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.
It is with deep sadness we are informing you of the passing away of Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitian, the supreme Head of the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church, and the 21st Mar Thoma Metropolitan, on the 18th October 2020, at 2.48 a.m. at Thiruvalla, Kerala. He was 90 years old. Metropolitan was a respected member of the Executive Committee of the Bible Society of India since 2013 till date. He was also the President of the BSI Kerala Auxiliary between 1998 to 2001. Metropolitan’s contribution and guidance in building up the organisation of the BSI as a whole was exceedingly valuable.
Most Rev. Dr. Joesph Mar Thoma Metropolitan was an extraoridinary servant of God who had great impact on the ministry of the Church and whose life has touched and transformed innumerable lives, both the clergy and the laity. He was a great philanthropist and a person of deep empathy for the suffering humanity. Metropolitan’s funeral will take place at the Mar Thoma Church Headquarters at Thiruvalla at 3.00p.m. today.
May we uphold the bereaved family of the Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan, the Mar Thoma Church and all those connected to the Metropolitian and are feeling the void and loss.
We express our deep gratitude to God for the remarkable life and witness of the Metropolitan and for what he meant to the BSI, to the Church and the humanity at large.
BSI will truly miss the Metropolitan, especially his presence and input at the Executive Committee Meetings.