Institute of Missiology and Communications
Pune – India
October – 2007
Belarus: Christian Fined for Organizing Church Summer Camp
Viktor Orekhov, a Baptist in the south-western region of Brest, Belarus, has been fined 124,000 Belarusian Roubles (58 U.S. Dollars) – almost two weeks’ average wages - for organising a church summer camp. Belarus is in Eastern Europe, east of Poland. Forum 18 News Service noted that this is the first significant fine in over a year to be handed down to a member of the Baptist Council of Churches in Belarus. Forum 18 reported he told the news service, “What European country would tolerate a group of people doing what they like, completely ignoring the state and law, not responding to the authorities’ comments ? Any country would punish them, and severely.” In protesting the decision, Forum 18 reported Orekhov wrote that he had not formed a religious organization. Instead, he said, “parents and children from various places gathered for fellowship and relaxation on private land belonging to believers. (www.spcm.org)
China: Beijing's Southern Cathedral has the Kind of Congregation Many Catholic Churches in Europe Can only Dream of Attracting
At Sunday morning Mass, the church is overflowing with worshippers. Those that cannot squeeze in, sit on benches outside. There are no official ties between China and the Vatican, despite attempts by both sides over recent months to overcome their differences. But that does not seem to matter to the faithful at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to give the Beijing church its full name. The solid-looking brick cathedral, founded in 1605 by Jesuit Matteo Ricci, is the base of newly-appointed Beijing Bishop Father Joseph Li Shan. Father Joseph, whose appointment was approved by the Vatican, is in charge of one of China's main dioceses. It has a flock of at least 50,000 people. Hundreds of these worship at the elegant Southern Cathedral. Inside, it is lit by chandeliers and sunlight filtered through stained glass windows. From an office situated to one side of the cathedral, Sister Yu Shuqin told the BBC that the Catholic diocese had a vibrant congregation. Although money now seems to be the new god in China, there are still those who seek spiritual salvation in the Catholic Church, she said, as the sound of singing drifted in through an open window. (news.bbc.co.uk)
Georgia: UN Special Envoy calls all forces in Georgia to unite against HIV/AIDS
AIDS has become, “A truly global problem, affecting every region and every country of the world,” said Professor Lars O. Kallings, the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General. On September 19, at a news conference in Eastern Europe, Professor Kallings summarized his visit to Georgia and the current situation in the fight against AIDS in Georgia. “I am here to urge you to increase domestic funding for AIDS programmes,” Professor Kallings stated. According to him, because Georgia is located on the crossroad of Asia and Europe, a key issue for the country’s government should be preventative measures against HIV/AIDS. At this time, Georgia is classified as a country with low HIV/AIDS prevalence. AIDS does not appear to noticeably affect the current pattern of morbidity and mortality in Georgia. However, the study of possible risk factors (high prevalence of intravenous drug users, high-risk sexual behavior coupled with other social, economic, geographic, and cultural factors) indicate that conditions in Georgia might lead to the rapid spread of HIV. Some warning signs have already appeared - the incidence of new cases of HIV infection increased twelve times between 1996 and 2003. (www.geotimes.ge)
Germany: Munich Catholic Leaders Oppose MTV Awards on All Saints' Day
Catholic Church officials in Munich have called on the city to withdraw its approval for the MTV Europe Music Awards to be hosted in the Bavarian capital on a religious holiday, but the mayor said the show must go on. Munich's Catholic Church, however, has taken issue with the event, planned to take place in Munich's Olympic Hall on All Saints' Day, Nov. 1. "The day is not a holiday so that people can have a party," Winfried Röhmel, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, told the DDP news agency on Thursday, Sept. 13. All Saints' Day is a "day of calm" on which public entertainment events are only to be permitted if they "respect the serious character of the day" or are permitted as an exception for "important reasons," according to Bavarian law. "If someone like Mr. Timberlake only has time on All Saints' Day, then we toss our culture of religious holidays on to the trash heap," Röhmel said, according to Munich's daily Abendzeitung, adding that the city's decision to approve the event was "deplorable and disrespectful." A spokesman for the archdiocese's Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, however, said he saw little hope of stopping the event through legal proceedings. He also said the Catholic Church opposed the event's date, not any of the individual artists performing at the awards. Munich Mayor Christian Ude said, "No one is going to be impaired from going to church or visiting a cemetery. (www.spcm.org)
Indonesia, Maumere: 'Rotating Marian Statue' Draws Locals to Shrine
Local accounts of a rotating Marian statue have drawn many Catholics to a shrine here on the predominantly Catholic island of Flores. The 12-meter-tall bronze statue of Our Lady of All Nations at the Marian shrine on Nilo hill reportedly spun around for a few minutes on Aug. 31 morning. The hill is near Maumere, administrative center of Sikka district, 1,690 kilometers east of Jakarta. Andreas Duli, a motorcycle taxi driver, told UCA News Aug. 31 that Marselus Mita, a caretaker of the shrine, was the first person who claimed to see the miraculous happening. "Mita said he was so scared seeing the Marian statue rotate but went to the nearest village and informed the people about it," Duli recounted. Many villagers then went to the shrine and saw the statue rotating, he continued, saying some placed lit candles at the base of the statue and prayed. Romanus Moang Nong told UCA News he was standing near a gasoline station in Maumere and saw the statue turning in the distance. "I did see it," he confirmed. A man named Kobus, who lives in Maumere, said he was surprised to see so many people heading to the Marian shrine. Driven by curiosity, he too went to the place and saw the statue rotating. Kobus used his mobile phone to capture a video clip of what he saw, but he said the clip shows the statue disappearing for a few seconds and then becoming visible again. (UCAN)
Ireland: Racism Fears as City School Opens for Black Pupils Only
An emergency all-black school is to open in Dublin to cater for the children of African immigrants who have failed to secure places in the overloaded Irish education system. Mary Hanafin, the Education Minister, said that the problems in the north Dublin suburb of Balbriggan reflected bad planning amid rapid population growth, not racist attitudes at existing schools. She vowed to get the new school integrated with white students as soon as possible. “I would not like to see a situation developing where it is an all-black school, so it’s something to keep an eye on for next year’s enrolments,” Ms Hanafin said. However, the head of the organisation providing the new school said that it was a concern because demand was coming from a specific sector of Ireland’s ethnic minority. “Almost all of the people applying appear to be of black skin and that is a worrying phenomenon,” said Paul Rowe, the chief executive of Educate Together, a charity that provides an alternative to faith-based education. Ninety-eight per cent of schools in the Republic of Ireland are religious institutions. (www.timesonline.co.uk)
Malta: Maltese Church Criticised for Turning from Theology to the Environment
The Saint Gallen Council of European Episcopal Conferences in Europe published a study last week made by the Fondazione Lanza of Padova, about the various attitudes of churches in Europe with regard to the environment. It is, wrote Stefano Fontana in l’occidentale, an interesting study for it shows an increasing interest in environmental issues by European churches, such as those on climate change, water scarcity, energy production and refuse recycling. The Episcopal conferences of Germany and Austria were declared to be in the forefront of such initiatives. But according to Mr Fontana, there also emerges some perplexity regarding the cohesiveness with the specific Christian message. A study made in Malta regarding the environmental impact of religious festivities celebrated in the parishes is full of concessions to ecological ideologies. In Germany, 251 church buildings have had solar heating panels fixed on the roofs but the ecclesial communities surely merited something better than this. In Belgium and Austria a campaign was held during Advent on conserving energy in homes when this, though useful, does not result in any priorities of Christ’s teaching. Malta, again, set up an environmental management system in the Curia while a religious conference on the ecological problems of Carpathia was held in the Ukraine. One must indeed ask if it would have been better to dedicate these efforts to catechesis and theology, Mr Fontana said. There is a growing risk of losing what is specific in the Christian message in favour of vaguely ecological and new age ideologies. (www.independent.com.mt)
Myanmar: Catholics and a Few Priests Join Monks and Demonstrators
Many Catholic students and a few priests are among the throngs of people marching in defiance of the bans imposed by Myanmar’s ruling military junta, local sources told AsiaNews. Myanmar’s bishops released a statement a few days ago calling on the country’s 600,000 Catholics to pray for the people of Burma and for national reconciliation. In the message they urged priests to avoid being directly involved in demonstrations but told lay people to work for the good of the country as best they could. In the last few days rosary prayers have been recited in the evening just before curfew. In Yangon and Mandalay Catholic students from secondary schools and universities have marched with the population. Some priests have also visited Buddhist monks to express their support for what they are doing. “The history of the Burmese Church is one of martyrs,” said one faithful. “We are not afraid of risking our lives for our country.” Other sources told AsiaNews that despite the curfew and the ban on gatherings of more than five people, Burmese are determined to keep marching until a breach is made in the lack of freedom and dialogue imposed by the junta. “People are desperate, especially because of the untenable economic situation,” they explained. “Families have no money for rice; there is neither power nor gas. The military is everywhere and it is scaring us, but they won’t stop us. Our monks, exhausted by marching and soldiers’ violence, move us and drive us to continue the fight.” (www.asianews.it)
Nairobi: East African Church Leaders Voice Concern Over Worsening Security Situation
Catholic bishops from AMECEA have expressed grave concern over the deteriorating security situation in the Great Lakes and the Horn of African regions. In a document issued here at the end of the two-day meeting of the regional body's executive Board last Thursday, the bishops said: "We wish to express our concern and commitment in joining efforts of those seeking peaceful ways of resolving the problems in the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa". "It is our wish and desire as AMECEA Bishops that Reconciliation through Justice and Peace prevail within the Great Lakes Region and Horn of Africa, stressing that "Indeed, this will be our main theme for our next 16th Plenary Assembly that will take place in Lusaka, Zambia in 2008", "We commit ourselves to contribute to the efforts of bringing peace and reconciliation within AMECEA Region", added the communique, signed by the Most Rev Paul Bakyenga, Archbishop of Mbarara, Uganda.
Nigeria: Europe Should Stop Supporting Corrupt Politicians
The rector of the Catholic seminary of Enugu in South Nigeria, Dr. Ukoro Theophilus Igwe, has called upon Europe to stop supporting corrupt African politicians. Speaking to the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), he said that Africans were very disappointed that dictators who had "robbed their people of a lot of money and plundered their countries", were being helped by European countries. He called on Europe to help Africa by "denying such politicians access to bank accounts, asylum and every other kind of support". He called upon the new government in Nigeria to address its efforts to the welfare of the people. The president must do everything, he said, so that young people could have a future. This meant above all a concern for the educational system. Another major problem is that many people are not being paid their salaries. This is leading to strikes and social unrest. Expectations of the new government are high among the people, he told ACN. The Church is sharing the "real life that the people in Nigeria are leading", said Father Igwe. He added that the national seminary in Enugu currently has 673 young men preparing for the priesthood. During their training special emphasis is laid on translating theoretical knowledge into the life of society. (members4.boardhost.com)
Philippines: Students from Nanzan University Help Build Small Schools
Since 1999, Fr. John Seland SVD, has been taking volunteers, usually thirty or so, to the Philippines in order to build small schools in various places. Most of the volunteers are students from Nanzan University, in Nagoya, Japan, run by the Society of the Divine Word, although a growing number of retired men are also participating in constructing the schools. In August of this year, 2007, they helped build their nineteenth school, this one in Sancta Maria, Bulacan. Funds to build the schools as well as to pay the wages of the Filipino workers who help construct the buildings come mainly from Japanese Catholics. The name of the volunteer group is Rural Asia Solidarity Association. This is the main group working in Japan, which sends funds to its sister organization in the Philippines, The Mother Laura Gertrude Seland Foundation. Funds are used for three main activities: building schools, providing scholarships for Filipino children, and supporting various micro-financing projects. What is especially encouraging is the fact that among Japanese youth there is a strong desire to help others who are in need. (John Seland)
Rwanda: Water, Food Crisis Hits Flood Victims
People displaced by last week's heavy rains in Nyabihu and Rubavu districts in the Western Province still lack adequate emergency relief supplies, officials have said. On Friday, officials reported fifteen deaths and over five hundred homes were washed away by last Wednesday's torrential rains that have pounded the East African region in the past weeks. Displaced people have been settled in Kijote Cell, Bigogwe Sector and other drier areas in Rubavu. Relief agencies, including the Red Cross, district authorities and Nyabihu Catholic Church rushed in to help provide necessities to the displaced. But yesterday officials said that supplies, especially food and drinking water, are in seriously shortage. "Children cannot go to school due to lack of scholastic materials which were all destroyed by the floods," a local official said on condition of anonymity. The Red Cross has provided four hundred tents for temporary shelter while Nyabihu Catholic Church is giving Irish potatoes. Health officials have warned about disease outbreaks due to poor sanitation conditions. (www.allafrica.com)
USA: Churches Fuel Hispanic Faith Boom with Native Leaders
Hispanic churches across the nation are offering their Spanish-speaking members the same worship experience in the United States as they had back home. Churches of various denominations are recruiting clergy from overseas to tailor services to the ever-growing number of immigrants on a language and cultural level. "It's about the nuances of cultural identity that immediately create a boding that can never be replicated by anybody else," said Edwin Hernandez, program director of the Center for the Study of Latino Religion at the University of Notre Dame, according to The Associated Press. "The cultural identification and bonding that occur when a person of the same background is leading them, serving them and overall providing spiritual leadership is a big draw, and it sustains people's faith." For most Latinos across all the major religious traditions, the practice of religion is distinctively ethnic. Two-thirds of Latino worshipers attend churches with Latino clergy, services in Spanish and heavily Latino congregations. Moreover, Hispanic-oriented worship is also prevalent among native-born and English-speaking Latinos, with nearly half saying they attend ethnic churches, the study revealed. The Pew Forum also predicts a continued rapid growth of Hispanic Christians, presenting a huge opportunity for church growth for the various Christian denominations. (www.christianpost.com)
Washington: Church and Society Calls for Justice and Reconciliation in Jena
"Justice can lead to healing in Jena, Louisiana, but only if the intention is reconciliation," said United Methodist leaders with the church's social action agency in response to demonstrations sparked by six black students facing criminal prosecution is the beating of a white student. "Police intimidation, harsh prison sentences for youth, and different standards based on race will not lead to reconciliation," read a Sept. 21 statement from the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, based in Washington. "Justice and reconciliation can only be realized through an honest admission of the racism that exists in Jena and throughout the United States and the courage to bring about necessary changes to eradicate injustice which gives rise to violence." Citing statistics that show prisons are going up faster than schools in the United States and one in every 21 African American men is imprisoned, the church and society statement added, "With the increasing trend of incarceration, it can be expected that as many as one-third of African American men will be incarcerated at least once in their lifetime." (www.wfn.org)
Anderson, Allan, Spreading Fires: The Missionary Nature of Early Pentecostalism, Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2007.
This book contains a very comprehensive and contextual history of the Pentecostal mission in the world.
Burleigh, Michael, “Sacred Causes the Clash of Religion and Politics”, from the Great War to the War on Terror, New York: Harper Collins, 2007.
A historian considers the relationships among Christianity, Nazism and communism. This book is really about Europe.
Haught F., John, Christianity and Science: Toward a Theology of Nature, Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2007.
This volume offers systematic theological reflections on the relation between Christian revelation and the unfolding story of the universe.
Vadakumpdan, Paul, Mission in the North-East: A Missiology for the Emergent Church of North-East India, Shillong: Vendrame Institute Publications, 2007.
This book focuses on the methods of mission and mission priorities in North-east India.
Lazar Thanuzraj Stanislaus, SVD (Director)
Please forward this Mission Scan to any of your friends and acquaintances.