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Committing toward an empowered citizenry enlightened by the Constitution . . .

On the occasion of the 74th Republic day, we join fellow citizens of this great country in greeting each other a year ahead with the virtues of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity available to every individual, household, social group, ethnic community and the whole society.

On this august occasion we acknowledge the wisdom of the drafters of the Constitution which came into force on this day seventy-three years ago as the governing document of the ever emerging vibrant Indian Republic, particularly Babasaheb Dr. B. R. Ambedkar.

Despite the challenges that it has faced over time we concur with all others who believe that the Indian Constitution remains a largely sufficient document that provides sovereignty and security to all people in the country while affirming space for every expression.

It is our dream that the principles that govern our country as a sovereign, socialist, secular, and democratic Republic be further strengthened and realised in all spheres of the legislature, judiciary and the administration of the country.

It is our desire that the rights and privileges endowed and guaranteed by the Constitution be affirmed to all the citizens of the country particularly to the distressed communities including the christians, muslims, women, dalits, tribals, adivasis, persons with ‘disabilities’, those with different gender identities and sexual orientations, and the children and youth in all these contexts.

It is toward the realisation of this dream and desire that we as the Churches of the Orthodox and Protestant traditions in the fellowship of the National Council of Churches in India, as well as Christian and Ecumenical Agencies, Organisations and Councils associated with the NCCI, through the power of Jesus our Lord who when singled out braved death on the cross and was raised to life on the third day in the community of the faithful, dedicate our every endeavour to uphold and protect the Constitution at all cost, and to ensure dissemination of the contents of the same for the empowerment of the fellow citizens of the country.

It is our ardent hope and fervent prayer that the priority accorded to the rule of law, based on the primacy of the Constitution that we have given to ourselves, will end prevailing targeted hostilities against Dalits, Adivasis, Christians, Muslims and such other marginalised and vulnerable communities in the country.

Indeed – an empowered citizenry, enlightened on its constitutional rights and responsibilities as well as on its privileges and prerogatives, will surely see the nation through to many more years to come.

Jai Hind!

Rev. Asir Ebenezer

General Secretary.

NCCI appeals Churches for austere New year celebrations in solidarity with Christians attacked for faith.

Over a thousand Christians from more than 20 villages in Narayanpur and Kondagaon districts of Chattisgarh state had to flee for their life as violent mobs attacked them for not willing to recant their Christian faith. This is latest in a series of attacks in the State as well as in different parts of the country.

The National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) had earlier condemned the December incidents in Chattisgarh state, and called the State Government and National bodies to intervene. Many others have also made representations for action. The Chief Minister has gone on record stating that no one is above law and action will be taken.

In a letter to the heads of the churches in the fellowship of the National Council of Churches in India, the General Secretary of the NCCI has appealed for austerity in the New Year celebration in order to express solidarity with the sentiments of the Christians who have been attacked and with their expression of deep commitment to the faith of their choice.

The NCCI has also requested for special prayers for the victims of violence, and to intercede for the country as a whole so that citizens of all faiths, ethnicities, identities and orientations will inherit 2023 in peace and harmony.

NCCI Communiqué

NCCI condemns attack on Christians in Chhattisgarh – demands action from State Government and National Bodies

The National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) strongly condemns the recent violent attack on Christians in Narayanpur and Kondagaon districts in the Bastar region, Chhattisgarh. This brutal attack has left many women and children vulnerable along with the men, all of whom have been assaulted and chased out of their houses because they chose to follow Christian faith. There are reports of houses and churches demolished in the region.

This human right violation is an assault on the Constitution of India from which the Freedom of Religion and Belief is drawn equally by all citizens

Although such acts are interpreted as isolated attacks, in reality they are orchestrated attempts to malign the Christian community. It is understood to be the continuation of a series of attacks against Christians in Chhattisgarh state in recent years. The increase in violence against Christians all over India especially among the economically weaker sections of the society exposes the persecution meant to cleanse a particular religious community from all spaces.

It is to be noted that the term ‘forced conversion’ has been used as a tool to attack Christians, while at the same time persecution is used to FORCE them to leave Christianity and embrace another religion. Violent mobs are taking law and order in their hands to eliminate Christian minorities while police reportedly remain silent spectators. It is also noted in some cases that in spite of many complaints police are reluctant to file cases.

While acknowledging the precious little arrangements that has been made by the district administration, the overall political apathy towards such incidents is a shame to the country

NCCI urges the state government to take appropriate action against the perpetrators of such heinous acts against Christians who predominantly belong to Adivasi and Dalit communities.

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Peace on earth . . .

Christmas 2022 and SDGs 2030

“Peace on earth and Goodwill amidst all peoples” is the message announced at the birth of Jesus the Christ. Undoubtedly, Peace on earth is the crux of Christian faith, as also of all faith and ideological persuasions.

“To foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies which are free from fear and violence” is how the fourth pillar of the Sustainable Development Goals is defined. The Global Agenda 2030 captured PEACE as one of the five pillars of Sustainable Development, the others being People, Planet, Prosperity, and Participation.

Amidst war and strife, and the contexts of ‘undeclared emergencies’ in our country, and in some others world over, Christmas 2022 (coming as it were midway in the 2015 – 2030 SDG regime) reminds us of the calling to focus on the task at hand – that of building “peaceful, just and inclusive communities.”

In the context however, we are reminded that ending poverty and hunger, protecting planet from degradation, ensuring that all humans and beings enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives, and calling all countries, stakeholders and people to participate in the process are prerequisites to fostering peaceful, just and inclusive communities.

While SDGs themselves maybe perceived as framed from within the existing market-driven development framework, the pillars and targets are notable signposts on which diaconal expressions of different Indian Churches and Christian Diaconal Agencies have mapped their ministries and activities in order to relate to the ongoing concerted mission of life affirmation of all interested parties including governments and civil society organisations.

May Christmas 2022 – the feast of incarnation – bring us back, as ecumenical communities, to focus on People (the poor and the hungry), Planet, Prosperity (life-flourishing vis-à-vis profit), PEACE, and Participation of all stakeholders (including in our own context the historically and structurally discriminated dalits, tribals, women, persons denoting richness of gender and sexual diversities, children at risk and gender non-conforming children, persons with disabilities, persons living with HIV/ AIDS, women and men in sex work, and such others who inhabit the kingdom of God first and much before those that profess to be righteous).

And may this renewal of focus enable us to envision and work toward constructing a new world in 2023 rooted in the ‘sovereignty of the least’

Wish you all a meaningful Christmastide and a blessed 2023!

Rev. Asir Ebenezer
General Secretary

Seventy-five years in realising the ‘heaven of freedom’

The country is agog with completing 75 years of journeying as an independent country. We have truly excelled in many spheres despite several odds of evolving and struggling to grow out of a colonial mindset of ‘ruling over subjects’.

We as a people have demonstrated from time to time that the People prevail before power and that power devolves from People.

We celebrate the huge strides we have achieved in the field of science and technology, education and culture, infrastructural development, growing in self-sufficiency in food production and several other sectors.

We celebrate the resilience that we have shown in existing and living in a market driven world with the preeminence of capital and devaluing labour as a means of production.

We celebrate resistance that challenges us to learn from dissent and to carry on together as a People ‘leaving no one behind’.

We celebrate the richness of living with natureevidenced in every ethnic sociological group and tribe that live as human libraries even while moving to live in the ‘cloud’ which for now has become the space in which we live and have our being.

And, as we move on . . .

We need to celebrate living traditions amidst us, particularly in the distressed and suppressed dalit, tribal and adivasi communities, as a source of internal and abiding strength and spirituality for peace and security vis a vis valorizing weaponsand militarization based on perceived threats that stem from othering.

We need to celebrate and hold high the democratic-secular traditions as well as the ideals of participationwhich are now presupposed as people’s mandate in a continuing colonial and totalitarian mindset.

We need to, as conscientious peoples of all faiths, ideologies, ethnicities, varying physical and mental abilities, different generations, gender identities and sexual orientations, celebrate and continue singing the ‘songs of deliverance’- while seeking out and affirming the deliverance of every person, group and community who feel estranged in their own lands and contexts(a suggested deconstructed reading of a possible zionist presupposition of Psalm 137 in The Bible).

We continue to celebrate all thesedaily so that everyone and all of creation will in their ‘very own and this’ lifetime awaken into that ‘heaven of freedom’.

God bless India

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

(National Council of Churches in India is the ecumenical expression of 14 million Christians of the Protestant and Orthodox Church traditions. The council is a coming together of 76 nationally networked entities including historical Church traditions, Regional Christian Councils, All India Christian Organisations and specialized professional Agencies of Christian ministry in the world, having its presence in all districts of the country in every state)

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