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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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)