INDIA: National assembly of churches begins with political statements

By Anto Akkara
Posted Apr 25, 2012

[Ecumenical News International – Bangalore, India] The quadrennial general assembly of the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) began on April 25 with an opening worship that contained unusually strong expressions of opinion on current issues such as the Koodankulam nuclear power plant.

Opening worship at the assembly, which ends on 28 April, featured statements opposed to the nuclear plant (in southern Tamil Nadu state), to what is seen as the undemocratic acquisition of land in Orissa state for a steel plant and to what was called abuse of special army powers in Kashmir and northeast India.

Three delegates from the affected regions read the statements. They were followed by Bible readings relating to the issues.

Referring to the assembly’s theme, “The Gospel in a Groaning World,” the Rev. Christopher Rajkumar said “all these issues symbolize the groans of the people.” Rajkumar is in charge of worship and media at the assembly.

Founded in 1914, the NCCI is composed of 30 Orthodox and Protestant churches in India, 17 regional Christian councils and more than two dozen national organizations, representing more than 14 million Christians.

The massive anti-nuclear protest by the fishing community that began in September 2011 was centerd on Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic church at Idinthakarai.

The protest was called off in March after police registered dozens of criminal cases against secular social activists, Catholic bishop Yvon Ambrose of Tuticorin and his priests apart from freezing the bank accounts of the church and social action groups.

“It is easy to preach the Gospel in a groaning world. But our duty is to be sensitive to the groaning world,” urged Methodist bishop Tharanath Sagar, NCCI president, in his sermon at the opening worship. About 500 delegates are attending, including the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches.