54

ISHVANI KENDRA
Institute of Missiology and Communications
Pune – India

July  – 2007

I. REPORT AND DOCUMENTATION

Beijing: No Medal for the Olympics on Labour Rights

A report by the Playfair Alliance titled No Medal for the Olympics on Labour Rights alleges that children as young as 12 years old have been employed during school holidays for up to 15 hours a day making Olympic clothing and other merchandise for a pittance. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it would review the matter. Playfair, an alliance of world trade unions, found “severe workers' rights violations” in four Chinese factories in Shenzhen and Guangdong. In one case one manufacturer of stationery employed more than 20 children, the youngest just 12 years old, hired during school holidays working from 7.30 am to 10.30 pm at two yuan an hour (25 US cents). These factories make Olympic clothing and merchandise under license, including one Shenzhen company that was licensed to produce 50 different items for the games. Even adults producing goods for the Beijing games had to put in 15-hours days earning as little as two yuan an hour, half the legal minimum wage in China. In one company fake salary slips are said to have been used to dupe inspectors sent to check wages and conditions. In another one it is claimed that the company instructed employees on how to lie to inspectors about wages and conditions and sacked workers who told the truth. Foreign multinational companies have been accused of treating their workers unfairly. Now many are becoming increasingly sensitive that their image could be damaged by adverse publicity about employment conditions. (AsiaNews/Agencies)

Brazil, Aparecida: Latin American Catholic Bishops Vow to Stem Exodus to Evangelical Churches

Roman Catholic bishops from Mexico to Chile pledged to reach out to the faithful in a bid to stem the exodus in Latin America to evangelical churches, a main theme of Pope Benedict XVI's recent visit to the region. Closing a three-week meeting of Latin American bishops, Catholic leaders said their biggest mission is to hold on to church members as droves leave to become evangelical Protestants. Church leaders and priests need to "get up and go out, and not wait around in their parishes" for the faithful to come to them, said Cardinal Claudio Hummes, the prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy and Sao Paulo's former archbishop. Hummes said the church will not engage in a war of faith or get involved in conflicts with Protestant congregations, but will embark on a "continentwide, great evangelical mission" to reach out to the faithful, especially in the sprawling slums of Latin America's cities where Protestants have been particularly effective in attracting converts. The bishops, however, did not give specifics on how they would go about reinvigorating the church. They prepared a 200-page report summing up their findings, and its contents will be disclosed only after it is reviewed by Benedict, probably in June. (www.christianpost.com)

Harare: Regional Church Leaders Demand Role in Resolving Zimbabwe Crisis

Southern African church leaders, concluding a week-long conference in Harare, passed a resolution, urging the government to include them in the mediation talks between the ruling party and the opposition, and also as regional observers in next year’s elections. The leaders from the Christian Alliance, Inter Regional Meeting of Bishops in Southern Africa, the Ecumenical Documentation and Information for Eastern and Southern Africa, and other churches, said they have an equal stake in the country’s future. Christian Alliance member Pastor Patson Nheta, tells Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere that church leaders are worried about the escalating crisis in the country and have pledged to take an active role in persuading their governments to act on the conflict. (www.voanews.com)

Hong Kong: Praying Way of the Cross in Busy Streets Awakens Concern for Underprivileged

On Father's Day this year, traditionally a family time, Cheung Chun-kwang walked and prayed for underprivileged people. After the initial station, participants stopped three times in front of the Legislative Council building, once in front of the Court of Final Appeal building and once in front of the government headquarters. They then walked uphill to the last station at the cathedral. At each of the seven stations, people held a banner announcing which of the traditional 14 Stations of the Cross was being marked. A Gospel passage was read, a short drama or quote depicting the suffering of underprivileged people was presented, and the participants prayed. "Walking the Way of the Cross with the Marginalized to the Reign of God" marked the opening of a yearlong commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Hong Kong diocese's Justice and Peace Commission (JPC). It came two weeks ahead of the 10th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese sovereignty on July 1. In a press release, the JPC said it organized the event to help people reflect on the situation of the underprivileged and to show the local Church's solidarity with marginalized people. (UCAN)

India: The First Indian Blessed will be Canonized, “A Call to Sainthood”

The announcement of the canonization of Blessed Alphonsa Muttathupadathu, “is a call to Holiness, very significant for these times in which we live: Her life though short and brief was marked by suffering which had a ‘salvific dimension’”. This was the reaction of Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly, on the news that the Pope had approved the canonization of the first Indian saint who lived and died in India, 1 June last. Thanks to this approval, explains the prelate to AsiaNews, “we give an evening stronger meaning to our State which is known as ‘God’s Own Country- and with the canonisation of Blessed Alphonsa, our Kerala is indeed God’s Own Country”. All human beings he continues, “are called to Holiness and Blessed Alphonsa is witness to Holiness, - Her life though short and brief was marked by suffering which had a ‘salvific dimension’. By her suffering Love she was witness of her immense love for Christ and the Church. Her Suffering Love, her communion with the Suffering of Jesus Christ on the Cross and her offering of her suffering for the Church are models for the people of modern society”. (AsiaNews)

India, Panaji: Priests Feel the Heat Following Announcement of Goa Election Results

Indian Priests who campaigned against "corrupt" and "old faces" in the recent Goa State assembly elections are now feeling the heat. One such is Father Eremito Rebelo. On June 13, eight days after the June 2 election results were made public, he filed a police case complaining about a letter he received from an alleged Hindu front that threatens to kill him. The letter also warns the priest, vice postulator for the canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz, that the Sanctuary of Blessed Vaz will be bombed. That chapel is in Sancoale, 16 kilometers South of Panaji, the state capital, which is 1,910 kilometers Southwest of New Delhi. The letter-writer claims to be linked to some Hindus from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala states. Sancoale has a large number of immigrants from those states in southern India. The handwritten letter extols Mauvin Godinho of the Congress Party, who won the local seat. It also asserts that the organization has suicide bomb squads and that the losing candidate, Matanhy Saldanha, is on its hit list. Saldanha has complained that Godinho's supporters have been harassing his people since the election, but Godinho told UCA News on June 17 he has nothing to do with the letter. He also said he has gone to explain directly to Father Rebelo that the letter was the handiwork of some "coward mischief-monger." (UCAN)

Iraq: The Killers of Fr. Ragheed and the Three Deacons Wanted their Conversion to Islam

Before opening fire on Fr. Ragheed Gani and his three deacons, the killers demanded their conversion to Islam. These emerging details of the murder of the 4 Chaldeans have been posted by the Arab site Ankawa.com which in these last few days has been re-creating the ferocious nature of the Mosul attack through eye-witness accounts. Sunni Islam’s highest authority in Iraq condemns the attacks against the Christians and lays “all blame at the door of the Government and occupying forces”. The Sunni academics also denounce the fact that “what is happening on the ground in Iraq is pure terror, killing and destruction, due to a total deterioration in security”. The Iraqi Ambassador to the Holy See on the Nineveh Plain project “we work to build greater unity, not barriers”. AsiaNews)

Moscow: Russian Patriarch Agrees to PACE Visit, Will Not Meet Pope

Russian Patriarch Alexy will attend a session of Europe's leading human rights body along with Pope Benedict, but a historic meeting between the estranged church leaders is highly unlikely. The Russian prelate has accepted an invitation to join the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe during its October 1-5 session in Strasbourg, and will address the gathering with a keynote speech on October 2, PACE President Rene van der Linden said. Speaking at an interfaith conference in Moscow, van der Linden said the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict, was also expected to attend, although the time of the pontiff's visit had yet to be fixed. Vsevolod Chaplin, a deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchate's exterior relations department, confirmed that Alexy was planning to deliver a speech at the PACE session in early October. But he dismissed reports, the 78-year-old patriarch would meet with the pope on the forum's sidelines. "As far as I am aware...the date for the patriarch's speech, which has already been fixed, and the Pope's presentation [as yet unscheduled] are two separate events, taking place at different times." (RIA Novosti)

Rome: Critics Press Italy, Church on Clergy Abuse

In the last decade, clerical abuse scandals involving Roman Catholic priests erupted in the United States and several European and Latin American countries.

Yet in Italy — a bastion of Catholicism — the issue never came to the surface and never made headlines. Now, in the Vatican's backyard, the veil of secrecy is beginning to lift. Friday, in St. Peter's Square, outside Pope Benedict XVI's apartments, about 30 people gathered to demand justice for victims of clerical sex abuse. Some held a banner proclaiming "Stop the Vatican Cover-Up." Daniel Shea, an American lawyer who has defended many sex-abuse victims in U.S. courts, accuses the Vatican — and the former Cardinal Ratzinger — of obstruction of justice. "This gives them the opportunity to silence the victim, threaten the victim with hellfire for all eternity if they ever reveal what is going on in this transaction," Shea says. One Italian magazine says 1,000 sex-abuse cases have been reported to the Vatican, but only 10 have been investigated. (npr.org)

Thailand, Bangkok: Catholics Need Larger Online Presence, Says Local 'Father Of The Internet'

Thailand's most high-profile supporter of modern communications suggests Catholics could do more to use the Internet and television to communicate their message in this Buddhist-majority country. Professor Srisakdi Charmonman, chairman and chief executive officer of the College of Internet Distance Education at Assumption University, the Buddhist educator was invited to speak at the Sixth Bishops' Institute for Social Communications (BISCOM VI), titled Converging Communications for Ministry in Asia: Modern Communication Technologies for the Church. It was held May 28-June 2 at the Assumption campus in Bangna, on the southeast outskirts of Bangkok. Srisakdi was dubbed "Father of the Internet in Thailand" in 1998 by The Bangkok Post and other newspapers for his pioneering work in promoting the use of the Internet and other forms of high-tech communications. The International Biographical Centre in Britain has named him "Father of Thai E-Learning." (UCAN)

Vatican: Protect Street Women, Punish Clients

Nations should protect women from the violence and "modern slavery" of prostitution and punish the men who are their clients, the Vatican says in a document on pastoral care for "street women" released yesterday. The Khaleej Times reports that the new document says the exploitation of women stemmed from activities including human trafficking and sex tourism and the problem should be tackled in a comprehensive way. "The victims of prostitution are human beings, who in many cases cry out for help, to be freed from slavery," the document by the Vatican's department on migrant issues said. "The customers too are people with deeply rooted problems, and in a certain sense are also slaves," the document said. "An effective measure towards cultural change with respect to prostitution could derive from associating criminal law with social condemnation." Asked to explain the passage, Monsignor Agostino Marchetto, said: "We think that there should be not only protection of women but also a punishment for the clients."

Vatican City: Nuns to Pray for Pope’s Letter on China and Full Religious Freedom

More than 600 female monasteries are praying “so that the Holy Father’s letter is well-received, China opens up to the Gospels and give unrestricted religious freedom to all believers.” This initiative is the brain-child of Card Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, and Fr Ciro Biondi, PIME, secretary of the Pontifical Missionary Union (PUM). Cardinal Dias said that Benedict XVI wrote the letter “to express his paternal closeness and offer them some orientation about the life of the Church and the work of evangelisation in that huge country.” The prelate calls on them to “say special prayers so that the Letter of the Holy Father is well received, China opens up to the Gospels and give unrestricted religious freedom to all believers.” (AsiaNews)

Vatican City: Pope Urges Professors to Find Solutions to 'Crisis of Modernity'

Pope Benedict XVI urged university professors to create solutions for "the crisis of modernity" as well as investigate Christianity's contribution to the study of human nature. "Europe is presently experiencing a certain social instability and diffidence in the face of traditional values," but its history and universities "have much to contribute to shaping a future of hope," he told participants in the first European meeting of university professors. The participants came to the Vatican to meet the pope June 23. Representatives from around the world came to Rome for the June 21-24 meeting, "A New Humanism for Europe: the Role of Universities," sponsored by the Council of European Bishops' Conferences. The current cultural shift "is often seen as a challenge to the culture of the university and Christianity itself rather than as a horizon against which creative solutions can and must be found," Pope Benedict said. (CNS)

Washington: Take ‘Bold Action’ on Climate Change, Poverty, Health Care, Bishops Urge G-8 Nations

The world’s wealthiest nations have a responsibility to take bold action on global warming, poverty, health care, peace and security and education, said the bishops from the rich developed nations. In May 31 letters sent to the presidents of Group of 8 countries less than a week before June 6-8, G-8 summit in Germany, the heads of the Catholic bishops’ conferences of seven countries said that their concerns “arise from our religious and moral commitment to promote human life, human dignity and care for God’s creation.” “Take bold action on global poverty, health care, climate change and peace and security. … work towards greater access to quality education for all,” said the seven bishops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, Canada, Germany, France, Japan. “Act out of the moral obligation that we all share for the well-being of every human person,” the prelates said. The bishops pointed throughout the letter to the need for concerted efforts to help Africa. (www.catholic.org)

Zimbabwe: African Church Leader Outraged at Abuses

The leader of a major grouping of African churches has expressed outrage at human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, and has urged the world to help resolve the political crisis in the southern African country. "What is happening in Zimbabwe is an embarrassment even to us as Africans," said the Rev. Mvume Dandala, general secretary of the Nairobi-based All Africa Conference of Churches, during a recent Protestant convention called the Kirchentag, held in Cologne in western Germany. "We would like the world to assist us in finding a permanent resolution to the problems we have in Zimbabwe," said Dandala on 9 June at a Kirchentag podium that he shared with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "We are outraged when we see the amount of human rights abuses in Zimbabwe," Dandala told the audience. Zimbabweans are struggling to survive in a country said currently to have an annual inflation rate of more than 2200 per cent, where there is widespread unemployment and poverty, and where President Robert Mugabe, in power since independence in 1980, resists calls for political reforms and change.

II. BOOKS

Osborne, Kenan B., Orders and Ministry: Leadership in the World Church, Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2006.

This book explores the history and theology of ministry starting from thepremise that the ministry of Jesus is the paradigm for all Christian ministries.

Wijsen, Frans, Seeds of Conflict in a Haven of Peace: From Religious Studies to Interreligious Studies in Africa, Amsterdam: Rodopi B.V., 2007.

This book is based on fieldwork in Nairobi from 2001 onwards. It shows why Africa’s tradition of peaceful co-existence is not going to help Africa in the 21st century, and recommends a shift in the education in inter-religious relations.

Wijsen, Frans, and Robert Schreiter, eds., Global Christianity, Contested Claims, Amsterdam: Rodopi B.V., 2007.

It is the outcome of an international conference on Southern Christianity and its relation to Christianity in the North, held in the Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands.

Lazar Thanuzraj Stanislaus, SVD (Director)

ISHVANI KENDRA
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E-mail: ishvani@dataone.in
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