49

ISHVANI KENDRA
Institute of Missiology and Communications
Pune – India

February  / 2007

I. REPORT AND DOCUMENTATION

India, Allahabad: Cardinal Vithayathil Delivers Historic Speech at Kumbh Mela

For the first time in the long history of the Kumbh Mela, the popular religious Hindu gathering, an Indian Cardinal gave a discourse on philosophy and spirituality on the sprawling grounds along the confluence of Ganga-Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati River. And the huge congregation, majority of them Hindu saints and philosophers listened in rapturous attention to none other than Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, one of the five Indian Cardinals based in Ernakulam. He inaugurated the fifth All India seminar organized by the Forum for Religious Dialogue as part of the Kumbha Mela at Allahabad on January 29. The seminar was organized by Swami Gurucharananatha from January 29 to 31 and was also attended by professors from various universities. "His inaugural address on the concept of the 'Other' in different religions was well received by the gathering," officials at the Major Archbishop's house in Kochi told Indian Catholic on Monday. Speaking on the concept of the 'Other' Cardinal Varkey said, "in the Advaita Philosophy there is no distinction between 'I' and the 'Other' - tat tvam asi. In Visista Advaita it is a distinction within the one Brahman. In Dvaita Philosophy there is an entitative distinction between 'I' and the 'Other'. There are also atheistic Indian philosophical schools in which there are others, but not the Other." "As far as I am concerned, I have to ask who the other is for me a Christian. The other can have two meanings, the other as the 'Other', the ultimate 'Other' who is my God. Secondly, the other, as other who is the other person, without qualifications of race, colour, nationality. The other here can mean any one who is not myself, the unqualified alien, the foreigner, the stranger, who may be of any religion or atheist, any one who may or may not have a name," the Major Archbishop emphasized. (ICNS)

Kenya: Tutu Likens Gays' Treatment to Apartheid, Stirs African Debate

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu, the former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, has warned African churches against paying too much attention to the issue of homosexuality while ignoring real problems facing the continent. "I am deeply, deeply distressed that in the face of the most horrendous problems -- we've got poverty, we've got conflict and war, we've got HIV/AIDS -- and what do we concentrate on? We concentrate on what you are doing in bed," Tutu told journalists in Nairobi during the World Social Forum. During the January 20-25 WSF, homosexuals and their supporters took many Kenyans by surprise when they marched through Nairobi's streets clad in black T-shirts inscribed: "We are here, we are queer and we are proud." Tutu likened discrimination against homosexuals to that faced by black people under South Africa's racist apartheid policies. "To penalise someone because of their sexual orientation is like what used to happen to us; to be penalised for something which we could do nothing (about) -- our ethnicity, our race," said Tutu. "I would find it quite unacceptable to condemn, persecute a minority that has already been persecuted." Differences over homosexuality have threatened to tear apart the worldwide Anglican Communion, with some dioceses cutting links with the Episcopal Church over the issue. (Ecumenical News International)

Kenya: World Social Forum - Global Church Bodies Take on World Suffering

Church groups and Christian organizations join 46,000 people in Kenya to take a proactive stance when it comes to combating the world's top social problems. Groups such as the World Council of Churches, All Africa Conference of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, and members of the Society of Jesus are participating at the 7th World Social Forum (WSF) in Nairobi, Kenya on Jan. 20-25. This is the first time WSF has been held entirely in Africa. "The best thing the WSF can be is a forum for meeting others who are working in similar issues to yours and making contacts with resource people outside our family," said Peter Prove, assistant to the LWF general secretary for International Affairs and Human Rights. WSF was created to challenge the World Economic Forum and convenes activists, NGOs, and others to discuss issues such as poverty, disease, trade, and human rights. At this year's WSF, the World Council of Churches arranged a workshop this week on wealth, poverty and ecology. Speakers spoke about the imbalance of wealth and called for more sharing. Solutions such as micro-credit, including involvement from churches, were suggested. Other church leaders criticized the western nations for designing and carrying out programs for Africa without involving the local people. "A new Africa is possible, but only if we approach issues with a new heart and vision," said Abadam at a workshop to Catholic Information Service for Africa. (The Gospel Herald)

Kenya: African Church Head Warns Against Pentecostal Appeal

Speaking at the Ecumenical Platform of the World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, Rev. Dr. Nyansako-ni-Nku urged mainline churches to 'rescue' people who are being lured by controversial African Pentecostal churches. The president of the All Africa Conference of Churches strongly cautioned people to beware of churches that exploit people in the name of the Gospel. Nyansako, who heads the fellowship of 169 churches and Christian councils spanning 39 African countries, criticized African Pentecostal preachers for promising prosperity to followers but getting richer themselves while the congregations get poorer. All over Africa, there is a surge of "one disease called Pentecostalism," he said, according to AACC. Nyansako repeatedly noted the rapid growth of the Pentecostal church during his talk. Overall, there is an estimated 400 million Christians in Africa. Pentecostals today represent about 12 percent, or about 107 million, of Africa's population according to the World Christian Database. Charismatic members of non-Pentecostal denominations make up another 5 percent of the population, or about 40 million. The proportion of Pentecostals and Charismatics combined was less than 5 percent just over three decades ago. AACC's Nyansako attributed the growth of Pentecostal prosperity churches in Africa to their exploitation of ignorance, emotions and poor class of the vulnerable who are ostracized by society, according to the church group. Mainline churches were urged by the reverend to counter the problem by reaching out to the vulnerable in their societies and strengthening its credibility by making sure it performs what it preaches. (The Gospel Herald)

Liberia, Monrovia: 39,000 Former Guerrillas Still Waiting to be Integrated in Civil Society

Until it has its own national security policy Liberia will have to rely on UN troops to guarantee protection for its citizens. This is the sense of a report recently presented to the UN Security Council by outgoing general secretary of the United Nations Kofi Annan. There is also serious delay in the process of disarming former combatants' the report says over 39,000 of the 100,000 militia have yet to start programmes for integration into civil society. The report says the government aims to create an army of 2,000 men, but with 39,000 militia still waiting to be integrated into society, it will be many years before the country's stability can be guaranteed. So far only 106 militia have been given minimum training.

Lima, Peru: Quirky Relations: In Latin America, Church Still Influences State

When Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told Archbishop Roberto Luckert Leon recently that he would "see him in hell," he was fanning the coals of an ongoing war of words with Catholic leaders. And when Bolivian President Evo Morales' government picked a fight with that country's bishops shortly after his inauguration, he seemed to be biting the hand that had helped the country's grass-roots movement put a president in power. But while some of the region's political leaders appear to be trying to distance themselves from the institution that has been a political as well as a religious force since the Spanish conquistadors arrived, the Catholic Church continues to influence life and events in Latin America. In 1995, 80 percent of Latin Americans identified themselves as Catholic, but by 2004 that figure had dropped to 71 percent, according to the Chile-based Latinobarometro polling firm. Only 42 percent of Catholics considered themselves practicing, however, compared to more than 74 percent of evangelicals. Whether or not a country's bishops take a strong stand on particular issues, many committed Catholics play a significant role in political and social affairs, Father Cleary said. Many members of Morales' government have worked in diocesan social ministry programs in Bolivia, while in neighboring Peru, several members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that investigated two decades of political violence were active Catholics. With seminary enrollment up, about 175,000 religious and more than 1 million lay catechists, "to me it looks like the church (in Latin America) is doing better than in the United States in terms of work force, confidence and missionary spirit," Father Cleary said. "How can there be 1.1 million lay catechists if there's not a commitment?" (CNS)

Philippines, Naga City: Rethinking Mission Formation in Seminaries

The Congress on Integrating Mission in Seminary Formation proposes the topic of Rethinking Mission Formation in Philippine Seminaries. Mission and priestly ministry are closely related but not identical, and mission is more basic, the president of the International Association of Catholic Missiologists said at a recent congress here. In shaping a priest's identity, according to Maryknoll Father William LaRousse, ministry is secondary and mission is primary. He spoke about this when he addressed 220 seminary rectors, formators, seminarians, mission directors and pastoral workers at the first National Congress on St. Peter the Apostle from 17 to 21 January. (UCAN)

Philippines, Cebu City: Catholic TV Network Teams up with Satellite Corporation for Wider Reach

A new partnership between a Catholic television network and a satellite corporation aims to bring values-oriented programs to Cebuano-speaking Filipinos in Asia. INTV, formerly Cebu Catholic Television Network, has signed a satellite service agreement with Mabuhay Satellite Corporation. INTV aims to be "inspiring," "informative," "in touch with the times" and "interactive" with the community," says its website (www.intv.com.ph). It currently broadcasts on Channel 47. According to its company profile, it presently reaches an estimated 2 million homes with 9.5 million people in Visayas, the central Philippine region, and northern parts of Mindanao, the southern region. Most people in these areas speak Cebuano, the primary language INTV uses in its programs. Operating officer Duane Casia estimates that 10 million households, or about 30 million people in Asia, will have access to the programs. (UCAN)

Seoul: Excommunicated Archbishop Milingo Seeks Light from Moon

Excommunicated Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, who recently formed a self-styled personal prelature for married priests, is in Seoul this month with his Korean wife to study the religion of the Reverend Moon Sun-myung's Unification Church. Asia News reports that Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, who will also attend a birthday party for Reverend Moon, again urged in a 30 January address at a Seoul hotel that the Vatican allow Catholic priests to marry. “The reason why we have been mum regarding his visit here is so as not to stoke the anger of Catholics,” a source close to the Unification Church told Asia News. “[Milingo] will appear at an international academic gathering to be held at the Marriott Hotel in Seoul between 20 to 23 February, and at the birthday party for Moon on the final day of the event.” Milingo, 76, has already taken part in other events sponsored by the Reverend Moon, including the 2001 collective marriage in which he married South Korean Maria Sung, a member of the Unification Church. After a period of reconciliation with the Catholic Church, he ordained four priests members of the “Married Priests Now!”, a movement he founded in July last year, as bishops. The Vatican announced two days after the September 2006 ordination that he had incurred excommunication latae sententiae or automatically by virtue of his actions. (www.cathnews.com)

Vatican City: Pope's Translator Announces Requiem for Latin

"Latin is dying in the Church" as neither bishops or young priests are studying the language, says the papal translator who prepared the Latin version of Benedict's encyclical Deus Caritas Est. Although Milwaukee-born Carmelite Fr Reginald Foster, 68, who has translated speeches and letters for four popes, says he can see no future for the language, he has just launched a new Latin Academy in Rome, near the Pantheon, in his final effort to prevent it from dying out, the UK Telegraph reports. He hopes to attract 130 students a year, though he will not say how the new school is being funded. He said priests were no longer compelled to study Latin at seminaries, and now found it impossible to read vital theological tracts. "You cannot understand St Augustine in English. He thought in Latin. It is like listening to Mozart through a jukebox," he told the British Sunday Telegraph. "We still speak Latin in the elevators and around the house in my monastery at San Pancrazio, just like 45 years ago. But nowadays the students don't get it, and I don't blame them - it's not their fault." Until recently, Fr Foster taught a popular course at Rome's Jesuit-run Gregorian University until he was stopped by his superiors because he failed to charge fees to his students. (www.cathnews.com)

Vatican City: Pope: Faith-Reason Split Is "Schizophrenia"

Calls It Today's Greatest Challenge , Benedict XVI has billed the healing of the cultural "schizophrenia" that separates faith from reason as one of today's most important challenges. The Holy Father made these comments today before reciting the Angelus with the thousands gathered in St. Peter's Square, on the calendar day that normally would be the liturgical memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), "a great doctor of the Church." The saint's "charism of philosopher and theologian offers a valid model of harmony between reason and faith, dimensions of the human spirit, which are fully realized when they meet and dialogue," the Pope said. Quoting St. Thomas, Benedict XVI said that "human reason ... 'breathes,' that is, it moves on a wide, open horizon in which it can experience the best of itself." Poor in faith however, the Holy Father said, "when man limits himself to think only of material and experimental objects, he closes himself to the questions of life, about himself and about God, impoverishing himself." "The relationship between faith and reason is a serious challenge for the present prevailing culture in the Western world," the Pope said.

Vatican City: Interreligious Dialogue a Must, Pope Says

Receives Group of Muslim, Jewish, Christian Leaders Benedict XVI says that interreligious research and dialogue are not mere options, but rather vital imperatives for today's world. The Holy Father said this today when receiving in audience members of the Foundation for Interreligious and Intercultural Research and Dialogue, established in 1999. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was among its founding members. The foundation's first promoters attended the meeting: Prince Hassan Bin Talal of Jordan; René-Samuel Sirat, the former chief rabbi of France; and the foundation's president, Orthodox Metropolitan Damaskinos of Andrianopolis. "I repeat with insistence," said the Pope, "research and interreligious and intercultural dialogue are not an option but a vital necessity for our time." The foundation seeks to find the most essential and authentic message that Judaism, Christianity and Islam can give the world. During the audience, Metropolitan Damaskinos handed the Pope the foundation's first achievement: the joint edition, in their original languages and according to chronological order, of the sacred books of the three monotheist religions: the Torah, the Bible and the Koran. "The rereading and, for some, the discovery of the texts that are sacred for so many people in the world oblige us to mutual respect, in confident dialogue," explained the Holy Father in his address delivered in French. (Zenit.org)

II. NEWS

India: Two Indian Films Selected for 'Religion Today' Festival

Two feature films from India were shown at the Religion Today International Film Festival in Trendto, Italy October 11-14. They are "The Tree of Life" produced by Mr. Leo Thaddeus from Kochi, which won at the Polish Film Festival in May, and "Aisa Kyon Hotha Hai" (on AIDS) by Fr.Dominic Emmanuel SVD from Delhi. Among the 118 films from 18 countries and world's major religions, the selection committee chose 45 works. (The Herald)

India: 10 Million Girl Children Killed in India

A UNICEF report released in India this week says nearly 10 million girls have been killed by their parends in the last two decades, either before they were born or immediately after. Reacting to the report, India's Minister for Women and Child Development Renuka Chowdhury said: "It is a national crisis. It's shocking figures and we are in a national crisis. (UNICEF)

India: Catholic Nun Chosen for Human Rights Award

Sister Alice Lukose, Founder of Women's Initiative Network (WINI) was selected for the Justice Krishna Iyer Human Rights Award 2006.

III. BOOKS

Anand Amaladass, Indian Christian Thinkers: Volume 2, Chennai: Satya Nilayam Publications, 2006.

This volume analyzes the Indian Christian community to understand what constitutes their identity in terms of their Christianness and Indianness (multi-cultural and multi-religious).

Shekhar Mukherji, Migration and Urban Decay: Asian Experiences, Delhi: Rawat Publications, 2006.

The main objective of the book is to draw attention of social scientists and urban planners to such volatile situation, before migration-urbanization system reach to catastrophe.

John McGuire and Ian Copland (eds.), Hindu Nationalism and Governance, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2007.

This essay demonstrates how the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) repackaged core elements of its ideology to establish a stable coalition government which promotes a hegemonic Hindu discourse through media and establishing Hindutva as the dominant cultural discourse.

Lazar Thanuzraj Stanislaus, SVD (Director)

ISHVANI KENDRA
P.B. 3003, Off Nagar Road, Sainikwadi
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.