PRESS RELEASE on the present situation at St. Mary’s College, Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh.

Christians in Madhya Pradesh have recently been passing through a very difficult period. Besides the arrest and harassment of innocent Christmas Carol singing Priests and seminarians in Satna just before Christmas, fundamentalist forces had set their eyes on St. Mary’s P.G. College, Vidisha.  For the past few weeks, the ABVP, the Sanathan dharma and other like minded organizations have been threatening to forcibly perform “The Aarti of Bharat Mata” in the college Premises. On 30-12-2017, a violent mob of 60-70 persons jumped over the walls despite the presence of some 20 policemen and attempted to forcibly perform ‘Bharat Mata ki Aarti’. They threatened the Director Fr. Shaiju Devassy that they would return on 4th January and perform the Aarti at all costs and that should Father refuse to do it, they would put a garland of shoes around his neck and make him perform it.  Meanwhile, the SDM of the area had already denied these groups permission to perform the Aarti. Despite this order, on 4-1-2018, true to the threats, a larger and virulent mob of over 700 persons from outside the college again attempted to forcibly enter the college premises and perform the Aarti.  The Staff of three institutions in the campus which provide education for over 9,500 students unanimously agreed with the Director that the action of aarti is neither needed nor permissible in the campus. Bowing to mobs would endanger the running of the institutions and was not good for our democratic way of life, they felt. The Union Home Ministry, the Madhya Pradesh State Government and the State as well as the local Police acted effectively, efficaciously and provided full protection to the College, its staff and students.

Read more

Appeal to Churches in the context of Unity Octave, Republic Day and Martyrs Day

While we participate in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (January 18-25) and focus on the theme, “Your Right Hand, O Lord, Glorious In Power” (Ex. 15:6), reminding ourselves of God’s engagement to liberate people from the bondage of political, social and economic oppression, it is but apt that churches also observe important days in the life of our country . As citizens of India, on Republic Day, let us affirm the  Nazareth Manifesto (Luke 4:18-19) of Jesus Christ, standing for justice,  liberation and holistic well being of all, and as disciples of the Crucified Jesus Christ be reminded of the cost of discipleship on Martyrs Day, as we move on in the resurrection hope of a new just peaceful eco-integrated world of love!

The following appeal has been drafted for your deliberation and action.

Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad
General Secretary, NCCI.


A Call to Churches to be Committed to a Campaign

To DEFEND Democracy

&

     PRACTICE Non-violence

(REMEMBERING AMBEDKAR & GANDHI)

26th to 30th January, 2018

Threats looming large over the Indian Democracy have become more real today than ever before; and the country is witnessing an escalation in the violent attacks on minorities, dalits, adivasis, intellectuals, workers, writers, journalists, artists, students and community leaders who raise their voices honestly and express dissent and disagreement.  Proclamations by the fascist and corporate forces to alter the Indian Constitution is part-and-parcel of a grand design to establish autocracy, especially with regard to removing “Socialism” and “Secularism” from the Preamble, and are also definitely designed to change the basic character of the Indian Constitution & Sovereignty of the State and, in turn, pave the way for establishing the ‘Hindu Rashtra’ in its place.

Read more

Towards Just and Inclusive Communities: A Statement on Sec.377 of IPC

A Statement on Sec.377 of IPC

We, the members of the National Ecumenical Forum for Gender and Sexual Diversities of the National Council of Churches in India note the decision of the Supreme Court of India on 8th January 2018 to refer to a Constitution Bench a petition seeking to quash Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalizes homosexuality. The apex court has observed that a section of people cannot live in fear of the law which atrophies their right to choice and natural sexual inclinations.

Homosexuality and homo-eroticism have been practiced in India from time immemorial. Homosexual activity was never condemned or criminalized in ancient India. Such activities were tolerated as long as people fulfilled the societal expectations of marriage and procreation.

This is the context in which the British came to India as part of their mission of colonial expansion.

In Great Britain, from the Middle Ages, heterosexuality was understood as the divinely ordered and natural norm for human sexuality, and any deviance from this norm was perceived as immoral and unnatural, and hence a sin against God. Christian sexual ethics based on heteronormativity thus led to the imposition of Sodomy Law in Great Britain.

The understanding of sexual ethics of the British colonial administration was deeply influenced by Victorian morality and its particular interpretation of the Judeo-Christian scripture and theology. So, the British authorities considered tolerance towards homosexuality as a social evil, and based on heteronormative principles, they initiated stringent measures to criminalize homoeroticism as part of their mission to civilize the heathens in India. In 1861, the British colonial administration imposed the Sodomy Laws in India to “purify” and “cure” the Indians of their primitive and deviant sexual practices.

Today, there are around seventy countries in the world which continue to criminalize private same-sex intimacy between consenting adults, and eleven countries that still impose the death penalty for homosexuals. The fact is that most of these countries are former British colonies. However, in 1967, the United Kingdom repealed the Sodomy laws, and the Church of England played a significant role in it. The first report in Britain, calling for decriminalization, was initiated and published by the Anglican Church. Further, there was a significant Anglican presence in the Wolfenden Committee, appointed by the government, which recommended to the Parliament to repeal the Sodomy Law.

In the contemporary context of growing fascism, it is important for us to understand the Sodomy Law as legal codes of fascism as they provide the State the power to intervene, invade, regulate, and monitor even the intimate spheres of human life. The Sodomy Law legally sanctions a regime of imperial gaze where the people are always under the surveillance of the State. This repressive legal code further reduces human body and sexuality into “colonies” that can be invaded, tamed, and redeemed with the display of abusive power by the law enforcement officers and the judiciary of the State, and the violent interventions of moral policing by the Religious Right.

There have been different initiatives, campaigns and litigations to repeal Sec 377. On July 2nd 2009, in a historic verdict, the Delhi High Court repealed Sec 377. According to the learned judges, “If there is one constitutional tenet that can be said to be underlying theme of the Indian Constitution, it is that of ‘inclusiveness’… In our view, Indian Constitutional law does not permit the statutory criminal law to be held captive by the popular misconceptions of who the LGBTs are. It cannot be forgotten that discrimination is antithesis of equality and that it is the recognition of equality which will foster the dignity of every individual…We declare that Section 377 IPC, insofar it criminalizes consensual sexual acts of adults in private, is violative of Articles 21, 14 and 15 of the Constitution.”

However, the Supreme Court of India, in a verdict given in 2013, set aside the verdict of the Delhi High Court. “We hold that Section 377 does not suffer from unconstitutionality and the declaration made by the High Court is legally unsustainable… However, the competent legislature shall be free to consider the desirability and propriety of deleting Section 377 from the statute book or amend it.”

A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court of India, in a verdict on August 24, 2017, held that “right to privacy is an intrinsic part of Right to Life and Personal Liberty under the Constitution.” “Discrete and insular minorities face grave dangers of discrimination for the simple reason that their views, beliefs or way of life does not accord with the ‘mainstream.’ Sexual orientation is an essential attribute of privacy. Discrimination against an individual on the basis of sexual orientation is deeply offensive to the dignity and self-worth of the individual.” This verdict gave a great boost to the initiatives to decriminalize homoeroticism in India.

Soon after the Delhi High Court verdict repealing Sec 377, the NCCI organized a round table to reflect upon the verdict theologically and biblically. The statement of the round table affirmed that, “We recognize that there are people with different sexual orientations. Our faith affirmation that we are created in the image of God makes it imperative on us to reject systemic and personal attitudes of homophobia against sexual minorities. . . We envision Church as a sanctuary to the ostracized who thirst for understanding, friendship, love, compassion and solidarity. We appeal to churches to sojourn with sexual minorities and their families ministerially, without prejudice and discrimination, to provide them ministries of love, compassionate care, and justice. We request the National Council of Churches in India and its member churches to initiate an in-depth theological study on Human Sexuality for better discernment of God’s purpose for us.”

In the Indian context of religious diversity, it is important to initiate interfaith coalitions to campaign against homophobia. An interfaith round table was organized in 2014 which brought together theologians, clerics and practitioners of all major religious traditions in India. The statement of the interfaith round table affirmed that: “We commit ourselves to critically engage with our belief systems and practices to review and re-read scriptures and moral codes that stigmatize and demonize people who are different from us. We condemn homophobia and bigotry as morally unacceptable, and commit ourselves to eradicate this sin from our religious communities. We pledge to accompany friends who are stigmatized and criminalized due to their sexual orientations and to provide them fellowship and solidarity in their struggles to love and live with dignity. We commit ourselves to transform our worship places to welcome and provide safe spaces for sexual minorities. We discern the need to reclaim and reinterpret our traditions and rituals, festivals and feasts, scriptures and practices, to liberate our religions from the shackles of ideologies of exclusion such as patriarchy, casteism and homophobia. . . We call upon religious leaders to condemn homophobia and to practice non-discriminatory hiring policies in their institutions, and also to follow affirmative action to end the discrimination that transgendered people face in admissions and appointments. We affirm our resolve to work tirelessly to create a new world of compassion, justice, inclusivity and acceptance where the divine gift of sexuality will be celebrated in all diverse manifestations of affirmative love.”

Hence churches in India need to give responsible consideration to the initiative of the Supreme Court of India to review Sec 377 in the light of constitutional rights and the right to privacy, and the gospel of justice and love. As followers of the non-conformist Christ, the one who consistently questioned unjust and non-compassionate traditions of public morality, our call is to reject all laws that demonize, criminalize, and exclude human beings, and work to facilitate just inclusive and loving communities.

In Solidarity,

Members,
National Ecumenical Forum of the Gender and Sexual Diversities,
National Council of Churches in India.

India Pre-conference of the World Mission Conference

World Council of Churches – Council for World Mission and Evangelism

Conference of the World Mission and Evangelism

India Pre-conference

24 -26 January, 2018 | CNI Bhavan, New Delhi.

The next Conference of the World Mission and Evangelism of the  World Council of Churches is meeting in Arusha, Tanzania from 08th to 13th March 2018 on the theme “Moving in the Spirit: Called to Transforming Discipleship”. The Conference is an opportunity for the global Church, the ecumenical and the mission movements to review and re-examine its present mission patterns in order to make the Gospel relevant by interpreting it in response to the signs of our times.

To facilitate this process of introspection and re-imagination, the National Council of Churches in India – Unity and Mission joining the Church of North India Synod and the WCC – Council for World Mission and Evangelism is organizing a ‘Pre-assembly’ to deliberate upon the need, relevance and engagement of the Indian churches, ecumenical mission organizations in our contemporary context on the theme “Transforming Discipleship: Mission of the Missions”.

This India Pre-Conference is hosted by the Church of North India Synod and facilitated by the NCCI – Unity and Mission. This conference is scheduled to be held in CNI Bhavan, # 16, Pandit Pant Marg, New Delhi from 24th to 26th  January 2018.

Please click the link for the concept note.02. CNI – NCCI – CWME Concept Note for WMC

To know more about the WCC – World Mission Conference, please visit <https://www.oikoumene.org/en/press-centre/events/conference-on-world-mission-and-evangelism-moving-in-the-spirit-called-to-transforming-discipleship>

For Details… Please contact

Rev. R. Christopher Rajkumar
Executive Secretary,
NCCI – Unity and Mission
<mission.ncci@gmail.com>, <mission@ncci1914.com>

A Wheel Chaired Santa… made the Christmas Celebration Meaningful

CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION OF  PERSONS  WITH DISABILITIES

A wheel-chaired Santa graced the Christmas Celebration of the Persons with Disabilities (PWD). This radical imagery of Santa on wheel chair rather than his regular sleigh or dance rung hard in the minds of the participants. 8th December 2017 marked a one of a kind celebration with over 250 people and over 100 persons with disabilities who made it to this historic eventful Christmas celebration. Neither the foggy winter nor the chill wind that brushed the people could move the people present as they joyfully participated in some soul inspiring and mind boggling renditions of the Children with disabilities. The Children enthralled the participants by their thought provoking and energized engagement.

NCCI-IDEA’s 2nd Christmas Celebration of the Persons with Disabilities (PWD) embedded with the core PWD expectations of inclusion, justice, identity and dignity. The children and the persons with disabilities, who came in numbers to spell the good news of the season, ornamented the celebration. Before the children presented their artistic Christmas messages, the people who came there were inquisitive on seeing question marks everywhere. This inquisitivity drew the audience to reflect on what that question marks could mean.

Read more

Concern for Justice and Peace over the Jerusalem Issue

The recognition accorded by the US Administration  to Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel, and its decision to shift its Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will further aggravate the problem of finding a just and peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian tension, and the larger issue of peace and goodwill in the West Asian region. It also undermines the role of UN (and all its member nations) who have resolved in 1980 that Jerusalem should be respected as  a  sacred place for three religious traditions, that no diplomatic missions of countries should be established in Jerusalem, and the declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel constitutes a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

It is in this context that the following appeal has been submitted to the US Embassy in India, and copies of the same have been circulated to all important state and civil society bodies. This is for your consideration, prayer and action. Let us be careful that we do not get carried away by unjust Zionist perspectives. Especially at Christmas time let us be committed to the Prince of Peace.

URGENT APPEAL

We, the undersigned, Justice and Peace-loving citizens in India, urge the US Adminstration to withdraw its recognization of Jerusalem as the Captital of Israel and the proposal to shift its Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem

Realizing the adverse impact of the announcement by President Trump on Wednesday, the 6th December 2017,  on Arabs, Christians and Muslims who live in Palestine and all over the world;

Noting that this declaration will go against the UN Resolution that Jerusalem should be the ‘sacred place’ for all the major three religions – Judaism, Islam and Christianity;

Sensing that such an action will disrespect and jeopardise the peace process that has been under progress for both Jews and Palestinians to live together with a two-nation theory and peaceful settlement;

Understanding that this has already geared up the Islamic and other countries to express their deep concern and anguish against such an unwarranted decision by the US;

Considering that most of the world leaders including Pope Francis, State Heads of Britain, France and Germany and several Islamic States have condemned this unilateral decision and raised their voice against this proposal;

Bearing in mind that such an impulsive and drastic decision would lead to disturbance of peace not only in Middle East but also across the world;

Reflecting that this kind of unwarranted announcements may further instigate and perpetuate  the never ending war in that region that may spread over to different parts of the world;

Considering that this kind of irresponsible decions and desparate and impulsive actions would accelerate tension in Palestine and would worsen the life and livelihood situation of the marginalized especially the aged, otherwise abled, women and children in the occupied territories;

While expressing our deep concern and solidarity with the struggles of our brothers and sisters in Palestine for their life, livelihood, dignity, equality, justice and peace,

  • We strongly condemn the US Adminstration for the unilateral way of making decision on an internationally arbitrated issue that goes against all norms of democracy that the US keeps speaking about time and again for other nations to follow;
  • We urge US to withdraw this untimely and autarchic decision and allow the people of Israel and Palestine to live with Justice and Peace in mutually recognized states;
  • We also urge the Indian Government not to take sides with US and Israel but to intervene with the US Administration to call back this decision and announcement and to enable the Middle East and the entire world to live in Peace with due respct for humanity, dignity and diversity.

10.12.2017 – New Delhi

Read more

Human Rights Day – December 10, 2017.

“Open your mouth for the speechless,  in the cause of all who are appointed to die. 
Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.”
(Proverbs 31:8-9)

   Human Rights Day – 10 December 2017

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home — so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. […] Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 70.

Let’s stand up for equality, justice and human dignity.

Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December – the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year, Human Rights Day kicks off a year-long campaign to mark the upcoming 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a milestone document that proclaimed the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being — regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. It is the most translated document in the world, available in more than 500 languages.

Drafted by representatives of diverse legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration sets out universal values and a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. It establishes the equal dignity and worth of every person. Thanks to the Declaration, and States’ commitments to its principles, the dignity of millions has been uplifted and the foundation for a more just world has been laid. While its promise is yet to be fully realized, the very fact that it has stood the test of time is testament to the enduring universality of its perennial values of equality, justice and human dignity.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights empowers us all. The principles enshrined in the Declaration are as relevant today as they were in 1948. We need to stand up for our own rights and those of others. We can take action in our own daily lives, to uphold the rights that protect us all and thereby promote the kinship of all human beings.

#StandUp4HumanRights

  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights empowers us all.
  • Human rights are relevant to all of us, every day.
  • Our shared humanity is rooted in these universal values.
  • Equality, justice and freedom prevent violence and sustain peace.
  • Whenever and wherever humanity’s values are abandoned, we all are at greater risk.
  • We need to stand up for our rights and those of others.

National Church Mission Association (NCMA) 
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) India
Milap Community Church of India
Chhattisgarh State Christian Alliance
Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), Raipur

 

(Source:  Rev. Akhilesh Edgar)

“You can be one of the five daughters of Zelophehad or can support them…..” – Hungreiphy engages in Advocacy for Indigenous Women’s Rights to Inheritance of Ancestral Property on ‘Human Rights Day’

Hungreiphy ZAS Zimik Young Indigenous Baptist woman Theologian

As the world commemorates ‘Human Rights Day‘ on 10th December  ‘Hungreiphy ZAS Zimik a young Baptist indigenous theologian  shares her story  and efforts to promote ‘Women’s Rights are Human Rights and ‘Indigenous Women Right to Inheritance of  Ancestral Property’.  Zimik states “I am indigenous woman and belong to Tangkhul Naga Tribe  from Ukhrul District in  Hungpung Village in state of  Manipur in India. My immediate family consist of six members i.e. my mother, father, two brothers, me and my sister.  Tangkhul  indigenous society is a classless society and forbids any kind of unreasonable discrimination among the members of the tribe. However there are certain areas guided by indigenous customary laws where the principle of ‘Rights to Equality’ of men and women cannot be strictly applied.

Tangkhul  tribe women are not allowed to participate in the decision making process of the village till date. They are not given recognition as members of the Village Assembly. Tangkhul women are also prohibited to become Village Councillors even though Government of India and our constitution allows equality. No Tangkhul village has a woman Village Councillor till date. Thus, the general expression ‘Equality before Law’ has got no central place for women in my tribe.

Read more

‘Blue-ing’ Our Churches & Communities : National Council of Churches invitation this Advent to End Child Abuse

‘Blue-ing’ Churches & Communities, 16 Days of Activism Campaign @NCCI ( Photo Source www.boston.archive )

On 28th November 2017, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) in India requested for valuable suggestions to end child abuse in the context of increasing abuse of violence on children in India. Stuti  Kacker Chairperson of NCPCR in her request letter of 28th November 2017 states: “Sexual crime against children is showing an alarming increase and there is urgent need to tackle this problem on a war footing. Parliament has already brought a comprehensive Act namely ‘The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 to punish those who commit sexual offences against children. However, there is a pressing need to formulate a broad based strategy to prevent such crime from occurring, which is only possible if all stakeholders namely children themselves, their parents, school administration, law enforcement agencies, NGOs and civil society etc. as a whole, create awareness and highlight the moral repugnancy of such crimes.”

Read more

Gender Equity Enabling Timetable (GEET) of Church of South India Removing Bottlenecks to Build Just Inclusive Communities

Mission Paradigm Shift from Equality to Equity to Promote Gender Justice & Build Just Inclusive Communities

Women’s empowerment programs have been at the core of the ‘Diaconal Ministry’ of the Church of South India. According to Revd Asir Ebenezer- Director of Diaconal  Concerns- CSI Synod “these programs have taken many forms in different contexts. Education, empowerment, and economic livelihood options were some of the areas that took root in most places. Education of girls was the flagship of church’s education ministry. Many hostels for girls as well as nursing and teacher training schools for young women were started and flourish to this day.”  CSI also initiated the ‘Girl Child Campaign’. Ebenezer further states “However despite a radically sound theology and a reformist mind with regard to gender sensitivity, there are many bottlenecks. The aim of the discourse on gender equity is to reach beyond the domain of women and their associations. There is a vital need for gender mainstreaming to end gender based violence.  So GEET  brings the discourse to the mainstream life and witness of  Church Women and Men. The present visible leadership of males in the church sphere is to be challenged to bring significant changes.”

Gender Equity Enabling Timetable (CSI-GEET) –   Has three foci:

 1) Workplace- To ensure a safe working space, institutions of the CSI are oriented on  awareness , prevention, and redressal of sexual harassment of women at workplace  promoting ‘Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal Act, 2013’ . Ebenezer states that many christian  institutions have constituted an Internal Complaints Committee  in compliance with the Act. After the constitution of ‘Internal Complaints Committees’ in our institutions, male staff have become more sensible in their interactions with their female colleagues. Women are aware that they can be treated with dignity and do not have to ‘adjust’ or put up with inappropriate behaviour from the opposite sex.”

2) Homes including Christian Homes –  CSI is also engaging in various endeavours of spiritual formation  to  create safe home free from abuse and empowering both men and women to work towards ending domestic violence and other gender based violence within home .

 3) Mind of the Man for Nurturing Gender Equity– Developing contextualised study material based on ‘Created in God’s image: from Hegemony to Partnership’ (a church’s manual on men as partners promoting positive masculinities was published by WCRC in collaboration with the WCC and the United Methodist Church) to be studied by men in five locations in each of the 24 CSI Dioceses.

Read more