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Tuesday, 14 June 2016

NCCI XXVIII Quadrennial Assembly- Resolutions on Public Issues

We, the delegates of the 28th Quadrennial Assembly of the National Council of Churches in India held at Christ Church Girls’ Senior Secondary School, Jabalpur from April 27 to April 30, 2016, having solemnly reflected upon issues affecting India in particular and the world at large, hereby pass resolutions on the same.
1.        Affirming Secularism in Pluralistic Society:
The present Indian society is seriously affected by the phenomena of fundamentalism, communalism, saffronisation of education and cultures, restrictions on churches, christian institutions and their services, intolerance, shrinking space for freedom of speech and expression, attacks on religious minorities, criminalization in the name of God, Faith, Ideologies and Confessions.
We therefore resolve:
  • The government should adopt policies and undertake measures that affirm the secular spirit of the Indian Constitution which guarantees freedom to all its citizens to practice, preach and propagate their respective faiths.
  • The government should respect and protect the rights of religious minorities and their institutions.
  • The government should create mechanisms for promoting interfaith and inter-ideological harmony.
  • Churches should engage in responsible liberativeevangelism and mission expressing the positive values of the gospel and its relevance to our contemporary context.
2.        Affirming Human Rights in Indian Society:
Contemporary Indian society is plagued by structural evils of patriarchy, caste and globalization, which result in gender injustice, oppression and exploitation of dalits and tribals / adivasis, unequal distribution of wealth, resources, production and consumption of energy, poverty, increase in unemployment and underemployment, displacement of labour, migration and human trafficking, exploitation of natural resources, life-killing agriculture, corporate terrorism, etc. While Article 21 of the Constitution of India guarantees Right to Life as a fundamental right of the people, we experience the denial of rights to Children, Women, Youth, Tribals, Adivasis, Dalits, People with Disabilities, Sexual Minorities, People infected and affected with HIV and AIDS, Migrants, Labour, homeless and resourceless people, slum dwellers and other marginalized groups.
On the issue of patriarchy we therefore resolve:
  • The government should take strict measures against sexual and gender discrimination, sexual abuse, domestic violence, sexual harassment at the work place, female foeticide / infanticide, dowry deaths, trafficking, etc.
  • The government should pass bills that ensure at least 1/3 representation of women in the parliament and state assemblies. Furthermore, women should be given the freedom and power to take decisions on their own at all levels of government and civil administration.
  • Churches should seriously address and facilitate the partnership of women in all ecclesial bodies, including the ordination of women.
  • Churches should encourage families to cultivate and strengthen a culture of equality, respect, love, service and harmony. Practices of female foeticide and dowry should be strongly prohibited.
On the issue of caste we therefore resolve:
  • The government should provide reservation for all dalits including Christians and Muslims, and ensure that reservation allotments are made.
  • The government should delete para 3 of Presidential order 1950 that excludes dalit Christians and dalit Muslims. People are dalits by birth and not by religion. Therefore their faith should not deprive those dalits who are Muslims and Christians of the reservations and entitlements given to other dalits.
  • The Church and civil society movements have been engaged in a long battle with the government demanding reservation for dalit Christians and dalit Muslims in line with their counterparts of other faiths.  The government should file its reply to the supreme court petition.
  • Churches must seriously implement the campaign of NCCI “No one can serve Christ and caste”, and actively take measures to end caste-based discrimination within their bodies.
On the issue of globalization we therefore resolve:
  • Governments and churches should take cognizance of the outcome and impact of economic globalization in terms of acquisition of people’s lands in the name of development and their displacement, homelessness, forced migration, human trafficking, farmer suicides and urbanization.
  • The policies of corporates, financial institutions and governments are unjustly biased; necessary changes in terms of affirmative action need to be brought about in favour of the people and all creation.
  • Governments should take care to see that indigenous / rural people are not deprived of their homelands in the name of development. Those whose lands have already been acquired should be given just compensation and opportunities for development. And if the land acquired is not put to use for the said purpose and if the particular development activities are completed, such lands with proper compensation to rebuild the land for cultivation or other use to be given back to the original land owners who sold the land as a lease for development. So also serious attention should be given to the concerns of deforestation, desertification, and adverse climate change as a result of globalization.
  • Governments should undertake measures to root out corruption in government and corporate agreements and transactions. The forces of law and order, along with investigative mechanisms as well as the judicial systems and processes should remain unhindered by vested interests of third parties.
  • Churches should ensure that their ministries do not fall prey to the ideology of globalization and its practices. In particular, churches should not commercialize their educational, health care and social service ministries.
  • Churches should partner with civil society movements which challenge the system of globalization and which endeavor to usher in holistic alternatives to globalization.
  • Churches should engage in exposing the role of financial institutions and the investments that are root causes of poverty, unemployment, resource degradation, farmers sucide and permeating injustices.
  • NCCI Member Churches would approve the social security policy guidelines to assure dignity of labour with adequate and lawful social security and affirm the dignity of labouras its missional intervention. Churches would also lobby with the governments to ensure  pro-labour / pro-worker social security policies.
3.        Affirming Life in its Fullness:
In line with the Biblical vision of ‘Fullness of life for all creation’, and in accordance with the directive principles of state policy as laid down in the Indian Constitution, the government, the church and all religious organizations along with NGOs and civil society movements, should be committed to the enhancement of the quality of life for all creation.
On the issue of Education, we therefore resolve:
  • On the basis of the United Nations Declaration on Universal Education and Right to Education, the government should provide basic education to all. The government should ensure that children are not deprived of this right to education, which often is the case of children belonging to weaker sections of the society.
  • The Government should ensure the environment through their appropriate policies that encourages and ensures the pupil from marginalized and rural communities to fully and lawfully pursue their higher education in professional institutions and universities,  to affirm ‘Right to Higher Education’  to affirm social justice of all and for all.
  • The government, the church, NGOs and civil society movements should encourage in particular the education of girl children.
  • Furthermore, the government, the church, NGOs and civil society movements should build the capacities of students from weaker sections of society, particularly dalits and tribals / adivasis, and facilitate them to go for higher education.
  • The churches should condemn the privatization of the educational system by corporates. They should also create more space in their institutions for education of the poor and the dalit, adivasis, tribals and other marginalized communities.
  • The churches should develop education systems that address unemployment by creating space for capacity building for self and gainful employment opportunities.
On the issue of Health, we therefore resolve:
  • The government should discern factors that are responsible for ill health, malnutrition and other related problems especially among the children and the people such as socio-economic structures which cause exploitation, deprivation, in-accessibility of basic health care, increasing landlessness, hunger and starvation, climate change, extractive industries, chemical fertilizers, genetic engineering, life-killing agriculture, fast food culture, inaccessibility to clean potable water, pollution, etc. Stringent action needs to be taken against all the perpetrators of the factors of ill health and malnutrition in the society.
  • The government should ensure facilities that promote the heath of people particularly the poor, dalits, tribals / adivasis, women, children, the disabled, those infected and affected with HIV and AIDS, and people with sexual diversities.
  • The government should ensure that medical facilities are easily accessible to the people in terms of geographical proximity and economic affordability.
  • Churches should facilitate health justice by campaigning and advocating for policy changes in health, education, land, forest, agriculture, water and sanitation.
  • The churches, along with NGOs and civil society movements, provide easily accessible health care facilities and treatment. Churches should resist the temptation of commercialization of health care.
On the issue of Climate Change, we therefore resolve:
  • The government and corporates should acknowledge that their development models, mega projects, extractive industries, manufacture of non-biodegradable products and the promotion of consumerist lifestyles, have led to global pollution and global warming thereby adversely affecting the life of all creation. Therefore urgent efforts should be undertaken to mitigate and prevent the ill effects of global pollution.
  • The government and corporates should urgently commit themselves to follow eco-friendly models of sustainable development.
  • The Churches should address and respond to the impact of climate change and the victims of climate change triggering global warming and causing drought, erratic rain fall, flash floods, water crisis, sea level rises, heat waves, cyclones by enabling the communities to adapt and mitigate through climate action plans of alternative production models of energy, food and other industries contributing to climate change and life styles.
  • The churches should encourage members to develop eco-friendly theologies and eco-integrated practices.
On the issue of Transparency, Accountability and Responsibility, we therefore resolve:
  • The government should respect the RTI Act and make all its administrative procedures and executive actions transparent, accountable and responsible to the citizens of the country.
  • The government should bring in ‘Lok Pal’ Acts and mechanisms which would render them as democratic, people-friendly agencies of service.
  • Churches should also ensure that their records, accounts, resolutions, etc. are transparent, accountable and responsible.
  • Churches should play a prophetic and proactive role in bringing about changes in their systems in favour of people, and responsibly managing church resources such as land, building, other properties including human resources.
On the issue of Peace and Human Security, we therefore resolve:
  • The government should adopt policies of peace-building and human security. Therefore the security and defense budgets for weapons production and militarization have to be cut down.
  • Churches should engage in the national and global struggle against production of of destructive weapons, militarization and nuclearization. They should, in line with the NCCI’s efforts, engage in campaigns against Arms Trade and nuclearization.
  • Churches, along with NGOs and civil society movements, should stand, as they have done in some cases, in solidarity with people who are victims of, and protesting against, militarization and nuclearlization projects and processes in the country and oppose forceful imposition of the unconstitutional security laws such as AFSPA, SalwaJudum and such special acts that reduce the public spaces and voices.
  • Churches should serve as channels of conflict-resolution and peace-building in the society.
On the issue of challenges in South Asia, we resolve:
  • The governments and churches should appreciatively respect the plurality of rich cultures and harmonious societal living in South Asia.
  • The governments and churches should condemn the recent phenomena of rise of fundamentalism, cultural nationalism, weapon-solution ideologies (resistant movements) and cross border terrorism that have sharply divided Countries and Societies.  Intolerance, hatred, hostility and enmity have almost become the way of life for many people in the region.
  • Churches should acknowledge and condemn that even some right-oriented faith(s) are responsible for division and restlessness in society.
  • Since in all the South Asian Countries, Christians are a minority, we the churches, along with NCCI, appeal to all the heads of the South Asian Nations to assure the safety and security of all religious and other minorities including Christians.
On the issue of challenges in West Asia, we resolve:
  • We, the churches, along with NCCI, express our solidarity with church Leaders and other faith leaders, men and women of Christian, Muslim, and Yazigi faiths who are being taken as hostages, thrown out of their homes, dispossessed, and killed in large numbers.
  • We strongly condemn the abduction of HG Mor. GregoriosYohanna Ibrahim, the Metropolitan of the Syriac Orthodox Church and MorBoulosYasigi, the Metropolitan of the Greek Orthodox Church, who are still in the custody of the extremists and we ask the extremists to release them immediately and unconditionally.

Message of NCCI XXVIII Quadrennial Assembly April 27-30, 2016

We, the delegates from 30 Member Churches, 17 Regional Christian Councils, 17 All India Christian Organizations, 7 Related Agencies and 3 autonomous bodies gathered for the XXVIII Quadrennial Assembly of the National Council of Churches in India that met in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh India. It was hosted by Jabalpur Diocese of Church of North India from 27-30 April 2016, deliberating on the theme “Towards Just and Inclusive Communities”.
The cry for Justice and Inclusivity arises from the context of socio-political, economic, cultural and other challenges in the country. Lack of social protection undermines the spirit of inclusive society. A vast majority of people in our society have no ability to raise voices to express their opinion on how the societies they live in, should run.  One gets the impression that the present Government of India has the agenda of making the whole country a Hindu nation in which the adherents of minority religions are marginalized. It is a great threat to the democratic values of our country. Unfortunately, this traditionally peace-loving country is plagued by communal problems. Even food culture has been violated in the name of religion. Exclusive marginalisation continues on an increasing scale; various sectors in the society keep on being victimized because of such marginalization. It is a negative impact which hinders growth. In the cries and struggles of the marginalized for justice, there is hope for the realization of inclusive communities within the Church and society.
Today, Injustice and Exclusiveness have become the bleeding wounds of all creation. There is suffering, darkness and hopelessness all around. It is against the very act of creation which bears witness to God’s loving and creative inclusion. This creator God loves all without discrimination (Matt 5:44-45). The original vision of harmonious relationship between God-Humans-Nature needs to be reaffirmed, reconciled and restored.
Contextual Reflections
In the emerging global order there is rising economic and social inequality. God’s creation is groaning under the pressure of greed, selfishness and endless pursuits of affluence by a miniscule minority of the human race, based on exploitation of nature and human race, meant to meet the basic needs of all the creatures of the world.
The keynote address delivered at the Quadrennial Assembly highlighted that there is a cross in every resurrection, and raised the question “Is there a resurrection in every cross?” in the context of the myriad sufferings in the world. Human beings tend to be so overwhelmed by their sufferings that they do not discern the resurrection hope in suffering. We have to experience the cross and the resurrection.
The phenomena of injustice in the world also leads to the sin of exclusivity. However, God who has created us diverse and unique, upholds the principle of inclusivity. Diversity should be celebrated and respected, leading to integration of all creation.  Jesus, in the prayer for his disciples (Jn. 17:21) asked God that “they may be all one” crossing all barriers of culture and tradition. We should have the same concern for our co-creation. Human beings should likewise break down all dividing walls of injustice and hostility. In the conversation with the Samaritan woman in John 4, Jesus challenges all of us to break the walls of ethnicity, caste, class and gender, so that we all become one in God. Bearing the image of God, we are all called to review and renew our relationship with one another based as the principle of justice and peace.
The contemporary context challenges churches in India and the ecumenical movements to review their present mission paradigms.  They would have to collectively discern the signs of the times, identify the needs and challenges of creation, critically examine their diaconal engagements, and commit themselves to relevant, liberative, just and inclusive expressions of the Gospel.
In the Indian context, the church needs to urgently respond by seriously reflecting on the following:
  1. Remembering Christ in all walks of life;
  2. Revisiting Hospitality to establish Inclusive communities;
  3. Reaffirming Life for Justice.
Specific issues based on Biblical reflection in the Indian Context
Life gives opportunity to identify and to name the spaces of injustice and exclusion. Death does not allow us to recognize and to name. Jesus has given us life in abundance, which gives us power to name and recognize the problems/issues/concerns for leading abundant life.
We have found the way towards resurrection and hope, but we are not ready to participate in the journey …. The Church needs to mend its ways so that it can participate responsibly in God’s Redeeming Work. Failure to mend leads to being vulnerable to marginalization and consequent victimization in society.
Following are the areas of mending which the church needs to reconsider for action:
  1. Jesus said, ‘the Kingdom of God belongs to children… those accepting little ones accept the Kingdom of God’. Regrettably, though children hold kingdom values, homes / churches / societies do not give them space in the mainstream of life. The children of our land are asking for space and recognition in our homes, churches, and societies.
  2. Jesus as a dynamic youth, actively participated in the church and society of his time. Today youth of the church are in need of being inspired by the life and witness of Jesus for active participation.
  3. Theologies of lives affirm the importance of holistic fellowship. Hence there is the need to cross diverse margins and to meet, interact, mutually edify and challenge.
  4. Jesus, even in the moment of betrayal and death, washed the feet of his disciples. A similar principle and practice is evident in the people’s Diakonia. The Church needs to adopt this service model of Jesus in its ministry.
  5. Acts 8 talks about the Ethiopian eunuch entering the fellowship of believers through baptism. The church should be concerned about including people with sexual diversities to complement the mission of God.
  6. The Nazareth Manifesto is a prophetic call of Jesus to work with the ignored, rejected and broken people in the society. Dalits and tribals should constitute the main mission concern of the Church; they should not be relegated to the sub-mission of the Church.
  7. Jesus used relevant modes of communication to preach and motivate. Today the church needs to reconsider its communication for promoting life and dignity for everyone.
  8. The birth, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus remind us of the role of women in his life. Jesus encouraged and motivated a woman to be an apostle to the apostles. In the light of Jesus’ example, the Church is challenged to respond to women / gender issues sensitively and responsibly.
  9. Being aware of his civil rights as a citizen, Jesus addressed civil and political issues of his time. Therefore, individuals and Churches need to be encouraged to participate in the democratization process in our country that helps to deepen social political and economic democracy at the grassroots.
  10. John 15 highlights that ‘through Jesus all the branches are connected to bear fruit’. The disabled too are branches and are rightfully members of the body of Christ that bears fruit. The church needs to recognize this vital relationship.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Rev. Dr. K. C. Abraham passes away

Rev. Dr. K. C. Abraham (Kuruvilla Cherukara Abraham), well-known leader, globally acclaimed as a brilliant theologian and educator, ecumenist and scholar, passed away on June 12, 2016 at around 8 p.m. in Bangalore. 

Rev. Dr. K. C. Abraham served well in many institutions. He served as Presbyter of St. Mark’s Cathedral (Bangalore), and later as Director of Ecumenical Christian Centre (ECC) before making his mark as a Theological Educator. He joined United Theological College Bangalore as Professor. Around this time he also served as Director of South Asia Theological Research Institute (SATHRI), Secretary of Board of Theological Education of Senate of Serampore College (BTESSC), and as President of Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians (EATWOT). Among his many ministry contributions, he also served at various times as: Visiting Professor, Emmanuel College of Toronto School of Theology, Toronto; Visiting Professor, San Francisco Theological Seminary, D.Min. Program; John A Mackay Chair in World Christianity, Princeton Theological Seminary; Editor, Asia Journal of Theology; Editor, Voices from the Third World; Editor, Bangalore Theological Forum; President, Christian Peace Conference, India Region; Member, Board of Directors of YMCA, Bangalore; Member, Congress of Asian Theologians; and Member, Interfaith Interaction - online discussion group. In 1996, he and his wife Molly Abraham started Liza's Home, a home for girls with mental and physical disabilities, that continues to serve a number of poor children.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

New General Secretary for All India Sunday School Association

Rev. Dr. Hmingthansanga a  minister of the Presbyterian Church of India, Mizoram Synod was installed as the new General Secretary of the All India Sunday School Association. He succeeds Rev. Dr. Ipe Joseph, who will however continue to serve as AISSA Promoter during this calendar year.

As approved by the General Body of the National Council of Churches in India in its last quadrennial, the office of AISSA has been moved from Hyderabad and relocated in the NCCI Campus in Nagpur.

NCCI celebrates the life of Rev. D.S. Jeevan Babu

In Christ today, we shall proceed
to bring Peace and Joy
with arms of faith, and dreams of hope
Go forward sharing Love…

-          Jeevan Babu

Rev. D. S. Jeevan Babu, God's faithful servant who day in and day out fulfilled his ministry in quiet fidelity and love, was called 'home' this morning.
Rev. Jeevan Babu gave an inspiring witness of his love for God and self-sacrificing service in his priestly ministry.  We thank God for his exemplary life and witness.  He faithfully fulfilled his ministry up until the last few months of his life, when ill-health finally overcame him.

'Jeevan', as he was popularly called, served the National Council of Churches in India from February 1994 to October 1998 as the Secretary of the Unit on Mission & Evangelism.  As an Ecumenist, he was involved with the study of Gospel & Cultures and took various initiatives to strengthen the faith of the recently converted Christians of various tribal people groups in India, especially of the Lambadi tribe living in Andhra Pradesh and in the borders of Maharashtra. 

He subsequently served as the Communication Director of the Karnataka Central Diocese, Church of South India.  Through his writings he sensitized people about the love of life and God’s plans through our lives.  He published around 3 dozen books on creation, life and God’s love for us, humans.

The funeral will take place on 2nd June 2016 at the St. Mark's Cathedral, Bangalore.  Mr. Kiran Jeevan his son can be contacted on 09739057989 for more information
The NCCI family expresses its solidarity with his wife Kasthuri, son Kiran and daughter Keerthi and all the dear ones. 

Roger Gaikwad
General Secretary, NCCI