Open letter to The Prime Minister of India.

To

Shri Narendra Modi,
The Prime Minister of India

Dear Prime Minister,

Greetings!

Though a Christian pastor, and serving the National Council of Churches in India as its General Secretary, I am writing this open letter to you as an Indian citizen, joining all Indian citizens who are concerned about the state of affairs in our country, India

You have been giving the country very impressive slogans about its future, be it “Achhe Din!” or “New India!” Harping on “Development” you have been advocating and initiating schemes such as “Make in India”, “Skill India”, “Start-up India”, “Digital India”, “Smart Cities”, etc.

The question which many would like to ask: Achhe Din for whom? New India for whom? The Preamble to the Constitution of India gives us a vision for all citizens:

We the People of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic, and to secure to all its citizens:

JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;
and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation

However many people who belong to your government, party, and other likeminded bodies give us a different picture of Achhe Din and of New India where the values of Justice, Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity are stifled. “Vigilantism” has become a popular methodology of such persons and bodies.

Cow Vigilantism: Cow reverence and cow protection has become a very serious concern among such people. They claim that the cow represents their religion and culture. I appreciate the cow symbol as it represents love, compassion, service, sacrifice, and non-violent living. People, when they become politically emotional about this symbol, tend to give expression to hatred, cruelty, harm, murder, and violent life-styles. I wonder whether the cow would approve of such things done in her name. Read more

Easter Message from General Secretary of NCCI – “Who will roll away the Stone? Any Easter Hope?”

The crucifixion and burial of Jesus in the tomb was not merely an individual tragedy. It symbolized something much deeper. His death and entombment marked the end of the hope of the Jews of his time to be delivered out of the Roman bondage and of the vision of Messianic rule.

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth (Isa.11:1-4).

The travellers on the road to Emmaus express this utter disappointment when they lamented, “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened.”(Lk.24:21) The tomb-stone had dashed the hopes of the people for the coming of the reign of God. Even today people in India have been waiting expectantly for “Achhe Din!” Listen to a report from Abhinav Rajput and Prawesh Lama in Hindustan Times, updated on February 6, 2017:

Rocking the youngest of his five children in his arms, street vendor Daata Ram watches his wife tend to two sick cows whose milk once supplemented their meagre income. The 66-year-old’s family of seven survives on what he now makes by selling small quantities of puffed rice in Pandra Sikanpur, a one-street, hardscrabble town of 5,000 in Uttar Pradesh. “I took a loan of Rs 30,000 to buy those cows but I think they are no good now,” says Ram, who uses a fourth of his monthly earnings of Rs5000-6000 to repay the local moneylender.

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A “Good Friday” reflection

‘Happy Good Friday to you’, greeted my learned Hindu friend, one Good Friday, though I was puzzled about the prefix ‘Happy’. I thanked my friend and we departed.

This unusual greeting set me thinking about my own faith and the faith of my friends living in a religious pluralistic society like ours.  From my Hindu friend’s point of view any religious observance is basically both Good and Happy.  More so, because, Friday of the Holy Week is universally known as ‘Good Friday’.  The numerous Greetings like ‘Happy Diwali’, ‘Happy Id’, ‘Happy Christmas’, ‘Happy Dushera’, etc are exchanged in India.  While it does denote secular outlook and religious tolerance it also shows that individuals lack a true understanding of each other’s faith. One’s faith is regarded as a purely personal matter and is to be observed on certain designated occasions.  This was true prior to the coming of Jesus Christ who revolutionized the world view of Religion, Faith and The life of people.

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Christmas message from NCCI General Secretary: “LOVE CAME DOWN AT CHRISTMAS!”

We live in a loveless world

We live in a loveless world. Our systems and structures are unjust: the caste system oppresses scheduled castes (dalits) and backward classes;  globalization favours the rich at the cost of the poor; development programmes displace the tribals and adivasis from their homelands; ceaseless wars and terrorist activities exterminate hundreds of innocent lives and render several thousand as refugees; expressions of fundamentalism suppress minorities;  the patriarchal system victimizes women and children; a competitive world frustrates several struggling  youth; our busy life leaves no time for families to care for one another ; consumerism depletes the earth’s resources and pollute nature; … indeed the list is unending.

 A lyric, entitled “A World without Love,” expresses utter disappointment with such a world:

Please lock me away, And don’t allow the day,
Here inside where I hide, With my loneliness
I don’t care what they say, I won’t stay  In a world without love

 Love given to a loveless world

Read more

Articles regarding Uniform Civil Code

We are happy to circulate newspaper articles related to the topic of Uniform Civil Code written by different authors. We hope that these materials will help you to broaden your understanding on this subject.  When you respond to the Law Commission, kindly mark a copy to NCCI, Delhi Office also for further follow- up.

Samuel Jayakumar
Executive Secretary
Commission on Policy, Governance and Public Witness, NCCI


October 18, 2016

Deciding issues of personal law

The Supreme Court can and must make a pronouncement on the widely excoriated practice of triple talaq

Wajahat Habibullah, a retired civil servant, has served as Chief Information Commissioner and Chairperson of the National Commission for Minorities.

Thirteen years ago, Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, pleaded in a piece titled ‘Unifying personal laws’ in The Hindu (September 6, 2003): “My powerful plea is that the personal laws may be reformed from within, without a quantum leap into a common code. Remarkable changes in Islamic laws are possible without violating the Quran but adopting progressive hermeneutics.” The issue described as ‘triple talaq’ has unnecessarily been confused with the issue of a uniform civil code, thus thrusting India’s minority Muslim community into the defensive. But this dilemma is essentially a question of whether the Supreme Court can pronounce on an issue of personal law. It is my case that it not only can, but must.

Ruling in the Shah Bano case

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Bishop Dr. P. C. Singh’s Presidential Message: Our Vision and Mission

OUR VISION AND MISSION

Dear Ecumenical Colleagues,

I thank God along with you for a century-long ministry of the National Council of Churches in India.  I welcome all of you to this new quadrennial period of renewed vision and commitment.

I am grateful to all of you for unanimously electing me to be the President of this national ecumenical movement which, in the past, had been led by great ecumenical leaders like Bishop Vedanayakam Azariah.  All the members of the Presidium will be working as a team.  I request the full support of my friends.

Let me take this opportunity to bring greetings from Church of North India of which I am the Deputy Moderator and also from the Diocese of Jabalpur where I serve as its Bishop.  We were privileged to host the quadrennial assembly of NCCI from 27 to 30 April, 2016 in Jabalpur.  Our diocese was greatly blessed by your presence and participation.

It is only appropriate to reflect on our vision and mission for the new quadrennial period and future years.  As all of us know, NCCI has initiated a Strategic Planning Process (SPP) which also involved a light assessment of NCCI’s life and work (Jan-Feb 2013)

The main objectives of the SPP were to:

  • Articulate a vision and mission of NCCI
  • Spell out the implication of such a vision for the mission of the NCCI
  • Draw out the implications of the mission statement for the structure of NCCI and its governance
  • Give directions and functional policies for the existence and relevance of NCCI

I have drawn major insights of this “Vision and Mission” paper from the findings and recommendations of the SPP.  To those I have added insights from my own experience a minister of the Church.

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Meditation on ‘Inclusiveness’

Introduction: “Gospel in a groaning world” was the theme of the previous quadrennial.  The present quadrennial has the theme “Towards Just and Inclusive Communities”.  During the assembly we deliberated on this theme in detail.  This morning I wish to share some thoughts on the theme of “inclusiveness”.

Inclusiveness in simple terms means comprehending everything, containing everything and including everything.  In human terms it means accepting and respecting others who are different from us, giving opportunities to those who are marginalized, and working towards a community without discrimination of gender, caste and creed.

What does this term mean in our Christian faith?  What are its implications in our community life?  These are some of the questions we need to deal with.

There are three main principles of Inclusiveness

Principle 1. God is the most important principle.  Col.1:17 says that God is the basis of all things.  We can call this principle also as unity in creation.  It is by the word of God (divine fiat) that all things were created.  Human beings were designed by God’s hand.  The source is the same.  Therefore, all creation will have to be finally restored to God.  That is God’s purpose.

Principle 2.  Life and its resources.  Life is a gift from God.  It is a common factor for all creation.  Life has many forms.  Think of the simple common things that we share as part of our life-sustaining system.  The air we breathe, the water we drink, the sunlight we enjoy are some of them.  All creatures share them.  All of them originate from God.  People belong to different religions and faiths.  Yet, we are all grounded in the same source – life.  So, life has priority over religions and faiths.  The life which comes to us as a gift from God binds us all together.

Principle 3. Jesus Christ, He is the most powerful symbol of inclusivity.  All things were created through him and all things which were created came into existence only through him (Jn.1)

 

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NCCI XXVIII Quadrennial Assembly reflection

NCCI QUAD ASSEMBLY 2016 BANNER for web

 Towards Just and Inclusive Communities

When the NCCI was first formed in 1914, the key verse which brought all the constituent units together was John 17:21 – “That they may all be one.” The emphasis was primarily on ecclesial togetherness in bearing witness to the gospel in India. Hundred years later, the key verse of the NCCI could well be said to be Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The emphasis is on giving expression to the several facets of togetherness: ethno-political, economic, social, and theological. Implied, within this verse from Galatians 3:28, is the concern for justice, love, and all embracing togetherness in society.

Concerns about Injustice and Exclusivity in India

The cry for justice and inclusivity arises within a context of socio-political, economic, cultural and other challenges in the country. While one cannot look at each of them in detail, a discussion of a few major ones will highlight the concern for promoting justice and inclusivity in the land.

 

The Evils of Caste and Ethnic Bigotry

Rohith Vemula was a Ph.D. scholar at the University of Hyderabad; he was a Dalit; he belonged to a poor family in Andhra Pradesh; he had dreams in his eyes; he loved science, stars and nature; he wanted to be a writer, a science writer. But on January 17, his life was cut short; he committed suicide. In his farewell suicide note, he lamented that “the value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing.” (cf. Cedric Prakash, “Murder Most Foul”, Indian Currents, 25 – 31 January 2016, p.36)

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An Open Letter to the Prime Minister of India on the occasion of 107th International Women’s Day, 8 March 2016

download (1)Dear Hon’ble Prime Minister,

We, the undersigned women’s organizations and other concerned groups, convey our greetings on the occasion of 8th March, Women’s Day. This day has been celebrated for more than a hundred years to commemorate the women’s movement’s struggles for equality, justice and peace across almost all countries of the world.
On this memorable occasion, we are aware that you and your colleagues will be making speeches and statements to indicate how much this nation values the contribution of its women to the country’s progress. We expect that many will praise women as mothers, caring family members and hard workers; we hope some will acknowledge the diverse struggles of women everywhere in securing freedom from violence and ensuring peace.

We appreciate your earlier efforts to promote the value of daughters and encourage education for the girl child. We therefore look forward to more announcements from you this year that will indicate just how much this nation, and your government, shows appreciation for the women of this country. We would especially like to draw your attention to women’s work that produces food, goods, services, and care for the household as well as children who will be the future workforce of India; yet women’s care work continues to remain invisible, unsupported and unshared. You must have noticed how everywhere women work simultaneously in fields, forests, water bodies, and at home; providing water, fuel, fodder, cooking, cleaning, caring of children, sick, elderly, yet they are often unpaid and sometimes get much lesser wages than men on farms, work sites, factories, and markets. In fact unpaid care and household work by women, even though it is ten times as much as men, remains unrecognized and unaccounted for in the System of National Accounts (SNA).

The McKinsey report (The Power of Parity, 2015) points out how the gender gap in employment is exacerbated by unfair conditions for working women who become pregnant. In India 95% women workers are in the informal and unorganized sector and do not receive any wage compensation during pregnancy and after childbirth, although we expect them to rest, gain weight, improve their own health and then provide the baby with exclusive breastfeeding for six months. The Economic Survey of India 2016 (Ministry of Finance, Government of India) points out that ‘42.2% Indian women begin pregnancy too thin and do not gain enough weight during pregnancy’ and recommends that ‘some of the highest economic returns to public investment in human capital in India lie in maternal and early life health and nutrition interventions.’

Sir, on the occasion of Women’s Day we would earnestly request you to announce some substantial entitlements for women that would show very tangibly how much this country values women’s contribution to society and their families: as workers, as mothers and as valuable members of communities.
I.  At the very least, we expect your leadership in immediate implementation of the National Food Security Act 2013, within which:
a.    The Central Scheme for Maternity Entitlements should immediately be up-scaled from its pilot phase into at least 200 high-priority districts especially including those with a larger proportion of tribal (ST) population. The universal guarantee of at least Rs. 6000/- is only to be read as a beginning, and it should subsequently be rationalised as wage compensation.

b.    Maternity entitlements in all sectors must be universal and unconditional, and not linked to the number of children or age of the woman, as that is fundamentally discriminatory to both women and children.
c.    Supplementary nutrition through locally prepared foods – preferably hot cooked meals to be supplied to all pregnant and lactating women at the local Angawadi centre. The money invested for such a meal is highly inadequate currently under the ICDS program, leading to poor quality and quantity of the supplementary nutrition,
d.    The public distribution system must provide universal access to 10 kgs of cereals, I kg of pulses and 1 kg of oil rations under the NFSA.

II. We also hope within a short time to see:
a.    The progressive realization of nine months of maternity leave (three months before childbirth to six months after) with full compensation of wages for all women, calculated at least according to minimum wages at prevalent rates. This revision of the Maternity Benefits Act (1961) should recognize women’s work in all spheres, markets, domestic, for care and reproduction and subsistence; and guarantee maternity entitlements to all pregnant women, adoptive parent(s), surrogate mothers etc without discrimination.

b.    Large scale campaigns that call upon men to increase their contribution to care work and domestic chores, and reduce the burden on women.

c.    Creche and breastfeeding facilities at every work place and community (through Anganwadi-cum-creches) to be made mandatory to ensure women can continue to work and care for the infant.

d.    Financial resources for maternity entitlements and crèches should come from all economic activities in the country  as a state obligation to ensure entitlements and services, since reproduction is a social function which benefits the family, society and the nation.

Sir, on the occasion of Women’s Day, while paying compliments and appreciating the role of women, we are sure the government would want to change the embarrassingly inadequate allocation of 400 crores for Maternity Entitlements against the requirement of 15000 crore annually.  We urge you to translate rhetoric into action by allocating resources for social security in maternity, and acknowledging unpaid reproductive work done by women in this country, even as you greet them on this Women’s Day.

Letter prepared by:

National Alliance For Maternal Health And Human Rights (NAMHHR), the ECD Alliance, the Working Group for Children Under Six and the Right to Food Campaign, India  


endorsed by :

All India Council of Christian Women


click here for the Open Letter to church leaders and to the Prime Minister of In

2015 Christmas Message from Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad, General Secretary of NCCI

NCCI 2015 Christmas ecardCHRISTMAS MESSAGE

What significance does the celebration of Christmas have for us in India this year?

In a country where 25th December is being promoted by the Government as Good Governance Day, when in reality the large body of citizens is being adversely affected by the political manipulation of governance, the message of Christmas comes to us in Isaiah 9:6-7

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

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