Three top Christian decisive bodies in India on Wednesday agreed to foster mutual respect and greater co-operation in addressing common challenges facing the Church.
In a landmark agreement, the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI), National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) and Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), signed a memorandum of understanding for the ecumenical development of the Church in the country.
The accord - under the framework of National United Christian Forum (NUCF) - sought to share common goals and establish a cooperative arrangement to strengthen the Church and its engagement with the poor and the oppressed.
The agreement was signed by Archbishop Vincent M. Concessao, representing the CBCI; Bishop D. K Sahu for NCCI; and Rev. Dr. Richard Howell for EFI.
"The National United Christian Forum invites us to a journey of faith, and confidence in the guidance of the Spirit to lead us into new relationships of trust and cooperation," preamble of the memorandum said. "We are committed to celebrate, enter into dialogue and act together to the glory of the One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit."
In the context of the increase in ant-Christian pogroms, the NUCF said it aims to foster and promote the spirit of intra-faith harmony, to dispel the prejudices created against the Christian community and to actively engage in the promotion of better relationships between religious communities.
Furthermore, the forum seeks to promote communication within the Christian fold and outside and will also research on issues affecting Christians and other minorities.
The alliance with Archbishop Vincent Concessao of Delhi as its president announced that it would make meaningful interventions in areas of policy making and will also decide on appropriate representations to be made before the government and other concerned bodies.
Rev. Richard Howell, the Secretary of NUCF, in a statement called "17 June 2009 as a historic day in the ecumenical journey of the Church in India."
He maintained that the forum will "work towards bringing various Christian organisations of service together for a more coordinated action and will actively promote the prophetic engagement of the Church in the socio- political economic life of the nation."
Some of the other NUCF objectives, he enumerated, will be to "safeguard and promote human rights and in particular the rights of people belonging to Schedule Castes, Schedule Tribes and Backward Classes, minority communities, children, women, the poor and the marginalized."
It will also address issues concerning Christians of Dalit origin, in particular the discrimination against their constitutional right to legal protection.