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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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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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

CCA invites applications to serve as stewards at the Asia Mission Conference in Myanmar.

Stewards of the 14th General Assembly of the CCA in Jakarta, Indonesia — May 2015.

 

The Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) invites applications from young Christians belonging to CCA member churches and ecumenical councils in Asia to serve as stewards for the Asia Mission Conference (AMC) to be held in Yangon, Myanmar from 11 to 17 October 2017.

The stewards program will last for 10 days, including three days of ecumenical formation training and pre-AMC orientation; with arrival on 8 October and departure on 17 October 2017.

An opportunity to serve as a steward in a major Asian ecumenical event with historical significance is a unique experience. It will help to develop a sense of togetherness, working in a multicultural context, interacting with a wide range of participants of the AMC – church and ecumenical leaders from around the world, theologians, missiologists, social activists and interfaith scholars.

The deadline for receiving applications is 10 July 2017. Applicants must be between the ages of 18 and 30 years old.

The AMC will be a major ecumenical event with the participation of 400 representatives of churches, ecumenical councils and related organisations in Asia, Europe, North America and other continents. The theme of the AMC is ‘Journeying Together: Prophetic Witness to the Truth and Light, in Asia’. The Diamond Jubilee celebrations of the CCA also will be held during the AMC, on Sunday 15 October 2017.

Fifty stewards, 20 international and 30 local stewards will be selected to work together with the CCA staff and the local host committees to assume various responsibilities during the AMC, and in participating in the two historic events of the CCA – the AMC and CCA’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

The Diamond Jubilee of the CCA will be commemorated on Sunday, 15 October 2017 in a grand event in the presence of a gathering of 5000 selected invitees, including the 400 participants of the AMC and international guests.

To download the application form for the Stewards Programme, please visit the CCA website. Kindly send the form to CCA.

 

(Source: CCA News | http://cca.org.hk/home/news-and-events/cca-invites-applications-to-serve-as-stewards-at-the-asia-mission-conference-in-myanmar)

Statement on Martial law in Mindanao (Philippines)

Coming from the Meeting of the Ecumenical Indigenous Peoples’ Network Reference Group (May 31, 2017 | Manila, Philippines)

We condemn the declaration of a state of martial law in the whole of Mindanao by the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s in response to the alleged terrorist attacks by the Islamic State-linked Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf in Marawi City. Current reports show that state security forces are intensifying its military operations in the whole island of Mindanao especially in Marawi City through indiscriminate aerial bombings, ground confrontations and clearing operations.

We equally express alarm that Martial Law in Mindanao further heightens current military abuses and excesses against the Indigenous Peoples there who aredefending their lands against extractives, energy projects and plantations, and militarization of their communities.

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Prominent Belgian Liberation Theologist Francois Houtart Dies

Dubbed the “Pope of anti-globalization,” Houtart left a mark on discussions of religion and revolutionary social change in developing nations.

Belgian liberation theologist and sociologist Francois Houtart died Tuesday at the age of 92, leaving a powerful legacy through his decades of work theorizing globaliztion, alternatives to capitalism and religion from a Marxist perspective.

Houtart died in Quito, Ecuador, where he lived and worked at the Pueblo Indio Foundation and with several universities. Houtart was born in Brussels in 1925, became a Catholic priest in 1949 completed a doctorate in sociology at the University of Louvain.

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India at UPR UN meet on May 4, 2017

Photo Credit: ndtv.com

Minority rights, NGO crackdown raised at UN meet, India says freedoms secure

Concept of torture alien to our culture: Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi


From complaints of eroding minority rights and religious intolerance to the crackdown against NGOs, women’s rights to LGBT rights, Kashmir to Afrophobia — India’s track record on human rights came under sharp scrutiny at the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday in Geneva.

Several countries expressed concerns on India’s FCRA laws, incidents of religious intolerance, women’s rights and even racism. The Kashmir issue was also raised by Pakistan during the hearing of the third “Universal Periodic Review.” India has undergone this voluntary review twice before, in 2008 and 2012.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who presented India’s position, strongly denied the allegations. “The right to fair trial and free legal aid up to the highest court are enshrined as fundamental rights in the Constitution of India and thus guaranteed to all individuals. So much so that as the Attorney General of India, I was summoned by the Supreme Court at 2 in the morning to hear a last-ditch petition, after several rounds of litigation, by a convict who was guilty of terrorism to escape punishment (a reference to the Yakub Memon case). This shows the importance attached to upholding of human rights by India,” he told the UNHRC.

Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka backed India on its human rights record. But a group of countries, including the US, Australia, Germany, Czech Republic, Norway and Ireland, asked India to look at its FCRA laws with US saying that there is “complete lack of transparency” in the implementation which affects NGOs in India.

Germany, Vatican, Kazakhstan, Kenya, UK, South Korea and the Netherlands expressed concern over the issues of rights of religious minorities and intolerance.

Pakistan called for a stop to the use of pellet guns. India countered saying the situation in Kashmir is due to Pakistan’s actions and there is zero tolerance to terrorism.

Haiti raised the issue of “Afrophobia” which was denied by an Indian delegate who called the country a “land of Buddha” which did not have a racist mindset and said that these incidents were a case of local crime.

While Japan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan and Liechtenstein were among countries which raised concerns on women’s rights, Israel and Ireland raised the issue of equal rights for the LGBT community. Several countries asked India to ratify the convention against torture.

Leading the Indian delegation, Rohatgi said that India makes no distinction between caste, creed, colour or religion of a citizen. “India is a secular state with no state religion,” he said, adding that the Indian Constitution guarantees freedom of religion to every individual. He said the right to free speech and expression occupies its rightful place in the core of the Constitution.

“As the world’s largest multi-layered democracy, we fully recognise the importance of free speech and expression. Our people are conscious of their political freedoms and exercise their choices at every opportunity,” Rohatgi said. “We believe in peace, non-violence and upholding human dignity. As such, the concept of torture is completely alien to our culture and it has no place in the governance of the nation.”

On the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Rohatgi said the Act is applied only to disturbed areas — few and in proximity to some international borders. Several countries, including the US, raised the issue of AFSPA. “Whether this Act should be repealed or not is a matter of on-going vibrant political debate in my country,” he said.

On transgenders, Rohatgi said that India has been at the forefront of recognising their equal rights. The Supreme Court gave a landmark judgement in 2014 directing the government to declare trans-genders a “third gender” and included them as an “Other Backward Class” entitled to affirmative action benefits.

The apex court also reinforced that trans-genders should have all rights under law, including marriage, adoption, divorce, succession and inheritance, Rohatgi added.

Rohatgi said India seeks to ensure inclusive development and the protection of rights of vulnerable groups and it has enacted a range of laws to address sexual assault and other gender-based crimes.

“We have overhauled the legal framework for dealing with child sexual assault,” he said, adding that India remains deeply committed towards reinforcing and accelerating efforts towards combating human trafficking.

Source: Indian Express (http://indianexpress.com/article/india/minority-rights-ngo-crackdown-raised-at-un-meet-india-says-freedoms-secure-4641197/) Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | Published:May 5, 2017 5:17 am

 

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Global Day of Prayer to End Famine on 21 May 2017

Dear Friends,

We are requesting you as participating organisations of WCC-EAA, that each of your organisation is able to sign up and endorse the Global ‘Day of Prayer to End Famine’ on 21 May 2017 to be launched tomorrow. We are grateful to you if you have already endorsed it and agreed to be one of the organisations launching the call.  The General Secretaries of WCC & AACC had send out a call last week. The letter is attached with this message- please see below for the link to  register as partners in the campaign.

All this work is possible because of your committed guidance and support. We would very much want you register and back this Day of Prayer and to promote it among your partners and networks.

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National Council of Churches Condemns Human Rights Violation of Dalit Women

 

National Council of Churches in India condemns the heinous crimes which are being committed against Dalits and especially Dalit women in India. Instances of such violence on dalit women are   increasing as fascist ideologies  are spreading like plague in India

Another heinous crime happened recently when two Dalit women were beaten up, their clothes were stripped off and then they were forced to walk naked in their village. High caste women were used to commit such violence on these two women while   the insensitive crowed amused themselves by taking pictures and filming them naked. The “crime” the two Dalit women committed did was to take water from a tap that was in the area of the upper class Hindus. These sisters belonged to the MSA (Mission Sisters of Ajmer) congregation, who run the Karuna Hospital in Borivli. This is the how Dalit women are treated in India, irrespective of their services to the community. ( Source :www. thecjpost.com)

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