Bishop George Ninan, renowned ecumenical leader, described by many as campaigner for justpeace for the urban poor and slum development in India and in Asia, passed away in New York on June 21, 2015.
He was born in Kaviyoor in Kerala and started his ministry as the Secretary of the Church of South India (CSI) Christian Institute in Alleppey. He served the CSI Madhya Kerala Diocese as the Secretary of the Diocesan Youth Movement. He was sent to Japan as a youth worker while he was actively involved in the Student Christian Movement of India (SCMI). He was ordained minister in the Anglican Communion in the year 1964. In 1970 he joined the Philips University in Oklahoma for his doctoral studies.
His association with Urban Rural Mission (URM) as a movement 30 years ago started in Nagpur and took him to Bombay and further on to Hong Kong. He served as the Director of the Bombay Urban Industrial League for Development (BUILD) in Bombay, India from 1972-1979. He then served as the Executive Secretary of the URM of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) as well as Associate General Secretary of CCA during 1980 – 1986. With deep concern for the issues of human rights, poverty and slum development, he was in the forefront of the democratic and human rights movements and people’s struggle for justice and peace in Asia. As CCA General Secretary, Dr. Mathews George Chunakara in his condolence message notes about Bishop Ninan: His contributions and commitment to support the church workers and human rights activists who were imprisoned by authoritarian dictatorships in the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, leaders and activists of trade union movements working with the slum dwellers in many parts of Asia were widely recognized.
The Urban Industrial Mission (UIM) was instrumental in the development activities that started taking place after the famous Bandung conference where Nehru, Sukarno and other heads of the state met in the year 1955.The UIM was the first in India that started working for the poor. As the development concern of agencies on the urban areas started, industrial mission also changed its direction and went for the urban poor. In the year 1975, the Urban Industrial Mission (UIM) became the Urban Rural Mission (URM) because most of Asia and India was rural. Bishop Ninan served on the URM programme committees and various Working Groups of the World Council of Churches in 1980s.
Bishop Ninan became the Bishop of Nasik, one of the dioceses in the Church of North India (CNI) in 1994. He served the CNI for more than 37 years, and as Secretary of the Joint Council of the CNI, CSI and the Mar Thoma Church, he was deeply committed to achieving functional unity among the three churches.
National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) will remember Bishop Ninan for his significant contributions to the ecumenical movement with his liberating faith perspectives and in supporting people’s movements. May his work continue to enlighten and inspire us in the continuing challenges to the vision and realization of freedom, justice and peace.
The funeral service will be on Saturday June 27 at 9 am at the St. Stephens Episcopal Church in Pearl River, New York and the burial will be at the Cemetery of the St. John in the wilderness Episcopal Church in Stony Point, New York.
– NCCI Communications