52

ISHVANI KENDRA
Institute of Missiology and Communications
Pune – India

April  – 2007

I. REPORT AND DOCUMENTATION

Australia, Brisbane: Will Violence At Virginia Tech Awaken Asian Churches?

All life is precious, everywhere, so the shocking news of the slaughter at Virginia Tech in the United States was mourned worldwide. Sudden disaster numbs people with grief. For a moment, the killing of 32 people, mostly youths, seemed to make America momentarily forget the escalating death roll of more than 3,300 Americans killed in Iraq to date and the 30,000 killed by handguns in the United States every year. With time, anger began to make way for reflection. As usual, the young are always open and outspoken. They did not take long to begin talking of the killer, their campus mate Cho Seung-hui. Citing Cho's former classmates, media said fellow students mocked the Korean immigrant's shyness and strange ways they had bullied him. Cho unsurprisingly said, “I feel so lonely” Catholic News Service cited Cardinal George Pell of Sydney saying that the tragedy demonstrates the human need for others and the devastating effect of loneliness and isolation in contemporary society. In a column in Australia's Sunday Telegraph, the Sydney archbishop said Cho would be remembered only as murderer, probably a madman. Cardinal Pell hastened to add, “but he was not an alien and demon, and perhaps there may be things we should learn from his blighted experience of life.” In his video, Cho told fellow students, “You have vandalized my heart, raped my soul and tortured my conscience. You thought it was one pathetic more life you were extinguishing.” In his frenzy, he even wrote, “I die like Jesus Christ to inspire generations of weak and defenseless people.” By “defenseless people,” he may have meant other deprived and rejected young migrants like him. According to The New York Times, some 200 million migrants live scattered worldwide. No doubt, many among them are Asians, young Asians, who migrated in search of justice or a fair life. Since migrants and youth have for long been highlighted as top pastoral priorities of the Asian Church, this tragedy must have a special message for Church leaders, too. How much attention do Asian Churches give to prepare and follow up Asians who migrate? What is the pastoral responsibility of Churches in migrant-sending countries and migrant-receiving countries to interact and coordinate the apostolate to these uprooted people irrespective of race or religion? (UCAN)

Buenos Aires: Argentinean Bishops Stress the Need for Serious Reflection on Social Behaviour, Rights and Duties in View of Elections this Year

At the end of their 93rd Plenary Assembly the Argentinean Catholic Bishops issued a statement on the citizens social duties and in view of elections this year underlining the necessity to "be more aware of our common calling to promote the common good, and be not just inhabitants but citizens who participate in the country's social and political life". In view of general elections this year the Bishops urge the people to "seriously reflect on our social behaviour: looking at our duties and our rights, as ordinary citizens or as state workers or leaders called to exercise the function for which they are chosen". Among the more important issues the Bishops mention: human life "the first of all rights which we must respect"; the family, founded on marriage of a man and a woman, and family rights which must be strengthened; and for young people education to love and social commitment in the real sense"; the common good must come first, "its primacy sustains and fortifies the power of the state"; give priority to measures which guarantee and accelerate the inclusion of all citizens; federalism "with more institutional power for the Province, and the necessary and just autonomy from the central authorities "; social policies to improve society “dialogue to reach agreements for a common project of nation". (Agenzia Fides)

Guatemala: ‘Antichrist’ Cancels Visit to Guatemala

An American religious leader who calls himself the ‘Antichrist’ canceled a visit to Guatemala after the Central American country barred him as a security risk, saying he provokes conflict with Roman Catholics and evangelicals. Puerto-Rican born Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda wears the number 666 tattooed on his arm and claims a following of 2 million people, most in Miami, where he lives, and Colombia. His Growing in Grace Church holds a congress every year in different locations in the Americas. Guatemala's Congress had labeled De Jesus Miranda a terrorist and immigration officials were instructed to refuse him entry to the country, where thousands of his followers from around the world had gathered. He had vowed to defy the ban but canceled it and will instead address the gathering in a video teleconference, said the sect's head pastor in Guatemala, Jorge Batres. “We're a Church respectful of the law and we will have to wait until the judge gives us an injunction,” Batres said De Jesus Miranda's Guatemalan followers will “firmly fight within the law so that he can come and let the world know that Jesus the Man is in Guatemala.” (news.yahoo.com)

Indonesia, Jakarta: Young Jakarta Catholics Commit to Jesus, Church and Society

To mark the 200th anniversary of the Catholic Church in Jakarta, more than 5,000 young Catholics have committed themselves to be Generation Plus. “We Catholic young people (OMK, Indonesian Acronym) of Jakarta Archdiocese are Generation Plus. First, we obey Jesus Christ by devoting our lives to the Church and Society; second, we think, act and behave positively; third, we offer thanks to God for our lives,” says the Jakarta OMK statement. Several young people read the declaration at the end of the special April 22 celebration for youth. More than 5,000 other participants from 59 parishes of the archdiocese echoed the words. The gathering was part of activities celebrating 200 years since the Apostolic Prefecture of Batavia was established on May 8, 1807. Batavia was Jakarta's name during Dutch colonial times. The archdiocese launched its two-year anniversary celebration in May 2005 with the theme, The more we become faithful to Jesus, the more we serve society and nation. The youth event, one of several held for various sectors of the Church community, was held at Tennis Indoor Building in Senayan, Central Jakarta. (UCAN)

Iraq, Ankawa: Iraqi Leaders Indifferent to 'Endangered' Christians

“Christians in Iraq are on their way to extinction, cut off from the country’s political process,” said Redemptorist Fr Bashar Warda, newly-appointed rector of the St Peter Major Seminary, which was recently moved from Baghdad to Ankawa (Kurdistan) for security reasons. Through AsiaNews he wants to appeal to the government in Baghdad to make an effort to work for peaceful coexistence in the country, protecting its defenceless and voiceless minorities. Father Warda’s message comes on the eve of the May 3-4 summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, where the international community is set to discuss plans for Iraq’s future. The clergyman is critical of a democracy that has “turned into a simplistic expression of majority will and the systematic violation of minority rights.” In listing some of the aspects of the grave crisis that is affecting especially the Christian community, he stressed “higher unemployment among Christians, arbitrary seizure of properties owned by Christian families in Baghdad and Mosul, violations of religious freedom and freedom of thought, abductions, attacks and sectarian threats.” He wonders why, for many years, no one has acted. “The answer is simple; the indifference of Iraqi leaders,” he said. “They do not consider us as belonging to this nation, our human and intellectual participation as Iraqis to the country’s progress along with all the other religious groups that live here.” (AsiaNews)

Macau: Catholics Urge Political Reforms After Labor Day Protest Turns Into Riot

Local Catholics and a scholar have called for political reforms in Macau to address the May 1 protests of this and the previous year, the first such rallies to be held in the territory. Both turned into confrontations with police, who firing warning shots during this year's protest, hitting a passerby. Legislator Antonio Ng Kuok-cheong, who took part in the rally, told UCA News the following day that it protested against government corruption, collusion between government officials and businessmen, and working-class poverty. The protesters were angry that the local government has long neglected their demands, said Ng, a Catholic and one of the few pro-democracy politicians here. Such problems will continue to plague Macau for 50 years if there is no constitutional reform for popular suffrage, he noted. Under the territory's "one country, two systems" policy, its capitalist and political systems should remain unchanged for 50 years from its 1999 handover to China. (UCAN)

Oslo, London: Global Warming Could Bring Hunger, Melt Himalayas

Global warming could cause more hunger in poor countries and melt most Himalayan glaciers by 2030s. According to a draft UN report it says that up to 40 animal and plant species face extinction as rising temperatures destroy the ecosystems that support them. “Even a half metre rise in sea levels would have catastrophic effects in Bangladesh and some island states,” it said. If current warming rates are maintained, Himalayan glaciers could decay at very rapid rates, shrinking from thepresent 500,000 sq.km. to 100,000 sq.km. by 2030s.” According to a draft technical summary disruptions are likely to be felt hardest in poor nations, such as sub-Saharan Africa and Asia where millions more could go hungry because of damage to farming and water supplies. (Times of India)

Rome: God’s Love is Great, But Hell ‘Exists and is Eternal’, Pope Says

God’s mercy and love are great, but those who reject him should know that hell “exists and is eternal,” Pope Benedict XVI said. While visiting a parish the Pope made comments at a Roman parish that serves a predominantly immigrant population, including the city’s Filipino community. In the sermon, the Pope focused on what has become a running theme of his pontificate: the importance of divine love. He said: “Christ came to tell us that he desires all of us in heaven and that hell, which isn’t spoken about much in our time, exists and is eternal for those who close their hearts to his love,” the Pope said. (CNS)

Santo Domingo: Dominican Republic Catholic Bishops Launch TV Project to Promote the Values of the Kingdom of God

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Dominican Republic has announced the creation of a television station “The Church of the 3rd Millennium”, official media of the local Church which will promote the values of the Kingdom of God and encourage ongoing creative, objective and ethical reflection with regard to society as well as indispensable harmony among all Dominicans. The programmes will seek to meet the needs of the times. “The Church of the 3rd Millennium”, will be broadcast to various Caribbean countries and to the United States on national and international channels. The project has been developed by the Bishops' Media Commission presided by Bishop Ramón Benito Ángeles Fernández, assisted by team of TV production experts. The new television will have an important launching during the 5th General Conference of the Council of Latin American Bishops' Conference in Aparecido, Brazil and which will be opened on 13 May by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and on which it will give full reports (Fides Service)

Thailand, Bangkok: Thai Monks Issue Call for Buddhism to be Declared State Religion

Amid debate on whether Buddhism should become Thailand's national religion, demonstrators have taken to the streets and committed their signatures to paper, ratcheting up pressure on the military junta to include such a change in a new Constitution. Hundreds of Buddhist monks, joined by more than 3,000 Buddhist laypeople and nine elephants, assembled on April 17 in Sanam Luang, a large oval field in front of the Grand Palace in central Bangkok, to press their demand. They then marched about five kilometers to the front of the parliament, where the monks led a silent demonstration to send a message to the Constitutional Drafting Committee inside. The monks also sent a representative to meet with Prasong Soonsiri, the committee chairman, to formalize their request. Kumphol Phumanee, a leading member of the council, explained to media that the Council of Buddhist Organizations of Thailand had gathered 1 million signatures at Buddhist temples nationwide and presented them to Prasong. Monks and elephants again went marching to parliament on April 26, a day after General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, the military coup leader, voiced support for the idea. The coup overthrew the government Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra last Sept. 19 and drove him into exile. (UCAN)

Uganda: Peace Talks: Accord Signed on Social and Political Issues

After extending a cessation of hostilities deal last month, the government of Kampala and rebels of the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) yesterday in Juba (South Sudan) – where peace negotiations resumed on April 26 – signed an accord on so-called “comprehensive solutions” to social and political issues arisen by the over two-decade conflict that in North Uganda left tens of thousands dead and displaced over 1.4 million. “After a long wait since December, you can imagine, finally we have signed the agenda item number two, which was pending since 22 December, 2006”, said the spokesman for the Defence ministry, specifying the accord regards “what was regarded as anomalies in the social and economic development in northern Uganda, in all the war affected areas”. Based on passages of the draft copy published by the local press, “the parties agree that members of the LRA who are willing and qualify shall be integrated into the national armed forces and other security agencies” and that “the children of the departed LRA combatants shall benefit alongside other conflict-affected children from the Universal Primary Education and Universal Post-Primary Education and Training”.

USA: Church Hopping - News?

USA Today's Cathy Lynn Grossman writes that a survey from the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, Life Way Research, shows Protestant churchgoers are restless with their Christian fellowship and are seeking other religious bodies. Now is this really news? Grossman writes that it is: Most of the switchers who changed their house of worship without making a residential move (58 per cent) say their old church failed to engage their faith, or put their talents to work, or it seemed hypocritical or judgmental. But 42 per cent of the people say they switched because another church offered more appealing doctrines and preaching or the preacher and church members' faith seemed more ‘authentic’. “We may believe in the same doctrine, the same God and study the same Bible, but we are also imperfect human beings who mess up, who are not always living out those beliefs,” says Scott McConnell, associate director of Life Way Research. He adds in the rise of ‘consumerism and narcissism’ - when people expect to customize every experience to personal taste. More than half (54 per cent) of switchers changed denominations as well as fewer than half (44 per cent) said denomination was an important factor in choosing a new church. The survey is the result of interviews with 632 Protestant adults who said that they switched churches. (getreligion.org)

Vatican City: Pope - Europe’s Apostasy, Cynicism and Compromises

Europe is moving towards ‘self-apostasy’, forgetting the ‘universal and absolute values’ which it once sparked. As it demographically implodes, it might have reached its ‘twilight in history’, ‘losing its confidence in its own future’, this according to Benedict XV. In a passionate analysis of the current state of the old continent the Holy Father spoke to participants of a congress about the Treaties of Rome, titled “Values and Perspectives for Europe’s future,” sponsored by the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE). In his address he highlighted the many positive aspects that European integration has brought about like the fall of the ‘curtain of injustice’ between east and west, the reconciliation of Europe’s eastern and western ‘lungs’, the search of ‘economic integration’ and an ‘appropriate institutional structure’ for the European Union ‘which now includes 27 members and aspires to a global role in the world’. Another important issue that the Pontiff highlighted was ‘the need for a better balance’ between ‘wealth’, ‘competitiveness’ and ‘the legitimate expectations of the poor and the marginalized’. (AsiaNews)

Vatican City: Twenty-Four Missionaries Died Violently in 2006

Twenty-four priests, religious and laypeople were killed in 2006 while carrying out their missionary work, just one-person less than 2005 figure. The Vatican Missionary magazine published the report on deaths, not only of missionaries but also of all the ecclesiastical personnel who died violently or sacrificed their lives, aware of the risk they faced, rather than abandon their commitment to give witness and engage in the apostolate. (Zenit)

Washington: Bishops Call for Support of Africa

The U.S. Bishops' Conference is calling all dioceses in their country to give concrete support to the Church in Africa. A Pastoral Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa supports the growing population of Catholics on that continent, supporting needs in all the African countries. When the appeal began in 2005, nearly 60 U.S. dioceses contributed $822,000. In response to the 2006 appeal, 97 dioceses gave $1,727,000, an increase of 110 per cent in total contributions and a 70 per cent increase in the number of dioceses participating, the bishops' Web site reported. The bishops reported that in the past 25 years, the number of Catholics in Africa has increased to 144 million from 55 million, and the number of priests has increased by 73 per cent. Still, more than 70 per cent of Africans live on less than $2 per day. Bishop John Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Church in Africa, said: "The vibrant Church in Africa today, so rich in spiritual wealth, has enormous material need that calls us as sisters and brothers in the universal church to respond generously with solidarity and love. "This appeal has become an integral part of helping the flourishing Catholic community in Africa reach its enormous potential." (zenit.org)

II. NEWS

Perth, Australia: John Billings, Founder of Natural Family Planning Method, Dies at 89

The Catholic doctor who with his wife pioneered a revolutionary new church-backed method for couples to avoid or achieve conception died on April 1 at a retirement home in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond. No cause of death was given for Dr. John Billings, who was 89. By the time of his death, teaching centers on the Billings Ovulation Method of natural family planning had been established in more than 100 countries and the government of China had officially adopted it for population control purposes. The method was supported by the church as a morally acceptable way for Catholic couples to plan their families. (CNS)

Quito: Third American Mission Congress has Theme and Slogan

Preparations continue for the Third American Mission Congress, CAM 3 Secretary Osvaldo Fierro Teran informed Fides. The year 2007 will be important in preparation for CAM3, to be held on 12-17 August 2008. After consultation at various levels, a theme and a slogan for CAM 3 were chosen: “The Church in missionary discipleship;” slogan “America with Christ: Listens, Learns, Announces.” A continental competition has been launched for the official CAM 3 poster and hymn. The hymn and the poster, based on the chosen slogan and theme should express America’s missionary spirit and relation with mission ad gentes (Fides).

UK: Girls as Young as 5 Contemplate Suicide

Soaring numbers of school girls say they are contemplating suicide to escape their problems. Girls as young as five feel there is ‘no way out’ of crisis ranging from bullying and eating disorders to family troubles and exam stress, says the NSPCC phone service ChildLine. (Times of India)

III. BOOKS

Rhodes McGee, Teresa, Mysteries of the Rosary: In Ordinary Life, New York: Maryknoll, Orbis Books, 2007.

In this inspiring book the author explores the riches of this tradition and brings it to life for a new generation.

Scaria, Mary, ed., Human Rights Law and Gender Justice: Course Modules for Priests and Religious at Various Stages of Formation, Delhi: Media House, 2007.

This book highlights and outlines in a masterly manner the course modules for asserting social justice issues in the stages of formation.

Turner, Edith, Among the Healers: Stories of Spiritual and Ritual Healing Around the World, United States of America: Praeger Publishers, 2006.

This book examines foundations of Shamanism, and how its traditional practices induce brain processes that promote spiritual well-being and healing.

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

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