Celebrating Collaboration: Inauguration of the Bengaluru Ecumenical Entrepreneurs Forum

Entrepreneurship thrives on collaboration. On Sunday, April 14th, 2024, at 2 pm, that spirit of NCCI- Ecumenical Entrepreneurs Forum (EEF) was alive and vibrant in the meeting of the EEF Bangalore Chapter. Entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds and various church denominations gathered for a momentous occasion—the inauguration of the Bengaluru Ecumenical Entrepreneurs Forum (EEF) at the Mar Thoma Syrian Church Primrose, Bangalore.

 In a city known for its innovation and dynamism, the need for a platform like the EEF became evident through shared discussions. The positive energy in the room was palpable as entrepreneurs affirmed the value of collaboration in the garden city. One of the main points that emerged from the discussions was the wealth of entrepreneurial talent within churches, yet the lack of initiatives for collaboration.

The EEF aims to change this narrative, providing a platform for entrepreneurs to enhance their networks and collaborations. This inauguration marks the 6th chapter of the National Council of Churches in India’s (NCCI) EEF. With existing chapters in Chennai, Delhi, Nagpur, Kottayam, and Koraput, Bengaluru’s addition underscores the growing need for such platforms across the country. If you are an entrepreneur and believe in the power of collaboration and wish to be part of this movement, we invite you to connect with us at eef@ncci1914.com.

Looking up with pride even as challenges abound . . .

On the occasion of the 75th Republic Day we look up with pride at the huge strides that ‘we the people’ have taken to reach where we are today. Many empowering legislations have been negotiated and passed, democratic patterns of governance and election processes have still been affirmed, many autocratic and despotic governments were replaced, the legislative, judicial and administrative branches of polity have time again been held accountable, systems of local governance have been put in place with planning and monitoring powers in the hands of the voter; huge strides in science and technology, communication and media, economics, banking and commerce, as well as in education and health care; all these and more in the last 74 years of governing ourselves as a republic.

Despite the many strides that make one proud citizen of this great country, some gaps are still evident. The renewed and aggressive attempts to equate Ram rajya with hindu rashtra is rather worrisome. In recent times this has created a sense of despondency in the minds of the minority ethnic and religious communities. This, coupled with the eluding peace in Manipur and the untold continuing hardship experienced by the people of the Christian Community there over nine months and even to this day, leaves much to be desired.

On the occasion of the 75th Republic day the National Council of Churches in India requests the 14 million faithful belonging to the protestant and orthodox churches in it’s membership, to join the entire Christian Community and well meaning citizens of all religious and ideological persuasions in reiterating and affirming the pluriform multicultural credentials of the country. The NCCI urges this in the strong conviction that an India that continues on its strong secular credentials is fundamental to development of all peoples (use of ‘s’ intentional) irrespective of religious and ethnic identities so that no one is left behind.

The 75th year is an opportune moment to rediscover us together, the us who we were in days past. We urge all Christians to join people of similar intentions in birthing this India once again – the India that we know – the India where the Constitution will be protected, concerns of all communities addressed, spiritualities of all respected, secular credentials of the State affirmed, and there is no one left behind.

Let us together build this India we know of, and leave it as a cherished legacy for generations to come.

Jai Hind !

Rev. Asir Ebenezer
General Secretary

My kingdom is not of this world. . . Christmas 2023

The Gospel according to Mathew starts with the question about the birth of the King of the Jews, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews?” (Mathew 2:2). Legend holds that the fourth Magi’s search for the Messiah ended when he ultimately reached Golgotha much after the Messiah was crucified – “And sitting down they watched him there; and set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS….. (Mathew 27: 36, 37) .

While being questioned whether he was the king of the Jews, Jesus responds “My kingdom is not of this world…” (John 18: 36). This resonates with what the writer of the fourth gospel records earlier that Jesus’ followers are ‘in’ the world but not ‘of’ the world (John 17: 13,14, 15).

While Mathew presents Jesus as ‘king of the jews’ amidst the shining star and Magi, Luke portrays Jesus’ birth with the angels and the shepherds as a matter of great Joy to the world. The writer of the Gospel according to Mark, however, starts with Jesus’ wilful enrolment into the call of John the Baptist. With no reference to Joseph (except Joseph of Arimathea) and without any reference to Mary as his mother, Mark presents Jesus as saying, ” …. whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother” (Mark 3: 31 – 35) indicating working the will of God as the primary purpose of mission in the world.

While migrants and the marginalised find a place in the Christmas story of Mathew and Luke, Mark and John sharpen the focus to challenge us to remind ourselves of working the will of God.

This year the birth of Jesus is observed amidst war and conflict, contexts that are sub-human to say the least. Left unchecked, these contexts lead to a depravity of human mind that is self-annihilating.

Through all the din that surrounds Christmas, let us recognise the still small voice that calls us to an introspection of where we are vis-a-vis working the will of God – a call to fall in line with the mission of Jesus, that call to which we have responded in faith through baptism. May the observances of Christmas propel us to witness to a barrier- free, non-hegemonic, casteless world that affirms diversity in pluriforms – in the world but with an ‘out of the world’ experience of joy and peace – a ‘kingdom’ that is not of this world.

Let us Rejoice in hope, Review life-mission, Re-orient foci, Relocate amidst people…

Merry Christmas

Rev. Asir Ebenezer
General Secretary, NCCI

Pray for Peace in Palestine and Israel

The situation in Palestine and Israel is deplorable. Unabated violence has made several homeless, many injured and dead.

We pledge our prayers for the Peace in Palestine and Israel, and plead with all concerned – Governments and Agencies alike – to do all that is in their power to stop violence, save lives and de-escalate further damage to the people of Palestine and Israel, and in the region.

As the National Council of Churches in India, we unambiguously condemn violence in all its guises and the loss of innocent lives on both sides especially the attack and killing of more than 2,500 civilian lives from 6th of October, 2023. We decry violence as it perpetuates suffering and pain, and we remember that every life is a precious creation of God. We mourn for every lost life. We speak comfort to all bereaved.

We cannot turn a blind eye to the long and painful history of oppression and the forceful occupation of Palestinian land. Over many decades Palestinians have borne the weight of dispossession, displacement, and the denial of their fundamental human rights, injuring over 152,560 Palestinians and over 6307 Israelis since 1948. In our hearts, we know that “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20).

We invite all constituents and their units to earnestly lift this concern to God in Prayer. Pray for the immediate cessation of the conflict.

While we pray for the immediate cessation of conflict and healing, we also pray for the long-awaited Justice for the people of Palestine.

May God bring healing in the land.

The Call: A Lament of the Suffering 

Psalm 23 Inspired by the Kairos document

 

Rev. Asir Ebenezer
General Secretary, NCCI

 

“Signs of Progress”

NCCI-IDEA’s Indian Sign Language Course Launched on a Vibrant Note!

September 23, 2023: In a thrilling celebration of International Sign Language Day, the National Council of Churches in India -Indian Disability Ecumenical Accompaniment (NCCI-IDEA) Online Indian Sign Language Course kicked off with a bang! Enthusiastic learners, 25 strong, hailing from the North, North-East, Central, and South parts of India, are all set to conquer communication barriers.

Leading the charge is the dynamic Ms. Madhurya Y, who has seven year of expertise in the realm of ISL training and interpretation.

The digital inauguration on September 23, 2023, via Zoom, started with NCCI Youth Executive Secretary Mr. Asher Noah’s soul-stirring opening prayer, followed by a warm welcome from Rev. Ribin John.

Highlighting the event was the presence of Pastor R Praveen Kumar, an inspiring figure in the hearing-impaired community, who couldn’t contain his joy at seeing more people embrace his First language(ISL). He sees this as a hope for the deaf community, as it opens doors to more meaningful connections.

Rev. Dr. Asir Ebenezer, NCCI’s General Secretary, delivered a powerful inaugural address, challenging everyone to recognise that true completeness comes from embracing the ideas and creativity of the hearing-impaired community. He hailed this course as a revolutionary step in bridging the language gap between the church and the hearing-impaired community, marking a historic moment.

The day ended on a high note with Ms. Madhurya igniting students’ excitement by diving into basic ISL alphabets, setting the stage for an incredible learning journey.

The NCCI-IDEA Online Indian Sign Language Course’s inauguration was not just a celebration; it was a declaration of breaking down barriers and forging deeper connections in a world where communication reigns supreme!

Rev. Ribin John
Executive Secretary
NCCI Ecumenical Fora/ IDEA

Signs of Progress

NCCI-IDEA’s Indian Sign Language Course Launches on a Vibrant Note!

September 23, 2023: In a thrilling celebration of International Sign Language Day, the National Council of Churches in India -Indian Disability Ecumenical Accompaniment (NCCI-IDEA) Online Indian Sign Language Course kicked off with a bang! Enthusiastic learners, 25 strong, hailing from the North, North-East, Central, and South parts of India, are all set to conquer communication barriers.

Leading the charge is the dynamic Ms. Madhurya Y, who has seven year of expertise in the realm of ISL training and interpretation.

The digital inauguration on September 23, 2023, via Zoom, started with NCCI Youth Executive Secretary Mr. Asher Noah’s soul-stirring opening prayer, followed by a warm welcome from Rev. Ribin John.

Highlighting the event was the presence of Pastor R Praveen Kumar, an inspiring figure in the hearing-impaired community, who couldn’t contain his joy at seeing more people embrace his First language(ISL). He sees this as a hope for the deaf community, as it opens doors to more meaningful connections.

Rev. Dr. Asir Ebenezer, NCCI’s General Secretary, delivered a powerful inaugural address, challenging everyone to recognise that true completeness comes from embracing the ideas and creativity of the hearing-impaired community. He hailed this course as a revolutionary step in bridging the language gap between the church and the hearing-impaired community, marking a historic moment.

The day ended on a high note with Ms. Madhurya igniting students’ excitement by diving into basic ISL alphabets, setting the stage for an incredible learning journey.

The NCCI-IDEA Online Indian Sign Language Course’s inauguration was not just a celebration; it was a declaration of breaking down barriers and forging deeper connections in a world where communication reigns supreme!

Rev. Ribin John
Executive Secretary
NCCI Ecumenical Fora/ IDEA

God bless India …

The celebration of the Independence Day every year is an occasion to remember the people who have stood up to the bullet of the occupier. It is also an occasion to recall the path we had set for ourselves and have trod, as also the achievements we have made during the times of breathing the air of independence.

On the occasion of the 76th anniversary of the 15th August 1947, we join fellow citizens in relishing the legacy of standing up for self-determination and rededicating together for a better today and a new tomorrow.

Between today and this day last year we have reached out to the moons; we have upheld democratic traditions of electing our leaders in different states of the Indian Union; we have strived with resilience to keep the spirit of respecting dissent; and we have sought diligently to hold those in public service to accountability.

We recognise, and confess though, that we are not fully there. We have repeatedly failed each other in upholding our constitutional rights. Contexts of perpetuated discrimination including those relating to caste constructs, gender identities, varied abilities, and sexual orientations, contexts of compelling ethnic conflicts and communal discord, contexts of blaming and shaming religious minorities, contexts of market driven greed and avarice that structuralises poverty and impoverishment, have also contributed to where we are today. We acknowledge that but for these and such contexts We would have been a better People.

May this day wake us up to the fact that what we desire for ourselves must benefit the Least of us All. May the remembrances of the day bring us to greater determination and resolve to stand with those citizens who still yearn for the fruits of Independence, and together stand up as a nation that acknowledges and respects diversity as a means to realise Unity.

God bless India. Jai Hind  !

Rev  Asir Ebenezer
General Secretary, NCCI.

Prayer Day for PEACE in MANIPUR (July 30)


In the last few days we have witnessed the outrage of the People of India in different locations with regard to the unabated violence in Manipur. We stood united in condemning violence and sexual assault on women, and continue to voice out and intervene.

We also see unrest and semblances of violence spilling over to other parts of the North East India. This is quite dangerous and needs to be contained.

The secretariat of the National Council of Churches in India and it’s service wing the Christian Service Agency is seized of the matter in different fronts. We are in constant contact with our constituents in Manipur and churches in NE for finding out the ways to build peace in that region. Agencies related to the NCCI like the CASA and the LWSIT are also actively engaged in providing relief to the affected irrespective of ethnicities or religious affiliations.

We now appeal for concerted prayer – joining together in one accord – to advocate for PEACE in Manipur and the whole of North East India. We request all local churches/ congregations/ parishes/ corps in the episcopal overview and pastoral supervision of the NCCI Member Churches to observe the upcoming Sunday – Sunday the 30th July 2023 as a COMMON Day of PRAYER for PEACE in MANIPUR and across NORTH EAST INDIA.

We pray God Almighty to look favourably upon the situation in Manipur, and bless all efforts to bring Healing amidst the people of Manipur and Peace in the region.

We thank the Heads of Churches, all the Constituents of the NCCI, and all those who have actively involved in providing relief and advocating for Peace in Manipur. We further urge you to be continually involved and encourage all, over whom you have influence, to also involve in local initiatives to build peace and promote communal harmony among and amidst all people.

Let us be fervent in prayer.

Asir Ebenezer
General Secretary NCCI

Invitation to observe NCCI Tribal and Adivasi Sunday 2023

Indigenous youth in their communities play differentiated roles and functions, from which derive certain rights, responsibilities, abilities and social recognition. Their roles and functions can differ according to their cosmovision and Indigenous languages. Importantly, ways of living for Indigenous youth are changing due to evolving social, cultural, political, and economic contexts. Discrimination impacts the lives of Indigenous youth in ways that affect their self-esteem, loss of spiritual richness, loss of language and denial of their cultural roots. . Many Indigenous youth face multiple barriers, cultural clashes, and different influences that over time, push them to acquire an identity that is foreign to their place of origin to avoid being the object of discrimination and racism, in extreme cases rejecting their culture, languages, and the practice of ancestral customs. In some cases, entire generations of Indigenous youth have grown up out of their communities but have retained a connection to their lands and territories through their families, Indigenous Peoples’ organizations or others.

Despite these challenges, there are examples of Indigenous youth participation in Indigenous Peoples’ organizations, in urban and rural areas, and even outside national borders, who are revitalizing and promoting their cultural identities. They are organizing diverse activities to strengthen cultural identity, participating in different forums, and sharing cultural spaces with Indigenous elders, and creating a solidarity network among Indigenous youth.

The theme for this year’s Tribal and Adivasi Sunday is “ Indigenous Youth as Agents of Change for Self-determination” and we have prepared a special Order of Worship for the day. You may please take the freedom to use the entire worship order and translate it in your vernacular language or adapt parts of it. We sincerely hope that the observance of this special NCCI Tribal and Adivasi Sunday will be an enriching one in our faith affirmation and commitment and for widening the horizon of our ecumenical journey.

Over the years Tribal and Adivasi Sunday has been celebrated in many parts of our country in sensitizing the local congregation on Tribal and Adivasi Concerns. Thanks to the enormous support we have received from across the churches, dioceses, parishes and institutions in celebrating this special Sunday. This year also we are inviting you to observe Tribal and Adivasi Sunday on 6th August in your churches/local parishes/institutions.

Let us join to celebrate Tribal and Adivasi Sunday on 6th August 2023.

Download the liturgy 

Thanking you in anticipation.

With regards,

In Christ,

Pradip Bansrior
Executive Secretary
Dalit and Tribal/Adivasi Concerns, NCCI

Harmony in Silence : The Church committed to listening to the Silent voices of Speech and Hearing Impairment.

The Nagpur Christian community is committed to listening to the Silent voices within their church. A group of forty persons representing various Church denominations, such as Protestants, Catholics, and Evangelicals, made a collective decision to empower their churches in responding to the rights of individuals with speech and hearing impairments. They aimed to enhance accessibility within their church spaces, ensuring that everyone could fully participate and engage in the community. Due to the invisible nature of the disability, people with speech and hearing impairments are frequently overlooked and ignored in the church and society

Focused on the value of accessibility in fostering a more welcoming and creating equal environment for all, the NCCI-Indian Disability Ecumenical Accompaniment (IDEA), in collaboration with the Church of North India-Social Service Institute (CNI-SSI) arranged a one-day workshop on the topic “Silent Voices: Empowering the Church’s Response to Speech and Hearing Impairment” on July 7th 2023 at CNI-SSI Nagpur Campus to tackle the reality of abandonment against the people. The workshop concentrated exclusively on Speech and Hearing Impairment and attempted to equip the Churches to be all-encompassing in their varied Ministries towards the group.

Rev. Dr. Asir Ebenezer, General Secretary NCCI, used the line “Dancing to a tune that they cannot hear” in his opening remarks referring to the dance recitals of children with hearing and speech impairment to prime the audience for the workshop. This statement sparked discussion about the church’s ignorance and the silent voices within it. He urged everyone there to change their focus from “learning about disability to learning to be a part of the life of people with disability.” Additionally, he claimed that the workshop’s goal was to “Empower ourselves to dismantle structures and attitudes that disable people and not just to Empower the people with Disability,” which was the justification for achieving inclusivity, particularly in churches and Christian groups.

The workshop’s resource person was SLP, audiologist, and disability theologian Dr. Sunil Kathramalla. He focused his conversation on four specific topics with the help of his substantial knowledge to address the silent voices in the church that are ignored. These topics included Sensitivity Training, Inclusive Worship Services, Assistive Devices and Technology, and Awareness and Education. He astutely offered practical suggestions that churches and Christian organisations might use to strengthen their ministerial endeavours and daily contacts, promoting inclusivity and justice. The workshop witnessed an interactive atmosphere between the attendees and the resource person. The active participation of the attendees projected the seriousness of the issue and the passion to work towards the “need of the hour”.

The program commenced at 11:00 am with a brief period of worship followed by the formal welcome address by Mrs Aradhana Upadhya, Director of CNI-SSI and the vote of thanks by Mr Thayil D Sam, Core group member, Engage Disability Nagpur Hub. The workshop ended with an ecumenical unity prayer for Manipur. As the workshop came to a close, it became evident that its impact would reverberate far beyond its duration, empowering the church to embrace the Silent , but vibrant, Voices of speech and hearing impairment, and paving the way for a future of genuine disability inclusion.

                        
Rev. Ribin John
Executive Secretary, Ecumenical Fora
NCCI-IDEA