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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

Beating swords into plowshares …

(Isaiah 2:4, Joel 3:10, Micah 4:3)

Indian Republic day 2021

Never before has the recollection of this iconic phrase been more relevant than on this Indian Republic day 26th January 2021 when representatives of the agricultural community are calling the attention of the nation to address the sovereignty of food for securing the sovereignty of the nation and her peoples.

The phrase, used in referencing to the biblical text or otherwise, has been used by Statesmen in their swearing in, while signing peace accords or while addressing the United Nations. It is also used by musicians in different parts of the world calling for peace amidst peoples.

For close to three millennia, the biblical texts have called for an end to war, “… they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4). Yet, we have not learnt from our experiences and continue to strife one with another. A large percentage of the budget of almost every nation including the poorer ones has been allocated for improving ‘security’ of the respective countries. Industries of war have been the only beneficiaries while the poor of every nation continue to be at the receiving end.

The tractors of the food producing communities in India run a commentary today on the above biblical texts that point to the fact that the sovereignty of the nations rest not in their weapons of war but in affirming food sovereignties. This will in turn reduce illnesses, eradicate malnutrition, prosper mutual cooperation, ensure fair trade and just commerce, and further fraternal relations.

On this anniversary of the Republic day, the 26th of January 2021, may ‘we the people’ of the Sovereign Socialist Democratic Republic of India challenge ourselves to build for us and for all creatures in our shared home – this planet – secure and sovereign neighbourhoods and states that say NO to sovereignties affirmed through war and bloodshed and YES to affirming sovereignties of food communities of health and healing.

Indians here and everywhere, and those of Indian origin, lead the way everywhere. In considering the call of the farmers we must show the world we have a different socio-political perspective to the healing of the nations, where every individual’s, groups’ and communities’ freedom of expression and conscience, as well as that of religion and belief is respected. We will invite all to join in the familiar anti-war agro-based song:

“And everyone ‘neath their vine and fig tree
Shall live in peace and unafraid
And everyone ‘neath their vine and fig tree
Shall live in peace and unafraid

And into plowshares turn their swords
Nations shall learn war no more
And into plowshares turn their swords
Nations shall learn war no more”

Amen.

Jai Hind !

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

Astounding wisdom of Christmas, growing weak through every passing year . . .

At a time when the Roman power was at its peak, the Greek philosophy was flourishing and the Jewish religion looked upon itself as the only revelation of the one pure God, the birth of Jesus comes crashing in as an alternative to the status quo of a disempowering power, disorienting wisdom, and distancing religious experiences.

In the birth of Jesus the nomadic sheep-farming community finds something worthwhile to proclaim to the world. The wisdom of the east identifies in the birth of a baby, and comes seeking, the deliverance of the world. At a time when philosophic, religious and government nexus wielded power to the extent where an alternate could not even be dreamt off, deliverance was identified in Jesus by the belittled, poor, despised nomads, and the citizens of the east.

 When hope seemed hopeless the voice in the wilderness identified Jesus as the Messiah of the times. The woman who supposedly lived with many men ran into the city with the message of hope that she had found the Messiah. A visually challenged person Bartimaeus discerned the Messiah in Jesus. The roman soldier who was put on guard until Jesus died cried out that Jesus is truly the chosen one of God. Through the ages and in every generation peoples of no noble birth and nondescript persons have identified redemption and redeemers from among them that can redeem the world. Such astounding wisdom which comes alive in every age and time has the potential to transform peoples into flourishing communities of hope. This we need to celebrate lest it wane into oblivion.

At the close of a stressful year that no one wants to remember and at the threshold of what was expected to be a better year, we are met with a strain – a new strain of the virus that has dashed hopes of respite in the New Year. Wisdom and scientific temper, human understanding and intellect, are all stretched to the limit. The virus mutates and still evades us. Depressed and disappointed the world is aghast with desperation.

Christmas reminds us that agrarian and farming communities and the wisdom from eastern traditions have much to offer for renewal and recouping. Their wisdom in identifying Jesus as the Christ has stood the test of times – for more than 2000 years of Christian witness through successive generations. There is immense wisdom in the farming community, the poor, the worker, the young, children, women, people with disabilities, persons of different gender identities and sexual orientations, and all such despised persons and communities.

Christmas beckons us to get back to the drawing board, evaluate structures and systems that have betrayed us and, on the terms of and along with victim and vulnerable communities, work on building sustaining and life flourishing communities. It is a call to be prophetic and pragmatic. Let us therefore bow before the manger of this astounding wisdom; the wisdom that exemplified at the first Christmas, was relevant through the ages, and that which stands out as the hope of any possible future.

May we be blessed at Christmas and all through the New Year.

 

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

NCCI condemns brutal rape of young dalit girl leading to her death as crime against humanity, initiates campaign to address caste based gender violence

National Council of Churches in India condemns the alleged gang rape and assault of 19 year young dalit girl in Hathras district of Uttar Pradesh leading to her death. The barbaric torture has led the victim to undergo an enormous amount of mental, emotional and physical suffering along with a dent on her dignity. Atrocities against women have increased now in India and in this case the victim was a Dalit and she was denied the basic dignity even in her funeral. Denial of dignified funeral was the ultimate of the turmoil for the family of the victim. This act exposes the vulnerability of women in India and especially the women belonging to the discriminated sections of the society such as the dalits, adivasi and tribals.

The alarming torture of gang rape on a girl cannot be neglected as it raises a serious concern on the security of women and girls in society and more importantly the rising toxic masculinity as assertion of power. We cannot neglect the alleged cutting off of the tongue which is a sign to silence a person and their community. We cannot remain silent now otherwise a whole generation will be lost due to brutality and lust of toxic masculinity.

This horrific incident is a blot on the affirmation of Human Rights, Right to Dignity of Life, Protection of dalits and Adivasi/ Tribal communities. The NCCI demands effective judicial action to be taken against the perpetrators of this crime and the officials involved in delaying the writing of FIR and doing a hurried non ritualistic funeral of the victim allegedly without consent of the family. The NCCI demands that speedy justice should be delivered to the victim and the bereaved family, and that protection be given to family members of the deceased as the family need moral and judicial help because they are vulnerable due to their economic and social status of being Dalits.

National Council of Churches in India calls upon the National Human Rights Commission to take appropriate measures to safeguard the constitutional rights that affirm life ‘OF’ all and life ‘FOR’ all to ensure justice without bias so that the rights and dignity of the members belonging to victimised and vulnerable communities will be protected. The NCCI will address such heinous caste based gender violence in its campaign leading to the Human Rights day involving the participation of its constituents.

Rev. Jyoti Singh Pillai                                                                                                                    Pradip Bansrior 
Executive Secretary                                                                                                                          Executive Secretary
Women’s Concerns                                                                                                                          Dalit and Tribal/ Adivasi Concerns

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

Independence Day Press Release: Rising to the occasion . . .

with a commitment to read and espouse the Constitution of India

Press release

73rd anniversary of Indian Independence, August 15th 2020

Saturday the 15th of August 2020 marks the completion of a journey of 73 years; a journey as a people who left no stone unturned to earn a freedom that we yearned for. The journey is wrought with imaginations and indignation. The journey that was dotted with advancement in different fields, struggles in some, stagnation in some others, but a determined movement toward self-rule, self-determination and self-sufficiency.

We salute the martyrs of the freedom movement and those who subsequently and to this day have laid down their lives in the service of their fellow-citizens – for their determination to secure for us, the people of this nation, a vibrant and living Secular, Socialist, Democratic, Republic.

We salute the astute mind of the architects of the Constitution of this country who have strived diligently to capture and construct the angst and aspirations of the different and varied peoples of this land

We salute the spirit of comradeship and that of secularism which prevails amidst a vast majority of peoples of different faiths and beliefs coexisting in this country

We salute the resoluteness of the citizens of the country, who have strived continually to preserve the values, practices and institutions of democracy so intrinsic to the preservation of its independence

Recollection of these rich traditions is an invaluable strength and inimitable force in facing and dealing with the contemporary challenges to the richness of secularism, to equity that comes with socialism, and to the participation of the people in governance.

Rising levels of absolute and real poverty, alarming trends of communalisation of not only politics but also institutional governance, disrespect and sordid insult to the voice and presence of the ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities, and gross violations of Human Rights at all levels everywhere, stare the nation in its eye.

It is time now, more than ever before, to recognise the writing on the wall and heed the call to rise to the occasion – as conscientious citizens and alongside all secular, socialist and democratically minded peoples in all faith tradition, non-communal ideological persuasions and political affiliations.

At the threshold of the 74th year of Indian Independence, and in commemorating the 70th year of the sacred document of the Constitution of India, the National Council of Churches in India, an expression of 30 National Churches present in all districts of the Country and 45 other networked nation-wide Christian and Ecumenical Councils, Organisations, and specialised Agencies, along with related social movements and inter-faith networks, commits to a reading and espousal of the Constitution of the country. This is done with a responsibility to preserve the edifice from any possible corruption, and with the desire and aspiration to build a nation of people that is aware of their constitutional rights and who will hold those in public office and civil service accountable to their statutory obligations.

Let us rise to the occasion, and build courage to envision and define a nation; a nation that perpetually holds itself accountable to securing and assuring Justice to the least in its fold, and thus to All.

Jai Hind!

God bless India . . .

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

On the occasion of Id-ul-Fitr . . .

On the occasion of the Id-ul-Fitr, the National Council of Churches in India wishes fellow pilgrims of the Islamic faith good health and cheer, and all prosperity that God promises to bestow upon them and all of humanity.

May the acts of love and charity represented in the zakat, and submission to the teachings of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) as revealed in the Holy Quran, guide the community in its faith and witness, accompanied by the Angels for the glory of the One Holy God.

We are mindful of the communitarian aspect of the faith and the festivities that have to be curtailed on account of the recommended COVID related physical distancing and restrictions on gatherings. Despite the subdued celebration of the conclusion of the fast, we wish the community every joy and happiness on this day.

May God Almighty Most Beneficent and Most Merciful guard and guide the steps and destiny of every Muslim in this country and allover the world. May the spirit of Islam enrich our country and the World, and add meaning to the shared pilgrimage of all life on earth.

National Council of Churches is the National Platform of 30 Nation-wide Churches, 18 Regional Councils of Churches, 18 All India Christian Organisations, 7 Related Specialised Professional Agencies, and 2 Autonomous bodies, that is constituted for ecumenical learning and action.

Rev. Asir Ebenezer
General Secretary, NCCI

Commiting to the legacy and vision of Babasaheb Dr. B. R.. Ambedkar . . .

The 14th of April every year marks the beginning of a new year for many cultural, social, and linguistic groups in India. These festivities in no way cloud the remembrance of the birth anniversary of Babasaheb Dr. B. R. Ambedkar.

Babasaheb Dr. B. R. Ambedkar is the Pride of India, and a Global Icon for all working on issues and concerns relating to liberty, equality and fraternity. He has made India proud in enshrining these justice values in the constitution of the Indian Union as it’s foundational pillars.

As Indians we are ever grateful to the contribution of this legal luminary, the first law minister of Free India, for the leadership he offered in constructing the legal framework for a country as varied and complex. His ardent campaign for universal adult franchise irrespective of educational standard or landholding is what holds India in good stead as the world’s renowned and tested democracy.

Babasaheb’s endeavour to nurture a country that is casteless has given rise to innumerable social and socio-political movements in the country that keep the balance tilted against casteist hegemony of a few. Ambedkar’s analysis proved that various forms of caste destroyed the socio-economic and cultural progress in India.

His legacy as a socio- political reformer has had a deep effect on modern India. His socio-political thought has acquired great respect across the political spectrum. It influenced various spheres of life and transformed the way India looks at socio-economic policies, education etc. Ambedkar thought influenced doing Christian theology in India, challenging at once the edification of the Indian Church as well as the relevance of its public witness.

Churches, Ecumenical councils, Christian organisations and specialised professional agencies related to the National Council of Churches in India, as well as it’s autonomous bodies and the standing fora, will do well to remember the contributions of Babasaheb and commit to nurture the constitutional and justice ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity, in paving the way for a just, egalitarian and casteless India that we can all be proud of.

We bow to the legacy of this great soul that braved many an injustice and challenged unfair display of brute power. We pledge to work for an India that he dreamt in his times and that we will contextualise in ours.

Rev. Asir Ebenezer
General Secretary NCCI
14th April 2020