Report of Meeting on Tuesday 22 May 2018
A talk by The Revd Dr Israel Selvanayagam - a Methodist minister from India
The Revd Dr Israel Selvanayagam was born in in the south Indian state of Tamilnadu on the southern tip of India close to the sea. It was an area where a fishing community had been converted to Christianity through the Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier, so there were many Roman Catholics as well as Muslims and Hindus from the Saivite tradition there. During the tsunami in 2004 the area was badly hit, so the local church opened its doors for people to take refuge. Israel's family belonged to the Church of South India, a Church which came into being in 1947 and united former Anglicans, Methodists and Presbyterians. [Similar churches were founded in north India, Pakistan and Bangladesh in 1970.]
At 18 Israel offered himself for ordination and began work in the church. He went to the seminary at Madurai, a great Hindu centre and learnt about Hindu and the other local faiths in his area. His aim was to learn as much as he could and to dialogue with other faiths to help everyone to understand each other better. Learning this ministry he was sent to spend time in different areas in India. In some areas where he set up interfaith meetings he found resistance from the local faith community. In one area he wanted to set up a rehab centre to help the beggars who were lying around the entrance to some churches but objection from the religious leaders would not allow him to go forward with this idea.
Later Israel taught in Madurai, and studied Hinduism in Cambridge. He has been head of colleges in India and in England, and also been a pastor in both countries. He is currently Methodist minister at Evesham. His watchword is 'Commitment and Open-ness' - commitment to his own faith and open-ness to all others.
Philippa Chatterley & Christopher Lamb