Floods! Fundamentalism! Franchise!

Matters of Public Concern addressed  by the General Body of the National Council of Churches in India in its meeting in Chennai on 29th August 2018

 

  1. FLOODS IN KERALA AND IN PARTS OF KARNATAKA AND TAMIL NADU

The National Council of Churches in India expresses its deep pain and distress over the loss of hundreds of lives due to the massive floods, overflowing rivers and dams, and a series of gigantic landslides which have also displaced tens of thousands of people, causing colossal destruction of their belongings, consequently leading to immeasurable misery and hardship. Not only more than four hundred precious lives have been lost, but also cattle and other livestock have perished. The affected people are subject to suffer from various diseases such as cholera, typhoid and other health hazards. Irreplaceable damage has been caused to the eco-balance of the region.

The NCCI affirms its solidarity with the suffering people and all creation of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamilnadu.

The NCCI appreciates the invaluable disaster relief support rendered by its member Churches and organizations. At the same time it appeals to all the constituent members to continue to provide help in the arduous process of relief and rehabilitation, which lies ahead.

  1. TEN YEARS OF “KANDHAMAL”

The NCCI expresses its deep concern and anguish with regard to the continued suffering of Christian survivors of the Kandhamal massacre even after 10 years of its happening. The carnage was one of the worst of its kind against Christians in the past 100 years. Despite the fact, that in the process of inquiry, many officials have testified that the allegations against Christians are false, the local Christian community still continues to struggle. Many people are still languishing in prison. The rightful compensation on relief and rehabilitation from government is so slow that people are losing hope in their own government.

Right wing fundamental forces are becoming more and more aggressive over the past five years. The NCCI strongly condemns the rather slow, indeed disinterested, action of the concerned authorities in Odisha, and urges the government to pay the announced compensation to the victims, speed up the rehabilitation process, and release the innocent people languishing in prison. Justice delayed is justice denied.

  1. CALL TO RESPONSIBLE CITIZENSHIP

The NCCI urges all Indian Christian citizens to carry out their responsibilities in the country. This concern is urgent because of certain undesirable trends in the country which are on the increase since the past five years. The so called liberalization and development policies and strategies of the government (while apparently benefiting the middles class along with the rich and the millionaires), are constricting, oppressing and exploiting the poor, particularly dalits and tribals/adivasis. The patriarchal and consumerist culture of our society is seriously, indeed cruelly victimizing women and children. Right wing fundamentalism is allied with globalizing  systems, thereby quenching the spirit of democratic secularism which our Indian Constitution affirms. Religious minorities are being hounded. Whether it is our FCRAs, governance of educational institutions, operation of our medical and social services, our freedom to worship and give witness to the gospel, or our food and dress culture, they are all subject to the constricting laws of the ruling authorities and the vigilantism and impunity of fundamentalist forces.  Not only religious minorities but citizens in general are subject to scrutiny. Dissent and criticism are not tolerated; persons are being arrested, being branded as anti-national.

We are also witnessing the political atmosphere getting charged with assembly elections in some states and the country-wide General Elections in 2019 drawing near. It is the bounden duty of the government to ensure peace and free and fair elections.  At the same time the NCCI urges its member Churches and organizations to unite in creating awareness among the people about the importance of making responsible use of our right of political franchise. Voting is our right which would help our country to be back on the rails of true democracy. Christians are therefore urged to be proactive in the participation of the elections.

PRAYER EPISTLE – CONCERN FOR KERALA AND FLOOD VICTIMS

Prayer for Kerala and other Flood Victims

The southern State of Kerala is known as ‘God’s Own Country’. It attracts  numerous global tourists because of  its  beaches, mountains, rivers, back-waters, valleys and forests. The land is thus regarded as  a  miniature expression of the Garden of Eden and God’s wonderful creation.

It is unfortunate that Kerala is reeling under one of its worst flooding disasters in its history.  There are 39 dams in this State; shutters of 35 dams have been opened.

There are 44 rivers in this State, and in 41, water levels have risen above the danger mark; river banks are washed away. Since, it is a land of forests, several land-slides have damaged houses and habitats of the people. The hilly districts of Wayanad and Idukki have received excess rain of 70% and they have got cut-off from the rest of the State due to land-slides and floods.

The Cochin International Airport has been waterlogged; the run way is under 3 to 4 feet of water. Therefore the airport is closed.  Even the road and river transport has come to a stand still in several parts and routes.

As per media reports, the death toll has risen over 60 (as on 15th August) and several are missing. In fact, a Red Alert has been issued in 14 districts. So far the loss estimated is 12,000/- crores. Several have lost their homes, lives, livelihoods, and agricultural fields.Not only have many people lost their dear ones and property, they are also under severe mental stress and anxiety.

While people may discuss the reasons for this calamity, it is a time for the entire Nation and the Global Communities to stretch both hands to embrace our sisters and brothers with our prayers and extend whatever support possible.

The National Council of Churches in India mourns with the people of Kerala. We assures them of our prayers and accompaniment at this time of trial and experience of  crossing the valley of darkness. We hope and pray that the rains will subside and the flood waters recede.

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Appeal to observe AUGUST 10th as “Day of Mourning”

 

August 2, 2018

Warm greetings from NCCI – Dalit and Tribal/ Adivasi Concerns!

National Council of Churches in India – Dalit and Tribal/Adivasi Concerns and Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India – Office for SC/BC jointly appeal to the Churches and organisations to actively participate in observing ‘Day of Mourning’ on 10th August to raise our protest regarding the continual negligence of the government to the cry for the rights of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims in the country.

This year we will use the term “Day of Mourning” instead of ‘Black Day’.  The concept of “Black v/s Fair” comes from the Brahminical mind-set that ‘black is ugly and fair is beautiful’. On the other hand, the Black people and the Dalits hail the colour and the word “Black”, and say “Black is Beautiful”. Hence, when we use the phrase Black Day for August 10th, we are assimilating and accepting the concept that Black is negative, ugly and sad.

The infamous Presidential (Scheduled Caste) Order 1950 was signed on 10th August 1950 by the then President of India. It says “No person who professes a religion other than Hinduism shall be deemed to be a member of the scheduled caste” which was later amended to include Sikhs (1956) and Buddhists (1990) in the Scheduled Caste net. But this law, as we are all aware of, keeps the Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians from the Scheduled Castes list.

We request you to kindly observe ‘Day of Mourning’ on August 10th by organising protest meetings/ rallies/ demonstrations/ hunger fasts/ submitting memoranda/ candle vigils/ special prayers, and other appropriate programmes in your church/institution to express our solidarity with the suffering Christians and Muslims of Scheduled caste origin.

We would appreciate if you send couple of photos and a brief report of the observance to the undersigned.

Thanking you in anticipation,

With regards,

In Christ,

Pradip Bansrior
Executive Secretary,
Dalit and Tribal/ Adivasi Concerns,
National Council of Churches in India.

Email: dataconcerns@ncci1914.com

 

URGENT NEED TO CUT GLOBAL WARMING

There are several challenges that humans in the 21st century have to address. We have created those problems and therefore we are responsible to act to mitigate and resolve them. One such challenge is that of global warming. If we fail to take urgent responsible action, we are the “devils” who will destroy God’s “good” creation!

Therefore Christians have to act!

  1. Churches have to set up active ministries/departments for Ecological Concerns.
  2. We need to join hands with ecological activist movements and government initiatives for ecological preservation (eg. drive against plastics, while offering alternatives) and growth (eg. planting saplings and re-forestation programmes).
  3. Encourage our youth to engage in research on eco-friendly alternatives in all facets of living.
  4. We have to start changing our life-styles and make them eco-friendly. Let us not sacrifice creation on the altar of convenience, consumerism and corporate notions of development.
  5. We need to learn from our tribal/adivasis brothers and sisters how to live in integrated harmony with creation. Let us also learn indigenous people’s sciences.

Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad,
General Secretary,
National Council of Churches in India.

The following article of Lisa Cox in The Guardian on 15th June 2018 highlights the urgency of cutting global warming.

(https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jun/15/leaked-un-draft-report-warns-of-urgent-need-to-cut-global-warming)

Countries can fight climate change and keep warming below 1.5 C if they take immediate measures, says the leaked UN draft report.

The world is on track to exceed 1.5C of warming unless countries rapidly implement “far-reaching” actions to reduce carbon emissions, according to a draft UN report  leaked to Reuters.

The final draft report from the UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) was due for publication in October. It is the guiding scientific document for what countries must do to combat climate change.

Human-induced warming would exceed 1.5C by about 2040 if emissions continued at their present rate, the report found, but countries could keep warming below that level if they made “rapid and far-reaching” changes.

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NCCI Tribal and Adivasi Sunday 2018

Respected Ecumenical Leaders,

Greetings from NCCI- Dalit and Tribal/ Adivasi Concerns!

Tribal and Adivasi Sunday has been celebrated in many parts of our country in sensitizing the local congregation on Tribal and Adivasi Concerns. Thanks to the enormous support we have received from across the churches, dioceses, parishes and institutions in celebrating this special Sunday. This year also we are inviting you to celebrate the Tribal and Adivasi Sunday on 5th August 2018 in your churches/local parishes/institutions.

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A CALL FOR COMMUNITY RESPONSIBILITY

REPENT AND REFORM, O BELOVED COUNTRY!

Shame, O Beloved Country! 

The two recent instances of the shameful rapes of young girls in the states of Jammu and Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh have brought ignominy to India. Such incidents keep on happening. The body of an 11 year old girl was raped, tortured and strangulated to death was found in Surat about 13 days ago. A 17-year-old girl was gang-raped in Patna early on 14th April 2018 in Patna. On the same day a 24 year old woman was said to be gang-raped by two youth on Yamuna Expressway. It is indeed ironic and horrible that Indians, who worship many Goddesses daily, have no respect for the country’s girls and women.

Worse still, in Kashmir as police tried to file charges against the men in the town of Kathua, local lawyers shouted Hindu nationalist slogans and tried to block investigators from entering the courthouse. BJP ministers in Jammu and Kashmir state’s coalition government attended rallies in support of the accused that were organised by the Hindu Ekta Manch, a nationalist group.

Similarly in the Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, the girl who was raped tried to kill herself on April 8, 2018 in front of the home of Yogi Adityanath, Uttar Pradesh chief minister, alleging the police had refused to register her case. A day later, her father died in police custody after he was beaten by Sengar’s brother, who has since been arrested.

Vrinda Grover, a Supreme Court lawyer who specializes in sexual assault cases, remarks, “Systems are manipulated from the investigation stage onwards, the processes of law are subverted by those in power. The Unnao case is the most brazen illustration of this. . . The police facilitated the beating to death of the father of the girl. If the police is going to not act according to the law, but at the behest of the accused, then there can be no hope for justice. Today, law and justice are a mirage that we are offering the women of this country.”

In addition to this culture of sexual violence and rape, there are several other evils our country is experiencing. Religious minority groups, particularly Muslims and Christians, continue to face increasing demonization by hardline Hindu groups, pro-government media and some state officials. Adivasi communities continue to be displaced by industrial projects, and hate crimes against Dalits remain widespread. Authorities are openly critical of human rights defenders and organizations, contributing to a climate of hostility against them. Mob violence, including that by vigilante cow protection groups, is being intensified. Press freedom and free speech in universities has been coming under attack. The Supreme Court and High Courts deliver several progressive judgments, but some rulings undermined human rights. Impunity for human rights abuses persists.

And much it grieves our hearts to think what humans have made of humans!

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