61

ISHVANI KENDRA
Institute of Missiology and Communications
Pune – India

February  – 2008

I. REPORT AND DOCUMENTATION

China, Hong Kong: Christian Scholars Discuss Religious Freedom in China Amid Socioeconomic Development

China's official policy on religion has changed little amid the nation's rapid socio-economic development, but government officials have changed their way of handling religions, Hong Kong Christian scholars say. Chan Shun-hing of Hong Kong Baptist University's Department of Religion and Philosophy sums up this new attitude by saying the Communist-led government has shifted "from controlling to regulating" religions. The associate professor spoke on "Looking into China's religious situation from the aspect of social development" at a seminar held to mark the 30th anniversary of Hong Kong Catholic diocese's Justice and Peace Commission. In the 1980s, Chan noted, it was "not uncommon" for Catholic clerics not recognized by the Chinese government to be detained or jailed for up to 10 years. But now some of these "underground" clerics are kept under house arrest in guesthouses, he said, suggesting that government officials are more flexible and have a better knowledge of religion. Meanwhile, he continued, China's development encouraged government officials to take a more pragmatic stance, and they became more willing to dialogue with "underground" clerics for the sake of social stability. (UCAN)

Geneva: Young People Lament Pain of Church Division before Rome Meeting

International organizations representing young people from all main Christian traditions say they are anguished at not being able to share in the Lord's Supper together. "Many of us feel pain when we are not able to celebrate the Eucharist together and be united at the Lord's Table," the groups said in a joint statement to mark the 100th anniversary of the 18–25 January Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The message was sent to the heads of the Roman Catholic Church, the World Council of Churches, Christian World Communions and Regional Ecumenical Organizations. (ENI).

India, Ranchi: Dance-Drama on Pioneering Missioner among Tribal People Attracts Thousands

A dance-drama based on a 19th-century Belgian missioner has brought together hundreds of tribal people in his former eastern Indian mission and encouraged them to fight exploitation. The Hindi musical Nyay ka Masiha (messiah of justice) is based on the life of Jesuit Father Constant Lievens (1856-1893), considered the "Apostle of Chotanagpur." The Chotanagpur region covers tribal areas in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal states. The dance-drama aims to "bring about a social reawakening and instill in the people love for their land and positive values such as liberation, justice and peace, as Father Lievens did," explains Father Peter Rapaso. Pilar Father Rapaso together with his confrere Father Allan Norohna directs the drama. Their troupe first staged the production in November, and by the end of December it had put on 16 performances in various parishes of Ranchi archdiocese and Khunti diocese, said Father Rocky Fernandes, another Pilar priest who is associated with the project. (UCAN)

India: Celebrate the Republic, Fight Violence and Intolerance – Cardinal Gracias

Intolerance and interreligious violence, together with sexual discrimination, selective abortion of female fetuses, and domestic violence "weaken the great Republic that India is today. To make it possible for the country to grow instead, it is necessary to unite society to build bridges of harmony, tolerance, and mutual respect". This is the essence of the comment sent to AsiaNews by Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, for the occasion of the 59th Republic Day of India, which was celebrated on 26 January throughout the country. (AsiaNews)

India: Statistical Overview

In India, the Christian population consists of 2.3 per cent of the total Indian population of 1.02 billion people. The Catholics consist of just 1.8 percent. The Church personnel are as follows: 13,067 diocesan priests, 13,692 religious priest, 90,049 sisters, and 5,442 brothers. The Catholic Church has the following educational institutions: 359 colleges, 1,465 higher secondary schools, 3,372 high schools, 3,198 upper primary schools, 5,872 lower primary schools, 513 training schools, 900 technical schools, and 263 professional institutions. To facilitate the children to study 1,278 orphanages and 2,979 hostels are run by the Church. When we look at the healing ministry, the Catholic Church has 787 hospitals, 2807 dispensaries and health centres, 111 leprosaria, 102 rehabilitation centres, and 3 medical colleges. Hence, one can understand the tremendous strength of the personnel and the infrastructure of the Church today. (Word India)

Kenya: World Watches

African Union's (AU) mediator between President Kibaki and Mr. Raila Odinga has asked political leaders not to take any further steps that would compromise the search for peace. The US declared support for the latest peace initiative, with a raft of demands on ODM and the Government. "Although we welcome the fact that both sides have indicated their commitment to dialogue and to ending violence, we are deeply disappointed that they have not been able to reach an agreement on the modalities for direct discussions." The UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-Moon said, "The death toll stands at an appallingly high figure of more than 500 people, with more than 300,000 Kenyans displaced". He called for a quick resolution to the crisis. "In the face of the deeply troubling situation in Kenya, the Secretary-General calls once again on the political leadership of Kenya to find – urgently – an acceptable solution through dialogue so that the political crisis is resolved and the country returns to its peaceful and democratic path. He added: “ …The potential for further bloodshed remains high unless the political crisis is quickly resolved." (allafrica.com)

Kenya: Opposition Leader Odinga Meets President Kibaki, But Violence Continues

“This was a good sign, but there is still long way to go to reach pacification” said a local Catholic source in Nairobi after Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga met on January 24. The meeting was mediated by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan. “The political leaders did talk and this is important but it failed to stop violence which continues to disrupt certain areas of the country” the
source told Fides. “For example at Kericho, Rift Valley, after India and Sri Lanka the world's largest area for producing tea, an important export for Kenya, it is reported that about 1,200 youths in gangs are raiding and looting. In Nakuru central Kenya, the Kikuyu people, the President's ethnic group, victims of most of the recent violence, are now on the offensive taking revenge against other ethnic groups. The army has imposed a curfew in the town. In Nairobi's Korogocho slum, the two main criminal gangs the Kikuyu Mungiki and the Luo Talebani are back on the scene”. The local red Cross office says in Nakuru clashes left at least three people dead, hundreds wounded and thousands homeless. (Agenzia Fides)

Nigeria, Abuja: Christian Leaders Lament Poverty in Oil-Rich Country

Church leaders in Nigeria say urgent government action is needed to tackle poverty in the West African nation that was ranked 158th out of 177 countries in the human development index of the United Nations Development Programme. "Nigeria is blessed with abundant oil wealth, but her people are suffering in the midst of plenty," the Anglican bishop of Nigeria's commercial capital of Lagos, Adebayo Akinde, said in an interview with Ecumenical News International. Statistics from the Central Bank of Nigeria indicate that about 54 percent of the nation's 140 million people live in poverty, many living on less than one US dollar a day. (ENI)

Philippines: Two Women—A Christian and a Muslim Chosen to Lead Silsilah Movement for Interreligious Dialogue in Southern Philippines

Zamboanga city The new leadership of Silsilah Movement for interreligious dialogue, historic presence of cultural awareness building, formation and sharing for Christian-Muslim dialogue in southern Philippines, is all female: during the annual Silsilah meeting the members elected as president and vice president respectively, Aminda Sano a member for many years and former vice president and Hadja Zenaida Lim, already leader of the local Muslimah Muslim Women\'s association for dialogue and peace. Up to now the president has always been PIME missionary Fr.Sebastiano D’Ambra who founded the Silsilah Movement in 1984. This new election is a sign of maturation of the movement whose ideals and activities of formation, awareness building and prayer have become a point of reference for numerous adult Christians and Muslims as well as students and schools. The new leaders will be installed on 8 February at Silsilah Harmony Village in the outskirts of Zamboanga. (Agenzia Fides)

Poland: British and Polish Churches at Odds Over Care for Polish Migrants in UK

Roman Catholic leaders in Britain and Poland have publicly disagreed over how best to provide pastoral care for large numbers of Polish migrants currently living and working in the United Kingdom. "It remains our position that Polish Catholics should look for their own priests and parishes," Bishop Ryszard Karpinski, the Polish church's delegate, told Ecumenical News International on 18 January. "But we've no means of forcing anyone. If people want to come to Polish churches, they come," he said. "If they want to go to English-speaking services, they go." The 72-year-old bishop was speaking following some strong reactions to a December interview by the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, during which he said he was concerned Polish migrants were "creating a separate church in Britain". More than two million Poles have left their country since it joined the European Union in May 2004, of whom at least half have gone! (ENI)

Rome: Students’ Protest Against Pope Benedict XVI in Rome

Students at Rome's main La Sapienza university plan to disrupt Pope Benedict XVI's planned visit to their campus in the second week of January with blasts of loud rock music. The group of left-wing physics students on Monday launched an "Anti-Clerical Week" of events ahead of Benedict's scheduled arrival on campus on Thursday. "In a university which should be...a place of cultural growth, research and conscientious and secular criticism, La Sapienza Rector Renato Guarini has instead decided to invite Pope Joseph Ratzinger to inaugurate the academic year," the students said on their website, referring to Benedict's name before his 2005 election. Benedict as pontiff "condemns centuries of scientific and cultural growth by affirming anachronistic dogmas such as Creationism, while attacking scientific free-thought and promoting mandatory heterosexuality", the students, who use the name, Physics Collective, said. "Despite differences in opinion, Benedict XVI should be welcomed as a man of great culture and of profound philosophical thought, a messenger of peace and those ethical value that we all share," Guarini said. But Benedict's presence at the ceremony at La Sapienza which will also mark the 705th anniversary of the founding of the university, one of Europe's oldest, has also drawn criticism from a group of lecturers. (www.earthtimes.org)

Rome: 200,000 Gather in Vatican on "Pope Day" Jan. 20

Seek the truth and the good, Benedict XVI urged some 200,000 people who flooded the Vatican to support the Pope, days after protests led him to cancel a visit to a Roman university. The Pontiff's visit to La Sapienza University for the inauguration of the academic year was planned for Thursday, but a group of 67 professors signed a letter that objected to the visit by the Holy Father, whom they claimed is "hostile to science." The Vatican press office reported Monday that "it has been considered opportune to postpone the event." At the behest of Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope's vicar for Rome, throngs of professors, students, families and politicians gathered in St. Peter's Square today for the weekly Angelus to show their affection for the Holy Father, in what the Italian media tagged "Pope Day." Amid shouts of "Long live the Pope," Benedict XVI recounted how his visit to the 700-year-old university, the largest in Europe, had been postponed. "Unfortunately, as is known, the climate that was created rendered my presence at the ceremony inopportune." "I love the search for truth," the Holy Father added, "the comparison, the frank and respectful dialogue between reciprocal positions of the university environment, which for many years was my world. All of that is also the mission of the Church, committed to faithfully following Jesus, master of life, truth and love." (Zenit.org)

Rome: Asian-Based Spanish Priest is New Jesuit Superior General

The Jesuits, also known as the Society of Jesus, have elected a 71-year-old Spanish-born priest who spent most of his adult life in Asia as the Superior General of the order. The Rev. Adolfo Nicolás was elected on 19 January in Rome by 217 Jesuits attending the order's 35th General Congregation and succeeds 80-year-old Dutch priest the Rev. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach as head of the worldwide order, which has 19,564 members. (ENI).

South Korea: Korean Archbishop Declares Alleged Marian Visionary Excommunicated

A South Korean archbishop said an alleged Marian visionary and her followers have been excommunicated automatically. Archbishop Andreas Choi Chang-mou of Kwangju issued the decree Jan. 21, saying "for Christians' healthy faith life and the unity and communion of the church, I declare as such, though my heart grieves." The decree was released to all dioceses and media Jan. 23, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News. The Kwangju Archdiocese issued directives in 1998, 2003 and 2005 banning Catholics from visiting and participating in ceremonies in Naju, South Korea. The Korean bishops' conference supported the archdiocese. Archbishop Choi said he met with Julia Youn, 60, and her husband in Naju in 2003 to warn them against promoting the alleged apparitions and later gave her a final warning in 2005, but they did not modify their actions. The excommunication was not imposed by judgment but automatically results from an action that places one outside the community of faith, Archbishop Choi said. "Rather, they speak as if the Holy Father approves them," the archbishop said. "They libel me, the Korean bishops and the Korean church through their publications and the Internet." (CNS)

Spain: Election Showdown Over Abortion, Gay Marriage

With national elections looming, Spain’s politicians have been sidestepping controversial issues such as gay marriage and abortion. Yet recent mass demonstrations and strikes show the issues aren’t going away. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has developed an image as a firebrand ready to shake up Spain's conservative Catholic establishment. His Socialist party passed Europe's most progressive same-sex marriage legislation, introduced fast-track divorce and chipped away at religious education in public schools. But ahead of a fiercely-contested national election scheduled for March 9, Zapatero is trying to polish his credentials as a moderate. His nemesis, conservative Popular Party (PP) leader Mariano Rajoy, is doing the same. The Spanish population, while still conservative compared with Northern Europe, is much more liberal today than it was 10 or 15 years ago, Onate said. Yet the Socialists still rely on support from voters ambivalent about issues like abortion. And the PP needs the votes of young people more accepting of gay rights.

Sri Lanka: More than 70,000 Children Affected by Floods in Eastern Regions

Fresh warning of natural disasters due to climate change – Days of torrential and uninterrupted rain in the districts Ampara and Batticaloa in Sri Lanka have forced about 30,000 people to abandon their homes to escape the flood waters. In the district of Ampara alone, more than 65,000 families and about 70,000 children have been seriously affected by the rains and about 13,000 homes are damaged or destroyed. More than 40,000 people among those affected by floods in Batticaloa, were living in camps having been forced from their homes by increasing hostilities between the regular army troops and the Tamil Tigers (LLTE) rebels. Save the Children organization is providing tents, sheets, plastic plates. Other staff members are distributing packets of high energy cereal for 10,000 children in affected areas. Schools, damaged by rains or used as temporary shelters for homeless families, are closed. The Organization is supplying cleaning kits for affected schools to get the children back to school as soon as possible. In Sri Lanka there is a shortage of food and clean water and children are the most at risk of falling ill because of vast amount of stagnant dirty water. In a recent report Save the Children said that in the next ten years 175 million children could be affected by natural disasters caused by climate change. (Agenzia Fides)

Vatican City: Upcoming Congress to Focus on the Code of Canon Law

The Vatican held a press conference today to present the upcoming congress theme: "Cannon Law in the Life of the Church, research and perspectives in the context of recent Pontifical Magisterium." Archbishop Francesco Coccopalmerio and Msgr. Juan Ignacio Arrieta, respectively president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, participated in the press conference regarding the congress, organized to mark the 25th anniversary of the Code of Canon Law. Msgr. Arrieta noted that the goal of the congress is "to undertake a purposeful study...into the progress of the application of the Code, and of all the other norms that the various offices of the Roman Curia and individual legislators have produced over the last 25 years." (CNA)

Vatican City: Benedict XVI's Improbable Dialogue with 138 Muslim Scholars

Vatican representatives and Muslim thinkers will meet in Rome next March to hammer out a few guidelines for dialogue between Christians and Muslims. There is a risk of hollowness or falsity if the dialogue addresses theology alone, and not the concrete problems. (AsiaNews)

Vietnam: Catholics Pressuring Government over Stolen Property

The Vietnamese government continues to face petitions from Catholics over properties confiscated by the government after 1954, the Associated Press reports. However, improved church-state relations have meant the Vietnamese government has not cracked down as harshly as it has in the past. Catholics have focused their prayers and pleas on the old Vatican embassy, a 2.5-acre lot in central Hanoi worth millions. "It is a tragedy for us that our holy land was taken away," said Father Nguyen Khac Que, a priest of the Hanoi diocese who helped organize the prayer vigils. Church officials say they have documentation showing the property belongs to the diocese. Government officials claim a former priest voluntarily turned the land over to them in 1960. "This whole matter of returning land is very complicated," Duong Ngoc Tan, of Vietnam's national Committee for Religious Affairs, told the Associated Press. Only five years ago, the public prayer vigil of the protesters would probably have led to jail time. (CNA)

Washington DC: North American and European Bishops Offer Hope and Prayers for Just Peace in the Holy Land

Bishops from North America and Europe gathered in the Holy Land this past week to demonstrate their solidarity with the local Church and provide support and encouragement to Israeli and Palestinian leaders in seeking peace. The meetings, held from January 11 – 16, were a part of the annual Coordination of Episcopal Conferences in Support of the Church in the Holy Land, begun at the urging of the Holy See in 1998. Its purpose is to advocate on behalf of the Christian community in the Holy Land, press for a peaceful resolution to violence in the Middle East and to communicate to the conditions of the Church in the region to the wider Catholic Church. “Our sincere hope and prayer,” they said, “is that the leaders and peoples of Israel and Palestine, with the full support and encouragement of our own nations and the international community, will find a path to a just peace…God’s grace gives us hope.” (CNA)

II. BOOKS

Burridge, Richard A., Imitating Jesus: An Inclusive Approach to new Testament Ethics, Michigan/Cambridge, United Kingdom: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007

Comprehensive in scope and in dialogue with the full range of scholarship, this volume is one of those rare studies that moves the discipline of Ethics forward.

Hrangkhuma F., and Joy Thomas, (eds.), Christ Among the Tribals, Bangalore: SAIACS Press, 2007.

This volume represents one of the contextual missiological issues discussed from various perspectives, beginning with an overview of Christianity among the tribals in India and ends with primal religions and Jesus Christ at the global level.

Sekhar, Vincent, Practice of Interreligious Dialogue: A Formation Manual of Education and Training of Clergy and Religious, Bangalore: Claretian Publications, 2006.

This is not a book to be read through, but a manual that tries to help reflection and discussion, which will hopefully lead to the formation of attitudes and practical interreligious projects.

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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