Bishop Ambattu George Ninan, ecumenical leader, builder of movements, organizer and social activist died on June 21 in New York, where he was leading a retired life. He was 8o.
The funeral service and burial of Bishop George Ninan will be held on June 27 in New York.
Dr Ninan served as a bishop of the Nasik diocese of the Church of North India (CNI) from 1994-1999.
He also served as an executive secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia -Urban Rural Mission, (CCA-URM) and later as CCA’s associate general secretary.
After his theological education at the Leonard Theological College in Jabalpur, he was ordained in 1963 as a deacon at the All Saints Church in Nagpur.
He was active in the Student Christian Movement and Church of South India’s (CSI) youth work during his college days.
He began first full time church work at the Christian Institute in Alappuzha, where he grew up and did his early education and graduation.
In 1961, he attended the New Delhi assembly of the World Council of Churches as a youth delegate of the CSI.
He founded the Bombay Urban Industrial League for development (BUILD) in 1973, after completing his doctoral studies in the USA. BUILD soon became a movement working among the industrial workers and slum dwellers of Bombay (now Mumbai).
“The BUILD experience has been a life changing one for all who were part of it. The change in our personal perspectives, world view and priorities was based on our experiences of being with the people. We were all influenced by these experiences in varying degrees,” George Ninan has written in his upcoming autobiographical reflections.
He played an important role in initiating the Delhi Forum for Christian Concern for People’s Struggle after the emergency rule in the country.
Among the other initiatives of George Ninan were Community Development Trust, Agape Trust and Vikas Adhyan Kendra (Center for Developments Studies) in Mumbai.
He succeeded the well known Korean ecumenical leader Oh Jae Shik as the executive secretary of the CCA-URM in Hong Kong in 1979. After six years, he became CCA’s associate general secretary until 1990.
On his return to India, he joined the Delhi-headquartered CNI Synodical Board of Social Services as its coordinator. In 1994, he was elected as the bishop of the Nasik diocese of the CNI.
Dr Ahn Jae Woong, a former general secretary of the CCA and a friend said that Bishop Ninan will be remembered in “our circle of friends in Asia as well as in global communities at large.”
Dr Aruna Gnanadasan, a former executive staff of the WCC expressed her sadness at the passing away of George Ninan.
“What a great contribution he made to the URM, to the churches and to the ecumenical movement. On a personal note it was he who facilitated my first visit to China when he was on the staff of the CCA-URM in Hong Kong,” she remembered.
Mr Max Ediger, an American, Mennonite Church missionary and a justpeace activist based in Asia said: “He will be missed. He brought me into the CCA-URM movement for which I have always been most grateful.”
“He played an important role in sensitizing the church on social issues. He was always a gracious man and I met him many times in India and abroad. He had the gift of inspiring younger people.” said Mr Siddharth, a Bangalore-based thinker, writer and activist.
In his reflections to be brought out soon, Bishop George Ninan wrote: “… whatever I had undertaken in my life, I never did after fully understanding or analyzing the pros and cons. I was ready to explore and willing to learn as I went along. I have never been a very intelligent or a scholarly sort of person but have moved with instinct, which I call the promptings of the Spirit.”