76

ISHVANI KENDRA
Institute of Missiology and Communications
Pune – India

June  – 2009

I. REPORT AND DOCUMENTATION

Vatican: It is a 'Shameful Tragedy' People go Hungry in the World

One of the most urgent and critical social problems afflicting the world today is the "shameful tragedy that one-fifth of humanity still goes hungry," Pope Benedict XVI told members of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. "Assuring an adequate food supply, like the protection of vital resources such as water and energy, requires all international leaders to collaborate in showing a readiness to work" toward eliminating social inequalities between countries and communities, he said in an address. "For Christians who regularly ask God to 'give us this day our daily bread,' it is a shameful tragedy" that so many people go hungry and are malnourished, he said.

The pope also said that there is "a flagrant contrast between the equal attribution of rights and the unequal access to the means of attaining those rights." World leaders need to work together and show solidarity toward the weakest regions and people on the globe in order to rectify these social inequalities and increase global security, he said. The church works to promote human rights in such a way that "these rights can be presented to all people of good will, independently of any religious affiliation they may have," he said (catholicnews.com).

India: Church Leaders ask New Government to uphold People's Trust

Christians have applauded Manmohan Singh's return as India's Prime Minister for a second term and urged him to continue his government's secular and pro-poor policies. The National Council of Churches in India says that it expects the government to keep the country secure from terrorism, maintain peace and protect vulnerable groups such as religious minorities, "dalit" (untouchables) and tribal people. The council also wants the government to provide equal opportunities for women and children, and to eradicate poverty.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of India also welcomed Singh as prime minister, calling the election victory an "endorsement" of his policies for socioeconomic development, especially in the rural sector. "Now the government should continue the work," said CBCI spokesperson Fr. Babu Joseph SVD. The CBCI wrote to Singh on May 18 to congratulate him on his election victory. The letter said his previous government's strong measures to check terrorism and sectarian violence brought it votes, and it expressed hope the new government would continue to uphold "true secular values and democratic practices."

Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, an ecumenical forum, sees the new government as bringing hope for peace and harmony. He also saw God's "clear hand" in the recent electoral defeat of parties that pursued sectarian policies (ucanews).

Singapore: Evangelization through Media Ministries

Two young parishioners huddle in a small office in their church, staring at computer screens. Occasionally one reaches for a bar of chocolate, their choice of stimulant as they work late into the night. Lyndley Ah-Qune and Lilynne Seah are rushing to meet the deadline for the printing of "Tomorrow," the parish newspaper of the Franciscan-run Church of St. Mary of the Angels. It was launched on the church's feast day in August 2007.

The 12-page monthly paper was the brainchild of parish priest Franciscan Friar John-Paul Tan. Following a 2007 parish communications audit, Father Tan realized that the existing weekly parish newsletter could "only carry so much information." This sparked the birth of the parish's media ministry called Potter and Scribe.

Seah, the editor, recalled expressing alarm when Father Tan first came up with the idea. "We were like, 'No way!' We didn't have the manpower and resources," the 22-year-old said. Seah has a diploma in mass communications and print journalism. Serving fellow parishioners through Potter & Scribe has led Seah to turn to God more frequently to pray for "the well-being of the ministry and the people in it." The print run of 4,000 copies is funded by the parish. The newspaper is distributed free of charge to 7,000 parishioners every first weekend of the month (ucanews.com).

Indonesia: Attracting people to the priesthood and Religious life

The MSC, international community of priests and brothers saw nine priests ordained in Indonesia in 2004, six in 2005, four in 2006, five in 2007 and 16 in 2008. This year, four were ordained in February and another six will be ordained later this year. Six members are studying philosophy and 19 are in the novitiate. MSC Indonesia has 221 priests including 14 foreign-born Indonesian citizens, and five bishops including one foreign-born Indonesian.

Father Johanis Mangkey, the new provincial superior of MSC Indonesia, says the stable growth in vocations in his congregation is due to the work done by Sacred Heart priests in parochial pastoral service, education and guidance, social work and media. He stresses that the seeds of vocation are actually sown in families, so he hopes that the Church focuses on faith education in this area.

II. ARTICLE SECTION

Religion, Identity and Economic Agenda by Prof. Ram Puniyani

While considering the theological aspects of Economics and Religion, what strikes most in contemporary times is the misuse of the identity of religion for economic goals. Religion as such is a multifaceted social phenomenon. It has various aspects like rituals, festivals, holy books, holy places, clergy, saints and moral values. One can broadly say that moral values of religion are upheld by the saint tradition of the religions while a section of clergy of religions has mostly focused on rituals. Clergy of most religions has shaped and controlled the institution of religion and administered the religious practices. In addition they have also been upholder of the social system, social relations between landlords and kings on one side and toiling peasantry on the other. While in Europe there was a clear cut alliance between King and Pope, Feudal lords and clergy, in India the same arrangement was there and we see the Landlord Brahmin combine, represented in the Marathi word Shetji-Bhatji (Shet-Landlord, Bhat-Brahmin), Raja had Rajguru with him. In Muslim societies also we see the Nawab (king) associated with Shahi Imam (Royal Priest). At times and places Clergy has also been responsible for spread of religion. The institutionalization of Christian clergy is most systematic one, so people feel as if it is only the Christian clergy which was associated with the rulers.

Kings and Clergy: It was a phenomenon cutting across religions. Kings, rulers were projected as the Sons of God, and authority of clergy was upheld by the Kings in the matters of knowledge and social practices/norms. This arrangement was ideal for covering up the economic goal of exploitation of the poor toiling peasants. The issues around which these forces revolved were all related to identity of religion, not around the moral values of religion, which promote love for humanity, peace, compassion and justice in society. The saints, at most of the places did not follow the pattern set by clergy and landlord-kings, they lived around moral values of religion. They also used the language of religion as an expression of the sigh of the poor and exploited. These saints harped more on moral values not on identity markers and they were far away from the power centers of the times. Their shrines are frequented by people of all religions as they are looked up as people of God in an inclusive way. Such saints kept themselves aloof from centers of power and lived as the average people, with average people.

In medieval times, the economic goals of ruling classes, feudal lords and kings used religion’s identity in various ways. To begin with, the whole system, where the poor peasant was at the bottom, was legitimized by the institution of religion. In Europe and other feudal societies the Serfs were tied as the land slaves, and the institution of religion sanctified the system. In India this got converted into Varna and caste system, and the division of laborers got sanctified by religion, the caste stratification which is the most blatant and shrewd way of making the poor getting exploited and to make him reconcile to all this as his. It is here that many saints, Kabir, Tukaram, Nizamuddin Auliya, Chokhamela, Narsi Mehta and their likes expressed the pain and sorrow of the poor in their literature, they also raised critical questions where by the land-lord priest combine was imposing the hierarchical norms on society.

Crusade, Jihad and Dharmyudh: At another level the kings also used the cover of religion for expansion of empires in the name of religion; this again was sanctified by the clergy. We see the Crusades in the name of Christianity, Jihad in the name of Islam and Dharmyudh in the name of Hindu religion. These brutal wars of expansion were given the veneer of religion, and the religious exhortation was utilized for ordinary people laying down their lives for the Worldly goals of Kings. These kings, sanctified by clergy, launched their political expansions as Crusades, Jihads or Dharmyudh. The beneficiary was the King and the looser were the ordinary soldiers laying down their lives with hope that this religious sacrifice will take them to Heaven, Jannat or Swarg, depending on their religion.

Overall with the rise of democratic social systems, Industrial revolutions, French revolution, British Democratic transition etc. the power of kings was eliminated, mostly Kings and feudal lords were done away with and role of clergy changed. In Industrialized countries with these industrial revolutions the clergy went to the backdrop, to social and family lives of society. Use of religion’s identity in politics declined. By early twentieth century the relegation of religion to private realm was quite visible. This lasted till late 1970s. National liberation movements were also on ascendance during this period. Later from the decade of 1980, the misuses of identity of religion came up with beginning of adverse effects of globalization. During the decades of 1950 to 1980 with two super powers, US and Russia, counterbalancing their global ambitions the other nations found their political space to democratize themselves and religion took a backseat, the identity of religion remained a private personal or social matter. It did not overshadow the political identity, religions identity remained in the realm of people’s private and community lives.

Politics in the Name of Religion: While in Industrial countries the secularization, relegation of religion to non- political arena was on, in colonies the process was a bit different. During this 19th century in India certain social groups and the political streams representing them were apprehensive of the values of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. These were the streams which came up from the landlords and associated clergy. These political groups put on the clothes of religion for their political agenda. Here the democratic transformation was not powerful and remained half way through. The democratic movement did not wipe away the Landlord and associates, so the values of this group, essentially the values of birth based hierarchy of caste and gender survived, as these were the core of their politics. In India it was a counter to the values of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity being spearheaded by the National movement. National movement had Gandhi as the leader and people like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Annie Besant and Sardar Baldeo Singh as the major associates. The values of the likes of Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar were in the similar group, but at times their values were transcending the values of national movement, being more radical and more progressive.

This group which struggled for modern values of liberty, equality and fraternity also struggled against the British rule and contributed to the process of formation of India as a nation in the making. The section of Kings – Landlords, concealed their economic interests and social goals in the language of religion. This came in the form of Muslim league, Hindu Mahasabha and RSS. They kept the goal of Muslim Nation or Hindu Nation. Primarily the foundation of these groups or their predecessors were laid down by the landlord kings and later middle class intellectuals, Jinnah on one side and Brahmins, Savarakar, Hedgewar, Golwalkar on the other. These activists-ideologues gave the ideological shape to the interests of declining sections of landlords kings of their religion.

Globalization’s Adverse Effects: The same ideology, politics in the name of religion, the one calling for status-quo, came in handy for the new affluent middle class who came in to being due to the adverse effect of globalization and lopsided industrial development of the country in the decade of 1980s. During the late ninetieth century and early twentieth century these political streams in the name of religion came in handy to assist the British to divide the country into Pakistan and India, and from last three decades, from the decade of 1980 they have come up to represent the political-economic goals of the new affluent middle class.

So here the identity of religion is again a cover. Hindu nation, Muslim nation and nascent Christian fundamentalism in some Western countries essentially do not want the process of social transformation towards equality, and so the ascendance of religion based politics is making assertive noises in current times. This politics consolidates itself on the ground of ‘hate-other’. Externally it spreads hate against minorities which leads to communal violence, partitioning of the society and stalling of the process which aims at the equality of low caste and women. As such the politics in the name of any religion does two things, externally it creates hatred for people of other religions and internally it aims to subjugate the low caste/women/adivasis and workers.

Anti-Christian Violence: The case of Adivasis is interesting to understand. From 1980 in Adivasi areas, anti Christian violence has been unleashed. The Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, an RSS affiliate pretends that it is defending Hindu faith. It is at the back of most of these dastardly acts. The essential point is that many Christian missionaries have been doing serious work to spread education and health services in these areas. The process of education is leading to the process of empowerment of sections of Adivasis, which is not to the liking of entrenched social powers, who are the support base of RSS affiliates, so this anti-Christian violence.

Globally, we have seen the rise in the terrorism in the name of religion, in the oil zones, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Western Asia. This began with the theory of ‘clash of civilizations’ where religion’s identity was at the forefront. This theory formed the base of US foreign policy. It argues that in the present era the major problem in the world is that the backward Islamic civilization is attacking the advanced western civilization. This was the pretext based on which US kept launching attacks on countries rich in oil resources.

Religious Terrorism: The Al Qaeda recruits were indoctrinated by the training module developed by US, which equated Kafir as non-Muslims and Jihad as the killing of Kafirs. As such Kafir means a ‘hidden one’ and jihad means striving. But this distortion was done by US authorities to misguide Muslim youth to take up arms against Soviet armies occupying Afghanistan, to ensure that US hegemony in the oil rich zone is restored. This whole exercise by US Empire also propagated the word Islamic terrorism, for the first time, and the social common sense was built around the association between Islam Muslims and terrorism. This gave the legitimacy to US to attack Afghanistan and later Iraq, primarily to control the oil wealth but the whole exercise was projected by misusing the religious identity. The word Clash of Civilization came to demonize Islam and added justification for inhuman and insane wars in the West-Middle Asia.

Conclusions: To present the political-economic goals as the matters related to religion, to present these goals in the garb of religion is probably the biggest crime of ruling classes; dominant social groups and US Empire. The highest values of most religions are to spread humanism and love in the World to bring in a society with compassion and justice. It is time we wake up to this misuses of the identity of religion and also to make people aware that wars, violence against weak and demolitions of ancient holy places, Babri mosque or Bamiyan Budddha, have nothing to do with religion, these acts have economic goals hidden behind them.

What is obvious is not the truth, and what is true has to be seen by removing the outer layers of the phenomenon under scrutiny. From centuries the economic goals have been concealed under the wrap of religion. This on one hand gives a distorted presentation about the religion and on the other creates a world of make believe, where economic agenda gets masked in the hysteria created around the name of religion. The challenge is to restore the moral values of religion as the religion, as the positive contribution to society and to ensure that identity of religion is not misused for political, economic goals. With changing times clergy must redefine its goals, modelled around the contributions of saints and emphasize on the moral values, values of amity, compassion and harmony in the society (Author is a peace activist, can be reached at ram.puniyani@gmail.com).

III. NEWS

India: Manmohan Singh returns as India's Prime Minister for a Second Term

Congress Party emerged as the single largest party in parliament in the recent general election in India (May 2009). Congress heads the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), which won 262 of the 545 seats in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament. Another 60 non-alliance members have promised to support Singh's government. The Indian electorate rose up to give a mandate for positive goal for an inclusive nation. This verdict also shows that communal politics may succeed once a while, but in a plural country like India, inclusive agenda based on the values of freedom movement should hold on for long time. The defeat of BJP and associated communal divisive forces has come as a big respite for the secular democratic values of the country. One had witnessed the rising tide of communal actions in different parts of the country spectrum of which ranged from the carnage in Kandhamal-Orissa to the attack on girls in Mangalore (ucanews).

India: New Bishops for Madhya Pradesh

Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Fr. Devprasad Ganawa SVD as Bishop of Jhabua diocese, and Fr. Arockia Sebastian Durairaj SVD as Bishop of Khandwa diocese. Congratulations to both of them (INM Prov. Circular 51).

Asia: Bishops in Dialogue

"The Church is Called to Dialogue: Special Role of Bishops" is the title of a seminar for bishops responsible for inter-religious dialogue within the Asian bishops' conferences and other interested bishops. The seminar will be organized by the FABC-Office of Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs (OEIA) from July 21-25, 2009 in Bangkok. The meeting aims to reflect, discuss and jointly address that challenges faced by the Asian Church in understanding the rich religious and cultural plurality of Asia (FABC.Org).

Pakistan: Taliban’s Jizya on Sikhs News is emerging about self-styled Islamist

Taliban forcing helpess Sikhs in remote villages of northern Pakistan, which the Taliban have recently captured, to pay them a hefty amount of money as jizya, on account of their being non-Muslims. The Taliban have resorted even to kidnapping in order to force the helpless Sikhs to cough up the huge ransom that the Taliban have demanded in the name of imposing what they regard as an Islamic tax on them. According to a report published in the Lahore-based newspaper Daily Times. Taliban in Orakzai Agency have banished 50 Sikh families from the agency for not paying Jizia, a tax levied on non-Muslims living under Islamic law, a private TV channel reported on Thursday. According to the channel, Taliban occupied houses and shops of the Sikhs and auctioned their valuables for Rs 0.8 million in Qasim Khel and Feroz Khel areas. Taliban had demanded Rs 12 million from the Sikh community but they had only paid Rs 6.7 million to the Taliban, the channel said’ (daily times.com.pk).

Nepal: Religion a Source of Peace in South Asia

It is an age old debate that religion is a source of conflict or resource for peace? Also can religion play any positive role in bringing about 1) stability in South Asia and 2) consolidating friendship between India and Pakistan? To debate these questions about 20 scholars and activists from India and Pakistan met at Dhulikhel, a mountain resort near Kathmandu, Nepal. The consultation was organized jointly by Irenees of France and Pipal’s Tree of Bangalore jointly from 10-13 May 2009. Scholars and activists both from India and Pakistan participated in the consultation. Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer opened the consultation through his inaugural remarks. He said that role of religion cannot be understood without socio-political context. It would be erroneous to think religion or conflict is innate to religion as many secularists and rationalists tend to do. Conflict and violence comes from external sources i.e. from socio-political situation in the region. Religion is often used as a tool by vested interests (csss@mtnl.net.in).

IV. BOOKS

Malipurathu, Thomas, and L. Stanislaus, (Eds.), The Church in Mission: Universal Mandate and Local Concerns, Anand: Gujarat, 2002. (Rs. 150/-) Available now for half price at Ishvani Kendra.

This book contains the proceeds of the National Colloquium on The Church in Mission. Ishvani Kendra has tried to bring together in this volume the best of all that found expression in it. This volume is presented with the earnest hope that it would lead many more to have a share in that enlightening experience which the participants of the colloquium commended so unstintingly.

Stanislaus, L., Education as Mission, Delhi: Ishvani Kendra/ISPCK, 2004. (Rs.195/-) Available now for half price at Ishvani Kendra.

This volume contains the proceeds of the National Consultation on “Education as Mission”. Ishvani Kendra, in tune with its vision to create new thinking, had called for this Consultation. Education is really a Mission today in India, and as the people of God we forge ahead with this vision, foresight and zest. The search for fresh goals and commitment to renewed options are enumerated in this volume.

Stanislaus, L., and Jose Joseph, (Eds.), Healing as Mission, Delhi: Ishvani Kendra/ISPCK, 2006. (Rs. 225/-) Available now for half price at Ishvani Kendra.

This book contains the proceedings of the National Consultation on Healing as Mission. Ishvani Kendra had taken the initiative to organize this consultation to understand the mission of the Church in healing ministry from the physical, psychological, spiritual and social perspectives. The focus of the volume is that healing is mission and this mission has to be contexual, effective and transforming.

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

Please forward this Mission Scan to any of your friends and acquaintances.