Give us a brief description of your background (home country, family, education, etc.)
I am from the state of Kerala, in South India. I have my undergraduate degree and an M.Div in theology. I also have a graduate certificate in interfaith dialogue from Henry Martin Institute Hyderabad, India. In the past, I have worked as a missionary, youth leader, director of a Church planting charity as well as a Bible college teacher in one of the Muslim dominated districts in the southern part of India for nine years. This is where I developed an interest in Islam and interfaith dialogue. I am married to Lisha and we have a daughter, Kaitlyn.
What got you interested in interfaith dialogue and the program at Hartford Seminary?
Several factors attracted me to Hartford Seminary. The rigorous academic preparation at this Masters level program would make me knowledgeable of a specialized, focused field. Likewise, the school’s historic emphasis on contextual and dialogical learning, together with an opportunity to interact with people of other faiths, will simultaneously enhance and challenge my knowledge of other worldviews. The faculty expertise on Islam, Interfaith, and World Religions will present a more scholarly and objective view of the Abrahamic religions; a prerequisite to interfaith understanding. Finally, I believe, the life and training at Hartford will sharpen my leadership, public presentation skills which would prove handy in subsequent years.
Briefly describe the conflicts that you would like to address at home after your year at Hartford Seminary.
Religious tensions especially in the form of anti-Christian violence is common in India. The natural retorts to these assaults are indignant sermons and passionate writings, which in turn become counter-fundamentalism by definition. For this reason, my task will be to help Christians demarcate between evangelical commitment and religious fundamentalism.
I will be primarily involved in the ministry of teaching. I have noticed that irresponsible comments against religions from pulpits may afflict parishioners with intolerance, especially if the preacher is influential. With this intention, I would like to employ my scope and space as a teacher-preacher, to counter such hate-campaigns. To explain, I encourage the evangelical Christians among I minister, to shift from “be converters or nothing else” to “be peacemakers in any case”.