God with us: Gospel in a Groaning World
Our Groaning World
We live in a world marked by several sufferings: “Many continue to reel from the impact of wars; ethnic and religious animosity, discrimination based on race and caste mar the façade of nations and leave ugly scars. Thousands are dead, displaced, homeless, refugees within their own homeland. Women and children often bear the brunt of conflicts: many women are abused, trafficked, killed; children are separated from their parents, orphaned, recruited as soldiers, abused. Citizens in some countries face violence by occupation, paramilitaries, guerrillas, criminal cartels or government forces. Citizens of many nations suffer governments obsessed with national security and armed might; yet these fail to bring real security, year after year. Thousands of children die each day from inadequate nutrition while those in power continue to make economic and political decisions that favor a relative few.”
(An Ecumenical Call to Justice and Peace, Resource Material for International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Kingston, Jamaica, in May 2011, under the theme “Glory to God and Peace on Earth”)
Mission of Responding to the Groans
At its XXVII Quadrennial Assembly in 2012, the NCCI published this message: “We exhort the churches to sensitively listen to the groans of all creation on account of poverty, hunger, lack of clothing, homelessness, and ill-health: groaning over socio-economic injustices caused by patriarchy, casteism, globalization, rising costs of living, unhealthy competition, corruption, oppression and exploitation of tribals and adivasis, eviction of people from their home lands for the sake of so-called development projects, induced migrations, human trafficking, the evils of tourism industry, discrimination of the disabled, people living with HIV and AIDS, LGBTQs, and others who suffer from different kinds of stigma and discrimination; groaning over political-militant injustices caused by communalism and fundamentalism, conflicts, insurgences, terrorist attacks, nuclear arms race and wars for possession of resources; and groaning over technological-consumerist-ecological injustices caused by different pollutants, deforestation, dams, extraction and consumption of non-renewable resources, use of non-bio-degradable materials, causing climate change and other human made disasters.”(Discern and Live the Gospel, Message of the XXVII Quadrennial Assembly of the National Council of Churches in India, 25th to 28th April 2012)
The Christmas Gospel
Yet as Christians, we do not despair. We affirm at Christmas time that God is with us (The word came down and pitched a tent in our midst – Jn.1:14). God is with us in our sufferings and struggles of life (And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross – Phil.2:8). Jesus comes to us with the gospel of liberation and the reign of God (The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor – Lk.4:18-19)
Expressions of the Gospel in our Groaning World
In India today, we witness expressions of the gospel when communities at the margins and their social movements, supported by civil society organizations and churches and other faith based groups, engage in historic struggles to bring about compassion, justice and peace (cf. Statement of the Asian Church Leaders Theological Consultation, Hsinchu, Taiwan, 22 –26 August, 2012 Christian Conference of Asia) :
- the struggles of the Dalits, indigenous people and other socially excluded communities for dignity, self-determination, and identity,
- the advocacy of, and mission and hospitality to migrants, refugees and asylum seekers,
- the innumerable protests against global capitalism and its beastly incarnation in the lives of Asian communities and our commons,
- the bold refusal of women to be adapted passively to the patriarchal structures,
- the rainbow communities (inclusive human communities) that welcome the strangers, the stigmatized, the disabled, the elders, the children and the other, and
- facilities for care, compassion, and counseling.
God with Us (Emmanuel): Gospel in a Groaning World!
Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad
General Secretary, NCCI.