Independence Day 2017 – Open letter to The Prime Minister of India

To,
Shri Narendra Modi,
The Prime Minister of India.

Dear Prime Minister,

Greetings!

On Good Friday 14th April 2017 (The Day commemorating the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, instigated by the communal minded right wing religious and political leaders of the time), I had written an open letter to you expressing my concern as an Indian citizen about the state of affairs in the country. Perhaps you were too busy to respond to that letter or you thought it unnecessary to respond to an ordinary Indian citizen’s mann ki baat (which I could not transmit on national communication systems).

This time I write to you as an Indian spiritual seeker of God’s reign of justice, love and peace in our beloved country India.  As all Indians go on to celebrate Independence day on 15th August 2017, and as we keep on hearing statements which stereotype Christians as being aliens or as being people whose patriotism is questioned, I would like to draw your attention to a very strong statement (with my added emphasis) made on “Church and State in Post-War India” by the National Council of Churches in India (an ecumenical body of Indian Protestant and Orthodox Tradition churches representing around 14 million Christians today) in its Council meeting in 1944[1]:

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Jharkhand Church and Civil Society Leaders condemn Advertisement of Government

12th August 2017, Saturday

Press Statement

Issued by Jharkhand Solidarity Forum, Religious Organisations and Civil Society Organisations

We the members of Jharkhand Solidarity Forum, Religious Organisations, and Civil Society Organisations, protest and condemn the advertisement issued by the Information and Public Relations department of the Jharkhand government, published on 11th August 2017, on the front pages of Prabhat Khabar, Hindustan, Dainik Bhaskar and other newspapers.

This advertisement is an attempt to disrupt and damage the religious harmony and brotherhood between various communities and the Adivasi community by accusing the Christian community of conversions and using the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, without understanding the context.

Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation, believed in all religions and was strictly against dividing people on the basis of religion. Using his name to divide people is an insult of the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi. Along with this, it is also a conspiracy by the state government to divide the people on the basis of religion. Together, we warn the state government that we will not let any such attempt by the state, to be successful.

We are against forcible conversions and we believe that the state government should not indulge in the politics of dividing people using forcible conversions as an excuse. We believe that religion is a matter of a person’s individual faith and belief and that the state should not unnecessarily intervene into that domain. Secondly, we also believe that all citizens have the right to profess, practice and propagate their religion according to their conscience as provided by the constitution.

This is a first incident of its kind where a state government is dividing people on the basis of religion especially Christians and minorities. Whereas it is the duty of the state to unite people, this government is misusing government machinery and public money to divide people. We strongly protest and condemn this step taken by the government, which is a hindrance in obtaining a peaceful and democratic society.

Released in Public Interest by Jharkhand Solidarity Forum, Religious Organisations and other Civil Society Organisations.

 

Kendriya Sarna Samiti Jamiatul Ulema e Hind Jharkhand Alternative Development Forum
All Churches Committee Jharkhand Nagrik Prayas Adivasi Mahasabha
Jharkhand Solidarity Forum Sikh Fedration Jharkhand Dahar Womens Front
Sajha Kadam Sajha Manch Youth Revolution Ulgulan
Adivasi Youth organisation Lok Seva Samiti United Mili Forum
Farmers Struggle Front Aadivasi Intellectual Forum Sarv Dharm Samanvay Parishad, Ramgarh
Association for Protection of Civil Rights and other religious and social organizations

Black Day Observance in Delhi

 

Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims observe

10th August as a BLACK DAY

In Delhi, Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims observed Black Day on August 10th 2017 at Jantar Mantar. We  expressed our dissatisfaction over the discriminatory paragraph 3 of the Presidential Order of 1950 and demanded SC status for Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims. It was organised by National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) Delhi Office and Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) Office for SC/BC. Around 100 members participated in the protest. We  also submitted a memorandum to the President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind.

Samuel Jaykumar,

Executive Secretary, NCCI

 

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NCCI invites Churches to Engage in Advocacy on World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on 30th July

 

Slavery exits in your front yard . Human Trafficking is Modern Day Slavery .  

How equipped are your churches , congregations , pastors, and missionaries  to end  Human  Trafficking ?

A pastor from one of the member churches of NCCI in Delhi shared that his congregation members comprises mainly migrant workers from Jharkhand and other tribal belts in India .  He mentioned many of the young girls in his congregation who migrate to be domestic workers are at high risk of being trafficked.

Revd. Jyoti Samuel Singh an ordained woman minister from Church of North India, former Executive Committee member of NCCI,  while promoting the “365 Days Zero Tolerance to Gender Based Violence: Make it Happen Now!” Campaign of NCCI shared a similar concern regarding the vulnerability of women and children who are members of our congregations and communities. “ We have to take action and do something to end this modern day slavery and we have to do it now.” asserts Revd Samuel.

Facts about Human Trafficking in India 

  • Oxytocin injections  which are given by farmers to Cows and buffaloes to increase milk production are given to children trafficked in India and South Asia  to speed up puberty.
  • 80% of the human trafficking is related to sexual exploitation, while the rest is bonded labour  organ trade. India is allegedly the hub of these crimes in Asia.
  • West Bengal is the hub of human trafficking in India, followed by Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra. Delhi is the transit point.
  • Jharkhand is counted as one of the states most vulnerable for trafficking of women and children according to a report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Much of the trafficking is done by placement agencies that are actually organised crime syndicates.
  • As per a report by the National Human Rights Commission of India, only 10% of human trafficking in India is international; the remaining 90% operates inter-state.
  • According to government data, every eighth minute, a child goes missing (trafficked) in India.

(cf. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-2941836/Red-alert-oxytocin-injections-given-child-prostitutes-speed-puberty.html;  Mohana Basu, “Juvenile Trafficking: Glimpses of Kolkata”, International Research Journal of Interdisciplinary & Multidisciplinary Studies (IRJIMS),Volume-II, Issue-XI, December 2016, Page No. 103-110; accessed on 29th July 2017)

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NCCI Congratulates Church of South India for its Endeavors to Formulate Gender Justice Policy to Build Just Inclusive Communities

 

Consultative Group of Church of South India  Gender Justice  Policy

The Consultative Group for Church of South India (CSI)  Gender Justice  Policy met at CSI Centre under the leadership of Rev. Dr. D.Rathnakara Sadananda, General Secretary, CSI and Rev. Asir Ebenezer, Director, CSI-SEVA on 26th July 2017 to deliberate on the formulation of a Gender Policy for CSI.   11 core group members attended this important meeting. NCCI accompanied CSI in this process through  the representation of Ms Moumita Biswas – Executive Secretary of Women’s Concerns Ministry, being part of the Consultative Group .

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Consultation on “Prophetic Role of Church Leaders in the midst of Injustices” held from 4-6 July 2017 at Durgapur.

National Council of Churches in India – Dalit and Tribal/Adivasi Concerns
in partnership with EMW-Germany, Christian Service Agency and Diocese of Durgapur-CNI

Consultation on “Prophetic Role of Church Leaders in the midst of Injustices”
Date:  4th  – 6th  July 2017
Venue: Diocesan Bhavan, Aldrin Path, Bidhan Nagar, Durgapur (W/B)

The Church has been in solidarity with the oppressed and the marginalized, but the time has come when solidarity in spirit alone is insufficient to resurrect failing courage, and hopelessness, in the wake of injustice and atrocities perpetrated on vulnerable sections of society, particularly on Dalits, Tribals and Adivasis, setting their life and livelihood at risk, affecting them physically, mentally and spiritually, and destroying the collective will of survival. The time has come to recognize that the engagement of the Church is the need of the hour, as it stands for values of the Reign of God and ‘just-peace’ for all. The Church has to be sensitive to the struggles of Dalits, Tribals and Adivasis and cannot remain a mute spectator to atrocities inflicted on them in terms of marginalization, loss of identity, dehumanization, trafficking and displacement caused by lop-sided development. It has to redefine the meaning of “Justice” in the context of globalization that seeks to exploit natural resources without considering its impact on the indigenous people, and ensure a life of dignity, peace and security for Dalits. It has to be inclusive, acknowledging Jesus as the dynamic ideal and model for ensuring justice.

In order to make the Church leaders of member churches and regional councils, who are involved in working with Dalits and Tribals/ Adivasis, well acquainted with the new developing forms of oppression and resistance, NCCI-Dalit and Tribal/Adivasi Concerns, in partnership with Evangelisches Missionswerk in Deutschland  (EMW, Germany), Christian Service Agency and Diocese of Durgapur – Church of North India (CNI) organized a three days consultation for Central and Northern region of India on the theme “Prophetic Role of Church Leaders in the midst of Injustices” from 4th – 6th July 2017 at Diocesan Bhavan, Aldrin Path, Bidhan Nagar, Durgapur. A total of 37 Church Leaders from member churches and regional councils of central and northern regions of India participated. The goal of the consultation was to highlight the Prophetic role of Church leadership in the context of oppression. It also endeavored to explore on how, under ever changing discriminative circumstances, the ministers of the church can render service that builds up the oppressed. The consultation started with a creative worship service led by Mr. Pradip Bansrior, Executive Secretary- Dalit and Tribal Concerns-NCCI along with a team, during which a reflection was given by Rev. Vijay Kumar, Vice- President of Diocese of Amritsar and a member of North West Frontier Council of Churches. Following the inaugural worship, Mr. Pradip Bansrior welcomed the delegates and resource persons and shared the purpose of the consultation and also extended his sincere thanks and gratitude to Rt. Rev. Dr. Probal Kanto Dutta, Bishop of Diocese of Durgapur for hosting the consultation in the Diocese of Durgapur, CNI.

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NCCI Interns’ orientation 2017

A two-day orientation programme for the interns of National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) was held on 15th -16th June 2017. Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad, General Secretary, along with the Executive Secretaries and the interns attended the programme. Six sessions were conducted all together where the Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad took up the first session. The second session was taken up by all  the Executive Secretaries together, third session by Rev. Caesar David, fourth session by Rev. Christopher Rajkumar, fifth session by Mr. Ashish Mane, Finance Officer-NCCI and Mr. Vijayan Pillai, Programme Coordinator-ESHA Inclusive, and the last session was an interactive session moderated by the General Secretary.

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WCRC joins declaration to overcome Reformation divisions

The World Communion of Reformed Churches has formally joined an ecumenical statement with Roman Catholics, Lutherans and Methodists aiming to overcome divisions between Protestants and Roman Catholics from the time of the Protestant Reformation.

“Today is a historic day,” said Jerry Pillay, president of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), at a ceremony on 5 July in the eastern German town of Wittenberg, where Martin Luther lived and worked. “The documents we are signing today are significant and symbolic of the road we are to travel.”

Pillay was speaking as the WCRC, which groups more than 225 Protestant churches worldwide, formally associated itself with the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, originally signed by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Roman Catholic Church on 31 October 1999.

“Catholics and Lutherans stated that a ‘consensus in basic truths exists between Lutherans and Catholics’ in regard to the theological controversy with was a major cause of the split in the Western church in the 16th century,” said Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity during in the ceremony.

The declaration stated that mutual condemnations pronounced by the two sides during the Reformation do not apply to their current teaching on justification.

The congregation at Wittenberg’s Stadtkirche (Town Church), broke into spontaneous applause as WCRC General Secretary Chris Ferguson and Catholic, Lutheran and Methodist representatives signed a statement confirming the WCRC’s association with the joint declaration.

“Today we are not only signing a statement, we are building a church together,” said the Rev. Najla Kassab from Lebanon in her sermon at the service in the Stadtkirche, where Luther used to preach.

The ceremony took place in the year marking the 500th anniversary of Luther’s denunciation of church corruption in his 95 Theses, an event that helped set in motion the Reformation and centuries of division between Protestants and Catholics.

“The present achievement and commitment are viewed by Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists and Reformed as part of their pursuit of the full communion and common witness to the world which is the will of Christ for all Christians,” said WMC president Jong Chun Park.

Pope Francis, in a message read by Bishop Farrell, described the ceremony as “an eloquent sign of our commitment to walking together, as brothers and sisters in Christ, on a journey from conflict to communion, from division to reconciliation.”

During the service, the LWF and the WCRC also signed a “Wittenberg Witness” pledging to strengthen cooperation and joint action.

“We commit ourselves to redouble our common efforts to embody our unity, together resisting the forces of injustice and exclusion,” said Martin Junge, LWF general secretary.

At the service there were prayers of repentance and lamentation for past divisions and wrongs, and commitments to work for unity and justice.

“The Reformation taught us accountability,” said Kassab in her sermon.

“Wherever we are in the church we are held accountable,” said Kassab, who was ordained in March as the second female minister in the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon. “Today we are reminded of Luther’s words from his pulpit, ‘A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.’”

All human beings are valuable in the eyes of God no matter what their colour or gender or race or passport, she said.

“Here I stand, a Middle Eastern women in the pulpit of Luther,” said Kassab, to spontaneous applause. “If only Luther had imagined this, this could have been his 96th question to the church. Not, ‘Why there is a women in this pulpit?’, but ‘Why did take so long?’”

The ceremony in Wittenberg took place during the WCRC General Council which has brought about 1000 participants to the eastern German city of Leipzig.

The WCRC groups more than 225 Protestant churches with a combined membership of about 80 million Christians in Congregational, Presbyterian, Reformed, United, Uniting and Waldensian churches in over 100 countries. Its offices are in Hannover, Germany.

(By Stephen Brown. Article and pictures source: WCRC Press Release July 5, 2017 | http://wcrc.ch/news/wcrc-joins-declaration-to-overcome-reformation-divisions)

NEICC letter to the Ministry of Law and Justice with reference to report no. 267 of the Law Commission of India.

North East India Christian Council (NEICC), a regional council of the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) has written a letter (see below) to Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, Cabinet minister, Ministry of Law and Justice of the Government of India requesting not to bring amendments to the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973 as per proposal made by the Law Commission of India, namely, The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2017. This is with reference to Report no. 267 of the Law Commission of India dated March 2017.

Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad, General Secretary of NCCI appreciates NEICC for the initiatives they are taking. Since it is important to communicate and make known our concerns, he urges Churches and councils to write on specific issues and concerns to corresponding authority bodies. Read more

Chief Minister of West Bengal State Receives UN Highest Public Service Award for Girl Child Project ‘Kanyashree’

Ms Mamata Banarjee – Honourable Chief Minister of West Bengal State  receiving UN Honours for Highest Public Service Award for Girl Child Project ‘Kanyashree’ ( source: www.indiatoday.indiatoday.in )

 The National Council of Churches in india  congratulates  Ms Mamata Banarjee  Honorable Chief Minister of West Bengal State for receiving the prestigious award by United Nations for ‘Revolutionizing Girls Education and Women’s Empowerment’ through ‘Kanyashree Project’. ‘Kanyashree’ was ranked the best among 552 such social sector schemes from across 62 countries that were nominated for the coveted award. The award was presented at the World Public Service Forum by UN Assistant Secretary General at a ceremony in Hague in Netherlands.

The project was launched soon after Mamata Banerjee came to power in 2011  and has helped more than 40 lakh female students in the state. ‘Kanyashree’ scheme for the empowerment of girls including prevention child marriage and education.

‘Kanyasree’ Scheme: The scheme has two parts – a one-time payment and an annual scholarship – and will be available to families whose annual income is less than Rs 1.2 lakh. The one-time payment of Rs 25,000 will be made to the family of a girl if she is part of the education stream and not married off till 18 years of age.

Under the scheme, girl students are being given annual financial grant and a bank account is opened in the name of each girl student where the money is deposited. Also after passing higher secondary level exams, if a girl student continues with her studies for five more years without getting married she gets a one-time grant of Rs 25,000 at the end.

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