ANDHRA PRADESH AUXILIARY
The International Indigenous Peoples Day was first pronounced by the General Assembly of the United Nations in December 1994. It was decided that the International Indigenous People Day shall be observed on 9 August every year. By following this, on 17 September 2010, during the Annual General Body Meeting of the National Council of Churches in India in Bangalore, for the first-time announced observance of the National Council of Churches in India -Tribal and Adivasi Sunday. Since 2011, every year the Indian Church is celebrating this day with special Liturgy designed along with the theme for the year. This year the theme for the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is ‘Leaving No One Behind’ (1 Corinthians 10:24).
The Bible Society of India joined hands with the National Council of Churches in India in observing 9th August 2021 as the Tribal and Adivasi Day. Under the leadership of Rev. Dr. M. Mani Chacko, the General Secretary of the Bible Society of India, a very meaningful worship was conducted through the Department of Church Relations and Resource Mobilisation. All the 16 Auxiliaries from various parts of India and the Central Office in Bangalore participated in the programme virtually in solidarity with the Tribal and Adivasi people in India. Special songs and dance (video clipping) from the auxiliaries had added colors and joy of the worship service. Bishop Anand Sebeyan Hemron, who is a retired Bishop of the Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Church, Odisha was our guest speaker for this occasion with the message of justice, peace, dignity and equality of all people. Rev. Dr. M. Mani Chacko, in his final remarks and closing prayer re-iterated the responsibility of the Church and Christian Institutions and Organisations to get actively involved in responding to a call for doing right to those who are wronged and bringing justice for those who are facing the onslaught of systematic and social injustice and discriminations like the people of the Tribals and Adivasis in India
We are aware that on the 10th of August every year, we remember our demand to include Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims in the Scheduled Caste list. This year, we have designated it as the National Protest Day to protest against this injustice meted out to a section of Indian citizens. You are also aware that in 2013, NCCI has filed an impleading application in the Supreme Court of India in the Civil Writ petition (180/2004) which is pending before the Hon’ble Court. In January 2020, the Supreme Court of India agreed to examine the plea to make reservations “religion neutral” so that Dalit Christians and Muslims too can benefit. The plea is pending before the court.
On 10th of August we remember, the infamous Presidential (Scheduled Caste) Order 1950 which was signed 71 years ago by the then President of India, which says “No person who professes a religion other than Hinduism shall be deemed to be a member of the scheduled caste” which was later amended to include Sikhs (1956) and Buddhists (1990) in the Scheduled Caste net. On account of this, Christians and Muslims of Dalit origin continue to be kept out of the Scheduled Caste list thereby denying them privileges in education, getting scholarships, employment opportunities, right to contest in the reserved constituencies, availing legal remedy/protection under SC and ST (Prevention) of Atrocities Act 1989 as amended in 2018, and such other affirmative actions. This is clear discrimination against Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims based on religion, and a violation of the freedom of religion and belief which is guaranteed by the Constitution of India.
We realise that our 71 years of struggle for justice should be supported by all people who believe in equality and democracy. The Supreme Court has a monumental opportunity now to render justice to millions of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims who continue to suffer from social stigma and the horrors of untouchability.
As per Christian tradition, especially of the Catholic, the Anglican and the Lutheran Church from the early Christian era to this day, Christians continue to observe the 14 “Stations of the Cross” or “Ways of the Cross” during Lenten Season. The Latin words Via Dolorosa, literally means the sorrowful road, the path Jesus took from Pilate’s judgment hall to Golgotha to be crucified. Christian tradition says that Mary, the mother of Jesus had marked those places where her son Jesus had stopped, met some in person, stripped, tripped and fell on the way to the Cross as he climbed the Calvary Mountain. The exact number of places was not known but in the early 16th century, in Europe, the 14 Stations tradition was established, which is being followed in Jerusalem as well. Christians meditate 40 days during Lenten season beginning from Ash Wednesday till Good Friday eve. And on Good Friday the meditation is being done on all the 14 stations of the “Way of the Cross” with special theme and prayer on each station to remember the suffering of Jesus Christ for the redemption of the whole creation with the sins of human beings.
According to the tradition the 14 stations are named as follows:
(1) Jesus is condemned to death, (2) he is made to bear his cross, (3) he falls the first time, (4) he meets his mother, (5) Simon of Cyrene is made to bear the cross, (6) Veronica wipes Jesus’ face, (7) he falls the second time, (8) the women of Jerusalem weep over Jesus, (9) he falls the third time, (10) he is stripped of his garments, (11) he is nailed to the cross, (12) he dies on the cross, (13) he is taken down from the cross, and (14) he is placed in the sepulchre.
As we meditate on the ‘Passion of Christ’ I would like to make a short reflection on the 4th Via Dolorosa where we find Jesus met his mother, Mary. I am sure most of us must have watched the movie called “The Passion of the Christ” either in a cinema theatre or at home. It was Mel Gibson’s, one of the best directed movies that received Hollywood Film Award of Producer of the Year in 2004 and Best Director Award in 2005. Some critiques said that it was too much of violence and bloodshed to watch. They may be right in some ways. However, to my understanding, the magnitude of Christ’s suffering and pain that he bore for us on the Via Dolorosa will in no ways be able to portray by the film. The 4th Station “Jesus Meets his Mother” wherein “The Passion of the Christ” significantly focussed that made me shed tears and wondered the depth of bonding and love between the Mother and Son, their courage and strength to take the pain without overwhelming by the crude reality is what prompted me to meditate on this 4th Station at Via Dorolosa.
As the whole world is celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8, and the Christian community is observing ‘World Day of Prayer’ on March 5th to ponder on various women’s issues. At this juncture, it is significant to go back to the “Way of the Cross” where “Jesus meets his mother”.
In John’s Gospel 19:25-26 we read,
“25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” (NIV)
This is the only text that we have read from the four Gospels about the encounter of Jesus and his mother Mary. However, the tradition of the Via Dolorosa on the Station 4 that comes soon after “The first fall of Jesus” the Station 3, it is here that Mary came closer to her son, amidst the hatred, scornful screaming of the crowd against her son, she might have tried to reach her son to help him get up from the ground and walk. It is here that the eyes of the Mother and the Son met. This gaze talks millions of unspeakable truth, love, promises, pains and agonies which no one but only the Mother and Son will understand.
This Gaze of Love between the Mother and the Son is the fulfilment of God’s promises. When the angel of God told Mary that she is the chosen one to bear the child of God who will bring Salvation for the world and humanity; Mary understood the course and the consequences of what she had accepted. This Gaze of Love is the assurance between the Mother and the Son – that they stood firm for the fulfilment of God’s salvific plan; this moment is the moment of truth to tell each other ‘I am with you’, ‘I am not going to deny you’, ‘together, we are going to achieve God’s plan in and through us, no matter what the pain and the agony we are going through’, it’s the push and the total support between the Mother and the Son; Mary and her Son never ran away from the crude and painful reality; Mary never said, ‘I am sorry I can’t bear the pain and I can’t see you like this anymore my son, enough is enough’; Mary’s physical and mental support to her son was surely the strength for Jesus to take each and every heavy step forward to reach the hill top; they stood for each other for the fulfilment of God’s plan.
The second encounter of the ‘Gaze of Love’ between the Mother and the Son at the cross had sealed the end of the earthly journey of Jesus, the mission of God through the Mother and the Son had been fulfilled therein.
This ‘Gaze of Love’ is the epitome of the true love in action, to the level where human beings could see and understand the true meaning of Love in Action. It requires trust, faithfulness and genuine relationship.
Being a mother/father, like Mary, have I ever been a strong hold for my children when they needed me the most to take a step forward in their most difficult time? Does my gazing at them communicate God’s Love or am I simply giving them a passive look when they need my love and support to make through their struggles in life? Am I a true Christian gazing at the people to quench their thirst for the Love of God or just like one of the onlookers of Jesus on the Via Dolorosa? There can be many issues we can contemplate upon in this season of Lent. Let us gaze at Jesus like Mary with the ‘Gaze of Love’, and see the Suffering Christ in others and be the agent of God’s Love to make our Lenten Meditation a meaningful one more than ever before.
I would like to conclude this reflection with this beautiful song
God it must have broke your heart, to send your Son away.
Knowing all the time the final price He had to pay.
He left His home in Glory and became a common man.
And because he did, I am what I am.
Cause I’m a child of the King
Who made everything
I’m the child of the one
Who makes my heart to sing,
Songs of joy songs of praise
I’ll sing them all I can
To the one who came and made me what I am.
Now I’m a woman and have a babe of my own.
I wonder could I send my babe off and all alone.
To help someone, somewhere, somehow, or set some captive free.
Or could I do the same for Him who gave His life for me.
Dr. Hrangthan Chhungi,
Director, Church Relations & Resource Mobilisation Department
In the early 1960s, the publication of the very first Runyankore-Rukiga Bible provided the Nkore and Kiga peoples of south-western Uganda with access to God’s Word in their mother tongue. More than 50 years on, the Bible Society of Uganda celebrated a new version of the same Bible, but one with a difference. Standing two metres tall and weighing over 30kg, the Runyankore-Rukiga Braille Bible has brought the Word of God to people with visual disabilities.
In a country with a population of around 42 million, it is estimated that 2.6 million are visually impaired or blind—one of the world’s highest rates of visual impairment. The Bible Society of Uganda, recognising this need, has implemented a wide range of innovative ideas to reach this audience.
Mr. Bhaskar Rao, Additional Director General of Police, Karnataka made a friendly visit to the William Carey Centre, BSI Central Office on February 13th, 2021. During his visit, Rev. M. Mani Chacko, General Secretary, BSI felicitated him with fruit basket, shawl and the greatest gift ‘The Bible’. Mr. Bhaskar Rao appreciated the work of the Bible Society.
ANDHRA PRADESH AUXILIARY
The BSI Andhra Pradesh Auxiliary conducted Bible Sunday at St. Mary’s CSI Church and Cantonment Baptist Church in Vizianagaram. Also, organised Bible Display Cum Sale.
The BSI Allahabad Auxiliary celebrated Bible Sunday at Katra CNI Church.
The team visited various Churches and Christian families in Kharagpur, West Bengal. We were grateful to the people of God who extended their love and hospitality.
Team BSI Calcutta Auxiliary visited the Visually Challenged and presented Braille Calendars and walking Sonar Canes. The Audio Bibles were given to the adults who were in need.
We thank and praise God for enabling our BSI Dimapur Auxiliary to inaugurate BSI Wancho Branch at Arunachal Pradesh. Women Empowerment programme was conducted at Metei Baptist Church, Bokajan, Assam.
The BSI Gujarat Auxiliary celebrated Bible Sunday at Church of Surendranagar, Saurastra.
The BSI Jabalpur Auxiliary celebrated Bible Sunday at Christ Church, Bhopal, CNI Church in Indore and in Ratlam.
The Bible Exhibition was organised in Hubballi by the BSI Karnataka Auxiliary, People from all denominations took part actively in visiting the stall and buying the Bibles. We are thankful to all the Church Leaders in Hubballi.
The BSI Odisha Auxiliary celebrated Bible Sunday at Odia Baptist Church and arranged Bible Stall at Union Church, Bhubaneswar.
The Ranchi Auxiliary celebrated the Bible Sunday at CNI Church, Chaibasa.
The BSI Shillong Auxiliary visited the Christian School to spend time with the children to share Christ’s love.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on the international community to make 2021 “a year of healing” in his video message for the New Year. Excerpts of his speech are worth pondering over:
“Together, let us make peace among ourselves and with nature, tackle the climate crisis, stop the spread of Covid-19, and make 2021 a year of healing. Healing from the impact of a deadly virus. Healing broken economies and societies. Healing divisions. Healing the planet. He also added that “that must be our New Year’s Resolution for 2021”.
In May 1946, less than a year after the most destructive global conflict in human history, representatives from Bible Societies in 13 countries gathered at the Elfinsward Conference Centre in Haywards Heath, England. Convinced more than ever of the “need of the world for the Word of God”, the delegates set in motion the formation of a truly global Bible fellowship—the United Bible Societies.
The attendees—each with their own traumas from war—were determined to work together, “so that at this time of need, the fullest effort may be made in co-operation with other Bible Societies to meet the need and seize the opportunity to supply to the stricken world the Word of Life and Strength.”
The BSI Church Relations’ Day and Unity Octave was observed on January 22nd, 2021 at 9.00 a.m. virtually across India.
Being the handmaiden of the Church, the BSI deeply values the support and partnership that she shares with the Church as an agent of God’s Mission to spread the Love of God.
Rev. Dr. Dexter Maben, Assistant Secretary, Church of South India, Karnataka Central Diocese and Presbyter-in-Charge, St. Andrew’s Church, Bangalore brought God’s Word. Dwelling on the Gospel of John 15:1-17, the speaker re-iterated the importance of being rooted in Christ the true vine to show unity in life, faith and witness amidst challenges in life.