North Korea – South Korea tension. Pray for Peace

Monday, 24 August 2015
north-south-korea-map-rapplerNational Council of Churches in India  is concerned about, and solicits prayers for the situation between South Korea and North Korea in light of recent developments in cross-border tension.
Please read the mail received from CCA concerning this.
The Christian Conference of Asia is saddened to hear that tensions have escalated between South Korea and North Korea, following exchange of fire across their borders, prompting evacuation of residents nearby. It is reportedly the first major armed clash between the two countries, in five years.

ESHA Steering Committee Meeting Reviewing The Present, Envisioning The Future

IMG-20150805-WA0003The Steering Committee of ESHA (Ecumenical Solidarity for HIV and AIDS) met in Neemrana, Rajasthan for a two-day meeting on July 22-23, 2015.

The Present Phase

As the present phase of ESHA is drawing to a close, the committee took stock of the work achieved.

Work Place Policy: – Ms. Ella Sonawane, Secretary – Publishing and Programmes, ISPCK has been facilitating this work. It was noted that a few of the All India Christian Organizations had made good progress in drafting their work place policies while some others were at different stages of its formulation. Even the NCCI has prepared a draft of the Work Place Policy for approval by the NCCI Executive Committee
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NCCI mourns the loss of the great leader Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

Former president Abdul KalamThe passing away of India’s most beloved and iconic leader, ex-president Dr. A. P. J Abdul Kalam on July 27, 2015, has cast a pall of grief over the whole country and even beyond its borders.
He won the awe and delight of India’s masses because of his profound futuristic contribution to the country and indeed our planet. He was popularly known as the “Missile Man of India”, a reference to his role in shaping India’s missile program during his tenures at India’s space and defense-research agencies respectively from the 1960s to the 1990s. He was also a key player in India’s emergence as a nuclear power. As time.com notes, Few Indian leaders in the 21st century enjoyed the kind of popular support experienced by Kalam, evidenced by the near-unanimous backing of his election as India’s 11th President in 2002 among all the parties across India’s fractious political spectrum, as well as the overwhelming outpouring of grief at his death. (http://time.com/3974357/apj-abdul-kalam-death-tributes-condolences). He was awarded the Padma Bhushan and Bharat Ratna for his achievements.
Although a modest and unassuming man, Dr. Kalam captured the imagination of the country’s youth encouraging them to confidently forge ahead to pursue their dreams. He instilled patriotism and ideas of secularism in the hearts of people that united everyone in the values of humanity and greater benefit transcending region, religion, language and culture. This secularism in praxis is truly remarkable and exemplary.
As the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) joins in mourning the loss of this great leader, a hope is expressed that Dr. Abdul Kalam would continue to be an inspiration and model for the awakening of people to the values of integrity, true joy and peace.
Bishop Dr. Taranath Sagar
President, NCCI
Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad
General Secretary, NCCI

Report of YOUNG THEOLOGIANS CONCLAVE “Ecclesiology in the Cyber Age”

National Council of Churches in India organized a Young Theologians Conclave in partnership with the support from 2014-06-26aw0483bapThe Church of Finland and with help from promoters and partners from Church of Ireland and Church of England in Ecumenical Christian Centre, UTC, Bangalore from June 26-27, 2014.

The theme of the Programme was “Ecclesiology in Cyber Age”. The aim of the Programme succeeded by gathering Young Theologians who are techno savy and cyber oriented to come together to devise plans and ideas to respond to the changing definition of Church in the Cyber Age. The diverse Challenges that were faced by the young people were discussed, the threats posed by the Cyber age were brought to the fore and the action plans were devised to ensure that we respond so that the Church will become a relevant Church even with the growing challenges of the changing times. The various presentations have thrown light on the Cyber Age, Cyber space and the Cyber Church.

The Inaugural worship was led by the students from United Theological College, Bangalore. After this, Rev. Sweety Helen welcomed the gathering, and the inaugural session was led by Rev. Sunil Raj Phillip. The Programme was creatively inaugurated by all the participants after which Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad  lit a virtual lamp. The inauguration encompassed the use of symbols such as Cross and various technologies available with the participants.

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Bishop George Ninan rests in glory

bnBishop George Ninan, renowned ecumenical leader, described by many as campaigner for justpeace for the urban poor and slum development in India and in Asia, passed away in New York on June 21, 2015.
 He was born in Kaviyoor in Kerala and started his ministry as the Secretary of the Church of South India (CSI) Christian Institute in Alleppey. He served the CSI Madhya Kerala Diocese as the Secretary of the Diocesan Youth Movement. He was sent to Japan as a youth worker while he was actively involved in the Student Christian Movement of India (SCMI). He was ordained minister in the Anglican Communion in the year 1964. In 1970 he joined the Philips University in Oklahoma for his doctoral studies.

International Day of Yoga

yogaThe UN General Assembly has declared 21st June as International  Day of Yoga. The Government of India is making preparations for a large scale observance of this day in India and in other parts of the world this year. Yoga is considered by many to be a healthy discipline and therefore has become popular worldwide. Many persons belonging to different religious traditions already practice yoga as a matter of personal choice and conviction.
Yoga is essentially a way of life that integrates the means of harmonizing the body, mind, and spirit. One should also keep in mind that, internationally, there are other disciplines similar in intent and content to Yoga. For example, T’ai chi is a meditative exercise that requires you to pay close attention to your breathing while completing a series of choreographed, slow, fluid, and continuous dance-like movements. Chi-gong is an exercise that focuses on breath work, while incorporating meditation and very gentle, slow physical movements. In Zen Buddhism, zazen (literally “seated meditation”) is a meditative discipline in which body, breath and mind come together as one reality.
Therefore people should not be compelled to practice yoga as if it is the only method for bringing harmony between mind and body – such a philosophy runs through all religions and cultures. We are deeply concerned that in spite of the declarations made by the Centre, in many states, circulars have been sent to schools to have compulsory Yoga practices. We oppose such compulsions; and especially minority run institutions should be given the freedom to decide how and whether to introduce yoga in their schools.
Surya Namaskar, with its religious overtones, should not be introduced in our schools and institutions. We regret that some responsible people in the government have interpreted yoga with religious motifs. The BJP legislator Yogi Adiyanth’s statement that those opposing yoga and surya namaskar should either leave India or drown themselves in the ocean is not acceptable and is strongly condemned by the churches. It is statements such as these that are making minority communities suspicious about the intentions of the government.
We urge the Government to be sensitive to the different cultural and religious practices in our country. We reiterate that Christianity has existed in India from the first century onwards and over the centuries Christianity has developed its own Indian Christian cultural traditions. We hope this government will respect the ethos and spirituality of the Christian community and not impose any particular practices on any citizens of the country.

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

Ecumenical Conference on Christian response to growing attacks by fanatic groups on the Christian community in India

Under the banner of Christi Asmita Manch, Pune, a protestant ecumenical group, a one-day seminar was organised on 9th May 2015 at Christ Seva Prem Ashram, Pune. Christ Seva Prem Ashram is a historical ashram where Mahatma Gandhi stayed for 10 days in the year 1932.

About 150 delegates from various protestant churches attended the seminar. The main theme of the seminar was “Response to the attacks of religious fanatics on the Christian community and its ministries”. The conference began with a worship service led by the Rt. Rev. Naresh Ambala. In the devotion he encouraged the participants to be prudent and wise like serpents and innocent like doves. The seminar was inaugurated by Hon. Bhai Vaidhya, an eminent socialist and former Home Minister of Maharashtra. In his inaugural address, citing examples of Chakravarti Ashok Samrat, Badshah Akbar and Shivaji Maharaj, he established that this nation has been always secular, multi-religious and multi-cultural nation. He said, historically this country was never a Hindu Rashtra. He cautioned the participants citing the example of Godhra massacre in Gujarat during then chief minister and present Prime Minister of India, Hon. Narendra Modi,  and the growing influence of right-wing forces in the country

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Round Table Discussion on Unity

20150504_130710On the initiative taken by the NCCI Board of Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (BOCOMA), Dr. Jetti T. Oliver, Chairman and Rev. Roger Gaikwad, General Secretary, along with the Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan, Mar Thoma Syrian Church, and Chairman, National Advisory Council (which has been constituted by the BOCOMA) a Round Table meeting was arranged at the Mar Thoma Centre, New Delhi in which leaders of the Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Church (GELC) and the North West Gossner Evamgelical Lutheran Church (NWGELC) participated. Focussing on the theme, “Seeking the Reconciling Power of Jesus” the leaders of the GELC (The Most Rev. Johan Dang – Moderator; The Rt. Rev. J. M. Topno – Dy. Moderator; Mr. Eliazer Topno – General Secretary; Mr. Atal Irad Khess – Treasurer cum Finance Secretary; and Rev. Dr. Manmasih Ekka – Ecclesiastical Secretary and Principal, G. T. C.) and of the NWGELC (The Rt. Rev. Dular Lakra – Bishop; Mr. Albel Lakra – Chief Secretary; Mr. Pawal Xalxo – Chairman, G.B.; Rev. Dr. Jhakmak Neeraj Ekka – NDTC; and Rev. Rajiw Satish Toppo – Principal, NDTC) held talks, with the support of the NCCI leaders, on the need for the two churches to come together and the possible structure which they could adopt to express their togetherness. A second meeting will be held in Ranchi during August 17-19,2015 to take the discussion further.

Religious Extremism and Our Response

Fr. Cedric Prakash, SJ of Ahmedabad who runs Prashant has written an insightful and practical piece on the rise of religious extremism and the responses we need to make. We are grateful to Dr. John Dayal for sharing the same with us. This is important for all Christians, in particular church leaders, pastors and evangelists.

– General Secretary, NCCI

“WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS…!!!”

-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*

… Some “hot issues” in the context of the rise of religious extremism and what we are experiencing on the ground

This brief presentation is in two parts – their strategies and our possible responses:

THEIR STRATEGIES

Their strategies are multi-pronged, well thought of and with meticulous planning. They have been using some of these very effectively since their inception in the 1930s; these include:

  • to have well oiled propaganda

-effective, simple, mass, vicious

-tell a lie a thousand times (Goebblesian)

-fuel myths / rumours (they can easily take you for a ride)

-indulge in half-truths / selectivity, manipulate facts and data

  • to mobilise as many as possible

-all sections of society (particularly poor and unemployed) / also adivasis and dalits

-get them to do their “dirty tricks” with money, liquor, meat and false promises

-rope in middle class who can be lured by “achche din”

  • to divide and rule

-a time-tested strategy by dictators and those who want to control others

-‘they’ are the problem

-not ‘you’ but ‘them’

-to provide lollipops (sponsor “pilgrimages” to the Holy Land)

  • to co-opt

-invite for a “dialogue”

-those attacks are just ‘aberrations’; a law and order problem

-we know that but we cannot control them

-don’t worry if there is any problem, just come to me; I am “OK”; (so vote for me)

  • to make ‘victims’ the perpetrators

-you provoked first eg. conversion / beef eating etc

-we have proof that your boys were throwing stones

-you are the problem

  • to ‘hook’ us, make us reactionary

-we are sucked up into their agenda

-they set the terms and conditions

-we often play along

-we become defocused from our main work

  • to create panic and fear

-through attacks, burning, looting, raping

-vandalising / desecration

-scattering the flock

  • to run with the hare and hunt with the hound

-propagate the “development” model / “tolerance for all”

-permit hate speeches / attacks

-introduce anti-minority and draconian legislations

-we are not “responsible” for what they do

  • to infiltrate

-government and bureaucracy

-police and judiciary

-educational system / media

  • to woo the corporate sector, the rich and the powerful

-allow them to do what they want

-flout laws, by pass rules and regulations

-use their planes and other facilities (institutionalize corruption)

-help them to take over the media

OUR RESPONSE

Our response therefore, has to be multi-dimensional: a non-reactionary one, appropriate and focussed – and as a citizen of the country; these could include:

  • to be aware of their strategies (do not be ‘naive’)
  • to be united: work in tandem; complement one another; cooperation not
  • competition
  • to do a reality check: stop being fundamentalists ourselves
  • to find new ways and approaches in ‘evangelization’; being a witness
  • to speak truth to power (to be visible and vocal)
  • to propagate Constitutional and Universal Rights of ALL
  • to mainstream human rights and value education in our educational institution
  • to seek legal redress against injustices and draconian law
  • to develop a spirituality that is incarnational
  • to help in the contextual formation of laity, religious and priests / pastor
  • to foster an intellectual depth that is critical
  • to be inclusive; to collaborate with all men and women of goodwill
  • to take a stand that is prophetic

(cfr. PRASHANT document “WE ALWAYS NEED TO BE PREPARED!” Oct. 2014)

CONCLUSION

We can no longer remain silent.

“All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world – is for the good people to do nothing” – Edmund Burke

We need to get our ACT TOGETHER NOW!

“WE ALWAYS NEED TO BE PREPARED!”

I PRAY

  • pray without ceasing
  • read, pray and meditate on Mt 25:1-13
  • organize special prayers in our parishes / institutions
  • keep our churches / chapels / prayer halls open for prayer
  • pray with our Christian brethren (also in their churches)
  • conduct / join meaningful inter-faith prayer (Sarva Dharma Prathna)
  • be sensitive (our prayers and other programmes need not be “jarring”/“blasting”/ a nuisance to others

DO NOT “FIRE CRACKERS” nor use high decibel speakers – specially

after 10.00 pm (remember that many of our neighbours are little children or elderly persons and perhaps even sick)

(cfr. the Supreme Court rulings on these matters)

what does Jesus say about “praying?”

II DIALOGUE

  • keep avenues of dialogue always open with all
  • do not get co-opted or provide legitimacy in any way to fascists/ fundamentalists
  • do not be naïve…dialogue is always in the context of respect, equity and dignity.
  • participate in Festivals/Prayers of others and invite them to ours
  • strengthen areas that unite/connect (search for commonalities/ connectors)
  • take a stand against divisiveness/biases/prejudices
  • network and collaborate with other secular/like-minded individuals / groups

III STUDY – DOCUMENT – WRITE

  • study and analyze the situation
  • study the ideology of fascists; learn how they operate (“divide and rule”)
  • study the Constitution of India; existing laws
  • do not limit yourself to issues involving Christians only; get involved in ALL
  • Human Rights issues, sp. in the defense of dalits, tribals, women, children, differently-abled persons, other minority/vulnerable groups
  • collect “Patrikas” and other relevant literature (sp. derogatory ones)
  • document Newspaper / Journal articles on topical / sensitive, relevant issues
  • video / audio record inflammatory speeches / proceedings
  • write articles / letters to the Editor in national / local / vernacular newspapers /
  • journals on crucial issues
  • use “The Right to Information” Act to get information from / of the Government (Govt.officials/spending)

IV STAND UP FOR TRUTH, HUMAN RIGHTS, JUSTICE AND PEACE

“Peace in society cannot be understood as pacification or the mere absence of violence resulting from the domination of one part of society over others. Nor does true peace act as a pretext for justifying a social structure which silences or appeases the poor, so that the more affluent can placidly support their lifestyle while others have to make do as they can. Demands involving the distribution of wealth, concern for the poor and human rights cannot be suppressed under the guise of creating a consensus on paper or a transient peace for a contented minority. The dignity of the human person and the common good rank higher than the comfort of those who refuse to renounce their privileges. When these values are threatened, a prophetic voice must be raised.” (Pope Francis in ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ # 218)

  • fear ONLY God and no one else; stand up ALWAYS for Truth and Justice.
  • join/support other initiatives like the PUCL, INSAF, MSD, CJP, ANHAD, etc. (contact us for details)
  • participate also in the activities / initiatives / programmes of other like minded individuals / NGOs / groups
  • publicize secular efforts / initiatives in our churches / institutions
  • screen films on social issues like “Parzania”, “Final Solution”, “Dharm”, “Well Done, Abba!”, “Mr. & Mrs. Iyer”
  • be visible on important issues:speak out; participate in campaigns/dharnas/rallies; sign online petitions
  • keep at a distance ALL vested interests. Do not let them compromise you.
  • beware of getting involved in issues/ politics which make us sectarian /fundamentalist/exclusive
  • denounce Communalism, Corruption, Casteism, Consumerism, Criminalisation of society/politics
  • organize programmes/seminars/workshops on human rights/relevant issues/legal literacy/topical issues
  • constitute village/mohalla/Parish Justice and Peace Committees (JPCs)
  • initiate Constitutional Values/Peace Education/Human Rights Education in your Schools/Institutions
  • use value education books from KHOJ RESOURCES (www.khojedu.net ) and/or the “YES WE CAN” series (by RATNA SAGAR www.ratnasagar.com )
  • celebrate UN/special days like Women’s Day (March 8th), Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination (March 21st), Oscar Romero Day (March 24th), Ambedkar Jayanti (April 14th), Environment Day (June 5th), Indigenous People’s Day (August 9th), Day of Non-Violence (October 2nd), Human Rights Day (December 10th)
  • identify trouble makers/peace breakers/ rumour mongers/divisive persons
  • stop rumours/gossip (always try to authenticate things)
  • propagate the Right to Information (RTI), the Right to Education (RTE) and the Right to Food (RTF)
  • protect, promote, propagate Constitutional Rights/Freedoms & the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

V KEEP OUR HOUSE IN ORDER

  • maintain and update ALL official documents (land records, building permissions, registrations, licenses) and personal identity cards (Sp. Elector’s Photo Identity Card – EPIC)
  • keep copies of these always at hand/filed/laminated / secured – with your ORIGINALS in a Safe Deposit
  • adhere to strict accounting/accountability procedures
  • ALWAYS BE Open and Transparent
  • never indulge in any corrupt practice for whatever reasons (taking/giving bribes etc)
  • ensure timely payment of all taxes (income, building, land etc)
  • know and adhere to requisites of the Govt./Charity Commissioner/Registrar of Societies/FCRA etc.
  • register Medical Personnel with the Medical/Nursing Council
  • provide the requisite bio-medical waste treatment/disposal facilities in hospitals/dispensaries
  • refrain from physical and/or other types of abuse on any one
  • pay just wages; have service conditions, give appointment letters (cfr. Labour laws)

(THEY HIT US WHERE WE ARE VULNERABLE )

VI PRE-EMPT TROUBLE

  • provide prior and authentic information/meet your JPC
  • contact / alert your focal / nodal point immediately, if you sense trouble
  • contact the authorities, wherever possible (preferably in writing) – with a proof of submission
  • inform the police (know your local police / station); request protection (ONLY if desperately needed)
  • remember “providing security” is also an official way of them keeping tabs on us! (Don’t be NAÏVE)
  • never panic / DO NOT give in to fear
  • check if your phones are tapped
  • never give your email passwords to others / change them frequently

VII ADDRESS THE “REALITY”

  • do not get provoked (whatever the reason)….be calm and cool!
  • seek the support of others (like-minded individuals / groups)
  • protect / provide shelter for the weak (old / women / children / infirm)
  • inform the police / authorities (always be courteous / polite to them)
  • be careful on how and what information you provide about others photograph / video/audio record the trouble/trouble makers douse out flames
  • do not destroy/alter/change/remove the evidence
  • do not underplay/exaggerate the reality
  • if a situation arises, start writing/computerizing the complete details as soon as possible
  • file an FIR/complaint(name people/be accurate). You can write your complaint in English / Hindi / Gujarati (or your regional language) and have it attached to the FIR
  • approach a higher authority (with full details) if you have problems with your local police
  • in case the police have written the FIR /recorded your statement, you MUST read it carefully before you sign it with the date and time clearly mentioned
  • ensure that the copy is signed with the appropriate seal affixed by the concerned police official/station
  • request a copy of the FIR/complaint for yourself (you MUST get it)

VIII BE VIGILANT

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty ! – Wendell Phillips

Remember that police/official interrogations in a police station and/ or our institution, must normally take place only during working hours, on working days. Police/Government officials should normally·NOT visit officially any institutions which house women between 1800 hrs to 0900 hrs.

  • DO NOT GIVE ANY INFORMATION to people who approach you, who do not have an official identity and a written authorization (signed and sealed) or if it is NOT within their PURVIEW
  • check who the APPROPRIATE AUTHORITY is…..some officials demand information even when it does not come under their purview
  • study carefully the official/actual RULE/ACT/LAW
  • request full particulars of the person concerned (name, designation, address, email id, telephone/mobile nos)
  • LISTEN to what is being asked – NEVER be in a hurry to ANSWER ORALLY
  • request that the questions are written and a signed copy is provided to you
  • in normal circumstances, DO NOT PROVIDE any official information IMMEDIATELY
  • tell the person concerned that you MAY provide the information after some days
  • no one has the right to inspect any of our registers/documents/records/premises unless there is a written warrant from a Magistrate / Court to do so
  • meanwhile, contact a higher authority/ nodal agency for further steps and before providing any information
  • remember that very often, those who seek information come to you on the dictate of individuals/groups who are hostile/inimical to us and our institutions
  • a community/institution must have only ONE spokesperson(preferably someone conversant in the vernacular)
  • study the law/be legally literate
  • take legal counsel/be in touch with human rights lawyers. Buy legal booklets published by the Indian Social Institute, 10 Institutional Area, Lodi Road, New Delhi – 110 003. These booklets have been translated into Gujarati by Ashadeep, Vallabh Vidyanagar, Anand Dt. 388 120
  • contact a JESA institution in your area if you need some help. JESA Gujarat groups are: HDRC (Ahmedabad), SXSSS (Ahmedabad), Sangath (Modasa), LAHRC (Songadh), RSSS (Rajpipla), Navsarjan (Surat), Ashadeep (Vidyanagar), Nyay Darshan (Vadodara)
  • circulate/popularize relevant books/documents/films by other agencies (there is no need to re-invent the wheel)

IX COMMUNICATE

  • learn to be communicative
  • share with others what is happening/ has happened
  • develop good Public Relations / Perception Management skills
  • join and use social networks like facebook, twitter, whatsapp, email groups
  • have your OWN blog with a social content
  • befriend the media: give them your point of view; let them highlight the good works done by/through your institution. Keep a data bank of media personnel (with mobile numbers, email ids etc)
  • contact immediately (phone/fax/email) any focal point that could take up your problem
  • send to an appropriate authority/us COMPLETE and AUTHENTIC
  • DETAILS (FIR copies, press clippings, photos, audio/video tapes)
  • QUICKLY (pay someone to carry them…. hire a vehicle) BUT DO NOT DELAY!
  • send a written complaint by Registered Post/Courier /Fax /email to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) at:

National Human Rights Commission,

Manav Adhikar Bhawan, 

Block-C, GPO Complex, INA, New Delhi – 110023

Tel. No. (011) 24651330 Fax No.(011) 24651329 email: covdnhrc@nic.in / ionhrc@nic.in

Website: www.nhrc.nic.in

Telegraphic address: HUMANRIGHTS

and / or to the

National Commission for Minorities (NCM) at :

National Commission for Minorities,

5th Floor, Lok Nayak Bhavan,

Khan Market, New Delhi 110 003

Tel. No. (011) 24615583

Fax No. (011) 24693302, 24642645, 24698410

(Toll free Number 1800-110-088)

email: ro-ncm@nic.in <www.ncm.nic.in>

  •  depending upon the issue / the victims, you can also send your complaint to one of the other appropriate National Commissions like Women / Tribal / SC / Children, etc

CASA’s Response to the Earthquake in Nepal

AppealThe killer earthquake that hit Nepal on the noon of April 25th, 2015 has devastated human lives and property. It is believed to have killed over 7,000 people and left more than 12,000 injured, and several thousand houses flattened. The apprehension is that the death toll may rise to 10,000. Further, it is estimated that about eight million people are severely affected in the Himalayan region by this devastating earthquake. Read more