation as one family. Without the
land, it is impossible for people to co-exist witlLother living beings, with their ancestor and
their creator. Land'is conceived as mother: Most of the tribes have myths that they are born
out ofthe earth, that their foreparents emerged from stones or from a big hole of the earth or
frOm the bowel of the earth. IS
The tribals experience time and history as related to the land. The land decides and
creates the time and history. They count time according to their activities related to the soil.
Unlike the western linear concept of time, the tribal people experience time in a circular
way. People move along with the soil or earth cycle and surrounding enVironment. All the
festivals and religious activities ofthe people are centred on the soil cycle. People expect the
years to come and go in an endless rhythm, like that of day and night, and like the waning
and wl'p(ing of the moon. They also expect the ewents of the rainy season, planting, sowing,
harvesting, dry seasons, rainy season, planting, sowing, harvesting, dry seasons, rainy-season
again, and so on, to continue forever. The axis of the concept of time is the celebration of
nature's life-cycle. All the year round, just as the vegetation imdagriculture are rotated, the
religious and other social aspects oflife follow the same pattern. The rhythm of the cycles of
the universe, the sun and the seasons recapitulates the cycle of human life as it moves from
birth of death. Hence, the whole patter of history and time concept, for the tribals, is cyclic.
It is centred on the soil. It is embedded in nature. It is the nature/the soil that creates history
and time and humans move alongwith the rhythm of nature. Therefore, when the surrounding
environment is destroyed, the tribals do not have time. They are left in a vacuum. People do
not know what to do. Hence, the tribal concept of history and time is inter-linked to and
rooted in creation. 16
The whole religious system is centred and deeply rooted on the land itself. The religious
practices, rituals, ceremonies, festivals and dance are all related to the land. The whole
pattern of the tribal religious mil~eu moves with the soil. The pattern of the tribal people's
social, ethical, economic life is dir~ctly related to the soil. The understanding ofland provides
an ethical basis of sharing, carin~'and responsible stewardship. The land is n9t a disputable
property becau'se it does not belong to humans. Land, according to the Tribal perspective,
cannot be commercialised; rather ~hould be preserved and protected for the futUre generations.
Also, it should be shared by all hi ithe village. 17
Without minimising the transcendence of God, the Trihal people, for example the Aos,
affirm His/Her immanence. Lijaba signj,fies the mundane nature of God, while
Lungkistsungba denotes the trans.cendence of Ood and Meyutsungba expresses the
omnipresence of God. 18 Lijaba is the gust at hOJhe'as well- as one who indwells the earth.
The Supreme Being then comes, dines and stays with us providiilg and attending to all our
needs. Lijabais regarded as one of the family members. J"ijaba is al!!o theearthientering
Supreme"Seing. Lijaba enters the earth with-the seeds and rises again ci:long with the crops.
Lijaba is' one who protects; upholds, sustains and gives life to all; one who created and
continuesTh~ w~ole world is the Supreme Being's temple~Cx:ea~len'r.eveals the mysteries of the
Supreme Being and the Supreme Being speaks to people through space. God is seen as
actively present in all creation. The wind, the sun, the tree's, the rivers, all sigriifythe presence
of the Supreme Being .19' .
4. . A Reconception of Christian Theology
The space-centred worldview demands us to reconceive Christian theologyiri a new way.
By the affirmation of space as the central point of reference in Christian theology, we conceive
our vision of God-world-human relationship in a distinct way:

way:

(a) God'is conceived here as the one who is organically related to the whole of creation.
Though God is a distinct and transcendental being, God is also an integral part of
creation. Without the land and creation God ceases to be God; God ceases to work arid
reveal. God becomes inactive without creation. This idea rules out a conception of
God as monarch who rules the world from above imposing his divine laws or a God
who is detached from the world. Since God is an integral part of creation, God suffers
pain when creation suffers.20
(b) Such an understanding of God leads us to conceive Christ in a new way. Christ is no
longer the one who works in the hearts of the believers alone. Rather the incarnate one
is organically related to the total eco-system. Jesus shares His Being with the whole
created order. Since Jesus Christ is an integral part of creation, all parts of creation are
now reconciled to Christ. The incarnation of God in Jesus represents God's entry into
finite space. It marks the concretion of all the hope for a land of peace, security and
plenty. The event of Jesus Christ re-establishes the reality of' sapce' .21
(c) Here the Holy Spirit is re conceived as one who works not only in the hearts of the
believes, but also in the whole creation. Holy Spirit sustains all creation. Holy spirit
inspired all and speaks to all inclu'ding a!limals and plants. 11 IS the Spirit that makes all
living possible and dynamic. Nothing exists without the work of the Holy Spirit. Since
the Spirit enlivens the whole creation, Mture and history becomes not only one whole
reality, but dynamic and real.22
(d) The space-centred theology redefines personal, other worldly salvation. Since the self
ofthe Supreme Being is seen in creation and humans are an integral p:irr of it, humans
attain redemption only in relation to the rest of creation. Salvation is a reality which
can be experienced authentically here and now. A redeemed person is the one who
lives in harmony not only with fellow beings, but also with the mother earth, God and
spirit.23
(e) Nature and history here becomes integrally related. They are one whole. A spacecentred
vision of reality widens our perception of history. Creation becomes the basic
component of the interpretation of history. One cannot interpret history without the
land, trees~ animals, ,flowers and spirit. It demands that human history is to be studied
within the context of the totality of creation. It means that God must be conceived of
not only as God of history but also as God of creation. In other words, history belongs
not to the intelligent beings, but also to the whole of creation.24
(t) A space-centred theology enables us to see ourselves as an integral part of the macroorganism.
Humans cease to be true humans without God, creatures and land. Living in
harmony within the organic whole is the basis for authentic human existence. This
view rules out the notion that elevates intellectual and rational nature as superior to
other creattires.25
(g) A space-centred theology, brings about a radical changeJn our attitude and use ofthe
natural resources. It demands a reciprocal-use.. of natural resources. Since the whole
earth is God's body and our mother the use of the earth's resources becomes an
ecological sacrament for us. Space-centred theology demands a corresponding lifestyle
and attitude.26
(h) A space centred theology enables us to conceive the church as an integral part of the
Supreme Being and the earth. The church is God's micro-cosmos. We cannot therefore
narrowly confine the mission of the church to human world alone. It opens us to the
whole of God's cosmos; its transformation, which is God's cosmic mission.27
5. Contextualisation/lndigenisation
A tacit process of contextualisation- and indigenisation has been going to automatically since
the beginning of Christianity in different parts of North-East India. The following are pointed
out as some concrete examples: Many churches have adapted in its structure the traditional
village-state polity which is democratic and representative. Secondly, Christian hymns and
songs are set on a blend of western gospel music and local tunes. Thirdly, people's dress and
costume in the villages are typically local. Fourth, many of the customs and practices such as
marriage and inheritance, pr.operty and land ownership are retained without any change.
Fifth, the exposition of sermons and Bible studies of village pastors and evangelists are
characteristically local,28
Many ofthe traditional values and virtues are already practised in the daily living ofthe
people in interpreting Christian way of life. For example the Mizo concept of tlawmngaihna
is the traditional code of morals and social manners, which foster basic ethical values and
virtues such as skills, simplicity, honesty, integrity, courage, self-discipline, mutual help,
good social manners, and soon. The Ao Naga term sobaliba comes close to tlawmngaihna.
Similarly, the other people in North-East India have their own social mores and code of
morals. The idea of tribal· solidarity or communitarian life, institution of dormitory
establishment like Morung, Zawdiuk, Nokpantes, Mora, etc.' are all meaningfully adapted in
Christian understanding offello,ship (koinonia) in the church. Above all, certain traditiona,l
religious ideas such as concepts of God, Supreme Spirit, spirits, relationship of humans and
sup'ernatural beings and animals, and the world around them, are meaningfully transformed
and used in interpreting the Christian idea of God, Holy spirit, Trinity, ecology, etc.29
It is claimed that the tr!bal worIdview is quite similar to the biblical view. A tribal
person exists because others exist. The others are ancestors, the community, the created
world and God. A person's existence is possible only in relation to his/her community
including the ancestor and the created world, the trees, animals etc. as well as God and the
spirits. Existence is a nexus of relatedness : God, humans, nature and spirit are organically
related to one another. Only in this relatedness they find their true being and existence. The
goal that a relevant church in India should strive towards achieving is the organic unity of all
things in the human and material world, including aUliving beings. God has a plan to gather
all things in His/Her Son Jesus Christ. The entire creation is groaning for redemption. A
world view based on relationships of all things will open up new ways of looking at and
understanding the realities in India and enable us to deal with it.30
Tribes represent an egalitarian society in India. Men and women are treated as equal and
work together in fields, sing and dance together in the open dancing ground as a community.
They face life with song and dance. That the tribes were more open to the Gospel has to do
with their world view. The relationship between the material, social and spiritual worlds is
one of the key principles in the tribal worldview. The natural, the human and the supernatural _.
are integrally intertwined with each other. There is a nature-human-spirit continuum in tribal

experience and thought. Their belief in ancestral spirits as part of the human society, and
their observances of totems are key to their self-understanding.31 •
The indigenous people acknowledge their integral relationship with nature. The system
of golra is a affirmation of a direct relationship with plants, trees, birds and animals. The
tribes have totems like lakra (tiger) Kujur (creeper), loppo (bird) and so on. The trees, animals
and birds of this planet are directly related to humans. This relationship is maintained and
expressed in two ways. One is, in the ordinary day to day life these totem animals, trees,
birds and plants are respected and addressed in ways that honour them. Secondly, once in a
year, a feast of the totem is prepared by the family to reinfor,ce this integral and organic
relationship with nature and natural beings.32
The call is not to lose identity as tribal Christians. Rather what is needed is to bring the
tribal world view to bear upon theological research and writing. For the indigenous
people of the world, space is primary and time is secondary in their thinking. Land is life for
the tribes of India. Ancestors are part of their social concept. Relations with all humans,
natural objects and spirits around them constitute reality for the tribal mind. According to
them we exist because we have a relationship with others and not because we think. There is
a need to regain this worldview which is lost by the influence of the western Christian
friends.33
Dharme is the word used for God in the traditional Kundux (Oraon) religious ceremonies
and practices and it means both male and female. In translation while finding a suitable
word for God, to differentiate the Christian use from the traditional use, Christian Tribals
have made simply a male God by adding an's' to the end and made it Dharmes rather t/lan
Dharma. But the question is, why not use Dharme itself, which conveys the idea of both
male and feamle?34 Folk tales, folk songs and creation mytl1s in tribal historical consciousness
can be used for Christian theological interpretation. Jesus Christ as Saviour of the world can
be interpreted through tribal culture. For example in the Munda Ashur Kahani (Ashur
traditional story) and in Kudux folk tales there is the idea of a "suffering boy" sent by God
to save the people from the terror and oppression of the Ashurs. This "suffering boy" (Khasra
Kora-Mundari and Khasra-Khusru Kokkos-Kudtix) comes and delivers human beings by
sacrificing himself, by being put through the furnace of the Ashurs. But he did not die. He
came out with a shining body as bright as gold.35 Tribats take pride in being an egalitarian
society. They claim that women and men work together, go to dance together must not be
-banned in the Chfristian church. Tribal communities have had women priestesses in their
society and therefore women participation in the ordained ministry of the church is something
natural for them.36
Attempt has been made to discover how the ancient Santhal's worldview and belief
system regarding the origin of creation and humankind help us in our understanding of the
role and goal of humanity in today's world. This was done by exploring whether there is
anything in common between the ancestral faith of the Santhals and the Jpdeo-Christian
faith. The Santhal creation tradition represents Thakur-Jiv, Malin Budhi (i. e., Gosa Era),
Joher Era, Maran Buru and aquatic creature as preexisting the world and humans,·Maran
Buru, Jaher Era and Malin Budhi are the national gods of the Santhals. They are revered as
deities for their contribution to the creation and to the well being of humankind under Thakur-

Jiv's dispensation. The Santhal creation,narrative as well as the two narrations of Genesis
CP, i.e. Genesis 1.1-2.4a and J, i.e. Genesis 2.4b-3.24), all these narratives take for granted
the existence of the creator God,.who lives with other supreme beings who are subordinate
. to him. The nature ofthe creator God, the world view, and humanity's relationship with God
as presented in the Santal creation narrative do not come into conflict in any big way
with that presented in the first three chapters of Genesis. The difference between the three
are not of theological motifs but of order and presentation, which is due to the human
conditions in the midst ofwhich the narratives were developed. Speaking from the Christian
point of view, which holds Genesis chapters 1-3 as the doctrine of creation, the Santhals also
hold ~he same faith as far as the first article of the Christian creed in concerned. But the
Santhals are in an advantageous position as they transcent dogmatism and are more open to
others.37
6. The Gospel Values
The Indian tribal culture is egalitarian, democratic and eco-conscious. By virtue of imbibing
this culture, we may be miraculously rediscovering some of the gospel values for the larger
humanity. The tribal culture can contribute to resolve the tensions of modern culture arising
out of extreme individualism, competition based on greed, consumerism which views earth
as a commodity, consumption as a token of gratification and status and neo-colonialism
based on the norm of survival of the fittest. The tribal economy is need based rather than
greed based, which work on the principle of "small is beautiful." Tribal democracy is not
based on the dominance of majority, but on the principle of concensus. Tribals justice is not
based on blind law, but each casel;js executed in its context by the village community. Status
is not based on a acquisition buron sharing and distribution ·of wealth. There is no caste
. I
distinction. They exphasise mutulal help. Their sense or respect of nature, not as owners of it,
but as caretakers are lessons to be 1,earned by the modern advanced cultures. Tribal ideology
precedes sarvodaya; it is socialism without its arbitrary and mechanical structure. An
individual persons in it is defined in terms of community. Duty rather than right determines'
relation of individuals to the community. Their institutions social, political and religious are
based on the prfnciple of 'made for humans'. Their ideology of community does not deny
the transcendent dimension of the self; it is a community of mutuality, each respecting the
otherness of the other. Their society is not 'hierarchical' or 'patriarchal' but egalitarians.
Thus we can say that the gospel values manifested in Jesus are already there in such a Tribal
culture ofIndia; we need only to rediscover them.38
An assertion can be made that Dalits and Tribals are the indigenous or adi people
oppressed nationally in India. A pan Indian political ideology of the indigenous people may
be able to bridge the gap between the Dalits and Tribals. The tribal consciousness of an
egalitarian society in which there is community ownership of means of production, distribution
according to needs, democratic form of government and consensus in decision-making
process, can contribute to the formation of an ideology of the adipeople in their struggle fer
liberation in India. Both the tribals and dalits are oppressed nationally in India and their
consciousness is also that of anger, protest and rejection of the existing socio-economic,
political and religious order. Thus with certain elements of distinction, there is the possibility
for a common dalit-tribal theology.39

7. Conclusion
From the above discussion, we arrive at the following findings :
(a) The distinctive characteristics of Tribal religion include the absence of written scripture,
as well as human made images or temples. Oral tradition is in prominence and Natural
objects are accepted as symbols of the divine. Also, a nature-human-spirit continuum is
the key to the tribal vision of life. The worship of the ancestors is emphasized.
Cb) In the tribal worldview space in the sense oftotality of creation is the basis of all realities.
If in the dominant Christian traditions, humanity is the central point of reference and
norm, creation is the key and cenQ"al point of reference and norm in the tribal worldview.
The whole reality, inclu·ding humanity, the Supreme Being and Spirit or spirits are
approached from the perspective of creation. The trees, animals and birds as totems are
directly related to humans.
(c) The Tribal myths of creation, their understanding of land and Supreme Being point to
the centrality they give to space. Creation myths tell us that reality is one coherent
whole. Everything is organically related to each other. Land is perceived as sacred. It is
through the land that people become one with the Supreme Being, their ancestors, the
spirits and other segments of creation. Lijaba is the earth-entering Supreme Being; one
who enters the earth with the seeds and rises again along with the crops. Creation is the
manifestation of the Supreme Being.
(d) The tribal concept of history and time is interlinked to and rooted in creation. The axis
of the concept of time is the celebration of nature's life-cycle. Unlike the western linear
concept of time, the tribal people experience time in a circular way. People move along
with the soil or earth cycle and surrounding environment.
(e) Christian theological responses such as process, the eco-feminist as well asjustice, peace
and integrity of creation seem to view reality main ly from the anthropocentric perspective
and not from the perspective of space itself. In these different Christian responses, the
tribal people's view of space is not integrated. Rather Christian theologies of space are
from the perspective of the western progressive and linear interpretation of history and
philosophy.
(t) Space-centred world-view helps the reconstruction of Christian theology. In tribal
theology God is conceived as an integral pari of creation; one who is organically related
to creation. God is not a monarch who rules frpm above. Christ is there not in the believers'
hearts alone, rather is organically related to the totale'ca-..system. Jesus shares his being
with the whole created order. The event of Jesus Christ is the re-establishment of the
reality of space. The Holy Spirit works not only in the hearts ofthe believers but also in
the whole creation. Since the spirit enlivens the whoJecreation, nature and history
becomes not only one ~hole reality, but dynamic and real. Humans attain liberation
only in relation to the rest of creation. Nature and history here becomes integrally related.
God is not only the God of history but also of the entire creation. A space-centred theology
enables us to see ourselves as an1ntegral part oIthe macro-organism. Earth's resources
are conceived here as an ecological sacrament for us. Church is understood here as
God's micro-cosmos with a mission of cosmic transformation;

(g) Contextualisation and indigenisation has been going on authentically among Tribal
Christians in terms of adaptation of traditional songs and music, dress and costume as
well as traditional laws relatedto marriage and inherita~ce, and also village-state polity.
Institutions of dormitory establishments like Morung, Zawlbuk, Nokpantes, Mora etc.
are adapted to urtderstand fellowship (koinonia) in the church. Traditional code of morals
and social morals and social manners (tlawmngaihna, sobaliba) are practised in daily
living. Tribal terminologies can sometimes better express Christian theologiCal concepts.
e.g. The Oraon term Dharme can mean God as both male and female. Tribal folk takes
can interpret the person and work of Christ. e.g. the Mupda and Oraon story of the
'suffering boy' send by God to save the people. The Santhal creation story is in line with
the Genesis stories.
(h) The gospel values are already present in the Tribal culture of India. The tribal
consciousness of an egalitarian society in which there is community ownership of means
of production, distribution according to needs, democratic form of government and
consensus in decision-making process, can contribute to the formation of an ideology of
the adi people in their struggle for liberation in India. The Tribal society is neither
'hierarchical' or 'patriarchal'. That the tribes were more open to the Gospel has to do
with their culture and worldview where there is integral relationship between the material,
social and spiritual worlds; between the natural, the human and the supernatural.
NOTES
I. Nirmal Minz, "The study of Tribal Rii'i'gion in India," in Re-visioning India's Religious Traditions, ed. by
David C. Scott & Israel Selvanayaglllri;Delhi/Bangalore: ISPCKlUTC, 1996, p. 122.
2. A. Wati Langchar, An Emerging Asian7;heology: Tribal Theology, Issue, Method and Perspective, Jorhat:
Tribal Study Centre, ETC, 2000, p. 1.··'
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid., pp. 6, 20.
5. Ibid., p. 25. .
6. Ibid., cf. George Tinker, "American Indian and the Art~ the Land~',V()ice from the Third WorM, Vol.
XIV, No. 2, December 1981; "Spirituality and Native American Personhooil : Sovereignty and Solidarity"
in Spirituality of the Third World, e4, by K.C. Abraham and BarnedatteMbuy, Maryknoll : Orbis Books,
1994, pp. 127-28. .' .
7. A. Wati Long~~ar, An'Emerging Asiah'T'hefJlogy op.cit.,'p~ 26.
8. Ih(d., p. 64.
9. ibid., PfJ.64~65.
10. Ibid., pp. 45-63.
11. Ibid., pp. 65-66.
12. Ibid., pp. 66-67 cf. A. Wati Longchar (ed.): An Exploration of Tribal Theology, Jorhat : Tribal Study
Centre, ETC, 1997; A. Wati Longchar and Yangkllhao Vashum (eds.), Traditional Tribal Worlclview and
Ecology, Jorhat : Tribal Study Centre, ETC, 1998; A. Wati Longchar and Larry E. Davis (eds.), DOing
Theology.-With Tribal Resources, Jorhat : Tribal Study Centre, E.T.C., 1999; A. Wati Limgchar (ed.),
Encounter Between Gospel and ClIlture, Jorhat : Tribal Study Centre, ETC, 2000.
13. A. Wati Longchar, An Emerging Asian Theology, op.cit.,pp. 68-88.
14. Ibid., pp. 68-75. cf. A. Wati Longchar, "A Creation Poem of the Ao-Naga: A Theological Exploration" in
Doing Theology with the Poetic Traditions of India. Focus on Dalit and Tribal Poems, ed. by Joseph
Patmury, Bangalore : PTCAlSATHRI, 1996, pp. 114-124; "A Critique of the Christian Theology ofCreatlon"

in Doing Theology with Tribal Res.ources. Context and perspective, ed. by A. Wati Longchar and Larry E.
Davis, op.cit., pp. 60-67; The Traditional Tribal World View and Modernity. Focus on North East India,
Jorhat: ETC, 1995, pp. 14-32,83-89.
15. A. Wati Longchar;An Emerging Asian Theology op.cit., pp. 75-78; The Traditional Tribal World View
and Modernity. Focus on North East India, op.cit., pp. 64-73.
16. A. Wati Longchar, The Traditional Tribal World View and Modernity, op.cit., pp. 83-89.
17. A. Wati Longchar, An Emerging Asian Theology, op.cit., 79-81.
18. cf. O. Alam, Tsungremology : Ao-Naga Christian Theology, Mokokchung : Clark Theology College,' 1994.
19. A. Wati Longchar, An Emerging Asian Theology, op.cit., pp. 82-88.
20. Ibid, p. 89.
21. Ibid., pp. 89-90.
22. Ibid., p. 90.
23. Ibid., pp. 90-91.
24. Ibid., p. 91.
25. Ibid.
26. Ibid., pp. 91-92.
27. Ibid., p. 92.
28 .. Renthy Keitzar, "Tribal Theology in the Making" in New Horizon in ECl/menism. Essay in Honour of
Bishop Samuel Amirtham, ed. by K.C. Abraham, Bangalore : BTESSC and BTTBPSA, 1993, pp. 41-42.
29. Ibid, pp. 47-48. -
30. Nirmal Minz, Rise Up, My People, and Claim the Promise. The Gospel Among the Tribes of India, Delhi:
ISPCK, 1997, pp. 115-17.
31. Ibid, p. 29.
32.. Nirmal Minz, "Sarhul : A way of maintaining life in the primal societies ofJharkhand" in Spiritual Traditions.
Essential visions for Living, ed. by David Emmanuel Singh, Delhi/Bangalore : ISPCKlutC, 1998, pp ..
129-30.
33. Rise up, My People, and Claim the promise op.cit., p. 87.
34. Ibid., pp. 87-88.
35. Ibid., pp. 88-89.
36. Ibid, p. 91.
37. cf. T. Hembrom, The Santhals. Anthropological-Theological Reflections on Santhali and Biblical Creation
Traditions, Calcutta: Punthi Pustak, 1996.
38. cf. T. Jacob Thomas, "Indian Tribal Culture; A Rediscovery of Gospel Values" in Indian Journal of
Theology, VoJ. 35, No. 2,1993, pp.; 64-76.
39. Nirmal Minz, "Dalit-Tribal :A Search for Common Ideology" in Towards a Common Dalit Ideology, ed.
by Arvind P. Nirmal, Madras: Gutukul, 1990, pp. 103-106. For Tribal theology cf. C.K. Paul Singh (ed.),
The ReporrofHermeneutics Consultation in Central Tribal Belt of India, 1984, Ranchi: C.K. Paul Singh,
1986; "Special_Number on Bibical Hermeneutics", The Indian Journal of Theology, Vol. 31, Nos. 3 and 4,
July-Dec. 1982; pp. 293-327.

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* The Rev. Dr. K.P. Aleaz is Professor of Religions at Bishop's College as well as North India Institute of
Post-Graduate Theological Studies, Kolkata.
Source: http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/ijt/44_020.pdf
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