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ISHVANI KENDRA
Institute of Missiology and Communications
Pune – India

January / 2006

I. REPORT AND DOCUMENTATION

Abuja, Nigeria: Nigerian President Urges Religious Tolerance

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has, on the Islamic festival of Eid-El-Fitri which marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, appealed for religious tolerance between Muslims and Christians in his country. Obasanjo made his appeal while receiving Muslim religious and political leaders at his presidential villa in Abuja. About 50 percent of Nigeria’s 128 million people are Muslims with Christians making up 40 per cent. The president, a Christian, noted that the call for religious tolerance between the adherents of the two monotheistic religions had become necessary due to antagonism and hatred that had pitched them against each other in the past. “My message to Nigerians is: Let us continue to stay together in unity and peace,” (ENI)

Geneva: YWCA Marks 150 Years of Service

The Young Women’s Christian Association has celebrated the 150th anniversary of its beginnings in 1855 when the YWCA was founded in London to provide safe housing for women moving in search of work. Since then, the initiative has spread around the world and the YWCA now reaches 25 million women and girls in 122 countries, South African Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka noted at a celebration in Geneva, where the World YWCA has its headquarters. World YWCA general secretary Musimbi Kanyoro, a Kenyan, said one of the secrets of the success of her movement in lasting for 150 years was its “high investment in building the capacity of women, young people and communities at local level.” Today one of its priorities is the fight against the global AIDS pandemic “because HIV and AIDS affects women and girls disproportionally”, she noted. (ENI)

India: Caritas to Provide Winterized Tents to Quake Victims

Caritas India, the national social services agency of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, will distribute winterized tents to the hundreds of earthquake victims in Kashmir. Caritas has received some 1,200 winterized tents from Cordaid, the Netherlands’ Catholic charity organization. The consignment landed in New Delhi by the second largest cargo flight in the world. The newly arrived winterized tents are expected to help the homeless victims to face the rapidly approaching icy winter in the Himalayan region. The tents would help provide warm and cozy shelter to families, Caritas India officials said. In the past month, they have helped 2,080 families from 14 villages of Uri-Baramulla with relief materials. Caritas India plans to build shelters in the Indian side costing millions of rupees.” Providing the earthquake victims with new shelters is our utmost priority,” Caritas India Assistant Executive Director Fr.Varghese Mattamana said. (ICNS)

India: Indian Court Upholds Right of Nuns and Priests to be Lawyers

Roman Catholics in India are celebrating a judgment by the high court in the southern state of Kerala overruling a decision by the local bar council to deny enrolment as lawyers to nuns and priests. The court noted that although Catholic nuns and priests belonged to a “religious profession”, this could not be treated in the same category as “trade or business which generates income”. In addition, the entry of the Catholic clergy dedicated to the service of God and people would “add luster” to the legal profession, the court said. Justice K.Balakrishnan Nair, a Hindu, said the legal profession “needed selfless and dedicated persons to take up the cause of the downtrodden without being concerned about fees”. This is a very positive judgment,” said the Fr.P.D. Mathew, coordinator of the national forum of Catholic religious lawyers. He noted that India has more than 500 Catholic priests and religious with law degrees. He said the judgment would encourage more Catholic nuns and priests to take up social justice concerns as lawyers. (ENI)

Jerusalem: Holy Land Archeologists Uncover What May be Earliest Church in World, Vatican Hails as ‘Great Discovery’

Early reports from the Israel Antiquities Authority are suggesting that remains of a building uncovered on the Megiddo prison grounds, near Jerusalem, may be part of the oldest church in Christendom – and the world. Workers discovered structural remains, an ancient table, thought to have been used as an altar, and a mosaic, as they began an expansion of the prison facility over a year ago. The dig has been ongoing over the past 18 months, but many of the most intriguing discoveries have taken place over the last 2 weeks. Christianity was banned in the region around Tel Megiddo – then part of the Roman Empire – up until the forth century when it was legalized by the Emperor Constantine. (CAN)

Madrid, Spain: Big March Assails Spanish Education Plans

Waves of people turned out in Madrid to protest the Socialist government’s Quality Law for Education, which downgrades religious study in the school curriculum. City officials estimated that 1.52 million people participated in the rally. The march in the capital had the support of the Spanish bishops’ conference. At the end of the protest, President Luis Carbonel demanded a meeting with a government leader to ask for a halt to the legislation. The protest was the second major Church-backed demonstration in five months. In June, clergy and nuns joined a similar demonstration against a law that gave homosexuals the legal right to marry and adopt children. (Renovacao)

Manila: Philippines Church and Rights’ Groups Fear ‘Creeping Martial law’

Some Philippine Church and human rights groups say they fear “creeping martial law” in their country after police fired water cannons during a recent prayer procession in which an ageing former Vice-President and three Catholic bishops were at the front. The marchers were demanding the government to make a full response to allegations that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo helped rig national elections in 2004. Religious leaders and human rights groups say the “calibrated preemptive response” is a sign of “creeping martial law”, a charge repudiated by the administration. Presidential spokesperson Ignacio Bunye said the prayer procession was “a disguised politically rally” and the use of water cannons to disperse marchers was justified especially after video footage showed a man picking up a hand-gun during the demonstration. (ENI)

New York: US School Boards Weigh Evolution And Intelligent Design Teaching

A controversy about the teaching of “intelligent design” which centres around the idea that the universe is created by a higher power, not referred to specifically as God, is gripping school boards in the United States. The board of education in the state of Kansas approved new standards for the teaching of biology that downplay the Darwinian theory of evolution. President George W.Bush said publicly earlier this year that intelligent design theory and evolutionary theory should both be taught in US classrooms giving those advocating the theory a boost. The new Kansas standards say high school students must understand major evolutionary concepts. But they also declare that basic Darwinian theory has been challenged in recent years by fossil evidence and molecular biology. (ENI)

New York: Mikhail Gorbachev Wins Greek Orthodox Human Rights Award

Former Soviety President Mikhail Gorbachev has been honoured by the Greek Orthodox Church in America for his humanitarian and human rights work, receiving the Athenagoras Human Rights Award. Announcing the honour, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America noted Gorbachev’s promotion as Soviet leader of a programme of political, economic and social liberalization under the slogans of glasnost (openness) and Perestroika (restructuring). In winning the award, Gorbachev, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, joins prominent religious and political leaders given the Athenagoras Human Rights Award. They include Greek Orthodox Archbishop Iakovos, former US Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W.Bush, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mother Teresa and Elie Wiesel. (ENI)

Pakistan: Mob Sets Churches Ablaze

Hundreds of Christians worshipped in the open air a day after a Muslim mob burned down churches over unfounded claims that a Christian had desecrated the Koran. The crowd demanded protection for a minority community in the small town of Sangla Hill, 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of Lahore, according to Agence France-Presse. The crowd dispersed after Catholic Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha, 69, advised them not to retaliate. A mob set ablaze three churches, a convent and a priest’s house in the Punjab province on Saturday. The archbishop said 1,500 people took part in the attack, which seemed organized. (Renovacao)

Rome: Women in Theology: A Work in Progress

The weekend congress, “Women and Theology 40 Years after the Second Vatican Council,” was organized by the Costanza Scelfo Institute of the Italian Society of Theological Research. Its aim was to reflect on women’s contribution to theology and to study conciliar documents in the light of women. Scaiola said that “the presence of women is a chapter of the presence of the laity within theological reflection.” Marinella Perroni, president of the Coordination of Italian Women Theologians, commented that curiously there are more women specialized in the Old than in the New Testament. The symposium gathered some 100 participants, many of them young women dedicated to theology in various centers in Italy. (Zenit)

Russia: Muslims Embracing Christianity

According to the director of the Inter-religious Council in Russia, Roman Silantyev, in the last 15 years 2 million Russian-born Muslims have converted to Christianity, while only 2,500 Russians have converted to Islam. In an interview published by the magazine Itogi, Silantyev said, “This phenomenon of Christianization is due not so much to the positive results of a successful missionary campaign as to the influence of Russian culture and its Christian roots.” The news agency indicated that the converts are mainly individuals who were born into a Muslim family but did not necessarily practice the faith. “On the other hand, those who really follow Muslim values and regularly attend a mosque rarely abandon their religion,” Silantyev noted. Terrorism is another reason for the increase in conversions, he added. “After each terrorist attack, thousands and even hundreds of thousands become Christians,” resulting in an almost 50 percent drop in the Muslim population in certain regions. (CWNews)

South Korea: Mobile Messages with Gospel Verses, Spiritual Thoughts Etc.

In Korea, as all over the world, mobile phones are not only popular, they have become essential for most people. When the members of Imudong parish council realized that 80% of parishioners use a mobile phone, the parish priest, Fr.Gabriel Jun Chang-mun said this was an opportunity to put new technology at the service of mission. The parish launched its SMS message service with a Sunday message for the week consisting of a few verses from the Sunday readings, a short spiritual thought for every day of the week and information about parish events and pastoral activities. Encouraged by the success of its SMS message service, the parish leaders decided to extend the initiative to include friends and acquaintances of other religions with messages offering blessings and thoughts for reflection. The Bishops of Korea are considering setting up their own information Technology Commission, since they realize the need to increase efforts in this field in Korea. (Fides)

II. INFORMATION

Holy See Endorses Tamil Version of Code of Canon Law

Tamil-speaking Catholics will now have a Tamil translation of the Code of Canon Law. Talking to SAR News, Archbishop Antony Anandarayar of Pondicherry-Cuddalore said. “The Canon Law in Latin was very clear and precise, but translating it into Tamil was very difficult, we had to use many words in Tamil to express the same meaning.” The archbishop, a Canonist, who was also instrumental in the translation work, said, “Highly qualified canonists, theologians, and Tamil scholars worked on this translation.” He said one should have a clear understanding of the Second Vatican Council documents before going to the Canon Law. (SAR News)

France Faces New Future 100 Years After Church-state-law

One hundred years after the official separation of church and state in France, the country’s secular stance faces new challenges due to shifts in the religious landscape, says a top Protestant leader. Protestants – a tiny minority in traditionally-Roman Catholic France who were historically persecuted – welcomed the separation of church and state in 1905 because it allowed them to exist “on equal terms with Catholicism”, the head of the Reformed Church of France, the Rev. Marcel Manoel, told Church leaders from around the world gathered in Evian, on Lake Geneva. In recent years there has been fierce debate about whether female Muslim students may wear the Islamic headscarf to school, and the adoption by parliament of a law against “sects” in 2001, generated strong criticism from Protestant and Catholic leaders. (ENI)

India: Non-Profit Christian Factory Starts AIDS drugs

A non-profit Christian-owned pharmaceutical factory in India has launched production of cheaper AIDS treatment drugs that can prolong the lives of the burgeoning number of HIV positive people in the world’s second most populous country. The Comprehensive Medical Services India, the pharmaceutical unit of the Inter-Church Service Association (ICSA), released the first batch of the anti-retro-viral (ARV) drugs on 28 October in Chennai. This was done in the presence of Church health workers including Dr.Jane Masiga of the Ecumenical Pharmaceutical Network. ICSA’s fully automated drug factory following World Health Organization norms produces essential drugs worth around 17 million rupees ($400,000) a year for more common diseases like leprosy, malaria and tuberculosis. It markets these at almost half the market price by direct selling to hospitals avoiding marketing agents who take expensive commissions. (ENI)

III. BOOKS

Anne Hunt, Trinity: Nexus of the Mysteries of Christian Faith, New York: Maryknoll, Orbis Books, 2005.

Enriching and fascinating…What is so creative and fruitful about Anne Hunt’s work on the ‘Trinity’ is her unique focus on interconnections, between the Trinity and other mysteries of Christian faith. The author invites her readers to explore with her the interconnectedness of belief in the Triune God to Christian doctrine and practice.

Mario Saturnino Dias, (ed.), Rooting Faith in Asia: Source Book for Inculturation, Philippines: Quezon City, Claretian Publications, 2005.

The present volume brings under cover – issues, narratives, theology and practice, 40 years after the Council, it is time to take stock of where we are and move ahead. This book could be a faithful companion to Bishops and clergy, theologians and catechists, lay and religious.

Francis Anekwe Oborji, Concepts of Mission: In the Evolution of Contemporary Missiology, Rome: Lagos, Ceedee Publications, 2005

This book discusses concepts of mission in the evolution of missiology as a science of its own in theological education and takes up trends in mission theology. The author has been professor of missiology at the Pontifical Urban University, Rome, since 1999.

Arnulf Camps, Vefie Poels, Jan Willemsen, Dutch Missionary Activities: An Oral History Project (1976-1988), Nijmegen: Valkhof Pers, 2005.

This collection of oral sources conveys a poignant image of the work of Dutch mission . 901 missionaries were interviewed and an abstract of these interviews are presented here.

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)