Maharashtra Manthan 2018: Strengthening secularism

Report of Maharashtra Manthan 2018-19: Strengthening Secularism
NCCI , EFI, UM | 30th April – 2nd May 2018 | M.L.A. Hostel, Nagpur.

“Maharashtra Manthan : Strengthening Secularism”, a 3 days seminar organized by National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) and United Maharashtra (UM), was held at MLA Hostel, Nagpur from April 30 to May 2, 2018. More than 75 people which included youth and female participants from different cities of Maharashtra state participated in this seminar. There were 8 women participants and about 25 young people.

30th April 2018 (Day 1)

Maharashtra Manthan started at 12:45 pm with an opening prayer by Pastor Amit Manwatkar. The Coordinator of the Maharashtra Manthan was Rev. Devashish Dubey who introduced the concept of Maharashtra Manthan to the participants. He emphasized that the main objective of Maharashtra Manthan 2018 is to bring awareness about the contemporary contextual situation in the country among the participants and to guide the community and society in building new, sensitized and responsible leadership through the training.  Mr. Pradip Bansrior (NCCI Representative) presented the guidelines for the two and half day’s seminar to all participants.

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NCCI condemns act of labelling candidates for constable post as SC/ST/ OBC on their chests

Pic Source: zeenews.india.com

Despite the right to non-discrimination on the basis of race or caste enshrined in Article 15 of the Indian Constitution, discrimination against SCs and STs is pervasive. Markings of “SC” for scheduled caste, “ST” for scheduled tribe, “O” for OBC (other backward class) and “G” for General, of candidates for the post of constable on their chests in a bid to identify their castes during their medical examination in Dhar district of BJP ruled state, Madhya Pradesh, is not only a violation of human rights but also a criminal offence under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.

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A CALL FOR COMMUNITY RESPONSIBILITY

REPENT AND REFORM, O BELOVED COUNTRY!

Shame, O Beloved Country! 

The two recent instances of the shameful rapes of young girls in the states of Jammu and Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh have brought ignominy to India. Such incidents keep on happening. The body of an 11 year old girl was raped, tortured and strangulated to death was found in Surat about 13 days ago. A 17-year-old girl was gang-raped in Patna early on 14th April 2018 in Patna. On the same day a 24 year old woman was said to be gang-raped by two youth on Yamuna Expressway. It is indeed ironic and horrible that Indians, who worship many Goddesses daily, have no respect for the country’s girls and women.

Worse still, in Kashmir as police tried to file charges against the men in the town of Kathua, local lawyers shouted Hindu nationalist slogans and tried to block investigators from entering the courthouse. BJP ministers in Jammu and Kashmir state’s coalition government attended rallies in support of the accused that were organised by the Hindu Ekta Manch, a nationalist group.

Similarly in the Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, the girl who was raped tried to kill herself on April 8, 2018 in front of the home of Yogi Adityanath, Uttar Pradesh chief minister, alleging the police had refused to register her case. A day later, her father died in police custody after he was beaten by Sengar’s brother, who has since been arrested.

Vrinda Grover, a Supreme Court lawyer who specializes in sexual assault cases, remarks, “Systems are manipulated from the investigation stage onwards, the processes of law are subverted by those in power. The Unnao case is the most brazen illustration of this. . . The police facilitated the beating to death of the father of the girl. If the police is going to not act according to the law, but at the behest of the accused, then there can be no hope for justice. Today, law and justice are a mirage that we are offering the women of this country.”

In addition to this culture of sexual violence and rape, there are several other evils our country is experiencing. Religious minority groups, particularly Muslims and Christians, continue to face increasing demonization by hardline Hindu groups, pro-government media and some state officials. Adivasi communities continue to be displaced by industrial projects, and hate crimes against Dalits remain widespread. Authorities are openly critical of human rights defenders and organizations, contributing to a climate of hostility against them. Mob violence, including that by vigilante cow protection groups, is being intensified. Press freedom and free speech in universities has been coming under attack. The Supreme Court and High Courts deliver several progressive judgments, but some rulings undermined human rights. Impunity for human rights abuses persists.

And much it grieves our hearts to think what humans have made of humans!

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Open Letter to Prime Minister of India | End Culture of Rape & Sexual Violence on Girls, Children & Women in India!

Date: 16th April 2018

To

Sri Narendra Modi,
Honourable Prime Minister in India,
South Block, Raisina Hill,
New Delhi -110011

Open Letter to Prime Minister of India
End Culture of Rape & Sexual Violence on Girls, Children & Women in India !

 

Honourable Prime Minister Sri Narendra Modi,

Greetings from the National Council of Churches in India.

National Council of Churches represents around 14 million Christians in India from Reformation and Syrian Christian Traditions.

We write this letter at the darkest hour of our country when our Government is failing to protect girls, women and children. We express our deep anguish and pain, regarding the barbaric and heinous act of gang rape and murder of the little eight year old girl in Kathua and the rape of young 20 year old girl from Unnao in Uttar Pradesh.

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An Open Letter from Bishop Most Revd Thomas K. Oommen (Moderator, Church of South India) to the Fellow Citizens of India.

ABSTRACT

  • As an Indian Citizen and the Head of the Second Largest Church in India, with more than 4.5 Million members, most of them being dalits, Adivasis, poor farmers and fisherfolks, I hereby share the fear my people have under the rule of a Government that has become a nightmare to the poor and the minorities in India.
  • It is true and sad fact that the current Government that follows the Hindutva supremacist ideology seems to have consciously discounted what is stated in the Preamble of our Indian Constitution that declares liberty, equality, and fraternity as its ideals and assures Social, Economic and Political Justice to the citizens of India.
  • The Government proves to be pro-corporate and unkind to the poor by waiving off loans of rich people and corporate while not waiving of the loans of the poor farmers, not giving Minimum Support Price (MSP) to them, not addressing the issues of economic distress, joblessness, price rise by forcefully implementing policies like ‘Demonetization’ and GST. In fact, corruption and scams/scandals have become a hallmark of this Government.
  • The Church of South India demands that the Government at the centre ensures the democratic and secular fabric of India to be safeguarded instead of promoting their Hindutva agenda for which they demolish Churches and Mosques, vandalizes religious statues and symbols, persecutes Christians and Muslims, change school textbooks, insert dogmatic and pseudo-scientific religious content, ban films, books, festivals of minorities claiming that they to “offend” the Hindu nationalist sentiments.
  • The Church of South India not only stands in solidarity with the Dalits fighting for justice and equality and agitating against alleged “dilution” of the Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, but also condemns all atrocities against the Dalits, that tortures, rapes and brutal murders by the Hindutva extremist forces.
  • Church of South India also strongly demands that recommendations of the Ranganath Mishra Commission and the Sachar Committee for reservation to Dalits of Christian and Muslim minority communities be implemented.
  • On this day on April 06, 1930, at the end of the ‘Salt March’, Mahatma Gandhi raised a lump of mud and salt and declared, “With this, I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire”. Today, on April 06, 2018, I urge my fellow citizens in India to unite together and shake the foundations of another empire being built by the corporate fascists.

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Extremists who seek to victimize those of another faith are strongly condemned

Extremists who seek to victimize those of another faith are strongly condemned

 

 

Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC

05 April 2018

Extremists who prey upon believers of other faiths in the name of their religion or belief are to be called out and condemned for their “abhorrent incitement” in the strongest terms, says World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit.

“The freedom of religion and belief is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which this year celebrates its 70th anniversary and is also part of the constitutions of so many nations in the world. So, it is abhorrent and ungodly for any person from one faith to call for iniquitous acts against those belonging to another religion; merely because they follow that belief,” said Tveit.

His comments came after the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the largest Arab-American civil rights organization in the United States, said it is outraged by hateful and violent fliers encouraging people to take part in “Punish a Muslim Day”.

”Freedom of religion is as much about Christian minorities in Muslim countries as it is about followers of Islam in countries where Christians are a majority,” noted the general secretary.

The ADC made its call on 29 March in response to the vile campaign designed to stir up hatred between believers of different faiths, which originated in London, where flyers instigating violence against Muslims were left at the steps of several mosques.

It said the fliers have also alarmed communities across the United States in their singling out of American Arabs and Muslims.

ACT Alliance, the WCC’s partner organization, was quick to condemn the incitement to hate, tweeting #BanPunishAMuslimDay, saying “We believe that all persons are created in the image of God. Therefore, we act in ways that respect dignity, uniqueness, and the intrinsic worth and human rights of all people.”

Source: https://www.oikoumene.org/en/press-centre/news/extremists-who-seek-to-victimize-those-of-another-faith-are-strongly-condemned

Statement of the Consultation on Ecumenical Formation and Capacity Building for Young Dalit, Tribal/Adivasi Theologians

Statement of the Consultation on Ecumenical Formation and Capacity Building for
Young Dalit and Tribal/Adivasi Theologians

1 – 3 February 2018 | Leonard Theological College, Jabalpur (MP)

 

We, 30 young theologians from 12 theological colleges across Northern, Eastern and Central India representing different social and cultural identities as well as churches from different parts of India, gathered at Leonard Theological College, Jabalpur from 1st to 3rd of February 2018 for a Consultation on Ecumenical Formation and Capacity Building for Young Dalit, Tribal/Adivasi Theologians organized by NCCI’s Dalit and Tribal/Adivasi Concerns.  During our discussions and deliberations we dealt with many concerns such as trends and development of ecumenical movement from various contextual issues including struggles for Dalits Rights; Rights of indigenous people; Rights of women and children; Youth in the Cyber Age; Human Trafficking, Human Sexuality and Gender Diversities; Prophetic communication; Ecumenical formation; Inter-Religious harmony and Ecological justice.

We affirm that:

  1. God has created humankind in God’s own image. In the household of God, there is no discrimination on the basis of caste, gender, race, creed, or religion.
  2. Unity is the essence of Christianity and the Christian community can transcend differences and divisions by coming together to address social concerns and campaign against evil forces that undermine or violate people’s rights and dignity on the basis of their gender, generation, caste, tribe, ability or sexual orientation.
  3. Our God is the God of love, compassion and justice who always takes the side of the oppressed in their struggle for justice and liberates them from oppressive and unjust systems.
  4. The ecumenical spirit transcends ecclesial realms and facilitates visible unity and symbiotic living with all of God’s creation, peace and reconciliation with people of all faiths, and commitment to social causes.
  5. The Church has to take serious cognisance of the changing socio-political, cultural and technological context, and should engage with the same meaningfully, relevantly and effectively.
  6. The Church is called to remain committed particularly to the cause of Dalit and Tribal/Adivasi communities in her prophetic ministry.

We reject and condemn any discrimination and social injustice within and outside the church, denying the rights to the fullness of life of women, youth, children, Dalits, Tribals/Adivasis, sexual minorities and of nature.

We, therefore, make the following recommendations to the churches and theological institutions for effective ecumenism and social justice:

  1. To declare and accept social diversities in gender, caste, race or creed as designs of God.
  1. To widen the ecumenical movement beyond ecclesial relationships within and among the churches, and even beyond inter-religious relationships to inter-human relationships and integrity of all creation.
  2. To be more inclusive, and to be more sensitive towards sexual minorities and marginalised sections of the society.
  3. To incorporate teachings of peace and reconciliation not only in curricula, but also to practice the same in day to day lives.
  4. To understand and interpret the Scripture in a holistic manner of inclusivity and ensure justice and equity for all creation.
  5. To strengthen prophetic communication with regard to issues of women, children, Dalits and Tribals/Adivasis, sexual minorities and nature.
  6. To publicly affirm the identity of Dalit and Tribal/Adivasi communities and promote their spirituality.
  7. To make use of Dalit/Tribal/Adivasi cultures and traditions in strengthening grassroots ecumenism.

DECLARATION by Engage Disability Partners

During the Engage Disability Conference 2014, NCCI-IDEA was called on to lead the Regional Hub Engage Disability in India. NCCI-IDEA is also one of the core members of Engage Disability Advisory Committee and was also the acting secretariat for Engage Disability 2014-2016. Rev. Christopher Rajkumar, the executive Secretary of NCCI and director of IDEA served as the Chairperson of Engage Disability, India so far.

DECLARATION by Engage Disability Partners

We believe…

As the Body of Christ, we affirm that all people, including people with disabilities, are created in the image of the Triune God. The church is “OF” all and “FOR” all. Thus, a church that excludes persons with disabilities is incomplete. The Body is made up of different parts and the seemingly weaker parts are indispensable. (1 Cor. 12:22)

The Mission of God is an imperative;along with and for the disabled; who have potential to be full and active members of the Church, community and society at large.

We repent…

For treating the person with a disability as an object of charity; or of a lesser class. Though disability is prevalent in the world, it is less prevalent in the church. We have accepted traditions and imposed structures, processes and attitudes which prevent those who are affected by disability from accessing the church, the Christian community—and our own programs in India. If we are not actively including people with disabilities, we are passively excluding them;and we have missed the opportunity to show the heart of the Gospel.

We are challenged…

By the Gospel of Christ, in establishing the “reign of God” to work toward justice, love and peace for all; including persons with disabilities. We are motivated by the holistic healing narratives in the Gospels to minister both to and alongside persons with disabilities. For us as a community of Christian faith, it is a mandate that we accompany one another in reaching the highest potential for which God created us.

We are guided by Christ…

Who furthered this message by coming “to preach good news to the poor and proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind…to release the oppressed.” (Luke 4:14-21) Jesus saw people with disabilities, challenged their marginalization; and He responded with Love. He showed great concern for both physical and mental challenges as He addressed their spiritual condition.

We are committed to:

  • Stand with our Brothers and Sisters who have disabilities, ensuring that they are centrally involved in this process and movement.
  • Promote inclusion of those with disabilities in all aspects of the church, our programs, and community.
  • Further a theological understanding of disability: that ALL are created equal and in the image of God; and that disabilities are not a result of a person’s sin, lack of faith, or an unwillingness to be healed
  • Engage together for advocacy and inclusion of persons with disabilities in their local communities and society at large
  • Be personally and corporately blessed by people with disability serving alongside those without disability

 We are guided by the Scriptures…

  • We value people as being created in God’s image and as being called to abundant life

“For You formed my inward parts…I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” (Ps. 139: 13, 14)

“I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

  • We acknowledge that God’s purposes are often worked out through those whom the world has rejected and despised.

“…God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it…” (1 Cor.12:24-25)

“…My strength is made perfect in weakness…” (2 Cor. 12:9)

  • We acknowledge that societal structures, including those in Christian communities, can prevent God’s people from playing a full role in the body of Christ.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6)

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed” (Luke 4:18)

  • We value team work and acknowledge that the body of Christ is incomplete without our Brothers and Sisters affected by disabilities.

“…in whom the whole body is united and held together by every ligament with which it is supplied. As each individual part does its job, the body’s growth is promoted so that it builds itself up in love.” (Eph. 4: 16)

“But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be” (Corinthians 12:18)

  • We believe that we are loved by God and are called to express His love to others, including those who are marginalized. We exhibit this love through both word and deed.

“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12) “Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy” (Prov. 31:9)

 Conclusion

If persons with disabilities are a full part of our church, then we will be blessed

There is blessing when we include those with disability in the church, our programs and in our communities where we work. Created in the image of God, they can enjoy the right to “wholeness”; no longer simply being objects of our benevolence, but enabled to be “givers” themselves. In this way, our paradigm shifts from giver-receiver mode to the “accompanier”mode; and as a result, we all can truly experience abundant life. 1Corinthians 12:22 says that the seemingly weaker parts of the body are indispensable. Luke 14:13 says, “Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits those with disability,. You’ll be—and experience—a blessing”.

– Cynthia Shinde
Coordinator, Indian Disability Ecumenical Accompaniment (IDEA),
National Council of Churches in India.

Joint Ecumenical Statement by ACT, WCC, LWF to the 62nd Commission on the Status of Women

Joint Ecumenical Statement by Action by Churches Together – ACT Alliance (ACT), Commission of the Churches in International Affairs of the World Council of Churches (WCC), and Lutheran World Federation (LWF) to the 62nd Commission on the Status of Women

 

As networks of Churches and Christian faith based organizations working for decades in humanitarian response and human rights-based development in over 130 countries, we call for an end to gender inequality and injustice. Our faith inspires us work to address the needs not only of the body but also of the mind and spirit, honoring the fullness of humanity. We also extend into the most rural areas that are often out of the institutional reach of national governments. We welcome the Commission’s acknowledgment that the specific challenges of women and girls living in rural communities must be addressed in order obtain gender justice for all. These challenges must be particularly addressed in line with the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030 to ensure that those most marginalized, such as rural women and girls, are not ‘left behind’.

Working with Faith Actors to End Harmful Practices

 United Nations mechanisms such as the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), show that a number of customary laws and the misuse of religious practices beliefs threaten progress, particularly concerning rural women and girls’ rights, even within countries that have ratified treaties and committed to implementing human rights standards. For example, in Sierra Leone, up to 85 percent of the population uses customary law as part of the formal and informal legal system. Moreover, civil unrest in a country can weaken formal justice systems; in such situations, the population might resort to traditional dispute settlement mechanisms, which complicates and may preclude the assurance of the rights of women and girls, particularly in rural communities.

Acknowledging that these customary and traditional practices are rooted in convictions, values and beliefs, the importance of deliberately involving religious leaders of different faiths cannot be overemphasized. Such leaders play critical and influential roles within society and people of all age groups in communities rely on them for guidance on many matters. As such, working with faith based actors has the potential to bring lasting and sustainable change to end harmful traditional practices including female genital mutilation/cutting and child, early and forced marriage.

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