77

ISHVANI KENDRA
Institute of Missiology and Communications
Pune – India

July  – 2009

I. REPORT AND DOCUMENTATION

Vatican: Year for Priests
Each and every one of the world's 408,000 priests should feel loved, respected, valued and supported in his vocation to bring the Gospel to an increasingly secular world, said Cardinal Claudio Hummes. The Brazilian cardinal, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, said the 2009-2010 Year for Priests, which begins June 19, must recognize the new challenges and possibilities Catholic priests face. Pope Benedict XVI called for the special year to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Vianney, who was famed for his priestly ministry. The aim, however, is not to organize a historical commemoration, but to look realistically at the world in which priests live and work and to recognize that the horrible abuse perpetrated by some priests has harmed the reputation of all priests (www.catholicnews.com).

Vatican: Scripture must be interpreted within the Church Community
The interpretation of sacred Scripture cannot be subjective, but must be interpreted within the church community, said Pope Benedict XVI. "Only within the Ecclesial context can sacred Scripture be understood as the authentic Word of God that acts as guide, norm and rule for the life of the Church and the spiritual growth of the faithful," he said. "This entails rejecting every interpretation that is subjective or simply limited to a mere analysis (and therefore) incapable of being open to the overall meaning that has guided the tradition of the entire people of God over the course of centuries," he said in an address to members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission…"The texts inspired by God were entrusted to the community of believers and to the Church of Christ to nourish the faith and to guide the life of charity," said Pope Benedict. These guidelines do not impede biblical studies, he said: rather they "promote the authentic progress" of scriptural studies (www.catholicnews.com).

Vatican: Vatican Media welcome Obama's speech in Cairo as Step toward Peace
U.S. President Barrack Obama's speech in Cairo, Egypt, was welcomed by Vatican media as a step toward peace and a new beginning in American relations with Muslims. The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, ran a front-page story June 4 on Obama's speech earlier that day. The newspaper called it an effort to open "a new beginning in relations between the United States and the Arab world" (www.catholicnews.com).

Vatican: Man is the Image of the Trinity
"The greatest proof that we are all made in the image of the Trinity is this: only love makes us happy, because we live to love and to be loved. Borrowing an analogy from biology, we could say that the human "genome" is profoundly imprinted with the Trinity of God-who-is-Love". On the day when the universal Church celebrates the feats of the Holy Trinity, Benedict XVI returned to dwell on one of the themes dearest to him, that of God-who-is-Love, to which he dedicated his encyclicals Deus Caritas est (www.asianews.it).

Rome: A New Form of Missionary Activity
Working against trafficking in human persons is a new form of missionary activity that is now seeing more and more participation from among female religious congregations. This is what has been seen in the workshops of the International Convention of "Female Religious in Network against Trafficking in Persons," underway in Rome. Many testimonies and talks have been given already. Among others was that of Sr. Viviana Ballarin, President of the USMI (Union of Major Superiors of Italy), who observed that with this new commitment to fighting trafficking, "religious life enters into the darkest recesses of evil and sin" and they offer a valuable female presence. In general, the workshops have mentioned the following: the struggle against trafficking and "a new apostolate that progresses" and a "change of perspective" in regards to the traditional parish and school activities that characterized female religious congregations (www.fides.org).

Pakistan:  Church Institutions threatened with Bomb Attack
A Church centre in Pakistan's cosmopolitan eastern city of Lahore has been threatened with a suicide bomb attack, one of a series of intimidating messages given to Christians as the country's security crisis worsens. The threat was delivered on June 10 to a Christian woman who lives next to Rabita Manzil, the National Catholic Office for Social Communications, which includes the offices of the WAVE (Workshop Audio Visual Education) studio, Radio Veritas Asia's Urdu service and the Union of Catholic Asian News (www.ucanews.com).

Poland: Polish Ecumenical Theologian seeks more Church Joy, Humour
Poland’s top Roman Catholic ecumenist has urged churches to demonstrate more joy and humour alongside their deep sense of responsibility. “Christianity isn’t just a religion of the Cross – it’s also a religion of Resurrection, of hope, joy and courage,” said Waclaw Hryniewicz, a veteran of Roman Catholic-Orthodox negotiations in Poland, who has been censured by the Vatican. “When Joy, humour and hope are driven out, Christianity becomes something sad, deprived of wisdom, spiritual balance and integral freedom,” he said. “Religious fervour may then turn into a gloomy and fanatical dogmatism, manifested in hostility to people and the world, detecting deceit, evil and falseness everywhere.” The 72-year-old theologian was speaking after being awarded an honorary doctorate at Warsaw’s ecumenical Christian Theological Academy for contributions to inter-church dialogue (ENI).

Washington: Study Probes Reasons for US Catholics, Protestants Lapsing
You might think former parishioners have left the pews because of sex scandals? Or because they no longer believe in God? While some have departed for those reasons, the vast majority of former Roman Catholics and former Protestants in the United States who are now unaffiliated with any faith have “just gradually drifted away,” the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has reported. The new analysis called “Faith in Flux: Changes in Religious Affiliation in the US,” found that 71% of both former Catholics and former Protestants said their decision to leave happened over time, unprompted by any one-time event. “For many people, religious change is not a decision that’s reached at a particular point in time after careful deliberation of the pros and cons,” said Greg Smith, research fellow at the Washington-based Pew Forum (ENI / RNS).

II. ARTICLE SECTION

Some Thoughts on Inter-faith Dialogue by Asghar Ali Engineer

Inter-faith dialogue is becoming commonplace these days and many organisations are organising it in view of inter-religious tensions in many countries in the world. USA had not known it earlier or very few organisations were involved but post 9/11 Islam came under attack and tensions between Christians and Muslims increased and so many organisations came into being organising dialogues.
            In India too the decade of eighties saw eruption of communal violence and several major riots took place from Moradabad in beginning of eighties to Bhagalpur to Mumbai until beginning of nineties. Thus Indians also realised the importance of inter-faith dialogue and number of them took place. I must say Indians did not have this tradition and it is Christians who took main initiative and invited Muslims and Hindus to talk to each other.
            However, most of the dialogues tend to be at a very superficial level. We often refer to what is best in our tradition completely ignoring what is worst in it and causes thereof. Thus all sides praise their own religious tradition and disperse and the problem continues. One wonders then why conflict takes place at all. Thus like other rituals we also perform one more ritual and feel duty has been done.
            First of all inter-faith dialogue has to be much deeper encounter between Faiths which must bring out not only good and undesirable elements but also problem areas and conflict which occurs due to these problem areas and how to resolve these problem areas. Inter-faith dialogue should be followed by an attempt to conflict transformation, to make it more useful.
            Conflict transformation also needs deeper engagement with the causes of conflict and find ways to resolve it. Inter-faith dialogue per se may be useful but it can become much more so if there is deeper engagement and sincere attempt to understand causes of conflict and resolve it through mutual cooperation.
            Inter-religious dialogue needs some strict discipline also. It requires true religious attitude and what is meant by it is accepting truth of all religions. Any sense of superiority about ones own religion, howsoever subtle, defeats very purpose. Sense of superiority has ways to assert itself through our ego, individual as well as collective. One must realize that no religion can ever be based on falsehood though their faith traditions may differ for number of reasons.
            Maulana Azad, a great Muslim theologian and commentator of the Qur’an also realised this and maintained, quoting scriptures of all great religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and Christianity that core of religion, what he calls Deen is same but what differs is customs, traditions and legal practices what he describes as shari’ah. These differences, he maintains, are not due to different core teachings but due to origin and manifestations of these religions in different cultures. Thus differences in cultures play greater role than different teachings.
            We often miss this point and find in these differences causes of conflict. Also, we are so much lost in rituals that we completely miss spirituality of each faith tradition. A great seer like Ramakrishna realized the commonality of spirituality by practicing all three religions i.e. Hinduism, Christianity and Islam and found no significant difference in their spirituality. Both these great religious thinkers understood the problem at much deeper level and after serious engagement with theologies of these religions.
            One should also understand that religion and religious communities are two different entities. Religion remains in theological domain whereas religious communities exist in secular space with secular interests, and conflicts are not religious theologies but secular interests of these communities. Often clash of communal interests are projected as clash of religions or religious theologies.
            A good example of this is Huntington’s much discussed book Clash of Civilizations. In fact there is absolutely no clash between civilizations, it is clash between USA and the Arab nations during the Bush regime which was projected by Huntington as clash of civilizations. In India, it is political interests of a section of Hindus and Muslims or Christians which clash and it is often projected as clash between Hinduism, Islam and Christianity.
            Also, religion is often misused by vested interests and misuse of religion becomes part of the problem. What is often discussed is politicised religion than religion by itself. There are number of examples of this in history as well as in contemporary world. Crusades are best examples of this. It was no clash between Christianity and Islam but fight for supremacy over Palestine.
            Similarly the Ramjanambhoomi-Babri Masjid issue was in no sense a religious issue. It was purely an attempt to politicise a controversy related to a religious place and the right place to resolve this controversy was court of law. The issue was artificially created by the Sangh Parivar in 1948 by installing idols of Ram and Sita with a political project in mind. To fulfil the aim with which these idols were installed inside the mosque at dead of the night, the controversy was raked in late eighties.
            As religion is often politicised in contemporary world so it was politicised in history too. And all that became part of religion and now we are unable to separate chafe from grain and what is more unfortunate is that we fight on these issues even in contemporary world. I would like to illustrate with some examples. One such example is the concept of jihad. Some extremist elements among Muslims are grossly misusing it for their own political project.
            What is described as jihad by these extremist elements is in no sense a Qur’anic discourse. Jihad meant, as far as the Qur’anic discourse is concerned, nothing more than strenuous efforts to spread good and contain evil. It is in fact intellectual efforts and involves no fight with weapons, though some maintain that it could be the last resort if at all evil takes violent form. The Prophet of Islam himself described jihad as speaking truth in the face of a tyrant ruler and get justice to the oppressed.
            However, jihad came to be grossly misused by many Muslim rulers in history for territorial expansion and every fight with non-Muslim rulers on territorial issues came to be construed as jihad. It is important to note that the Prophet (PBUH) himself was forced to fight some battles but he never described them as ‘jihad’. They were described as ghazw which was the prevalent term in pre-Islamic Arabic also for inter-tribal raids and battles. Of course there were no major wars in pre-Islamic Arabia and violence was limited to inter-tribal fights for which the term ghzw was used.
            Had jihad been a war or battle Prophet (PBUH) would have freely used it as who could then be entitled to use that word jihad than the Prophet himself. But yet the rulers who grabbed power after the period of khilafat (30 years of rule by the prominent companions of the Prophet) called their mutual fights as jihad or any fight with non-Muslim ruler as ‘jihad’. And its constant misuse throughout history made it part of Islamic discourse.
            Thus today those who are non-state actors fighting Muslim rulers and killing Muslims and non-Muslims from civil society describe it as jihad and those who have no deeper understanding of religious tradition accept it as jihad, many Muslims no exception. It should be abundantly clear to anyone who tries to engage with Islamic history at deeper levels that killing innocent people for political purposes cannot be construed jihad in any sense of the word.
            Jihad as such implies only efforts, not weapons and even if it does supposedly imply weapons it cannot be permissible to kill innocent members of civil society. Right from 9/11 until today those who style themselves as jihadis have killed only innocent people. Be it in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iraq they are killing only Muslims as there are hardly non-Muslims in these countries.
            Jihad was never so grossly corrupted as by Al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghan-Pakistan area. To describe these killers as ‘jihadis’ is great insult to the term jihad and I say there can be no greater insult to this noble concept which implies peaceful intellectual efforts for greater good in our conflict torn world. Politicised jihad of today has become a curse for the peaceful world.
            It is in this sense that a deeper encounter with our own and other’s religious traditions is necessary and it is in this sense I maintain that superficial dialogues will not help in which we just mention what is best in our tradition completely ignoring what is worse and how it happen to come about. And such deeper encounter should not be restricted to few dialogue circles only.
            More and more people should be involved through mass media. Today media has become a part of problem rather than solution. Media hardly takes interest in inter-faith debate. It spreads prejudices about the other rather than enlightening its readers or viewers. Media has not only been commercialized but has also been politicized. There is great need to involve media persons in such deeper encounters so that for media persons religion does not become blind spot. Inter-faith dialogue has to embrace whole society (csss@mtnl.net.in).

III. NEWS

India: FOIM Meeting at Kathmandu
The Fellowship of Indian Missiologists (FOIM), an ecumenical missiological association founded in 1991, will hold its next biannual Conference and Research Seminar at Kathmandu, Nepal from 11-14 October 2009. Theme of Kathmandu Conference is, “Mission in Asia.” The previous seminar was held at Burn Hall School, Srinagar, Kashmir from 18 to 21 October 2007 to reflect on the theme ‘Mission as building Relationships’. The research papers were published in FOIM Series XII entitled, “Building Solidarity - Challenge to Christian Mission.”

India: Zeitler Memorial Lecture & Essay Competition
Zeitler Memorial Lectures are occasionally organised to continue the legacy of Rev. Fr. Engelbert Zeitler, who founded Ishvani Kendra (Institute of Missiology and Communications) at Pune, India in the year 1976, and served as its first Director. The vision of the Kendra is to animate persons in the light of the Word of God and translate the Word into meaningful propositions and viable models of action in the contemporary world. As Pope Benedict XVI has declared the coming year as the Year of the Priest, the next Lecture is on the theme, ‘Year of Priest.’ Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil SDB of Guwahati will deliver this lecture on 20 August 2009. The Local Ordinary, Most Rev. Thomas Dabre, the new Bishop of Poona, would be the chief-guest. For the same reason Ishvani Kendra has chosen the topic for this year’s Essay Competition, “Emerging Challenges for Priests in India: Being Servant Leaders in Collaboration with all People of Goodwill”.

India: Pope Benedict XVI appoints Two SVD Bishops
Pope Benedict XVI appoints Bishop Devprasad Ganawa SVD and Bishop
A.S. Durairaj SVD to head their flock at Jabua and Khandwa respectively. The Episcopal Ordination of Bishop Devprasad Ganawa was held on 16th June 2009 and that of Bishop A.S. Durairaj will be held on 16th July 2009.

Zimbabwe: New Indian SVD Bishop
His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, has named Fr. Alex Thomas Kaliyanil SVD, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Bulawayo in Zimbabwe. Most probably the consecration will be on 12 September. Fr. Kaliyanil is currently the Mission Superior of our SVD Mission in Zimbabwe, recently detached from the BOT Province. Fr. Kaliyanil was appointed the first superior of the Zimbabwe Mission when the then Zimbabwe district of the Botswana Province was granted a separate and autonomous status in 2008. Zimbabwe was the Archbishop-elect’s first mission assignment. In 2008, he was appointed Mission Superior of Zimbabwe (svdinm@mtnl.net.in).

IV. BOOKS

1. Ignatius, I., Religious Language and Historising Method, Delhi: Ishvani Kendra/ISPCK, 2007. (Rs.225/-) Available now for half price at Ishvani Kendra.

This book underlines the historising as a method to a new philosophical understanding of the problem of religious language. As the ‘Word became flesh’ (Jn 1:14) is of historical and creational function, the word of human beings also has historical, creational and recreational function. As the word of human beings are historised, people have to revise their old catechetical lessons, beliefs and certitudes about human beings, and the world to the radical level of involving every human person in the historical process of the world.

2. Stanislaus, L. and Joseph, Jose, (eds.),  Migration and Mission in India, Delhi: Ishvani Kendra/ISPCK, 2007. (Rs.225/-) Available now for half price at Ishvani Kendra.

This volume is the outcome to realize the mission among the migrants where a wide range of issues on migrants, the field studies on the migrant workers, and missiological orientations are presented.

3. Stanislaus, L. and Joseph, Jose, (eds.), Communication as Mission, Delhi: Ishvani Kendra/ISPCK, 2007. (Rs.275/-) Available now for half price at Ishvani Kendra.

The proceedings of this book is to understand the impact of communications in the mission of the Church today, and to orient ourselves towards the integration of evangelisation and media, and also the ‘new culture’ created by modern communications.

4. Stanislaus, L. and Gorski, John F., (eds.),  Sharing Diversity: In Missiological Research and Education, Delhi: Ishvani Kendra/ISPCK, 2006. (Rs.175/-) Available now for half price at Ishvani Kendra.

This book contains the proceedings of the Second General Assembly of the International Association of Catholic Missiologists (IACM) on “Sharing Diversity in Missiological Language and Intercultural Communication, which was held in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Dr. Joy Thomas, SVD (Director)

ISHVANI KENDRA
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E-mail: ishvani@dataone.in
Website:
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