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)

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.

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‘Because I am Precious in God’s Eyes – I will Not Keep Silent about Gender Based Violence – Shyreeti Daveena Shares her Story

Shyreeti Daveena

The colour of my skin is black and I love my body. My mother says my eyes are dark and bright as the doe and I am lovely. But yet I faced discrimination in school because of my body and colour of my skin by my teachers and peers. Though majority of Indians have brown, dark brown and dark skin yet women and girls with lighter skin are regarded beautiful.

Whenever there was school function, plays or dance drama the fairer and thinner girls were given chance to be main characters in the play or dance drama. Talent was not the criteria of selection. Girls like me with darker skin were discriminated and not given opportunities. However boys with darker skin did not share the same plight as girls.  Dark skinned boys were regarded as handsome. I always felt rejected. I lost self confidence, had low self esteem and I became an introvert person. This affected my academic performance in school. Teachers ridiculed me and called me ‘dumb’. My teachers failed to realize psychological abuse and discrimination is also a form of gender based violence.

Even  now when I go  for my tuition classes  many boys tease me calling me names like  ‘Kalla Khatta’ ( Black and Sour), ‘Moti Kali’ ( Black fat woman ) and even use sexist language. Eve teasing is quite common phenomenon in India and culture of gender based violence exists in our country.

It took me a long time to gain back my confidence which was broken by my teachers in school. My parents helped me to gain my confidence as they reminded me ‘I am beautiful created in image of God’. My involvement in various Sunday School and youth group activities in our church helped me to discover my own leadership qualities and talents.  Galatians 3:38 inspired me “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”Today I am proud of who I am.

There are many like me in India who face discrimination because of stereotyped gender norms which moulds minds of people and culture. In India girls with darker skin becomes often burden for their parents. In an arranged marriage system which still prevails in India parents have to pay more dowry during marriage for their daughters with darker skin.

The media also portrays women with lighter skin and thin body as beautiful. Whitening creams have been promoted through racist advertising. For years, advertisers of skin-lightening creams and other products have shown people — mostly women — with dark skin as having problems when it comes to finding jobs, getting married and generally being accepted by society. The makers of these advertisement include behemoths like Unilever, Johnson & Johnson and Proctor & Gamble . The so-called ‘Fairness Cream’ industry in India is booming .There is even a fairness cream named ‘ Fair and Lovely’.  I strongly believe advertising should not communicate any discrimination as a result of skin colour.

As youth leader I feel church can play a crucial role in deconstructing stereotyped gender norms, ideologies and transform mindset of people. I often wonder why is colour white always associated with purity and black is regarded as dirty or evil. Even today we sing in the church ‘Jesus like lily pure and white’. All colours are created by God are beautiful. From childhood we are conditioned about an arche type image of Jesus as man with light skin  in white robe. We are hardly taught to imagine Jesus as an Asian man with sun tanned dusky brown skin. His clothes must have been soiled with mud and dirt as he traveled from place to place.  Just as white – Black is also beautiful.

25th November is the UN Declared International Day International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence begins on 25 November and end on 10 December, Human Rights Day.

16 Days of Activism Campaign provides me the opportunity to share my story. I have pledged ‘Because I Am Precious in God’s Eyes – I will not Keep Silent about Gender Based Violence and Sexual violence ’.  I invite all of you to join this campaign and  ‘Break the Silence’ and ‘Take Action’ to end any sorts of gender based violence whether in our home, school, church or society.

 (Shyreeti Daveena is a young adolescent girl an active youth church leader – residing in Nagpur and is studying class XI  )

 #16 Days of  Activism@ Shyreeti Daveena 

Women’s Concerns Ministry ,
National Council of Churches in India

For your concern and prayers

Israeli demolition of entire Palestinian villages continues with no end in sight.

Image of Israeli forces demolishing the Bedouin village of Al-Araqeeb for the 111th time in August 2017

Stories keep pouring in of Israel demolishing Palestinian villages; many of the buildings destroyed were donated by EU organizations; schools have been razed; residents are often required to pay tens of thousands of dollars for the destruction of their own homes; nearly 160,000 Bedouins live in “unrecognized” villages built before 1948 that Israel has designated “illegal” and threatens with demolition.

Here is the link to three reports, followed by videos and documentaries about previous demolitions:

 

Congratulations to Office Bearers of Church of North India (CNI) Synod.

The Synod of the Church of North India (CNI) met during September 30 to October 3, 2017. One of the major decisions taken on 3rd October  was to elect a new Moderator, Deputy Moderator and Hony. Treasurer. After successful elections, the names of the team of Office Bearers of CNI Synod are as below:

  1. The Most Rev. Dr. P. C. Singh, Moderator.
  2. The Rt. Revd. Dr. Probal Kanto Dutta, Deputy Moderator.
  3. Mr. Alwan Masih, General Secretary.
  4. Mr. Jayant Agarwal, Hony. Treasurer.

(Source: Mr. Alwan Masih, General Secretary of CNI).

The National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) congratulates the team of Office Bearers of CNI and joins the Church in praying for the team’s leadership and wishing them every blessing for a fruitful ministry.

With the wider ministry of NCCI’s  President, the Most Rev. Dr. P. C. Singh, as Moderator of CNI, we look forward with joy and anticipation to the benefits of his ecumenical vision and his leadership in the church and society. May God continue to bless him and the other members of this team to accomplish much for the reign of God on earth!

A Round Table Discussion on 1st October 2017

A round table discussion on “Religious Minorities in India: Challenges and Responses” was held on 1st October 2017, at New Delhi YMCA. 44 members attended the meeting representing NCCI member churches, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), Evangelical Organisations and Civil Society Organisations. It was moderated by Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad, General Secretary of National Council of Churches in India (NCCI). Three presentations were made by Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of World Council of Churches (WCC); Prof. T.K. Oommen, Emeritus Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and Adv. Irfan Engineer, Director of Institute for Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution. Mrs. Aleyamma Thomas, Vice-President, NCCI felicitated the Chief Guest and the two panelists. Rev. Dr. Peniel Jesudason Rufus Rajkumar, a WCC Executive Secretary, delivered the vote of thanks.

 

Mr. Samuel Jayakumar
Executive Secretary
Policy, Governance and Public Witness
National Council of Churches in India

Reflections on Medical Missions

Let me reflect on some common queries regarding Medical Missions in the minds of Christian medical students and on ways forward:

  1. Who is a missionary? I found this definition from Wikipedia (3) quite comprehensive, “A missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to do evangelism or ministries of service, such as education, literacy, social justice, health care and economic development. The word “mission” originates from 1598 when the Jesuits sent members abroad, derived from the Latin missionem (nom. missio), meaning “act of sending” or mittere, meaning “to send”. The word was used in light of its biblical usage; in the Latin translation of the Bible, Christ uses the word when sending the disciples to preach in his name. The term is most commonly used for Christian missions, but can be used for any creed or ideology.” A Christian medical missionary would therefore be someone sent to provide health care on behalf of a Christian church or group and Christian medical missions would be the work done collectively by a group of such people.
  2. What are some of the characteristics of medical missionary work? I think that medical missionaries (like all other missionaries) need to be sent out to areas where they are relatively out of their comfort zone (vulnerable) and to help people who are poor and marginalized. They must excel in their professional work as well as serve in the Spirit of Christ, so that others may see Christ in and through their work. This would enable other Christian services to be offered through the activities of the mission compound.
  3. Does Medical Mission work have to be only in remote rural areas? Many of the present locations of mission hospitals in India were once rural – towns have developed around the mission compounds! However, after Indian independence, there has been a significant movement of people to urban areas and many live in slums. These people are also poor and marginalized – they do not have access to high quality medical care at affordable cost and this is an opportunity for mission hospitals in urban areas. Mission hospitals have great potential as they are among the few entities which focus on people whom nobody else is interested in.
  4. Are there opportunities for pioneering new Medical Mission work in India? Yes, Arunachal Pradesh is at present the only state in India without a Christian mission hospital. (Tripura too did not have one until we started a hospital there in 2005). There are large tracts of land in forgotten corners of our country where new hospitals are needed and can be started. However, due to local land and entry laws, it is not easy for outsiders.States such as Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland require an Inner Line Permit – similar to a visa – for non-locals to enter and several states have restrictions on non-locals purchasing land). Similarly, great opportunities for transformation exist in other needy parts of the world where few want to go.
  5. Can Medical Mission work be done in hostile areas? When Makunda started the work in Tripura, Dhalai district was the most affected by militancy with murder and abduction being common and all public transportation possible only through armed convoys. However, the work at the hospital was never affected as it was seen as a humanitarian service to the poor. I had the privilege to visit Africa last year – mission hospitals are the only long-term health facilities that work well in conflict areas because of the commitment of staff. Other NGOs (like Red Cross and MSF) offer short-term medical support services. Warring groups usually do not target missionary services, recognising their humanitarian value and universal appeal.
  6. Is Medical Mission work a sacrifice? We are called to be ‘living sacrifices’ – meaning that we offer ourselves to a life of obedience to God. Medical mission work (especially in remote rural areas) is front-line work and not easy. However, in the light of the words of the Bible, I would say that the trials and difficulties are ‘temporary and trivial inconveniences’! We should not dwell on sacrifice as it makes people into ineffective self-styled martyrs! There is no sacrifice too great for a missionary – when we feel that we have been brought to life from death by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, we should be ready to die for Him. When we look at missionary history, many missionaries (often unheard and unsung) gave their lives so that the church may be built in remote areas all over the world – truly the present Christian church in these areas has been built on their sweat and blood. In comparison, the problems we face today in India are indeed trivial.
  7. Can Medical Mission work be professionally challenging? I have heard many people say that mission hospitals (especially remote rural ones) treat only diarrhea and ear discharge! When I completed my M.Ch in Pediatric Surgery at CMC Vellore, there were people who even asked why I wasted a M.Ch seat which could have been given to someone who was more likely to use it! I would like to say that I have seen and operated on some of the most professionally challenging conditions at Makunda. Since CT scans, nuclear scans and the services of other experts are often unavailable in these locations, missionary doctors need to innovate to be able to treat patients cost effectively with what is available.. I have operated on a teratoma in the right middle lobe of the lung (middle lobectomy with composite resection of two overlying ribs), ectopia cordis (unfortunately, this patient died), 35 kg ovarian tumor, retrograde jejunogastric intussusception, intra-abdominal cocoon (several cases) and so on. There have also been challenging medical as well as other specialties’ cases. All these years, I was the only full-time pediatric surgeon in the states of Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya, Manipur and southern Assam – so there are certainly a huge variety of patients who need treatment (and who cannot go elsewhere because they are poor), it is only logical to conclude that professionally, medical missionaries are in for exciting opportunities.
  8. Is it not difficult to be in a ‘vulnerable’ situation? Humanly speaking, it is. However, I would say that from a spiritual perspective, this is the greatest factor in favor of Medical Missions. Vulnerability is a blessing in disguise – how else will we see God at work? God specialises in helping us as we face circumstances beyond our control. Miracles do not happen when we are in control of situations. When all else fails and we totally depend on God, we see Him at work. It is an exciting experience to see God at work and see Him build up His kingdom and be partners in this great ministry.
  9. Is Medical Mission work drudgery with few opportunities to relax? When I was in school, I was interested in tennis, rifle shooting and rowing. In college, I cultivated an interest in electronics. However, many of these activities were not possible at Makunda. I discovered that nature observation and photography are excellent for relaxation. My observations in and around Makunda have been posted and published in many sites. (4,5) If someone is looking for the nearest mall to relax in, he may be disappointed but there are other (and maybe greater) opportunities to compensate.
  10. Can work focused on the poor be self-sustaining? When we re-started Makunda, we were told that it was impossible to work primarily for the poor on a self-sustaining basis and that all successful mission hospitals subsidise treatment of the poor by treating the rich at higher rates. However, we decided to be a hospital primarily for the poor with no special facilities for the rich as a part of our ‘pro-poor’ branding strategy. All patients wait in the same queues irrespective of their social class or wealth and the same general wards are used to admit them. Charges are low and charity is liberal – the hospital is flooded with patients and high capacity utilisation leads to high efficiency and lowered costs. God has blessed the work and we have been able to invest in new equipment and buildings, start a new school, the branch in Tripura and nursing school without major grants (the external funding received each year was less than 1 percent of income for many years). When we treat the poor who cannot afford to pay, God pays their bills – often in ways that money cannot buy – by giving us satisfaction, contentment and wealth in heaven.
  11. Why is there a high attrition rate in mission hospitals? Work in mission hospitals is not easy and not for every one. There is peer-pressure from families and friends. People look for comforts and sometimes are unable to adjust to life in mission hospitals. Many are short-term and do not want to stay on to solve local problems. There is a high attrition rate in Medical Mission work all over the world – maybe <10 per cent of new staff stay on long-term. However, most staff leave after tasting God at work and often say that the best years of their lives were at the mission hospital!
  12. Are many mission hospitals today ‘beyond redemption’? Sadly, many mission hospitals are ‘sick’. This is due to inability to adapt to rapid changes, poor governance and the absence of committed long-term staff at a leadership level. Being at the cutting edge of mission work, I am sure there would also be an element of spiritual warfare. However, no hospital is beyond redemption. Major changes may need to be done to resolve problems but all of them can be revived. If a completely shut hospital (like Makunda) with severe local problems can be revived to become a thriving community, there is hope for all the other sick ones too! God is able to do great things. He just needs a few volunteers willing to submit to Him.

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Obeying a call to Medical Missions – a Testimony

In 1982, as a second year under-graduate medical student at the Kilpauk Medical College in Madras (1), I made a lifelong commitment to Jesus Christ. I started a Bible Study group in college and we discussed how to live the Christian life and make decisions that were approved in God’s sight. We heard many messages on the topic, “Finding God’s Will” but many of us were not able to get a clear convincing personal answer to this burning question. My query was answered one day when I was reading Jeremiah 29:11-13 (2) – I felt God telling me that I was not able to find His will for my life because I was not seeking with all my heart and that He was waiting to answer as soon as I realised that He had the best possible plans for my life. I also realised that I did not want to hand over my life totally into His hands; I wanted to retain control and this attitude was preventing me from seeing His plans for me. I felt God speaking to me and made a vow that I would obey Him and go where He wanted me to go and do what He wanted me to do with all my time, talents and treasure. It soon became clear to me that I should go where few others wanted to go, so that I could make a difference to people who had no access to good health care. Since the southern four states of India were well provisioned with healthcare, I had to go far away from home.

After my internship, I was not confident to run a remote hospital by myself and joined the Christian Fellowship Hospital (3) at Oddanchatram in 1987 and spent 3 wonderful years there, learning to become a more confident doctor. I also spent the 3 years (every Thursday) exploring villages in the hills of Pachalur (30 kilometers from Oddanchatram), doing medical work with some local missionaries and seeing God answering the simple prayers of poor people powerfully. For the next few years, I was involved in conducting the annual Medical Missionary Meets for medical college students of Tamil Nadu at Pachalur organised by the CF Hospital – I visited medical college fellowships in Tamil Nadu, wrote numerous letters to a large number of students and learnt many things about working with medical students.

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Supreme Court gives India a Private Life

A landmark decision was made by the Supreme Court on 24th August 2017. Here is a report from The Times of India, Ranchi Edition of 25th August 2017: 

 SC GIVES INDIA A PRIVATE LIFE

63-Yr-Old Judgement Overturned

by Dhananjay Mahapatra & Amit Anand Choudhary TNN

New Delhi: Propelling India into the ranks of progressive societies that ensure privacy of their citizens, a nine-judge Supreme Court bench unanimously ruled on Thursday that privacy is a fundamental right, protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty and as part of the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. In a historic judgment, the bench headed by CJI J S Khehar — which included Justices J Chelameswar, S A Bobde, R K Agrawal, R F Nariman, A M Sapre, D Y Chandrachud, Sanjay K Kaul and S Abdul Nazeer — upturned a 63-year-old ruling of an eight-judge bench that had refused to recognise privacy as a fundamental right. The 547-page ruling set up many landmarks to outline what constitutes a dignified life and the obligation of the state to help its citizens lead one.

It emphasised the value of dissent and tolerance, besides the rights of minorities, including sexual minorities, clearing the way for the possible voiding of the SC’s controversial order to reverse the decriminalisation of consensual gay sex by the Delhi high court. It also boldly delineated the limits to the state’s intervention in the lives of citizens. (emphasis added)

However, the bench was alive to the challenges thrown up by technology and recognised that a balance needs to be maintained between the right to privacy and the right of the state to impose reasonable restrictions on it for legitimate aims such as national security, prevention and investigation of crimes and distribution of welfare resources.

What stood out was privacy being declared intrinsic to right to life and that it formed part of the sacrosanct chapter on fundamental rights in the Constitution, which has been regarded since 1973 as part of the basic structure, immune from Parliament’s interference. The unanimous verdict was “Right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as part of the freedoms granted by Part III

The NCCI is committed to work towards just and inclusive communities. In the spirit of the Constitution of India, we affirm the fundamental rights of all, and in the context of the above SC ruling, the right to dignity of life for all.

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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