Sunday, June 20, 2010

Closing up for Renewal

Dear All,

In my prayers over the past few days, I have had a breakthrough of massive proportions. To most of you who have come across this blog, it might not sound impressive or innovative at all; nevertheless, for me it has been life altering. In my blog, in my various comments in both friendly and hostile blogs, in my readings on the subject... everywhere I have been focused on the earthly state of affairs. I have focussed on which religious extremists are bombing where, which demographics are immigrating to Christian nations, who is building what.. I have been streessing on what I thought were the most important things of the world. I have been so focused on these that I had lost myself to the Truth. The strength of Christians are not the GDP of Western nations or the educational institutions across the world or the grand Churches in all the countries. At the surface, yes, all these seem to be what makes up Christianity and over the ages this worldly aspect of Christianity has come to shadow the spiritual facet. And I too had succumbed to this mistake.

The strength of Christianity is the Jesus. And the key to that strength is Prayer.

Upon this revealation I understood that that if I was to serve God through His Church, then I smust renew myself. Even while I championed the cause of Christianity in blogosphere, I was dead to sin. I was guilty of the cardinal sins of Pride, Envy, Lust, Covetousness etc... I was living in sin and holding on to the earthly side of Christianity, forgetting all about the spiritual side. I was holding on to the earthly Church while letting go the God for whom it was built. I understand my mistake now, and have decided to come back to this webpage only after I have renewed myself. Thank you all for your support. Keep praying, and may God bless you.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Non-stop prayers begin as year of priests ends

MANGALORE: As a mark of the conclusion of the year dedicated to the Christian priests of the world, a 40-hour non-stop prayer and adoration to the Blessed Sacrament has commenced at Our Lady of Dolores Chapel, situated in the Bishop's House here on Thursday at 6.45 am. The prayer was inaugurated by Rev Aloysius Paul D'Souza, the Bishop of the Diocese of Mangalore, with the Eucharistic celebrations. The Bishop invited all the faithful to thank God for the great gift of the priesthood and requested them to pray continuously for the priests so that they may be true to their vocation. The chancellor of the Diocese, Rev Henry Sequeira shared in the homily on the occasion. Many priests and lay representatives were present for the inaugural mass. There are 337 diocesan priests and 120 religious priests serving in the Diocese of Mangalore. The prayers will go on till midnight of Friday. Different prayer groups are partaking in the non-stop prayer series by turns. The Sister Disciples of the Divine Master are animating the 40-hour long prayer session. Background: Pope Benedict the 16th had dedicated a whole year (June 19, 2009 to June 19, 2010) to the priests of the world with the motto `Faithfulness of Christ and Faithfulness of Priests' on the occasion of the 150th Death Anniversary of St John Maria Vianney, the Patron of the priests. Throughout the year, different socio-spiritual activities were organized as to grow in the true vocation of priesthood. As a mark of the conclusion of the year of the priesthood, a three-day International Convention of Priests was organized in Vatican from June 9 to 11, for which every Catholic priest of the world was invited. More than 10,000 priests had participated in the convention. There were more than 15,000 priests from all the corners of the world to celebrate with the Pope in the concluding mass that was held on June 11, on the occasion of the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Lay forum seeks more effective volunteers

A laity ecumenical forum in Madhya Pradesh has stressed the need for more effective volunteers among lay people to provide a better impact by the Church in a hostile social environment.The Madhya Pradesh Isai Mahasangh (Madhya Pradesh grand assembly of Christians) said it teaches its volunteers to be more forthright and effective in serving society.
The forum held a training program on June 14 for its 50 active members in Bhopal, the state capital.
“Lay people have easier access to the public than a religious person and this can be nurtured,” Manish Mathew, state office-bearer of the forum told on June 17.
Father Anand Muttungal, one of the founders of the forum, said, “Unless we become more generous in our social contributions and spend some time away from family and friends we make no contribution to making life better for others.”
“There can be no better charity than helping someone in need,” said Richard D’Silva, another forum member.

Patriotic Love for Manipur is Terribly Missing

By: Madhu Chandra

Patriotic love is the inspirational factor of any motherland; it is terribly missing in Manipur. Unity in diversity is the beauty of India, but it is terribly messed in Manipur, probably messed one another equally and must fix it together. When love is missing among the society, hatred begins, distances from one another, opinions form into ideological differences. The ideological differences many a time become ideological clashes among the societies that moved further into nerves and muscles. We have seen it enough within the communities of Manipur and the current crisis is this reality.Manipur has range of love among own clans, ethnic, tribe, village, town, district and it limits and does not cross border. Collective love for the state of Manipur is missing very badly. Until the love for own state and land mounts up in every nerve, sadly, Manipur will suffer now and then like the way the state is facing now.Where has gone the love, peace, friendship and harmony that bound Manipur among all section of society? Definitely, undoubtedly, some forces have destroyed it. Forces of fascism, fanatic, communalism and sectarian visible and invisible, most dangerous of every society must be eliminated sooner than later, otherwise, forever will destroy the love, peace, friendship and harmony in state. Love, peace, friendship and harmony are strong social fabric. Unwanted communal politic and communal forces time and again took different forms and take birth to attempt to show the seeds hatred among the society and the state. Manipur and its people are reaping its consequences today.Predicted by Jawaharlal Nehru once, “When fascism comes to India, it will come in a form of communalism,” in deed, Manipur is infected by this virus for long enough and should have confronted long ago. Unfortunately neither state government nor central seem less care about it.America mourned 9/11 attacked, whole nation stood. India stood united during Kargil war. When “Hey mere watan ke logo” was sung in central Parliamentary hall on August 15, 1996, marking 50th Indian Independent day, it moved every Indian with love for the nation. It was more with the additional emotional speech delivered by then the President K R Narayan, remembering those Heros guarding the Indian boundaries at frontal line of Kargil.What made whole American to stand together and Indians for the nation? It was the love for the nation. There was love for Manipur but it is terribly missing for last few decades. Prevailing situation in the state, lack of development, lack of opportunity and defectiveness of educational atmosphere, might lead people far away from loving owns state. Love for other human beings must maintain in Manipur. Patriotic love for Manipur can not be possible without the love for one another. Harm is done beyond irreparable but need a miracle to heal the hurt, forgive to love.

Bible talks about it powerfully, it must be seen in church and every Christians, hopefully those who do not believe in Bible might able to see the power of love that commanded by Jesus to follow. One among many Heros in Bible is John the brother of Jesus, who talks about love. It is the principle that every Christian holds on. He says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” Every Christian is believed to be child of God and it is made out of God’s love. He further says, “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.” Last quote but never the least, rather a warning for every Christians, John says, “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.”Who should move first to express this love to all humanity? Saying as a Christian and ordained minister, church and every Christian has this mandate to step out first! Accepted or rejected is altogether different issue on part of the receptive. Patriotic love can not miss the love among brotherhood and other human beings.“Itao” is word for Friendship in Manipuri. It has its own contextual strong meaning and application. If one says, “I have my Ukhrul Itao or Imphal Itao” it means a bound beyond ones own communities. It breaks all social barriers except caste instinct that played important role in destroying social peace and harmony among the society of Manipur.What is mandate for Government in order to nurture patriotic love for the state? It is late to work on but better late than never! Making Manipur a livable place on planet is a must, if one and all want co-existence of all inhabitants of Manipur. Inability of Manipur government to make Manipur a choice of living by failing to bring socio-economic and educational development is the root cause. Public outrage, intolerance, constant public disturbances and failure to keep the law and order of the state has led to loose the patriotic love for the state. Every parent prefers effort sending their children for education outside Manipur and continues to work there after study.Attempt to solve the militancy of Manipur through increasing the security forces is seen failure to solve the problem for last 50 years and it should never emphasis on it again. Development, work opportunity, good governance, sincerity, transparency and economic developmental initiative are missing. Absence of these, Manipur will continue to suffer and citizen of Manipur will lack the patriotic love that badly needed for Manipur.Majority community of Manipur, referring to Meiteis, have bigger role. Pluralistic is the society of Manipur. Majority community can not act as solemn representative of the state. Every tribe or community is part of larger society. Inclusive thinking, consideration, equal affirmative action, equal opportunity, equal rights and equal justice must extend to all communities irrespective or tribe, religion, sect, race and ethnic. When equality is protected, chances of more patriotic love for the state arise.

Madhu Chandra is research scholar and social activist base based at New Delhi. He works as Regional Secretary for All India Christian Council and Spokes Person of North East Support Centre & Helpline.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Young Jesuits inspired by Afghan mission

Three young Indian Jesuits seminarians are all set to proceed to war-ravaged Afghanistan on a mission to provide education to the people there and make their religious commitment more meaningful.
David Raj, 28, Lancy Dias, 27, and Alex Yagoo, 28, volunteered to work in Afghanistan to recapture their congregation’s original spirit of going to new and dangerous places to spread Christ’s message.
Dias will go to Herat, Raj will go either to Herat or Kabul, while Yagoo will go to Bamiyan, where Jesuits have been working for the past five years.
The three, who come from the Karnataka, Hazaribagh and Madurai Jesuit provinces, will leave for Afghanistan June 18.
“I am excited about going there because first we are going to help a country which is facing lots of challenges and problems, and second, there is personal satisfaction that we are going to do something that gives meaning to our vocation,” Raj said.
Religious life is very secure in India and “I want to face some challenges as otherwise there is no point in choosing this life,” he said.
The Jesuits said that they are not afraid of going to a county where there is threat to life, especially for the Indians.
“I have heard from returning Jesuits that common people there are very good to Indians. If we go with prejudices, it will be difficult for us to remain there. All through our formation, we are fed with ideas about taking challenges, risky missions,” Dias said.

Experts praise Jesuit’s Indian film theory book

A Jesuit priest has made a “significant contribution” to the film industry with a new book on Indian film theory.
Father Gaston Roberge was praised by film makers, critics and scholars at the launch of his book The Indian Film Theory: Flames of Sholay, Notes and Beyond, on June 15.
“Father Roberge shows us there is an Indian film theory that can form the cornerstone of our film ethos,” said Ashok Vishwanathan, a Bengali film maker and scholar.
“I had been asking myself since the 1980s why we do not have a new theory of popular film,” said Father Roberge. “It was only recently that I got an answer after studying a 2000-year old Indian treatise of drama and dance, Natya Sastra - The Science Of Drama.”
The result is a 100 page book that offers a new perspective on the theories underlying Indian commercial cinema. It has been described as “easily readable” and “radical in its content.”
Father Roberge is author of more than 25 books on cinema and spirituality and founder of Chitrabani the first media center in eastern India. Although he admits some decline in the first decade of the century, Father Roberge has said that cinema will continue to be relevant even in the age of the iPod.

Salesian priest fights for cause of poor workers

A Salesian priest in Gujarat has taken up the cause of hundreds of poor workers who have not got wages of the work allotted to them under a job guarantee scheme.
National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), which came into force in August 2005, provides a legal guarantee for one hundred days of employment in every financial year to adult members of any rural household at a minimum wage of rupees 100 per day (some US$ 2).
As per the act, the workers should be paid within a span of 15 days under any circumstances.
Father Mayank Parmar of NGO Drishti Shramik Sangathan (workers vision forum), operated by the Don Bosco Trust, along with the workers June 14 held a day-long sit-in outside the office of a government official S Murali Krishnan in Kheda district.
They demanded timely payment of wages and punishment for the government officials responsible for the delay. They also submitted a memorandum to Krishnan in this regard.
“When we came to know that hundreds of workers have not received wages, we held a day-long sit-in outside the collector’s office,” Father Parmar told on June 16.
The NGO, which has been working among the NREGA workers for the last one year, reveals that 400 workers from 11 villages of Kapadvanj block in the state have not received their wages for as along as three months.
“Due to lack of awareness, they become victims of official indifference and apathy,” Father Parmar said.
He said most of the workers are illiterate and hail from dalit and other backward communities.
The priest said his organization held four days of training for NREGA workers in March this year to make them aware of various provisions under the scheme.
Meanwhile, Krishnan said he has ordered the local authorities to ensure that all the workers be paid wages on time.

Church to expand base for communal harmony

The Church in Madhya Pradesh has initiated a move to foster communal harmony in the central Indian state by expanding its base and reaching out to people of all religions.
The Harmony Foundation, a church initiative, aims to bring secular forces under one umbrella and first such step in this direction was taken on June 15 when five secular groups came under one roof.
They decided to expand its reach across the state by forming alliance with groups and associations of like-minded people.
“It is the need of the hour for the Church to change its position for reaching out to everyone,” spokesperson of the Catholic Church in the state Father Anand Muttungal told June 17.
He said that though the Church has been engaged in building peace and harmony, its reach is very limited.
“Whenever the Church is under attack from Hindu radical groups, it is often forced to suffer in isolation due to its failure to promote understating with other people,” Father Muttungal said.
The Church in the state has suffered a series of violent attacks on its people and institutions, mostly on the allegation that Christians were engaged in conversions. The state has been ruled by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian People’s Party) for the past seven years.
Noted social worker Ram Puniyani, who participated in the meeting, said this would be a great step forward in bringing secular forces under one umbrella.
“The communal forces were already united and the need of the hour was to unite the secular forces,” Puniyani said.Secular groups including Christians’ group, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh Catholic Bishop Conference took part in the meeting.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Police tell church to play down vandal attack

Police have told a parish in Hyderabad archdiocese in Andhra Pradesh, India, to play down the recent vandalism of shrine statues for fear of sparking communal violence.
“The cops are trying to hush up the case because we are Christians. If such a thing had happened in a temple or a mosque, there would not have been peace in the city,” said Salesian Father Bokkala Rayappa from Bandlaguda parish.
“They … told us not to make an issue out of it as it could lead to communal violence.”
A priest found two damaged statues in the street on June 13.
A statue of Saint Michael the Archangel had its missing its head while one of Mary Help of Christians was damaged and placed upside down, said Salesian Father Bokkala Rayappa.
The incident occurred in the early hours of the morning so nobody heard anything, Father Rayappa said.
Parishioners found a saffron flag associated with Hindu hardline groups near one of the statues, he said.
The parish informed the police, who came and put the statues back on their pedestals.
Father Rayappa said the police investigation was “very shoddy.” They arrested a worker the parish had sacked recently.
Parishioners staged a peace rally in the aftermath of the incident.

JDV starts “world class” theologate

Jnana Deepa Vidyapeeth (JDV) of Pune has recently opened a building for post graduate studies in theology, philosophy and spirituality.
This is the first such program in India, says Jesuit Father Edward Mudavassery, who heads the JDV as the Jesuit provincial of South Asia.
“The idea is to develop many disciplines in these subject and have a theologate and philosophate in India that would stand up to others in the world,” he told on June 15.
The provincial said degrees awarded by Church institutions in India are not recognized in the Western countries. People with masters in theology and philosophy from India have to redo their courses when they go overseas to pursue doctoral courses.
“Our aim is to offer masters and doctoral courses of world standard here,” Father Mudavassery asserted.
A special feature of the new building is it contains all class rooms and facilities. It has 100 self-contained single rooms for male students, two auditoriums with audio-visual facilities for conferences.
Father Mudavassery says the new facility can teach some 150 students. Currently it has some 60 student, of whom 30 stay within the new building.
The Jesuit provincial said as the JDV, the new program is also an inter-congregational venture.
Women students stay at a nearby hostel managed by the Holy Spirit Sisters.
The provincial said a hostel for postgraduate women is part of the future plans.
Scholarships are available for students, Father Mudavassery said.

Strict old priests drive young from the fold

The authoritarian attitude of some clergymen is alienating young Indian Catholics, they say.
“When a priest is not flexible, no ’sheep’ can approach him with confidence,” said Savio Daniyal, one of 89 contestants, who took part in an essay contest organized by Bhopal archdiocese.
The competition was part of a four-day summer vacation training camp for young Catholics which ended on June 7.
“As a youth, an ideal priest for me is someone who thinks like youths and is young, dynamic and flexible,” wrote Daniyal.
The engineering graduate said a “generation gap” between priests and youths is keeping young people away from the Church.
The Church would reach new heights if its leadership, especially priests, can tap the energy of youth. Young people are “filled with dynamism,” Daniyal said.
Several other contestants echoed Daniyal’s concerns in their essays.
Priests should cultivate the habit of “listening to people seriously rather than keep passing orders,” said Ancy Jasmine Ekka.
“The priest should be humble enough to understand and accept persons with different traits,” said Deep Saroj, another participant.
However, she acknowledged in her essay that youths cannot become good Catholics without the support of their priests. Catholics learn the basics of their religion from priests, she said.
Father Saiju Kolarikkal, a camp organizer, said the essays were a real “eye opener” for him as they revealed “how much expectations the youths have from us.”
The Bhopal archdiocesan priest also agreed with the participants that priests should serve people without discrimination.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Violence prompts Orissa seminaries to become people-friendly

Seminaries and religious formation houses in Orissa are encouraging their students to get involved in inter-religious dialogue and people’s movements.
Father Joseph Topno, the eastern Indian provincial of the Society of the Divine Word, says those training future priests and nuns in the eastern Indian state were introspective after two rounds of anti-Christian violence.
The attacks, the worst anti-Christian violence in India, occurred during the Christmas season in 2007 and in August 2008, during which 95 people died and 6,000 were displaced. About 7,000 houses and 350 churches were destroyed.
Father Topno told that the attacks shocked the entire Church. After recovering from the violence, his congregation asked its formation houses to maintain closer ties with people in the outside world.
One of the earlier drawbacks was that the formation seldom allowed students to mingle with people, especially from other religions, he said.
The provincial said the violence triggered debates over the preparedness of priests and nuns to lead the community during crises.
During the Orissa violence, Church people could not contact their people for months.
“In the aftermath of the attacks, the Church realized the need to get closer to its flock,” the priest added.
Now Father Topno’s congregation encourages its students to live with their neighbors, especially during crises and conflicts. “Priests and sisters ought to be at the disposal of the community,” he said.
The province is based at Jharsugua, a tribal-dominated region in Orissa.
Bishop Sarat Chandra Nayak of Berhampur says the Orissa violence was a wake-up call for the Church, especially its leaders and those in formation.
Until the violence, inter-religious dialogue and communal harmony were mere subjects for teaching but now they have become part of seminary formation, he said.
“Our seminarians are not well trained in conflict management or reaching out to other faiths,” the prelate told
“Our future and security is our multi-cultural communities.”
Father Niranjan Sualsingh, who teaches in Khristo Jyoti theologate, Sambalpur, said persecution became a reality as “all of us were affected” during the Orissa violence.
Khristo Jyoti rector Father Mathew Poovanthara said people living around the seminary, mostly Hindus, stood by the Church institution during the violence.
The violence has prompted the seminary to conduct their training in the local context, he said.
Sister Leena Jacob, novice director of the St. Joseph’s Sister of Annecy, says the persecution awakened “our faith” and prepared “us to face the reality.”

Mass weddings unite Gujarat tribal groups

Brides and grooms, each from a tribal group different from their partner, were married in a mass wedding ceremony in the Indian state of Gujarat recently, breaking an age-old custom of marrying only within clans.
Politicians exploit tribal divisions for their own selfish ends, said Jesuit Father Stanny Jebamalai, director of Shakti Trust, a Catholic group in Gujarat that conducted the program.
The priest said the aim of the event in which 29 couple married was to unite tribal people.
“What was significant about the weddings was that the brides and bridegrooms came from different tribal groups,” he said.
A groom garlands his bride
The ceremony tool place at Songadh, a tribal-dominated region some 450 kilometers from Ahmedabad, the state’s commercial capital, on June 3.
The couples, from four clans, came from three districts of Gujarat and one district of neighboring Maharashtra state.
Father Jebamalai said it was the first time that people from different clans gave away their children in marriage to people outside their own groups.
He was initially unsure if the plan would succeed. “I was very surprised when 29 couples came forward.”
Tribal people are among the poorest in the region, said the priest, who has worked for years to preserve tribal unity and identity in the state.
A couple receives their marriage certificate
They have maintained “strict social regimentation” for centuries and this has divided them politically and regionally, obstructing their socioeconomic advancement, he added.
Politicians exploit the tribal divisions for their own selfish ends, he added.
Thousands of tribal people attended the wedding program to encourage the couples, including Tushar Chaudhary, a junior federal minister in charge of tribal affairs. The tribal minister praised the Catholic group’s efforts to strengthen social unity among his people.

Religion and Modernity in India

"While the West often likes to imagine the religions of the East as deep wells of ancient, unchanging wisdom," writes William Dalrymple, "in reality, much of India’s religious identity is closely tied to specific social groups, caste practices and father-to-son lineages, all of which are coming under threat as Indian society transforms beyond recognition" — Rush Hour for the Gods. The author notes that "development, progress and education have not in any way threatened religion in South Asia." He reports:
Instead, across the subcontinent, faith has been growing and religion becoming stronger as the region develops and reinvents itself. In nineteenth-century Europe, industrialization and the mass migrations from farms and villages to the towns and cities went hand in hand with the death of God: organized religion began to decline and the church and state moved further and further apart. The experience of South Asia has been more or less the reverse of this.Click on the link for more about this "dramatic revival of piety and religion in India" and "how globalization may be making her country richer and arguably more materialistic, but it is also making India more religious." This anecdote stands out:
In the southern Indian state of Kerala, I visited the village of Mannarkkad where the Virgin Mary in the Christian church and goddess Bhagavati in the Hindu temple are believed by locals to be sisters. For centuries, the villagers brought the two together in a procession which ensured peace between the two religious communities. Now, however, this old syncretism is under attack. Some of the village Hindus have built a new Vishnu temple which is the chosen place of worship for those who do not have anything to do with Christians, of whose prosperity and prominence they disapprove.The Christian clergy at the church of Mannarkkad also do all they can to stop their own flock from visiting the Hindu temple, and they strongly disapprove of their congregation indulging in syncretic ceremonies. When I asked the local priest, Fr. Kuriakos, about the festival of the goddess Bhagavati and her forthcoming visit to the church to see her sister, he made it clear that he would on no account be present to welcome the goddess: “The Virgin Mary comes from Jewish tradition,” he said, clearly exasperated from repeating this regularly to his congregation. “She is the daughter of Joachim and Anna, and was from Palestine, not India. This Devi temple is a thing from Indian tradition. There is no relation between the Virgin Mary and Bhagavati,” he said. “We cannot encourage this belief. It is a myth. Worse, it is nonsense.”

Church denies allegations by Hindu leader.

The Catholic Church in Karnataka have denied allegations that Christian missioners in the state exposed sex scandals of a Hindu godman.
“It is false and malicious propaganda,” said Archbishop Bernard Moras of Bangalore.
The archbishop termed the allegations as provocative, insinuating and derogatory against the Christian community.
He said the allegations are “aimed at creating discord, communal disharmony and disunity in society and to malign the community.”
The Church reaction came after a Hindu extremist group Sri Ram Sene alleged that the Christian missioners were behind maligning the name of Hindu godman swamy Paramahamsa Nithyanand (33).
Nithyanand was arrested from Himachal Pradesh by police April 21 in connection with sex scandals exposed by some television channels through sting operations. He was released on bail on June 13.
Pramod Muthalik, Chief of the Hindu group, visited Nithyananda in his Ashram and said that Christian missioners conspire to malign his name.
“Missionaries have long been trying to sully Hindu temples and seer. Sri Rama Sene condemns such lobbies and will continue to fight for the survival and growth of Hindutva,” he said.
Muthalik has been at the centre of controversy for his alleged involvements in the attacks against churches and Christianmissionaries in Karnataka.

Protest rally against anti-cattle slaughter bill

The Popular Front of India along with various Christian and Muslim organizations took out a protest rally against the anti-cattle slaughter bill in Karnataka.
The state government on March 19 passed the bill, making slaughter of all forms of cattle including buffaloes a punishable crime. The bill also prohibits the sale, use and possession of beef and puts restrictions on the transport of cattle.
However, the bill needs state governor H R Bhardwaj’s signature to become law.
Some Christians have earlier appealed to the governor not to sign the bill.
Raj Shekhar, noted Kannada thinker and author, who also took part in the rally, said the law will not only effect the Muslims and Christians alone, but it will also affect the Hindus as most of them eat meat as their daily food.
He said that the implementation of the bill will not only affect the consumers of the beef but will also have a serious impact on its traders and breeders of cattle.
Niamath Iqbal of Muslim United Front said that the campaigning against the anti-cattle slaughter law is going on since a year and has support of as much as 180 major organizations of the state.
The protesters shouted slogans against the state government and demanded the withdrawal of the bill.

Manipur relieved after blockade lifted

Naga tribal groups have lifted their blockade of Manipur after more than two months bringing relief and hope to the beleaguered northeastern Indian state.
Naga groups, mostly women and students, blocked roads to Manipur from April 11 to protest a government ban on Thuingaleng Muivah, a Naga leader, from entering the village of his birth.
The blockade choked Manipur as prices of essential commodities skyrocketed. People had to pay 100 rupees for 1 kilo rice that sold for 20 kilometers in other states.
The Naga groups relented after the federal government threatened to send troops to clear the blockade.
Their leaders said they are lifting the blockade temporarily to honor requests from the federal leaders. Some top Naga leaders had met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last weekend.
Manipur, a landlocked state, depends on trucks from outside for essentials commodities. The trucks have to pass through Nagaland, its northern neighbor.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mumbai to get its first museum of Christian art in Goregaon

From old wooden statues of Christian saints to delicately-crafted church candle stands preserved down the centuries, a new museum coming up in the city promises to record and recount the history of Christianity in Mumbai.
The Archdiocesan Heritage Committee (AHC), the heritage conservation wing of the Archdiocese of Bombay, has started work on a museum of Christian art on Goregaon’s St Pius seminary grounds, and hopes to launch it by November.
AHC announced its plans for the museum at a seminar on the history of Mumbai’s churches at Bandra's Mount Carmel Church on Sunday.
"We realised that when we would restore heritage church objects and return them to their respective churches, many of them would disappear. The idea of the museum is to salvage those valuable artefacts," said Fr Warner D'Souza, member of AHC, which has been documenting Mumbai's churches since its institution five years ago.
Besides showcasing artefacts, the museum plans to display photographs and documents to help the younger generation learn about the city's Christian history in a more appealing manner.
The Archdiocese has given a grant of Rs 15 lakh for the museum, but D'Souza said that a lot more funds would be required. "This is a museum for the city, and it can succeed only if the city gives back to it."
The museum of Christian art will be Mumbai's second community museum after the Alpaiwala museum of Parsi culture at Hughes Road. It will also be the country's second museum of Christian art — the other one is in Old Goa, said D'Souza.

Church practices need a re-look: Catholic priests

The following article appeared on

Ahmedabad: Pope Benedict XVI begging for forgiveness from God and victims of sexual abuse, is his clearest acknowledgement ever, of the misgivings of Catholic priests that have been spoken about only in hushed tones so far.
DNA caught up with a few prominent Catholics from the city and asked them their take on the issue of child sexual abuse, whether punitive measures are needed against offenders and whether celibacy law of the Catholic Church needs reviewing.
Father Thomas Macwan, the Catholic Bishop of Ahmedabad diocese, feels that Gujarat has hardly been impacted by the scandal. "Things have been very smooth here. No cases of sexual abuse have been detected here, and hence the question of losing faith in the church does not arise," he asserts.
Fr Macwan advocates that a sexual offender be moved to an entirely different, unrelated field, so that his chances of committing the same offence again are minimised.
"For example, someone with accusations of child molestation could be made to work with senior citizens for some time. If made to live and work in a different and conducive environment, with the grace of God, such problems can surely be cured," he says.
Fr Macwan feels mandatory celibacy has little to do with sexual crimes, as the rates are not any different from those in other sections of society. "Celibacy is a very high virtue, essential for someone who wants to work for the betterment of society, as there would be far less personal disturbances," he says.
Father Fernand Durai, principal of the St Xavier's Loyola High School shares Fr Macwan's views on giving a second chance, but not on the issue of celibacy.
"There is nothing wrong in giving an offender a chance to reform himself. But as far as celibacy goes, that needs a revaluation, like everything else. Isee no necessary connection between sexual abstinence and child molestation, but then, nothing can remain constant in society. If the present hour demands a re-look, it should be considered," he remarks.
The Provincial of the Society of Jesus in Gujarat, Father Keith Abranches opines responsible behaviour is the need of the hour for our religious leaders. "We are, after all, looked up to by the masses as their leaders. However, they also need to remember that at the end of the day, a priest is also a human being," he says.
The same is the reason, he adds, why mandatory celibacy might need a second look. "The philosophy was evolved in the 12th century, and we have come a long way. This is not to say that sexual abstinence invariably leads to sexual crimes. But then, sexuality is present in each one of us. Instead of ignoring it, we might as well rethink the concept," he says.
"A crime is, after all, a crime, and even priests should be accountable for their actions. But, criminal action might take him away forever from the service of humanity. Ideally, we should strike a balance so that we punish a wrong-doer and yet not lose the person," he says.

Of blockades and blockheads

The following article was penned by Mr. Allon Lee and appeared on on 15 June, 2010.

Why are supposed human rights activists so quick to attack Israel but never make a squeak against the anti-peace Hamas regime that persecutes women, Christians and homosexuals?Why does the Gaza flotilla bloodshed automatically cancel out the moral and legal imperative of maintaining Israel and Egypt's blockade of the Hamas-ruled Strip? These are the two questions that must be answered by those seeking to rollback the internationally sanctioned blockade of the Gaza Strip of materiel that can be used for military purposes. Fuel, medicines, gas, electricity and food have never stopped flowing into Gaza.There is a reason why the blockade of Gaza exists. Namely, Gaza is under the rule of the extremist Hamas which refuses to accept a peaceful resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza. The response was not a proto-state in the making but rockets and missiles being fired from Gaza onto Israel's southern cities on a daily basis, over 8,000 in all.In July 2007, Hamas violently kicked out from Gaza its secular rival Fatah in an orgy of violence. The result was a literal division in the Palestinian nation. The rejectionist Hamas rule with an iron fist the 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, while 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank remain under the control of the more moderate Fatah which has accepted the two-state formula. And despite the mealy-mouthed statements Fatah officials issue about the injustice of the Gaza blockade, their greatest fear is Israel lifting it and opening the way for Hamas to takeover the West Bank. Noted Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh warned recently whilst visiting Australia, "It is Israel's presence in the West Bank that is keeping Abbas and the PLO in power, and preventing Hamas and Fatah from butchering each other. Two thousand Palestinians died in the power struggle between Fatah and Hamas." But that's an unmentionable truth.The yawning chasm between rhetoric and reality that characterises Hamas apologists reflects the human capacity to hold two contradictory thoughts without being able to acknowledge the inconsistency. In psychology this is called "cognitive dissonance".Take the recent Gaza flotilla incident.There we see a so-called humanitarian and peace-loving aid ship manned by political agitators armed with metal pipes, slingshots, Molotov cocktails, stun grenades, fireworks, pistols and clubs. Bloodshed ensues and yet the "peace-loving" Freedom Flotilla perpetrators responsible for starting the violence are considered the victim. And as Hamas and its religious agenda of hate against secularism, individualism, feminism, Christians, Jews, gays, and even the wrong type of Muslim are swept under the carpet by apologists who call them "freedom fighters" and not "terrorists", sadly outside of Israel scant media coverage was accorded to the Hamas police raid on Palestinian NGOs just a few days after the flotilla tragedy. Another counter-intuitive argument is that the blockade should end because there have been few rockets fired recently from Gaza into Israel. It's the same muddle-headed thinking that says the efforts against Islamist terror should now stop because there have been no major successful terrorist attacks since 9/11. It stopped because of the mammoth effort expended in blood and treasure to reach that strategic objective.Similarly, the rockets have largely stopped because Israel's war on Gaza in January 2009 has effectively deterred Hamas from firing them. Israel's military operation in Lebanon in 2006 had the same effect on Hezbollah terrorism.Brutal? Yes, but not even in the same moral universe as Russia's wars against Chechnya resulting in reported estimates of up to 200,000 civilian deaths. Let's assume that Israel and Egypt lift the blockade, what then? This is important because no critic of the blockade has considered what happens the day after. First, there is no international law that obligates Israel to permit unrestricted entry or exit across its borders. Which leaves the Palestinians transit to and from Gaza via the Mediterranean Sea or by air, and across its shared southern border with Egypt.Egypt's role in the blockade is always an afterthought. No UN resolutions or enquiries stuffed with the good and the great ever demand Egypt tear down the great wall it is building across the 14km stretch of border it shares with Gaza. And if Palestinians manage to illegally cross into Egypt, they need to factor in that Egyptian soldiers have a shoot to kill directive.Besides lifting the blockade, Israel is expected to parlay with Hamas on the basis that peace is made with one's enemies. Once again, the emphasis is placed upon Israel, as though nothing is expected of Hamas, indeed nothing should be demanded from Hamas. Either because it is the "weaker" party or was democratically elected (as though that mandates Israel to negotiate with an outfit calling for its annihilation). How does Israel talk to an opponent funded and armed by Iran and other radical states which repeatedly declares its longterm goal is Israel's destruction?So the critics retort back that there are moderate forces in Hamas. Really, name them. Name one figure who has stood up and said "enough of the blood, enough of the conflict, we must make peace with Israel".Israel would dearly love to end the blockade and see Gaza become a bastion of human rights, liberalism, and a prosperous Palestinian success story. If a wise person can explain how to lift the blockade and prevent terror emanating from Gaza, then speak up now.Sadly, anyone who dares call for peace in Gaza is usually not standing up for very long.To me there is plenty of dissonance but not much evident cognition.

Orissa Christians face ongoing Hindu attacks

Hindu fundamentalists have attacked Christians in two different areas of the Indian state of Orissa over the past week, priests have told
“We cannot even have prayers, gatherings and meals together. The attackers must be taken to task,” Father Alphonse Toppo, vicar general of Sambalpur diocese said.
Bishop Sarat Chandra Nayak of Berhampur also condemned the attacks.
“Terrorizing people is unacceptable. The government must apply stringent measures.”
On June 9, a group of Hindu radicals beat three visiting Christian pastors following a ceremony in Deogarh district.
Biranchi Kispata and his wife, a recently converted tribal Christian couple, had organized the thanksgiving event to celebrate the recovery of their sick child.
But when police arrived on the scene, they detained the pastors. They were released after explaining the purpose of their visit.
The pastors were “not keen to file a report against the attackers,” Lamuel Pattnaik, one of the clergymen, told on June 11.
Biranchi and his wife also said that they would remain Christians and not file a case against the offenders as they have forgiven them.
In a second incident on June 7, Hindu fundamentalists attacked dalit Christian, Bhagat Bivar, who embraced Christianity four years ago, and burned his copies of bible.
Bivar lodged a complaint against five persons and police have arrested four of them

Jesuits slam tribal region dam plans

Tens of thousands of tribals will be forced from their homes if construction on several dam projects in Gujarat proceeds, Jesuit activists warn.
“This is another attempt to push indigenous people to the periphery by grabbing their land and houses to construct big dams,” Jesuit human rights activist Father Cedric Prakash, who directs an NGO in Gujarat’s commercial capital Ahmedabad said.
“More than 30,000 tribals displaced by the Sardar Sarovar dam over the river Narmada in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh are yet to be rehabilitated and construction of new dams would lead to further displacement of tribals,” the priest added.
The government says damming the Ambika, Par and Tapi rivers in Gujarat’s southern region will provide irrigation water to the Saurashtra and Kutch regions.
Meanwhile, drinking water for Mumbai in Maharashtra state can be supplied by building dams over the Damanganga and Pinjal rivers which flow through the two states.
An agreement for the projects was signed by the two governments in May.
The project sites are currently populated by indigenous people with their own language and cultural identity.
Other activists say the projects will not benefit the tribals at all.
“Compensation is unlikely because most of the land is claimed by the state government’s forest department,” said Father Stanny Jebamalai, who heads the Shakti Trust in Songadh in Tapi district.
Jesuit Father Xavier Manjooran accused authorities of trying to take water away from area already in need.
Dangs, a tribal dominated district, already has a water shortage so why build “big dams to take water to other areas?” he asked.
“Small reservoirs and check dams can be constructed without uprooting people to conserve water,” said Father Manjooran, who also provides legal aid to local tribal people.

Naga groups pledge to end their differences

Naga tribal groups in northeastern India have resolved to work together for unity and a negotiated settlement of their problems.
The resolution was formally adopted at a joint meeting of political leaders, women’s and students’ groups, churches, human rights activists and overseas associations on June 9.
The meeting appealed to the various groups to refrain from airing their views through the media, as it can hinder the reconciliation effort. The appeal was made since a series of accusations and counter accusations have appeared in newspapers.
The groups agreed to set up a joint think-tank team to look for ways to solve disputes. They also vowed to encourage people to talk at grass roots level with their neighbors, in the effort to bring peace to their locality.
At the same time, the Indian federal government has re-opened talks with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim, an influential Naga group. “We do not know where the talks are leading, but we want transparency and we want all parties to be involved,” said Reverend V.K. Nuh, a Baptist pastor with the Forum for Naga Reconciliation.
“We support anyone who works for peace and solution. We do not want the violence and problems to prolong,” added Father N. Carolus Koutsu, vicar general of Kohima.

School rejects full blame for student’s suicide

A Protestant school in Kolkata at the center of a storm following the suicide of a student who suffered corporal punishment says it deeply regrets the teenager’s death.
But attempts to hold the school “entirely responsible” for the death were “misplaced,” it said.
“We deeply regret the loss of a young life,” said a June 11 press statement from La Martiniere for Boys, a prestigious school managed by the Church of North India.
Rouvanjit Rawla, an eight grader, committed suicide on Feb. 12, four days after his principal caned him.
Corporal punishment was banned in West Bengal state schools three years ago and the death has sparked demands for action against the school.
A June 9 visit to the school by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, found it was still using corporal punishment.
“The idea has always been to inculcate a sense of values among them,” the school said to justify what it described was a need to correct and help children.
Other students at the school seemed surprised at the controversy.
Twelfth grader, Krishnarup Chakravarty, described the principle as “a disciplinarian who combines strictness with concern.” He has introduced extracurricular activities to nurture student talents, Chakravarty said.
Rawla must have committed a “serious” offence to have warranted such a punishment, said Satanik Pal.
Meanwhile, state Education Minister Partho De said on June 11 that the government will introduce measures ensure schools stick to the ban on corporal punishment.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

In Defense of the Use of Military Imagery in the Church

By: Msgr. Charles Pope
The following article appeard on on June 13, 2010 and is the follow up to the previous post.

Last week in the blog I penned what was intended as a humorous post based on a video which asked: Is the Church a Cruise Ship or a Battleship? The video rather humorously depicts how many people want their parish to be like a cruise ship: comfortable, pleasant, with a popular captain and crew, fundamentally existing to please me and serve my needs. The video, and I as well, tweaked this point of view by going to the other end of the spectrum insofar as ocean-going vessels are concerned and suggested that the image of battleship might be more appropriate. In such a ship, my comfort and good pleasure is less the focus. Mission, noble purpose, being well equipped, and effectively engaging the spiritual battle against the world, the flesh and the devil are more the focus in a battleship image.
Now, as is often the case when any military imagery is used, some of the commenters took offense, or were alarmed at what the use of such imagery might lead to. I want to address some of the concerns in this regard and make something of a defense for the long tradition of military metaphors for the Christian life and by extension the Church.
To begin, lets be clear, the primary Biblical images of the Church are the Bride of Christ and the Body of Christ. Every other image is subordinate to these. But that said the Church can be compared to many things, all of which convey some truth. To say that the Church is like a battleship does not deny the principle images of Body and Bride any more than saying the Church is like a ship, an ark, a family, or a garden, or colony of bees for that matter. All of these images might capture some aspect of the Church worth consideration. A few of the comments from last week suggested that the metaphor of a battleship somehow precluded other images such as Bride and Body. It does not. One metaphor does not preclude another. “King Jesus has a garden full of diverse flowers” and each of them has something to say, something to teach that does not cancel the others.
But the specific concern for some seems to be military images per se. Back in January when I wrote of priests as soldiers and more recently last week, commenters had some of the following concerns:
I find your militaristic and pugilistic imagery not only off-putting, but bordering on un-Christian.
The church should have nothing to do with the military. War and all that comes with it are evil and unnecessary. The church a living body, not a machine like the military would want to treat it. The analogy is insufficient…..
Boats figure frequently in the Gospels in the ministry of Jesus–but none of them are battleships. Jesus rode in the fishing boats….Jesus was also pretty clearly opposed to the occasionally militant ideas of his (often obtuse) disciples…..peoples’ desire to make Jesus or His Church into a militaristic organization are hard pressed to find their justification in anything but the weak human desire to impose violence as a supposed solution to evil…..
Now, to be clear, the use of the image of a battleship is not to make the Church a militaristic organization. She is not, she is the Bride of Christ and also his body. But the Church and the Christian can and do have qualities LIKE a soldier or instrument of Battle. Paul for example refers to the Word of God as a sword and says that the Christian should be equipped like a soldier:
Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all (the) flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph 6:13-17)
Now Paul, while using military images is not calling for violent action. Rather he is saying that, like a soldier equipped for battle, a Christian should realize that he too is in a spiritual battle which requires the weaponry of the truth, righteousness, faith, serenity, confidence of salvation, and the Word of God for his sword.
To me military imagery evokes things like discipline, honor, duty, self-sacrifice, laying down ones life for one’s friends, obedience, authority, chain of command, and the like. Christian tradition is rich with military themes. One of the great hymns for the martyrs is “Deus Tuorum Militum” (Oh God of thy soldiers). The beautiful hymn “For all the saints has this line: “And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long, steals on the ear a distant triumph song, and hearts are brave again and arms are strong! Alleluia.” Another line says “The golden evening brightens in the west, soon, soon to faithful warriors cometh rest….” The Protestant tradition also features songs like “Onward Christian Soldiers” and “I am On the Battlefield for my Lord.” When Pope Benedict visited the White House the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” was sung and that hymn is in almost every Catholic Hymnal. The hymn bespeaks the necessity of engaging the great struggle for justice and freedom and links it to the great battle described in the Book of Revelation between Christ and Satan: He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored; He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword: His truth is marching on….
The Church Militant – Then too, one of the most traditional references in the Church’s lexicon of herself on earth is the “Church Militant.” The Church in heaven is the Church Triumphant. The Church in Purgatory is the Church suffering. But the Church here on earth is the Church Militant. In other words the Church here on earth is engaged in a great battle, still. She battles against error and sin, she shed the light of the truth to a world that prefers the darkness and snatches souls from Satan’s grasp in a great battle. In the Easter Sequence Hymn the battle waged by Christ and continued through his mystical Body is described in this way: Mors et vita duello. Conflixere mirando, dux vitae mortuus, regnat vivus (Death and life have clashed in a wondrous battle, The king of life dies, yet reigns (now) alive). The Church militant continues to experience the unfolding of this great paschal mystery as she, by God’s grace makes daring raids into Satan’s stronghold and leads souls to freedom and victory. Her weapons are the truth of God’s Word, the healing and powerful sacraments and intrepid evangelical souls who witness to the truth and proclaim it to the world. Yes, the Church is surely in a great battle. The Hymn “The Church’s One Foundation” describes this battle as thus:
Mid toil and tribulation, and tumult of her war,she waits the consummation,of peace forevermore;till, with the vision glorious, her longing eyes are blest,and the great church victorious, shall be the church at rest.
Then too is one of the principle prayers of the Church which invokes the great leader of the Host (a word which means “army”) of Angels:
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -by the Divine Power of God -cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.
In all these images and expressions it is clear that they do not mean that the Church should buy jeeps and tanks or any worldly weaponry. But the images of battle are invoked to remind the Christian to have the virtues of the solider and to be aware that a battle is taking place all around us that requires sober vigilance and properly discerned action.
The Church for her part has a a key role in summoning Christians to enter the battle (the conflixere mirando) by defining clearly the crucial battles that much be waged on a multi-front war. As St. Paul warns, If the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? (1 Cor 14:8). He exhorts Timothy to “Fight the Good fight” (1 Tim 6:12). He also distinguishes our warfare in these words:
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete. (1 Cor 10:3-6)
Hence, In defense of military imagery I invoke long Christian Tradition, the witness of Scripture and the fittingness of the imagery to describe the life of the Christian and also the Church. While distinctions are important as have been made above, it remains a true fact that we are in a great battle and as such, a spiritualized understanding of the soldier, weapons and battle are both fitting and essential. As with any imagery, one is free to make use of it as it suits them. There may be some who find such imagery less helpful. But there are many who find it encouraging and truthful. It ought not be excluded as a category, image or metaphor in the Church’s self understanding.
And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him….When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child..from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus(Rev 12, selectae)
Thanks to Cynthia BC for pointing me to this video: Onward, Christian soldiers, Marching as to war, With the cross of Jesus Going on before. Christ, the royal Master, Leads against the Foe; Forward into battle See His banners go! Onward, Christian soldiers, Marching as to war, With the cross of Jesus Going on before!

Is the Church a Cruise Ship or a Battleship?

By: Msgr. Charles Pope
The following article appeared on on June 08, 2010

Some years ago Fr. Patrick Smith, a friend of mine and a priest of this Archdiocese preached a sermon wherein he asked if the Church was a clubhouse or a lighthouse.
Many it would seem want the Church just to be a friendly place where people can gather. Many of these same people get angry when the Church shines the light of truth on something. They declare that the Church should just be open and inviting. They object when She is challenging and points to the demands of the Gospel.
But the Church has to be more than a clubhouse otherwise she is no different than a bowling league or the Moose Lodge. She is most certainly meant to be a lighthouse, warning of danger, giving light to those in darkness but also risking that some who are accustomed to the darkness, will complain of the Light of Christ she reflects.
It was indeed a fine sermon and its message is essential and profound. I was mindful of that sermon when I ran across the video below from which asks if the Church is a Cruise ship or a Battleship.
Many it would seem surely think of the Church more like a cruise ship. One that exists for my pleasure and entertainment. “Peel me a grape!” seems to be the attitude that some bring to Church. The video does a good job listing how people think of the Church as a cruise ship by listing the questions many ask of a luxury cruise liner:
Do I like the music they play in the ballroom?
Do I like the captain and his crew?
Is the service good?
Am I well fed?
Are my needs met promptly?
Is the cruise pleasant?
Am I comfortable?
Will I cruise with them again?
It is a true fact that our parishes ought to work very hard to make sure the faithful are effectively served and helped to find God. Good sermons, excellent and obedient liturgy to include good music, a beautiful Church and dedicated clergy and lay staff. God deserves the very best and so do his people. However it also follows that the world does not exist merely to please me. No parish we attend will ever be exactly the way we want it. No priest preaches perfectly every Sunday. The choir does not always sing my favorites.
Some people stay away from Church and call it boring or say they aren’t being fed. But in the end, it’s not about you! We go to Mass to worship God because God is worthy, because God deserves our praise and because he has commanded us to be there. God has something important to say to us whether we want to hear it or not. He directs us to eat his flesh and drink his blood whether we like it or not. We must eat or we will die. Holy Mass is about God and what he is saying and doing.
The video goes on to suggest a better image for the Church as a Battleship. I was less impressed with the criteria they gave comparing the Church and a battleship and so I have added my some of my own as well:
Is the ship on a clear and noble mission?
Is the ship able to endure storms at sea?
Does the captain submit to a higher authority?
Are the tactics and moves of the enemy well understood by bridge crew?
Does the bridge crew have proper training and experience?
Are the general crew members equipped to succeed?
Is the general crew well trained in the available weaponry?
Does the general crew cooperate with the captain?
Are they taught to be disciplined and vigilant?
Are they rooted in (naval) tradition yet well aware of current circumstances?
Are they at their posts?
Do they take the battle seriously?
Does the ship have adequate first aid and medical help?
Is the crew properly fed?
Some dislike any military imagery in reference to the faith. But pugna spiritalis(spiritual battle) is simply a fact. We are besieged by the world, the flesh, and the devil. We are called to engage the battle and by God’s grace with through to victory. Our weapons are the Word of God, the Teachings of the Church, the Sacraments, and prayer. We cannot win on our own but must work together under the authority of the Church which is herself under God’s care and authority. We are rooted in the wisdom of tradition and guided by the Pope and Bishops to apply that wisdom and our training to these current times. Peter’s Barque has endured many storms, yet has never sunk. She is a sure a steady ship on a clear and noble mission.

Pope Benedict begs forgiveness for priest abuse

In a Friday homily, Pope Benedict begged forgiveness from victims of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests and promised the Church would “do everything possible” to ensure it never happened again.
Benedict made the vow during a homily on Friday in St Peter’s Square, the Vatican, to end the Roman Catholic Church’s “Year of the Priest” celebrations, Al Jazeera reports.
In his homily, Benedict lamented that during what should have been a year of joy for the priesthood the “sins of priests came to light - particularly the abuse of the little ones”.
“We… insistently beg forgiveness from God and from the persons involved, while promising to do everything possible to ensure that such abuse will never occur again,” he said.

Indian church to bring out Indianised form of Bible

An Indianised form of the Bible will show Mother Mary wearing a sari and a ‘bindi’ on her forehead and her husband Joseph in a loincloth and a turban.
The Indian Church will bring out this form of Bible next month.
“This is a Bible made in India, by Indians and for Indians,” said Fr George Chathanattil of the Society of St Paul, which is in charge of publishing the Bible written in English.
The illustrated Bible will also be annotated with the commentary that runs side by side with the original biblical text making references to Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi and quoting from Hindu texts and Rabindranath Tagore.
The commentary repeatedly refers to Hindu concepts to convey biblical teachings.
It contains verses from the Ramayan and the Mahabharat, The Telegraph reported.
“Our attempt is to make people feel at home with the Bible. When one hears one’s own cultural expressions, it is easier for the Indian Christian community to understand the Bible,” Fr George said.
The new Bible will have 27 themed pictures that are quintessentially Indian, such as a family living in a slum in the shadow of a skyscraper, with a portrait of Mother Teresa in the background.
The Society plans to print 50,000 copies to be distributed among all the states.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Help us help them

An article that appeared in The Indian Express on 7th June 2010. By Dominic Emmanuel.

Even as the debate on how exactly to tackle the menace of Maoist/Naxalite violence keeps raging within the government on the one hand, and in the media — which also occasionally allows the voice of the Maoist sympathisers — on the other, more and more innocent lives are being lost. One wonders where the ‘buck’ will finally stop.
Last month when the Congress President Mrs. Sonia Gandhi wrote in Congress mouthpiece Sandesh that “The rise of Naxalism is a reflection of the need for our development initiatives to reach the grassroots, especially in our most backward districts. This is why our government is putting in place more targeted development schemes for our most backward districts”, it seemed clear where the debate would finally rest. No one doubted her intentions.
Unfortunately, two days after her observations, the Maoists struck again, this time a line bus carrying civilians, though several special police officers (SPO) had boarded it too. The bus was blown up in the same area where 75 CRPF personnel had previously lost their lives when their convoy was attacked. The toll this time was 50. Following the dastardly incident, while sympathisers found it difficult to come to the Maoists’ defence, the government still dithered on the exact course of action it should take. This brought a new angle to the debate.
The new debate was not centered only on whether to take the help of army or about air-strikes/support etc, but about a two-pronged approach to the problem. This would include development as a long-term measure and military/police action as a short-term measure to contain violence.
What is, however, missing in the current debate is the role of civil society and NGOs as a third force — going beyond writing articles or shouting their lungs off in television studios to more concrete action at the grassroots.
Social scientist Kancha Ilaiah, decrying the recent Maoist violence, wrote in a newspaper article that “about 50 years ago, the tribals of this region [North East] were as illiterate as those of Dandakaranya. But today Mizoram has 95 per cent literacy (more than Kerala), Manipur has 68.87 per cent, Meghalaya 63.31 per cent and Nagaland 66.11 per cent¿.This educational development has to be seen in the background of the committed activities of missionaries. They averted violent struggles and at the same time, ensured the uplift of tribals. It was a slow but sure process of development and empowerment”.
I know I am treading on hazardous ground and offering dynamite to the right-wing RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal to pounce on me, saying that in the states mentioned above, the majority are now Christians — repeating the same old stereotype, of missionaries being out to ‘convert’ the gullible masses.
Why I still dare write it is because I know as well as they do that their allegations are not at all true. Rather than entering into a debate and reiterating what the missionaries have been saying ad nauseam that the RSS and its front organisations — many of them involved in Kandhamal-type violence — need not worry about the work of Christians as three consecutive censuses in India have clearly registered a slow but sure decline in the Christian community’s numbers here. Nor is there a single case proved so far of any conversion that goes contrary to the provisions of the Constitution.
The work of education begun by Francis Xavier and the Jesuits in the sixteenth century in Goa, and continued later the eighteenth century by William Carey in Bengal, and which goes on to this day, has been all for the development of the subcontinent — and after Independence for the poor and backward classes of India. If there were conversions, as indeed there were, and will continue to be, then it was by those who freely chose to embrace the religion of those who gave them human dignity and made them stand for their own fundamental human rights.
If the RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal and other outfits, instead of being paranoid about the Christians’ work for the poor, would, as Archbishop Vincent M. Concessao of Delhi keeps saying, “please join hands with us to work for the education and development of Dalits and the poor”, they would not only help in eliminating the menace of Maoist violence but they would also come to know the truth about religious conversions.
Thus while the government decides on what action is to be taken, hopefully avoiding bloodshed on both sides, the need of the hour is for all to come together and join hands to free those areas not only of Maoist/Naxal violence but also provide freedom to our tribals from hunger, disease and darkness of ignorance which keeps them under-developed and out of the mainstream. And what should stop us from working together?

The writer is Director of the Delhi Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church

Why Hindu Protest against Mosque at Ground Zero?

An article that appeared on It struck me as a sign of the times.

There has been a lot of discussion over the past few days about Indian American Intellectual Forum lead Hindu participation against the construction of a mega Mosque at Ground Zero. Several patriotic Hindus have made comments about our participation at the protest rally. Several Hindus have praised us. Many phony secular Indians find our participation in the protest rally unpalatable.One patriotic Indian wrote “USA and its Christian organizations always claim that every Christian has the right to build any Church complex in India and to convert any Hindu into Christianity. Then keeping this same logic, any Muslim has the right to build a Mosque at any place in the USA. Why Hindus protesting against this Mosque?Many Americans—whether they are Hindus, Jews, Christians, Buddhists or Sikhs hope and wish for peace, harmony, freedom, and prosperity. I am a peace loving, very optimistic American Hindu. I have seen-wholly unnecessary conflicts, violence and terrorism created by Jihadis in India and around the world. Jihadists who follow the totalitarian, rigid, reductionist, non-compromising Islam want to dominate the world for Allah. I saw evil intentions of Islamists in India and around the world.Members of the Indian American Intellectuals Forum and American Hindus share an eagerness for achieving world peace with compassion, love, and justice. As followers of Hindu Dharma, we have to be active to achieve peace and harmony and co-existence. But conflict created by Jihadis in India and America cannot be ignored. The division of people into separate groups (Muslim and Kafir) is visible in every Islamic counties. Learning to recognize the effects of conflict, violence, and terrorism created by Islam allows us to recognize why they are committing terrorism against infidels.By participating the protest rally against the Mosque at Ground Zero reduced the potential misunderstanding about Islamic atrocities committed against Hindus. The observations Americans make on India-Pakistan relations can be profoundly misleading. A striking example of this was many Americans are not aware that India lost half of its territory to Muslims and Islamists have killed more than 80 million Hindus. A similar kind of faulty assumption is on Kashmir. Americans fail to understand that Muslims in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Kashmir have malicious motives. As participants in the protest rally, we had a chance to talk directly with American Jews and Christians about Islamic slaughter of Hindus for the last hundreds of years.As a result of our interaction, they become deeply passionate in their commitment against Islamic terrorism. They displayed a deep gratitude in our successful efforts to reduce Jihadi terrorism against infidels. They are convinced that it would be a big mistake to try to understand Islam by listening the words of Islamists. Islamists are required to follow Taquiea and say “Islam is a religion of Peace”. We were able to spread the message based on Hindu experience with Muslims that Islam is associated with violence and offers peace in the desert.Few phony Indian secularists say that Christianity-a religion that teaches peace and tolerance would look like Islam. They have cited violence committed by Christians (Coercive Religious Conversion, Holocaust, the use of Atomic Bomb, Crusades etc) to justify Jihadi terrorism and the destruction of the World Trade Center.Irrespective of the past, American constitution guarantees religious freedom, freedom of speech, freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other. The development of a broad variety of rights is a prominent feature of social and political life in America. The establishment of political rights in the U.S constitution allows much opportunity for individual growth and personal freedom. In Islamic countries Hindus, Christians, Jews and all non Muslims face Islamic tyranny. Infidels have no freedom and their life is dangerous when their values contradict Islamic bigotry. Human right is anathema to Islamic nations.Hindus have no country of their own. Even in India Hindus are discriminated. As Hindus, we should not buckle, bend or collapse behind the violent forces of Islam. We have participated the protest rally against the Mosque to let Americans know that the tragedy of India, the world’s largest democracy, not repeat itself in the U.S., the world’s strongest democracy.A Chinese proverb says “It is good to strike the serpent’s head with your enemy’s hands”. Kautilya wrote in his Arthashatra “never tolerate your enemy and disease”. And “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”. Sun Zi, the 6th century Chinese Philosopher in his “The Art of War” wrote “If you know your enemies, and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one. If you do not know your enemies not yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.”In order to survive amidst the evils of this world and to fight evil-we need to cooperate with all affected people. The exposure of Islamic evil and the act of giving evil a name in public forums is half the battle. As good citizens of America, we Hindus should use public forums to identify Islamist’s hidden agendas, explain why Islam is evil and say no to it. It takes courage to say no to the mega Mosque at Ground Zero. We know pseudo secularist Indians and Jihadis will turn their vengeful malice on Hindus who say no to the Mosque at public podium. Albert Einstein once said “The world is a dangerous place not because there are bad people doing evil things, but it because good people who do nothing about it.”We are proud of our participation in the protest rally. It is an attempt to preserve our liberty, so that our children and grand children can practice their Hindu religion. We have participated the protest rally against the Mosque to protect our freedom bequeathed to us.
If not now when?If not us who?

Thousands rally to oppose construction of the mosque near Ground Zero in New York

A Rally to oppose construction of the mosque near Ground Zero was organized by “Stop the Islamization of America ”, an organization headed by Pamela Geller, a dynamic speaker and a well known journalist and Robert Spencer, Director of Jihad Watch and a prominent expert on Islamic Studies, on June 6th.The rally was a big success. In this rally, 3000 to 5000 people representing Jewish, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Ex-Muslims whole-heartedly and enthusiastically participated.Approximately 250 to 300 Hindus and Sikhs from tri-state area led by Narain Kataria, Arish Sahani, President and Vice President, respectively, of Indian American Intellectuals Forum; Satya Dosapati, President, Hindu Human Rights Watch; and Bhupinder Singh Bhurji, Chairman, Namdhari Sikh Foundation of USA, took part in the Rally.Statement issued to national and ethnic media by Narain KatariaFirst of all I would like to tell you that I am the survivor of the Partition of India which took place in 1947 in which more than 10 million Hindus were driven out of Islamic Republic of Pakistan . I have seen with my own eyes, my Hindu and Sikh brothers being murdered by jihadists. I have seen Hindu and Sikh girls being molested and raped by uncouth, crude and brute jihadists. I am the student of History. I have Master’s degree in World History. I have been watching unprecedented brutalities and savageries being perpetrated on Hindus in India , Pakistan and Bangladesh for the last 60 years. I am aware of the massacre of 2.5 million Hindus who were butchered by Pakistani army in Bangladesh in 1971. I have seen the miserable plight of 400,000 Kashmiri Hindus who were harassed and finally chased by jihadists, and are still languishing in refugee camps. I am a Hindu American living in this country for the last 40 years. I consider America as a paradise on earth. America has given all of its citizens individual liberty and freedom of religion. The jihadists have created a fear psychosis all over the world. The rise of radical Islam in this country has created an anxiety and fear in my mind about the safety and security of my children. I have come here to caution my fellow Americans to benefit from my personal experience and oppose the barbarian and totalitarian ideology extolling the virtue of violence, intolerance and hatred.We oppose construction of the mosque near Ground Zero because we feel that it is a very sensitive issue. It is an offensive and reprehensible act. It is an insult and humiliation to the families of more than 3000 victims of 9/11 - fire fighters and security personnel who lost their lives.We oppose the mosque because the terrorists who killed 3000 Americans were trained in mosques from their childhood.Moreover there is some sort of relationship between a mosque and terrorism. Madraasas (Islamic religious schools) are conducted by Imams. After rigorous training in madraasas, Taliban (students) becomes jihadists. After some time these jihadists become full-fledged terrorists. For example, in Pakistan there are 20,000 madrasas. These 20,000 madrasaas produce half a million Taliban every year. Out of these half a million Taliban, 10,000 become dangerous jihadists. These jihadists go all over the world and unleash the reign of terror and slaughter innocent people in the name of Allah.The terrorists who killed innocent people in New York on 9/11, in Mumbai , Madrid , Bali, Beslan, London , Delhi , Nigeria and Cairo were connected with one or the other mosque.In addition to that 75% of these madraasas are controlled by Wahabi sect of Islam who preach extreme form of Islam. Since 9/11/2001, the followers of the so called “religion of peace” have carried out 15101 deadly terrorist attacks and killed more than 75,000 people. ( )Imam Abdul Rauf, the chief o Cordoba Initiative building the mosque, wants to impose Sharia law in USA . Sharia is antithesis of democracy. Sharia Law denies equal rights to women. It wants women to put on burqa from tip to toe. It does not allow women to drive. Under Sharia law, in Pakistan ’s north western region, Talibans burnt all the music video stores and schools for women. Under Sharia law, if anyone is found guilty, his limbs are chopped off. Sharia Law is completely derogatory in nature and incompatible with our Constitution.Imam Abdul Rauf does not believe that World Trade Center was destroyed by Muslims. Instead of blaming his co-religionists, Imam Abdul Rauf finds fault with America ’s foreign policy. Imam Abdul Rauf is the head of Cordoba Initiative. Cordoba is a city in Spain where Islamists had established Caliphate to rule over Western Europe which lasted until 1236. It was the period of suffocation and enslavement for Christians and Jewish people. During that period, thousands of churches were vandalized and destroyed and untold brutalities and savageries were heaped on Christians and Jewish people. Cordoba is the symbol of Islamic victory and supremacy of Islam over Europe . Muslims feel proud when they talk about Cordoba and the dishonor and degradation of non-Muslims. It is the symbol of Islamic domination over Europe and subjugation of non-Muslims. Imam Rauf wants to establish Islamic ascendancy and authority over America .Turkey is considered to be a moderate Islamic nation. But last month, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said: “the mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers”.The other day one Imam Abdullah Faarooq exhorted Muslims to grab gun, grab sword and do you job. Abdul Rauf is a devout Muslim. He is an expert on Islam. He is a shrewd person. He must be fully familiar with the law of Al Taquia which enjoins on Muslims to lie, cheat, use stratagem and sophistry to promote the cause of Islam. We are not sure whether he is playing law of Al Taquia with na├»ve and gullible infidel Americans or not.All the above factors have created a concern, suspicion and distrust in New Yorkers about the hidden intent behind the construction of the mosque; and hence the opposition.

Hindu radical charged with rape of Orissa nun

Orissa police last night arrested a key Hindu radical wanted for the rape of a Catholic nun.
Pandit Bishimajhi appeared before court in Balliguda, Kandhamal, where the nun was raped during the 2008 anti-Christian violence. He faces at least 15 criminal charges.
Church people allege that Bishimajhi led several mob attacks during the violence. One of his mobs stripped and paraded Sister Meena and Father Thomas Chellan, director of a pastoral center in the district.
Bishimajhi is accused of plotting to murder them both after raping Sister Meena. He is also charged with burning down Jan Vikas, an archdiocesan social service center.
Bishimajhi, secretary of a local unit of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party, was arrested in Kudutulli, a nearby village where he was hiding.
Manasa Ranjan Singh, a lawyer following Sister Meena’s case, says the arrest would have “definite impact” on the case and boost the morale of other victims seeking justice.
“He was arrested after two years despite having high-level political connections. He cannot escape now,” said Singh.
Father Dibya Parichha, the archdiocese’s spokesperson on the riot cases, added that the arrest would help bring peace and reconciliation. “He was a terror in the area,” he added.

Bishops ask ministers not to create divide

Kerala’s Catholic bishops have thrown the ball back into the politicians’ court, urging leaders to say nothing that could disturb communal harmony in the southern Indian state.
“Some statements from political leaders can shatter the harmony that prevails here,” Bishop Joshua Mar Ignathios, president of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council, said at the end of a three-day meeting on July 10.
The state’s Marxist chief minister said on June 3 that Christian and Muslim religious leaders may be inciting sectarianism among their people.
Religious minority groups in Kerala have always respected Hindus, the largest community in the state, the Church official said. “But some statements from political leaders are trying to open up a communal divide. It’s most unfortunate,” the Syro-Malankara prelate said.
Allegations that Catholic bishops had mediated to merge two factions of a Christian-dominated political party were baseless, he said.
However, the bishops continue to attract criticism. Thomas Isaac, the state’s finance minister, said his party believes that some Church leaders are trying to promote Christian communalism in the state.
The Kerala Catholic Bishop’s Council comprises bishops from the Latin, Syro- Malabar and Syro-Malankara ritual Churches that make up the Catholic Church in India. A total of 34 attended the Kochi gathering.

Crime rate in Orissa soars to India’s highest

Orissa has the highest crime rate in India because of the exploitation of tribal and dalit people there, say Church people in the eastern Indian state.
Traders and various industrial firms have encroached upon areas dominated by dalit and tribal groups, said Father Nicholas Barwa, a tribal activist.
“They have a hidden agenda to plunder the resources and do not hesitate to suppress anyone who stands in their way,” the Divine Word priest told
“Whenever these communities unite against their exploitation, they are violently subjugated as happened in Kandhamal district,” said Bishop Sarat Chandra Nayak of Berhampur, a tribal-dominated diocese in Orissa.
Crimes against dalit and tribal people would increase unless the government reins in “exploitative” upper caste people, he said.
The National Crime Records Bureau reported in early June that crimes have shot up especially in districts dominated by tribal and low-caste people. Orissa now has the highest crime rate in India, the New Delhi-based federal body said.
Some federal leaders have also criticized the Orissa government for not fighting crimes against the poor.
The Orissa government is not serious about checking “growing atrocities” against low caste people, Buta Singh, who heads the federal commission that serves dalit interests, said on June 3.
Last October, the commission accused the Orissa police of helping the perpetrators of crimes against dalit people.
In May, federal Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Mukul Wasnik expressed shock over the lack of conviction in nearly 90 percent of crimes against dalit and tribal communities in Orissa.
The national conviction rate for such crimes is 42 percent whereas it is only 11.4 percent in Orissa.
Dalit and tribal groups form nearly 40 percent of Orissa’s 36.8 million strong population.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Communal incident raises concerns among Orissa Christians

A young man, who along with his family embraced Christianity four years back, was allegedly attacked by Hindu fundamentalists in Nuapada district of Orissa.
Even as Kandhamal is slowly turning to normalcy, this incident has raised concerns among the Christian community, Global Council of Indian Christians reported June 10.
According to the report, on June 8, a group of six Hindu fundamentalists attacked Bhakta Bivar. Five of the attackers have been identified.
The fundamentalists forcibly entered Bivar’s house when he was alone and ransacked it. They also assaulted him.
The men while attacking Bivar shouted why he and his family believe in Christianity and why they had gone to attend a prayer service at Raj Khariar conducted by their pastor Mishra Behera of Believers Church India.
They forcibly took away four bibles from the house and dragged Bivar through the village road.
They took him to a temple and asked him to deny Christ and bow before the Hindu idol. They then burned the bibles.
The family has taken shelter in their pastor’s house at Raj Khariar.
This incident has sent shockwaves within the Christian community in the state which is coming to terms after the Kandhamal carnage, the GCIC report said.
Meanwhile, members of a Hindu radical group Sri Rame Sene attacked a pastor Vasanthe Kathedar (30) at his church members’ house in Alledakere in Karnataka.
Kathedar was later detained for creating communal disharmony and disrupting peace.

Displaced Mao Naga start heading home

Naga tribal people have begun returning home, a month after violence forced them to flee their homes in several villages in Manipur state.
Conditions in their villages had improved, Lokho Ashuli, an elderly member of the Mao, one of 30 Naga sub-tribes, told
Hundreds, mostly women and children, fled after two boys were killed and 82 people wounded by police in Mao Gate, a village in the Senapati district of Manipur bordering Nagaland state on May 6.
Police opened fire after failing to break up Naga protesters.
The protest was against the Manipur government’s decision not to allow a Naga leader to visit his ancestral village.
Though Naga people have a separate state, Nagaland, many tribes are spread across other states in northeastern India, including Manipur.
Manipur opposes a leading Naga group’s demand for Naga-dominated districts in Manipur to be ceded to Nagaland.
After the violence Mao Naga people fled to Nagaland and stayed in schools and churches.
Some later moved to Kisama, a Naga heritage village near Kohima, Nagaland’s capital.
Now that federal forces have replaced the Manipur police in their villages, “We can now return home in peace.” Ashuli said.
Christian and civil groups looked after us during “our time of distress,” he added.
Baptist pastor Reverend Zelhou Keyho, who teaches at a local theology seminary, warned the returning people, most of them Christians, not to lose faith in God even in times of unrest.
Naga people have faced hard times for decades, but have kept their fortitude and faith in God intact, he reminded them. “God has not done with the Nagas yet,” he added.
Prayers have united the Naga people, said Sister Katini Lahona, a Mao tribal who helped many of the displaced.

Church leaders rail at Bhopal committee ‘eye wash’

New government committees to address the fallout from the Bhopal disaster have been dismissed as “eye wash” by local Church leaders.
“This is a mere political gimmick, applying balm to the wounds of the victims rather than treating the disease,” said Father Anand Muttungal, spokesperson for the Catholic church in Madhya Pradesh.
The federal government announced on June 9 that a new ministerial group, headed by Home Minister P Chidambaram, will examine the relief and rehabilitation measures for those affected by the world’s worst industrial disaster.
At state level, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan announced a new five-member legal committee to study ways to take the case to a higher court.
These moves come in response to widespread condemnation of the lenient sentences that were handed to the eight men found guilty. Each was given two years imprisonment and fined 100,000 rupees (US$2,200).
Father Muttungal said the Church wants both the state and federal governments to address the real problems and provide victims with treatment, compensation and the infrastructure for a decent living. Governments have been shirking their responsibilities ever since the tragedy stuck in 1984, he says.
However, Carmelite Father Denny George, a High Court lawyer, pointed out that “legally, there is very little the governments can do in this case.” He added that the accused can only be tried according to the laws that existed when the incident took place.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

British prison inmates turn to Islam to enjoy perks

UK prison inmates are increasingly embracing Islam to entitle themselves to the protection of the fearsome Muslim gangs, apart from availing other benefits available only to Muslim prisoners as per prison regulations. The new breed of converts have been dubbed "convenience Muslims" since they enjoy exemption from work and education while attending "Friday prayers", and relish halal meat, which is provided only to Muslims. The number of Muslim prisoners has risen dramatically since the mid-1990s — from 2,513 in 1994, or 5% of the population, to 9,795 in 2008, or 11 per cent. Staff at top-security prisons and youth jails have raised concerns about the intimidation of non-Muslims and possible forced conversions. Notwithstanding the "perks" enjoyed by Muslim prisoners, it has been revealed in a report that Muslim prisoners tended to report more negatively on their prison experience and were also more likely to fear for their own safety or complain of problems in their relations with staff. In high-security prisons, three-quarters of Muslims said they felt unsafe.

Authorities raze city’s only Catholic church

The only Catholic church in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, was destroyed overnight Monday and the priest and lay leader detained by police.
The demolition is believed to have been carried out pursuant to a court order.
Parishioners today set up camp near the ruins to try to prevent any new construction on the site.
They had arrived for morning Mass on June 8 to a pile of rubble littered with pieces of the altar and five-meter cross in a pile of rubble.
Church sources told that about 100 people arrived around midnight on June 7 to demolish the Dongsheng Church belonging to the open Catholic community.
Local pastor Father Gao En and lay leader Yang Yizhi were woken by the noise and tried to stop the destruction but were taken away in handcuffs.
They were returned to the parish after being detained for more than 20 hours at the police station, Church sources later told
The sources said the church had previously received a demolition notice. One or two police cars were still stationed near the site today, the sources said.
Newly ordained Hohhot Bishop Paul Meng Qinglu sent two priests to Ordos to investigate the incident. They are negotiating with local officials for compensation, the sources said.
The 150-square-meter church, which served a community of about 1,000 Catholics, was legally registered in May 2009. However, the local government recently demanded the demolition of the church to make way for a new road.
Church leaders had talked with the government several times without success, sources said.
“How could the government demolish the church secretly in the middle of the night and cause the ‘disappearance’ of our Church leaders while talking about social harmony?” one source asked.

Protestant churches come up with anti-abortion campaign

The protestant churches of England have come up with an anti-abortion poster campaign showing ‘baby Jesus in the Virgin Mary’s womb’.
The campaign displays a scan of baby Jesus in the womb with a halo over the baby’s head.
The posters will feature on billboards over Chistmas, saying “He’s on his way. Christmas starts with Christ”.
The poster has been created by advertising executives from the Church of England, Methodist, United Reformed and Baptist Churches and the baby in the adverts is a composite made up of many baby scans.
The posters will appear only close to Christmas, but will be available for purchase online, news agency IANS reported.
Francis Goodwin, a founder member of, said “Our poster reflects this new way of announcing the news of a new arrival and places the birth of Christ in an ultra-contemporary context. It offers a fresh perspective on the birth of Christ - creating anticipation and alluding to both His humanity and divinity”.
The ChurchAds.Net, previously known as the Churches Advertising Network (CAN), is behind the campaign. It is an ecumenical network operating with a council of reference which includes two bishops and leaders from across the church denominations. The Roman Catholic Church is not part of this body.
The anti-abortion poster comes just a month after Marie Stopes International, a charity that carries out about 65,000 terminations a year at its British clinics, launched a controversial advertisement offering abortion services.
The number of abortions in Britain has risen steadily since the Abortion Act in 1967 to 195,296 officially recorded abortions in 2008. Currently, it is estimated that about one in three women will have an abortion.

ILO sets standards for domestic workers’ rights

The International Labour Conference of the ILO has overridden opposition from Bangladesh, India, Arab countries and employers to adopt a convention on the rights of domestic workers around the world.
Opponents to the measure tried to have the document limited to a non-binding “recommendation.”
Unexpected support for the convention came from China, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
“This is a major victory,” said Sister Jeanne Devos from India’s National Domestic Workers Movement (NDWM), which has more than 3.5 million members.
The decision showed that the international community has recognized domestic workers as people with rights comparable to other workers, she said.
The official opposition to a convention showed the scale of problems facing workers and their advocates, she said.
The new convention was passed at the ILO’s June 2-18 meeting in Geneva, attended by more than 2,500 delegates from member countries, trade unions and employer’s confederations.
It provides for freedom of association, fair terms of employment and decent working and living conditions, easy access to dispute settlement procedures, regulation of employment agencies and protection of migrant domestic workers.
The agenda also included the adoption of two recommendations - one on decent work for domestic workers and the other on HIV/AIDS and the world of work.
The conference’s decision “is only the beginning of hard bargaining for the inclusion of substantive provisions to protect the rights of domestic workers,” said Halimah Yacob, deputy secretary-general of Singapore’s National Trades Union Congress.
She praised the defeat of the resolution for a recommendation.