NCCI President’s Address: Embracing the Strangers and Practicing Prophetic Witness

This is the inaugural address of NCCI President, The Most. Rev. Dr. P C Singh at  the National Consultation on “Embracing the Strangers and Practicing Prophetic Witness” ( A Program of CCA – Vichara | June 19, 2018 | Orthodox Seminary – Kottayam).

Greetings

Let me, first of all, greet you all in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

It is with great joy that I am bringing greetings from the Church of North India as its Moderator and from the National Council of Churches in India as its President. My own diocese, the Diocese of Jabalpur CNI also joins me in wishing success for this conference.

I congratulate CCA and Vichara for the great partnership in organizing this conference. The Orthodox Church in India has been gracious to provide this Centre as the venue of the conference. It will be only proper to offer a special word of appreciation for the hard work put in by the Vichara team of Prof. Mammen Varkey.

For CCA “Embracing the strangers” has been a favourite theme and  area of action for several years now.  For me, it has been a privilege to serve in CCA Central committee. I see that a good number of  participants  are attending the conference and enjoying the hospitality of “God’s own country”!

Strangers and Wanderers

“A wandering  Aramean was my father…” was the memorial confession of the people of God in the Old Testament.  Abraham, Jacob, and the  people of Israel were all strangers in the land  into which their journey  brought them .  Then, we have the story of 40 years of wandering in the wilderness which depicts many occasions where people were treated as strangers and wanderers. Throughout history even up to modern times we can see people moving or fleeing from one place to another becoming  strangers elsewhere.

According to the UN report – 2013, Asians represented the largest Diaspora group residing outside their major area of birth, accounting for about 19 million migrants living in Europe, some 16 million in Northern America and about 3 million in Oceania.

Compared to other regions of destination, Asia saw the largest increase of international migrants since 2000, adding some 20 million migrants in 13 years, and this growth was mainly fuelled by the demand for foreign labour in the oil-producing countries of Western Asia and in South-Eastern Asian countries with rapidly growing economics such as Malaysia and Thailand.

The influx of migrant workers leaving various Asian countries increase yearly and more than 250,000 workers from Sri Lanka and 100,000 from Thailand have also been leaving their country every year since 2008.

The recent cases of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and  the influx of refugees from Syria give us the magnitude of suffering the “strangers” to other countries had to bear. Some countries decided to embrace the strangers whereas some others closed their doors. I am sure that this conference will take much time to discuss about the recent trends in migration and refugee situations. So I do not wish to go into further details.

We will look at our own country where neighbours are living as strangers and not willing to embrace each other. You know that I am speaking about the curse of caste system in our country. Exclusion or the practice of ostracising a group by segregating them from the mainstream by social custom  is the dynamics of caste system. Even after many years of abolishing  “untouchability”, it is still in practice.  The Dalits of India are untouchable for the upper castes.

Thus, I wish to identify three main reasons which exclude  people from people and  prohibit the opportunity of embracing each other.  That is, these are the reasons which create “strangers” in our communities. Economic crisis and disparity, political aggression, religious intolerance are the main causes. Large communities, especially from Asia migrate to economically affluent countries in search of jobs to keep their life going at least in the minimum way.  Political exclusion and dictatorship as well as  ethnic cleansing  are some of the main reasons which make strangers in one’s own country and outside.  What is happening in Syria is mainly due to religious intolerance.  These  situations can be resolved only through dealing with these basic causes at the root.

The Prophetic Role

What does the Bible say about Embracing the strangers?  Practicing prophetic witness is what the Bible says.  The prophets  stood between God and people  and communicated to people what God wanted to tell them. It was not simple oral communication only, but it was the compulsion of establishing the justice of God in the world. Let us see some of the passages

  • “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 33-34)
  • Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15.7)
  • Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Peter 4.9)
  • Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. ” (Hebrews 13. 1)

What can we do to enhance embracing the stranger?

We live in a world which is run by selfish economic motives. People use each other  for commercial gains. Money has become the measure of all things.  Greed has made human race like beasts.  The teaching  about Christ model, that is giving your life for others, does not attract many people.  So we need to create a counter culture of mutual care and deep concern for others.  I would like to make some practical proposal.

  1. Let us start with our homes. Some of us live in heavily protected houses and gated    Access for strangers to such living spaces will be impossible. So we need to make our  homes open to strangers in need.  The “strangers” may be even the people living next door!  As communities we need to formulate organized activities to take care of strangers.
  2. Next, let us take our local church. A recent  book on Parish Revitalization  titled one of the chapters  as, “A Gathering of Strangers?”  (Robert Worley, Chicago).  Are our local churches a gathering of strangers? We need to take a moment of  introspection . There are two questions. First, is our church a place of embracing the strangers within itself? Second,  as a church, do we have an outreach programme for the strangers?
  3.  Embracing the stranger at the grassroots. Embracing the strangers has found  place in international ecumenical councils like CCA and WCC. Even the NCCI has the related concern of migration as one of its ministerial foci. But embracing the stranger  has not found its due place in the agenda of local churches  and local ecumenical communities.  We know that  whatever does not happen  locally does not happen at all. So bringing  the agenda of embracing the stranger in the local ecumenical level is a pending task.
  4. Education from childhood. Christian nurture of children is mainly through Sunday Schools. The church has additional resource of  schools. These educational institutions  can be used as  places where children are taught from childhood  about the  care of strangers. Such positive attitudes are best developed  in schools.
  5. Wider ecumenical instrument. Religious fundamentalism is one of the main causes of exclusion . Strangers are created because of the misinterpretation of religious teachings. When interfaith communities take up the cause of embracing the strangers, it would have a great impact.  Well meaning and peace loving religious leaders can come together and make joint efforts towards this.
  6. The last suggestion is with a punch! Caste system has to go away from Indian community if our country has to be liberated from the bondage of mental and social oppression. The Church can play a model role by removing caste system from her own body. When that happens the Church will have no more strangers!

I am sure that this consultation will bring out rich insights and practical recommendations related to the theme. NCCI and CNI will be happy to follow them as well as implement them.

With blessings,

The Most Rev. Dr. P.C. Singh
Moderator CNI & President NCCI

 

NCCI Tribal and Adivasi Sunday 2018

Respected Ecumenical Leaders,

Greetings from NCCI- Dalit and Tribal/ Adivasi Concerns!

Tribal and Adivasi Sunday has been celebrated in many parts of our country in sensitizing the local congregation on Tribal and Adivasi Concerns. Thanks to the enormous support we have received from across the churches, dioceses, parishes and institutions in celebrating this special Sunday. This year also we are inviting you to celebrate the Tribal and Adivasi Sunday on 5th August 2018 in your churches/local parishes/institutions.

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ASIA SUNDAY 2018 (May 13, 2018)

Theme: ‘Embracing the Differently Abled and Upholding Their Dignity’.

Respected and Revered Church Leaders and People of God,

Greetings from the Indian Disability Ecumenical Accompaniment  of the National Council of Churches in India!

The Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) has invited the entire Asian Churches to  observe ‘Asia Sunday’ on 13 May, 2018 on the theme, ‘Embracing the Differently Abled and Upholding Their Dignity’.

The Indian Disability Ecumenical Accompaniment of NCCI (NCCI -IDEA) congratulates the CCA Leadership for having chosen the theme concerning The People with Disabilities (PWDs).

The Asia Sunday is observed every year on the Sunday before the Pentecost. But, some of the Indian Churches are observing  Mother’s Sunday on the 13th May. However, we encourage the Church leaders, clerics and people of God to observe the Asia Sunday either on the 13th May or on subsequent Sundays that are convenient to you.

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CMAI | Healing Ministry Week | February 11 – 18, 2018.

Christian Medical Association of India (CMAI) is celebrating the Healing Ministry Week along with the National Council of Churches in India, Catholic Health Association of India and the Commission for Healthcare Apostolate of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India. The broader partnership has enabled many more congregations to celebrate the healing ministry week.

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World Day of Prayer (WDP) 2018 – “All God’s Creation is Very Good!”

INFORMED PRAYER & PRAYERFUL ACTION

“ALL GOD’S CREATION IS VERY GOOD”

Dear  Fellow-pilgrims of Justice and Peace,

Greetings of Peace from Women Concerns Ministry of National Council of Churches in India.

It is our pleasure to share with you the Resource Material of World Day of Prayer  2018. The theme of  2018 WDP is “All God’s Creation is Very Good!” .

This year WDP Resource Material is prepared by Suriname WDP Committee, shared by  World Day of Prayer  International Committee (WDPIC)  and contexualized in India  by  Women Concerns Ministry, NCCI.

The WDP is a global ecumenical movement led by Christian Women who join in prayer for peace and justice. It is run under the motto “Informed Prayer and Prayerful Action.” The movement aims to bring together women of various races, cultures and traditions in a yearly common  Day of Prayer as well as in closer fellowship, understanding and action throughout the year.  Every year it is commemorated on the first Friday in March and a  particular country is chosen as country of focus . The  WDP Committee prepares the resource material on particular theme.

 The 2018 Resource material reflects how Women from Suriname lift up their voices to remind us that we are caretakers of God’s creation! How good is God’s creation? That is the question to meditate upon and respond to with a personal commitment to care for creation . They are bringing to our attention the urgent need for caring at a time when more than 180 countries have signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change: A commitment to take care and heal wounded mother Earth.

Through the worship service, we listen to the multicultural and multi-ethnic people of Suriname. They take us to their communities and through their concerns. History is before our eyes! The flora and fauna is remarkable! Everyday life is weaved into prayers. Through WDP a movement for “informed prayer and prayerful action” we encourage women’s fellowships in India and churches to care of creation  throughout the year .

We encourage you to involve children and youth during the worship as they are our future stewards and care takers of mother Earth. Not only will they carry the legacy of WDP Movement but sow seeds of justice and peace in the world.

We request you to send 3-4 good resolution photographs and brief report immediately and latest by 31st March 2018 so that we can publish it and share it in the NCCI Website  WORLD DAY OF PRAYER ASIA FACEBOOK PAGE and  send Women Concerns ministry report to  WDPIC. The soft copy reports and photographs can be sent by email to aiccw.office.ncci@gmail.com with a copy to ncci.aiccw.moumita@gmail.com

We have already sent the Resource Material to National Women’s Fellowships of member churches of NCCI.   Please share these resource materials with local dioceses, women’s fellowships,  church leaders, ecumenical partners,  theological colleges and Christian institutions.

Looking forward to all your solidarity in practicing and promoting WDP (Informed Prayer and Prayerful Action) movement.

Shanti! Shalom! Salam!

Rev. Moumita Biswas
Executive Secretary
Women’s Concerns Ministry NCCI.

 

DOWNLOAD: World Day of Prayer 2018 WDP Prayer Book

Posted by Women Concerns Ministry of NCCI

 

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2018 (Unity Octave)

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity January 18-25 is an annual celebration observed by Christian churches all over the world. It is symbolic of the visionary prayer of Jesus that Christian disciples may all be one. The sad reality is that we are divided on the basis of religious matters such as traditions, doctrines, practices, and governance, and also on social and political issues as well as economic considerations.

The theme for the 2018 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, “Your Right Hand, O Lord, Glorious in Power,” is taken from the book of Exodus 15:6. The resources for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity have been prepared by the churches of the Caribbean. The contemporary Caribbean is deeply marked by the dehumanizing project of colonial exploitation.

Today Caribbean Christians of many different traditions see the hand of God active in the ending of enslavement. It is a uniting experience of the saving action of God which brings freedom. For this reason the choice of the song of Moses and Miriam (Ex 15:1-21), as the motif of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2018 was considered a most appropriate one.

The themes of the daily prayer material raise some of the contemporary issues addressed by the churches of the Caribbean. Abuses of human rights are found across the region and we are challenged to consider our manner of welcoming of the stranger into our midst. Human trafficking and modern-day slavery continue to be huge issues. Addiction to pornography and drugs, continue to be serious challenges to all societies. The debt crisis has a negative impact upon the nations and upon individuals. Family life continues to be challenged by the economic restrictions which lead to migration, domestic abuse and violence. The articulations on the prayer themes have however been adapted to the Indian context by the NCCI Secretariat.

Churches all over the globe are called to work together to heal the wounds in the body of Christ. At the same time, need to discern God’s hand at work in bringing about reform, healing and liberation. In other words, churches should be together and work where God is.

Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad
General Secretary, NCCI.

 


DOWNLOADS

International Version: ENG 2018 Booklet

Adapted for India: Resources for The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and Throughout the Year_Eng

 

 

Indian Constitution Day

Sunday, 26th November 2017 is turning out to be a  very special day. On this Sunday the Church of North India (CNI) in particular will be celebrating CNI Formation Day. Many churches will also be observing it as a day of prayer for the persecuted church. Still others will be observing it as Disability Advocacy Sunday (NCCI special observance). So also some would be celebrating it as India Constitution Day. The Indian Constitution was adopted on 26th November 1949.

Kindly find below the link to download an Order of Worship which has been drafted by Rev. Dr. Satish C. Gyan, a renowned Theologian, Former General Secretary, Student Christian Movement of India (SCMI); and Former Director/General Secretary, Raipur Churches Development & Relief Committee (RCDRC).

English: INDIAN CONSTITUTION DAY – Order of Worship – 26.11.2017

Hindi: संविधान दिवस – आराधना विधि २६.११.२०१७

Churches’ Week of Action on Food – 2017

(October  11 – 17, 2017)

The Churches Week of Action on Food is a Global Campaign for Food Justice initiated by the World Council of Churches – Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance and the National Council of Churches in India is part of this campaign for years. This week (11 -17 October), highlights the UN days of Gild Child (11), Disaster Reduction (13), Rural Women (15) World Food day (16) and Eradication of Poverty 17).

The theme for World Food Day, this year (2017) is “Change the Future of Migration: Invest in Food Security and Rural Development”. It has been chosen to highlight the role of civil societies and faith communities in improving food security and contributing to the eradication of hunger by addressing climate change with the Gospel Values of Justice, Love and Peace.

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Prophetic role of Church leaders in the midst of injustices: A Biblical insight.

Should Church Leaders keep silent when they see injustices being done in the society? Should Church Leaders speak out against all the wrongs that they see happening in the country? Should Church Leaders submit meekly to the Government and its Laws even when they very well know that the Political Rulers are not following the noble principles and good values enshrined in the Constitution of the country?

Very often Christians turn to biblical texts which seem to instruct Christians to be submissive to socio-political authorities. One such text is I Pet.2: 13-14.

For the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. (NRSV)

Where the NRSV says rather mildly “accept the authority of every human institution”, the RSV puts it strongly as “Be subject to every human institution.” It is biblical texts, such as this one, which have been interpreted to mean that Christian individuals and Churches must passively submit to the decrees of the ruling government or any other political, social, and religious authority. Such an interpretation does not encourage or exhort Church Leaders to play a prophetic role in society.

Did Peter really intend to assert that Christians should be submissive to every authority at all times? Read more

Tribal and Adivasi Sunday 2017

Respected Ecumenical Leaders,

Warm greetings from NCCI-Dalit and Tribal/ Adivasi Concerns!

Celebration of Tribal and Adivasi Sunday has become an important feature in the calendar of Indian Churches and Ecumenical movements. Over the years Tribal and Adivasi Sunday has been celebrated in many parts of our country in sensitizing the local congregation on Tribal and Adivasi Concerns. Thanks to the enormous support we have received from across the churches, dioceses, parishes and institutions in celebrating this special Sunday.

The theme for this year’s Tribal and Adivasi Sunday is “Solidarity in Christ: Bearing One Another’s Burdens” (cf. Galatians 6:2).We take this opportunity to invite you to celebrate Tribal and Adivasi Sunday on 6th August 2017 in your church/local parish/institution in a creative way. However, if you already have some programme on 6th August 2017, you may think of celebrating this Special day on later Sundays. Herewith we are sending you hard copies of posters and a special order of worship for the day. You may take the freedom to use the entire worship order and translate it in your vernacular language or adapt parts of it.

We would appreciate if you send a brief report along with a few photographs of the celebration to the undersigned. Let us join to celebrate Tribal and Adivasi Sunday on 6th August 2017.

Thanking you in anticipation.

With regards,

In Christ,

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

 

Download Order of Worship: NCCI Tribal and Adivasi Sunday 2017 pdf

(http://ncci1914.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/NCCI-Tribal-Adivasi-Sunday-2017-pdf.pdf)