An Ecumenical Call for Global Day of Prayer to End Famine (10th June 2018)

An Ecumenical Call for Global Day of Prayer to End Famine (10th June 2018)

Did you feed me, when I was hungry? Though this was a question posed by Jesus several years hundred years ago, communities and nations who are starving for food and suffering from hunger put forward the same question to the world even today. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, 825 million people in the world are malnourished and therefore are deprived of a healthy life (2017)

Here are some alarming facts about hunger and famine in 2016:

  1. Ninety-eight percent of those who suffer from hunger live in developing countries. 553 million live in the Asian and Pacific regions, while 227 million live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Latin America and the Caribbean account for 47 million.
  2. India has the highest population of hunger. In 2014, over 190.7 million people were undernourished in India.
  3. Approximately nine million people die of hunger every year according to the World Hunger statistics; more than the combined death toll for malaria, AIDs and tuberculosis in 2012.
  4. Over 60 percent of the world’s hungry are women, who have limited access to resources in the patriarchal societies in which they live.
  5. Hunger in women of developing countries causes malnutrition and death of children. Approximately 3.1 million (8500 per day!) children die of hunger each year, and in 2011 poor nutrition accounted for 45 percent of deaths of children under five.
  6. The alarming tragedy is that such deaths take place when the world produces enough food to feed everyone. Food availability per capita has increased from approximately 2220 kcal per person per day in the 1960s to 2790 kcals per person per day in 2006.

In this context, the question of Jesus ‘Did you feed me, when I was hungry?’ in Matt 25: 35 – 40 is not only an indictment of Jesus, but also an experience of several people in the Horn of Africa and elsewhere in the world, who do not have accessibility to adequate food!

Many a time, faith communities( including churches) and even affluent States are comfortable in processing a few philanthropic services in addressing or combating poverty and hunger by providing food grains, rather than seriously looking at poverty and hunger as ‘Justice’ and ‘Human Rights’ issues.

Famine is mostly seen as non-availability of food due to various reasons including draught, war and ecological and natural catastrophes. Moreover, there prevails a view that it is also due to over population. However, the fact is that erroneous and unjust policies of the States and the unjust distribution of food grains cause famine conditions.

Therefore, the World Council of Churches – Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance facilitates this campaign, joining the World Evangelical Alliance and the All Africa Conference of Churches, inviting churches and faith communities around the globe to pray for God’s intervention in the healing of the lands, by sharing enough and healthy food (grains) among the people and also to facilitate the States to develop pro-people policies to ensure healthy food for all citizens.

This ‘Global Day of Prayer to End Famine’ motivates the participating organisations and individuals to affirm “food justice ‘FOR’ all – food-justice ‘OF’ all”.

The idea behind this ecumenical call for prayer is to:

  • Unite the ecumenical partners and faith communities around the globe together in spirit and in action to ministerially and theologically respond to the issues related to famine, poverty, hunger, and malnutrition.
  • Encourage and facilitate their congregations and constituencies to pray for, and reflect and act upon the situation of hunger with information and suggestions.
  • Facilitate the Ecumenical Bodies and Partners to prayerfully work with their respective States to develop pro-people policies to affirm just-distribution of food and health.
  • Bring about concerned awareness regarding impact of famines on the most vulnerable children, women and families and to help address its root causes.
  • Connect with church-related and other humanitarian organisations that are currently working to bring immediate relief and positive long-term change so that children and families can live out God’s aspiration for a dignified, peaceful and violence-free future.
  • Help communities and congregations to uphold each other in prayer and support, by sharing experiences, challenges and solutions.

Hence, the Unity and Mission of the National Council of Churches in India and the Ecumenical Council for Drought and Water Management (ECoDAWM) are  jointly inviting all Members of the NCCI and other faith communities, people’s movements and action groups to observe this day to spread awareness and commit ourselves to act towards eradicating poverty.

We hope all concerned Church and Community leaders will support this effort by organizing meaningful programmes within our churches and organisations.

PLEASE JOIN THIS GLOBAL PRAYER MOVEMENT ON THE 10TH JUNE 2018.

To Know more about the Prayer Day please visit

<https://www.oikoumene.org/en/press-centre/news/wcc-calls-for-global-day-of-prayer-to-end-famine> and  <https://www.wvi.org/learn-more-about-global-day-prayer-end-famine>

To Download Resources Please click:

<https://www.oikoumene.org/en/press-centre/events/global-day-of-prayer-to-end-famine-1>

To join the campaign Please click: (Register Your Church / Organisation)

<https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdbN309d0m_m_QxUFG_eRxi8_ymXBPAhqU-NXrmoC6-hS1WVA/viewform>

Yours in God’s Mission,

Dr. William Stanley

President – ECoDAWM

 

Rev. R. Christopher Rajkumar

Executive Secretary, NCCI – Unity and Mission

 

Most. Rev. Dr. P C Singh

President – NCCI

Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad

General Secretary – NCCI

Green Epistle

Green Epistle to the Indian Churches :

Curse devours the earth  and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt (Isaiah 24:6)

on 

World Environmental Day (June 5, 2018)

Dear Fellow Pilgrims in faith Journey,

Grace to you and Peace from God our Creator!

God created earth and heaven. In the process of creating the cosmos, God  created human beings along with  other earth communities. Unfortunately, due to human greed and irresponsibility, all of God’s earth is polluted with several toxic gases, degradable wastes including plastics. The deep seas are  filled with plastic wastes and consequently the species in the deep seas are adversely affected by plastics. Every year 8-10 million tons of plastic is dumped in the sea.

So also the species on land are afflicted by plastics. Daily we see so many plastic bags lying scattered here and there. Plastic is such a material which cannot be reused. Plastic is damaging our existence. It is estimated that one third of all plastic waste ends up in soils or fresh waters. Most of this plastic disintegrates into particles smaller than five millimetres, referred to as microplastics, and breaks down further into nanoparticles, which are less than 0.1 micrometre in size. In fact, terrestrial microplastic pollution is much higher than marine microplastic pollution – an estimate of four to 23 times more, depending on the environment.

PLASTIC IS A DANGEROUS INVENTION OF HUMANS AND IT NOT ONLY AFFECTS BUT ALSO KILLS THE EARTH COMMUNITIES INCLUDING HUMAN COMMUNITIES. We as faith communities need to be dedicatedly engaged in eliminating the very presence of plastics in our day to day life.  The use of plastic has to be stopped.

In this alarming context of the earth being filled with plastics, UN Environment is making its biggest global call and seeks to mobilize humans for action on 5th  June, World Environment Day (WED). The theme for this year is “Beat Plastic Pollution”. While WED  day has been observed every year since 1973,  from the last couple of decades it is being observed on a larger scale.

We have been experiencing tremendous climate changes since the last few years. These changes have brought  much suffering to living creatures in the various forms: global warming, drought, floods,  landslides, incurable diseases, irregular climate changes and so on . Today the question is ‘How do we as Christians deal with this concern?’

One of the reasons why God created humans is that they should take care of the earth. God has entrusted us with this responsibility. Therefore, whatever good or bad happens,  we are responsible. So far we have not done much in  nurturing, sustaining and protecting God’s creation.

Prophet Isaiah talks about the earth being polluted by its inhabitants. In Isaiah’s context he was talking of earth being polluted by the inhabitants through their disobedience of God’s commandments. This situation  continues even till today; in fact it has become worse. Humans are not only tempted to continue disobeying God but they are destructively tampering God’s creation. Chris Appleby,  in one of his sermons  states:

“The great temptation for Christians as well as for the Jews is the temptation to take God’s  grace for granted; even worse, to feel a sense of superiority, of smugness, because we’re part of  God’s chosen people. The way to overcome that temptation is to remember that with the privilege of being God’s people comes the responsibility to remain faithful; to allow God to be God in every part of our lives.”

Talk about issues faced because of pollution and what can be done about it, is often a topic of discussion in our family and friend circles, but we fail in taking appropriate actions.  Global warming is a curse not only for human kind but also for all  living beings.

 We are responsible for the phenomena of global warming, climate change, and the ever increasing pollution,  and we have to bear the consequences. We have to do something about it.  Today is the time to get into action!  Now the question arises ‘Where do we start?’ and ‘When do we start?’

Therefore to start with, the NCCI – Unity and Mission encourages all its members and the public  at large to give up the use of plastics in our day today life. We have to start  someday,  so why not today? The UN has a very practical slogan this year “If you cannot reuse it, refuse it.” There are few alternatives for plastic which we need to start using. Let us make our campuses and neighborhood ‘PLASTIC-FREE’.

Let us boldly and publicly declare “NO TO PLASTIC !”

Ecologically Yours,

Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad

General Secretary

Rev. Christopher Rajkumar

Executive Secretary – Unity and Mission

 

Global Ecclesial Concern about Populism

Populism, (understood in terms of fundamentalism, communalism,  or nationalism in our contemporary Indian context) is a global challenge for democracy. Nationalist populist movements endorse exclusionary strategies that fragment societies and marginalize people. Churches  should respond by strengthening respect and equal participation, and by widening the civil society discourse  on this critical issue. Presented below is the summary of major findings of an International Public Theology Conference  held in Berlin.

We encourage churches and ecumenical bodies to take on the important responsibility to serving as advocates for justice and pluralistic democracy, and therefore resisters of populism.

 

Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad,

General Secretary, NCCI

Churches as Agents for Justice and Against Populism

Summary of Major Findings

 

When truth falls away from the public square,

righteousness stands far off, and justice is turned back.

Isaiah 59:14

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:21

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Ephesians 4:1-3

 

Introduction

From 2 until 4 May 2018 over 65 participants from 25 countries around the globe gathered at the Dietrich-Bonhoeffer-Haus in Berlin to confer on the theme “Churches as Agents for Justice and Against Populism: Public Theology in Global Intercontextual Dialogue”. The conference opened with words of welcome from the organizers of the event: Evangelische Akademie zu Berlin, the Lutheran World Federation, Brot für die Welt and the Church of Sweden. The opening addresses identified recent trends that suggest a crisis in democracies around the globe. Data shows that the space for meaningful participation of all in political processes and for jointly deliberating on matters of public concern is shrinking. Operational space for civil society actors is narrowing, including for churches and faith based actors, as they encounter difficulties to contribute to critical social and political discourse. Through interdisciplinary dialogue between theologians, ethicists, church leaders and social and political scientists, the conference sought to reinforce and reform the public role of theology, and strengthen the churches’ agency to create inclusive, just and safe participatory spaces within society.

This summary offers a précis of some of our major findings.

 Understanding “Populism” and exclusionary politics

A variety of political, cultural and economic forces are root causes for the phenomena of shrinking democratic space in different contexts. At the outset, the conference discussed that the term “populism” is used to describe a broad range of alleged anti-elitist, anti-establishment reactionary and exclusionary movements. Such movements arise from very different historical and cultural contexts, and therefore deploy diverse conceptual differences, goals and methods that must be understood in their complexity. Exclusionary populism can be understood as a symptom of the crisis of democracy and unjust economic systems, as well as a factor

contributing to the crisis. In Europe and in the US especially, though not exclusively, ethno-nationalist populist movements are a threat to the functioning of democratic principles in societies, and these developments currently threaten to have repercussions in other parts of the world as well.

Exclusionary populist movements make use of some democratic processes to subvert and destroy essential preconditions and values on which democracy depends: a sense of honesty, sincerity, responsibility, respect for the other, compromise etc. Where hate speech, fake news and methods of shallow propaganda enter the center stage of the political discourse, the space for solid and serious democratic negotiation is severely narrowed. The conference sought to identify common features of exclusionary populist discourses that seek to restrict public space and deprive people of their right to participate in democratic processes and to access just living conditions.

Exclusionary populist movements often refer to concerns about unjust distribution of power, wealth or social representation and political participation. They claim to amplify the voice of “the people” and seek “popular sovereignty” against the political power of the so-called “intellectual” or economic “elite”, which gives rise to the term “populism” for this discourse in Northern American and European contexts. When these aspects are coupled with nativist ideologies, ethno-nationalist forms of populism can quickly colonize the public discourse. Nativism circumscribes “the people” in exclusionary terms, putting “the natives” over against others. The conference discussed that these underlying dynamics of exclusionary populism are not restricted to European and Northern American contexts, but are present in other global contexts as well (e.g. the Hindutva ideology in India).

Ethno-nationalist populism seeks to redefine “the people” in binary terms through a process of “othering”. Within that, those in the majority or dominant culture will identify the cultural, linguistic, religious, sexual, racial or gendered “other” as the scapegoat for social or economic anxieties and disparities. By propagating a post-truth climate of distrust of the media and other critical voices, the bases of social cohesion are eroded, and power is consolidated into patriarchal, authoritarian systems.

Ethno-nationalist populist discourse is rooted in a fundamental fear of ambiguity and the complexity of diversity. But the desire to resolve ambiguities through narratives of cultural, religious, racial or national purity results in exclusionary forms of identity politics that deny individuals’ belonging to “the people” and restricts their right to fully participate in society. Exclusion shrinks the public space and restricts access, and is the cause of the crisis as addressed above.

 Churches as Agents for Justice

As a way of creating public space for civil discourse, the conference opened with a public evening panel on the role of the church in times of populism. EKD Presiding Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm called the church to answer the nihilistic populist narratives in Germany with an alternative narrative of hope that is rooted in the good news of God’s love revealed in Christ Jesus. Church of Sweden’s Archbishop Antje Jackelén underlined that the church, even if it also can be influenced by populist discourse, needs to see beyond the short-sighted and reactive politics in societies and act steadfast as a holder of visions. She highlighted the importance of being church as part of a global communion of churches, transcending boundaries of ethnicity and nation.

One of the insights of the conference was that church must always be self-critical. The church should continually ask, is the church different from society, or do we mirror patriarchal, authoritarian, discriminatory or exclusionary structures? Are churches creating spaces that encourage the full participation of every human being? During the conference we were reminded of times in history when the churches have not been able to answer in the affirmative. Churches have denied full participation of women, especially of women of color; churches have denied welcome to the stranger and succour to the needy; churches have denied love to their enemies and to their neighbours. In every generation Christians need to return to the marks of the church and the diverse epistemological sources of faith and wisdom. There we find the theological and spiritual resources that will shape and reform public theology and motivate vocation in civil society as a priesthood of all believers.

Many of our discussions revealed the difficulty of acting in unjust spaces where political persecution, the influence of media and religious fundamentalism challenge the church’s ability to proclaim this inclusive narrative. Racism, sexism, xenophobia make it difficult to consistently bear faithful witness to radical inclusion that overcomes populist binaries. However, we remembered that we are called to be the salt that gives the world a taste of freedom and dignity of all, affirming meaningful participation in democratic procedures. The spiritual and theological heritage of the church provides the tools to challenge the desire to overcome creative ambiguity with simplistic binaries. The church embraces diversity as a gift and complexity as beauty. The church is a people, embodied in a diversity of genders, races, languages, ethnicities and cultures in majority and minority contexts around the world.

Belonging to the church does not depend on purity of any one society, culture, ethnicity, or political system. Rather the inclusive nature of God’s love, which grants justice for every diverse and differently abled body in the world, defines this community and calls people into deep solidarity with every other creature. One implication of this call is to continually redraw the lines of belonging to include those bodies who live under marginalized conditions into new just relationships. The church is a community that witnesses to the life affirming nature of creating communities of ever widening complexity and full participation.

 Conclusion

Conference participants encouraged churches and theological institutions:

 to promote education and spiritual formation as a means to continually transform our communities into non-violent spaces of full, just and safe participation for all,

 to acknowledge that there are different, sometimes conflicting perspectives within the church regarding populism, and to create spaces where these perspectives can be in sincere dialogue with one another to deepen discernment,

 to create spaces for neighbours to experience the transformative nature of ecumenical and interfaith encounter, and to build trust in “the other”,

 to form networks with other actors in civil society, and to establish partnerships with civil society allies who share values and commitments,

 to critically remember where church and theology have been complicit in ethno-nationalist populist agendas and point to the need for repentance,

 to learn about the root causes of injustices, reclaim agency for justice and give prophetic witness against oppressive, exclusionary systems and structures,

 to share narratives of hope, inclusiveness and dignity and reform the narratives that will shape public theology,

 to renegotiate the meaning of justice, liberation and freedom and to rediscover democracy in its contexts.

The conference recognized that while the church has not always acted democratically or used its agency for the liberation of all, the church strives to grow in the knowledge of how to engage in the public space. Democracy needs to be renegotiated in each generation, and churches, while not commensurate to any political system or party, must reinforce their capacity to engage in civil society, and proclaim a prophetic narrative of hope in the public sphere. In this way, we drew on the thinking of two theologians, among others, whose works were important not only for the context where the conference was held, but also for the wider ecumenical movement:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness and pride of power, and with its apologia for the weak. – I feel that Christianity is rather doing too little in showing these points than doing too much. Christianity has adjusted itself much too easily to the worship of power. It should give much more offence, more shock to the world, than it is doing.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Evening Sermon on 2 Corinthians 12:9 (London 1934), in: Dietrich Bonhoeffer Werke 13, Gütersloh 1994, 411)

Dorothee Sölle wrote, “In a theological perspective it is evident that the content of this [right wing Christianity] contradicts the message of the Jewish-Christian tradition. The God of the prophets did not preach the nation-state, but community between strangers and natives… Jesus did not make the family the central value of human life, but the solidarity of those deprived of their rights.” (Dorothee Sölle, The Window of Vulnerability: A Political Spirituality, Minneapolis 1990, 138)

 Conference participants came from: Argentina, Austria, Bethlehem, Brazil, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, Haiti, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Italy, Lesotho, Myanmar, Norway, Poland, Rwanda, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, USA, Zimbabwe.

This is my Last HP!


Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is a Palestinian-led Movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity. (https://bdsmovement.net/what-is-bds).

BOYCOTT HP: GLOBAL CAMPAIGN

Hewlett Packard (HP) plays a key role in Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. (https://bdsmovement.net/boycott-hp)

HP provides and operates much of the technology infrastructure that Israel uses to maintain its system of apartheid and settler colonialism over the Palestinian people. HP Enterprise is the prime contractor of the Basel system, an automated biometric access control system employed within Israel’s checkpoints and apartheid wall. These checkpoints fragment and segregate the Occupied Palestinian Territories and its residents through electric fences, watchtowers, sensors, and concrete barriers. The checkpoint system separates Palestinian workers from their jobs, farmers from their land, students from their schools, patients from hospitals, and families from each other.

The ID cards distributed as part of this system form the basis of Israel’s systematic discrimination against Palestinians. This ID system forms the part of the Israeli apartheid regime’s tiered system of citizenship that gives different rights to different people and leads to institutionalized discrimination in housing, employment, marriage, healthcare, education, and policing.

HP also directly contracts with the Israeli municipalities of Modi’in Ilit and Ariel, two of the largest Jewish-only Israeli settlements in the West Bank, providing them with a range of services.

HP technology helps the Israeli navy enforce the siege on Gaza. HP provides broad IT infrastructure and support services for Israeli occupation forces, particularly the Israeli Navy that maintains the siege on Gaza. Israel’s frequent massacres of Palestinians in Gaza and its siege are deliberately implemented to deny Palestinians their basic rights to life, freedom and self-determination, and to physically segregate them.

HP also provides services and equipment to the Israeli Prison Service (IPS), including providing and maintaining its central server system. Israel’s prison system is used to suppress Palestinian political activity, and to stifle opposition to its policies. By helping Israel run its prisons, HP is at the heart of Israel’s use of mass incarceration to undermine Palestinian opposition to apartheid.

According to Human Rights Watch, “the extraction of confessions under duress, and the acceptance into evidence of such confessions…form the backbone of Israel’s military justice system”. Each year, 500-700 Palestinian Children are arrested, detained and prosecuted by Israel. The ill-treatment of children imprisoned by Israel is “widespread, systematic and institutionalized” according to UNICEF.

THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST HP

As the coalition, Massachusetts Against HP, has noted, HP technology underpins oppressive practices across the world:

  • In the US, HP donated technology to the National Security Agency that play a key part of the NSA’s illegal domestic surveillance programs.
  • HP is a major player in the US prison-industrial complex, providing essential infrastructure to private and public prisons.
  • HP is a ‘Top 20’ provider of military and ‘homeland security’ contracts to the US government and military.
  • HP caters to repressive governments around the world, which use HP network surveillance technology to identify and suppress dissidents, as well as censor information.

The campaign against HP was launched quite recently but has already achieved some important successes:

US churches divest from HP

Friends Fiduciary Corporation, the socially responsible investment firm serving over 300 Quaker institutions in the United States, divested from HP in 2012. The US Presbyterian Church voted to divest from HP in 2014. The United Church of Christ (US) voted to divest from HP in 2015.

Mass mobilization

More than 1.8 million people have signed a petition calling on HP to end its role in Israeli apartheid and settler colonialism. In 2014, 1,000 activists with the Boston for Palestine coalition marched on an HP conference. There is active campaigning on HP across the US, as well as in the UK and Italy. More than a dozen student governments in the US have called on their university to divest from HP.

      16 Million-Strong Organization in India Joins the BDS Movement

In October 2017, the largest national organization representing farmers and agricultural workers in India, All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), announced that it has joined the BDS movement. AIKS is spread across 21 states in India and is over 16 million members strong. (https://www.timesofisrael.com/communist-indian-farmers-join-boycott-israel-movement/)

 AIKS has resolved to:

  • Endorse the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law, in order to stand for the rights of the Palestinian people and to resist the corporate takeover of Indian agriculture sector by Israeli companies.
  • Denounce and document any cases of Israeli corporate takeover in the Indian agro-sector.
  • Raise awareness among Indian farmers to prevent Israel and its corporations from reaping profits in India that finance military occupation and apartheid in Palestine.

TAKE ACTION

HP relies on its good image and its contracts with public organisations, civil society bodies and private businesses. Effective grassroots campaigning can push HP to end its role in Israeli apartheid and settler colonialism. 

The Palestinian BDS National Committee is calling for a boycott of all HP consumer products including laptops, printers and printer ink. Ask consumers not to buy HP products and work with your local retailers to get them to deshelve HP products. 

 

Indian stamp from 1981 expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people.

 

Individuals, churches and indeed all Indians in India are hereby encouraged to join this campaign against HP. In case you are using an HP paste a pledge on your HP, stating that this would be your last HP. You could think of other ways to express your commitment. 

You may also

Sign the international pledge to boycott HP.

Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad,

General Secretary,

National Council of Churches in India

Open letter to The Prime Minister of India

To

Shri Narendra Modi,
The Prime Minister of India

Dear Prime Minister,

Greetings!

This is my third letter to you. This letter comes three days after we in the Church have celebrated Pentecost Sunday. The observance of Pentecost reminds us how people need to be empowered by the Spirit of God to bring about transformation in society, to be channels of justice and peace in the society. Political and religious leaders, engaged in transforming society, are reminded by the words of God: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit.’ And as we celebrated Pentecost Sunday on 23rd May 2018, churches as usual have prayed for God’s Spirit to guide and empower the rulers of our country, a prayer that is said every Sunday in most of our churches in India.

In my first letter (dated 14 April 2017) I wrote to you as an Indian citizen, joining all Indian citizens who are concerned about the state of affairs in our country, India. My second letter (dated 15th August 2017) was addressed to you by me as an Indian spiritual seeker of God’s reign of justice, love and peace in our beloved country India. I had thought I would not write to you anymore, but recent events have moved me in the Spirit to write to you again.

There is too much talk about the politics in our country being vitiated and polarized along religious lines, and propaganda being made that religious minorities are bent upon opposing right-wing forces in the country.  Therefore, indirectly the strategy of fundamentalist forces, in the context of the forthcoming General Elections, is to gain the sympathy and support of the people of the dominant religious community. I am saddened to witness such distortions of the situation in our country, separating citizens from fellow citizens. Read more

PROMOTING GOOD CITIZENRY: BUILDING SECULARISM – A Report

The National Council of India (NCCI) – Youth Concerns in collaboration with the Church of South India (CSI) organised a two-day programme on the theme “Promoting Good Citizenry: Building Secularism” on 4-5 May 2018 at the CSI Synod Center, Chennai, focusing on the rise of intolerance,  promotion of individual responsibility, and building secularism in the country especially among the youth.

Mr. Liju Kuriokose, Youth Vice President, NCCI delivered the welcome address. In his address, he expressed disappointment that the world is getting conservative and exclusive; however youth have the capacity to rise above the situation and to challenge the world to strive for change. Youth need to be prophetic which is beyond foretelling; rather they should be engaged in forth-telling, reforming the situation and being responsible to the future generations to come.

Rev. Dr. D. Rathnakara Sadananda, General Secretary, CSI and the Vice President, NCCI, brought the keynote address on the main theme “Promoting Good Citizenry: Building Secularism”. Questioning the notion of India as a nation where minorities live under the threat of majority and where the country is under a monolithic majority, he asserted that India is a nation of minorities. Whereas people look at secularism as a threat to Christianity in the West, there is a  distinctive positive understanding of secularism in India. Referring to the concept of Sarva Dharma Sambhav (a Hindu concept  which asserts  that all Dharmas (truths) are equal to or harmonious with each other.), he observed that Hinduism – basically a caste-based religion, is now being promoted by right wing elements as an all-embracing religion. Therefore  Dr. Sadananda asserted that Christians have to be vigilant and should be ready  to become a community of hope for all. The theology of prayer is not a prayer to God alone but a prayer with commitment to action. He reaffirmed that the Christian community needs to rethink its being. The Church should never become the majority; it is called to be a minority, to be the salt of the earth. Church should join the choirs of life, a choir that empowers and enriches. He concluded with a challenge to the young people to become the choir that makes a choir of minority.

Rev. Asir Ebenezer, Director, CSI-SEVA, deliberated on the theme “Rise of Intolerance: A Threat to Indian Secularism – Socio-Political Perspectives.” He admitted that a citizen can be of any religion; however the state should be a-religious, being equidistant from all religions and instead focus on all its citizens. Secularism is fundamentally  proactive and progressive, encouraging people not only to tolerate one another but also to live in love and friendship. Rev. Ebenezer added that intolerance is non-juxtaposed to secularism, and it distorts the values and principles of the constitution. Concurrently, a minority community cannot practice selective secularism and secular sectarianism. Intolerance should be checked when churches are engaged in the proclamation of the gospel. Power to fight for secularism comes from our status as rightful citizens under the constitution, and not as having a minority status. Therefore he urged the young people to fight for secularism from the Indian citizenship platform.

Dr. Christopher S. Baskeran, Associate Director – Church Relations & Interfaith Engagement, World Vision India, reflected on the notion of justice and social transformation under the topic “Justice and Social Transformation – Marginalised Perspectives.” Drawing inspiration from Plato’s Republic (c. 380 BCE), he talked about  justice as the quality of being fair and reasonable; theory and practice of administering fairness; and justice as being drawn from law. Dr. Baskeran maintained that social transformation implies a fundamental change in society. In conclusion he asserted that the marginalised sections of the society should be acknowledged and should be given transformative justice (which is biblical), a justice of redemption and restoration, what would  bear witness to  social transformation.

Rev. Solomon Paul, Youth Director, CSI, led a  Bible Study from Matthew 25:14-30 (Parable of Talents) highlighting  the capitalistic approach,   the unequal distribution of wealth, and the exercise of power and authority over the poor.

The programme concluded with a vote of thanks and a prayer by Mr. Jianthaolung Gonmei, Executive Secretary, NCCI-Youth Concerns and Fr. John C Matthew respectively.

CCA invites applications for the Asian Ecumenical Institute-2018

Participants of Asian Ecumenical Institute 2017

The Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) invites applications for the annual session of the Asian Ecumenical Institute (AEI- 2018).

Focusing on the theme ‘Wider Ecumenism in Asia‘s Pluralistic context’, the AEI-2018 will be held from 15 July to 13 August 2018 at the Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The AEI is a month-long annual training programme for young people from various Asian countries come together in an inter-cultural and inter-denominational setting to gain in-depth insights on ecumenism through a variety of learning methodologies.

AEI is designed to increase the knowledge and skills of prospective church and ecumenical leaders in Asia who seek to enhance their engagement in church and society and to assume future leadership positions in the ecumenical movement.

The programme also aims to empower the participants in understanding the concept and ethos of ecumenism while being anchored on a strong sense of rootedness in one’s own faith, tradition, and heritage,- The course outline and the methodology designed for the AEI-2018 will enable the participants to understand the need for  crossing  boundaries of denominational, cultural, social, economic and political strata to recognise the value of  wider ecumenism.

Admissions will be offered  to 25 students who will be selected from among the applicants between ages 25 to 35. Selection of prospective participants will be based on competence, gender and confessional balances, national and sub-regional representations, ability to communicate in English.

The deadline for receiving Applications will be on or before 31 May 2018.

For Application Form and more details about the AEI-2018, please  email <cca.aei@gmail.com> or click the links below:

Asian Ecumenical Institute

AEI 2018 Application Form

(Source: Christian Conference of Asia News)

NCCI gives thanks for the Life and Witness of James Hal Cone

Pic: Wikipedia | James Hal Cone (August 5, 1936 – April 28, 2018)

James Hal Cone (August 5, 1936 – April 28, 2018) was an American theologian, best known for his advocacy of black theology and black liberation theology. His 1969 book Black Theology and Black Power provided a new way to comprehensively define the distinctiveness of theology in the black church. Cone’s work was influential from the time of the book’s publication, and his work remains influential today. His work has been both utilized and critiqued inside and outside the African-American theological community. He was the Charles Augustus Briggs Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York until his death.

(Source: Wikipedia – James Hal Cone).

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ASIA SUNDAY 2018 (May 13, 2018)

Theme: ‘Embracing the Differently Abled and Upholding Their Dignity’.

Respected and Revered Church Leaders and People of God,

Greetings from the Indian Disability Ecumenical Accompaniment  of the National Council of Churches in India!

The Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) has invited the entire Asian Churches to  observe ‘Asia Sunday’ on 13 May, 2018 on the theme, ‘Embracing the Differently Abled and Upholding Their Dignity’.

The Indian Disability Ecumenical Accompaniment of NCCI (NCCI -IDEA) congratulates the CCA Leadership for having chosen the theme concerning The People with Disabilities (PWDs).

The Asia Sunday is observed every year on the Sunday before the Pentecost. But, some of the Indian Churches are observing  Mother’s Sunday on the 13th May. However, we encourage the Church leaders, clerics and people of God to observe the Asia Sunday either on the 13th May or on subsequent Sundays that are convenient to you.

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Tamil Christians protest against violence, harassment

Police are allegedly ignoring attacks on Christians committed by hard-line Hindu groups in southern India.

Christians protest in Coimbatore on April 17 as part of a state-wide protest demanding government action to end violence against Christians in Tamil Nadu. (Pic and article source: UCAN India)

Hyderabad

Thousands of Christians took to the streets during protests across the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu on April 17 to demand government action to stop what they call increasing harassment and violence against Christians.

Some 20,000 Christians from various denominations filled roads in at least 16 cities and towns shouting slogans against government inaction to check anti-Christian activities allegedly carried out by upper-caste Hindu groups.

The Synod of Pentecostal Churches in Tamil Nadu organized the protest as Christians have been subjected to at least 15 cases of violence in the first three months of this year.
Incidents include the mysterious death of a pastor who was found dead a week after he complained to police about harassment from hard-line Hindus.

“We are facing lot of persecution in our state,” synod general secretary K.B. Edison told ucanews.com.
“The peaceful protest was to get the attention of the state and federal government about the serious need for security and protection of the Christian minority.
“In the past four years we have faced many challenges. Our churches are being attacked, they are being burned, pastors’ lives are under threat. We are not able to bear these atrocities. They are even burning Bibles.

“We have approached the state government several times but disappointingly no action has been taken.”
Nehemiah Christie, the synod’s director of legislation and regulations, told ucanews.com that both Protestant and Catholic denominations joined the protest.

He said administrative bodies — including the police — have been apathetic to act against violence committed by Hindu groups because of the strong religious and caste biases in the state.
Catholic Father Gregory Rajan of the Infant Jesus Cathedral of Salem supported the protest. “Hindu extremist forces are behind the attacks,” said Father Rajan.

The priest said a lack of strong political leadership in the state remains a major issue. Tamil Nadu is not ruled by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). But the local political party — named All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam — which runs the government “is depending on the BJP for policy and advice on the affairs of the state. Naturally, the local Hindu forces feel emboldened to attack Christians,” he said.

Published data shows violence against Christians has increased across India since the BJP came to power in New Delhi in 2014 in a landslide victory. Hindu groups took the BJP’s victory as a mandate to step up violence against religious minorities in their push to establish a nation ruled by a Hindu upper-caste hegemony. Attacks have been increasing in India, said Persecution Relief, an ecumenical forum that records Christian persecution in India. There were 736 reported attacks against Christians in 2017, up from 348 in 2016, the forum said.

Local Christian leaders say most of their new members come from the lower strata of the caste-ridden Tamil society. Higher-caste people oppose any Christian gatherings because they believe they pollute their area. Higher-caste people also believe those in economically and socially poor castes can be attacked and harassed with impunity, Christie said.

He said their protest program was supported by some mainstream political parties such as the Communist Party of India and some Buddhist and Muslim leaders in the state.
“It is an assurance that they will stand by us to ensure that the constitutional rights of minorities be protected,” Christie said. “Our demands are very simple. Growing violence against Christians and police complicity are matters of deep concern. We want the government to act to end all forms of fascist aggression against Christians and to uphold the rule of law.”

Christians are the largest minority in the state, forming 4.5 million or some 6 percent of its 72 million people. A majority of them — plus the state’s 4.2 million Muslims — come from castes considered low in the social hierarchy.

 

Source: Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) India (india.ucanews.com)