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Green Epistle to the Indian Churches

Green Epistle to the Indian Churches :

“Remember your Creator and Creation” (Ecclesiastes 12:1)

on 

World Environmental Day (June 5, 2017)

From time to time and as and when necessary  Churches have been responding to Ecological Catastrophes through various ministerial and diaconal interventions. Rather than waiting to address such catastrophes, it is imperative for Churches to deal with the context of climate change and the environmental crisis that destroy lives and threaten the future of earth communities, that are created by God almighty.

The summer this year has reached a decade high, resulting in drought in several parts of the county, while the monsoon season is expected to result in floods that would swallow agricultural fields. Such extreme weather conditions are not  at all favourable to our country, but yet, we have to go through the experience of the same.

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An Ecumenical Call to join and Pray – “Global Day of Prayer to End Famine”

National Council of Churches in India – Unity and Mission

and

Ecumenical Commission on Drought and Water Management (ECODAWM)

join

World Council of Churches – Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (WCC – EAA) and

All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC)

 in extending an Invitation to

All Churches, Christian Organisations and All Faith Communities to participate in the

Global Day of Prayer to End Famine (May 21, 2017).

To

The Church Leaders, Heads of the Institutions and

Leaders of all Faith Communities

Respected and Revered Church Leaders, Heads of the Institutions and All Faith Leaders,

Greetings of Peace!

“For I was hungry and you gave me food,  I was thirsty and you gave me to drink,

I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” (Matthew 25:35).

Most of the Earth Communities including human communities of today  face drought and famine, more than at any time in modern history. Famine has been declared in South Sudan. Somalia, Nigeria, and Yemen are on the brink of famine and drought, and  some of the Indian States are facing a similar situation.

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.  There is great danger that on its current course, the global response to this crisis will be hugely inadequate and will lead to unimaginable suffering and death, which is eminently avoidable. Hence, Church as a community that cares for others, have a responsibility and prophetic role in calling to mobilizing their members, the wider society and governments, and making a difference during this unprecedented period of suffering.

At this juncture of crisis, the World Council of Churches – Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance  (WCC – EAA) joins the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC)  in inviting the entire global Christian faith communities and ecclesial confessions to participate in  the ‘Global Day of Prayer to End Famine’ on the May 21st 2017.  with a special focus on the African continent. Thousands of churches, church related organisations and faith communities and their net-works in hundreds of countries are joining this global campaign considering its timely importance and need.

As we all are aware, India is not free of  such vulnerability. Agriculture is slowly dying. Everywhere we witness   water scarcity and in some places hunger deaths. In many parts of India, farmers commit suicide due to unprecedented drought,

Therefore, the National Council of  Churches in India (Unity and Mission), and Ecumenical Commission on Drought and Water Management join together in encouraging all Indian Churches to participate in the Global Day of Prayer to End Famine, and pray for India also along with offering prayers for Africa.

We sincerely request you to  encourage all your local congregations and grass-root communities to join  this prayer campaign on the 21st May 2017, to pray during our Sunday holy Masses, Worships and Services, beseeching God’s pardon for  human sin against the earth communities and seeking God’s providential grace to end famine and give life.

Nations from the North, South, East and West  are urged to embark on this Prayer Journey. It is a journey that is not about us, but about a world in desperate need of God’s compassionate love. It is a call to respond to God’s invitation in 2 Chronicles 7:14 to humble ourselves, pray, seek His face and turn from our wicked ways. May God hear our prayers, forgive our sin and heal our land.

Come let us join the ‘Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace’ with faith and prayer that  bring blessings to all the earth communities.  May our collective repentance, prayer and timely intervention assure and ensure  ‘zero hunger deaths’.

With kind regards and prayers,

Dr. William Stanley

ECODAWM

Rev. R. Christopher Rajkumar

NCCI – Unity and Mission

Rt. Rev Dr. P C Singh

President – NCCI

Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad

General Secretary – NCCI

Note:

The WCC worship and prayer resources are available in https://www.oikoumene.org/en/press-centre/events/global-day-of-prayer-to-end-famine.

If you wish to share your experiences, please share with us at <mission@ncci1914.com>

NCCI rejoices over the Victory of Peoples’ Power in Odisha

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

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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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Interfaith Communities Affirm ‘Life Giving Agriculture’ is the Way of Life

National Council of Churches in India

United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India& India Peace Centre

Interfaith Discussion on “Life-giving Agriculture”

26th December 2016, NCCI Campus, Nagpur, India.

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Thirty participants from major faiths including Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Jainism and Secular, Dalit and Gender ideologies participated in an Interfaith discussion on ‘Life Giving Agriculture’ (LGA) on the 26th December 2016 at NCCI Campus, commemorating the ‘National Farmers’ Day’.

The grave  agricultural  situation and in particular the incidence of farmer suicides in India were the backdrop of the discussion, which focused on how   faith communities and secular ideologues could contribute towards liberating the ‘agri-culture’ from the ‘agri-business’!

Rev. Christopher Rajkumar of NCCI in his introduction narrated how Monsanta and Bayer are taking over agriculture and converting  it into agribusiness, and also about the issue of GMOs. If, as was claimed , GMOs and Agri-business would bring more profits, why have alarming numbers of Indian farmers taken their lives over the last years in Vidarbha, Telangana, Karnataka, Punjab, Tamilnadu and elsewhere? In fact GM seeds and products are hazardous to health. Even the milk we drink, eggs and meat we eat are stuffed with GMOs and Chemicals since  cows, hens and goats are fed with GM and Chemically modified foods. Further he called the faith communities and civil society and peoples movements to come together for a collective campaign against the GMOs and Agri-business.

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Disability Christmas at St. Ursula Girls School, Nagpur

Disability Christmas

The Disability Christmas Program, a first of its kind at Nagpur especially for PWDs (Person with Disability) was jointly organized by IDEA (Indian Disability Ecumenical Accompaniment), a forum of National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) and the Commission on Youth-NCCI in the evening of 2nd December 2016  at St. Ursula Girls School, Nagpur. The Disability Christmas program was a platform of inspiration and encouragement to see the season of love, joy and happiness from a different perspective. Rev. Rony Jacob (who himself is a person disabled because of an accident) gave an encouraging Christmas message about accepting Christ once again back in our lives. The Mizo Christian Fellowship of Nagpur enthralled the audiences with their beautiful traditional song and dance. The main hallmark of the program was the spectacular presentation by  children with disabilities from Jeevodaya Special School. The presentation touched and inspired the hearts of all the audiences as thunderous claps began from the moment the children began to perform. The program  concluded with  prayer and a group photo shoot.

Many people appreciated the program and some even encouraged the participating bodies to continue organizing this program even in the years to come because such a program  is not only special for the disabled, but it also helps the community to come together in solidarity with, and commitment to the cause of, PWDs within the society.

Conflict to Communion: Historical Signatures at Lutheran Cathedral, Sweden on Oct 31, 2016

National Council of Churches in India welcomes the Joint Unity Declaration by the Catholics and Lutherans

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October 31, 1517 became a kairos day in history as Martin Luther nailed 95 theses on the doors of the Wittenberg Castle Church in Germany. After 499 years on the same day, another landmark history was created in the Lutheran Cathedral of Lund in Sweden when Pope Francis and Bishop Dr. Munib Younan (President – Lutheran World Federation) jointly signed a statement in which Catholics and Lutherans pledged to pursue their dialogue in order to remove the remaining obstacles that hinder them from reaching full unity. They also stressed their commitment to common witness on behalf of the poor, the needy and victims of injustice. This commemoration brings hope for greater unity.

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Press Release – Tamilnadu Churches Commemorating the 500 Years of Reformation.

Press Release.

Tamilnadu Churches Commemorating the 500 Years of Reformation.

The recently held Executive Committee of the Tamilnadu Christian Council in Chennai chaired by Rt. Rev. Dr. M Joseph, President of TNCC has decided to commemorate the 500 Years of Reformation on the theme: “Reformation of the Church for the Renewal Communities”.

This commemoration would be at the inauguration of the next General Assembly of Tamilnadu Christian Council, which is scheduled to be held at Thirukovilur in Tamilnadu from 3 to 4 November 2016 and hosted by the Arcot Lutheran Church.

The agenda of this commemoration includes biblical-theological reflections, ministerial espouses, seminars, conversations and sessions to plan the joint ecumenical actions. The outcome of this commemoration would set an ecumenical-missional agenda  for the Churches in Tamilnadu for the near future.

There would be around 100 Church Leaders, Theologians, Mission Workers, Women, Men Youth and Activists expected to participate.

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Report: Tamilnadu Christian Council Executive Committee – September 20, 2016

Report of the Tamilnadu Christian Council Executive Committee held on  September 20, 2016 at TNCC Office, Guindy, Chennai.

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The Executive Committee of the Tamilnadu Christian Council was held on the 20th September 2016 at TNCC Office, Guindy, Chennai.

Rt. Rev. Dr. M. Joseph, the President of TNCC and the CSI Bishop of the Diocese of Madurai – Ramnad presided over the meeting. There were Twenty TNCC – Member representatives and Church leaders officially participated and I (Rev. Christopher Rajkumar) represented the National Council of Churches in India as a General Secretary nominee.

The Meeting  was opened with word of prayer by the Rev. Dr. (Mrs.) Nalini Immanuel of the CSI Trichy – Tanjore Diocese. Dr. Esther Kathiroli, the Secretary / Director of TNCC welcomed the Members and Bishop Joseph greeted the members and led a devotion. Rev. Christopher Rajkumar shared the greetings of the National Council of Churches in India and its Officers including the General Secretary and Secretariat.

The proposed agenda contained the constitutional requirements such as receiving the activity and financial reports and approval of budget along with seeking of an approval to convene the next TNCC – General Assembly in November 2016. It was also reported that, the Arcot Lutheran Church has come forward in hosting the same at Thirukovilur in Tamilnadu from 4 to 5 November 2016.

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21st September 2016 – International Prayer Day for Peace (An invitation to “Do” and “Practice” Peace)

21st September 2016 – International Prayer Day for Peace

(An invitation to “Do” and “Practice” Peace)

“Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace”(United Nations)

ipdp-imageEach year, the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21st September. The General Assembly of the United Nations has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals to inculcate the culture of Peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.

The World Council of Churches calls Churches and all the faith and peace loving communities to observe the International Day of Prayer for Peace. Observances of the peace prayer day began in 2004 during a meeting between the then WCC General Secretary Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, and coincides with the UN International Day of Peace.

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Interfaith Communities Dream a World Without Persons with Disabilities

Report of the Interfaith Round Table on Disability held on  25th August 2016 at Tamilnadu Theological Seminary

The National Council of Churches in India – Indian Disability Ecumenical Accompaniment (NCCI – IDEA) and World Vision India joined the Tamilnadu Theological Seminary, Tamilnadu Christian Council, Engage Disability, Christian Service Agency, Church of South India – Diocese of Madurai–Ramnad and the Madurai Interfaith Initiative in organizing an ‘Interfaith Round Table on Disability’ on 25th August 2016 at Tamilnadu Theological Seminary, Madurai on the theme “Faith Journey Together Towards Inclusive Communities’.

70 faith practitioners from different faith backgrounds including clerics, lay leaders, students of theology, philosophy, secular studies, research scholars, theological and secular educators, social and development workers and representatives from different interfaith initiatives participated in this round table representing the major faiths including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Dalit, Folk and also Secular Ideologies.

The round table started with a  Buddhist prayer by monks. Rev. Dr. Kanagu Nelson welcomed the gathering. The Coordinators shared greetings from Rt. Rev. Dr. M Joseph, Bishop CSI Diocese of Madurai – Ramnad and Dr. Esther
Kathiroli, Secretary Tamilnadu Christian Council. Rev. Dr. David Rajendran, Principal, Tamilnadu Theological Seminary, inaugurated the Round Table by joining different faith representatives in lighting the ‘kuthu vilakku’. Rev. R. Christopher Rajkumar (NCCI) and Dr. Christopher Baskaran (World Vision India) shared

greetings from NCCI and World Vision and introduced the round table.

Rev. Dr. David Rajendran, in his inaugural address informed the participants that the entire Christian world is getting ready to commemorate 500 years of Martin Luther’s Reformation in 2017. 500 years ago the ‘reformation movement’ questioned and countered the oppressive and discriminating faith practices of that time and the reformation helped the adherents to get away from oppressive components in their faith journey. He further called upon the faith communities to work towards reformation in contemporary times in order to promote and uphold  inclusive society through our spiritualties, faith expressions and religious practices, and to completely eliminate and eradicate  oppressive and discriminating practices in our societies by expanding the inclusive realm to all the religiously, socially, culturally and historically excluded communities including ‘People with Disabilities’ (PWDs).

Ven. Bikkuni Leelavathi, Janab Ahamad Siddique, Rev. Sr. Regina Mary, and Shri. Thangaraj  served as panelists reflecting on the theme, ‘What does my faith say about People with Disability’. Rev. Christopher Rajkumar and Rev. Dr. Kanagu Nelson jointly moderated the panel.
Ven. Bikkuni Leelavathi, a Buddhist Monk, informed the participants that according to Buddhism, malnutrition, undernourishment, and hunger are the main causes for any disability. The narrative of Manimekala calls all of us to collect food and feed every one who is in need, to eradicate not only hunger but also to establish a healthy society where there would be no possibility for the birth of PWDs in our world.  She further emphasized that instead of looking for a meaning for disability, let us look for reasons that cause disability and address the issue to create a world without persons with disabilities by healthy feeding programmes as an expression of our faith response.

Janab Ahamad Siddique, an Islamic theologian cited from Quran that Allah the Almighty, never discriminates any persons with disabilities. In fact during Prophet Muhammad’s time, the disabled were used by the religious leaders to invite the Muslim believers to prayer at the mosques, noteworthy being the the visually impaired person who offered invitation at the mosque in Mecca. Further he said, on Judgment Day, visually impaired persons would go directly  to heaven since, they would be found to be sinless in the world.  He also further asserted that the Quran  treats all as equals, without any discrimination and stigma; all are considered as children of God.

Rev. Sr. Regina Mary a Christian caregiver, pointed out that the God of the Bible used a PWD named Moses to liberate people who were under political oppression. Also God ordained PWDs to be prophets who reformed society when people went wrong, e.g. Jeremiah. Further she stated that Jesus Christ was working towards bringing in a society where there would be no discrimination on the basis of physical and mental disabilities; therefore Jesus healed PWDs during his ministry. She also asserted that Christianity considers that all are created in God’s image, including PWDs.

Shri Thangaraj, a Hindu faith practitioner, stated that according to Hinduism, deformity is based on the Karma of persons in their previous lives; however at the same time the karma of other persons in their past lives leads them to take care of the disabled in this life. So disability or deformity should not be seen or considered as a curse or punishment of God; rather such deformities facilitate other adherents in being more responsible and accountable for those who are in need, thereby representing God in the lives of the PWDs.

Two faith practitioners responded to this panel. Mr. Devaraj, educationist and Tamil Scholar responded by asserting that all scriptures and faiths affirm the life, respect and dignity of PWDs; however the holy shrines should facilitate their inclusion with needed inclusive conscious infrastructure and literature since every PWD has a right to worship. The PWDs are allowed to take part in the very life of the worshiping communities including their leadership.

Shrimathi Pandeeswary, a follower of ‘Sanmarga Shabai’ observed that the religious leaders and scholars like Kalidas, and Valmiki were PWDs and God used them to edify the adherents spiritually through their literary skills.  Why do not we accept the leadership of PWDs today in our religious lives? If we continue to do so, we would be against our gods and faiths. Therefore, we need to accept every one as they are and promote inclusiveness.

Dr. Christopher Baskaran, the Deputy Director, Church Relations and Interfaith Relations of World Vision India initiated a group discussion after introducing different types of disability and explaining what  inclusivity means. The participants were divided into six groups and asked to identify the barriers that discriminate  PWDs from the society and the factors that would promote their inclusion. This method was found to be effective as it led the participants to have deeper and meaningful discussions and brought several possible suggestions including inculcating a culture of inclusivity in the society and promoting consciousness about the need for disabled-friendly infrastructures in public buildings and holy shrines.

Rev. Dr. Kanagu Nelson, Professor and Head Department of Religious Studies of the Tamilnadu Theological Seminary in his concluding remarks said that we as faith communities need to be more conscious about using derogatory, abusive and disrespectful language that discriminates against PWDs in our day to day life. When God uses words of love, why should we use disrespectful or hate language?

Rev. R. Christopher Rajkumar, Executive Secretary, Commission on Mission: Ecumenism: Theologies of Life and Director of the Indian Disability Ecumenical Accompaniment (IDEA) Forum, in his closing remarks referred to ‘Divine Miracles and Divine Healings’ of the PWDs found in our scriptures. According to him, these divine acts not only made PWDs normal but also the entire society was made inclusive. Therefore, we as faith communities need to work for a community where the people who live on  the margins of society come to be part of the society. So, let us as a community that represents God, become the agents of change and transformation where all are together as God’s communities.

Mrs. Devaki of Madurai Interfaith Initiative proposed the vote of thanks and the participants sang the National Anthem in unison as a closing act.  Rev. Dr. V. Kanagu Nelson, Mrs. Devaki, Mr. Jacob Devabhaktula and Ms. Cynthia Shinde co-ordinated the Round Table.

The Madurai Interfaith Round Table is the Tamilnadu regional expression of the national interfaith conversation on disability in order to promote  NCCI’s quadrennial theme ‘Towards Just and Inclusive Communities’ and its national campaign on ‘Accessible and Inclusive Holy Shrines’.

 

Reported by:

Mrs. Cynthia Shinde

Coordinator,

NCCI  – Indian Disability Ecumenical Accompaniment

ncci.idea@gmail.com

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