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ISHVANI KENDRA
Institute of Missiology and Communications
Pune – India

December 2004

I. REPORT AND DOCUMENTATION

America: Protestants Decline in US

The Protestant majority in America is fading fast, according to a recent survey. The university of Chicago has published a study showing that the percentage of Protestants in America has dwindled to 52 percent since 1993, a sharp decline from the 1993 figure of 63 percent. Nearly 14 percent of Americans have “no religion”. The percentage of Catholics, however, remains consistent, at around 25 percent of the population. (The Catholic Herald)

Bangkok: Corrupted Churches Need Revitalizing, Hong Kong Meeting Told

The general secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia, Dr. Ahn Jae Woong, has stressed the need for “revitalizing” Asian spirituality at a time when, he says, traditional cultures are on the verge of extinction due to Western influences. Many churches in Asia has lost their missionary vocation and become corrupted, he told a meeting in Hong Kong of representatives of the Asian church grouping’s partner agencies, a statement released by the church grouping reported on 15 November. “They eventually are more concerned about managing, or rather mismanaging, their infrastructure and assets“, Ahn told the 8-9 November meeting. The Hong Kong meeting was organized to share the programmes and concerns of the Christian Conference of Asia with partner agencies. (ENI)

Brazil: A study released by the government’s education ministry found that less than five percent of fourth-graders could read properly, and less than seven percent were on their grade level in math. With little funding for public education and the system in crisis, some communities are resorting to private organizations to partner with schools and pay for programs and extracurricular activities. One organization works in eight of one Rio de Janeiro slum’s 16 schools where it teaches dance, music, photography and black culture. Foreign foundations and some of Brazil’s biggest corporations fund the programs. Proponents say that without this cooperation, these children would have no access to books, playgrounds or educational toys.

China: Despite government restrictions on religion, the numbers of those who practice religion in the country are rising. Among China’s one billion people are 100 million Buddhists, 20 million Muslims and more than 10 million Christians. And restrictions are loosening. “Not long ago, when party leaders used to open meetings about religion, they would begin with slogans about religion being the opium of the masses, but they don’t say that anymore,” a Muslim elder told the New York Times. “The trends of the times show that religion cannot be suppressed by power any longer.”

Hong Kong: Leaders of Six Religions Exchange Views on Spiritual Role of Religion

At their annual forum, leaders of the six main religions in Hong Kong shared views on the role of their religions in promoting spiritual well-being in modern society. The Colloquium of Six Religious Leaders in Hong Kong held its 26th Religious Beliefs Exchange Forum on Nov. 27 at St. Jude's Catholic Church. The theme was "Religious Cultivation in the New Era." Participants represented the local Buddhist, Catholic, Confucian, Muslim, Protestant and Taoist communities. Father Edward Chau King-fun, chairperson of the Catholic Diocesan Commission for Interreligious Dialogue, is the Catholic representative on the colloquium's Joint Secretariat and moderated the discussion at St. Jude's. In his introductory remarks, he explained that the theme was chosen because financial gain is currently the priority in Hong Kong society and people tend to be "practical" while neglecting spiritual matters. The six representatives then shared how the essential teachings of their respective religions are relevant for society today. (UCAN)

India: Cardinal Toppo Says Non-European Pope 'Not Impossible'

An Asian pope cannot be ruled out, Cardinal Telesphore Placidus Toppo of Ranchi said in Kolkata on Nov. 17. The first tribal in Asia to be included in the College of Cardinals, which elects the pope, said, The way things are moving, the Church has reached a stage where it may not be impossible to have a non-European or even an Asian pope. Cardinal Toppo, however, declined to comment specifically on the prospect of an Asian succeeding Pope John Paul II as head of the Roman Catholic Church. Over the past few centuries, popes have been Europeans, more specifically Italians, with bishops of Milan, Naples and Genoa among the favorites. A deviation was made 26 years ago with the election of Bishop Karol Wojtyla of Krakow, Poland, better known as Pope John Paul II.

India: Priest Helps Prevent Sectarian Flare-up After Church Attack

Timely intervention by a parish priest prevented an attack on a Catholic Church in southern India from igniting sectarian violence. On Dec. 3 the front door of St. Francis Assisi Church in Mathal was set on fire, and a bomb was discovered inside the church. Kottar diocese covers the village in Kanniyakumari district, at India's southern tip, 2,720 kilometers south of New Delhi. The parish priest said news of the attack incited Catholics to gather and consider a counterattack. He said that when he "realized the situation might get out of hand," he invited representatives of all Muslim organizations -- including the group to which the suspects allegedly belonged -- to discuss the matter with some Catholics in the parish house. After hours of discussion, Muslim organizations expressed their condemnation of the attack on the church in a "joint statement," the priest said. (UCAN)

India (Jagdalpur): Dharma Deepti University

Dharma Deepti University is proposed to be the first Catholic University in India. A combined meeting of the Board of Directors of Christian Education Foundation of India, some of the C.M.I. Provincials and the Fathers of Nirmal Province, Jagdalpur, chalked out the future plan of the Dharma Deepti University. There was a constructive discussion on the University project. The amendment to the Act of the Government on private universities makes it compulsory that the Vice-Chancellor, Registrar and Chief Finance Officer should be residents in the main campus of the University. The meeting could identify some important functionaries of the University and the Company. The project is proceeding well.

India: Bishops’ Conference Submits Fourteen Names for Canonization

Out of the 14 names submitted by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) to the Vatican for canonization, ten persons are from the State of Kerala in Southern India, and among them three have been already declared Blessed. The nominee from West Bengal is Mother Teresa, who was beatified October 19, 2003. Two others from Goa and one from Karnataka are among the 14 holy persons recommended by the CBCI for canonization from India. (SAR News)

Lusaka: New York Pastor Sparks Zambia Uproar with HIV/AIDS Link to Sin

New York pastor Carter Conlon of the Times Square Church caused consternation among Zambian church leaders when he decided that to a large extent, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which has badly hit the southern African country, had been a question of sin. Colon was in Zambia with a 250-member delegation from the charismatic church of New York, in late October, for a three-day evangelistic tour, in Lusaka. On arrival he addressed journalists at the capital’s international airport, saying: “The HIV/AIDS is to a large extent, a question of sin because when people run away from the government of God, the result was often fornication and sin.” Bible Gospel Church in Africa Bishop Peter Ndhlovu charged that Conlon’s assertions fueled stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS. “It is wrong for a man of God to make people believe that the disease is only transmitted through sexual intercourse,” he said. “I wonder how organizations championing the fight against the HIV/AIDS could achieve their objectives with such messages,” Ndhlovu noted. “I am not happy with the blanket statement made by Rev. Conlon linking HIV/AIDS to sin.” (ENI)

New York: ‘Church is in Dire Need of Renewal / Says Cardinal Dulles

Cardinal Avery Dulles said in a lecture November 10 that Catholics are entering the 2004-05 Year of the Eucharist with an awareness “the Church is in dire need of renewal.” Although “holy in her head and in her apostolic heritage”, the church remains “sinful in her members and in constant need of being purified,” he said. The cardinal said many Catholics are ignorant of church teachings, and a few even reject the teachings. “Some of the clergy are not exempt from grave and scandalous sins, as we have learned all too well in these recent years,” he said. As a resource for renewal, he called for an emphasis on the Eucharist, and seeing in it the same marks used by the creed in describing the church as one, holy catholic and apostolic. (CNS)

Pakistan: Archbishop of Lahore Speaks Up for Women's Rights

Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Pakistan, in an open letter, has appealed to President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shuakat Aziz to make 2005 the year of change in which anti-women and anti-minority legislation is repealed. The letter called special attention to so-called honor killings of women accused of adultery, still in force in Pakistani legislation. The archbishop lamented that Parliament did not take into account recommendations made by civil and religious entities in regard to the situation of women, who have in general called for a change in the law. The law reduces women to objects and does not persecute those who are guilty of violence against women in domestic and social life, he said. Moreover, the law has produced difficulties for religious minorities, he added. Pakistan is 97 percent Muslim. (ZENIT)

Taiwan: Catholic, Buddhist Religions Support Each Other, Says Top Monk KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan (UCAN) -- A prominent Buddhist leader in Taiwan spoke of close relations between Buddhism and Catholicism on the island when he welcomed the top Vatican official for evangelization to his temple. Buddhist Venerable Master Hsing Yun welcomed Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe to Fo Guang Shan (Buddha's light mountain) on Dec. 5, saying the Catholic Church and Buddhism have "mutually supported each other."Cardinal Paul Shan Kuo-hsi of Kaohsiung served as interpreter. More than 1,000 Buddhist monks, nuns and followers clapped hands to welcome the Catholic visitors, who walked up the hill to reach the temple. The Cardinal Sepe, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, expressed appreciation for Master Hsing Yun's concern for people of different religions and his efforts to build interreligious harmony. The cardinal said the Buddhist leader has had a positive influence in many places outside Taiwan. According to the Vatican official, Catholicism and Buddhism have many similarities and work to uphold the values of world peace and social justice. (UCAN)

Texas (Fort Worth): Mother of Seven Now a Nun who Lives, Ministeres in Mexico Prison

It’s easy to understand how Sister Antonia Brenner could adapt so effortlessly to the noise, chaos and fighting she encounters daily inside the walls of La Mesa Penitentiary in Tijuana, Mexico. The 77 year-old nun and prison minister is the mother of seven children. Nurturing young souls to adulthood “Prepared me for anything,” said the petite, spunky woman who is an example of a growing number of late vocations in the Church. A few years ago, Sister Antonia founded the Servants of the 11th Hour – an order of “second career” nuns. The former Beverly Hills, Calif., resident took vows as a missionary sister at age 50, after a divorce ended a long marriage and her children were grown. For the past 27 years, she has lived among the more than 2,500 male and female inmates incarcerated at La Mesa Penitentiary. (CNS)

Thailand: Church Message Urges Dioceses to Care for AIDS Patients

In a message for World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, Bishop George Yod Phimphisan of Udon Thani, president of the Catholic Commission for Health Pastoral Care asked every diocese in the country to provide medical care and to encourage people who are affected with HIV/AIDS, especially women and girls. The pastoral message also expresses support for people with HIV/AIDS. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has dedicated this year to "Women, girls and HIV/AIDS", because of their susceptibility to HIV infection. Around half of all people living with HIV in the world are female, and studies show they can be 2.5 times more likely to be HIV-infected than men. This year’s campaign will explore how gender inequality fuels the AIDS epidemic, and seeks to accelerate the global response to HIV/AIDS by encouraging people to address female vulnerability to HIV.

Vatican City: Christian Denominations Set to Build Churches in Qatar

Five Christian communities in Qatar were set to lay the cornerstones of their new churches October 7, providing the physical foundation of the first Christian churches in the Persian Gulf country since the seventh century. Vatican Radio reported October 4 that the new churches include the Catholic parish of Our Lady of the Rosary; the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is October 7. The Catholic, Orthodox, Coptic, Anglican and Protestant churches will be built on the outskirts of Doha, the capital, on adjacent pieces of property donated by the government. (CNS)

Vietnam: Young Catholics Urged to Bring Jesus' Fire of Love into Daily Life

Daily acts of compassion and sacrifice will make the fire of love Jesus brought into the world blaze brightly, Church leaders advised southern Vietnamese youth at an annual gathering. "Be brave to realize Jesus' wish to make the fire of love burst into flame," Cardinal Jean Baptiste Pham Minh Man of Ho Chi Minh City exhorted about 7,000 youths at the Nov. 27 gathering for young Catholics. The archdiocesan youth ministry, which organizes the annual event, encourages them to bring along friends who are not Catholic. Cardinal Man emphasized that the fire Jesus brought into the world was a flame not of war, violence, hatred and terrorism, but of love. He told the youth that their ancestors' response to the preaching of the first Catholic missioners in Vietnam, who arrived 470 years ago, kindled the flame and made Catholicism known among others as the "religion of love." (UCAN)

II. BIBLES

The United Bible Societies figures reveal that 25 percent fewer Bibles were distributed in 2003 than in 2002. Some 432 million Bibles, New Testaments, Scripture portions and selections were distributed in 2003. That figure was 578 million the previous year. Bright spots: the Amity press in Nanjing printed 2.8 million Bibles for China, Laos and Vietnam, about a million more than in 2002, and Scripture distribution also rose in Nigeria with 830,000 Bibles and 44,000 New Testaments.

III. BOOKS

Wells, Harold, The Christic Center: Life-Giving and Liberating, New York: Orbis Books, Maryknoll, 2004.

This volume sustains the Christological

Phan, Peter C., Being Religious Interreligiously: Asian Perspectives on Interfaith Dialogue, New York: Orbis Books, Maryknoll, 2004.

This volumes offers a rich reflections on issues facing Catholics and more specially Asian Christians in the postmodern era. The author shows both the necessity and the opportunity of being Christian interreligiously. “To be religious is to be interreligious” is a common saying in Asia, a reader finds that base as well as the rich foundations to be faithful to Christ at the same time he is provoked by many questions that surrounds him now.

Sequeira, John Francis, ed., Combating Terrorism: A Holistic Approach, Mysore: Dhyanavana Publications, 2004.

This book presents a collection of papers presented as part of a seminar by the same name. A variety of religious outlooks as professional stand points from social, economic, political and ethical perspectives are included. Education and reeducation is the greatest hope for remedying and combating the advances and assaults of terrorism.

IV. USEFUL WEBSITES

Christian Periodicals

ISHVANI KENDRA
P.B. 3003, Pune – 411014 – INDIA
Ph : (0091) - 020 – 27033820; 27033507

E-mail: ishvani@dataone.in
Website:
www.ishvanikendra.org

Please forward this Mission Scan to any of your friends and acquaintances.
Lazar Thanuzraj Stanislaus, SVD (Director)