Indian Theology of Economics in a Globalized World

We, the members of the Indian Theological Association gathered in Ishvani Kendra, Pune, from April 25 to April 29, 2009 reflected on how best to respond to the effects of globalization and recession that have brought untold hardship to wage earners and their families. We tried to understand how economies function in a globalized world and, drawing inspiration from Christian and other traditions, we put together a response that stresses mutual sharing as a way of life and specific, constructive initiatives that could be undertaken by individuals and society in today’s world. Our efforts in theologizing helped us to identify courses of action that foster sustainable development today, a caring for the environment and earth’s resources, and, most important of all, the building up of a just society where human persons, not profit-making, become the prime concern in all economic initiatives.

For many centuries, in India and other parts of the world, structural injustice has led to the exploitation, marginalization and economic impoverishment of millions of people. In the year 1991, in the face of a severe foreign exchange crisis, India adopted liberalizing policies that set off a chain of events. The policies affected most people but those already marginalized and the small-scale entrepreneurs suffered more acutely. Globalization and the recession that followed have dealt devastating blows to the most economically vulnerable in India: Dalits, Tribals, women, labourers, poor farmers, rickshaw pullers, peddlers and hawkers, push-cart sellers, and similar categories of people. From India’s cultural point of view, those living by folk-art, artisans, weavers, iron workers, potters, handicrafts-persons and others with similar trades or professions have begun to hear an economic death-knell. Among the worst-affected are those in the unorganized sector, especially migrant workers, child labourers and domestic helpers.

2. Women and children—especially the girl-child—are doubly affected. The feminization of poverty affects women in many spheres of life. An economy based on a profit motive discriminates against girls and women in the matter of food consumption, education, recreation time, property rights, freedom and mobility. Removal of gender discrimination at all levels becomes an important goal. Women’s work and economic contribution in the home or workplace are seldom acknowledged. At times, church institutions are guilty of paying unjust wages to women religious and compensating them unfairly in the use of convent property. Commitment to paying the minimum wage is still wanting in many situations of work in the state. Truthfulness, transparency and accountability in the use of funds in Christian institutions must be insisted on. A just evaluation of Church holdings will show us if our claim to follow Jesus poor rings true. Finally, Casteism has compounded the woes of the affected groups in their struggle for fundamental rights and human dignity.

3. The year 2008 saw a massive economic meltdown affecting the whole world. According to some economic experts this meltdown originated in the U.S.A. The crash of stock markets and large financial institutions, the phenomenon of banks becoming bankrupt as well as the massive job losses due to recession are some of the more visible signs of this meltdown. The causes would seem to lie in wasteful and irresponsible expenditure, in loaning money that was unrecoverable, in making serious miscalculations and ruinous investments.

4. From the point of view of human concerns, the major cause lies in unbridled greed and self-interest for ever-increasing profit and limitless consumerism. The worldwide recession has affected India. Many have received and continue to receive pink slips; job opportunities have dwindled for the unemployed and the job seekers; salaries have been reduced, and the basic necessities of life like food, medicine, and shelter are becoming unaffordable to many. The worst hit is, as always, the poor.

5. All this poses a grave and urgent challenge to our theology. What hope can it offer to those oppressed by dehumanizing poverty? What will the future be of the country’s more than 400 million unorganized workers? How does one reflect theologically on economics in India so as to respond to the needs of millions of our brothers and sisters affected by globalization, global meltdown and the subsequent recession?


I. The Context

6. We live in a world controlled by the processes of globalization. Globalization, according to the European commission, "is the process by which markets and production in different countries are becoming increasingly interdependent due to the dynamics of trade in goods and services and flow of capital and technology." It is the integration of world markets for goods, services and accumulation of profits for an elite, the richest few. Globalization is marked by a phenomenal increase in the flow of private capital across the world, aided by information and communication technology as well as by transnational corporations. In its present form, it is an invention of a powerful few who execute plans to expand their financial empire in the entire world without resorting to a declared war or overt violence. By using or altering the existing political structures and economic systems of the nations to their advantage they achieve their end, but at great cost to many!

7. Globalization can be looked at from various perspectives: in its concrete operations or as a concept. It can also be viewed as a positive or negative factor in world commerce. Two clearly contrasting interpretations of globalization exist. One is the glamorized or glorified portrayal of globalization as bringing the whole world together; the other is the stark reality of large numbers of people suffering from a lack of all that supports the family of humankind: food, shelter, clothing and especially money.

8. In theory, globalization was intended to promote trade and an attitude of sharing among different peoples; in fact, it has contributed to a divided and fragmented world in which the benefits of science, technology and significant decision-making are enjoyed by a tiny minority. In India the impact of globalization has been and continues to be disastrous for the poor who know little about globalization or free market-economy. What they do know is that the cost of essential commodities and life-sustaining items has increased. They find it hard to treat their sick in hospitals. They have to do with meagre returns for the work they engage in. Those who used to earn their livelihood by selling coconut water or lime juice can no longer find sufficient buyers since the markets are flooded with Coca-cola and Pepsi. Those who survived earlier on manual jobs can no longer find employment since the same work is done by machines more efficiently and quickly. With globalization and the free-market economy, the poor are not only further marginalized but are also made to feel that they are dispensable. In fact, vital decisions affecting them are made by those who are little concerned with the harmful effects of a market economy on the poor.

9. Consequently, a theology, sensitive to the suffering of the poor and to those experiencing economic hardship, will occupy itself with the question of economy as a matter of urgency. Although ideologically the church claims to be against globalization, yet, in actual practice more needs to be done to develop a theology that will challenge the assumptions of globalization or counter its adverse impact on the poor. Economics requires a constant dialogue among all peoples so that human life is supported and persons and collectivities attain their God-ordained goals. It requires voices from the ground and alternative perspectives to make the world of economics humane and ethical in its functioning. Today’s dominant political economy and its impact especially on the poor call for an honest appraisal of its inventors and practitioners.

10. In addition, theology needs to be aware that economics is not gender-neutral. There is a lack of critical study and analysis of both macro- and micro-economy incorporating gender inequality as operative in the very economic structures. Patriarchy fosters an unequal power-relationship that is operative in all economic processes. Unchecked, the dominant economic system reproduces and reinforces the existing unequal gender-relationships of power as well as the caste-hierarchy. Economics must be redesigned as a discipline that creates humane answers to the questions that arise from the Indian social system.

11. In the face of the present catastrophe theology is called to trigger the imagination to envisage humanizing alternatives that will challenge the rule of idols and usher in Gospel values. On their part, Christian Churches and institutions need to ask themselves if consciously or unconsciously they have succumbed to the fascination of capitalism and adapted themselves to its ways.

12. While millions in this country suffer in abysmal poverty the lifestyle of many Christian communities—their leaders and officials—reflect more accurately the situation of the rich young man ( Mk 10:17-22) or the accumulating tendency of the rich fool (Lk 12:16-20). Theology is called to critique the commissions and omissions of the Church when it fails to intervene on behalf of the poor and the environment. Constant theological reflection in the Christian community must be supported by empirical data, analysis and interpretation. In India, theology has focused, mostly, on cultural and inter-religious issues and not sufficiently on the political and economic dimensions of peoples’ lives.


II. The Problematic

13. In the 1950s, the Nehruvian model of economic development stressed state socialism. Decades later, the spectre of bankruptcy hung over the country and India was forced to mortgage its gold reserves! In 1991, the New Economic Policy was embraced following the model of development proposed by the World Bank. In 2005, Manmohan Singh’s policy of Inclusive Development continued on the lines of the “trickle down” theory. Liberalization, privatization and globalization which are the core features of the present-day global, capitalist economic process, have had adverse effects on the socio-economic and political life in India. In a country where people remain divided and excluded on caste lines, the social segmentation is further accentuated by the forces of globalization. The dominant social groups have been enabled to exploit the global economic processes, accumulate ill-gotten wealth and increase their decision-making power. The political state of India remains a mute spectator to the vandalism that the global economic institutions inflict on the people of India. The global economic institutions, e.g. Multinational Corporations (MNCs), dictate terms to the political nation-state and the latter gradually withdraws from its responsibilities to the people of India.

14. From such economics emerges a middle class group that survives on the cheap labour of the lower strata of the people, yet seems unwilling to acknowledge their contributions. Global economics, which is market-driven, and conditioned by the logic of consumerism, treats the middle class as the favoured people of its regime. The poor are dehumanized and degraded by the global economic system that is recklessly pursued.

15. In pre-Independence times, when there was talk about democracy, equality and secularism for all, particular interest groups like the landlords and the privileged classes in the state and religion felt threatened. To protect their interests, these groups and classes aligned themselves together and formed organizations often with a communal tone. Communalism is characterized by a tendency to be exclusive so that any other is rejected or destroyed. Globalization enabled these groups to look after their own interests at the expense of others—the minority groups like the Dalits and Tribals, and backward classes like the Fisher People. Women suffered the most.

16. These communal groups continue to keep Dalits, Tribals, Fisher People and women under their domination and have been responsible for violence in India both before and after independence. Even more, the communal groups pursue their aim of suppressing the rights of weaker sections of society—the minorities, as well as the values of democracy, freedom and secularism enshrined in the Indian Constitution. A political stance that was supposedly based on religion—in fact it is not—has turned rabid and promotes hate between the haves and the have-nots.

17. In the recent past, the empowerment of Dalits, Tribals and Backward Classes posed a threat to the economic interests of such groups who are often found among the traders and industrialists. The ploy of polarizing relations between the majority and the minority is seen in Gujarat, Karnataka and Orissa and has the objective of wooing a fundamentalist majority. Whereas these groups pretend to be defending the values of religion, they are, in fact, looking after their selfish interests.


III. Theological Response

18. A theological response seeks its inspiration in sources that mediate the presence of God and contextualizes that inspiration in the lives of people striving to meet challenges in different areas of life. Here the inspiration we draw is meant to fashion a system of economics that is ethical, person-affirming and concretely feasible.

A. Insights from the Old Testament

19. The Old Testament sees riches as God’s blessings, something that has lent substance to the “prosperity Gospel” as found in the book of Proverbs. However, the possession of wealth is governed by laws and injunctions of restraint as set down in Exodus and Deuteronomy. The sabbatical year and the jubilees were an invitation to halt material accumulation and to rectify, by redistribution, the injustices that had crept in. These occasions existed so that the people could acknowledge and confess that ultimately the ownership of the land and all the riches of creation derive from God and belong to God, and therefore all men and women—not only the royal and affluent—have a claim on these riches. These values were embedded in the tribal structure of the people of Israel before the advent of the monarchy. The laws of the covenant were intended precisely to enable a community to exercise reciprocal responsibility and they contained provisions to take care of the last and the least (anawim). One of the deepest moral concerns of the Bible is that the care of the widow, the alien, the orphan and the weak is a primary duty. Further, the quality of a community’s way of life is measured by the way it takes care of the weaker ones who are vulnerable and lack protection. This runs through the entire corpus of the Biblical tradition.

20. The prophetic tradition in particular, reiterates very strongly Yahweh’s concern for justice and the welfare of the anawim who require special care, protection, and affirmative action on their behalf. While the prophets did not explicitly address any economic questions as such, as spokespersons for Yahweh, they spoke to their contemporaries in the concrete situations of their lives. God as revealed in the Exodus experience and the covenant relationship was their point of reference. Not only did the covenant place upon Israel the responsibility of accepting the absolute sovereignty of Yahweh but it also required Israel to treat the weak as Yahweh had treated her. The prophets stressed justice and righteousness as the fundamental virtues to be observed by the community in its relationship with Yahweh. If only Israel obeyed the Lord’s laws, there would not be any poor in the land, says Deuteronomy 15: 4, 5.

21. The prophets represent God in proclaiming justice for all and serve as critics of wealth accumulation that excludes people and leaves them in want and penury. Against the economic background of their times we understand both the prophetic critique of society (e.g. Amos) and its defence of the poor. In short, the prophets condemned idolatry and injustice, both being inextricably interlinked. Forsaking Yahweh caused the practice of injustice in society even as social injustice led one away from Yahweh to idols.

B. God’s Word becoming Flesh (Anawim) in the New Testament

22. In an extended sense, one could look at Jesus functioning in a globalized world. Actually the Mediterranean world to which Palestine belonged had undergone a double type of globalization. In his person, Jesus must have been affected by cultural globalization. From Italy and Sicily to the Indus Valley and from the Black Sea to the upper reaches of the Nile, a cultural melting pot produced the complex intercultural phenomenon of Hellenism. Everybody did not speak the same language and did not profess the same religion. However, a certain type of life, a general sense of the oikoumene, and some sort of shared values unified that world. Moreover, Jesus was influenced by economic globalization since the Romans ruled over the area and contributed three important economic factors to the cultural ones: peace (Pax Romana), roads and administration. It is into this cultural-economic world that Jesus was born. “The Word was made flesh” is not only a theological declaration but also a socio-economic statement since Jesus was also a product of his times. What kind of economics did Jesus inherit, practise and propagate?

23. First, Jesus was a carpenter of sorts. The Greek word tektôn used in Mk 6:3 to qualify Jesus’ profession and social position does not mean exactly “carpenter”. It referred to the wood work in constructing parts of the house, since Palestinian houses were mostly made of stone and mud. In Nazareth, this profession could not provide a living wage and Jesus would have complemented the family income with agricultural activities, probably as a farm hand.

24. Second, there were many economic burdens which the rural poor in Jesus’ time had to bear. The beautiful constructions of the Roman government put a heavy financial burden on the land and that meant taxes in addition to the religious taxes paid to the Temple. The process of urbanization benefited only the cities. For the impoverished village population, modernization meant only an increase in taxation without any apparent benefit.

25. Third, the focus of Jesus’ teaching is the poor as manifested in the parables. The material of the parables is taken basically from the life of the poor marginal Galilean farmers tilling small patches of mediocre land, surrounded by thorns, encroached on by passers-by and often consisting of rocky soil (Mk 4:3-9). The large fertile tracts of lower Galilee were the property of the Temple, of the cities, of the royal establishment and its minions. They were looked after by “stewards” representing the owners. Several parables refer to this situation (Mk 12:1-12; Mt 20:1-16; Lk 16:1-8). No sympathy is shown for the absentee landowner. Too often he is a demanding person, harvesting where he did not plant and gathering where he did not sow (Mt 25:24.26). The reader is even invited to give ironical sympathy to the shrewd manager tricking his master (Lk 16:1-8). The exaggerated reaction of the tenants who revolt (Mk 12:1-9) can only be caused by the latent anger of poor frustrated workers deprived of the fruit of their labour. In all these stories, the viewpoint is from below, from the position of the marginalized villager.

26. Fourth, Jesus’ language and world perspective are those of the marginalized rural Galilean. By birth, family belonging and links, by his way of life, culture and the lived experience of economic pressure, Jesus was part of rural and impoverished Galilee. His ministry was exercised among its poor. He did not belong to the world of Sepphoris and Tiberias, of Antipas and of his globalizing policy. In him, the Word was made flesh: anawim, that is, marginalized rural flesh.

C. The Early Christian Community

27. In its daily living, the early Christian community seemed to live out radically Jesus’ economics. Acts presents the picture of an ideal community where possession is relativized and the good of the community takes priority over individual possession. (Acts 4: 34-35; 2: 42-47). This could be an idealized picture drawn by the early writer since we have Paul complaining about divisions and economic injustices that existed in the Corinthian community which even affected their Eucharistic practices (1Cor 11: 20-22). The letter of James comes down heavily on the rich and their accumulation of wealth that slights the poor and ignores their needs. (Jas 2:1-7; 5:1-6). Thus the challenge has always been to live radically according to the demands of Jesus’ message or to water it down by paying homage to mammon.

D. Economics in the Teachings of Christianity

28. In the history of the Church one finds both: a strong sense of Gospel economics in the lives and teachings of its members, and also a tacit, if not overt, approval of accumulated wealth. For instance, in the 4th century before the advent of the Christian empire, Fathers of the Church like John Chrysostom condemned excessive accumulation of wealth in no uncertain terms. Yet by the time of the Reformation in the sixteenth century, the Church owned immense tracts of land that yielded sizeable revenues.

29. Christianity shares with the Islamic and Jewish traditions, the belief that the earth belongs to God the creator and human beings are but God’s representatives and therefore they cannot be owners of the earth. Stewardship better describes the function of God’s representatives. Today in the world of capitalism that stresses absolute ownership of individual and private enterprises, it is very important to assert, in order to uphold the dignity of the poor and the marginalized, that the right of ownership cannot be without restraint. For as Pope Paul VI stated, “private property does not constitute for anyone an absolute and unconditional right.” Implicit in the whole discussion is the question whether private property is a matter of natural right (Leo XIII), or the outcome of human sinfulness (Thomas Aquinas).

30. Aquinas regards the strict right to private property not as an absolute claim deriving from human nature but as resulting from human sinfulness. The right is subordinate to, and instrumental in the service of, the universal destiny of the goods of creation to serve the needs of all. For this reason Aquinas holds that a person in extreme necessity can legitimately take from another the material goods that he or she needs.

31. The teachings of Jesus on poverty and riches, the admonitions of some of the early Fathers of the Church and the theological position of St. Thomas Aquinas on ownership are reflected in the teachings of Vatican II. The modern Christian tradition, as articulated in the social teachings of the Church, has contributed significantly in this regard. Rerum Novarum (1891) insisted that the mere play of market forces should not determine a just wage; rather, personal worth and human need should be taken into account. In Populorum Progressio (1961), Paul VI noted that even though every person had a right to this world’s goods, the gap between the wealth of the privileged and the misery of the marginalized was widening. Vatican Council II affirmed “the universal purpose for which created goods are meant. In using them, therefore, a person should regard one’s lawful possession not merely as one’s own but also as common property in the sense that they should accrue to the benefit of not only oneself but of others” (GS 69).

E. A Theology of Economics

32. In recent times, liberation theology has played a significant role in calling the attention of the Church to the economic concerns of the poor and the unjust economic structures of the world that neglect the basic needs of millions in the so-called third world countries. For centuries, the Church’s God-talk remained almost dissociated from socio-cultural and economic realities of the world, especially the suffering of the poor. Liberation theologians strongly critiqued this situation in the church and showed how economic questions are intimately linked to the living out of Christian faith and to upholding the dignity and human rights of an individual. In short, justice is an intrinsic dimension of Christian salvation.

33. In opposition to a merely profit-oriented economy, social justice requires that the purpose and organization of human economics are oriented to serve authentic human needs. The goal of economics must not be unbridled profit or domination. Rather, it must be the service of human persons, and indeed of the whole human being viewed in terms of his/her material needs and the demands of his/her intellectual, moral, spiritual and religious life. The prophets of old spoke to the consciences of all, especially to those in authority. Their ministry is to be continued by the church when it strives to offer a global vision of hope to humankind. The prophets point to corporate sin in the light of a powerful doctrine of corporate grace. A correct picture of God and religion cannot countenance an unjust economic system. This presupposition about Yahweh led the prophets to inveigh against oppressive systems.

34. In the teachings of Jesus we find little mention of wealth as a sign of blessing but a great stress on the poor as beneficiaries of God’s gifts. There are serious warnings to the rich and on the dangers of riches and the thirst for accumulation. Even more, in Jesus’ teaching there is a clear contrast between God and mammon: “You cannot serve God and Mammon” (Lk 16:13; Mt 6:24; Mk 10: 25). Precisely because the poor are seen to be not arrogant and haughty or blinded by wealth, they are open to God’s gifts and sensitive to the needs of their neighbours (Lk 6:20-23; Mt 5: 3-12).

35. In sum, Gospel economics finds its realization in striving for the Reign of God ideal proposed and practised by Jesus according to which God is a loving and caring parent and all people are God’s children. As a consequence, a family spirit must prevail amongst all peoples in the ownership and use of all earth’s resources. Other religious or faith traditions also stress detachment from material wealth and emphasize its true function in the world. The principal attitude to be fostered is sharing with others the goods of the world. While we reject the unethical accumulation of wealth and land by the rich and the MNCs, we uphold the ownership of the land by the Dalits and Tribals who are still landless.

36. The policies of liberalization and privatization pursued by global institutions like the I.M.F., World Bank and W.T.O. need to be reined in by a more assertive state. India as a welfare state is obliged to practise social justice in governing the historically disadvantaged people of this country and to stand by them.

37. All who endeavour to live lives based on gospel values, must play a role, like the leaven in the dough, to conscientize the people about the ill-effects of an imbalanced economy caused by globalization. Networking with social movements, NGOs, and other agencies can be undertaken to offset the harmful effects of globalization and to serve the people of this country in a more egalitarian manner.

F. Economic Perspectives in Indian Religions

38. The Vedic worldview presents a positive attitude towards the material world and human life therein. The prayer of the Vedic people is: “May we live a hundred autumns” (Jeevema sharatah shatam), enjoying the fruits of the earth. An ideal human society would be people living in harmony with each other and the elements of nature according to Rta. The Vedic and several other Hindu scriptures lay emphasis on the economics of sharing. The Rig Veda emphatically declares that nature’s resources are meant not for a few but for all, and it is a person’s moral duty to share. According to hymn 10.6 of the Rig Veda “One who eats alone without sharing, is a sinner” (Kevalagho bhavati kevaladi).The Rig Veda again reminds people that everything in this material world is filled with God (Ishavasyam) and hence even while one enjoys wealth, it must be done with a sense of renunciation (tyena tyaktena); further, one must not appropriate what belongs to others (ma ghrit kasyasvit dhanam).

39. The Atharva Veda while finding nothing wrong in accumulating wealth asks people to “accumulate with a hundred hands, but distribute with a thousand hands” (shatah hasta samahara, sahasra hasta samkara). The concepts of ‘Yajna’ and ‘Rna’ in the Vedas point to a holistic economic morality. Human beings are understood as born with a ‘debt’ (rna) towards nature and its elements (bhutas). ‘Yajna’ which originally meant “offering” is an important means to repay debt. In the ‘Panchamahayajna’ humans offer the cosmos and elements of nature to God and thereby affirm their interrelationship with the material world and with God.

40. The Bhagavad Gita (3:13) repeats the Rig Vedic idea in a more graphic way saying “evil are they and evil do they eat who cook only for themselves” (Bhunjate te tu agham papa ye pachanty atma-karanat). Lokasamgraha or welfare of the whole world is to be the motive of action and one finds his/her joy in the welfare of others (Sarva bhuta hite ratah, 5-25). The Tamil saint Thirumular has this to say “What we offer to the lord in the temple will not reach our fellow human beings, but what we offer to the walking temple, that is our fellow humans will reach not only them but it will reach the Lord too.” Swami Vivekananda, being filled with the spirit of advaitha, says: “Find God in the poor who are the living tabernacle of the Lord.”

41. The Hitopadesha describes the self-oriented person as one with a lesser consciousness (laghu chetasam) and the generous person as one who considers the whole earth as his/her family (Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam).

42. Kautilya in his Arthasastra declares that “Artha is the basis for Dharma and Kama” (Arthamulau hi dharma kamaviti). By this Kautilya implies that a proper economic order, wherein there is equal distribution of wealth, is a must for a sound moral order and for the attainment of happiness. In today’s globalized economy wherein resources of nature are alienated and often considered as mere objects of consumption, artha does not become a means to either the moral order or transcendence.

43. Buddhism concerns itself with the existential problem of Dukha or suffering. Though its main concern is to trace the root cause of suffering, Buddhism also undertakes to find solutions to human suffering- Dukha nivarana. This solution lies in the eight fold path and within the eightfold path ‘Sila’ or moral living is the first step toward overcoming Dukha and attaining Nirvana. Buddhist Sila lays emphasis on ‘Dana’, ‘Karuna’ and ‘Metta’. In and through these virtues one obtains not only freedom from the bondage of desires (Trishna) but also establishes a society based on equity, compassion and concern for the other.


IV. Practical Consequences and Strategies

44 A Christian theology of economics is founded on the experience of mutual love that effects communion. In Christian socialism the distribution of goods and the exercise of political and social power take place according to a person’s need and the requirement of the common good. A credible economics of sharing is governed by the fundamental principles of mutual caring for other human beings and a primary concern for the poor, the starving, the needy, the dispossessed, the sick and the helpless.

45. In a Christian economics of sharing, the condition for the poor to receive should be their needs and not what they are able to contribute. Such an understanding requires a loving union of persons in which every human being has an entitlement to receive and use whatever is essential to live a humane life and to develop a person’s innate capacities and talents. Sustained in this union, an individual can contribute to the biosphere and the sum total of human endeavour in the universe. Unbridled privatization militates against such sharing.

46. Economics must benefit all persons and serve their interests. This happens when in finalizing economic policies and implementing them there is participation by all the affected persons. In the political economy of the Gospels, money is a means to enhance life, a wisdom that is reflected also in the commentary on the Brahma Sutra ‘Nitya Anitya Vastu Viveka’ (Discern between the transitory and the eternal).

47. A liberative theology of economics must include a dynamic of healing and redressing injustices, and of freeing human potential to realize itself totally. Hence, the gross increase in national income by itself cannot be seen as a valid criterion for measuring development if such growth is not shared by the poor and distributed equitably. All persons in human society have a claim on the benefits of the national income since all share a universal fellowship as children of a loving and love-empowering God.

48. In his day, Jesus employed a prophetic critique of unfair predatory economic systems that made profit by exploiting the poor. Further, profit-making enterprises even if they create goods for consumption and happiness to some, may not subject the earth and humanity to the danger of extinction!

49. The concrete demands of a new theology of economics require a kenosis, an emptying out, on the institutional, community and individual level. An attitude like that of Jesus will lead us to practise simpler lifestyles and impel us to take a stand against consumerism, narcissism and wastage. The radical personalization of gospel economics will be modeled on a Gandhian lifestyle of economizing and salvaging, preserving and conserving, repairing and making amends to the earth. We will find ourselves saving water, replanting trees, recycling sewage and other materials, resisting genetically modified foods, bio-piracy and bio-fuel that displaces food crops. In solidarity with others, we will be campaigning against whatever causes pollution of water, air and land.

50. As a consequence of our gospel economics we will need to take care of our family home, family environment, family diet and health, while at the same time have a dynamic and effective concern for the life and prosperity of our immediate neighbours, and for the larger social and ethnic communities to which we belong. The culture of valuing only “productive” members of the family and society must be challenged. In making decisions, Gandhi’s ‘talisman’ is to be kept as a guiding principle. ‘Before taking any important decision, ask yourself how it is going to affect the poorest man you have met’. This will ensure that economic decisions are liberative. The nation has a rich heritage of ideals which we need to recover today. We can still learn from the Gandhian vision of swadeshi, swaraj, self-reliance, common ownership and stewardship. As a nation we need to uphold the value of the family and also care for the earth.

51. The need for implementing the fundamental right to primary education must be felt by our Christian institutions and poor children should be admitted into all educational institutions at all levels, without being made to feel inferior or inadequate. Christian schools should avoid inculcating consumerist attitudes by making excessive demands on the number and type of shoes, socks, books, stage-wear and similar items. Education must be people-oriented not performance-centred. Our schools should teach children to care for their poor classmates in whatever ways they can. The value of such sharing can teach far more than lessons in a moral science class.

52. Affordable costing in Christian hospitals will be another sign of God’s love incarnate in economics. We need to impress upon the government that it has a moral duty to redistribute land and assets, services and opportunities so that human dignity is not compromised in any way. We need to expose how Special Economic Zones (SEZ) tend to be disruptive and destructive to the economy of the country and the safety of citizens. In SEZ the focus on the human person gives way to the production of wealth alone. Movements that resist the establishment of SEZs need to be supported.

53. The present economic system gives rise to criminalization of economic and business practices. Large-scale corruption (scams), human trafficking in times of crisis, unscrupulous trade practices that are harmful to the health and life of other people have become symptoms of the worship of money. The progress made by the labour movement in the last century seems to vanish with the new ‘hire and fire’ approach, the system of subcontracting work in order to avoid permanent workers and their rights, and the phenomenon of ‘guest workers’ as in the European Countries.

54. The uncritical craving for a lifestyle that is easy and comfortable is aggressively being promoted by the mass-media, working on people’s sensibilities. This life style promotes corruption, and leads to ruthless exploitation and destruction of the environment. This goes against the Biblical understanding of land as belonging to God for the use of all, and of human beings as its stewards, not owners. This is vitally linked with the issues of displacement of Tribals from their land, the non-ownership of land by the Dalits, loss of land by marginal farmers, and accumulation of land by the land mafia and even by religious bodies including Christian bodies.

55. It is not enough to affirm a person’s right to life if, at the same time, the means for livelihood are denied him/her. A person must have access to food, shelter, clothing, and similar necessities if his/her right to life has any meaning. The community in which the person lives should be concerned about a person’s livelihood. Support of a local banking system like established cooperative banks and scheduled national banks for investments and promoting Grameen Banks, Micro-Credit and organizations for circulating money at the local level should be fostered.


V. Conclusion

56. The context and question with which we began our theological reflection arose from the present-day hardship that is the lot of common people. They are challenged by the world of finance, big business and political decisions that leave little money in their hands to cope with the daily needs of life. Our effort was to study and analyze globalization that is present in today’s world order and is seen affecting the lives of people the world over. In India, there are indications that globalization is not really helping our country to chart a course that is helpful, constructive and friendly to the common citizen. In terms of numbers, the common citizen constitutes a majority; in fact he/she is absent in important decision-making processes that affect human life in all its varied aspects.

57. Our study began with delving into a problematic that is linked with globalization and with trying to understand how our Christian commitment can help us to interpret and cope with this phenomenon in a credible way. It has not been possible for us to treat of the intricate and complex world of finance, lending and loaning, of banking and bankruptcy. What is attempted is modest: we have taken the inspiration and understanding of the gospel message in so far as it influences our attitudes and gives us an imperative to care for others—our neighbour—as God cares for us and we care for ourselves.

58. Our reflection has led us to spell out ways of conducting ourselves in keeping with the gospel imperative that Jesus followed in his life when he prophetically proclaimed the Reign of God in the world and made loving one’s neighbour a condition for following it. May we live the spirit of the gospel in its understanding of riches and their use and conduct ourselves in this world as sisters and brothers under God our loving Parent.

Jacob Parappally 			                    Antony Kalliath 
President 				                      ITA Secretary