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Let Peace and Prosperity prevail amongst all People . . .

NCCI message for Eid-ul-Fitr and Akshaya Tritiya

On behalf of the Christian community represented by the Churches of the Protestant and Orthodox traditions in the fellowship of the National Council of Churches in India, we extend best wishes and hearty greetings to the friends and fellow-citizens – adherents of the Islamic, Hindu and Jain faith traditions, on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr and Akshaya Tritiya which this year falls on the same day. This significant co-incidence we hope and pray will further strengthen the bond between Muslims, Hindus and Jains in India and worldwide.

Let it be our prayer, of all those who believe in faith traditions and such other well-wishers, that this year’s celebrations may bring new understanding about life especially when the forces that threaten and negate life are hell bent on overpowering life and life systems.

The observance of these festivals this year follows close on the heels of the conclusion of the Lenten fast in the Christian tradition. Only yesterday the 2nd of May 2022, the Baha’i Community in India and around the world have concluded the 12-day Ridvan, also known as the king of all Baha’i festivals.  This further emphasises the common sociocultural roots of various religious traditions and their geo-cultural origins.

Despite the onslaught of the market in commercialising some of these noble religious observances, it is amazing that such practices are being carried out generation after generation to add more meaning to life. Therefore, it becomes an imperative for us to respect each other’s spiritual and cultural celebrations and through these enhance our shared spiritualities. In doing so we also mutually critique ourselves of the patriarchal and structural hegemonic oppressions that have come to be associated with our faith traditions, and with God’s help seek to overcome them together.

Celebrated in the midst of a war and widening rift between communities and countries in different regions of the world it is nevertheless a beautiful occasion, to pray, smile, love, and share. Let this day be a blessing to all our Muslim, Hindu and Jain friends and their families. May the spirit of Eid-ul-fitr with its emphasis on equity and that of Akshaya Tritiya with its emphasis on prosperity of all, coming as it were in the beginning of Spring, enhance mutual cooperation and dynamic intermingling among all communities in India and around the world irrespective of caste, creed and colour. May God Almighty shower abundant blessings over all.

National Council of Churches in India is a national platform of 30 Nation-wide and nationally networked Churches, 18 Regional Councils of Churches, 18 All India Christian Organizations, and 7 Internationally renowned Related Specialised Professional Agencies. The NCCI works closely with the Catholic Bishops Conference of India and the Evangelical Fellowship of India. Globally it is a member of the Christian Conference of Asia and is related to the World Council of Churches and several Global Communions of Christian traditions

Rev Asir Ebenezer
General Secretary
National Council of Chur

The morcha moves on …

the morcha moves on – and the cross is but a station

Please join me in ushering ‘easter hope’ into a world torn apart by war, strife and toil – a hope that stands beyond the cross. It is our prayer that each one in this country, and the whole world, with the entire created order break forth in everlasting joy and praise at the possibilities of a morcha moving on.

With the dawn of the first Easter day came the hope of a new beginning – the news that the disciples wanted to hear since that fateful Friday afternoon. This news was crucial to the very existence of the women and men who followed Jesus as his disciples; without this news they were lost, their lives in jeopardy.

Mutual distrust, fear of the Jews and the Romans, as well as the mis-happening all around were all dinning the ear to a state of deafness refusing to believe in a reality and a good news of hope coming their way beyond their situation and their existentialist contexts. COVID like contexts compound the situation in which a sense of impermanence set in leading to a situation of ‘eat, drink and be merry (any way) tomorrow you will die’ syndrome

Yet easter – the experience of life over death is crucial. It is seen to be expressed and experienced in recognising and acknowledging the familiar voices of the assuring contexts of the past as Mary experienced beside the tomb on easter morning. The disciples experienced this as well when they  assuredly or even hesitatingly (but consciously) sought to embrace the unknown and the stranger.

With these experiences of life, Mary and the two at Emmaus rush back to the community of the faithful and the easter community gets expression. This community and expression is both evident and confident even until today and thus, the morcha moves on – with the cross being just a station …

This process of recognising and acknowledging the familiar voices of the assuring contexts of the past as well as rest assuredly or even hesitatingly but consciously embracing the unknown, should be to us the mantra for moving on – forward unto Galilee. We should not be stuck at the cross to which the world ties us down.

Rev. Dr. Asir Ebenezer
General Secretary, NCCI

A Joint call for Solidarity and Prayer

The War on Ukraine is still on. We have all been praying for the cessation of hostilities in the region and that Russia will announce a ceasefire and take up non-violent ways in dealing with whatever issues it may have with Ukraine. We also hope that the peace-making process will ensure healing trauma, building trust, rebuilding the land, its infrastructure and people that are affected due to this war.

It will be good for us Christians, many of whom will be going into the season of lent, to have this intention in prayer during this season that the war will end and the victim compensated.

Such acts of aggression are seen in different parts of the world and in varied contexts. We will lift all such situations and people, along with ourselves, to be transformed into a people of love, and seekers of just-peace

Along with the Catholic Bishops Conference of India and the Evangelical Fellowship of India, we urge you to say a special prayer every week during the season of lent so that individuals and families, as well as communities and nations will be built on values of love, peace and justice.

You may like to use the intercessory prayers that can be accessed here

Rev. Dr. Asir Ebenezer
General Secretary, NCCI

Let’s discern and be dictated by the agenda of the masses …

Today, the 73rd Republic Day of our country, is one more occasion to celebrate our prowess and proficiency in different sectors of our journey together. Traditionally, it has also been an occassion to take stock of the strides that we have taken in-country and in the world.

In the last year, we have supposedly done well in many areas of our history as a nation. In some other areas we have not done as well as we would have wanted to.

Unequal distribution of wealth, differentiated access to rights and privileges, challenges to dignity of life, culture, and heritage of the religious minorities, socially disadvantaged ethnic communities and the economically disprivileged persons however continue to haunt the journey of our destiny. Today is yet another opportunity to pull ourselves together to address what lies ahead of us and achieve it together.

The Christian Gospel teaches us to fashion ourselves and the environment around us on the terms of the conditionalities of ‘the least, the last and the lost’. This approach among other things is certain to further build common resources and thus safeguard against transfer of public assets for personal gain/ private profit.

The Gospel also requires that we network with all those who are similarly oriented irrespective of faith and belief. There are several activists, academics, economists, civil servants, politicians and concerned citizens belonging to all faiths and beliefs who are working on these lines orienting our thinktanks, our planners, also the executive and the enforcement on the terms and conditionalities of the persons pushed to the bottom of the ladder.

There is an urgent need to cultivate this basic ethos amongst all peoples, and ward against alternates that promote prosperity for all but cultivate it otherwise – where there is further impoverishment because of organised loot and thus disproportionate growth.

The need is also to hold each other and all the arms of our governance accountable. It is time now to orient ourselves on our civil and political rights in order that the debates on rights and privileges of unique and diverse individuals, groups and communities will not be derailed toward affirming ‘majoritarian’ privileges of the small numbers of the unduly privileged.

Let us as members of nationally networked historic and traditional churches in this country along with all related agencies, regional ecumenical councils and christian organisations, individually and together as the National Council of Churches in India, renew afresh our commitment ‘to discern, be informed and be dictated’ by the agenda of the masses, their dreams and aspirations. And let our good work, along with those of all other like-minded individuals, groups and communities, continue to be a light to the nation.

Let us rise to bless India. God bless India . . .

Rev. Asir Ebenezer
General Secretary
National Council of Churches in India

Telling the stories of christs and christmases of our times ….

Sparked by the sheep-farmers’ vision of the birth of a new age, and affirmed by the wisdom from the ‘east’, the message of ‘christ-revolution’ comes to us in the birth of the Jesus movement for over 2020 years.

During these 2000 years and more we have also had many such stories – of events and people that have changed history. There have been significant stories in India and outside that have changed the course of debilitating histories and channelled to life.

The movement to abolish trading in human persons for slavery, the uprisings to free people of colour into the mainstream, the many movements to independence and self-governance, birth of the Dravidian movements and that of Neo-Buddhism against the practice of the perpetuation of caste, nationalisation of public assets and services of common good, the upper cloth movement, the abolition of sati, right down to the victory of the farmers over the farm laws, are only some of the many shining examples of christmases of our times that brought good news, new life and hope to many.

History abounds with stories of liberators who have to be celebrated. There are also many such people that are branded and banished – all because of their professed conviction and stand on the side of the excluded and against perpetuation of hegemonic oppressive structures for organised individual and corporate loot of public wealth and resources.

This Christmas, even as we celebrate Jesus the Christ, let us remember, acknowledge and celebrate the christs and christmases of our times in order that we and our posterity will have contemporaneous memories to cherish and the power to create moments of celebration of life  – the life that is made vulnerable and laid bare by the ongoing pandemic of our times.

Wish you a meaningful and memorable Christmastide. Let Hope prevail in us through every day of the New Year both through the pandemic and beyond.

 

Rev. Asir Ebenezer
General Secretary, NCCI

NCCI condemns killing of civilians in Nagaland, calls for a fresh rethink on AFSPA

The National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) joins the people of Nagaland and all citizens of the country who mourn the killing of civilians in Mon district in condemning the act of aggression on the part of the para-military force personnel. All actions initiated to bring the aggressors to book have to be followed up with earnest and brought to its logical conclusion.

The NCCI once again calls for a rethink on the AFSPA, and that all policing in the areas in which AFSPA is in vogue be subjected to independent human rights scrutiny.

We offer the prayers and support of the Churches and Christians of the Protestant and Orthodox tradition in India to the people of Nagaland and to the families of the deceased in particular.

Let us join in sincere prayer during this season of Advent when we reflect on the coming of Jesus as judge, that Peace be granted in the hope and promise of requital to all those who are wronged.

Rev. Asir Ebenezer
General Secretary

Declaration of the National Council of Churches in India on COP26

Declaration from National Council of Churches in India To the 26th Session of the Conference of Parties (COP26) Of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Scheduled to open on 31st October 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland, UK

The National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), the National Ecumenical expression of 76 constituents including protestant and orthodox confessions and several national organizations discern in unity “to strongly proclaim our deep-rooted faith in caring and nurturing our common household – God’s Earth as fundamental Christian obligation” and thus release the following Declaration to the delegates, faith communities, world leaders and other stakeholders.

It is with profound grief and responsibility we recognize that

  • The earth is overburdened and overloaded with greedy life style, a society driven by corporate centered economy and growing disparity.
  • Soil, water, air, forest, mountain, animal is slowly dying and in extinction due to heavy exploitation and irresponsible behavior.
  • Adivasi, Tribals and such other Indigenous Communities and forest dwellers who have been nature care takers are displaced and exploited in the name of development and
  • Climate change consequences have its worse impacts on poorest countries and communities at the bottom.

We critically demand and urge urgent and responsible actions to be taken at COP26 in the following area

  • Renewed commitment to reduce CO2 emissions.
  • Ensuring life and livelihood of the Adivasi, Tribal and such other Indigenous communities, as well as communities at climate risk through adequate compensation for recreation.
  • Stop climate change migration and minimize mining projects that harms forest, water, air and soil and largely affect forest communities.
  • Call upon decision makers for urgent action to prevent the loss and damage caused by climate change; especially less rain fall, unseasonal rain and regular cyclones are the disastrous outcome of human made climate change.
  • The developed nations must minimize carbon pressure on poorest countries; design alternative sustainable model of energy production; Adopt zero emission and green economy as high priority in contrast to consumption of fossil fuel.

We as faith community uphold all contributors and actors in prayer and commit for the following actions

  • We place life over life style.
  • We pray, meditate and reflect upon God’s commandment to recreate and restore God’s creation and care for other human being.
  • We as churches in India pledge to turn all our churches into Green Churches by 2030 by being energy efficient and plastic free.
  • We will advocate for climate justice and climate resilient society by urging government, corporate and global leaders.
  • Network for a better and sustainable future for next generations.
  • We put continuous pressure for accountability.

We offer hope and peace to the world and commit to work together for a healthy and sustainable future for all.

Drafted by:
Mr. Angelious Michael
Dr. Mathew Koshy Punnackadu Ms. Renemsongla Ozukum
Rev.A Joshuva Peter (Treasurer NCCI),
Mr. Pradip Bansrior (Executive Secretary, NCCI Dalit and Tribal/ Adivasi Concerns),
NCCI Working Group on Ecological Justice

 

Rev. Asir Ebenezer
General Secretary,
National Council of Churches in India

Wednesday 27th October 2021


As we turn 75 . . .

Message on the 75th Indian Independence day

On this day in the year 2021 we begin the 75th year of our journey as an independent nation. On the 15th of August 1947 we wrested our independence from the occupiers and with it the right to govern us ourselves.

Several experiments based on different political ideologies have brought us to where we are today. While we celebrate the successes, we must confess that we have not adequately reflected on things that we have not done well. In some cases we have tried to set right the wrongs in ways that are more damaging. We should also confess that we have failed to capture the dreams and aspirations of the average citizens and give expression to it. Oftentimes we have tried to compete with the our neighbors and peers and failed to cater to the needs of our own people.

The annual observance of this sacred day of the independence of our nation and particularly the 75th year can be an opportune moment to revisit what we wanted to be, where circumstances have taken us, and how best to correct our course to realise all that we wanted to be. We should seize the occasion lest it’s momentousness be just another memory.

Promotion of a dynamic intermingling of all faith and belief traditions toward the affirmation of dignity and life of every single citizen, overcoming the majority-minority polemic by drawing the national ‘development’ agenda from the perspective of the weak and vulnerable sections of the population including ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities as well as those of gender identity, sexual orientation, age and ability who together make up a large percentage of the population of this country, nurturing a human rights oriented secular community in which freedom of conscience, speech, expression, association, assembly, religion and belief is lifted up with no compromise, cannot but be on our agenda.

Focusing on the ‘panchayati raj’ as the key to planning, and the identification, acknowledgement and strengthening of the ‘gram sabhas’ as primary institutions of local governance, can be the key. This should strengthen participation of ALL people in the realisation of our common destiny and will give confidence that it is WE who govern ourselves the way we wanted and are not dictated to behave the way our ‘rulers’ in the national or state capital want us to, nor be dictated by finance capital but make it serve the interest of the common person.

The Christian scripture, as would all revelations that are authenticated by their focus on the emancipation of life of all, affirms that “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for common good (1 Corinthians 12:7)”. It further exhorts that each of us look not only to ours but to the interests of all (Philippians 2:4)

Prayer moves the hand that moves the world. On this NCCI-EFI National Day of Prayer (August 15, 2021) let us thus align our will to that of the God of the universe, the Principal and Ultimate principle, the source of all things visible and invisible, and the Great Leveller. And….in so doing challenge exercise of authority that is unjust, also thereby affirming with all its citizens an India that evolves further to be our Pride – in which there is no poor, no oppressed, no marginalised and none live with stigma and ostracization. We stand firm when we kneel more.

God bless India. Please accept the best wishes of the National Council of Churches in India on this solemn occasion of the observance of our 75th Independence day. Jai Hind!

Rev. Asir Ebenezer (he, his, him)
General Secretary NCCI

NCCI condemns the attack on Palestinian territories; urges Government of India to urge Israel to stop the attacks

The Kairos India Partnership of the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), consisting of the Christian Institute for Study of Religion and Society (CISRS), the Student Christian Movement of India (SCMI) and the National Dalit Christian Watch (NDCW) condemn the continued evictions of Palestinians and forced military presence in holy sites of the Palestinian communities leading to acts of aggression and inappropriate use of force by Israel causing untold suffering and loss of human lives.

We realize that the conflicts have a history and geopolitical interests of dominant communities. Debate on who incited and who provoked will continue unabated. Yet we call for restraint on both sides to the conflict so that loss of lives and property will be avoided.

We extend our solidarity to the families of the victims and we stand with the people of Gaza who are largely affected by the trauma of the attack of the Israeli armed forces. Let God enable all the affected ones to experience eternal peace and concord in this time of grief and chaos. As the world goes through the struggles in controlling the pandemic the challenges such as these put a dire question towards demeaning the idea of humanity and coexistence of diverse communities in different places.

The Kairos India Partnership believes in dialogue and peaceful coexistence of peoples of both Palestine and Israel. We stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine who are at the receiving end and support expressions of solidarity to Palestine that are coming in from different parts of the world.

We recognize the intervention of India’s Permanent Representative to the UN in affirming the rights of the people of Palestine,  and call upon the Government of India to use its good offices, and through its diplomatic channels, urge Israel to restrain from such use of brutal force over the Palestinian territories, particularly at this time over Gaza. This will help avoid instability, and avert a war-like situation that looms over the region.

May God grant, to all parties to the conflict, the moral and ethical conscience – that we are meant to live justly, with all people and ethnicity, in peace and with reconciliation.

 

Rev. Asir Ebenezer
General Secretary, NCCI

NCCI Good Friday/ Easter Message 2021

Crucify him ! Crucify him !

We are living through a time when this high decibel campaign ’to crucify’ is alive and all around us like never before. The intimidation of the religious sisters of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart Society of the Catholic Church on the train to Odisha (and at Jhansi railway station) is the latest of such incidents in the insidious agenda to discredit centuries of unselfish service of the Christian community to the least, the last and the lost in the country who are victims of generations of dispossession. It is an attempt to finish off an entire community that stands by and serves the communities that are deprived, discriminated and systematically disprivileged. We condemn this incident and all such violent attacks on citizens of this country who practice faiths other than those related to dominant communities, particularly those that practice Christianity and Islam.

The dominant narrative around the issue of conversion coupled with anti-conversion ordinances and Acts that embolden fanatical people to take the law into their own hands are paving the way to a culture of mob rule. Although the current targets are minorities, no one will be safe eventually, especially women. If such mobs become more emboldened by the idea that they won’t be apprehended, we can expect more such attacks initiated by such vigilante mobs.

We welcome the Union Home Minister Shri. Amit Shah’s assurance of strict action against the culprits. But we should see  progress in  terms of concrete action in this case since such heinous acts disrupt the freedom of individual rights guaranteed by the Constitution including one’s right to convert to any religion through exercising one’s right to free choice in matters of faith. It is heartening to note the intervention of the National Human Rights Commission in this matter.

Easter faith reminds us of the resurrection of Jesus who was persecuted and killed by the Roman authorities under the pressure of rulers and religious leaders of that period. Resurrection event gives us a hope that intimidation or killing cannot hold sway over the movement(s) that affirms life of All. The liberative faith of over a two-thousand years can know no fetters, nor can be killed. Through faith, here and now, we partake in the resurrection of Jesus and in the eternal life that God shares with us.

Let us therefore challenge the intimidation to be crucified by continuing in the task of proclaiming the good news to the poor, standing together and with each other in calling the haughty to a life of repentance and rectitude.

Come, let us make a solemn renewal of our EASTER faith . . .

Asir Ebenezer
General Secretary
National Council of Churches in India