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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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Tamil Christians protest against violence, harassment

Police are allegedly ignoring attacks on Christians committed by hard-line Hindu groups in southern India.

Christians protest in Coimbatore on April 17 as part of a state-wide protest demanding government action to end violence against Christians in Tamil Nadu. (Pic and article source: UCAN India)

Hyderabad

Thousands of Christians took to the streets during protests across the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu on April 17 to demand government action to stop what they call increasing harassment and violence against Christians.

Some 20,000 Christians from various denominations filled roads in at least 16 cities and towns shouting slogans against government inaction to check anti-Christian activities allegedly carried out by upper-caste Hindu groups.

The Synod of Pentecostal Churches in Tamil Nadu organized the protest as Christians have been subjected to at least 15 cases of violence in the first three months of this year.
Incidents include the mysterious death of a pastor who was found dead a week after he complained to police about harassment from hard-line Hindus.

“We are facing lot of persecution in our state,” synod general secretary K.B. Edison told ucanews.com.
“The peaceful protest was to get the attention of the state and federal government about the serious need for security and protection of the Christian minority.
“In the past four years we have faced many challenges. Our churches are being attacked, they are being burned, pastors’ lives are under threat. We are not able to bear these atrocities. They are even burning Bibles.

“We have approached the state government several times but disappointingly no action has been taken.”
Nehemiah Christie, the synod’s director of legislation and regulations, told ucanews.com that both Protestant and Catholic denominations joined the protest.

He said administrative bodies — including the police — have been apathetic to act against violence committed by Hindu groups because of the strong religious and caste biases in the state.
Catholic Father Gregory Rajan of the Infant Jesus Cathedral of Salem supported the protest. “Hindu extremist forces are behind the attacks,” said Father Rajan.

The priest said a lack of strong political leadership in the state remains a major issue. Tamil Nadu is not ruled by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). But the local political party — named All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam — which runs the government “is depending on the BJP for policy and advice on the affairs of the state. Naturally, the local Hindu forces feel emboldened to attack Christians,” he said.

Published data shows violence against Christians has increased across India since the BJP came to power in New Delhi in 2014 in a landslide victory. Hindu groups took the BJP’s victory as a mandate to step up violence against religious minorities in their push to establish a nation ruled by a Hindu upper-caste hegemony. Attacks have been increasing in India, said Persecution Relief, an ecumenical forum that records Christian persecution in India. There were 736 reported attacks against Christians in 2017, up from 348 in 2016, the forum said.

Local Christian leaders say most of their new members come from the lower strata of the caste-ridden Tamil society. Higher-caste people oppose any Christian gatherings because they believe they pollute their area. Higher-caste people also believe those in economically and socially poor castes can be attacked and harassed with impunity, Christie said.

He said their protest program was supported by some mainstream political parties such as the Communist Party of India and some Buddhist and Muslim leaders in the state.
“It is an assurance that they will stand by us to ensure that the constitutional rights of minorities be protected,” Christie said. “Our demands are very simple. Growing violence against Christians and police complicity are matters of deep concern. We want the government to act to end all forms of fascist aggression against Christians and to uphold the rule of law.”

Christians are the largest minority in the state, forming 4.5 million or some 6 percent of its 72 million people. A majority of them — plus the state’s 4.2 million Muslims — come from castes considered low in the social hierarchy.

 

Source: Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) India (india.ucanews.com)

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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PRESS RELEASE on the present situation at St. Mary’s College, Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh.

Christians in Madhya Pradesh have recently been passing through a very difficult period. Besides the arrest and harassment of innocent Christmas Carol singing Priests and seminarians in Satna just before Christmas, fundamentalist forces had set their eyes on St. Mary’s P.G. College, Vidisha.  For the past few weeks, the ABVP, the Sanathan dharma and other like minded organizations have been threatening to forcibly perform “The Aarti of Bharat Mata” in the college Premises. On 30-12-2017, a violent mob of 60-70 persons jumped over the walls despite the presence of some 20 policemen and attempted to forcibly perform ‘Bharat Mata ki Aarti’. They threatened the Director Fr. Shaiju Devassy that they would return on 4th January and perform the Aarti at all costs and that should Father refuse to do it, they would put a garland of shoes around his neck and make him perform it.  Meanwhile, the SDM of the area had already denied these groups permission to perform the Aarti. Despite this order, on 4-1-2018, true to the threats, a larger and virulent mob of over 700 persons from outside the college again attempted to forcibly enter the college premises and perform the Aarti.  The Staff of three institutions in the campus which provide education for over 9,500 students unanimously agreed with the Director that the action of aarti is neither needed nor permissible in the campus. Bowing to mobs would endanger the running of the institutions and was not good for our democratic way of life, they felt. The Union Home Ministry, the Madhya Pradesh State Government and the State as well as the local Police acted effectively, efficaciously and provided full protection to the College, its staff and students.

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Appeal to Churches in the context of Unity Octave, Republic Day and Martyrs Day

While we participate in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (January 18-25) and focus on the theme, “Your Right Hand, O Lord, Glorious In Power” (Ex. 15:6), reminding ourselves of God’s engagement to liberate people from the bondage of political, social and economic oppression, it is but apt that churches also observe important days in the life of our country . As citizens of India, on Republic Day, let us affirm the  Nazareth Manifesto (Luke 4:18-19) of Jesus Christ, standing for justice,  liberation and holistic well being of all, and as disciples of the Crucified Jesus Christ be reminded of the cost of discipleship on Martyrs Day, as we move on in the resurrection hope of a new just peaceful eco-integrated world of love!

The following appeal has been drafted for your deliberation and action.

Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad
General Secretary, NCCI.


A Call to Churches to be Committed to a Campaign

To DEFEND Democracy

&

     PRACTICE Non-violence

(REMEMBERING AMBEDKAR & GANDHI)

26th to 30th January, 2018

Threats looming large over the Indian Democracy have become more real today than ever before; and the country is witnessing an escalation in the violent attacks on minorities, dalits, adivasis, intellectuals, workers, writers, journalists, artists, students and community leaders who raise their voices honestly and express dissent and disagreement.  Proclamations by the fascist and corporate forces to alter the Indian Constitution is part-and-parcel of a grand design to establish autocracy, especially with regard to removing “Socialism” and “Secularism” from the Preamble, and are also definitely designed to change the basic character of the Indian Constitution & Sovereignty of the State and, in turn, pave the way for establishing the ‘Hindu Rashtra’ in its place.

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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: