71

ISHVANI KENDRA
Institute of Missiology and Communications
Pune – India

December  – 2008

I. REPORT AND DOCUMENTATION

India: Communalism takes Centre Stage

Communal forces have invaded all spaces, including the minds of secular politicians. Life and Liberty are not the gift of society, state or Constitution but inalienable rights of every individual. The flame of liberty will glow so long as there are persons who have guts, grit, and vision to expose and disprove those nibbling away liberty in the name of expedients. Though India is being transformed at a fast pace where all minorities are being forced to realize that they are second-class citizens, the difference is that there are many more people in India who are challenging the fascist agenda of those who are in power and others, who are desperately trying to capture power in the coming election. The ascent of these forces has been systematic and well planned. Twenty years ago, most of the secular forces believed that the communal fascist forces were on the fringe of society and laughed at the possibility of their ever moving centre stage. Today the situation has reversed – the communal forces are so centre stage, it is difficult to differentiate between what is right and what is centre. They have invaded all spaces and areas including the minds of our secular politicians, Shabnam Hashmi, a social activist (Tehelka 5/39, 2008).

India: Motherless Moshe Cries for ‘Imma’

There were few dry eyes at the Mumbai synagogue in Fort on 24 November morning at the memorial service for those who died in last week’s terrorist attack on the in Nariman House, Colaba. As Israeli Consul General started speaking, Moshe, the two-year-old son of the centre’s director and his wife (killed in the attack) cried out for his ‘Imma’ (mother in Hebrew). Most mourners could not stop their tears. Even the Consul broke down, unable to continue his speech. An Indian Jew present at the meeting said, “The baby cried ‘Imma’ three times and everyone started crying.” The entire gathering could be seen crying. Moshe was rescued by his nanny, who had hidden in a closet on a lower floor when the gunmen attacked the building on 26 November Wednesday evening (Pune Mirror, December 3/2008).

India: Pope Prays for Mumbai Violence Victims

Pope Benedict XVI has expressed his “deep concern” in the violence in Mumbai and conveyed his “heartfelt condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives in these brutal attacks.” In a Friday telegram to the Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai the pontiff also appealed people “for an end to all acts of terrorism, which gravely offend the human family.” He said violence has “severely destabilized” the peace and solidarity needed to build “a civilization worthy of mankind's noble vocation to love God and neighbour.” Pope Benedict’s message ended with a prayer for the repose of the souls of the victims. He implored God's “gift of strength and comfort for those who are injured and in mourning" (ICNS).

India: Media Terror - What does Taj Hotel stand for?

Watching at least four English news channels surfing from one another during the last 60 hours of terror strike made me feel a terror of another kind said Gnani Sankaran: The terror of assaulting one's mind and sensitivity with cameras, sound bites and non-stop blabbers. All these channels have been trying to manufacture my consent for a big lie called - Hotel Taj the icon of India. Whose India, Whose Icon? It is a matter of great shame that these channels simply did not bother about the other icon that faced the first attack from terrorists - the Chatrapathi Shivaji Terminus (CST) railway station. CST is the true icon of Mumbai. It is through this railway station hundreds of Indians from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Tamilnadu have poured into Mumbai over the years, transforming themselves into Mumbaikars and built the Mumbai of today along with the Marathis and Kolis. But the channels would not recognise this. Nor would they recognise the thirty odd dead bodies strewn all over the platform of CST. And the TV cameras did not go to the government run JJ hospital to find out who those 26 unidentified bodies were. In all probability, the unidentified bodies could be those of workers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh migrating to Mumbai, arriving by train at CST without cell phones and pan cards to identify them. Even after 60 hours after the CST massacre, no channel has bothered to cover in detail what transpired there (Gnani Sankaran, Chennai, December 1/2008).

Asia: Laity in Public Life

"Nurturing the Inner being for a New Social Evangelization" was at the centre of a "Colloquium on Laity in Public Life" organized by the FABC Office of Human Development in Bangkok from September 15-19, 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 and Catechesis, the Importance of Social Communication were taken up. There was a lively exchange of personal and local experience, but also a more clear vision for the future. The basis for the considerations was chapter 12 of the "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church on "Social Doctrine and Ecclesial Action" (FABC.org).

Asia: 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 consultation; "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).

Philippines: Book on Pastoral Communication Now in Two Asian Languages

"Communicating in Ministry and Mission, an Introduction to Pastoral/ Evangelizing Communication" was recently published in Vietnamese and Indonesian translations. The book written by Divine Word Father Franz-Josef Eilers, executive secretary of the FABC Office of Social Communication, serves as the text book for an M.A. Theology programme at the Graduate School of the Royal and Pontifical University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Manila. This program is recognized by the Pontifical Theological Faculty of the university for students who wish to acquire a Licentiate at the same time. The book is also available in an Italian translation and in an Indian edition (FABC.Org).

Rome: Personal Holiness is Basis for Evangelisation

Meeting on December 4 with bishops from Chile who were completing their ad limina visits, Pope Benedict XVI said that a new impulse of evangelization in Latin American "requires particular efforts of purification and charity from everyone." The Holy Father encouraged the bishops to pursue holiness, and invite their people to do the same, as their first priority. Working from that foundation, he said, "All sectors of life can be illuminated with the light of the faith. I am thinking, among other areas, of the world of culture, science and politics; of the promotion of the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman; of the creation of more just working conditions and the assistance of the disadvantaged; of concern for the environment; of defence of human life at every stage of existence, and of the right and obligation of parents to the spiritual and moral education of their children" (cwnews.com).

II. NEWS

India: A National Initiative in Pune

A National Meeting on “In Defence of Pluralism and Democracy” took place at Ishvani Kendra, Pune on 9th and 10th December 2008. The recent social political scenario has qualitatively changed the threat of communal politics in India. While on the one hand Muslim minorities are losing faith in the system as far as justice is concerned, the Christian minorities are facing unprecedented violence all around. The reality of anti-Christian violence has intensified, as is evident from the recent happenings in the missions in Orissa and elsewhere. And now terrorism too has shown its ugly face in Mumbai, threatening peace in general and harmony between communities. About 80 participants across religions and ideologies from all over India took part in this National Meeting. The two days deliberations were aimed at understanding the threat of communal politics in order to evolve concrete strategies to defend Pluralism and Democracy. The Press Statement issued after the meeting is given below:

Press Statement
National Meeting on, ‘In Defence of Pluralism and Democracy’
9-10 December 2008

Pune, 10 December 2008

The Centre for the study of Religions and Communications, Ishvani Kendra, Pune held a National meeting on the burning problem the country is facing with the theme of ‘In Defence of Pluralism and Democracy’. The Meeting was jointly organized by Professor Ram Puniyani, the winner of National Foundation for Communal Harmony Award 2007 and Dr. Joy Thomas SVD, Director of Ishvani Kendra.

Several prominent citizens involved in the work of promoting communal harmony and human rights such as Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer, Chairman of the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism and Adv. Irfan Engineer, Director of IPSCR, Adv. Flavia Agnes of Majlis, Professor M. Michael of Bombay University, Dr. Augustine Kanjamala, Director of Institute of Indian Culture, Dr. Zeenat Shaukat Ali of Wisdom Foundation, all from Mumbai; Shabnam Hashmi of ANHAD, Member - National Integration Council and Rev. Dr. Dominic Emmanuel from Delhi; Mr. Neeraj Jain & Alka Joshi of Lokayat from Pune, Professor Pushparajan from Bangalore and 80 other prominent personalities from different parts of the country.

In the two day intensive meeting, the participants expressed serious concern over the spread of communalism and divisive politics by certain groups with vested interest and which finally ends up in extremism of various kinds, including terrorist attacks and demonizing of minorities in the country. The participants stressed that the growth of communal and divisive politics was a danger to democracy and pluralistic character of India.

The participants worked out on an action plan to combat communal forces on a war footing by opening more peace centres in different cities of India and by educating the public, particularly the young minds, about the rich pluralistic heritage of the country. They resolved to have people of different religions and ideologies come together to fight the menace of communalism and to use all possible avenues available, including the media. The participants were unanimous in having some short and long term programmes, particularly as the next general elections are around the corner. “We do not support any particular political party. Our sole aim is to warn the larger public about the dangers of communal and divisive politics”, said Professor Ram Puniyani, who has also authored several books and articles on the subject.

III. NEW BOOKS

  1. Changing Gods: Rethinking Conversion in India by Rudolf C. Heredia, 2007.
  2. Building Solidarity: Challenge to Christian Mission, Eds. Joseph Mattam & Joseph Valiamangalam, FOIM XII, 2008.
  3. An Introduction to Christian Spirituality by F. Antonisamy, 2008.
  4. Anthropophany: Mission as Making a New Humanity by J. Kavunkal SVD, 2008.
  5. Community in Mission by Joe Mangalam, 2008 (copies are available at Ishvani Kendra and also with the author at Sneh Jyoti, Sevasi 391 101, Email: jmangalamsj@gmail.com (Rs.275/-).

Dr. Joy Thomas, 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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