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WCRC joins declaration to overcome Reformation divisions

The World Communion of Reformed Churches has formally joined an ecumenical statement with Roman Catholics, Lutherans and Methodists aiming to overcome divisions between Protestants and Roman Catholics from the time of the Protestant Reformation.

“Today is a historic day,” said Jerry Pillay, president of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), at a ceremony on 5 July in the eastern German town of Wittenberg, where Martin Luther lived and worked. “The documents we are signing today are significant and symbolic of the road we are to travel.”

Pillay was speaking as the WCRC, which groups more than 225 Protestant churches worldwide, formally associated itself with the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, originally signed by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Roman Catholic Church on 31 October 1999.

“Catholics and Lutherans stated that a ‘consensus in basic truths exists between Lutherans and Catholics’ in regard to the theological controversy with was a major cause of the split in the Western church in the 16th century,” said Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity during in the ceremony.

The declaration stated that mutual condemnations pronounced by the two sides during the Reformation do not apply to their current teaching on justification.

The congregation at Wittenberg’s Stadtkirche (Town Church), broke into spontaneous applause as WCRC General Secretary Chris Ferguson and Catholic, Lutheran and Methodist representatives signed a statement confirming the WCRC’s association with the joint declaration.

“Today we are not only signing a statement, we are building a church together,” said the Rev. Najla Kassab from Lebanon in her sermon at the service in the Stadtkirche, where Luther used to preach.

The ceremony took place in the year marking the 500th anniversary of Luther’s denunciation of church corruption in his 95 Theses, an event that helped set in motion the Reformation and centuries of division between Protestants and Catholics.

“The present achievement and commitment are viewed by Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists and Reformed as part of their pursuit of the full communion and common witness to the world which is the will of Christ for all Christians,” said WMC president Jong Chun Park.

Pope Francis, in a message read by Bishop Farrell, described the ceremony as “an eloquent sign of our commitment to walking together, as brothers and sisters in Christ, on a journey from conflict to communion, from division to reconciliation.”

During the service, the LWF and the WCRC also signed a “Wittenberg Witness” pledging to strengthen cooperation and joint action.

“We commit ourselves to redouble our common efforts to embody our unity, together resisting the forces of injustice and exclusion,” said Martin Junge, LWF general secretary.

At the service there were prayers of repentance and lamentation for past divisions and wrongs, and commitments to work for unity and justice.

“The Reformation taught us accountability,” said Kassab in her sermon.

“Wherever we are in the church we are held accountable,” said Kassab, who was ordained in March as the second female minister in the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon. “Today we are reminded of Luther’s words from his pulpit, ‘A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.’”

All human beings are valuable in the eyes of God no matter what their colour or gender or race or passport, she said.

“Here I stand, a Middle Eastern women in the pulpit of Luther,” said Kassab, to spontaneous applause. “If only Luther had imagined this, this could have been his 96th question to the church. Not, ‘Why there is a women in this pulpit?’, but ‘Why did take so long?’”

The ceremony in Wittenberg took place during the WCRC General Council which has brought about 1000 participants to the eastern German city of Leipzig.

The WCRC groups more than 225 Protestant churches with a combined membership of about 80 million Christians in Congregational, Presbyterian, Reformed, United, Uniting and Waldensian churches in over 100 countries. Its offices are in Hannover, Germany.

(By Stephen Brown. Article and pictures source: WCRC Press Release July 5, 2017 | http://wcrc.ch/news/wcrc-joins-declaration-to-overcome-reformation-divisions)

CCA invites applications to serve as stewards at the Asia Mission Conference in Myanmar.

Stewards of the 14th General Assembly of the CCA in Jakarta, Indonesia — May 2015.

 

The Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) invites applications from young Christians belonging to CCA member churches and ecumenical councils in Asia to serve as stewards for the Asia Mission Conference (AMC) to be held in Yangon, Myanmar from 11 to 17 October 2017.

The stewards program will last for 10 days, including three days of ecumenical formation training and pre-AMC orientation; with arrival on 8 October and departure on 17 October 2017.

An opportunity to serve as a steward in a major Asian ecumenical event with historical significance is a unique experience. It will help to develop a sense of togetherness, working in a multicultural context, interacting with a wide range of participants of the AMC – church and ecumenical leaders from around the world, theologians, missiologists, social activists and interfaith scholars.

The deadline for receiving applications is 10 July 2017. Applicants must be between the ages of 18 and 30 years old.

The AMC will be a major ecumenical event with the participation of 400 representatives of churches, ecumenical councils and related organisations in Asia, Europe, North America and other continents. The theme of the AMC is ‘Journeying Together: Prophetic Witness to the Truth and Light, in Asia’. The Diamond Jubilee celebrations of the CCA also will be held during the AMC, on Sunday 15 October 2017.

Fifty stewards, 20 international and 30 local stewards will be selected to work together with the CCA staff and the local host committees to assume various responsibilities during the AMC, and in participating in the two historic events of the CCA – the AMC and CCA’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

The Diamond Jubilee of the CCA will be commemorated on Sunday, 15 October 2017 in a grand event in the presence of a gathering of 5000 selected invitees, including the 400 participants of the AMC and international guests.

To download the application form for the Stewards Programme, please visit the CCA website. Kindly send the form to CCA.

 

(Source: CCA News | http://cca.org.hk/home/news-and-events/cca-invites-applications-to-serve-as-stewards-at-the-asia-mission-conference-in-myanmar)

Statement on Martial law in Mindanao (Philippines)

Coming from the Meeting of the Ecumenical Indigenous Peoples’ Network Reference Group (May 31, 2017 | Manila, Philippines)

We condemn the declaration of a state of martial law in the whole of Mindanao by the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s in response to the alleged terrorist attacks by the Islamic State-linked Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf in Marawi City. Current reports show that state security forces are intensifying its military operations in the whole island of Mindanao especially in Marawi City through indiscriminate aerial bombings, ground confrontations and clearing operations.

We equally express alarm that Martial Law in Mindanao further heightens current military abuses and excesses against the Indigenous Peoples there who aredefending their lands against extractives, energy projects and plantations, and militarization of their communities.

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Young Ambassadors of Peace in Asia (YAPA) 2017 (Chiang Mai, Thailand)

The 2nd Young Ambassadors of Peace in Asia (YAPA) 2017, a week-long training programme, was organised by the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) from 28th May to 3rd June at Payap University at Chiang Mai, Thailand.

YAPA training programme sought to facilitate the role of young people as ambassadors of change in peacebuilding processes, and to build a network of young peacebuilders in Asia bridging the missing links in promoting peace in society. The training programme consisted of interactive sessions on non-violence and peace with justice through theological foundations of peace from various religious perspectives, skill development to peace implementation programmes at the grassroots level. The programme further buoyed up the young people to be peace makers not among humans alone but within the whole creation commencing from one’s own inner self.

25 young participants from various Asian countries – Bangladesh, Indonesia, India, Myanmar, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Thailand – with representatives from the Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim communities who are committed to promoting interfaith collaboration in peacebuilding and conflict resolution participated in the programme.

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Prominent Belgian Liberation Theologist Francois Houtart Dies

Dubbed the “Pope of anti-globalization,” Houtart left a mark on discussions of religion and revolutionary social change in developing nations.

Belgian liberation theologist and sociologist Francois Houtart died Tuesday at the age of 92, leaving a powerful legacy through his decades of work theorizing globaliztion, alternatives to capitalism and religion from a Marxist perspective.

Houtart died in Quito, Ecuador, where he lived and worked at the Pueblo Indio Foundation and with several universities. Houtart was born in Brussels in 1925, became a Catholic priest in 1949 completed a doctorate in sociology at the University of Louvain.

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India at UPR UN meet on May 4, 2017

Photo Credit: ndtv.com

Minority rights, NGO crackdown raised at UN meet, India says freedoms secure

Concept of torture alien to our culture: Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi


From complaints of eroding minority rights and religious intolerance to the crackdown against NGOs, women’s rights to LGBT rights, Kashmir to Afrophobia — India’s track record on human rights came under sharp scrutiny at the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday in Geneva.

Several countries expressed concerns on India’s FCRA laws, incidents of religious intolerance, women’s rights and even racism. The Kashmir issue was also raised by Pakistan during the hearing of the third “Universal Periodic Review.” India has undergone this voluntary review twice before, in 2008 and 2012.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who presented India’s position, strongly denied the allegations. “The right to fair trial and free legal aid up to the highest court are enshrined as fundamental rights in the Constitution of India and thus guaranteed to all individuals. So much so that as the Attorney General of India, I was summoned by the Supreme Court at 2 in the morning to hear a last-ditch petition, after several rounds of litigation, by a convict who was guilty of terrorism to escape punishment (a reference to the Yakub Memon case). This shows the importance attached to upholding of human rights by India,” he told the UNHRC.

Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka backed India on its human rights record. But a group of countries, including the US, Australia, Germany, Czech Republic, Norway and Ireland, asked India to look at its FCRA laws with US saying that there is “complete lack of transparency” in the implementation which affects NGOs in India.

Germany, Vatican, Kazakhstan, Kenya, UK, South Korea and the Netherlands expressed concern over the issues of rights of religious minorities and intolerance.

Pakistan called for a stop to the use of pellet guns. India countered saying the situation in Kashmir is due to Pakistan’s actions and there is zero tolerance to terrorism.

Haiti raised the issue of “Afrophobia” which was denied by an Indian delegate who called the country a “land of Buddha” which did not have a racist mindset and said that these incidents were a case of local crime.

While Japan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan and Liechtenstein were among countries which raised concerns on women’s rights, Israel and Ireland raised the issue of equal rights for the LGBT community. Several countries asked India to ratify the convention against torture.

Leading the Indian delegation, Rohatgi said that India makes no distinction between caste, creed, colour or religion of a citizen. “India is a secular state with no state religion,” he said, adding that the Indian Constitution guarantees freedom of religion to every individual. He said the right to free speech and expression occupies its rightful place in the core of the Constitution.

“As the world’s largest multi-layered democracy, we fully recognise the importance of free speech and expression. Our people are conscious of their political freedoms and exercise their choices at every opportunity,” Rohatgi said. “We believe in peace, non-violence and upholding human dignity. As such, the concept of torture is completely alien to our culture and it has no place in the governance of the nation.”

On the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Rohatgi said the Act is applied only to disturbed areas — few and in proximity to some international borders. Several countries, including the US, raised the issue of AFSPA. “Whether this Act should be repealed or not is a matter of on-going vibrant political debate in my country,” he said.

On transgenders, Rohatgi said that India has been at the forefront of recognising their equal rights. The Supreme Court gave a landmark judgement in 2014 directing the government to declare trans-genders a “third gender” and included them as an “Other Backward Class” entitled to affirmative action benefits.

The apex court also reinforced that trans-genders should have all rights under law, including marriage, adoption, divorce, succession and inheritance, Rohatgi added.

Rohatgi said India seeks to ensure inclusive development and the protection of rights of vulnerable groups and it has enacted a range of laws to address sexual assault and other gender-based crimes.

“We have overhauled the legal framework for dealing with child sexual assault,” he said, adding that India remains deeply committed towards reinforcing and accelerating efforts towards combating human trafficking.

Source: Indian Express (http://indianexpress.com/article/india/minority-rights-ngo-crackdown-raised-at-un-meet-india-says-freedoms-secure-4641197/) Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | Published:May 5, 2017 5:17 am

 

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Global Day of Prayer to End Famine on 21 May 2017

Dear Friends,

We are requesting you as participating organisations of WCC-EAA, that each of your organisation is able to sign up and endorse the Global ‘Day of Prayer to End Famine’ on 21 May 2017 to be launched tomorrow. We are grateful to you if you have already endorsed it and agreed to be one of the organisations launching the call.  The General Secretaries of WCC & AACC had send out a call last week. The letter is attached with this message- please see below for the link to  register as partners in the campaign.

All this work is possible because of your committed guidance and support. We would very much want you register and back this Day of Prayer and to promote it among your partners and networks.

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A Call for a Global Day of Prayer to End Famine

WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES
Geneva, April 21, 2017

A Call for a Global Day of Prayer to End Famine

Christ has Risen!

This period between Easter and the Ascension is one of the most significant times in the church calendar. It is a period of 40 days after his resurrection, when Jesus lived among the people, continuing his ministry, restoring and nourishing hope and giving life with dignity. It is also a period, when, as people of faith, we are obliged to turn our attention, prayerfully and with dedication, to the most crying needs in our society.

Currently, more people face famine today than any time in modern history. Famine has been declared in South Sudan. Somalia, Nigeria, and Yemen are on the brink of famine. Globally, more than 20 million people are at risk of starvation, while millions more suffer from drought and food  shortages.  In this desperate situation children suffer most and become increasingly vulnerable. The UN is calling this the largest humanitarian crisis since 1945.

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Christians urge the government not to celebrate ‘Digital India Day’ on Good Friday this year.

  • LETTER 1

(from The Synod of The Church of North India)

 


  • LETTER 2

 

Text of the letter

Nongpyngrope,  Circle  III,
Mawpat,
Shillong  793 012.
13  April,  2017.

The  Honourable  Chief  Minister,
Meghalaya,
Shillong.

Subject:  Expressing appreciation for your stand with  regard  to  sacredness  of  Good  Friday:

Sir,

It  is  with  a  deep  sense  of  relief  and  appreciation  I  have  come  to  learn  that  you  have  made  your  stand  unequivocal  with  regard  to  the  sacredness  of  Good  Friday  for  Christians  not  only  of    the  State  of  Meghalaya  but  the  world  over  as  it  is  the  day    observed   with  all  solemnity  and  introspection  on  the  death  of  Jesus  more  than  2000   years  ago  through  and  an unjust  decision made  by  Pontius  Pilate,  as  he  was  swerved  by  a  crowd  crying  for Jesus’  crucifixion  through  manoeuvring  by  religious  and  political leaders  of the  day.

Though no  one  would  express  reservation  on  having  Digital  India  Day  but  the  choice  of  date  which  falls  on  Good  Friday  does  not  behove  well  as  also  Christmas  Day  has  been  declared  to  be  Good  Governance  Day.  Here again, everyone  wants  good  governance  on  a  daily  basis,  in  fact,  24 x 7   but  to  have  chosen  25th  December,  which  also  happens  to  be  the  birthday   of   former  Prime  Minister,  Shri  Atal  Behari  Vajpayee  is  akin  to  belittling  the  spiritual  sentiment  of  Christians  in  India  and  to  marginalise  the  date  observed  as  the  historical  date  of  birth  of  Jesus.

As  the  date  for  observing  Digital  India  has  been  fixed,  we  would  like  to  thank  you  profusely  for  having  stated  that  in  Meghalaya,  it’ll  be  Good  Friday  on  Friday,  14  April,  2017.

It  is  hoped  that  through  your  intervention  along  with  request  made  by  our  two  Lok  Sabha  MPs,  Church  of  North  India,  Meghalaya  Youth  Federation  (MYF)  and  others  for  Government  of  India  to  defer  the  date  of  Digital  India,  the  Union  Government  will  henceforth,  consider  alternative  proposals  not  hurting  religious  sentiments  of  minorities.

As  it  is,  14  April  also  happens  to  be the  birthday  of  Dr.  Bhim  Rao  Ambedkar,  the  architect  of  India’s  Constitution  who  also  championed  for  the  Sixth  Schedule to  become  a  reality  through  the  efforts  of  a  three  member  Committee  led  by  (L)  Gopinath  Bordoloi  with  (L)  Rev.  J.  M.  M.  Nichols-Roy  and  (L)  Jaspal  Singh  as  members.

May  God  bless  and  guide  you  and  your  Government.

Yours  sincerely,

Rev.  Dr.  P.  B.  M.  Basaiawmoit

 

NCCI rejoices over the Victory of Peoples’ Power in Odisha

People of Odisha are an “Icon of Unity and Beacon of Hope”

001

The National Council of Churches in India rejoices over the decision of the POSCO (Pohang  Steel Company) Korean Mining Company to withdraw from the lands of Odisha and asking the State to give back the lands to the Tribals and Adivasis from whom the lands were taken. This was officially announced and confirmed through a media statement by Shri Devi Prashad Mishra, the Honorable Minister for Industry, Government of Odisha.

The resilient struggle of the  people has borne fruit. It is a  victory of not only the people of Odisha but also of all Peasants, Fisher-folks, Forest-dwellers engaged in movements to save their land, life and livelihood.  Over a decade, the people of Odisha were struggling to redeem their land and life from the forces of corporate empire. They demonstrated  their opposition through various Gandhian style non-violent means such as hugging the scorching sandy earth while facing the onslaughts of the authoritative powers.

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