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Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2019 (Unity Octave)

Every year Christians across the world gather in prayer for growth in unity. We do this in a world where corruption, greed and injustice bring about inequality and division. Ours is a united prayer in a fractured world: this is powerful. However, as individual Christians and communities, we are often complicit with injustice, and yet we are called together to form a united witness for justice and to be a means of Christ’s healing grace for the brokenness of the world.

The theme for the 2019 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, “Justice and only justice you shall pursue”  is taken from the book of Deuteronomy 16:18-20.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2019 has been prepared by Christians from Indonesia. With a population of 265 million, 86% of whom are reckoned to be Muslim, Indonesia is well known as having the largest Muslim population of any country. However, about 10% of Indonesians are Christian from various traditions. In terms of both population and the vast extension of the country Indonesia is the biggest nation in South East Asia. It has more than 17,000 islands, 1,340 different ethnic groups and over 740 local languages and yet is united in its plurality by one national language Bahasa Indonesia. 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.

Download the Week of Prayer 2019 for Christian Unity

 

Passing the Baton: Revd. Asir Ebenezer takes charge of NCCI as the General Secretary 

The installation of Rev. Asir Ebenezer as the new the General Secretary  took place on 3 January 2019. The program began with a worship service in which the Office bearers of NCCI,  members of Working Committee, Finance Committee, Executive Secretaries and Staff were present. The President  handed over a copy of The Holy Bible and Constitution of NCCI to the new General Secretary. Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad the outgoing General Secretary handed over the charge. Rev. Asir Ebenezer was felicitated by the Church dignitaries who  graced the occasion.   After the installation service Rev. Asir Ebenezer was led to the General Secretary’s room where he was seated in the general secretary’s chair.  Rt. Rev. Dr. J. George Stephen, Bishop of Madras Diocese consecrated him in prayer .

Rev. Asir Ebenezer is an ordained minister of the Church of South India (CSI). He has been in ministry since 1992 and has served in various positions in national and global ecumenical forums.

Prior to this, he was serving as Director of Social Empowerment: Vision in Action (CSI_SEVA)  at the CSI Synod. He had earlier served the NCCI in various positions, including Officiating General Secretary of NCCI in betweeb 2004 and 2010. A well-known figure in ecumenical circles, theologian, community-enabler and finance expert, the multiple competencies of Rev. Asir Ebenezer will go a long way to strengthen the council.

The office Bearers, Secretaries,  and the Staff of the NCCI welcome Rev. Asir Ebenezer and  wish him well in his new responsibility.

The Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad moves to another area of work relating to Theological Education. The NCCI acknowledges his contribution to NCCI and wishes him well for his new endeavor.

To Everything Turn, Turn, Turn

December 31, 2018

To

All the Constituent Members of NCCI
Dear Ecumenical Fraternity,
Greetings in Christ from the NCCI Secretariat!
As 2018 comes to a close, 2019 dawns on us with 365 days of challenges and  opportunities, changes and hopes. In such a context, the NCCI will be blessed with a new General Secretary in the person of Rev. Asir Ebenezer. As he takes on this responsibility, he brings to it several years of experience as a church minister, ecumenist, and societal change maker, along with his multi-faceted talents, particularly his administrative acumen and incisive leadership.
I have had the privilege of serving the NCCI for eight years (December 2010- December 2018). It has been a time of challenges and opportunities working together with all the Secretaries, Staff, and Interns, as well as with the NCCI Office Bearers, Executive Committee and General Body Members and all other committee members and the people of God at large.  During my time  we have focused our ministries on the themes of the three quadrenniums: “Together in Mission: Empowering Local Congregations” (2008-2012)”The Gospel in a Groaning World”(2012-2016) and “Towards Just and Inclusive Communities” (2016 -2020). We have also celebrated the centenary of the NCCI in 2014 on the theme”Towards Integral Mission and Grass-roots Ecumenism.”
I am grateful to all of you for enabling me to serve as a steward in this ecumenical journey of NCCI. Above all, I am grateful to God, within whom we live and move and have our being, as we endeavor to give expression to and experience the Nazareth Manifesto of Jesus (Luke 4:18-19).
Roger Gaikwad
Rev. Asir Ebenezer

HOPE IN DISTRESS

HOPE IN DISTRESS

The NCCI Christmas Card has a picture of a mother with a child seated in a relief boat during the August 2018 floods in Kerala. With her house being submerged, there was no room for immediate help, but the boat which would take her to the safety of one of the relief camps. Hope in distress!

A pregnant woman who was in an advanced stage of pregnancy was stranded on the roof top of her house in Aluva. – a submerged region of Kerala’s Ernakulam District. Her house got isolated in the relentless rain. Her life and that of her child in the womb were in danger till help came out of the blue – almost literally. It was an Indian Navy Chopper that had been sent especially to rescue her and to end her nightmare. Hope in distress!

When lives of their fellow human beings were under threat, the fishermen of Kerala travelled hundreds of kilometres with their fishing boats on the back of trucks to flood ridden areas and rescued people. They waded through unknown waters looking for people and rescued them. Those boats are their livelihood. They literally risked everything they had and their lives to save fellow human beings, without expecting anything in return. Selfless agents of hope in distress!

In all the above mentioned three stories, hope came in the form of persons who were committed to save people in distress.

Hope in distress! That’s what even the Christmas message is all about this year. Read more

NCCI names General Secretary designate

The Rev. Asir Ebenezer. General Secretary designate, NCCI.

The National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), in its Executive meeting in Chennai on August 28, 2018, announced Rev. Asir Ebenezer as the next General Secretary of NCCI. He will be taking charge at the turn of the year to succeed the present General Secretary, Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad.

Rev. Asir Ebenezer is an ordained minister of the Church of South India (CSI). He has been in ministry since 1992 and has served in various positions in national and global ecumenical forums.

He currently serves as Director of Social Empowerment: Vision in Action (SEVA)  at the CSI Synod. He had earlier served the NCCI in various positions, including Officiating General Secretary of NCCI in 2010. A well-known figure in ecumenical circles, theologian, community-enabler and finance expert, the multiple competencies of Rev. Asir Ebenezer will go a long way to strengthen the council.

 

 

Kandhamal Carnage: No Justice Yet! What “Independence” to Celebrate?

Ten Years since the Kandhamal Carnage:  Yet no Justice!

What kind of “freedom” do we celebrate on 15th August every year?

This August 25, 2018, it will be ten years, since the biggest anti Christian violence, biggest communal violence in Odisha, will complete ten years. It was on this date, in the wake of the slaying of VHP leader Swami Lakshamananda Sarswati on the night of August 23, 2008, that a nun working in the Dibyajyoti Pastoral Centre of Kandhamal, ran away from the centre with Father Thomas Chellam fearing attack from a violent mob. She was forced out of her shelter the next day and was subjected to horrifying physical and sexual violence. As reported by the National Solidarity Forum in the communal fire that raged over Kandhamal, around 393 churches and worship places which belonged to the Adivasi Christians and Dalit Christians were destroyed, around 6,500 houses were destroyed, over 100 people were killed, over 40 women were subjected to rape, molestation and humiliation and several educational, social service and health institutions were destroyed and looted. The shocking fact is that all these incidents took place in full view of police and the police remained mute spectators.

Read more

Celebrate Democracy Day!

15th August and 26th January are important days for all Indians, including people belonging to minority communities. 15th August is the day of freedom from colonial rule, the independence of the country, and governing of the country by its own leaders. 26th January is the day of affirming that we are a democratic socialist republic with our own constitution, and our commitment to uphold the constitution in our racially, biologically, ethnically, and religiously pluralistic country.

However we are living in times where democracy and all the values and principles of our constitution are being eroded or given a new meaning. It is becoming the rule (cracy) of people who claim to represent a majority religious community, asserting that they are the primary citizens (demos) of India. Indian democracy is being degenerated into a communal understanding of India as a “nation of Hindus.” As has been said by one of their leaders,

“Nation Concept comprises the five constituent ideas—country, race, religion, culture and language—as the necessary and indispensable ingredients, in the existence of which five in a homogeneous whole, the Nation exists and in the destruction of any one of which the Nation itself experiences extinction.

If, as is indisputably proved, Hindusthan is the land of the Hindus and is the terra firma for the Hindu nation alone to flourish upon, what is to be the fate of all those, who, today, happen to live upon the land, though not belonging to the Hindu Race, Religion and culture?

. . . we must bear in mind that so far as ‘nation’ is concerned, all those, who fall outside the five-fold limits of that idea, can have no place in the national life, unless they abandon their differences, adopt the religion, culture and language of the Nation and completely merge themselves in the National Race. So long, however, as they maintain their racial, religious and cultural differences, they cannot but be only foreigners, who may be either friendly or inimical to the Nation. . .”

Thus we are confronted with Hindutva  Nationocracy. As mentioned in a press release two years ago, “Today our society is witness to increasing religious polarization and fear; and attacks on women, Dalits, Adivasis, religious minorities and working people; the criminal neglect of agriculture leading to an epidemic of farmer suicides; the theft of natural resources; and attacks on livelihoods and workers’ rights; gender violence; the neglect of persons with disabilities; discrimination against Dalit students in schools and universities across the country; and the persecution of people marginalised on the basis of their gender identity and sexual orientation. Worst of all, the members and allies of the so-called Sangh Parivar are bent upon curbing our freedoms. They tell people what to wear, write and speak; whom to love and what to eat.” Even persons such as Swami Agnivesh (Social activist and Bandhua Mukti Morcha leader) are not spared.  The Swami said there was a pattern in an assault on him at Pakur on 17th July 2018  in Jharkhand and incidents of mob attacks by vigilante groups on dalits and minorities which appeared “state sponsored”.

Let us celebrate democracy!

This most diverse country in the world belongs equally to all persons who make it its own, regardless of their religious faith (or for that matter, their denial of faith), their caste, gender, class, language, ethnicities, physical and mental abilities, gender identity and sexual orientation. This is the promise that we had made to ourselves during the Independence movement. This is the soul of India’s secular, socialist democratic Constitution.

Let us as Indian Christians, celebrate the spirit and purpose of our independence in our churches and in our mission services. Let us celebrate our democracy along with all like–minded fellow citizens of India. As 15th August 2018 approaches let us give meaningful expressions of our Indian democracy based on our constitution. Let us not only sing the national anthem and salute the Indian Tri-colour but, while praying for the country, also affirm:

JUSTICE, social, economic and political;

LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; 

EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all; and 

FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual, and the unity and integrity of all Indians

 

Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad,
General Secretary,
National Council of Churches in India.

 

Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis (Reflection at Ecumenical Prayer, Geneva, Ecumenical Centre | 21 June 2018)

Theme: Ecumenical Pilgrimage – Walking, Praying and Working Together.
June 21, 2018. His Holiness Pope Francis on the ecumenical pilgrimage to mark the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the World Council of Churches (WCC) with an address to a prayer service at the WCC Ecumenical Center. The following is the text of his homily. 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We have heard the words addressed by the Apostle Paul to the Galatians, who were experiencing conflict and division. Groups were fighting and hurling accusations at one another. It is in this context that the Apostle, twice in the space of a few verses, invites us to “walk in the Spirit” (cf. Gal 5:16.25).

Walking. We human beings are constantly on the move. Throughout our lives, we are called to set out and keep walking: from our mother’s womb and at every stage of life, from when we first leave home to the day we depart from this earthly existence. The metaphor of walking reveals the real meaning of our life, a life that is not self-sufficient but always in search of something greater. Our hearts spur us to keep walking, to pursue a goal.

Walking is a discipline; it takes effort. It requires patience and exercise, day after day. We have to forego many other paths in order to choose the one that leads to the goal. We have to keep that goal constantly before us, lest we go astray. Remembering the goal. Walking also demands the humility to be prepared at times, when necessary, to retrace our steps. It also involves being concerned for our traveling companions, since only in company do we make good progress. Walking, in a word, demands constant conversion. That is why so many people refuse to do it. They prefer to remain in the quiet of their home, where it is easy to manage their affairs without facing the risks of travel. But that is to cling to a momentary security, incapable of bestowing the peace and joy for which our hearts yearn. That joy and peace can only be found by going out from ourselves.

Read more

This is my Last HP!


Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is a Palestinian-led Movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity. (https://bdsmovement.net/what-is-bds).

BOYCOTT HP: GLOBAL CAMPAIGN

Hewlett Packard (HP) plays a key role in Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. (https://bdsmovement.net/boycott-hp)

HP provides and operates much of the technology infrastructure that Israel uses to maintain its system of apartheid and settler colonialism over the Palestinian people. HP Enterprise is the prime contractor of the Basel system, an automated biometric access control system employed within Israel’s checkpoints and apartheid wall. These checkpoints fragment and segregate the Occupied Palestinian Territories and its residents through electric fences, watchtowers, sensors, and concrete barriers. The checkpoint system separates Palestinian workers from their jobs, farmers from their land, students from their schools, patients from hospitals, and families from each other.

The ID cards distributed as part of this system form the basis of Israel’s systematic discrimination against Palestinians. This ID system forms the part of the Israeli apartheid regime’s tiered system of citizenship that gives different rights to different people and leads to institutionalized discrimination in housing, employment, marriage, healthcare, education, and policing.

HP also directly contracts with the Israeli municipalities of Modi’in Ilit and Ariel, two of the largest Jewish-only Israeli settlements in the West Bank, providing them with a range of services.

HP technology helps the Israeli navy enforce the siege on Gaza. HP provides broad IT infrastructure and support services for Israeli occupation forces, particularly the Israeli Navy that maintains the siege on Gaza. Israel’s frequent massacres of Palestinians in Gaza and its siege are deliberately implemented to deny Palestinians their basic rights to life, freedom and self-determination, and to physically segregate them.

HP also provides services and equipment to the Israeli Prison Service (IPS), including providing and maintaining its central server system. Israel’s prison system is used to suppress Palestinian political activity, and to stifle opposition to its policies. By helping Israel run its prisons, HP is at the heart of Israel’s use of mass incarceration to undermine Palestinian opposition to apartheid.

According to Human Rights Watch, “the extraction of confessions under duress, and the acceptance into evidence of such confessions…form the backbone of Israel’s military justice system”. Each year, 500-700 Palestinian Children are arrested, detained and prosecuted by Israel. The ill-treatment of children imprisoned by Israel is “widespread, systematic and institutionalized” according to UNICEF.

THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST HP

As the coalition, Massachusetts Against HP, has noted, HP technology underpins oppressive practices across the world:

  • In the US, HP donated technology to the National Security Agency that play a key part of the NSA’s illegal domestic surveillance programs.
  • HP is a major player in the US prison-industrial complex, providing essential infrastructure to private and public prisons.
  • HP is a ‘Top 20’ provider of military and ‘homeland security’ contracts to the US government and military.
  • HP caters to repressive governments around the world, which use HP network surveillance technology to identify and suppress dissidents, as well as censor information.

The campaign against HP was launched quite recently but has already achieved some important successes:

US churches divest from HP

Friends Fiduciary Corporation, the socially responsible investment firm serving over 300 Quaker institutions in the United States, divested from HP in 2012. The US Presbyterian Church voted to divest from HP in 2014. The United Church of Christ (US) voted to divest from HP in 2015.

Mass mobilization

More than 1.8 million people have signed a petition calling on HP to end its role in Israeli apartheid and settler colonialism. In 2014, 1,000 activists with the Boston for Palestine coalition marched on an HP conference. There is active campaigning on HP across the US, as well as in the UK and Italy. More than a dozen student governments in the US have called on their university to divest from HP.

      16 Million-Strong Organization in India Joins the BDS Movement

In October 2017, the largest national organization representing farmers and agricultural workers in India, All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), announced that it has joined the BDS movement. AIKS is spread across 21 states in India and is over 16 million members strong. (https://www.timesofisrael.com/communist-indian-farmers-join-boycott-israel-movement/)

 AIKS has resolved to:

  • Endorse the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law, in order to stand for the rights of the Palestinian people and to resist the corporate takeover of Indian agriculture sector by Israeli companies.
  • Denounce and document any cases of Israeli corporate takeover in the Indian agro-sector.
  • Raise awareness among Indian farmers to prevent Israel and its corporations from reaping profits in India that finance military occupation and apartheid in Palestine.

TAKE ACTION

HP relies on its good image and its contracts with public organisations, civil society bodies and private businesses. Effective grassroots campaigning can push HP to end its role in Israeli apartheid and settler colonialism. 

The Palestinian BDS National Committee is calling for a boycott of all HP consumer products including laptops, printers and printer ink. Ask consumers not to buy HP products and work with your local retailers to get them to deshelve HP products. 

 

Indian stamp from 1981 expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people.

 

Individuals, churches and indeed all Indians in India are hereby encouraged to join this campaign against HP. In case you are using an HP paste a pledge on your HP, stating that this would be your last HP. You could think of other ways to express your commitment. 

You may also

Sign the international pledge to boycott HP.

Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad,

General Secretary,

National Council of Churches in India

Open letter to The Prime Minister of India

To

Shri Narendra Modi,
The Prime Minister of India

Dear Prime Minister,

Greetings!

This is my third letter to you. This letter comes three days after we in the Church have celebrated Pentecost Sunday. The observance of Pentecost reminds us how people need to be empowered by the Spirit of God to bring about transformation in society, to be channels of justice and peace in the society. Political and religious leaders, engaged in transforming society, are reminded by the words of God: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit.’ And as we celebrated Pentecost Sunday on 23rd May 2018, churches as usual have prayed for God’s Spirit to guide and empower the rulers of our country, a prayer that is said every Sunday in most of our churches in India.

In my first letter (dated 14 April 2017) I wrote to you as an Indian citizen, joining all Indian citizens who are concerned about the state of affairs in our country, India. My second letter (dated 15th August 2017) was addressed to you by me as an Indian spiritual seeker of God’s reign of justice, love and peace in our beloved country India. I had thought I would not write to you anymore, but recent events have moved me in the Spirit to write to you again.

There is too much talk about the politics in our country being vitiated and polarized along religious lines, and propaganda being made that religious minorities are bent upon opposing right-wing forces in the country.  Therefore, indirectly the strategy of fundamentalist forces, in the context of the forthcoming General Elections, is to gain the sympathy and support of the people of the dominant religious community. I am saddened to witness such distortions of the situation in our country, separating citizens from fellow citizens. Read more