Institute of Missiology and Communications
Pune – India
November / December / 2006
Afghanistan: United Nations High Commission for Refugees says Increasing Violence in the South is Causing Number of Internally Displaced Persons to Rise
In Afghanistan growing instability and insecurity has brought the problem of refugees and internally displaced persons which troubled the country for years back to the surface. After the fall of the Taliban regime Afghan refugees began to return home from various parts of the region under the guidance and supervision of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR. Since July, an estimated 15,000 families have been displaced in the southern provinces of Kandahar, Urugan and Helmand. This fresh displacement adds new hardshiip to a population already hosting 116,400 people earlier uprooted by conflict and drought. Afghanistan has one of the highest refugee populations in the world. In 2005 it signed the UN 1951 Convention of Refugee Status and relative 1967 Protocol. Since the end of 2001, more than 2.5 million Afghans have repatriated from Iran and Pakistan. In 2005 over 400,000 were repatriated and now re-inserting themselves in the social tissue of their home country. Catholic agencies involved in assisting Afghan refugees include the Jesuit Refugee Service and a Salesian Community in Quetta province of Pakistan, only 100 km from the border with Afghanistan. (Agenzia Fides)
Amman, Jordon: Pontiff Erred In His Islam Remarks, 38 Muslim Leaders Assert In 'Open Letter'
Pope Benedict XVI erred in assertions and made misstatements about Islam in a September address that provoked a storm of protests from the Muslim community, said an open letter signed by 38 Muslim scholars, officials and chief muftis from more than two dozen countries throughout the world. The Oct. 15 “Open letter to his holiness Pope Benedict XVI,” which was to be delivered to the Vatican envoy in Amman on that day, said the Muslim leaders accepted the pontiff’s “unprecedented personal expression of sorrow and … clarification and assurance that your quote does not reflect your own personal opinion,” and applauded his efforts “to oppose the dominance of positivism and materialism in human life.” The four-page letter was posted Oct. 14 on the Islamica Magazine Web site, a quarterly based in Los Angeles, Calif. “In the spirit of open exchange,” the 38 Muslim leaders said, they hoped to use Pope Benedict’s reference to the comments of the 14th century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus as “the starting point for a discourse on the relationship between reason and faith.” (Catholic Online)
Canada, Coquitlam: Catholic Bioethics Priest `Cuts Through Spin' On Stem-Cell Debate
Society needs to cut through hype surrounding the stem-cell debate, a debate that has incorrectly identified the Catholic Church as standing against stem-cell research aimed at medical breakthroughs, said the director of U.S. Catholic bioethics center. Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, Pa., spoke to some 200 at Our Lady of Fatima Parish here Sept. 27 on stem-cell research and accompanying moral issues in a talk, “Cutting Through the Spin of Stem Cells and Cloning." Although Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk is only 40 years old, he has accomplished more academically than most do in a lifetime. He has a doctorate in neuroscience from Yale University, four undergraduate degrees in molecular and cellular biology, chemistry, biochemistry and philosophy, as well as two degrees in advanced theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He has addressed state legislatures, and regularly travels around Canada and the United States to speak on stem-cell research. "It is incorrect to say that the Roman Catholic Church is against stem-cell research," he said to begin his talk. "It is only correct to say the Roman Catholic Church is against embryonic stem-cell research. The ethical concerns differ with the source of the stem cells, because you do have to destroy an early and vulnerable human to get embryonic cells." Father Pacholczyk stressed that the Catholic Church supports adult stem-cell research, and went on to clarify the difference between normal cells, such as skin cells, and stem cells. He explained that if you scrape off a few cells from your face and put them in a Petri dish, the only thing that could ever be produced from that Petri dish would be skin cells. (CCN/The B.C. Catholic)
India, Chennai: Minority Institutions Unhappy as Government Lacks Clarity
The government should evolve a system to grant minority status to institutions genuinely deserving it within a reasonable time, representatives of minority institutions in Tamilnadu said at a seminar. The Forum of Minority Institutions and Associations at the seminar in Loyola College discussed the rights and responsibilities of minority institutions’. They wanted the government to have clear procedures in granting minority status. The procedure followed for granting this constitutional provision is different in different statesand in few states minority run institutions have faced problems in getting minorty status. In 2004 by a special Act the central government established National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions with jurisdiction to hear appeals on applications turned down at the State-level. It also has power to decide on minority status of an institution in a state, which does not have a system to grant such status. P.A Inamdar of the Pune-based Federation of Linguistic and Religious Minorities Educational Institutions, said if applications meet certain criteria, one can expect the commission to grant minority status within two months. He said the present condition of several minority institutions is pitiable. Some have “virtually no benefits: while others have “some benefits.” He said only “relentless campaigning” can better the situation. (ICNS)
India, Thrissur: Cardinal Condemns Police Raid in Divine Retreat Centre
Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, Major Archbishop of the Syro Malabar Church on Saturday said the raid by the Kerala police on the world famous Divine Retreat Centre was “unnecessary and uncalled for.” Cardinal Vithayathil who visited the priests and the inmates of the Divine Retreat Centre at Muringoor alleged that the police raid at Centre transgressed “all norms of civilized behaviour. The police had inspected the retreat centre, under the Ernakulam Archdiocese of the Syro Malabar church on September 30 following a High Court order to assess its functioning. The court order came after it received an anonymous letter and two compact discs implicating the Divine Retreat Centre in a series of crimes and irregularities such as murder, rape, foreign exchange violations and running a hospital without proper license. The Vincentian priests that manage the Centre, which is Asia’s largest Catholic charismatic retreat station, have denied the police charge saying the allegations against the Centre are aimed at maligning the good works that the Church is carrying out there. Cardinal Vithayathil said “We should all know about the great service that the Retreat Centre is providing to the people. Here, about 100 aids patients and 400 mentally challenged persons were being cared for.” The Divine Retreat Centre conducts weekly retreats in six Indian languages and English throughout the year. More than 10,000 people from various religions attend the programs, which begin Sunday evening and end Saturday morning. (ICNS)
Jakarta: Cancel Dictator Debts
The International conference on the Cancellation of Illegitimate Debts was attended by 150 representatives from Southern and Northern social movements and civil society organizations from fifteen countries of Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. Also present were parliamentarians and government officials joining the people’s efforts against the yoke of enslaving debt. The global struggle against debt has already achieved so much and there is a resolve to continue, build up and intensify resistance to this. The people of the South have suffered trillions of dollars in debt and debt servicing for decades, which has been among the greatest burdens causing their continued and deepening economic backwardness and social underdevelopment. Yet even as hundreds of billions of dollars are paid every year to creditor banks and organizations in the world’s wealthiest countries these debts are not going away and indeed are growing ever larger – reaching US $2.6 trillion as of 2004. The struggle to cancel the debt would just be a part of the struggle to be able to realize a more just and humane society for all people. (CCA News)
Latin America: Pentecostalism is Thriving In Latin America with "Spirit-Filled"
Christians constituting at least a third of the overall population in parts of the southern continent, a Pew Forum survey has found. The organization conducted further research to examine the Pentecostal history and politics of the country. Over the past century, Pentecostals and Charismatics grew dramatically from 12.6 million in 1970 to 156.9 million in 2005. The World Christian Database reported Pentecostals as representing 13 percent of Latin America's population and Charismatic members, 15 percent. Latin America is an overwhelmingly Catholic continent and houses other "evangélicos," or Protestants, such as Presbyterians, Lutherans and Anglicans. The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, however, noted that "Pentecostals represent the most rapidly growing sector of Latin American Protestantism." In Brazil, which has the region's largest Protestant population, Pentecostals grew from less than 50 percent of Protestants in 1980 to 68 percent in 2000, Pew reported. In Central America, the growth of Pentecostals from 1965 to the 1980s was 37 percent to more than half. And today, Pentecostals make up some 73 percent of all Latin American Protestants, according to the World Christian Database. (The Christian Post)
Lisbon: Socialists Launch Campaign to Legalize Abortion in Portugal
Portugal’s ruling Socialist Party began an effort this week to legalize abortion through a national referendum, which could take place in the coming months pending approval by he country’s Parliament. The effort, led by the Portuguse socialist delegation to the European Parliament, is an attempt to “launch a serious and very informed debate” on abortion, according to Representative Edite Estrela, who said it would be “the first great debate” in Portugal about a possible referendum. (CAN)
Munich: European Leaders Question Turkey’s Place in EU, Following Strong Criticism of Pope
The President of Bavaria and prelates of Britain’s Catholic and Anglican Churches are among the most recent European leaders to wonder whether mostly-Islamic Turkey has a place in the European Union, especially following the country’s reaction to words of Pope Benedict XVI. Edmund Stoiber the president of the German region of Bavaria and leader of the Christian Social Union Party (CSU), the “little sister” of Germany’s ruling Christian Democratic Union proposed today that deliberations on Turkey’s possible acceptance into the European Union be ended. (CAN)
New York: Holy See Studies Feminine Side of Immigration
Women often bear the brunt of the difficulties endured by immigrants, according to a congress organized by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations. “The Human Dignity of Women in Contemporary Society: Issues and Best Practices in Migration and Refugee Services” is the name of the meeting which was held on Sept. 13 as a side event to the High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development at the United Nations. (Zenit)
New York: Religion Can Aid Peace Amid Globalization, Says Holy See
The Holy See told a U.N. committee that religion is a vital force for peace and understanding among peoples in an age of globalization. The Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, made that point when he addressed a committee of the General Assembly last Friday. The committee was reflecting on the theme "Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: Human Rights Questions, including Alternative Approaches for Improving the Effective Enjoyment of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms." "In our diverse and ever-changing world," noted the papal representative, "religion is more than an internal matter of thought and conscience. It has the potential to bind us together as equal and valuable members of the human family." According to Archbishop Migliore, "We cannot overlook the role that religion plays in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick and visiting the imprisoned. "Nor should we underestimate its power, especially in the midst of conflict and division, to turn our minds to thoughts of peace, to enable enemies to speak to one another, to foster those who were estranged to join hands in friendship, and have nations seek the way to peace together." The prelate contended: "Religion is a vital force for good, for harmony and for peace among all peoples, especially in troubled times." (Zenit)
Philippines: A Desire for Justice – Families and Friends of Human Rights Victims Launch ‘Hustisya’
The worsening state of human rights violations in the Philippines has compelled Filipinos to be in solidarity with one another. It has not discouraged the families and loved ones of the victims of human rights violations. Instead, the families and friends of these victims have concretized their solidarity by organizing ‘Hustisy’ (meaning ‘justice’). In the Cordillera region of Northern Luzon, Hustisya was launched at the Resurrection Cathedral of the Episcopal Church of the Philippines in Baguio city on 14 September 2006. The launch consisted of a forum on the current human rights situation in the Philippines and an ecumenical memorial service to remember the church workers and peace advocates who have been killed severing the poor and struggling peoples in the country. Hustisya was also launched at the national level in Manila on 15 September. (CCA News)
Tblisi: Catholic Community in Former Soviet State Lives in Fear of Orthodox Fanatics
Assyrian Catholics in Georgia’s capital city of Tblisi, continue to live in fear of attack after a hostile mob of 60 invaded and damaged their nearly completed religious and cultural centre Sept. “The Orthodox Church and fundamentalists don’t want a Catholic presence in Georgia,” Fr.Benny Yadgar told Forum 18 News Service Oct. 18. The priest fears that “fanatics could attack our people with knives and wooden posts” if the people begin to use the new centre for worship. The attack took place about four days after anonymous, undated leaflets started to circulate in the district, allerging that “Catholics are aggressive proselytizers who killed our monks in the 14th and 15th centuries. They marry cats and dogs and give the Eucharist to animals,”recounted the priest. The leaflets stirred people up against Catholics and urged them to come to the centre. The attack was instigated by fundamentalist Orthodox, determined to prevent a Catholic church from being built, said Giorgi Khutsishvili, head of the Tbilisi-based International Centre of Conflict Negotiations. (CNA)
USA: Church Must Be 'Social Therapists,' Says Theologian
A prominent African-American theologian called on the Church to act as “social therapists” during a general assembly of churches on Wednesday. Some 250 delegates at the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) and Church World Service (CWS) listened as Robert M. Franklin Jr. urged the Church to heal the political, economic, global religious and racial wounds in society, reported The Presbyterian News Service. “In our time, therapy and healing have become privatized and pathology has become personalized,” said Franklin, who was the former president of the Interdenominational Theological Center and was a visiting professor to Harvard Divinity School, according to PC News. “We need to rediscover the gospel of Jesus Christ as a means to both personal and social transformation, to practice Christian ethics as a social therapeutic.” In his speech, Franklin listed four wounds that need healing: political, economic, global religious and racial wounds.
Vatican City: Pope Warns Theologians to Not Seek Applause in Homily, He Recommends Fidelity to Truth
A theologian prostitutes himself when he subjects himself to the “dictorship of common opinion”, Benedict XVI told members of the International Theological Commission. “To speak to meet with applause, to speak oriented to what men want to hear, to speak obeying the dictatorship of common opinions, is considered a sort of prostitution of the word and of the soul,” said the Holy Father quoting the First Letter of St.Peter. The theologian needs a form of “chastity”, which implies “not to be subjected to such standards, not to seek applause, but to seek obedience to the truth,” the Pontiff said. Yet, “the beautiful vocationof the theologian is to speak,” he added. (Zenit)
Vatican City: Vatican City says Archbishop Milingo, Four Others Incur Excommunication
Recent ordinations made without papal approval have placed Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo and the four prelates he ordained under automatic excommunication, the Vatican said. Starting with his “attempted marriage” in 2001 until his Sept. 24 ordinations of four bishops in Washington, Archbishop Milingo’s actions have led him to “a condition of irregularity and progressive breach in communion with the church,” said a written statement by the Vatican press office. A bishop who consecrates a bishop without a pontifical mandate and the person who receives the consecration from him automatically incur the penalty of excommunication. (CNS)
A movie that is currently in theatres, An Inconvenient Truth, features former US Vice-President Al Gore speaking on the phenomenon of global warming. Gore presents a convincing argument that global warming has already had negative effects on Earth, but will have even graver effects in the future. This film focuses on the damage humans have done to Mother Earth.
Vatican City: Benedict XVI Convokes Synod on Scripture
Benedict XVI has convoked a world Synod of Bishops for 2008 dedicated to sacred Scripture and its relationship to the activity of the Church. “The Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church” will be the theme for the 12th ordinary session, the Vatican press office announced today, and will take place in the Vatican from 05-26 Oct., 2008. (Zenit)
Inus Daneel, Charles Van Engen and Hendrik Vroom (eds.), Fulness of Life for All: Challenges for Mission in Early 21st Century, New York: Rodopi, 2005
This book will challenge the reader to reflect upon the missionary presence of the churches and their communication of the gospel in the secularized and pluricultural world.
Thaijasa, S.D., Call to Compassion, Bangalore: Dharmaram Publications, 2006.
Bible is the recital of the acts of the divine compassion. The Christian call may be adequately formulated as a call to compassion. This book enumerates the challenges from the biblical perspective.
Lazar Thanuzraj Stanislaus, SVD (Director)
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