Saath – Saath: An Interfaith Dialogue For Gender Equity from the lens of scriptures of different traditions

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The beautiful narrative of creation of human being is that we are tailor made by God, who is our creator and sustainer and even though has given us free will to choose but expects that we are more responsible for the choices we make. Often the choices we as humans make are for seeking the power and pleasure for ourselves. Later accounts portray such a self-seeking approach to distort the image of God in every human person and deform creation. One such distortion and deformation which plagues our society is gender inequality. The domination by the “mighty” who subjugates the “weak” is a challenge to balance of God endowed creation equality.

Religion is knowing God and following the faith we believe in. Religion plays a vital role in shaping cultural, social, economic, and political norms in many parts of the world. Thus, gender stereotypes and the status of women and men in society are deeply tied to the manner in which religious texts have been interpreted for centuries by those in positions of power—positions held predominantly by men.The relationship between religion and gender equality is a complex one. Yet, in sharp contrast to marked absence of all gender at the highest levels of decision-making in religious communities, women and all genders play a pivotal role in religious life. Within the family and the community, they implement and embody religious teachings and traditions, and pass these on to future generations. The role of faith-based organizations, institutions and actors in the gender equality agenda is multifaceted: while often rooted in patriarchal traditions, they are also among the powerful agents of social change. The language of faith reaches to the deepest roots of human motivation, mobilizing individuals and communities to sacrifice comfort and material wealth in pursuit of higher goals. In addition, faith-based organizations and institutions are among the largest, most stable, and well-resourced social networks.

Various faith Scriptures can play a vital role in re-establishing the balance in today’s world where Gender based inequality is rampant. We need to ask these vital questions:  Is religion a barrier to gender equality? Distinction between (Institutionalised) Religion and what various Scriptures actually promote!

Saath – Saath looks forward to be a collaboration which is rooted in the understanding that in today’s world, where 8 out of 10 people identify as members of a religious or spiritual community, where religion exerts tremendous influence on people’s both women and men, identities, behaviours, and beliefs. As the oldest providers of social and humanitarian assistance, Faith-based organizations with their networks and resources reaching every corner of the globe are uniquely poised to impact the world in a more profound manner and set a more positive tone. Much more needs to be done for challenging the patriarchal structures, beliefs, and practices that have perpetuated inequality and discrimination against women and girls. While they have been instrumental in promoting spiritual, social, and physical wellbeing, faith-based organization still can be more proactive in engaging in the work of structural transformation required for secure equity and justice for all.

In “Saath – Saath’ we desire come together to look into our faith heritage captured in our scriptures. The desire is to reclaim the divinity of all human beings. Let us listen to what various scriptures say, with a purpose that faith leaders can be co-partners and collaborators in promoting and protecting Gender equity. Let us get inspired from our faith Scriptures and explore how Scriptures of various faith traditions preserve and promote Gender-parity.

Let’s Listen to what they have to say:

Dr A K Merchant is the national trustee Cum Secretary, Lotus Temple. A Doctor by Profession and very much active with social concern, he is a champion on topics like culture, religion and environment.

Tashi Choedup is a Queer Buddhist, monastic Buddhist philosopher and volunteering in Bodhgaya, Bihar. He is an activist and has been active in writing as well.

Rev M Jyothi Sunder is a ordained minister in Medak Diocese, CSI for 20 years. She had done her MTh in OT and MA in women Studies. She is also the President for Association of Theological Trained Women in India (ATTWI),

Ms Sribala Mylavarapu is a teacher of Sanskrit. She is staff at HMI, Hyderabad. She is programme officer for Academic Extension Programme. Her research topic is “Role of women in reconciliation in Faith Engagements”.

Ms Uzma Naheed is a member of Indian Muslim Personal Law Board and is a champion on Gender Justice. She has worked tirelessly for justice for women right from the Islamic context.

Ms Ashmeet Kaur Bilkhu is a young dynamic worker who has done her MPhil in “ Women and Gender Studies”. She is involved in developing curriculum at ISST for “ women And Work”. She writes on issues of gender politics and culture.

Dr Vihutoli Kinny is a lecturer at Nito Theological College, Nagaland. She is serving at department of Religion. Her research on doctoral studies was on : Social relevance of the religious thought of Swami Vivekananda today wit special reference to practical Vedanta.”

Ms D Reshma is working as an Assistant Professor at SSS, Shasun Jain College. She is a champion for the gender cause and has been dealing with many other issues as well. She has a special way on interacting with people of all age.

Mr Ankit Bhupati is a Human Right Activist and founder of Queer Hindu Alliance. He is a devout Hindu who finds his soul in Bhakti.

Let us join our panellist to be the voices of justice and equality. Let us ask questions not to others only, but to and for ourselves.

Let’s revisit and reclaim what is right.

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Rev. Jyoti Singh Pillai                                                                                                            

Executive Secretary, NCCI Women’s’ Concerns

For any Queries Please Contact: jyoti@ncci1914.com Or ncci@ncci1914.com

At work with the resurrected Jesus, Protect WORK – Protect Life …

When most establishments including businesses and industrial establishments could resort to possible cost cutting on account of the impact of the lockdown, it is the labourer/ worker/ employee who is most vulnerable and seemingly dispensable.

The Government authorities have taken measures to make sure that this vulnerable section of society is not held ransom for what could play out in the days to come. The Ministry of Labour and Employment GOI has been issuing advisories to this effect from time to time (https://labour.gov.in/whats-new)

We request all our constituents, heads of churches, members of the NCCI General Body and Executive committee, partners of the NCCI-Urban Rural Mission (NCCI-URM), the India Peace Centre (IPC), the Indian Disability Ecumenical Accompaniment (NCCI-IDEA), and the National Ecumenical Forum for Gender and Sexual Diversities (NCCI-NEFGSD) to take cognizance of the matter and advise all their units and institutions to take necessary action to protect the interest of all categories of their employees.

We further request the above mentioned esteemed leaders and partners to advise their members, units and institutions to coordinate with local civil society organisations in ensuring that the work, rights and dignity of migrant workers and daily wage earners in their vicinity is protected. Every life counts. Protect WORK – Protect Life.

The Council is mindful of the noble initiatives of the Churches and the guidance of the leadership of each Church. This commitment to the cause of providing for the needs of the poor in our midst, even amidst the busy season of Lent and the comemoration of God raising Jesus from the dead, is commendable and appreciated.

We will continue to uphold each other and all concerned in prayer as we act decisively on the immediate fallout of the COVID-19 situation. We lift the dedication of the medical workers with thanksgiving and pray for their protection and for their families. We continue to pray for wisdom to all policy and law makers as they guide us through this context.

 

Rev. Asir Ebenezer
General Secretary NCCI
Easter Monday 2020

We shall overcome . . . COVID 19

Churches – from local congregations/ corps to the Synods/ Councils/ Conferences/ Territories, Christian individuals and institutions, have all responded to the corona crisis. Amidst dealing with their own fears of the situation and also adhering to the advisories of the administration, they have been in the thick of things also caring for the needy and vulnerable in their communities and neighborhood. Most church heads have also advised the faithful on what needs to be done.

Frontline missionary doctors, nurses and allied health care workers, chaplains and counsellors, have all been in the forefront battling the virus. The Christian Medical Association of India (CMAI) circulated an early note to help churches address and cope with the situation. The Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA) have also moved in, coordinating community level responses through their community based networks across the country.

Faith communities worldwide and in India have been discovering new ways of gathering and worshiping together, even virtually. Many online platforms have been created, existing platforms activated and intensified, to nurture interaction and support amidst communities who now face situations of a lockdown albeit temporary. Faith leaders, pastors and theological educators are addressing issues relating to articulation of faith in these trying times and it’s implications for interpretation of faith and God.

We do not completely know how the situation will evolve but we do know that we can stop the virus in its course and break it down. We have done it before. Our scientists will help us. India has the opportunity to learn from countries that were in this spot a few weeks ago.

While cooperating with different measures that are put in place to curtail the spread of the virus we are also faced with the challenge of meeting the needs of the people affected by prolonged curfew in different parts of the country. We pray God for wisdom to guide neighborhood ministerial communities -local churches – to cooperate and strengthen initiatives of all well meaning people and institutions in the neighborhood to help vulnerable people tide over the situation

We appeal to Churches in every neighborhood to assist in some way those who are stranded and those that are homeless, those with disabilities and the elderly, those confined to their homes and limited mobility and those that are socially disadvantaged including the gender and sexual minorities. May our spaces where required and everywhere be sanctuaries and safe spaces for those in need. Where possible let us enhance possibilities for small traders to sell their produce. None should starve. May our people be angels to the unknown.

Pray for our medical missionaries and community workers who are exposed to the virus on account of the nature of their work; call and enquire if they need any support. It will be good to recognise and acknowledge the services of sanitary workers and such others in essential services without whose services we will be worse off. They will value our encouragement and tangible support in their work everyday. It will also be wise to use this time to plan for restoration of persons and communities once we come through this crises.

It is a tough ask, a hard task, yet a call to be Jesus in our times. We thank God for virtual spaces and communication facilities that we can use to extend pastoral counseling and care to all of God’s creation.

Let us encourage each other by sharing how we have been involved in helping people/ communities cope with the challenges of the times, as well as how we coped in dealing with our challenges. Write to communcations@ncci1914.com OR message on WhatsApp +91 72181 83675. These will be posted in the ‘NCCI constituents responding to COVID 19’ link on our website.

Finally, one thing we always know and it comes to us through Jesus our lord; ‘for one who believes all things are possible’. Be assured of the prayers and accompaniment of the leadership and secretaries of the NCCI. We shall overcome . .

Rev. Asir Ebenezer 

General Secretary, NCCI

A Call for genuine ‘Beti Bachao’ and true ‘Mahila Shashaktikaran’- Ending and Preventing Sexual Gender Based Violence

Tribal and Adivasi Sunday | 4 August 2019

And the people of God said, “Amen” !!

Worship in every Christian tradition has been a corporate affirmation of God’s work amidst us, accomplished in and through all of God’s creation including the human persons.

This year too we affirm God at work in the context of the struggles and resilience of the indigenous peoples of our lands; their affirmation of life, living patterns, search for livelihood options, and more importantly land. Identity, the very essence of being human persons and that which is so intrinsically related to land is denied when land itself is usurped.

We are invited this year during the observance of the NCCI Tribal and Adivasi Sunday to lift our hearts and cry out to this apathy, and more importantly to affirm our participation in the struggle to restore land to the peoples who love, tend and keep it. Affirmed and committed thus, we are also invited to join issue with those persons, policies and processes that usurp land, challenging with all else and God the affirmation of life and dignity to these our kin – the land and her own.

I commend to you the work of my colleague Mr. Pradip Bansrior, the Executive Secretary of the Dalit and Tribal/ Adivasi Concerns of the National Council of Churches in India, and that of his team, who invite us to worship together and thus to this commitment to restore land to the Indigenous people from whom it is usurped thereby affirming rights that’s just.

Sing unto the Lord a new song . . .

Asir Ebenezer
General Secretary
National Council of Churches in India

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Appeal to observe AUGUST 10th as “Day of Mourning”

 

Respected Moderator /Metropolitan /Bishop /General Secretary /Executive Secretary/ Director /Principal /Executive Committee Member /General Body Member/ National Program Commission Member of NCCI and Dear Ecumenical Friends

Appeal to observe AUGUST 10th as “Day of Mourning”

Greetings from NCCI – Dalit and Tribal/ Adivasi Concerns!

National Council of Churches in India-Dalit and Tribal/Adivasi Concerns and Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India-Office for SC/BC jointly appeal to the Churches and organisations to make appropriate and relevant plans for the observance of the ‘Day of Mourning’ on 10th August to raise our protest regarding the continual negligence of the government to the cry for the rights of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims in the country.

Over the past couple of years we have been started using the term “Day of Mourning” instead of ‘Black Day’.  The concept of “Black v/s Fair” comes from the castiest mind-set that ‘black is ugly and fair is beautiful’. On the other hand, the Black people and the Dalits hail the colour and the word “Black” and say “Black is Beautiful”. Hence, when we use the phrase Black Day for August 10th, we are assimilating and accepting the concept that Black is negative, ugly and sad.

The infamous Presidential (Scheduled Caste) Order 1950 was signed on 10th August 1950 by the then President of India which says “No person who professes a religion other than Hinduism shall be deemed to be a member of the scheduled caste” which was later amended to include Sikhs (1956) and Buddhists (1990) in the Scheduled Caste net. But this law, as we are all aware of, keeps the Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians from the Scheduled Castes list.

We request you to kindly observe ‘Day of Mourning’ on August 10th by organising protest rallies/ demonstrations/ hunger fasts/ submitting memoranda to appropriate authority/ candle vigils/ meetings/ special prayers and other appropriate programmes in your church/institution/ neighbourhood to express our solidarity with the suffering Christians and Muslims of Scheduled caste origin. Should you need any assistance do not hesitate to contact us.

 

With regards,

In Christ,

 

Pradip Bansrior
Executive Secretary
Dalit and Tribal/ Adivasi Concerns
National Council of Churches in India

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Thursdays in Black says no to all kinds of violence.

India has been a country where a number of violence is subsisting openly. Human Trafficking in India although illegal under Indian law, remains a remarkable problem. People are frequently illegally trafficked through India for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced/bonded labour. Women and girls are trafficked within the country for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced marriage, especially in those areas where the sex ratio is highly skewed in favour of men. Men and boys are trafficked for the purposes of labour and may be sexually exploited by traffickers to serve as gigolos, massage experts, escorts, etc a significant portion of children are subjected to forced labour as factory workers, domestic servants, beggars, and agriculture workers, and have been used as armed combatants by some terrorist and insurgent groups. Thursdays in Black focuses on ways that individuals can challenge attitudes that cause violence, on a personal and public level. Human Trafficking affects families, Society and people also suffers individually.  This year 7th February is observed as World International Harmony Day and to maintain peace among people, Thursdays in black Campaign is one of the way through which peace and unity can be conquer as this campaign says no to all kinds of violence.

THURSDAYS IN BLACK

 

National Girl Child day- 24th January, 2019

Girl children are considered a “burden” on their natal families, attributed to the idea that they will be married off at a certain age (and hopefully at a competitive price), while sons will study, become breadwinners of the households, bring home a wife who will take on households responsibilities, and thus support his parents in old age.  It is time for us to ponder upon a question are girls less capable or is it our attitude? Because , not only have we been socialised into believing in differential rights and abilities of boys and girls, but we have behaved in ways to ensure this is true by not providing equal access to both boys and girls, equal access to support and encouragement, and consequently, equal opportunity to perform. And this is one kind of silent struggles and violence a girl child has to go through since her childhood and after marriage she goes through violence. The worst victims of such violence are girls, women, and children. We know India is the 4th dangerous country for women to live in and for the girl child to survive. 53 percent children get sexually abused in India that means one out of two children.

Thursday in Black campaign is against gender based violence and it encourages men and women to support girl child and treat them equally to build inclusive church and society.

THURSDAY IN BLACK

National Council of Churches in India urges all churches and social organizations to take concrete actions against gender based violence and also encourage people to speak out against violence to ensure that women and men, boys and girls are safe from violence in all places.

India is rapidly growing more towards violence which has no end and a huge threat for the younger generation to live peacefully.  Children who grow up in families where there is violence may suffer a range of behavioral and emotional disturbances therefore NCCI invites all of us to join in Thursdays in Black Campaign to fight against violence and make country a better place to live in.

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Floods! Fundamentalism! Franchise!

Matters of Public Concern addressed  by the General Body of the National Council of Churches in India in its meeting in Chennai on 29th August 2018

 

  1. FLOODS IN KERALA AND IN PARTS OF KARNATAKA AND TAMIL NADU

The National Council of Churches in India expresses its deep pain and distress over the loss of hundreds of lives due to the massive floods, overflowing rivers and dams, and a series of gigantic landslides which have also displaced tens of thousands of people, causing colossal destruction of their belongings, consequently leading to immeasurable misery and hardship. Not only more than four hundred precious lives have been lost, but also cattle and other livestock have perished. The affected people are subject to suffer from various diseases such as cholera, typhoid and other health hazards. Irreplaceable damage has been caused to the eco-balance of the region.

The NCCI affirms its solidarity with the suffering people and all creation of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamilnadu.

The NCCI appreciates the invaluable disaster relief support rendered by its member Churches and organizations. At the same time it appeals to all the constituent members to continue to provide help in the arduous process of relief and rehabilitation, which lies ahead.

  1. TEN YEARS OF “KANDHAMAL”

The NCCI expresses its deep concern and anguish with regard to the continued suffering of Christian survivors of the Kandhamal massacre even after 10 years of its happening. The carnage was one of the worst of its kind against Christians in the past 100 years. Despite the fact, that in the process of inquiry, many officials have testified that the allegations against Christians are false, the local Christian community still continues to struggle. Many people are still languishing in prison. The rightful compensation on relief and rehabilitation from government is so slow that people are losing hope in their own government.

Right wing fundamental forces are becoming more and more aggressive over the past five years. The NCCI strongly condemns the rather slow, indeed disinterested, action of the concerned authorities in Odisha, and urges the government to pay the announced compensation to the victims, speed up the rehabilitation process, and release the innocent people languishing in prison. Justice delayed is justice denied.

  1. CALL TO RESPONSIBLE CITIZENSHIP

The NCCI urges all Indian Christian citizens to carry out their responsibilities in the country. This concern is urgent because of certain undesirable trends in the country which are on the increase since the past five years. The so called liberalization and development policies and strategies of the government (while apparently benefiting the middles class along with the rich and the millionaires), are constricting, oppressing and exploiting the poor, particularly dalits and tribals/adivasis. The patriarchal and consumerist culture of our society is seriously, indeed cruelly victimizing women and children. Right wing fundamentalism is allied with globalizing  systems, thereby quenching the spirit of democratic secularism which our Indian Constitution affirms. Religious minorities are being hounded. Whether it is our FCRAs, governance of educational institutions, operation of our medical and social services, our freedom to worship and give witness to the gospel, or our food and dress culture, they are all subject to the constricting laws of the ruling authorities and the vigilantism and impunity of fundamentalist forces.  Not only religious minorities but citizens in general are subject to scrutiny. Dissent and criticism are not tolerated; persons are being arrested, being branded as anti-national.

We are also witnessing the political atmosphere getting charged with assembly elections in some states and the country-wide General Elections in 2019 drawing near. It is the bounden duty of the government to ensure peace and free and fair elections.  At the same time the NCCI urges its member Churches and organizations to unite in creating awareness among the people about the importance of making responsible use of our right of political franchise. Voting is our right which would help our country to be back on the rails of true democracy. Christians are therefore urged to be proactive in the participation of the elections.