Institute of Missiology and Communications
Pune – India
November – 2008
FABC: Statement on "Creative Models of Evangelization in Asia"
The final statement of the consultation on "Creative Models of Evangelization in Asia" just released contains five main parts: "Stories to Inspire," describing the dynamics of the July 8-12, 2008 consultation in Hua Hin, Thailand; "Crossing Boundaries," which gives a theological background to the mission work of the Church in Asia; "Challenging Situations," briefly outlining the context upon which mission is done in Asia; "Boundless Opportunities," listing the possibilities for mission to flourish; and "Urgent Responses," which recommends for mission-- (1) "prayer and God-experience," (2) "sensitivity to Asian cultures," and (3) "small Christian communities and New Movements." For creative mission, interactive programs via cyber-media, sign language with the deaf, networking, and a "central data-pool of basic information on evangelistic initiatives" are also recommended. The consultation was organized by the FABC-Office of Evangelization (FABC.Org).
Hong Kong: Lack of Formation Hinders Ecumenical Progress
The rise of Christian denominations and lack of proper ecumenical formation have threatened the progress of Christian unity, the Anglican bishop Thomas Soo, chairperson of the Hong Kong Christian Council (HKCC) said at its annual meeting held on 26 September. "The young Church leadership doesn't know the true spirit of ecumenical movement," the bishop commented. The HKCC comprises of Anglicans, Methodists, Lutherans, Orthodox, Salvation Army, and organizations like YMCA and YWCA. Local Catholic Church maintains working relations with the HKCC, while it is not a member of it (apenews.org).
Rome: Synod on the Word of God
During the Synod in Rome, Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil, Chairman of FABC Office of Evangelization, referred to the power of the Word of God on Christianity's earliest beginnings in Asia. This is reflected in the creative works of missionaries with Mother Teresa as a recent example. This is backed up by the understanding of religious life in Asia where its relevance is very much recognized. "For, there are native models of religious life belonging to other Asian religions. Religious values like renunciation, austerity, silence, prayer, contemplation, and celibacy are highly regarded... Religious persons are considered the guardians of religious and human wisdom in Asia. With adequate formation, young religious can grow up as effective announcers of the Christian message." Probably the most unexpected item in the final propositions of the Synod of Bishops was a proposal to allow women to be officially installed in the ministry of lector. "It is hoped that the ministry of lector be opened also to women, so that their role as proclaimers of the word may be recognized in the Christian community," the proposition states in its final sentence. The 12th ordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops has concluded its discussions on "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church," approving a list of 55 propositions to be delivered to Pope Benedict XVI as the basis for his apostolic exhortation on the topic (CWNews.com).
USA: Statement of ‘Religions for Peace’ against Violence in Orissa
Religions for Peace expressed its profound sorrow for the victims of violence in Orissa and its solidarity with them. The violence must stop and the afflicted should be assisted in returning to and rebuilding their homes and churches. Dialogue, not violence, is the way to resolve misunderstanding and conflict. Religions for Peace called on the Indian government, Indian religious leaders of all faiths—Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain, and Baha'i—and men and women of goodwill to renew their efforts to reject the violence and advance the return of peaceful co-existence (Religions for Peace is the world's largest and most representative multi-religious coalition advancing common action for peace since 1970. Headquartered in New York and accredited to the United Nations) (ucanews.com).
India: Prime Minister Promises to Rebuild Churches Destroyed in Orissa
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has promised financial help to rebuild about 100 churches and prayer halls destroyed during anti-Christian violence in Orissa State, India. Reverend Samuel Kobia, general secretary of WCC, revealed the promise at a press conference after meeting with Singh. Reverend Kobia said that Singh also promised help rebuilding Christian homes destroyed mostly in the Kandhamal district. “The WCC is concerned about the violation of human rights and harassment of minorities in India,” he said, “Churches will fight extremism and terrorism with dialogue among religions” (ucanews.com).
India: Home Minister Promises New Law to Check Violence
India's Home Minister promised the government would enact a law to check sectarian violence in the country, when he replied at the end of a day-long discussion on violence against Christians. The Minister told the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament, that the new law will include provisions for rehabilitation of victims of communal violence. He promised to reintroduce the bill with amendments proposed by various political parties and action groups (ucanews.com).
India: Conversion is a change of Heart not change of Religion
Anand Mahadevan, the editor of Outlook Business, made this revelation, “I was born a Brahmin and am the grandson of a priest whom I dearly loved. I am educated and my current professional standing indicates that I am reasonably intelligent. I am also affluent and my income would put me distinctly in the upper middle class bracket. I guess that would make me high-caste, rich and smart. In other words, I am not a tribal, or poor or dim-witted. And yet, I chose to become a follower of Jesus Christ. The world would call me a convert to Christianity. I have no problems with that, though I see my faith more as a relationship with God through Jesus Christ than as a religion. And for the record, I can truthfully claim that no one financially induced or threatened or deceived me into converting to Christianity.
I am fiercely proud of my national identity as an Indian and I am completely at peace with my cultural identity as a Hindu. I retain the name my parents gave me. My wife, who also shares my faith, continues to go by her Hindu name. We have two children and we have given both distinctly Hindu names. In fact, many of my colleagues and acquaintances who may happen to read this column are likely to be surprised. They have no inkling about my faith, for I generally don't go about announcing it. But if someone does ask me the reason behind the joy and hope that is ever present in my life, I am always delighted to share it with them (outlookindia.com).
India: AIDWA declares Solidarity with raped Nun
All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) has expressed its solidarity with the Catholic nun raped during the anti-Christian violence in India. The letter signed by the president and secretary reads, “On behalf of all the more than one crore members of our organization we extend our heartfelt support and solidarity in this extremely difficult and traumatic time. We appreciate your courage and your brave struggle for justice and would like to assure you that you are not alone. We and many, many others are with you…After your recent press conference at which you spoke so movingly and with such dignity about the horrors you had not only witnessed but also been subjected to, we have sent telegrams from every state in the country to the Chief Minister of Orissa demanding that the investigation into your complaint be transferred to the CBI. We are also planning to meet the Chief Justice of India after he returns to the country to make the same request to him (www.theindiancatholic.com)
India: An Appeal Letter from Sr. Nirmala, M. C. Superior General
“Dear Brothers and Sisters in India and all over the world, Let us not forget our true identity as the beloved children of God our Father. We are brothers and sisters of one another no matter what our religion, race, culture or language is, whether we are rich or poor. Nothing should separate us. Above all, let us not use religion to divide us. Essence of all religion is love – love of God and love of one another. Violence on the ground of religion is an abuse of religion. ‘Religion is meant to be a work of love. It is not meant to destroy peace and unity. Works of love are works of peace. Let us use religion to become one heart full of love in the heart of God’ (Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta).
Dear Brothers and Sisters, in the name of God and in the name of our own humanity, created for greater things, to love and to be loved eternally, and in the name of our country and its noble heritage, and in the name of the poor, the children, and all our suffering brothers and sisters who are victims of this senseless violence and destruction, I make this appeal: let us pray, opening our mind and heart to the light and love of God. Let us put down the weapon of hatred and violence and put on the armour of love. Let us forgive one another and ask forgiveness from one another for the wrong we have done to each other and reach out in love to each other. God bless you!” (The Herald, Vol. C44, No. 39, Oct. 3-9, 2008)
India: Orissa Bishops' Pastoral Letter
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ, "The Lord is my Shepherd there is nothing I shall want". In this time of crisis and conflict, we come to you through this pastoral letter to express our solidarity with you, to pay homage to those brothers and sisters who have laid down their lives for the sake of their faith, to comfort those who have been injured, to be with those who have been traumatized by the violence and mayhem unleashed on Christians, to do everything in our ability to ensure rehabilitation of those who have lost their houses, property, churches, institutions etc, to stand by those whose rights have been violated, and to assure that justice will be done to all who have suffered by the violence against the Christians of Orissa.
We are humbled by your strong adherence to your faith and by your trust in Jesus Christ as the Saviour and Lord. We are humbled by your willingness to go through all kinds of humiliations, trials and even persecutions for the sake of your belief. We are proud of you for your ability to withstand all forms of intimidations and threats. We pray with you for the continued strength from Jesus our Saviour and Lord so that we all may continue to carry forward his mission of compassion, love, unity, justice and peace.
Though a bit late, this pastoral letter comes to you to express our solidarity with you in this time of deep crisis and conflict; to share our own concerns about the violence that is done to us Christians; to condemn all forms of violence; to demand from the Government that adequate security be provided to all, relief and rehabilitation be undertaken in full measure, life in the relief camps be made more human; to demand from the government that the guilty be punished; to demand from the government that an adequate compensation package be announced and undertaken.
We condemn in strong words the killing of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and demand from the Government that the culprits be identified and punished. We reiterate the fact that no Christian, no Church Institution or leadership is involved in this murder. We also condemn in unequivocal words the violence that is unleashed on the Christians as an aftermath of the killing of Swami Laxmanananda. We condemn in strong words the lies that are propagated by some vested interests that the Christians were behind the killing of the Swami. Instead we reiterate the fact that the loving and the compassionate mission of the Church continues irrespective of the persecution.
We understand the factors and forces behind violence against Christians. The Church has been standing by the side of the poor and the marginalized. Through education, health, housing and employment programmes, the Church has been bringing in awareness and awakening among the vulnerable communities. They in turn are demanding their rights. This is not liked by the powers that are since they fear their position being challenged by the poor people. Hence, they have taken to violence. But we condemn this and restate our resolve to continue the services of the church.
We appreciate the many initiatives taken by many individuals, organisations, civil society organizations, media persons and houses, NGOs, academics, political activists, conscious citizens and people from all walks of life of Orissa and India to stand by the Christians who were victimized for their faith. We are moved by their sense of solidarity and unity with all those who are affected by the ongoing violence in Orissa. Inspite of the fear of being identified by the fundamentalist forces, these people have stood by us as citizens of the same country, though our religions may be very different. We express our gratitude to them.
We also want to express our gratitude to all those organizations – both national and international – that stand by us in this time of crisis and conflict and provide various supports. In your name, we also thank the individual Christians, parishes, Dioceses, CBCI, other churches, church institutions all over the country and abroad who raised their voice against the violence on us and provided solidarity and support.
Above, all we want to express our gratitude to people of all religions of Orissa and India, who in spite of the efforts by the fundamentalist forces and some political parties to divide them and create conflict between them, upheld the Indian traditions of communal harmony and national integrity. As always, we promise to continue our tradition of communal harmony and collective destiny.
With you, we are agonized over the tardy manner in which both the State and Central Governments have responded to the ongoing violence against Christians in Orissa. We are sorry to state that both these governments have failed miserably in discharging their constitutional obligations. Hence, we call upon them to use all the powers bestowed on them by the Constitution of the country and ensure that peace and harmony prevail in the area and that the guilty be punished and the affected people be protected and adequately compensated.
We also acknowledge and appreciate the efforts taken by many officials, government departments, committees and commissions, politicians and political parties to ensure law and order, to ensure peace and harmony and to establish rule of law. We are committed to work with them at all times. Our appreciation is also extended to friends from the media who reported the unfolding of violence, the root cause and its impact in an unbiased manner.
Once again we want to express our pastoral sentiment that we are humbled by your adherence to faith in this time of conflict and crisis. We join with leaders of all the churches of Orissa to express our solidarity with you. Like Jesus, we pray for the perpetrators of crime. We pray with you that the Holy Spirit may give his wisdom and courage to the officials, government machinery and the governments to act immediately and to act in a non-partisan manner and bring life to normalcy for all in Orissa. We also pray with you that the Life, Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus may strengthen us in this time of crisis so that we may continue to live our Christian life in this country without any hesitation. May Mother Mary guide our every step so that we may seriously, courageously, systematically and sensibly respond to the violence committed on us!
We are going to meet with the representatives of the Church of Orissa and would reflect about the violence and come out with short-term and long-term plans to respond to violence. We send this pastoral letter with every spiritual blessing. In Christ,
† Most Rev. Thomas Thiruthalil CM, Bishop of Balasore and Chairperson
of Orissa Bishops' Regional Forum
† Most Rev. Raphael Cheenath SVD, Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar
† Most Rev. Alphonse Bilung SVD, Bishop of Rourkela
† Most Rev. Lucas Kerketta SVD, Bishop of Sambalpur
† Most Rev. Sarat Chandra Naik, Bishop of Berhampur
† Most Rev. John Barwa SVD, Coadjutor Bishop of Rourkela (www.cbcisite.com)
1. Who Decides the Issue of Conversion?
The President of All India Christian Council asked, “Who ultimately decides the issue of conversion? If we do not give the Dalits, tribals and the OBCs (Other Backward Castes) the right to choose their faith, we have effectively imposed permanent slavery of the caste system on them Dare we take away the most basic of human rights from the most dehumanized group of people in human civilization?” (indianchristians.in).
2. Laity in Public Life
‘Nurturing the Inner Being for a New Social Evangelization’ was at the center of a Colloquium on Laity in Public Life organized by the FABC Office of Human Development in Bangkok in September 2008. Some 30 participants from different Asian countries including China shared experiences from their ministries as lay people in the Spirit of the Church. Themes like the Formation of Laity, Apostolate of Education & Catechesis, and Social Communication were taken up (fabc.org).
1. Mattam, Joseph and Joseph Valiamangalam (Eds.), Building Solidarity: Challenge to Christian Mission, Delhi: ISPCK, 2008.
Our Mission in continuation of the mission of Jesus is to carry on the ‘bonding’ work of creating relationship and solidarity among people, so that we transform humanity into a human family, with God as the loving parent, we as brothers and sisters, working for the well-being of all. Reality is relational… According to Jesus mission was not about religions and about change of religions, but about building up, fostering human relationship that is what this XII FOIM Series proposes and recommends (Rs. 225/-).
2. D’Mello, Edward SVD, Unwritten Prescription for Happiness, Mumbai: St. Paul’s, 2008.
This book is born out of the experience the author had with people who were going through suffering and pain as they underwent treatment in a hospital. Drawing on his meetings with patients from every walk of life and with diverse types of illness, during the years he served as a hospital chaplain, the author shares with the readers many of the discoveries he made about health and well-being that go far beyond the doctor’s prescription (Rs. 90/-).
Dr. Joy Thomas, SVD (Director)
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