Report of National Ecumenical Youth Assembly (NEYA) – 2018 and Youth Manifesto

Date: 7th  – 9th November, 2018

Venue: Mar Thoma Youth Center, Adoor, Kerala

India stands on the verge of being the youngest nation in the world in a few years. In such a time as this, it becomes imperative that we demand civic, ecclesial and ecumenical space(s) for the youth to connect, create and change. National Council of India (NCCI) – Youth Concerns serves as a space for young people of all sections of life in society to express, experience and explore the multi-dimensional features of Ecumenism and Ecumenical Movement and to analyse the role of youth in strengthening the Ecumenical Movement. Giving a young face to the Ecumenical Movement is the prerequisite in the formation of the Youth Concerns.One of the prominent endeavors of NCCI – Youth Concerns in its attempt to augment the sense of accountability among the youths, is its quadrennial youth assembly entitled National Ecumenical Youth Assembly widely known through the acronym NEYA.

NEYA – 2018, organized by NCCI – Youth Concerns from 7 – 9 November 2018 was hosted by the Mar Thoma Youth Center, Adoor, Kerala. The theme of NEYA – 2018 was Fostering Responsible Citizenry”. The quadrennial assembly bore witness to around 140 delegates from different church traditions. The programme commenced with a beautiful worship led by Mar ThomaYuvajana Sakhyam (Youth wing of Mar Thoma Church) with the Reflection being shared by Rev. Merin Mathew, a Priest of the Mar Thoma Church. The inaugural programme comprised of the Welcome by the Local host, Rev. John Matthew C – General Secretary of Mar ThomaYuvajana Sakhyam; Welcome address by Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad – General Secretary NCCI; Introduction to the theme of NEYA by Mr. Jianthaolung Gonmei – Executive Secretary, NCCI – Youth Concerns; Greetings from Mr. Inbaraj Jeyakumar, General Secretary, SCMI and Rev. K. G. Joseph, Sabha Secretary, Mar Thoma Sabha.

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NCCI Executive Secretaries move on to new ministries

Rev. Moumita Biswas served as Executive Secretary, NCCI Women Concerns from September 2014 to August 2018. She was ordained as a Presbyter in North East India Diocese of the Church of North India on September 2, 2018. Hence she has started serving the Diocese since September 2018. We thank Rev. Moumita Biswas for the services she has rendered to the NCCI during the past 4 Years. We wish her all the best in her new ministry.


Rev. Caesar David served as Executive Secretary, NCCI Communications from March 2013 to October 2018. An ordained Methodist minister, he is now moving on to serve the Methodist Church in USA in the State of Iowa. He will be taking up his new assignment as a pastor in the church from December 2018. The NCCI is grateful to Rev. Caesar David for his services to the NCCI during the past 5 years and 7 months. We wish him all the best in his future ministry.

 

NCCI – IDEA Seminar on World Mental Health Day 2018

National Council of Churches in India – Indian Disability Ecumenical Accompaniment (NCCI – IDEA)

‘Acceptance is a Gospel Demand and Inclusion is a Gospel Affirmation’ says Mrs. Rachna Singh, Executive Committee member of NCCI, in a commemoration seminar on World Mental Health DayThe United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organisation called the global communities to commemorate and observe the World Mental Health Day on the 10th October every year with the overall objective of raising awareness about mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health care. This commemoration provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide.

The National Council of Churches in India – Indian Disability Ecumenical Accompaniment and the Church of Scotland (World Mission Council), Student Christian Movement of India (Mid-India Region), Asia CMS, Church of North India – All Saints Cathedral Youth Fellowship and Christian Service Agency organized a Commemoration seminar on Mental Well-being of students in Nagpur at All Saints Cathedral’s  Chatterton Hall on October 10, 2018.

There were 60 participants from 30 different schools, colleges, institutions, organisations and Churches.

This seminar was inaugurated by Mrs. Rachna Singh, the Executive and Finance Committee Member of the National Council of Churches in India. She is also Principal of St. Ursula Girls High School and Junior College, and President of the Young Women Christian  Association, Nagpur. Mrs. Rachna Singh challenged and inspired participants to action as she said: Acceptance is a Gospel Demand and Inclusion is a Gospel Affirmation. We, as teachers should have more patience in working with Children who are in need of healthy mental status and environment. There are areas where Children find themselves isolated. In such contexts we need to play the role of a catalyst by way of making the student communities to be inclusive student communities by creating awareness among the students. Also, she invited all school and institutional campuses to become inclusive communities ‘OF’ all and ‘FOR’ all students.

This session opened with a word of prayer by Rev. John George, Presbyter of the CNI – All Saints Cathedral, Nagpur. He moderated the seminar. Rev. Christopher Rajkumar, Executive Secretary of NCCI – Unity and Mission, and Director of the NCCI – Indian Disability Ecumenical Accompaniment (NCCI – IDEA)  introduced the theme and the context. Ms. Pranita P. Sandela of the CNI – All Saints Cathedral and Mr. Jeswin Rajan, Programme Secretary, Student Christian Movement of India Mid-India Region, jointly welcomed the gathering and honored the speakers and guests of honors.

The Seminar had four speakers to speak on four perspectives of the theme: Academic, Clinical, Media and Medical perspectives.

Prof. Dr. Dipti Christian, Principal of Hislop College, Nagpur, spoke from the academic perspectives.  Dr. Christian invited the attention of the participants by sharing her life and academic interventions of creating mental well-being environment in the institutions she is associated with. She presented tips to identify the students who are under a great stress due to their autism, slow learning, hyper-activity, and colour / vision deficiency, other issues related to vision and the such. She emphasized the need to create space for children to express themselves as they are. She said “We teachers and community workers need to appreciate students who express themselves rather discourage them”. She also invited the teachers to not be judgmental, but rather accept the students as they are, and encourage the other students also to understand each other though encouragement, support and accompaniment. She also proposed a paradigm shift in the present educational system and curriculum  in the direction of giving importance to the mental well-being of students rather than importing data alone.

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Dalit Liberation Sunday 2018

Respected Ecumenical Leaders,

Warm greetings from NCCI – Dalit and Tribal/ Adivasi Concerns

Dalit Liberation Sunday has become an important feature in the calendar of Indian Churches and Ecumenical movements. Over the years, there has been a positive response in sensitizing the local congregations towards concerns of Dalits, for no longer caste issue is visualized as a sociological issue or an issue outside the purview of church but more seen as an issue challenging the core of our faith and gospel. Dalit Liberation Sunday is a joint programme of National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) and Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India (CBCI), aiming at the empowerment of the local congregations for Dalit liberation. Thanks to the enormous support received from across the churches, dioceses, parishes and theological institutions in celebrating this special Sunday.

The theme for this year’s Dalit Liberation Sunday is “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). We take this opportunity to invite you to observe Dalit Liberation Sunday on 11th November 2018 in your church/local parish/institution in a creative way and rededicate our commitment to the Gospel by accompanying the unaccompanied. However, if you already have some programme on 11th November 2018, you may think of celebrating this Special day on later Sundays.

You can download the POSTER (.jpg Hi-Res 6.70 mb | .jpg Lo-Res 537 kb) and special ORDER OF WORSHIP SERVICE (.pdf HI-RES 18 mb  | .pdf MED-RES 12.5 mb  | .pdf LO-RES 2.77 mb) for the day. You may take the freedom to use the entire worship order and translate it in your vernacular language or adapt parts of it.

We would appreciate if you send a brief report along with a few photographs of the observance to the undersigned. Let us join to observe Dalit Liberation Sunday on 11th November 2018.

Thanking you in anticipation.

With regards,

In Christ,

Pradip Bansrior,
Executive Secretary,
Dalit and Tribal/Adivasi Concerns.
National Council of Churches in India.

 

DOWNLOADS (Right-click and “Save link as…”):

  1. POSTER (.jpg Hi-Res 6.70 mb | .jpg Lo-Res 537 kb)
  2. ORDER OF WORSHIP SERVICE (.pdf HI-RES 18 mb  | .pdf MED-RES 12.5 mb  | .pdf LO-RES 2.77 mb)

Executive Secretary of NCCI Policy, Governance and Public Witness

Rev. Dr. Abraham Mathew was installed as the next Executive Secretary of NCCI Policy, Governance and Public Witness at NCCI’s Office in New Delhi on October 1, 2018.

Rev. Dr. Mathew belongs to the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church, has a Ph.D  from Trinity College, Bristol, and has worked extensively in Churches, seminaries and the mission field. Having had several responsibilities in various forums, having published several books and articles, and having represented the Church in important national and international events, his vast experience is expected to greatly benefit the council and its wide ministry.

After the installation, Rt. Rev. Gregorios Mar Stephanos Episcopa dedicated Rev. Dr. Mathew in prayer. Mrs. Aleyamma Thomas, Vice-President of NCCI, felicitated the new Executive Secretary on behalf of the NCCI and the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church. Important Church dignitaries including Rt. Rev. Collin C. Theodore (Secretary of North West India Council of Churches), Mr. Alwan Masih (General Secretary of Church of North India), Mrs. Lidwina Cedric (Director of Ecumenical Church Loan Fund India), Dr. Mary Verghese (Executive Director of The Leprosy Mission), Mr. Samuel Jayakumar (Former Executive Secretary of NCCI Policy, Governance and Public Witness) and Prof. T. K. Oomen (Professor Emeritus at Jawaharlal Nehru University), along with Clergymen, other Church leaders and NCCI Delhi office staff, graced the occasion and wished the ministry of Mrs. and Rev. Dr. Abraham Mathew to be blessed with success and good fruit.

Ms. Catherine Christopher Nair.
Intern, NCCI Policy, Governance and Public Witness.

 

NCCI – VCLC (Vidarbha Centre for Labour Concerns) empowering the next generation Journalists for a just society.

The VCLC along with District Journalist’s Forum and Star Apex News had jointly organized a one day work shop for the progressive Journalist’s of Butibori in Hotel Royal Regency, Butibori on 30th September 2018.

The Butibori Journalist’s Union welcomed the participants. The Deputy Superintendent Ms Reena Janbandhu congratulated the efforts of the local organisers for this attempt to empower the next generation of budding Journalists. During this workshop many Journalist’s were awarded for their fearless write ups which challenged Corruption and the various Developmental issues.

The workshop had two sessions. In the first session, the legal aspects and role to be played by the press and media were spoken of. One of the speakers hailed the Maharashtra Government for introducing the bill to protect the on-duty journalists and media persons. He also congratulated them for taking the lead in enacting the first ever law in the country to protect the media and journalists, who have been paying a heavy price for upholding their right to “free and fearless reporting” of news and views.

Resource person Yogesh slated that the (Prevention of Violence and Damage or Loss to Property) Act, 2017, adopted by both the Houses of the State’s legislature early this month, covers all journalists and media houses and organizations and makes the attacks on journalists and media establishments punishable with both fines and jail terms. The Act, however, also penalizes its willful misuse by journalists or media organizations. The participants found this session enlightening and helpful.

Post-lunch, the Second Session discussed on the roles and responsibilities of the Journalist’s in the changing sociopolitical context. Dr. Bhola Sarovar slated that the role of the media is influential in social change and social innovation processes.

“The role of the media in social change can either be progressive or conservative,” said one of the resource persons. Media can support the renewal of society by introducing new, constructive angles and new knowledge. It can question prevailing operative models and paradigms. The media can, however, also impede progress and cast doubt on warranted social reforms or take a passive stance in a change situation.

 

What is particularly important in a change situation is the feedback that policy-makers and other social actors receive through the media. It has a direct impact on how positively social reforms and initiatives are perceived and how likely they are to be accepted.

“The media could take a more active role in promoting social reform without compromising their journalistic principles. Involvement in social change does, however, require solid competence on behalf of the media,” said the Resource person.

The workshop concluded with all the participants having an open forum. The closing ceremony was done by Naagesh Girhe.

Rajesh Jadhav
Coordinator, VCLC

NCCI names General Secretary designate

The Rev. Asir Ebenezer. General Secretary designate, NCCI.

The National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), in its Executive meeting in Chennai on August 28, 2018, announced Rev. Asir Ebenezer as the next General Secretary of NCCI. He will be taking charge at the turn of the year to succeed the present General Secretary, Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad.

Rev. Asir Ebenezer is an ordained minister of the Church of South India (CSI). He has been in ministry since 1992 and has served in various positions in national and global ecumenical forums.

He currently serves as Director of Social Empowerment: Vision in Action (SEVA)  at the CSI Synod. He had earlier served the NCCI in various positions, including Officiating General Secretary of NCCI in 2010. A well-known figure in ecumenical circles, theologian, community-enabler and finance expert, the multiple competencies of Rev. Asir Ebenezer will go a long way to strengthen the council.

 

 

Floods! Fundamentalism! Franchise!

Matters of Public Concern addressed  by the General Body of the National Council of Churches in India in its meeting in Chennai on 29th August 2018

 

  1. FLOODS IN KERALA AND IN PARTS OF KARNATAKA AND TAMIL NADU

The National Council of Churches in India expresses its deep pain and distress over the loss of hundreds of lives due to the massive floods, overflowing rivers and dams, and a series of gigantic landslides which have also displaced tens of thousands of people, causing colossal destruction of their belongings, consequently leading to immeasurable misery and hardship. Not only more than four hundred precious lives have been lost, but also cattle and other livestock have perished. The affected people are subject to suffer from various diseases such as cholera, typhoid and other health hazards. Irreplaceable damage has been caused to the eco-balance of the region.

The NCCI affirms its solidarity with the suffering people and all creation of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamilnadu.

The NCCI appreciates the invaluable disaster relief support rendered by its member Churches and organizations. At the same time it appeals to all the constituent members to continue to provide help in the arduous process of relief and rehabilitation, which lies ahead.

  1. TEN YEARS OF “KANDHAMAL”

The NCCI expresses its deep concern and anguish with regard to the continued suffering of Christian survivors of the Kandhamal massacre even after 10 years of its happening. The carnage was one of the worst of its kind against Christians in the past 100 years. Despite the fact, that in the process of inquiry, many officials have testified that the allegations against Christians are false, the local Christian community still continues to struggle. Many people are still languishing in prison. The rightful compensation on relief and rehabilitation from government is so slow that people are losing hope in their own government.

Right wing fundamental forces are becoming more and more aggressive over the past five years. The NCCI strongly condemns the rather slow, indeed disinterested, action of the concerned authorities in Odisha, and urges the government to pay the announced compensation to the victims, speed up the rehabilitation process, and release the innocent people languishing in prison. Justice delayed is justice denied.

  1. CALL TO RESPONSIBLE CITIZENSHIP

The NCCI urges all Indian Christian citizens to carry out their responsibilities in the country. This concern is urgent because of certain undesirable trends in the country which are on the increase since the past five years. The so called liberalization and development policies and strategies of the government (while apparently benefiting the middles class along with the rich and the millionaires), are constricting, oppressing and exploiting the poor, particularly dalits and tribals/adivasis. The patriarchal and consumerist culture of our society is seriously, indeed cruelly victimizing women and children. Right wing fundamentalism is allied with globalizing  systems, thereby quenching the spirit of democratic secularism which our Indian Constitution affirms. Religious minorities are being hounded. Whether it is our FCRAs, governance of educational institutions, operation of our medical and social services, our freedom to worship and give witness to the gospel, or our food and dress culture, they are all subject to the constricting laws of the ruling authorities and the vigilantism and impunity of fundamentalist forces.  Not only religious minorities but citizens in general are subject to scrutiny. Dissent and criticism are not tolerated; persons are being arrested, being branded as anti-national.

We are also witnessing the political atmosphere getting charged with assembly elections in some states and the country-wide General Elections in 2019 drawing near. It is the bounden duty of the government to ensure peace and free and fair elections.  At the same time the NCCI urges its member Churches and organizations to unite in creating awareness among the people about the importance of making responsible use of our right of political franchise. Voting is our right which would help our country to be back on the rails of true democracy. Christians are therefore urged to be proactive in the participation of the elections.

Tribal and Adivasi Sunday 2018 Report from Different Churches and Theological Colleges

Report from  Bishop’s College, Kolkata

The community of Bishop’s College, Kolkata, observed Tribal/Adivasi Sunday on August 5, 2018. The leader of the worship Rev. Priscilla Papiya Durairaj led the worship service following the order of worship provided by NCCI, Dalit and Tribal/Adivasi Concerns with certain modifications. Among the few modifications were lighting of lamps by different members of the community to invoke the divine presence; an adivasi dance procession of different tribal/advasi groups from the community at the beginning of the service to celebrate jal, jungle and jameen. This was followed by the bringing of water, plants and earth at the altar, as symbols of thanksgiving for God’s gift to us. The sermon focused on the selected verse from the theme Leviticus 25:23 and highlighted certain facts about water, land and forest considering them as the natural gifts to us from God and hence these have to be preserved instead of exploiting them. The sermon highlighted the significance of honoring and protecting the natural resources which are explained in the Bible particularly in the gospels and the specific use of parables having  natural imageries. The sermon emphasized the vulnerable condition of and struggles faced by the tribal and adivasi communities and the responsibility of church and faith community towards caring for these communities and also caring for the gifts given by God.  There were two special songs sung by the student community, apart from the two songs in the order of worship. The service concluded with the benediction, followed by an Adivasi dance in which the congregation also participated, dancing and going out to affirm and celebrate Jal, Jungle and Jameen once again. Read more

An Epistle on Radical Inclusivity

“Philosophy of Radical Inclusion is to be inculcated among the Churches and in the Society” 

says  Mr. Liju Jacob Kuriakose, Vice President of the National Council of Churches in India

The NCCI – National Ecumenical Forum of Gender and Sexual Diversities joined the Student Christian Movement of India and Aneka, with the support of the United Church of Canada, in organizing a National Workshop on ‘Philosophy of Radical Inclusion from Faith and Human Sexuality Perspectives at SCM House, Bengaluru from 22 -24 August 2018. Sixty students of Theology and Philosophy from 20 Theological Seminaries,  secular colleges  and other academic institutions,  mostly from the northern part of India, participated in this workshop.

Mr. Liju Jacob Kuriakose, the Vice President of the National Council of Churches in India inaugurated the workshop. In the inaugural address Liju applauded the various ministerial and programmatic interventions of the NCCI in order to realize its quadrennial theme ‘Towards Just and Inclusive Communities’.  Further he said, inclusion is a Christian attitude and it should not be symbolic. If we read the life and work of Jesus during his earthly ministries, he expressed the real nature of God including every one especially the so-called discriminated and marginalized. So, it is the duty of  Christians to express the attitude of inclusion in all our day to day life. He suggested  a paradigm shift in our faith journeys by accepting every one as they are, not discriminating anyone on the basis of their birth and orientations.

Prof. Dr. Meera Baindur delivered the  key note on Radical Inclusion. She started addressing Jesus as the Radical inclusivist  who crossed the borders of  the traditional  religious interpretations of the scriptures and teachings in including everyone  to be part of the reign of God.    When we say we follow Jesus, we need to follow such ministerial expressions rather than simply paying lip-service to it. It is a mandate for all Christians and Churches  to be ‘Radical’ in nature in terms of inculcating, promoting and practicing the culture of inclusivity in all  walks of life. This will emancipate and challenge the rest of the society to practice  inclusion. She challenged and invited all to be inclusive.

Prof. Dr. George Zachariah introduced “Rainbow Theology” to the participants. He elucidated the love of God in ‘conventional’ and ‘non-conventional’ ways. So we need to have a shift in our theological perceptions and articulations of moving from conventional to non-conventional.

Dr. Gladson Jathanna introduced  ‘Theology of Body’, in which he emphasized the need to consider the body as the bottom line or source to articulate our theologies rather than working on and around abstract concepts . He also suggested that we should celebrate bodies since bodies carry the image  and attributes of the creator God who is Just and Inclusive. So, no theology is full without dealing with bodies and its emotions.

Rev. Dr. Allan Samuel Palanna introduced ‘Moral Theology’. He explained how morality influences our theological and faith expressions. He identified several socio-psychological components and codes and how they influence our lives. He asserted that  moral codes or commandments are not  meant to impose punishment, discrimination, marginalization or isolation of any person,  rather they are meant to facilitate  smooth and harmonious social living.  So, he suggested that moral codes should be used as tools to include all, not to discriminate or exclude.

There was an interface of the gender and sexually diverse communities. This interface helped the participants to minsterially and theologically understand the status of the Gender and Sexually Diverse Communities (GSDC) and their pathos, expectations and celebrations.  The important question is “Who includes whom?”  Indeed the GSDC  say that it is the diverse communities who include the rest, and  not the rest who include GSDC. When the so-called ‘straight’, ‘normal’ and the ‘hetero-normative  sexual oriented’ use the term homophobia with regard to relating with homosexuals, it is they who have a phobia about homosexuals, and not homosexuals who are nurturing a phobia about hetero-sexuals; therefore should not the fear which the straight or normal people have be called their own phobia, i.e. is it not supposed to be heteronormative-phobia? This discussion has helped the students to realize who is phobic towards the homosexuals and they have come to an understanding that it is supposed to be ‘hetero-normative phobia’ and not homophobia.

In a session on ‘Homophobic Society’, Vikkram Subbrraman alias Delfina challenged the participants who the society is phobic towards the gender and sexually diverse communities. Further invited the participants to be more ‘humane’ rather mere religious. There was an emphasis to affirm our of love for all rather hate others.

In the session on homophobic law,  Adv. Deepta Rao explained the legal struggle of the gender and sexually diverse communities. She also suggested let religious institutions be silent rather affirming hatred over these communities. At this silence will help them to have a better life in the society.

There were two interfaith panels that explained how the other faiths including Classical Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism and also Christianity affirm homophobia by using their moral codes of law. As the representatives and advocates of the gender and sexually diverse communities Ankit Bhuptani, Romal Singh, Sukhdeep Singh, Muhammad Afeef and Tashi Choedup served as panellists.

Rev. R. Christopher Rajkumar, Director, NCCI – National Ecumenical Forum of Gender and Sexual Diversities (NCCI – NEFGSD) facilitated a workshop on ‘Radical Inclusivity’. Mr. Inbaraj Jeyakumar, General Secretary, Student Christian Movement of India and Mrs. Anshi Zachariah, Executive Director of Aneka, also facilitated workshops on the theme and both were part of the organizing team.

At the conclusion of the workshop, the  participants stated that their perceptions were changed.  All of them pledged to be inclusive and promote inclusion though their future ministries. The participants also have decided to send an EPISTLE to the Indian Christians and the Churches to invite them also to be inclusive. The participants request and invite all to be part of the campaign by sharing this (Click to Download) Epistle on Radical Inclusivity to realize the ‘Just and inclusive societies.

Reported by:

Rev. R. Christopher Rajkumar

Director, NCCI – NEFGSD and
Executive Secretary, NCCI – Unity and Mission