Institute of Missiology and Communications
Pune – India

January 2005


Tsunami, Japanese word, means harbour wave. The fault line was located in the west coast of northern Sumatra in Indonesia, where the two tectonic plates, the Australian and the Eurasian plates meet. A violent rupture on the sea floor along a 1000 Km fault line triggered a quake of magnitude 8.9. This resulted in the ocean bed rising more than 10 meters and displacing hundreds of cubic kilometers of the overlaying water, generating a massive tsunami – traveling at speeds of up to 700 km/hr. It fanned across the Indian Ocean striking coastlines with walls of water as high as 10 m. (The Week)

Asia : UN - Tsunami toll could rise to 200,000

The death toll from the tsunamis in the Indian Ocean could rise to 200,000 from the current figure of about 150,000, a United Nations (UN) official coordinating humanitarian relief has said. While the relief effort continued to make "great strides," Kevin Kennedy, director of the Coordination and Response Division of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, acknowledged it had not yet met the urgent needs of many victims. The death toll from the disaster has already surpassed 152,000 and eventually could go as high as 200,000, "but this will be seen in the coming days," he said. He made the forecast while outlining new UN measures in its global tsunami relief campaign to guard against improprieties like those alleged in the oil-for-food program for Iraq. Among the measures are a way to let the public to track every aid dollar via a website and the drafting of new rules to protect UN staff whistleblowers. Some $US4 billion has been pledged to date for tsunami aid by governments, international agencies and private relief groups.

At least 152,221 people have been reported dead around southern Asia and as far away as Somalia on Africa's eastern coast from an earthquake and massive tsunami that smashed coastlines on Dec. 26. Death tolls by country: Indonesia 105,522; Sri Lanka 30,721; India 10,136; Thailand 5,291; Somalia 298; Myanmar 90; Maldives 82; Malaysia 68; Tanzania 10; Bangladesh 2; Kenya 1. (AsiaNews - 11 Jan.)

ASIA - Church Continues Tsunami Relief, Rehabilitation Efforts Amid Challenges

As the Church gears up and fine tunes its relief and rehabilitation activities in tsunami-hit areas, it is encountering challenges ranging from government bureaucracy. Caritas Asia has received pledges of more than US$30 million for relief work and is continuing to raise funds. According to Father Yvon Ambroise, its executive director, the U.S. bishops' social and development agency has pledged US$25 million, and Caritas Internationalis has pledged nearly US$7 million from other Caritas partners in Europe and elsewhere. Father Ambroise told UCA News on Jan. 3 in Bangkok his office is helping local Churches in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand raise funds so they can fashion their own appropriate local responses.

In Indonesia, the Bishops' Conference of Indonesia (KWI, Indonesian acronym), in an email letter sent to all dioceses on Dec. 29, called on Catholics to aid fellow suffering Indonesians. The bishops acknowledged the grief they say now binds all Indonesians, but also asked Catholics to go beyond such feelings and offer assistance to those in need now -- not later, when the disaster no longer makes headlines. The bishops also recommended a special effort to collect funds, especially to aid people handicapped for life by the disaster. Father Sefanus Roy Djakarya, Jakarta archdiocesan treasurer, told UCA News on Jan. 3 all 53 parishes were asked to send second collections from Jan. 8-9 Masses to the archdiocese's Commission for Socio-Economic Development. In Atambua diocese, eastern Indonesia, Divine Word Bishop Anton Pain Ratu kicked off fund-raising efforts by donating the 5 million rupiah (about US$540) set aside for his birthday celebration.

In India, the Church is fine tuning its relief and rehabilitation efforts in response to ground realities. Priests and nuns have overnight become cooks, clerks, accountants and crowd managers. In the process, they have learned they first must earn the trust of the suffering people, especially in non-Christian areas. At a meeting held on Jan. 2 with Church relief teams in Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu state, Chandrakantha Kariah, the state's special commissioner for tsunami relief, advised Church teams to win people's confidence before setting up operations. Kariah commended the Church's "enthusiasm and efficiency," but she also cautioned about a possible anti-Christian backlash if they fail to win the support of the people. Masses have resumed at the Basilica of Our Lady of Health in Vailankanni, India's most popular Marian shrine, in whose vicinity more than 1,000 people were killed by the tsunami.

In Sri Lanka, the Church is trying to better organize its relief and rehabilitation efforts. Archbishop Oswald Gomis of Colombo set up a central fund for relief work and insists that no other individual or organization is authorized to raise money on behalf of the local Church. At a meeting on Jan. 5 with Catholic and Protestant bishops, President Chandrika Kumaratunga asked the Christian leaders to play a role in trauma counseling activities and provide safe shelter for orphaned children. Media reports say the tsunamis killed at least 30,000 people and as many as 1 million were left homeless, mostly in southern and eastern Sri Lanka. As the Church continues struggling to bring relief materials to remote areas, Father Bede Silva, a parish priest in Galle, lamented what he calls "the most pathetic thing," organized gangs robbing vacated houses and even stealing from the dead.

In Thailand, more than 50 Church workers -- priests, Religious, laypeople -- from all over the country have been working in the affected provinces of Krabi, Phangnga, Phuket, Ranong, Satun and Trang. The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Thailand appealed for assistance in a message it sent to every diocese. According to Sister Kridsada Sartraphan, director of the conference's secretariat, the Church by Jan. 7 received about 5 million baht (about US$127,000) in donations, besides clothes, mosquito nets, blankets, dry food and medicines. On Jan. 6, the Sacred Heart of Jesus nun led other Religious women from various congregations to visit a mosque in Klong Hin village in Krabi province. Survivors from Phi Phi Island, 40 kilometers southeast of Krabi, gather daily at the mosque for meals and to collect other assistance.

Myanmar, a priest from Mawlamyine diocese, which covers Myanmar's southern panhandle down along the Andaman Sea, told UCA News that as many as 2,000 people may have been killed. According to the priest, at least 20 fishing boats were lost off Myanmar's coast in territory covered by the diocese.

In Hong Kong, local organizations and individuals ranging from business corporations to street vendors, singers and charity groups raised funds for the disaster survivors Jan. 1-2. Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Protestant and Taoist organizations also held fund-raising events and religious services. Some political parties and social groups postponed territory-wide protests for greater democracy scheduled for New Year's Day and instead joined the fund-raising campaigns. On the evening of Jan. 1, Bishop Zen presided at a diocesan prayer gathering at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. About 1,000 Catholics attended.

In Pakistan, the bishops' National Commission for Inter-Religious Dialogue and Ecumenism sponsored a prayer meeting of Christians and Muslims on Jan. 1 at St. Mary's Church in Lahore. In the Philippines, Father Robert Reyes led about Buddhists, Catholics and Hare Krishna members in a "solidarity run" on Jan. 3 around Makati's business district carrying white flags. The run ended at Ninoy Aquino Monument, where Filipinos and foreigners offered prayers, songs and messages of solidarity. (UCAN)

Sri Lanka: Post-tsunami support for children – The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), an international Catholic agency which helps refugees worldwide, will soon offer tsunami refugee children now living in camps education programmes that include psychological counselling. JRS has been present in Sri Lanka for several years, reaching out to people uprooted by the island’s long-running civil war. Fr Vinny Joseph, JRS director in Sri Lanka, is currently visiting camps for tsunami survivors, assessing how best to mobilise staff and resources. Speaking to AsiaNews from a camp in Jaffna (a tsunami-hit northern town under Tamil separatist control), Fr Vinny said teachers are being placed in refugee camps across Sri Lanka and around 100,000 notebooks and other writing material will be distributed in the coming days. “We have arranged for teachers to be in the camps to stay with children [and] help them adjust to their new situation,” he said. “They will launch an education program, with studies, playing games, and other activities.” (AsiaNews)

India - Hindu fundamentalists praise the work of Christian missionaries

Hindu fundamentalists have praised the work being by Christian missionary organisations in providing succor to victims of December 26’s tsunami in India. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), armed branch of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the nationalist Hindu party hostile to religious minorities, defined efforts on the part of Christian organizations in disaster areas as “commendable”. “The Sangh and its affiliates, like Sewa Bharati and Vivekananda Kendra, were not the only organizations to take action, but others like the Ramakrishna Mission, Christian and Muslims missionary organisations and educational institutions also rose to the occasion and did commendable human service,” said an editorial in the latest issue of the RSS English-language mouthpiece, The Organiser. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) was one of the first to respond by activating rescue measures in favour of the victims of the tsunami, which in this country alone killed more than 15,000 people. (AsiaNews)


Asia: A Challenge to the Churches

The Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV) will focus on Asia in 2005. The theme for Asia focus will be the same as of the next year’s CCA General Assembly, ‘Building communities of peace for all’. Among the plans evolved by CCA for DOV 2005 are:

Geneva: Top Lutheran Urges Anti-apartheid Type Support for Dalit ‘Untouchables’

A prominent Lutheran leader has called for the organizing of a global gathering to offer similar solidarity to South Asia’s Dalit communities, formerly called untouchables, to that which helped end South Africa’s racist policy of apartheid. “The exclusion suffered by members of the communities known today as ‘Dalit’ is probably one of the most extreme and violent expressions of exclusion,” Lutheran World Federation general secretary the Rev. Ishmael Noko on 1 September told. “The struggle of the Dalits must surely be a central concern for the global church today,” said Noko. Some human rights groups estimate that in India alone there are up to 250 million Dalits, who under the caste system are duty bound to carry out menial, often degrading, jobs for the upper castes while living segregated from them. “The designation of a human being, by virtue of their descent as being ‘untouchable’ is a fundamental challenge to our communion, and to our most basic beliefs regarding human dignity and the creation of all human beings in the image of God.” (ENI)

New York: New Campaign on Global Poverty Gets Global Church and NGO Backing

A global alliance of aid and development agencies and evangelical Christian churches have launched a new campaign to spotlight the problem of global poverty. The “Micah Challenge”, officially launched in New York on 15 October in conjunction with the UN sponsored International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, seeks to mobilize Christians around a series of development goals sought by the 191 United Nations member states. The Millennium Development Goals – which include halving the rate of “absolute global poverty” by 2015 – cover concerns such as economic and hunger issues and also education, gender equality, the environment and HIV/AIDS. The Micah Challenge will bring a powerful voice to global efforts to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals, and will empower church engagement with civil society and government on issues affecting the poor, the organizers said. The World Evangelical Alliance, which represents more than 3 million churches internationally, and the Micah Network, a coalition of more than 260 Christian-based aid and development organizations, are leaders in the effort. (ENI)

India - Brahmabandhab Upadhyay

Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, (1861-1907) was described by Rabindranath Tagore as a “Roman Catholic Ascetic, yet a Vedantin, spirited, peerless, self-reliant, learned and uncommonly influential.” Born a Brahmin, he typified the new Bengali middle class, educated, upper caste and Hindu. Yet his conversion to Roman Catholicism and his revolutionary ideas for explaining Christian doctrine with an Indian idiom, marked him out as exceptional. He was an ardent nationalist who died while on arrest by the British for sedition in 1907. Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, a colossus largely unknown, of India’s search for Nationhood, modernity and freedom, is also a convert to the Church. Year 2007 will be the anniversary of his death. He died in a prison while arrested for sedition. There is a proposal to celebrate the anniversary in 2007.

India – Old Goa:

A group of 300 pilgrims from Pakistan has sought Saint Francis Xavier's intervention to bolster their country's relations with India. The pilgrims arrived in the western Indian state of Goa on Dec. 21. A month earlier the local Church opened the decennial exposition of the saint's relics in Old Goa, the original capital of Goa's former Portuguese colonial rulers. According to Church sources, more than 1 million people have venerated the relics so far during the exposition, which ends Jan. 2. Other Pakistanis with Goan roots also have made pilgrimages, but the group of 300 is the largest. Father Robert D'Silva, who led the group, said the exposition convinced authorities of both countries "to let bygones be bygones." India and Pakistan issue visas to each other's citizens, but the process is difficult. More often than not, visa applications still are rejected. (UCAN)

India: Fr.Christudas, SJ, Sentenced to hard Labor in Disputed Sodomy Case

An Indian priest who was paraded naked through the streets in 1997 after being charged with sodomizing a young boy was sentenced to three years’ hard labor for the crime. Father Swamidas Christudas was given a month to appeal the Dec.13 conviction in a Dumka lower court in the northeastern tribal Jharkhand state. “We are shocked by the court order. It is a totally biased, unfair, prejudiced and one-sided judgment,” Bishop Julius Marandi of Dumka told. “we were expecting justice and a favorable court order as our lawyer argued out our case well. We will now appeal to the Dumka district court for justice, and we hope to get a favorable verdict there,” Bishop Marandi said. Father Christudas, 48, said he was “totally shattered” by the verdict and would appeal. He was released on bail. In September 1997, Father Christudas, at the time vice principal of St.Joseph’s School in Dumka, was stripped and paraded naked throughout the town after being charged with sodomizing a 14-year-old tribal student. (CNS)

Rome: Pontifical University Offers Course on Satanism

Recent episodes of occult-based violence in Italy have prompted a pontifical university in Rome to offer an intensive study course on Satanism and demonic possession. The Regina Apostolorum university said in a statement released be seen as “an alarm bell” alerting people” to take seriously a problem that is still too underestimated.” In June, the bodies of two Italian teenagers were found in a makeshift grave outside Milan. Police said their deaths were linked to a gruesome, drug-fuelled Satanic ritual. “There has been an increased interest in Satanism, especially among young people,” said Carlo Climati, a university spokesman and one of the professors of the course on Satanism. “The goal of this course will be to prepare priests t be able to dialogue with youth” and to help young people look at the occult with caution, he told Catholic News Service Dec. 14. (CNS).


Netherlands: Radboud University Nijmegen- Conference Announcement and Call for Papers

The year 2005 marks the 75th anniversary of the establishment of a chair of Missiology at the Radboud University Nijmegen. All are invited to the conference organized for the 75th anniversary at Nijmegen on 28 October 2005. The conference theme will be “Southern Christianity and its Relation to Christianity in the North.” The keynote address will be delivered by Dr. Philip Jenkins, who is the author of The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (New York 2002). He observes: (a) Over the past half century the centre of gravity of the Christian world has moved decisively to the global South.(b)Within a few decades European and Euro-American Christians will have become a small fragment of world Christianity. (C) By that time Christianity in Europe and North America will to a large extent consist of Southern-derived immigrant communities. (D) Southern churches will fulfill neither the Liberation Dream nor the Conservative Dream of the North, but will seek their own solutions to their particular problems.

This is an invitation to scholars of religion to write papers in reaction to these observations and prospects. On the basis of a 250 word abstract an international jury will select reactions to be present at the conference. These will be included in a volume of the proceedings, to be published by Editions Rodopi (Amsterdam & New York). Abstract should be submitted before 1 March 2005 to: F.Wijsen@theo.ru.nl


Medha Patkar at Ishvani Kendra: “Gigantic and expensive projects conceived under the garb of mass development that displace thousands of adivasis is not development,” said Medha Patkar, well known activist and social worker. She was delivering the Zeitler Memorial Lecture on “Development, Displacement and Rehabilitation,’ at Ishvani Kendra on 6 January. Patkar had the audience spell-bound for nearly two-and-half hours speaking on the need to mobilize affected people to fight against exploitation.

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Lazar Thanuzraj Stanislaus, SVD (Director)