44

ISHVANI KENDRA
Institute of Missiology and Communications
Pune – India

August  / 2006

I. REPORT AND DOCUMENTATION

Buenos Aires: Argentine Bishop Says World Cup Hides Planet’s Disparities

The passion sparked by international soccer matches around the world hides the painful reality of much of the planet, said Bishop Aldo M. Etchegoyen, general secretary of the Council of Evangelical Methodist Churches of Latin America and the Caribbean (CIEMAL). The celebrity games should not stop humanity from “seeing the other side of the coin, that of a world that needs changes, justice, dignity and love”, said Argentine Bishop Etchegoen, whose country’s football team is one of the favourites to win the cup contested every four years. “The World Cup is a snapshot of the world situation – extreme wealth, extreme poverty, extreme waste and extreme sacrifice – an imbalance that shows our incapacity to create dignified, equal living conditions for all individuals and communities” said the Methodist leader. (ENI)

China, Shijiazhuang: First Catholic-run Non-Profit Organization Registered with Government

A social-service center recently has become the first Catholic non-profit organization (NPO) registered on a national level with the ministry of civil affairs in mainland China. "Jinde Charities," the Catholic-run organization, is based in Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei province, about 270 kilometers southwest of Beijing. It was previously called "Beifang Jinde Catholic Social Service Center." The director of Jinde Charities, Father John Baptist Zhang Shijiang of Xingtai diocese in Hebei, told the seminar the legal identity provided by the registration gives tax-exempt status to the NPO and allows it to open bank accounts. Father Zhang said this demonstrates that the operation of Jinde Charities is becoming "more professional, systematic and transparent." (UCAN)

Colombia: "Authorized" Abortions Underway After Colombia Court De-penalized Abortion

The Colombian Constitutional Court's decision to "de-penalize" abortions has opened the door to "authorized" abortions, which are reportedly already taking place in the country despite the lack of any official sanction, pro-life activist Dan Zeidler told LifeSiteNews.com. Zeidler, the U.S. representative of the Caracas-based Latin American Alliance for the Family, told LifeSiteNews.com the Court's decision has left the country with no clear legal standing in the issue. Despite voting to de-penalize abortion in certain circumstances, including for the life and health of the mother, in cases of rape and incest, and life-threatening fetal deformity, the Court has not yet specified if abortion will officially remain a crime. "If the court has limited itself to 'depenalization', in a Latin America context that would mean that abortion is still a crime, but in certain circumstances would not be punished," Zeidler said. "This would mean, for example, its performance could not be authorized in advance nor could abortion be provided, facilitated, financed or in any way promoted by the Government." "Depenalization would seem only to entail that once the abortion was committed, no penalty would apply if certain circumstances could be proven by the defense." Zeidler said it is very unlikely, however, that the Court would have limited its decision to such a narrow application, judging by the tone of Court’s press statements released shortly after the decision. (LifeSiteNews.com)

Guatemala: Central American Church Leaders Want Humane Immigration Policies

While the U.S. Congress holds hearings on immigration reform, Central American church leaders are calling for "more reasonable, more humane policies" than the versions being considered. Scalabrinian Father Ademar Barilli, director of Casa del Migrante or the House of the Migrant in Tecun Uman, was among church leaders criticizing the hard-line attempts to stop illegal immigration--both on the U.S.- Mexican border and the Guatemalan-Mexican border. Critics also said constructing more miles of fence along the U.S. border will not stop poor immigrants from crossing illegally. A real immigration reform, said Father Barilli, would attack the causes of migration. "We can't change the migratory flow by combating the consequences," he said. "We can only change migration if we attack the causes that generate the exodus of so many people." He said money invested in building fences and increasing border controls would be better spent on development projects in Central America. "Migrants are seen as dollar signs, not as human beings," said Father Verzeletti, referring to the billions of remittances that bolster the economies of many Central American countries. (CNS)

India, Chennai: Indians Remember First Protestant Missionary’s Arrival 300 Years Ago

Week-long celebrations are underway in Chennai to mark the 300th anniversary of the arrival of the first Protestant missionary to India. “The arrival of Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg in Tranquebar in 1706 no doubt marked a remarkable change in the lives of the Tamils in that area,” declared Surjit Singh Barnala, governor of India’s Tamilnadu state inaugurating the celebrations on 3 July. Ziegenbalg, a German Lutheran missionary sent by the Danish king to find converts to Christianity, arrived in India on 9 July 1706 at Tranquebar (known as Tarangambadi in Tamil), which was then a Danish colony on India’s eastern coast, 300 kilometers south of Chennai. Together with fellow missionary Heinrich Pluetscha, Ziegenbaig set about translating the Bible, prayers and hymns into Tamil, the local language. (ENI)

India, Raipur: Law makes Conversion Difficult but helps People who Convert to Hinduism

An amended law regulating religious conversions in Chhattisgarh has made conversion to Hinduism possible but more stringent in the central Indian state. The state legislature, led by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), passed the amendment on Aug. 3. The government earlier announced that it was planning to amend the 1968 anti-conversion law. Chhattisgarh, which became a separate state in November 2000, was part of Madhya Pradesh when the original law was enacted. The law prohibits conversion by force, allurement or fraudulent means, and the amendment provides for a three-year jail term and a fine of 20,000 rupees (US$435). The new bill, "Chhattisgarh Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, 2006," stipulates that anyone wishing to change religion must seek the permission of the local district magistrate 30 days in advance. It also demands that all who converted to one religion but wish to return to their original faith will not be categorized as "forceful conversions" and will not be punished. The new law, seems discriminatory because it allows Christians to become Hindus, but places restrictions on Hindus becoming Christians. Pentecostal Pastor Nelson Daniel, president of the Bhilai Pastors Association, shares that view. Pastor Daniel told UCA News on Aug. 4 that his association "condemns" he amendment because "it is against the Indian Constitution," which guarantees freedom to follow a religion of one's choice. (UCAN)

India: Indian Church Activists Disagree with Government on HIV Statistics

Church health activists in India have rebuked their government for downplaying the extent of HIV infection after a UN report said the country now has the highest number of people living with the virus in the world. The 2006 report on the global AIDS epidemic released on 30 May by the Geneva-based UNAIDS programme said an estimated 5.7 million Indians were living with HIV compared to 5.5 million South Africans. Dr.K.M.Shayamaprasad, executive director of the medical and health board of the Lutheran churches in India said: “That is the truth and there is no question of denying it,” Shyamaprasad told Ecumenical News International, that: “Even UNAIDS is underplaying the actual reality, I would say it could be as high as 19 million,” who ran an HIV surveillance centre on behalf of the Lutheran church until the institution was taken over by the government. India’s National Commission on Macro Economics and Health had projected in its latest report that 50 million people in India would be living with HIV by 2025, he said. Dr.Vijay Aruldass, general secretary of the Christian Medical Association of India, said the discrepancy between Indian government data showing 5.2 million people infected by HIV and the UNAIDS figure of 5.7 million was due to the age categories used in the estimates. India’s National AIDS Control Organization restricted its statistics to people between the ages of 15 and 49 years of age, while the UNAIDS figures included all age groups, he noted. (ENI)

Madagascar: A Soldier in War for Social Justice

Having shared the trenches with Thabo Mbeki and other luminaries in the struggle to free Africa from racial oppression, indefatigable Michelline Ravololonarisoa has now taken up the fight for women's rights and gender equality, At a time when women hardly thought they too could take part in the fight for political liberation, Michelline Ravololonarisoa was already a soldier in the war for social justice in Africa. This was in 1970s when she was still a student at the University of Madagascar. Michelline was not happy with the fact that her country was still answerable to France, the colonial power in the island off the east coast of Africa. Her blood boiled at the fact that everything then was given a French name and there was nothing that gave Madagascar its own identity. It was clear to her that she and her compatriots would have to fight for their country's freedom. Her militancy was intolerable to the colonial government in Madagascar. She was arrested and had to spend a few days in jail before being released. However, this did not kill her resolve to fight for the liberation of Madagascar. "I was determined that my country's political situation should change and I was not going to rest on my laurels and watch things from the sides," Michelline says. In November last year, she was appointed the UN Chief of Mission for Africa for the United Nations Women's Development Fund (Unifem) and is based in New York. (Christian Examiner staff report)

Nairobi: Theologians Launch First Africa Bible Commentary

African theologians have launched the first African Bible Commentary, or ABC as it has been dubbed, in Nairobi, with the support of Kenya’s retired president Daniel Arap Moi. Moi, an evangelical Christian, described the volume as a significant achievement and an outstanding landmark for African Christianity. It would counteract a perception that Africa is plagued by disease, corruption, violence and conflicts, by stressing a fascinating and special side of the continent, he said. “It is a continent of spiritual dynamism and fervency, of untold natural mineral and energy resource, with the fastest Church growth rate, and boundless potential,” said Moi. The 1600-page volume, a product of five years research by 70 contributors in 25 countries was edited by Tokunboh Adeyemo, a former executive secretary of the Association of Evangelicals in Africa (AEA) and now the executive director of the Centre for Biblical Transformation. The writers hope the use of African proverbs, metaphors and stories will make the Bible speak to African believers in the villages and cities across the continent. (ENI)

Nepal: Christians Hail Change to Secular State

Christians in Nepal have joined in widespread rejoicing over the country’s dramatic political developments that have marked the end of the monarchy in the Hindu kingdom and its transformation into a secular country. “The Christian community of Nepal welcomes all the decisions taken by the reinstated parliament including making the nation a secular country through a historical declaration of parliament,” said the National Christian Council of Nepal in a statement. Nepal’s legislature on 18 May adopted a resolution scrapping the Hindu monarchy, making the king a taxpayer and stripping him of all executive powers including that of the commander-in-chief of the army. The proclamation also brought the armed forces under the control of the government and renamed the Royal Nepal Army as the Nepal Army. (ENI)

Nigeria: Use Condoms to Avoid HIV/AIDS

Don Asks Religious Bodies to Advocate Use of Condoms DEPUTY Vice Chancellor of the University of Nigeria Enugu Campus (UNEC), Professor Peter Ebigbo, has advised faith-based organizations to advocate the use of condom as an effective way of checking the spread of HIV/AIDS rather than preach abstinence from sex. He said that this had become imperative since it has been proved that most religious adherents are getting too old before marriage and also engage in long relationships before marriage, stressing that such people hardly abstain from sex before getting married. Speaking as a special guest at an advocacy meeting with members of faith-based organizations organized by Enugu State Action Committee on HIV/AIDS (ENSACA) in Enugu yesterday, Ebigbo also urged the faith-based organizations to see themselves as partners and change agents in fighting syndrome. He asked them not to see the syndrome as "a disease brought by God's anger." His words: "Condom has been clearly shown to protect women and girls from unwanted pregnancies, prevent the contracting of HIV transmitted disease and of course prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. Stressing that faith-based organizations should make positive and decisive contributions towards the fight against the disease, Ebigbo said such organizations should encourage their members to go for regular voluntary counseling and testing of HIV/AIDS to enable them have constant feedback on their status. (Vanguard)

Philippines: Christian Religious Leaders Unite To Protest 'Political Killings'

Religious leaders around the country are organizing activities to protest ongoing attacks on critics of the government and to provide aid to relatives of the victims. On Aug. 1, officials of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Luzon and Kalinga Medical Society co-organized a prayer rally and march to protest the killing of Alice Claver in Tabuk, Kalinga, 315 kilometers north of Manila. Unidentified men in two vans reportedly shot at Claver, a member of the leftist Bayan Muna congressional political party, and her husband, medical doctor Constancio Claver, on July 31. Doctor Claver survived. Episcopalian Reverend Elizabeth Badaden told UCA News the religious leaders and medical workers condemn the "political killings" and urge witnesses to come forward and help in the investigation. In a statement that Badaden cited, prayer rally leaders said: "We challenge the government officials, PNP (Philippine National Police) and the Military to conduct an honest investigation and apprehension of the real perpetrators of this criminal act." Karapatan, a human rights alliance, lists Alice Claver as the sixth death in its record of political killings in the country during the last two weeks. The national alliance of human rights advocates lists more than 700 people slain in "extrajudicial killings," including people killed in crossfire, since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed office in January 2001. (UCAN)

Tokyo: Japan’s Suicide Counselling Cases Soar, Says Christian Group

Suicide counselling in Japan, once mainly sought by young people, is at its highest rate says a Christian-run group running a telephone crisis line, which is helping a soaring numbers of adults. Counselling cases in Japan reached a record high of 45,600 in 2005, says FIND (Federation of Inochi No Denwa), the crisis counselling service. And health experts say the number of suicides in 2005, when data is released, is expected to top 30,000 for the eighth year in succession. “In our early years, counselling to prevent youth suicides took up most of our work, but recently, we’re seeing a growing number of suicide crises from middle-aged and elderly people,” the Rev.Yukio Saito, FIND executive director told Ecumenical News International. FIND was established in 1971 and now has some 50 centres in Japan supported by thousands of volunteers. It was started by Christian volunteers in Tokyo as a secular group of trained voluntary counsellors to provide telephone counselling for those facing mental crisis. It followed the examples of groups like the Samaritans in Britain and the Life Line in Australia. Saito, a minister in the United Church of Christ in Japan, noted that many of those now facing crises are in their thirties. This probably stems from concerns about employment and other factors of insecurity present in Japan today, where a new economic model means declining job security. “Mental diseases such as depression seem to be behind the numbers,” he said. (ENI)

Tokyo: Percentage of Christians in Japan has been Static for 450 Years

The Christian population in Japan has remained at around one per cent of the country’s population since 1549, when Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier arrived, and it does not look likely to rise significantly says a professor of the sociology of religion at Tokyo’s Roman Catholic Sophia University. “But the young generation no longer has a negative image of Christianity, which was once stigmatized as heretical or a religion of Japan’s enemy (during the Second World War), as many of them are seeking Christian-style weddings,” said Mark R.Mullins, author of the book “Christianity Made in Japan” that has sold thousands of copies in its Japanese version. “The question is how the churches will change their exclusiveness and create a positive image,” said Mullins speaking at a 16 June public lecture at the Japan Christian Centre in Tokyo. Mullins, who studied in the United States in Canada, said: “Many young Japanese today study abroad, become Christians there in International and free environments, and come back to Japan. But they can’t fit into the Japanese churches.” He added: “So it is a challenge for the churches to be an attractive community to the next generation.” “The young people have no hatred against Christianity anymore,” said Kaino. “But the churches have no substance and methods to respond to them. This is the major problem.” (ENI)

Warsaw: Solzhenitsyn Backs Orthodox Call that Disputes Western ‘Freedom’

Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, for many years a dissident against Soviet communism, has defended an Orthodox church-sponsored document calling for a new concept of human rights to counter Western notions of freedom said to lack “moral norms”. “Limitless human rights are what our cave-dwelling ancestor already had – nothing prevented him from depriving his neighbour of prey or finishing him off with a cudgel”, Solzhenitsyn told the Moskovskiye Novosti weekly newspaper. “Even to call for self-restraint is considered ridiculous and funny. However, it is only self-restraint that offers a moral and reliable way out of any conflict.” The 87-year-old writer was reacting to a “Declaration on Human Rights and Dignity” adopted by the Tenth World Russian People’s Council, which met at Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Basilica from 4 to 6 April and was chaired by Orthodox Patriarch Alexei II of Mosco. The document said the world faced “a conflict between civilizations with different understandings of the human being.” It stated it was unacceptable to use human rights “to legitimize behaviour condemned by both the traditional morality and historical religions.” Solzhenitsyn said the director of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external church relations, Metropolitan Kirill, had been right to assert that personal freedoms should not “threaten the fatherland” or be used to “insult religious and national feelings.” (ENI)

II. NEWS

Ontario, Chatham: Ontario Bishop to Seek Laicization of Priest Who Abused Young Girls

Bishop Ronald Fabbro of London, Ontario, pledged to seek the laicization of a priest convicted of 47 counts of indecent assault, as well as revise the diocese's policy on how to deal with clergy sexual abuse. The bishop made the promises at Mass Aug. 6, the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, in a homily to the congregation at St. Ursula Church, one of the parishes where Father Charles Sylvestre committed his crimes against young girls. Father Sylvestre, 83, pleaded guilty Aug. '03 to 47 charges involving girls ages 9-14. The assaults took place between 1954 and 1985 in parishes in Chatham, Windsor, Pain Court, Sarnia and London. Sentencing is still to come. Only the Vatican can return a priest to the lay state. "I sincerely apologize to the victims and their families for the abuse they endured at the hands of Father Sylvestre and for suffering the consequences of that abuse over the years," Bishop Fabbro told the congregation. "I apologize as well for the failure of the church to protect the victims and their families from Father Sylvestre." (CNS)

Washington: Catholic Web Sites for Singles Unite Catholic Couples

The use of Catholic singles' Web sites has risen dramatically since the genesis of such sites in the late 1990s, helping many who are looking for friendship, a date, marriage or even support with religious discernment. Catholic singles who become members of these sites create profiles and can elect to meet potential partners or friends in a specific area or age range or according to other defining characteristics. Chris Jones, from Elizabethtown, Pa., and Marjorie Faia, from Williamstown, N.J., met as members of CatholicMatch.com, and they are getting married next May. After talking online for a month, Jones, with his friend, and Faia, with her sister, went on a bowling date. To "make sure we were normal guys," Jones said, he went to Faia's house with his friend before the date started to meet Faia's mother. Upon her approval, the group went bowling. The evening ended with ice cream at a Friendly's restaurant and a game of foosball at Faia's house. Faia, a student at LaSalle University in Philadelphia, was persuaded to use CatholicMatch.com by her mother, who saw an advertisement for it in Faith and Family magazine. (CNS)

III. BOOKS

Thoppil, James, Towards an Asian Ecclesiology, Shillong: Oriens Publications, 2005.

This book is a fine summary of the emerging ecclesiology developed by the FABC in the context of religions, cultures and poverty. It reinterprets the mission of the church in Asia. It is a great source book for theological trends and developments in Asia.

Kelly, Anthony, Eschatology and Hope, Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2006

The author projects a comprehensive theological vision of human existence enveloped in the faithfulness of God. This work will serve many for spiritual reading as well as profound theological reflection.

Kunnumpuram, Kurien, Towards a New Humanity: Reflections on the Church’s Mission in India Today, Mumbai: St.Paul’s Publications, 2005.

The book outlines the fulfilment of the Church’s mission in the specific situation and context of India. It explores a new humanity is being worked at, given the diversity in terms of culture, language, socio-economic situation and above all its religious plurality.

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)