For the past 20 years, Sushma Ramswami has served as the communications secretary for the Church of North India. Based in New Delhi, she leads an ecumenical communications network and serves as the denomination’s secretary of national issues, organizing rallies, walks and conferences such as the Christian Conference of Asia. She has led movements for the empowerment of women, children and youth and has organized training, counseling and healing for victims of riots.
Sushma is among several Christian leaders who will be visiting the U.S. this fall as part of the International Peacemakers visits. Each year, the PC(USA) Peacemaking Program makes it possible for U.S. churches, synods and presbyteries to hear from international speakers, giving Presbyterians a firsthand look at the struggles Christians face in countries abroad.
The Church of North India was established in 1970 when the main Protestant churches came together. Its jurisdiction includes all but four states and has more than 1.2 million members in 3,000 pastorates.
“The church covers nearly two-thirds of the country. Its membership lives mostly below the poverty line comprising of Dalits and Adivasis,” said Sushma. “Education is the biggest challenge, building awareness of self and surroundings. There are internal as well as external obstacles in reaching out to these groups. Political challenges are there as well.”
Sushma feels India’s minorities are facing significant problems and challenges. “Challenges build the faith of an individual. We have experienced that with the hate campaigns against minorities and that has led all of the denominations to come together and present a united church on the national level.”
Church leaders are working to break down the barriers of class, gender, economic inequality and more with an emphasis on children, women, youth, peace and interfaith concerns.
Despite the challenges, Sushma believes the church continues to be faithful to its mission.
“Through its social development, the church is reaching out to the poor and the marginalized, creating an environment of hope for the poor children, building communities of hope,” she said. “Through various training programs, the youth are being challenged and trained to take up civil services. The education and medical institutions are providing services to the poor and needy, thus building a just society.”
Sushma says the Church of North India recently took up evangelism as its core priority for the next three years. Numerous revival meetings have been planned and scheduled with a focus on educating people about their rights and raising awareness amongst the poor.
“A three-day synod level program was organized on mission and evangelism for the Presbyters on the theme: ‘Evangelism: The Divine Imperative,’” Sushma said. “A total of 32 Presbyters, representing 18 Dioceses, were challenged and motivated through a learning experience for mission evangelism as the essential ministry for all the followers of Christ Jesus.”
In addition, Sushma says a CNI-level gospel convention is being organized in the Diocese of Gujarat.
During her upcoming visit to the U.S., Sushma will focus on women in the church, society and family. She will also share the stories of children, trafficked women and the elderly as well as her own experiences with the church. She will be touring the U.S. Sept. 25 – Oct. 18.
For more information on the 2015 Peacemakers’ visits, please see the peacemaking webpage.