46

ISHVANI KENDRA
Institute of Missiology and Communications
Pune – India

October  / 2006

I. REPORT AND DOCUMENTATION

Africa: Statistics about HIV/Aids in Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa has just over 10 per cent of the world’s population and it is home to more than 60 per cent of all people living with HIV, estimated at 25.8 million world wide. In 2005 an estimated 3.2 million people in the Sub-Saharan African region became newly infected; among young people aged 15-24 years, an estimated 4.6 per cent of women and 1.7 per cent of men were living with HIV in 2005; and 2.4 million adults and children died of AIDS. The above information is to be found on the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAIDS) web site: http://www.unaids.org/en/

El Salvador, Most Violent Latin American Nation

El Salvador is today classified as the most violent country of Latin America, with almost 3,000 homicides so far this year, according to a report from the Institute of Legal Medicine. The institute reports, there are 10.9 murders daily in that Center American nation, the majority of them with firearms. More than 2,600 crimes were reported through August, mostly street crimes against males 15 through 34 years old.

Common criminals are responsible for 19.4 percent of the cases; and youth gangs for 12.7 percent. Given the seriousness of the situation, representatives of Episcopalian, Lutheran, Calvinist, Muslim and Catholic churches got together to pray for peace and for the cessation of violence. Santiago´s Reformed Church Rev. Flores Amaya suggested that they not only pray, but go out to stop the death of more children and families. “Campaigns for the culture of violence cannot continue to spread,” he said. (Prensa Latina)

Geneva: Israeli Bombs United Christians, Muslims in Lebanon, Says Envoy

Lebanon’s minister of culture, Tarek Mitri, says the 34 days of fierce fighting between Israel and the Hezbollah movement forged unity between the country’s Muslims and Christians, despite many people questioning why the war started. Mitri noted “It is not religious wars that have divided us, but wars that divided religious communities.” Explaining the complexity of Lebanese politics, and the difficulty of classifying religious identity, Mitri cited the fact that Hezbollah has a parliamentary ally in Michel Aoun, a Christian Maronite general during Lebanon’s 1970s civil war, who has the backing of many Christians. During the Israeli onslaught on Lebanon, Mitri said most of the victims of the bombing of “150,000 homes” were Shite Muslims. “Many of them were welcomed in Christian houses and monasteries,” he said, noting that, “in a fractured society like ours this is always a pleasant surprise.” Under Lebanon’s laws; the president is required to be a Maronite Christian; the Prime Minister, a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of the Parliament, a Shite Muslim. (ENI)

Geneva: Middle East is Most Pressing Global Issue Says World Church Leader

The Middle East is the most pressing global issue today, the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Rev. Samuel Kobia, has told the organization’s main governing body, asserting that church and religious bodies can help attain a solution there. Kobia was speaking on the second day of the WCC’s central committee as it met to navigate policy until the next assembly of the world’s largest grouping of churches meets in about seven years. “Events in the Middle East pose the greatest of challenges to the international community,” said Kobia, adding, “I believe that the ecumenical movement has an important role to play in the search for just peace.” A Methodist from Kenya, Kobia said: “I believe that if we mobilize our collective efforts, we can make a contribution – just as we made a contribution to South Africa’s struggle against apartheid.” Kobia, who is the top staff official of the WCC, said, “The region and the world are at a crossroads.” (ENI)

Germany: Pope at Ecumenical Service Warns Christians on Hiding their Beliefs

Pope Benedict XVI has joined German Christians of other denominations for a prayer service at Regensburg cathedral in Bavaria where he urged Christians not to hide their witness to God in a multi-religious age. “We know who God is through Jesus Christ,” said Pope Benedict at the service on 12 September during a six-day visit to his native Bavaria in southern Germany. Protestant and Orthodox clergy were present when he said, “In this time of interreligious encounters we are easily tempted to attenuate somewhat this central confession or indeed even to hide it. But by doing this we do not do a service to encounter or dialogue.” Benedict spoke of his hopes for renewed dialogue between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches. He also referred to a 1999 agreement between Catholics and Lutherans on the doctrine of justification, an issue that divided the papacy and the followers of Martin Luther at the time of the 16th century Protestant Reformation. (ENI)

Hong Kong: Christians Evangelize Through 'Mooncakes'

Several Christian companies sold "evangelical mooncakes" for the Mid-Autumn Festival. Chinese celebrate the festival, also known as the Moon Festival, on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, which falls on Oct. 6 this year. "Mooncakes" are one of its distinctive features. Ice Lam Siu-bing, creative director of Protestant-run Bezalel Design Communication, told UCA News Oct. 3 that the sale of mooncakes in packages with evangelical messages is part of her company's "C+C Mission." The two Cs stand for "Chinese culture" and "Christian." The C+C Mission, a joint initiative of Bezalel and two other Protestant-run design companies, aims to incorporate Chinese culture with Christian elements when preaching the Good News. According to Lam, they drew on the prophecy of the salvation of Israel from the Book of Zephaniah, which tells of the love of God and the joyful moment when the exiles return to God, for the mooncake project. (UCAN)

India: Tribal Women Fight Drought With Song And Dance

Parched by day under cloudless skies, fields here in a remote part of eastern India reverberate with songs and dances at night. A severe drought has others sulking, but one tribe has turned to its tradition of merrymaking to propitiate the rain gods, with women leading the way, says Father Hilarious Kujur, a Catholic priest working in the region. Some 500,000 Tharu tribal people live in 214 villages of Bihar state on the India-Nepal border, 980 kilometers east of New Delhi. The area comes under Bettiah diocese, to which Father Kujur belongs. As the villages reel under the drought, Tharu women dress as men and ritually till the fields at night. Men dressed as women bring them food. Father Kujur told UCA News Sept. 27 that he hears "lilting humorous songs" and drum beats from almost every village in the evening. The tribe performs the unique ritual only during extreme drought, according to the 73-year-old Catholic priest, who has studied Tharu customs for nearly 16 years. He said the tribal people depend on subsistence cultivation of rice but now face starvation since the drought has scorched their rice fields. The Tharu do not lament their fate or curse God, but instead perform the drought ritual marked with festivity and humor, the priest explained. He said the tribe has surprised him with their way of accepting the drought as a guest "who must be hailed and treated." (UCAN)

India, Raipur: Chhattisgarh Makes Conversion Law Harsher

The Chhattisgarh government has amended the state’s existing law on conversion, providing to keep those who re-convert to Hinduism out of the purview of the law. State Home Minister Ram Vichar Netam while moving a bill to amend the Chhattisgarh Dharma Swatantra Adhiniyam 1968, said on August 2 that it was common practice to change religion, especially in tribal areas, through force, lure or fraudulent means. He said it was necessary to amend the law to help those who converted to their original religion and to check further conversion to other religions. The amendment passed by the state’s BJP–dominated legislature on August 3 states that returning to forefathers’ religion or his original religion will not be treated as conversion. The amendments also include a clause that persons wanting to change religion should apply to the District Collector at least 30 days in advance. However, the District Collector will have the right to reject such an application, and anyone violating this clause could be punished with jail-term of up to three years and a fine of Rs.20,000. Under this clause, persons would have to inform the District Collector within a month of their conversion or would face imprisonment for up to a year and a fine of Rs.10,000. (Renovacao)

Pakistan: Cleric Forsakes Nationality to Protest at ‘Hatred’ of Christians

A bishop in Pakistan has renounced his nationality in protest against discrimination and hatred he says is suffered by the minuscule Christian minority in the world’s second largest Muslim nation. “In Pakistan, Christians, including me, are facing extreme hate, discrimination and detestation by Muslims. We are unwanted people in Pakistan,” Bishop Timotheus Nasir, who heads the United Presbyterian Church of Pakistan (UPCP), wrote in a letter to President Pervez Musharraf sent earlier in August. Bishop Nasir told the President: “It is not possible for me to carry the burden of my limited, crippled and meaningless citizenship of your Pakistan. Therefore, I surrender my Pakistani citizenship.” Along with the letter, Nasir attached a copy of his National Identity Card requesting the President to give him and his family a “Non Pakistani Resident” identity card. Nasir is a retired army major who heads the UPCP, which is not a member of the National Council of Churches of Pakistan, which groups the four major Protestant churches. (ENI)

Philippines: Church People Keen On Mission Look To Mission Congress For Inspiration, Cooperation

Mission proponents hope an upcoming Asian meeting will push fellow Filipino Catholics to share in the responsibility for realizing the missionary vision their Church articulated years ago. The Oct. 18-22 Asian Mission Congress in Chiang Mai, Thailand, will be a "failure" if Religious and lay participants are not able to "carry the fire of mission" back to their home Churches, Father Andrew Recepcion believes. The mission director of Caceres archdiocese in Naga City, 255 kilometers southeast of Manila, is among facilitators of the congress that the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences is organizing. He spoke with UCA News Oct. 1 in Antipolo City, east of Manila. The gathering will end up a "mere remembrance of a happy experience" if mission "remains in the periphery of the life of the local Churches," said the priest, an expert in missiology. Retired Divine Word Bishop Vicente Manuel of San Jose, another invited congress participant, formerly chaired the Episcopal Commission on Mission. "What we (Filipinos) hope to get out of this congress is the spirit of commitment," he told UCA News. "We must learn from (other Asian people's) commitment and how to preach our faith to nonbelievers," he added. (UCAN)

Japan: Religious Leaders Spurn Violence and Hijacking of Religions

All religions are vulnerable to being hijacked by extremists and unprincipled politicians, the head of the world’s largest interfaith body has said at the opening of its four-day assembly. “Today, our religions are being hijacked by religious extremists, hijacked by unscrupulous politicians, hijacked by the sensationalist media,” said William Vendley, a Roman Catholic theologian from the United States who is secretary general of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP). Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the opening day of the 26 – 29 August gathering spoke of a visit he made in July to Israel, the Palestinian territories with Jordan. “The people of this region have endured a long history of conflict, and they undoubtedly have their own respective views. “However,” noted Koizumi, “I believe that the only way for them to break the continuing cycle of hatred and violence lies in overcoming the differences of religion and custom and working in the interests of co-existence and co-prosperity.” (ENI)

Jerusalem: Palestinian Churches Targeted in Protests against Pope’s Remarks

Palestinian churches in the West bank and Gaza came under attack following a speech by Pope Benedict XVI in which he quoted remarks from a past era linking Islam to violence. In the West Bank town of Tul Karm on 17 September, arsonists set fire to a 170-year old church just before dawn, causing significant damage, local Christian officials said. On the same day, in the village of Tubas, another church was attacked with firebombs and partially burned. The day before, Muslim protesters hurled firebombs and opened fire at five churches in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to protest at the Pope’s comments, raising concerns of a rift between Palestinian Muslims and Christians. (ENI)

Jerusalem: Building Work Imperils Rare Flower in Town of Jesus, Warn Activists

Israeli environmentalists and botanists are protesting against plans to build a new neighbourhood in the Galilee town of Upper Nazareth as they say it will lead to the extinction of the rare Nazareth Iris flower. The wild irises, which are native to Nazareth and surrounding hills, have been disappearing for years due to construction in Upper Nazareth, which overlooks Jesus’ home town of Nazareth. Environmentalists and botanists are campaigning for the flower’s natural habitat on Mount Jonah to be turned into a national park and for housing construction there to be banned. The flower is the symbol of Upper Nazareth. (ENI)

Manila: Christianity Helped Ruin Indigenous Culture

Human rights activists and members of the Filipino community in Britain conducted prayer vigils during a visit by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, urging action to end political killings of indigenous people, among others, in the Philippines. Recent killings of political activists have led to indigenous and community leaders in the Philippines becoming increasingly afraid to speak out against mining or logging projects, many of them on traditional ancestral lands of the country’s 15 million indigenous peoples, Independent Catholic News reported. But according to some Roman Catholic leaders, indigenous people in the Philippines have not only faced the destruction of their lands through such excavation projects, but Christianity has also played a role in ruining their traditional culture. Babiera was among 31 participants at a national workshop in Manila, which examined how indigenous people, the government, the Church and academics could help protect the traditional knowledge of the country’s indigenous peoples, who make up less than 20 per cent of this South-East Asian nation’s 89 million population. (ENI)

Paris: Brother Roger Did Not ‘Convert’ To Catholicism, Says Taize

The Taize community in eastern France has rejected claims reported in the French newspaper Le Monde that its Swiss-born Protestant founder, Brother Roger Schutz, who died last year, had a secret conversion to Roman Catholicism. But in a statement the Taize community rejected the claim. “Whoever speaks of ‘conversion’ in this respect has not grasped the originality of Brother Roger’s search,” it stated. “From a Protestant background, Brother Roger undertook a step that was without precedent since the Reformation: entering progressively into a full communion with the faith of the Catholic Church without a ‘conversion’ that would imply a break with his origins,” it asserted. There was never anything hidden about this undertaking of Brother Roger’s,” the Taize community stated, citing remarks he made in 1980, during a meeting in Rome: “I have found my own identity as a Christian by reconciling within myself the faith of my origins with the mystery of the Catholic faith, without breaking fellowship with anyone.” (ENI)

Prague: Dwindling Congregations Force Czech Church into Sell-Off

The Czech Republic’s predominant Roman Catholic church is selling properties at cut prices in an effort to cope with plummeting congregations and donations. “The reason is simple – we don’t have the money to keep them,” said Martin Horalek, spokesperson for the Prague-based Catholic Bishops’ Conference. He told Ecumenical News International it was hoped some churches could be given to local municipalities for a symbolic payment with the aim of getting funds to renovate them, on the understanding that Catholic priests would continue celebrating occasional Masses in them. However, the church needed offer low prices to private buyers, since most buildings required extensive investment. About 200 churches, monasteries and convents were returned to the Catholic church in the 1990s,often in derelict condition, half a century after they were seized following the 1948 imposition of communist rule. However, the number of Catholics in the Czech Republic declined from 41 to 27 per cent of the 10.2 million-strong population between 1991and 2001, according to census returns. (ENI)

Toronto: AIDS Conference Promotes ‘Abstinophobia’, says Ugandan Activist

Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, would be more effective in the fight against AIDS by speaking about their long and successful marriage rather than by promoting condom use, said a leading Ugandan AIDS activist. The Ugandan pastor is known as the ‘brains’ behind the successful Ugandan educational campaign against AIDS, called the ABC program, which promotes abstinence and marital fidelity as the first two means of protection against the killer virus. Sempa noted that Gates, who gave opening remarks at the Toronto International AIDS Conference this week, used the platform to promote the condoms approach to combating the disease. In fact, the crowd booed when he mentioned abstinence education and fidelity as approaches that are being used in some parts of the world. “This [ABC] approach has saved many lives, and we should expand it,” he said to boos. (CNA)

II. NEWS

Hong Kong: AsIPA General Assembly in November 2006

AsIPA, the “Asian Integrated Pastoral Approach”, initiative of the Office of Laity and Family of the FABC, will have their Fourth General Assembly from Nov. 8 to 15, 2006 in Trivandrum, India. The theme of the assembly will be SCC’s/BEC’s towards a Church of Communion.” (FABC Newsletter)

Vatican City: Compendium of Catechism Now Online

The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is now available on the Internet in English. In addition to English, the Compendium is available online in Spanish, German, French, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian. The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, first published in 2005, is the second best selling Catholic book this year, after the encyclical “Deus Caritas Est.” (Zenit)

Spirit-filled Christians are on the move

Twenty-five percent of the world's Christians are Pentecostal or charismatic, says a new study. A poll conducted in ten countries by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life find that Pentecostal churches and the charismatic movements are influencing both the Catholic and Protestant churches, and are poised to have a political impact as well. Released on October 5, the poll found that “spirit-filled” Christians, who practice glossolalia and healing prayer, constitute at least 10 percent of the people in the 10 countries studied. Some twenty-five percent, therefore, of the world’s 2 billion Christians fall into these two groups. Renewalist” is the umbrella term used by the Pew Forum study to refer to both groups. As far as politics are concerned, the Pew Forum Study found that this group of Pentecostals and charismatics are much more willing to bring their values to the fore in shaping government policies and public debates than was previously thought. Surveys were conducted during the middle of 2006 in Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa India, the Philippines, South Korea, and the United States. (Spero News)

III. BOOKS

NEW BOOKS RELEASED AT ISHVANI KENDRA ON 15 OCTOBER, 2006

L. Stanislaus and Jose Joseph, ed., Healing as Mission, New Delhi: ISPCK, 2006.

It contains the proceedings of the National Consultation from 12-16 December, 2005, at Ishvani Kendra, Pune. (Rs.235/-, $15 including postage)

L. Stanislaus and John F. Gorski, Sharing Diversity in Missiological Research Education: Issues of Theological Language and Intercultural Communication, Delhi: Ishvani Kendra/ISPCK, 2006

This book contains the proceedings of the Second General Assembly of the International Association of Catholic Missiologists (IACM) from 30 September to 03 October 2004 at Cochabamba, Bolivia. (Rs.200/-, $15 including postage).

You can order the books through email: ishvani@dataone.in

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)