56

ISHVANI KENDRA
Institute of Missiology and Communications
Pune – India

September  – 2007

I. REPORT AND DOCUMENTATION

Africa: Church Comes of Age with Self Commentary

The Africa Bible Commentary has continued to win publishing accolades. The unique reference book authored by 70 African theologians was recently nominated as a finalist for the 2006 Book of the Year Award by Christianity Today magazine. In March, the Africa Bible Commentary was also named "2007 Reference Book of the Year" by the United Kingdom's Christian Booksellers Convention. Each year the convention presents awards in 13 categories, including Book of the Year, Children's Book of the Year, and Best Worship Album. The African Bible Commentary is the first reference book that attempts to explain the Bible from an African perspective. The 1,600 page tome on the entire Bible employs African story-telling devices like proverbs and riddles to address issues as diverse as HIV and Aids, corruption, widows and orphans, and burial rites that confront the African church today.

Germany: European Skylines Reflect Rise of Islam

After decades of worshiping in basements, Muslims are building hundreds of new Mosques. In the Rhine Valley city of Mannheim, the glittering minaret of Germany's biggest mosque overshadows what was once the region's most vibrant church, testifying to Muslims' new confidence as Christian churches are closing down. Years ago, 180 sisters of the Catholic order of the Sisters of the Divine Savior were the pulse of the city. Today, eight remain. Every weekend, roughly 150 Roman Catholics attend Mass at the Liebfrauen Church, while up to 3,000 Muslims throng the Yavuz-Sultan-Selim mosque. Since the mosque was opened in 1995, Muslim shops and youth centers have become a magnet for the Muslim community. Mannheim is not unique. Across Europe, the continent's fastest-growing religion is establishing its public presence after decades in basements and courtyards, changing not only the architectural look of cities, but also their social fabrics. Hailed by many as a sign of Muslim integration, the phenomenon is also feared as evidence of a parallel Islamic world threatening Europe's Christian culture. "Muslims have come out...and have become visible," says Claus Leggewie, a political scientist at Germany's University of Giessen who wrote a study on the evolution of the mosque landscape in Germany. "By building expensive, representative mosques, they're sending a message: We want to take part in the symbolic landscape of Germany. We are here, and we'll stay here." Major mosque projects from Cologne, Germany, to Amsterdam to Seville, Spain, have met with fierce opposition and fears that they will serve as breeding grounds for terrorists. Family members of two of the suspects in the Glasgow, Scotland, car bombings this month said the men had been radicalized by Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic revivalist group with plans for an 18-acre complex near London's 2012 Olympic Stadium that would house Europe's largest mosque. (www.cbsnews.com)

Indonesia: Family Commissions Urged to Discuss Family Planning with Government

Diocesan commissions for family in eastern Indonesia have agreed to work together and to dialogue on natural family planning (NFP) with local governmental institutions and local leaders. A recommendation recently issued by 40 diocesan commission members states: "Diocesan commissions for family in the Nusa Tenggara region are expected to work together with...the National Family Planning Coordination Board (BKKBN, Indonesian acronym) in provinces and districts." Their recommendation encourages diocesan family commissions to "dialogue with BKKBN officials and local custom and religious leaders about people's welfare, especially about family planning or NFP issues in their own areas." It also urges the region's bishops to promote NFP and set up teams that can guide people on NFP, and to consider establishing special institutions to handle matters regarding NFP in their respective diocese. (UCAN)

Ireland: Experiencing Erosion of Social Cohesion, Primate Says, Attacking Secularism

Ireland is experiencing a gradual breakdown of social cohesion, said the primate of all Ireland, calling these “the best of times and the worst of times” in the Irish Catholic Church. In a wide-ranging Aug. 17 address at the Milwaukee “Irish Fest” delivered at the Marcus Amphitheater here on contemporary challenges facing the church, Archbishop Sean Brady of Armagh stressed that “the secular project in Ireland” has failed to bring the happiness it promised. “Ireland is in the thaws of a rapid transition between old and new at so many levels: economic, cultural, political, social and, of course, religious,” the archbishop said, noting to “the erosion of external authority” as Irish society’s “first major axis of transition.” He pointed to “evidence of a gradual breakdown in social cohesion.” “This comes from a cultural shift from emphasis on community and family to an emphasis on the happiness of the individual, particularly of the individual as a consumer,” he said. “It is also tied up with a notion of freedom of the individual without reference to our responsibility to the common good that is so prevalent in Western culture at the moment.” (www.catholic.org)

Kinshasa: Bishop Bulamatari: I Would Like a More Open-Minded New Way of Looking at Street Children

MONUC’s Child Protection Division organized a one day exchange and sensitization seminar in the Holy Family parish in N’Djili, Kinshasa, within the framework of the joint MONUC and Congolese National Police (PNC) child protection campaign. Among the participants were PNC commanders, local authorities, leaders of local women’s groups and church leaders. Dominique Bulamatari, auxiliary Bishop of Kinshasa, gave us his views on the campaign, the role of the church and the long term solution to the phenomenon of street children in Kinshasa and the DRC. In general these street children are not bad. But the manner in which we view them is sometimes more wrong then right. The police force today needs to improve their contact with these children through dialogue, as well as the parents who end up leaving these children on the street. I would like to see a more open-minded new way of looking at these children, new ways of treating them. Violence perpetuates violence and it is shown elsewhere that there are other ways. (www.monuc.org)

Latin America: Abortion Under Siege

The remarkable comeback by leftist political parties in Latin America in recent years has been accompanied by moves to roll back the region's abortion laws, widely considered some of the world's most restrictive. Mexico City's leftist-dominated legislature legalized first-trimester abortions earlier this year, while Chile's socialist President, Michele Bachelet, allows government-run hospitals to dispense the "morning-after" emergency contraception pill. Elsewhere, however, it might seem as if a paradox was being played out: Instead of benefiting from the advance of the left, pro-choice advocates appear to be facing more setbacks. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, whose Sandinista Front was once an icon of the hemispheric left, backed a 2006 law that outlaws all abortions, even where a doctor would recommend the procedure to save a mother's life. In Venezuela — led by the self-styled commandante of "21st-century socialism," President Hugo Chavez — efforts to decriminalize abortion have stalled. And, perhaps as early as this fall, Bolivia's new constitution, which is being drafted largely by those aligned with Chavez's ally, President Evo Morales, may well proclaim "the right to life from the moment of conception," rendering all abortions illegal without exception. (www.time.com)

London: Bishop Leaves Amnesty after 31 Years Over its Stance on 'Abortion Violence'

A senior Roman Catholic bishop has resigned from Amnesty International in a row over the human rights group’s new policy on abortion. The Right Rev Michael Evans, the Bishop of East Anglia, stood down after 31 years in protest at support for abortion facilities in developing countries. His highly critical comments come as thousands of other Catholics who belong to Amnesty are considering resigning after the policy change at a meeting last week. The organisation’s international committee voted to support the decriminalisation of abortion and women’s access to legal and safe abortion facilities. But Bishop Evans, 56, who recently composed a prayer that has been printed on postcards for an Amnesty campaign, said that Catholics would find it difficult to support a human rights group that advocated violence against unborn children. “Very regretfully, I will be ending my 31-year membership of Amnesty International, which included several years on the British section council and its religious bodies liaison panel in the 1980s. “Among all human rights, the right to life is fundamental and this decision will almost certainly divide Amnesty’s membership and thereby undermine its vital work,” he said. The bishop added that the Catholic Church shared Amnesty’s strong commitment to opposing violence against women. “Appalling violence must not be answered by violence against the most vulnerable and defenceless form of human life in a woman’s womb,” he said. “There is no human right to access to abortion, and Amnesty should not involve itself even in such extreme cases.” (http://www.timesonline.co.uk)

Moscow: Church has Right to Work Toward Greater Influence in Society

The church has a right to work to penetrate into various spheres of community life, a Catholic archbishop of Russia said. Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, of the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow said that the Catholic Church, the Russian Orthodox Church and other Christian denominations “cannot keep silent but should speak out.” The church’s preaching, he said, should sound “not only within the sacristy walls, but also outside them.” He said that the religious leaders’ speaking out is their “duty.” “The church is separated from the state, but it has the right to point to mistakes made by society so that this society could build its life in accordance with God’s laws,” Archbishop Kondrusiewicz told Interfax. He said society today is going through a “very difficult time,” facing the challenges of “secularization of society and moral relativism” manifested, among other things, in the growth of “such social pathologies as abortion, divorce and drug addiction.” “Today many argue that faith is a private affair of a person,” the archbishop said. “But is so many advertisements of tobacco and alcohol hanging out everywhere in streets for everybody to see a private affair? But nobody speaks about it, nobody is outraged.” (www.Interfax-religion.com)

Paris: Mosque Plans Face Protests

Petitions in London, protests in Cologne, a court case in Marseille and a violent clash in Berlin -- Muslims in Europe are meeting resistance to plans for mosques that befit Islam's status as the continent's second religion. Across Europe, Muslims who have long prayed in garages and old factories now face scepticism and concern for wanting to build stately mosques to give proud testimony to the faith and solidity of their Islamic communities. Some critics reject them as signs of "Islamization". Others say minarets would scar their city's skyline. Given the role some mosques have played as centres for terrorists, others see Muslim houses of worship as potential security threats. "The increasingly visible presence of Muslims has prompted questions in all European societies," Tariq Ramadan, one of Europe's leading Muslim spokesmen, argued when far-right groups proposed this year to ban minarets in his native Switzerland. (news.scotsman.com)

Philippines, Manila: There is No 'Cure' for a Priest with a Child, Archbishop Says

The head of the Philippine Church's marriage-appeals court disapproves of priests continuing in the ministry after fathering children and rejects efforts to "cure" these priests instead of "disciplining" them. According to Archbishop Oscar Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan, head of the National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal, a priest who sired a child cannot be rehabilitated. "No matter how you assist this priest, that child remains and he has a natural obligation towards the child." He stressed that parenting was "not only giving food, shelter or clothing, as people do with pets, but teaching, formation, education" as well. He believes "impaired personality constructs" cannot be "cured." In Archbishop Cruz's view, bishops who "overlook" or "just forgive" misconduct by their clergy face problems. If one priest is "allowed to misbehave" and continue in the ministry, "there will be more," the prelate warned, expressing concern about tolerance sending a "wrong signal" to seminarians. Archbishop Cruz said he could "only guess" the total number of priests with children. In the Catholic Directory of the Philippines, the former CBCP president noted, most dioceses list inactive priests who have fathered children among priests "on leave," "with no assignment" and other categories. The 2006-2007 directory lists six priests as having "left the ministry," five with "no assignment," and two "on renewal." Another 685 are listed as being on leave for studies, on "sabbatical," "abroad" or away with no specified reason. It has 5,834 diocesan priests listed in 85 geographical Church jurisdictions and 122 in the Military Ordinariate. (UCAN)

Somalia: Church Leader Praises Interim Government's Quest for Peace

The interim government of Somalia should be supported in its quest to restore peace in the war-torn Horn of Africa nation, a senior African church leader said. Rev Mvume Dandala, general secretary of All Africa Conference of Churches expressed appreciation for the efforts made by the leadership and the people Somalia in the pursuance of peace through the recent Somalia National Reconciliation Congress in Mogadishu. He regretted that violence was used by suspected Islamic radicals to abort the congress. "The AACC is encouraged by the character of the people of Somalia in demonstrating their sense of civic duty aimed at the establishment of real peace and the ending of the vicious cycle of loss of human life, dignity, property and livelihoods in Somalia," Dandala said. "We have to affirm the Interim Government in Somalia for its initiative for discussions through the Congress. It is therefore, regrettable that the concerns and aspirations of the people of Somalia were not given the chance to be voiced. It is a fact that, social cohesion and governance are based on a social contract that forms a government. (allafrica.com)

USA: Ecumenism's New Basis: Testimony

After keeping a low profile for several years, advocates of a fresh approach to ecumenism are going public about a promising international gathering in Kenya this November. About 240 leaders from the Vatican, World Evangelical Alliance, Orthodox churches, historic Protestant and Anglican communions, and Pentecostal and independent churches will gather November 6-9 at a conference center outside Nairobi. Planners say the Global Christian Forum 2007, building on successful regional consultations since 2000, will be unique in its ecumenical breadth. The hope, says the group's Web site, is "to move beyond the separations of the 19th and 20th centuries and to engage in common witness for the sake of God's mission in the world." The new approach is based on an old religious practice—"personal testimony." Coincidentally, a somewhat similar solution was urged last month by Cardinal Avery Dulles, a theologian who teaches at Fordham University. Speaking at the 50th-anniversary Faith and Order conference in Oberlin, Ohio, Dulles said that formal theological dialogue aimed at harmonizing differing doctrines "has nearly exhausted its potential." He advocated "an ecumenism of mutual enrichment by means of mutual testimony." Dulles did not indicate any familiarity with plans for the international forum. (www.christiancentury.org)

II. NEWS

Canada, Vancouver: Bif Naked Nuptials: Canadian Rocker Prepares To Wed

No, the bride and groom will not be saying their vows "au naturale." Although Bif Naked's fans will be expecting Canada's most recognizable rocker to plan an edgy, off-the-wall wedding, the Bodog Music recording artist has opted for a traditional church wedding. On September 29, 2007, Bif Naked (Beth Hopkins) will marry Ian Walker, a star sports writer for the Vancouver Sun. The wedding will be held at an undisclosed location in their hometown of Vancouver. The decision to have a traditional church wedding was made by the couple to honour their parents, who have strong religious backgrounds. (Naked's parents are missionaries, and Walker's parents are ministers.) (www.newswire.ca)

Korea: Online Bible-Typing Opens New Chapters of Faith

The Bible typing program found in ‘Good News’, the largest Catholic Internet portal in South Korea (http://www.catholic.or.kr) has opened new chapters of faith according to individuals who took part in it. A 45-year-old housewife said the Bible typing program has brought her back to the Church after a lapse of six years. Fr.Chi calls the Internet Bible typing “a pastoral ministry relevant to today’s modern high-tech world.” (UCAN)

III. BOOKS

Lalpekhlua, L.H., Contextual Christology: A Tribal Perspective, New Delhi: ISPCK, 2007.

This book is an attempt to recover some liberating tribal concepts and to reinterpret the significance of Jesus Christ, using a Mizo conceptual framework of pasaltha.

Saldanha, Virginia, Discipleship of Asian Women at the Service of Life, Bangalore: Claretian Publications, 2007.

The proceedings and papers of the three BILAs on Women are compiled in this volume.

Vadakkekara, Benedict, Origin of Christianity in India: A Historiographical Critique, Delhi: Media House, 2007.

This book is comprehensive and authoritative on the topic, is a valuable addition to the critical studies on the questions raised.

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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