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ISHVANI KENDRA
Institute of Missiology and Communications
Pune – India

April  – 2009

I. REPORT AND DOCUMENTATION

Africa: Action needed to eliminate all Forms of Violence against Women and Girls

Violence against women and girls during conflict and upon displacement remains one of the most serious and urgent challenges of our time. JRS Eastern Africa wishes to draw attention to this fact and urges governments, international governmental and non-governmental organizations to:

Iraq: Christians want Role in Rebuilding

Christian leaders, after their meeting in Lebanon, declared that they belonged to Iraq since the nation’s birth and that they are not just a minority but an essential part of Iraqi society and deeply rooted in its history and civilization. As authentic children of the land, they feel that have the right to live freely in it and enjoy equal rights and responsibilities along with all other citizens. “The solution to current conditions lies not in emptying Iraq of its human resources,” said the participants. “Christians have belonged to Iraq since the nation’s birth; they are not merely a minority but an essential part of Iraqi society and deeply rooted in its history and civilization,” The goal, said participants, “is to enable Iraqis to work together, healing wounds and building a better future for themselves.” The participants stressed the importance of continued dialogue between Christians and Muslims. They pledged to establish an ecumenical forum in order to allow “all Iraqi Church leaders…to speak with a common voice to religious and political authorities inside and outside Iraq” (ENI).

During the press conference an Iraqi journalist, Muntadhar al-Zaidi, in an act of protest, hurled his shoes at George Bush. One does not know how the President took it but one knows that the Iraqi people were very elated at this insult hurled on their aggressor. Since the second Gulf War in 2003 the condition in Iraq has been worsening rapidly to disastrous proportions, said Prof. Ram Puniyani in his press release entitled ‘Bouquets, Boots and Bush’.

Brazil: Christians should repent for Ecological Damage

Christian theology needs to seek forgiveness for the ecological damage resulting from the misinterpretation of the creation stories in the Bible, a global gathering of theologians meeting in Brazil has been told. Sergio Torres, a Chilean theologian, told the World Forum on Theology and Liberation in Belem that an “incomplete and unexplained interpretation of Genesis”, the first book in the Bible, had led Christianity to promote an “excessive” concentration on human beings. Genesis 1:28 records God as telling humankind, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth,” said Torres. “Theology must ask forgiveness from ecology.” Torres said that he believed ecology and theology could learn from each other, and together find the owner “to save this beautiful planet before it is too late” (ENI).

India: Ways of Hindutva by K.N. Panikkar

No other phenomenon has affected life in the subcontinent as adversely as communalism. When this ‘monster’ came on the stage as early as the beginning of the 18th century, as evidenced by a communal riot in Ahmedabad, no one perhaps had an inkling about the magnitude and character it might assume in future. Although it took a long time for it to take centre stage, when it did, it had a devastating effect on Indian polity and society. Its inherent ability to divide people on the basis of religion and sow the seeds of mutual hatred led to the partition of the country. The people of India and Pakistan can ill afford to forget the human tragedy that Partition entailed.

The heart-rending experience of Partition, however, did not put an end to communalism. It only exacerbated it, at least in India, as the memories of inter-communal violence were invoked for political mobilisation. As a result, during the post-Independence period, communalism continued to plague social consciousness and colour political perspectives in the country. By the end of the 20th century, its influence had assumed such proportions that Hindu communal forces succeeded in wielding power at the Centre and in some States. This success heralded a new stage in the development of communalism and at the same time a tumultuous phase in the political history of the nation.

The access to power that the communal forces gained by the end of the 20th century was important for a variety of reasons. Among them, the most significant was the two-fold agenda that the communal forces pursued in order to perpetuate the newly acquired political power. They realized that controlling the state institutions in itself was not sufficient if they were to consolidate power and exercise it for a long time to their political advantage. It would be necessary to transform the character of the administration itself.

The secular administrative practices, which the Indian state had followed since Independence, albeit with limitations, were out of sync with the new regime. The Sangh Parivar expected from the state institutions active involvement in the pursuit of its communal agenda. In other words, it wanted the administration to shed its secular character and serve as the communal arm of the state. In pursuit of this objective, the governments led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), both at the Centre and in the States, ensured that communal elements were extensively, if not exclusively, recruited into various branches of the administration.

The extent to which it succeeded in this endeavour is difficult to ascertain, but it is fairly apparent that a conscious policy to induct Sangh Parivar cadre was followed. A good example is the police. It is widely reported that the police force in States ruled by the BJP, such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, has been “saffronised” by inducting recruits from the Sangh Parivar. The consequences are by now well known. In the communal conflagration in Gujarat in 2002, the police not only refused to intervene to save the victims but actually abetted members of organisations such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal in their crimes. Even the Army, it is reported, was not free from the communal influence. If so, it is possible that the example of Lieutenant Colonel S.K. Purohit, who is accused of being the brain behind the Malegaon bomb blast, may not be an isolated instance.

Faced with the prospect of losing political power, Hindu communalism has been resorting to violence and even terrorism to consolidate its militant cadres. The unprecedented indulgence in violence and aggression witnessed recently is a part of this strategy. Violence, both spontaneous and premeditated, has always been an integral part of communalism. But during the past few years, the character of communal violence has changed. It has become more intense, inhuman and brutal.

It is most painfully exhibited in the cruelty against women. Rape is common in all communal riots. But the way in which rape was used in Gujarat as a weapon of terror and revenge had not occurred before. Slitting open the womb of a pregnant woman and throwing the foetus in fire was unprecedented even in the annals of communal violence. So was the manner in which Pastor Graham Staines and his children were burnt to death. Gujarat and Orissa testify to the extent to which communalism could dehumanise society.

On the eve of the elections, Hindu communalism is desperately seeking to refurbish its image. The strategy of violence and intimidation did not earn any dividend; it has actually backfired. The demolition of the Babri Masjid, for instance, alienated the liberal Hindu, as he or she saw in it an assault on the civilization values of India. The recent violence in Gujarat and Orissa has generated revulsion towards the Sangh Parivar. There is also general disapproval of the fundamentalist antics in Karnataka and the terrorist forays in Maharashtra. Consequently, Hindu communal forces are no more reckoned as responsible enough to be entrusted with the administration of the country. As such, the BJP is not a major contender for power in the coming elections (FRONTLINE – Coverstory).

Nepal: Fr. Stiller, Historian of Nepal, dear to Hindus and Muslims

The Jesuit missionary founded two institutes for the recovery of the country's historical heritage, and promoted education for young Nepalese. The Hindu community: we were enlightened by his books. The Muslims: we are shocked by his death, and we are praying for him. Hundreds of Catholics took part in the funeral of Jesuit historian Fr. Ludwig Stiller on March 12. Bishop Sharma commemorated the Jesuit missionary saying that "Fr. Stiller was a true Catholic who served the nation at his best, but his demise has caused irreparable loss to us." Originally from the United States, Fr. Stiller arrived in Nepal in 1956, and in 1969 he received honorary citizenship. He was fascinated by the history of the country at the foot of the Himalayas, and dedicated himself above all to researching the nation's modern roots. He was the first Nepalese to receive a doctorate in history at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu. He published a number of books that are recognized as important instruments for getting to know the country's recent past. Noteworthy among these are "Prithwinarayan Shah in the Light of Dibya Upadesh," "The Silent Cry," and "Nepal: Growth of a Nation."

Together with his work as a historian, Fr. Stiller was also engaged in important efforts in the field of education, promoting instruction for all Nepalese young people by teaching at the St. Xavier School in Kathmandu, and collaborating with the educational initiatives of the Jesuits scattered throughout the country. His death was a painful loss for his many former students, but also for the faithful of other religions in the country, who appreciated him as a scholar and educator (asianews.it).

II. NEWS

Australia: National E-Conference on the Year of St. Paul

The Catholic Church in Australia is to embark on its first ever national e-conference this year, with parishes and Church groups encouraged to gather on Tuesday, June 30 to take part in the innovative conference on St Paul. Registrations have now opened for the E-Conference, entitled, "Paul – The Man, the Mission and Message for Today: igniting his purpose and passion". The E-conference is an initiative of the Broken Bay Institute and the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. It will be hosted by television identity Mike Bailey and will feature sessions from world renowned Scripture scholars, Brendan Byrne SJ, Michele Connolly RSJ and film, media and communication scholar, Richard Leonard SJ (acbc.catholic.org.au)

India: Fr. Joseph Pereira awarded Padma Shree

Rev. Fr. Joseph Hillary Pereira, the Founder and Managing Trustee of Kripa Foundation working in the field of Rehabilitation of Chemical Dependency and HIV/AIDS, was awarded Padma Shree in Social work, together with
Sr. Nirmala MC, by the Government of India. Over the last 27 years he has revolutionized the entire concept of rehabilitation and in turn transformed the lives of thousands of individuals and their families. He has been acclaimed both in India and abroad. He has received many prestigious awards, the latest being the Padma Shree Award in 2009.

India: Sr. Mary Prema elected M. C. Superior General

The Missionaries of Charity, founded by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, elected Sr. Mary Prema as its new Superior General. The German-born Sr. Prema replaces Sr. Nirmala Joshi, who was re-elected for a third time. Sister Nirmala has led the congregation since 1997, after taking over from its founder. The election took place a day before the congregation's general chapter was scheduled to conclude, as Sr. Nirmala had requested to be relieved from such duties, citing ill health and a desire to live a contemplative life in the congregation. Sr. Joseph was elected assistant superior general and first councilor. Other councilors are Sisters Joanna, Adriana and Joseph Maria (ucanews.com).

India: Media Seminar in Jhabua Diocese

The diocese of Jhabua, organized a Media education seminar for the parish council members from various parishes. The resource person Norbert Herman SVD said that media has enveloped our lives, our thinking, food habits, clothing, attitudes, relations, behaviours and our values. Modern media such as newspapers, radio, television, internet and mobile phones have drastically changed family, education, leaders, and religion. And thus there is a need to educate ourselves especially youth to become aware of the today’s modern media life, and to analyze what is good and how we can participate in voicing for the voiceless.

Moscow: Election of Kirill as Russian Patriarch

Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad i.e. elected as the 16th Patriarch of Moscow and of all Russia. The 62 year old metropolitan will become Patriarch Kirill I, after being elected by an overwhelming majority of a council of the entire Russian Orthodox Church on 27 January in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral (ENI).

Rome: 50th Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council

Groups campaigning for changes in the Catholic Church plan to convene a ‘Worldwide Assembly of the People of God” in Rome in 2015 to mark the 50th anniversary of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council. The Council introduced major reforms into the life of the Church. “We want to take the inspiration of the Second Vatican Council on its 50th anniversary to show that we see new reforms to make the Church more inclusive, more democratic, more working for the poor, more ecumenical, more engaged in work for peace, for justice, for integrity of creation” said Mauro Castagnaro, the International Coordinator (ENI).

III. BOOKS

Carson, D. A., Christ & Culture Revisited, Michigan, Grand Rapids: W. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2008.

Till Keller says, “There is no more crucial issue facing us today than the relationship of the Church and the gospel to contemporary culture. Don Carson’s treatment of this issue is the most balanced one out there. Rather than grinding an axe or pushing his own paradigm, he listens carefully to the Scripture and brings us in the end to a sophisticated simplicity about these matters.”

Campbell, Antony F., The Whisper of Spirit: A Believable God Today, Michigan, Grand Rapids: W. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2008.

This stirring work explores the nature of belief in God’s being, specifically discusses Christian belief in God’s love, and anticipates the shape of a future ‘phoenix’ Church to support and nourish that faith. In discussing a ‘believable’ God today, Antony Campbell here addresses relevant, basic life questions: Who am I? Why are we here? What meaning is there?

Zahniser, A. H. Mathias, 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 and the New Testament may bridge that gap.

Chilcote, Paul W., and Warner, Laceye C., ed., The Study of Evangelism: Exploring a Missional Practice of the Church, Michigan, Grand Rapids: W. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2008.

This is a collection of essays on evangelism. “The tone of the editors and the texture of their selections make this a book that will be invaluable for years to come,” says Leonard Sweet.

Grass, Tim, Modern Church History, London: SCM Press, 2008.

It provides an introduction to global Christianity from 1648 to the present. The book aims to help students understand the processes, movements and individuals shaping the Christian landscape during this period, whether operating within the Church or outside it.

Abraham, Koshy, Prajapathiyagam: The Crucifixion, Cochin, Kerala: Mantra Publishers, 2009.

Through this book Dr. Koshy Abraham conclusively affirms the true identity of Prajapati. Quoting many clear and strong indications from Vedic literature as evidence, the author establishes without any doubt where exactly the real Prajapatiyagam took place. He has interpreted in a logically well knit and a scholarly fashion the reputed hymn ‘Purushasukta’ of Rig Veda. He substantiates that the Prajapati sought by the sages in the Vedas is in reality CHRIST and that Prajapathiyagam became a historical event in the Crucifixion of Christ.

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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