1st May, 2012
Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, has called for solidarity from churches with those "groaning" under pain, suffering and oppression, in an address to the National Council of Churches in India.
Sorting through piles of rubbish in Kolkata, India, these women are among the millions of Dalits or 'untouchables' who live in India. PICTURE: © Jeremy Richards/www.istockphoto.com
"(T)here is nothing and nobody untouchable in the light of the Gospel."
- Rev Dr Olav Fyske Tviet, general secretary of the World Council of Churches
Referring to the theme of the 27th general assembly -- "The Gospel in a Groaning World" -- Rev Dr Tveit said the church is called upon "to share the groaning and suffering of the world" and "to share in the hope that change is possible, that redemption can become reality and injustice and conflicts shall not have the last word."
More than 500 delegates representing 30 Orthodox and Protestant churches, 17 regional councils and two dozen national organisations under NCCI attended the 25th to 28th April assembly in Bangalore.
Referring to conflicts in the Middle East, including Israel, the Palestinian territories and Syria, Rev Dr Tveit said "the Gospel of the cross of Christ challenges all authorities who abuse their role and laws" and challenges "our tendency to be complacent with any authority that is not used to protect justice and the rights of every human being."
In an apparent reference to social class, or caste, discrimination in India and in parts of Indian churches, Rev Dr Tveit said that "there is nothing and nobody untouchable in the light of the Gospel."
"If something or someone becomes untouchable for those who bear the Gospel, the Gospel is lost," he said. Nearly two thirds of the 28 million Christians in India are dalits (members of a low caste formerly called "untouchables").
Meanwhile, Dr Hans Raj Bhardwaj, governor of Karnataka state (where Bangalore is the capital) praised the role of Christians in nation building, citing dedicated service in education and healthcare.
"Church is the sign of hope for the poor and needy. Churches in India give life to the nation in the same way that Jesus Christ spread the light of hope to the needy," said Dr Bhardwaj, who also called recent attacks on Christians as an "attack on the Indian constitution."
In response, Rev Dr Tveit thanked Dr Bhardwaj for his pledge to safeguard the rights of religious minorities, their places of worship and properties.
Southern Karnataka state has witnessed more than 400 incidents of anti-Christian violence, the highest in the country, in the last four years under the rule of the Hindu nationalist BJP party.