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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:

 

Together We Can End Gender Based Violence in Education! 16 Days of Activism 25th November- 10th December

“As a mother, every morning I take the biggest leap of faith when I wave to my child as they leave for school. The fear that lurks in my heart is : Will anyone touch the body of   my child? Will anyone bully her in school? Will  she face corporal punishment for not being able to answer ? Our roads are not even safe to send our daughters and children walking to school.” shared a concerned mother  from one of the Women’s Fellowship of Member Churches of National Council of Churches  during World Day of Prayer  event  in Delhi while reflecting on the WDP theme “Receive Children , Receive Me.”

Such fear looms large in the heart of many mothers and parents in India.  Violence in educational institutions in India and  school-related gender-based violence is a recurring phenomenon in India. Such violence  refers to acts of sexual, physical or psychological violence in and around schools because of stereotypes and roles or norms attributed to or expected because of sex or gender identity. GBV in education is perpetuated by teachers, school administrators, other school employees, fellow students, and community members.

Women’s Concerns Ministry of National Council of Churches in India invites member churches, church managed and run organizations/institutions to promote 16 Days of Activism Campaign against Gender -Based Violence. The theme of the  16 Days Activism Campaign 2017 is “Together We Can End Gender Based Violence in Education!”

16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence is an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls. The campaign runs every year from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day. The aim of this Campaign is to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls around the world.

The right to education and gender equality is central to human rights and development objectives. Nobel Prize winner renowned  economist Amartya Sen  rightly points out  that there are two main inequalities: educational inequality and health inequality  These are the indicators of a woman’s status of welfare. In India irrespective of the caste, creed, religion and social status, the overall status of a woman is lower than that of a man. Therefore a male child is preferred over a female child; a girl child is considered as a burden.

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‘Water for life’ – Joint program of VCLC-NCCI and the EWN-WCC

‘Water for life’ –

Joint program of VCLC- National Council of Churches in India and the EWN-World Council of Churches

3rd November 2017 | NCCI Campus, Nagpur.

A one-day consultation on ‘Water for life’ was organized in the NCCI Campus on the 3rd of November 2017. It was a joint program of the Vidarbha Centre for Labour Concerns – National Council of Churches in India VCLC – NCCI) and Ecumenical Water Network – World Council of Churches (EWN – WCC). The 50 participants in the consultation were from the Church of North India, Mar Thoma Church, and the Orthodox Seminary, from faith-based organizations and also people (people of different faith traditions) from Butibori – MIDC and Totladoh who have been affected by developmental activities in the region. NCCI Secretaries and Interns also participated in this consultation.

The major focus of the program was on the International, National and Local issues of the Water Crisis as water is being commoditized and therefore this natural resource is made available unequally.

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Catholics and Lutherans mark 500th anniversary of Reformation

Pope Francis, flanked by the president and secretary general of the Lutheran World Federation, lead a joint commemoration of the Reformation in October 2016. (Pic. Vatican Radio – en.radiovaticana.va)

(Vatican Radio) October 31st 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the day on which German theologian Martin Luther published his 95 theses, setting in motion the events of the Protestant Reformation.

To mark the occasion, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Lutheran World Federation on Tuesday issued a joint statement, giving thanks for the spiritual and theological gifts received through the Reformation and recalling the commemorative events that have taken place over the past year.

Exactly one year ago, Pope Francis travelled to the Swedish cities of Lund and Malmo to take part in a joint commemoration of the Reformation alongside leaders of the Lutheran World Federation. A moving liturgy in the ancient Lund cathedral and a joyful celebration of young people in Malmo arena focused on asking forgiveness for the sins of past centuries, while also celebrating the progress of the last fifty years and pledging to step up joint efforts in the service of those most in need.

Commitment to continue the ecumenical journey

One year on, today’s statement recalls those historic events, in particular the commitment by Pope Francis and former LWF president Bishop Munib Younan to continue the ecumenical journey.

The statement says the shared journey of the past fifty years has resulted in “the removal of prejudices, the increase of mutual understanding and the identification of decisive theological agreements”.

While Catholics and Lutherans can still not share at the Eucharistic table, the two Churches acknowledge their “joint pastoral responsibility to respond to the spiritual thirst and hunger of our people to be one in Christ “.

New insights into Reformation

Commemorating the Reformation together in many countries around the world, the statement says, has allowed Lutherans and Catholics new insights into events of the 16th century which led to their separation. Noting the theological progress that was made through the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, the statement says growing communion and shared service are a sign of hope for the world of today to overcome divisions and fragmentation.

The statement concludes with a commitment to continue the journey towards unity, guided by God’s Spirit, in the knowledge that “what we have in common is far more than that which still divides us”.

Please find the full statement below:

Joint Statement by the Lutheran World Federation and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity on the conclusion of the year of the common commemoration of the Reformation, 31st October 2017

On 31st of October 2017, the final day of the year of the common ecumenical Commemoration of the Reformation, we are very thankful for the spiritual and theological gifts received through the Reformation, a commemoration that we have shared together and with our ecumenical partners globally. Likewise, we begged forgiveness for our failures and for the ways in which Christians have wounded the Body of the Lord and offended each other during the five hundred years since the beginning of the Reformation until today.

We, Lutherans and Catholics, are profoundly grateful for the ecumenical journey that we have travelled together during the last fifty years. This pilgrimage, sustained by our common prayer, worship and ecumenical dialogue, has resulted in the removal of prejudices, the increase of mutual understanding and the identification of decisive theological agreements. In the face of so many blessings along the way, we raise our hearts in praise of the Triune God for the mercy we receive.

On this day we look back on a year of remarkable ecumenical events, beginning on 31st October 2016 with the joint Lutheran – Catholic common prayer in Lund, Sweden, in the presence of our ecumenical partners. While leading that service, Pope Francis and Bishop Munib A. Younan, then President of the Lutheran World Federation, signed a joint statement with the commitment to continue the ecumenical journey together towards the unity that Christ prayed for (cf. John 17:21). On the same day, our joint service to those in need of our help and solidarity has also been strengthened by a letter of intent between Caritas Internationalis and the Lutheran World Federation World Service.

Pope Francis and President Younan stated together: “Many members of our communities yearn to receive the Eucharist at one table, as the concrete expression of full unity. We experience the pain of those who share their whole lives, but cannot share God’s redeeming presence at the Eucharistic table. We acknowledge our joint pastoral responsibility to respond to the spiritual thirst and hunger of our people to be one in Christ. We long for this wound in the Body of Christ to be healed. This is the goal of our ecumenical endeavours, which we wish to advance, also by renewing our commitment to theological dialogue.”

Among the blessings of this year of Commemoration is the fact that for the first time Lutherans and Catholics have seen the Reformation from an ecumenical perspective. This has allowed new insight into the events of the sixteenth century which led to our separation. We recognize that while the past cannot be changed, its influence upon us today can be transformed to become a stimulus for growing communion, and a sign of hope for the world to overcome division and fragmentation. Again, it has become clear that what we have in common is far more than that which still divides us.

We rejoice that the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, solemnly signed by the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church in 1999, has also been signed by the World Methodist Council in 2006 and, during this Commemoration Year of the Reformation, by the World Communion of Reformed Churches. On this very day it is being welcomed and received by the Anglican Communion at a solemn ceremony in Westminster Abbey. On this basis our Christian communions can build an ever closer bond of spiritual consensus and common witness in the service of the Gospel.

We acknowledge with appreciation the many events of common prayer and worship that Lutherans and Catholics have held together with their ecumenical partners in different parts of the world, as well as the theological encounters and the significant publications that have given substance to this year of Commemoration.

Looking forward, we commit ourselves to continue our journey together, guided by God’s Spirit, towards the greater unity according to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ. With God’s help we intend to discern in a prayerful manner our understanding on Church, Eucharist and Ministry, seeking a substantial consensus so as to overcome remaining differences between us. With deep joy and gratitude we trust “that He who has begun a good work in [us] will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6).

 

Source: Vatican Radio – en.radiovaticana.va (http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2017/10/31/catholics,_lutherans_mark_500th_anniversary_of_reformation/1346149)

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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Birth Centenary Celebrations – His Grace The Most Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar Thoma Valiya Metropolitan.

Mar Thoma Church is eagerly waiting for April 27th 2017 which is a historical day for the Church. Our Mar Thoma Valiya Metropolitan is entering into the 100th year. Thirumeni is an exceptional personality in the demographics of Church by serving as an Evangelist, Semsano, Kasseesa, Ramban, Episcopa, Suffragan Metropolitan, Officiating Metropolitan, 20th Metropolitan and Valiya Metropolitan.

The Birth Centenary Celebrations of the Valiya Thirumeni is scheduled to be conducted on Thursday, the 27th April 2017 at Sabha Head Quarters at Thiruvalla. This Birthday Celebration is also the culmination of all the Birth Centenary Celebrations conducted by the different Dioceses of the Mar Thoma Church.

The Birth Centenary celebration will begin by the Holy Communion and Thanksgiving service at 8:30 AM at St. Thomas Mar Thoma Church Thiruvalla. His Grace the Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan will celebrate the Holy Communion service.

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Nagaland church seeks repeal of good governance day on Dec 25

church-afp

Guwahati, December 6, 2016: Church bodies in Northeast India opposed NDA government’s decision of holding good governance day on Christmas Day on December 25. The church bodies felt that this will hurt the sentiment of minorities.

Church body, Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC) the decision if not reversed will be discriminatory move against the minorities. Mizoram Kohhran Hruaitu Committee (MKHC), a committee of church leaders in the State has moved President Pranab Mukherjee to repeal the Central government’s decision to observe Good Governance Day on Christmas Day.

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Open Letter to Prime Minister of India from the General Secretary of NCCI

Dear Prime Minister,

Greetings!

Kindly lend me your ears as I share my mann ki baat with you.

You are a very good orator, who can rouse the masses. You are a very powerful executive, who can control all actions of the government. You are an IT savvy person, who can make clever use of all forms of media to your development schemes. You are an astute business entrepreneur, who can maneuver the globalization system to serve your vision of development. You are indeed a model for many 21st century persons who aspire to fame, position and power.

However while all seems grand and beautiful with your leadership, there are serious concerns that many Indian citizens would like to draw to your notice. They know that you are not unaware of these serious concerns, but are distressed that you are not taking actions which the situations demand. Let me highlight these concerns by drawing your attention to the Preamble of the Indian Constitution.

The Preamble of the Indian Constitution describes five cardinal features of the Indian state:

(1) India is a Sovereign State:
As a sovereign independent state, India is free both internally and externally to take her own decisions and implement these for her people and territories.

However don’t you think that our sovereignty is under threat at the hands of certain powers within and outside the country? For instance, as you are well aware, economic globalization limits the capacity of our country to determine our own policy outcomes in three main ways: through trade and economic integration; financial markets; and the competition for employment. So also our state sovereignty is weakened by fundamentalist, casteist, communal and commercial forces within the country.

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Events

16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence, Theme : Together We Can End Gender Based Violence in Education

Women’s Concerns Ministry of National Council of Churches invites member Churches, Church managed organizations and institutions and Women’s Fellowship of Member Churches  to  promote  16 Days Activism Campaign to end Gender Based Violence. 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls. The campaign runs every year from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day.

The main aim of this campaign is galvanize action to end violence against women and girls around the world.The Theme for 2017 is “Together We Can End Gender Based Violence  in Education!”

Moumita Biswas
Executive Secretary
Women’s Concerns Ministry
National Council of Churches in India.