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ISHVANI KENDRA
Institute of Missiology and Communications
Pune – India

March  – 2009

I. REPORT AND DOCUMENTATION

India: Mangalore Bishop Calls Pub Attack in Mangalore an Inhuman Act

Bishop Aloysius Paul D' Souza of the diocese of Mangalore has termed the attack on a pub in Mangalore as 'beastly' and 'inhuman'. He called all the 'democratic forces' to come together and combat the 'anti-social elements.' In a statement here on Thursday, he urged the law-enforcing authorities to initiate stern action against anti-social elements. "It also rests with the authorities to bring those involved in anti-social activities to the main stream," he said (cbcisite.com).

India: 2009 – Year of Reconciliation

The United Nations has declared this year as the International Year of Reconciliation. In the context of escalating violence and growing conflicts in various parts of the world, it could not have come at a more opportune time and is meant to highlight the urgent need of reconciliation processes in societies affected by conflict. Cedric Prakash SJ, the director of Prashant, the Centre for Human Rights, says that reconciliation means, bringing back friendship or harmony. It presupposes that there is a conflict which needs to be addressed. However, reconciliation is not about cosmetic gestures like hand-shakes after a fight, or temporary cease-fires. The starting point of reconciliation is an awareness of the transgression, a genuine remorse which leads to a firm purpose of amendment and ultimately concrete action. This is vividly portrayed in the parable of the Prodigal Son, where the son realizes what he has done, and in true contrition, returns home, to ask forgiveness from his father.

The UN recognises that reconciliation processes are particularly necessary and urgent, in countries and regions of the world, which have suffered or are suffering situations of conflict that have affected and divided societies in their various internal, national and international facets. On 13th February 2008, Mr. Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister of Australia, touched the heartstrings of millions across the world when in a moving speech; he made an apology to Australia's indigenous peoples in the House of Representatives of Australia. His very emotional speech did not change the past, but it has created a thaw in the hearts and lives of many of the indigenous peoples of Australia. There are several other instances of leaders apologizing for the wrongs of history. However what is more important today is for contemporary leaders, to acknowledge and take responsibility for spewing hate and violence through their political machinations. They must show true remorse for their deeds by substantial action.

This International Year of Reconciliation, therefore poses several challenges to all of us – the challenge to realize that dialogue must take place among opponents but only from positions of equity, respect and tolerance; the challenge to realize that truth and justice are indispensable elements for the attainment of reconciliation; and finally, when the first two are met, is the challenge to realize that reconciliation is generosity of spirit that embraces all (humanrightsindia.in).

India: Church in Orissa stands Firm on Faith says Archbishop R. Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar

1. Introduction – You have responded positively and very generously to the persecuted Christians of Kandhamal district. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you the present scenario and some hopeful developments.

2. General atmosphere - The general atmosphere of Kandhamal looks as if it is normal; but it is deceptive to a great extent. The people are able to move about around the relief camps, but dare not to venture into the villages, because there is still fear among the people that they may be attacked or forced to become Hindus, which is true in number of cases. Most of the priests who ‘fled’ the parishes for obvious reasons have returned to their respective parishes, but have been instructed by the Administration to restrict their movements.

2.1 "Will there be another attack?" – Even though the District Administration was keeping the Church out of the relief and rehabilitation works in the beginning, it is now asking us to cooperate with the initiatives taken by the Government, because the people have lost confidence in the government and in their empty and unfulfilled promises. Nevertheless I am of the opinion that we are engaged in a long drawn battle. We don’t have the end in sight.

2.2 Unfulfilled Promises – The District Administration is speaking well. But they are interested only in sending back the people to villages without adequate security and providing basic needs. They are trying their best to keep the law and order situation under control and project to the world that ‘peace has returned in Kandhamal’. But this does not solve the problems of our people, because the professed attitude of the Government has been "PUT OUT THE FIRE". There had been no serious enquiry made to find out who set the fire and consequently to punish the culprits. No proper and adequate compensation is given to the affected people. The destruction and looting of the properties continue. Besides, the District Administration has not tackled the basic problems of our people.

2.3 Harassment continues with impunity – On the other hand, humiliating and discriminatory rituals are imposed upon the Christians.

2.4 Ridiculous Compensation Package - After the attack on Christian institutions in December, 2007 the administration gave compensation to the institutions of social, educational, health care, etc., but refused to give compensation to the churches and religious institutions. The Supreme Court, after the recent violence, has directed the District Administration to give compensation also to the churches and religious houses.

3. Response of the Archdiocese – Relief and rehabilitating activities are carried out with the contribution from the Indian Church, Caritas India, Catholic Relief services (CRS), Misereor and the Archdiocese of Mumbai. The displaced persons who lived in the relief camps and in different locations in Orissa have received this support.

3.1 Refugee Camps – Existence of refugee camps proves that there is still fear, uncertain future and free movement of religious bigots threatening Christians. One of the main reasons for this painful situation is that none of those criminals who rained terror and murdered at least 74 persons including a priest, destroyed properties worth several millions have been punished even after fifteen months.

3.2 Education – We are trying to save the academic year of our students. 201 most vulnerable students have been taken out from Kandhamal by the CRI and other agencies for their education.

3.3 Youth Care and Vocational Training – CRI have taken several groups of youth for training. This includes the vocational training, trauma counselling etc. All in all 450 students are getting vocational training.

3.4 Legal support – It needed all out efforts to collect the data from the camps and the field to present our cases both in the High Court and Supreme Court. Lots of affidavits and complaints have been collected and based on these some PIL had been filed. We have been motivating the people to file FIR. We have now six legal centres, 22 fulltime lawyers and 14 social activists at work to fight for justice.

3.5 Psycho-social and Trauma Counselling – So far 115 persons have been trained in psycho-social and trauma counselling, who in turn will help the people in the camps and in the villages. Sisters and priests are also involved in this. This is one of the urgent needs of the people and some efforts made in this regard have been proved quite successful.

3.6 Health Intervention – This was one of our first activities in the camps. Now we have four mobile medical teams which bring healing touch to the sick primarily in relief camps. Now they are moving to villages with police protection. Teams consist of Doctors, nurses and social workers.

3.7 Human Rights Intervention – A net work of Civil Society organizations, academicians, and professionals has been formed under the banner "Orissa Human Rights Protection campaign" (OHRPC).

3.8 Documentation – Religious sisters are profiling the life stories of the martyrs of Kandhamal. They gather information about the victims and their experience. They guide the national and international journalists.

4. Understanding the root causes – It will not be right to state that all non-Christians and all tribals are engaged in the persecution. A number of non-Christian sisters and brothers both from Panos and Kondhs have supported and have given protection to Christian sisters and brothers, largely in a hidden manner. The fact of the matter is that not only the dalit Christians but most of the non-Christian dalits and Kondhs (tribals) live in utter poverty. The state has failed them. Unfortunately in the recent past, a larger number of simple and gullible non-Christian tribals have been systematically poisoned by the Hindutva forces with the active participation of the local trading community, who have come from outside the district and state. The tribals are made to believe that they are Hindus, which is not true at all. Ironically the people of the soil, both the Panos and Kondhs are alienated from the ownership of Kandhamal and the trading class has taken control over the socio-economic and political life of Kandhamal. These traders could not digest the growth of the dalit Christians and so they turned the non-Christians, especially the tribals against the Christians. Apparently it looks that the attack is on Christians by the Hindus. It is only one part of the story. Deeper analysis shows that the Hindutva groups would like to eliminate both the dalits and tribals irrespective of religion and plan to establish ‘Hindu Rashtra in Kandhamal and Orissa’.

5. Clearing some misconception about the Church and the laity – For the sake of clearing the air I would like to clarify a few remarks that are going around about the leadership of the bishops, clergy, religious and the laity during the persecution in Kandhamal. Before I clarify I would like to make a clear distinction between natural calamity and man-made tragedy. In the first instance, everyone has access to the affected areas and anyone is free to bring relief to the victims. On the other hand, during persecution both the victims and those who would like to help the victims are terrorized, driven away and threatened. Everyone, including the humanitarian agencies, is at the mercy of the persecutors. Besides, in Kandhamal situation the administration kept the Church and the missionaries strictly out of the area. Now coming to the point I must say that there were three remarks that questioned the leadership of the church in Kandhamal.

5.1 The Church leadership in Orissa failed the Christian Community - ‘Priests and religious fled the area leaving the faithful helpless’, it was said. The truth is that everyone including the Christians fled the area. In the first attack in December, 2007 the fundamentalists attacked the institutions and infrastructures. People stayed back in their respective places. But in the second attack which began in August, 2008 the main targets were the priests, religious, the lay leaders of the Church and Christian NGOs. So all tried to escape the onslaught and it is true that the people who were caught and managed to reach the camps were for sometime without shepherds. The miscreants were searching for priests and religious. In the processes of fleeing six priests were brutally attacked. Three of them would have been burned to death, but providentially escaped. But one of them my treasurer succumbed to the injuries he had received during the violence. Two priests were kidnapped and beaten up. As the miscreants were negotiating to burn them, they managed to run through the forest to safety. Most of the priests and religious who fled from the villages, spent sleepless nights, three to four days, in the forests to escape from the eyes of the murderers. It was a total lawless situation and my priests, sisters and lay sisters and brothers were helpless. If priests and religious would have stayed back in order to show their zeal for the Lord and dedication to the faithful many of them would have joined the list of martyrs. Kandhamal would have become the land of the martyrs. Indeed, we lost this chance! I am glad to say that most of the priests have gone back to their parishes even though they are advised by the district administration to restrict their movements.

5.2 What were the bishops of Orissa doing during persecution, implying, I guess, that their leadership was not sufficient and visible? I must inform you that three or four times the Bishops of Orissa had come together with other denominations to discuss and plan in order to bring relief and comfort to the persecuted section of the people.

5.3 Where was the leadership of the laity? – This may mean that the laity did not exercise their leadership, or the Hierarchy did not give them a chance to exercise it. The fact is that our lay leaders were all targeted for elimination. We have IAS and IPS and OAS officers; some of them retired. Since they were all included in the hit list they had no choice, but go into hiding in order to save themselves from arrest or physical violence or death.

6. New Administrative set-up to facilitate peace building – We have an Executive Committee, which consists of five members, a Coordination Committee consisting of eleven committees that take care of various aspects of relief and rehabilitation and a General Body. They meet regularly to share, assess, evaluate and plan for the future.

7. Conclusion – I am overwhelmed by the generous response of the whole church in India. CBCI, Dioceses, CRI, institutions and individuals have responded with generosity and concern. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the bishops, clergy and religious and the laity for their generous help given to the persecuted Christians of Kandhamal (cbcisite.com).

II. NEWS

England: Slumdog Millionaire Director wanted to be a Priest

Danny Boyle, the British director of "Slumdog Millionaire", the hit British movie which won eight Oscars, said that he had "seriously contemplated" becoming a Catholic priest when he was younger. Boyle was born in Radcliffe, Lancashire to an Irish Catholic family and even applied to a Catholic seminary at the age of 14. However he left after a priest suggested that he may not be suited to the calling. "Slumdog Millionaire" is set in Mumbai, India. It tells the story of a young man living in the city's slum who takes part in the Indian version of the game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" and arouses the suspicion of the police when he does unexpectedly well on the show (christiantoday.com).

Taiwan: Recharge our Faith, the Mission of the 71st Faith Camp

"The Miracle of Love" was the theme of the 71st Faith Camp organized by the Chinese Catholic University Students Association of Taiwan, from February 6-11. According to the organizers, the initiative is a way to "recharge our faith" and help youth grow closer to God amidst the chaos of a secularized world. The youth, especially the students, have been able to find peace with themselves, God, and the entire world, witnessing the positive and Christian meaning of life (catholic.org.tw).

Pakistan: Good News TV: A Catholic Voice in the Mass Media Panorama

A TV on the Internet is the new idea that has just been launched into the Pakistani mass media by the Archdiocese of Karachi. Its name is "Good News TV". The project was begun and is currently being run by the Karachi Catechetical Center, whose Director firmly believes in the project and in the possibility of offering the Church in Pakistan a new pulpit for evangelisation, reaching out especially to the youth who are increasingly more active on the Internet and are constantly watching videos on the web (fides.org).

India: Singing Priest performs at Regional Philosophate

Fr. Norbert performed Bible Parable Singing at Khrist Premalaya Seminary in Bhopal. The Musical Evening was filled with devotion and fun fair as he presented biblical themes and the folk tale of Nimar region through Indian classical music that touches every ones heart. ‘Yesu ne Kaha’, ‘Chali Nav Chali’, ‘E Masiha Nazre De Do’, and the folk song ‘Ara Prabhuji ki Leela Che Nyari’ and ‘Mara Prabhuji Ne Janam Liyo’ were some of the parables which touched the people. People from different parishes and the brothers and sisters enjoyed the musical evening. Fr. Norbert’s attempt to promote the legacy of late Fr. George Proksh SVD is praiseworthy.

III. BOOKS

Michael, S. M., Chittattukalam, Kuriala, (eds.), Cultural Challenges in Christian Mission in the 21st Century, Delhi: Media House, 2008 (Available at CBCI Centre, Delhi).

The Culture has moved quite unexpectedly to the centre of people’s aspirations and anxieties. It is linked with people’s deeper level identities, their historic memories, ethnic pride, their collective psyche, community ambitions, motivations, shared prejudices and fears, “says Abp. Thomas Menamparampil SDB, the Chairman of the CBCI Commission for Education and Culture.

Hanciles, Jehu J., Beyond Christendom: Globalization, African Migration, and the Transformation of the West, Maryknoll, New York: Orbis, 2008.

An African scholar analyzes global mega trends, arguing that immigrant groups will have a decisive impact on the shape of the world Christian communion. “…a profoundly important book on a major current of the global religious situation, providing a brilliant, in-depth interpretation of the subject matter.”

Nairn, Thomas A., ed., The Consistent Ethic of Life: Assessing Its Reception and Relevance, Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2008.

This book pays tribute to the vision of Cardinal Bernardin and his consistent ethic of life, not by simply rehearsing his insights, but by probing and extending the arguments Bernadin made. The result is a respectful, creative and helpful conversation that revives the impact and importance of the consistent ethic of life.

Nothwehr, Dawn M., That they May Be One: Catholic Social Teaching on Racism, Tribalism and Xenophobia, Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2008.

This book is a magisterial synthesis of Catholic social teaching on racist, tribalist and xenophobic ideology accompanied by a wide-range collection of documents from around the world detailing this teaching.

Zahniser, Mathias A.H., The Mission and Death of Jesus in Islam and Christianity, Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2008.

Though Christians and Muslims hold differing views on the mission and death of Jesus, careful study of the Qur’an ad the New Testament may bridge that gap. The common wisdom is that Christians and Muslims should dialogue only about what they agree on. This book takes a different approach. As the author observes, “If we focus only on our common ground, we will miss some of the motivating force of our traditions, because that force derives not only from what we hold in common, but also from those convictions that keep us apart.”

Dr. Joy Thomas, SVD (Director)

ISHVANI KENDRA
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