78

ISHVANI KENDRA
Institute of Missiology and Communications
Pune – India

August  – 2009

I. REPORT AND DOCUMENTATION

India: Christians in Orissa want Concrete Measures from Government

Christians in India accept the apology offered by the central government as well as their promise to punish the guilty, but they are also demanding ‘concrete steps’ to stop Hindu fundamentalist violence and guarantee freedom to practice their religious faith. They report new cases of threats and stress that, even today, those responsible for the massacres are roaming villages unpunished.

In a two-day visit to Orissa, the Home Minister, Mr. P. Chidambaram, visited the refugee camps in Kandhamal, where over a thousand Christians are still housed. Addressing them the minister said: "I am sorry for what happened. Those who have done this will be punished. Please go back to your villages and start your life once again; rest assured that the Central and Orissa governments will do everything to resolve your difficulties" (asianews.it).

Vatican: Bishops must be Loving Shepherds

Bishops are called to watch over their faithful not like "a prison guard," but with the same love and concern that God watches over the world, Pope Benedict XVI told the Archbishops. "To watch from God's perspective is to watch with that love that wants to serve the other, to help the other truly become him or herself," the Pope said on June 29 during his homily on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. During the Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, 34 archbishops from 20 countries knelt before Pope Benedict and received a pallium, as a sign of their authority and their responsibility as shepherds.

In his homily, Pope Benedict said the First Letter of St. Peter describes Jesus as "the bishop of souls." "This means that he sees us from God's perspective. Watching from God's point of view, he has a vision of the whole and he sees dangers as well as hopes and possibilities. Those appointed to serve the church as bishops must model their ministry on that of Christ, working to ensure that everyone comes to know God and to be part of the community of faith. Like Jesus, they are called to carry the lost sheep around their shoulders and bring them back to safety. The lost sheep are not just members of the Catholic Church, who may have lost their way, but are all of humanity” (catholicnews.com).

Thailand: Priests Reminded of their Role to Pray and Serve Poor

Priests gathered for their annual seminar have been urged to be self-reflective and re-examine their commitment to serve people, especially the poor. More than 300 diocesan and religious priests from Thailand's 10 dioceses gathered from July 14-17 at Bangkok archdiocese's Pastoral Training Center in Sam Phran, west of Bangkok, for their 27th annual seminar. Cardinal Michael Michai Kitbunchu, administrator of Bangkok archdiocese, called for soul-searching among the gathered clergy, about half the total number of priests in the country. "Some priests behave in a disrespectful manner. The Year for Priests is a time to reflect on priestly life and the dedication to serving others and aiding the poor," he said at the seminar.

Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, Apostolic Nuncio to Thailand, told the priests that "the priesthood is a gift from God to the Church and to the person whom he calls." He warned however that if "priests allot less and less time to being with the Lord, they eventually lose the inner strength that sustains them" and their many duties and "often heroic activity" become "empty activism" (ucanews.com).

India: Suffering in Orissa, a Gift for the Year for Priests

"God has allowed this to happen to me so I could bear witness to the faith of priests and solidarity towards all the priests of the world who suffer in His name" said Fr. Edward Sequeira SVD, who was one of the first victims of anti-Christian program of Orissa. On July 18 he celebrates the 25th anniversary of his ordination and the anniversary falls as the Church celebrates the Year of Priests. For the Divine Word Missionary priest this coincidence is another "sign of the work of Divine Providence" in the past year. On 25 August last, 500 Hindus attacked the orphanage of Fr. Sequeira at Padampur in the district of Kandhamal, setting it on fire. Rajni Majhi, a twenty-year-old who helped him as an educator, died in the blaze and he himself risked dying carbonized. In March this year, the scene was repeated: for a second time the orphanage was set alight, the structure was destroyed, but luckily no one was killed. In an interview with Asia News he said: "It is only by the grace of God that I am alive today” (www.asianews.it).

Philippines: Panlilio leaves Priesthood to run for Presidency

Pampanga Governor Eddie Panlilio claimed that his decision to leave priesthood and run for presidency in 2010 is a “calling from God.” At a weekly public forum organized in Manila by Catholic media groups, the priest-turned politician said that all he has in mind is to serve the Filipino people. "I’m doing this not for me, not for myself. I felt God wanted me to go on a higher service," said Panlilio. He added: "There have been groups telling me to run for the presidency and I thought I would pray again. After a period of discernment I said, yeah God is calling me to run for the presidency" (cbcpnews.com).

USA: New Pocket-size Books Help Peers Deepen their Faith

Two young Christian authors have published pocket-size books aimed at helping their peers put their faith into action and find answers to problems in prayer. The first book, "The Radical Bible" by Kevin Ahern, is a compilation of scriptural passages, statistics and commentary by Catholic and non-Catholic contemporary thinkers. The selections address poverty, oppression and other major social issues the global community is currently facing. "Keeping the Faith: Prayers for College Students" by Kerry Weber is a compilation of prayers designed to help college students cope with a variety of challenges ranging from homesickness to difficulties with a roommate. Ahern, former president of the International Movement of Catholic Students, said he intends his book to be "a tool for personal and group reflection for those seeking to respond to God's radical call for reflection and action in the world" (catholicnews.com).

II. ARTICLE SECTION

1. “Faith: Instilling Unity” by Prof. Ram Puniyani

One has heard that faith can move mountains, but currently one looks forward to see that it restores peace and justice in society. We have been hearing about various Inter Faith Dialogues from quite some time. One such high level dialogue took place in Mumbai in second week of June 2009. This was attended by top clergy from Hindu and Christian religions. It came to the understanding that there should be no violence against minorities, there should be no conversions and that religious organizations will pool together their resources for charity.

The need for interfaith dialogue has been felt very acutely in the light of violence in the name of religion, which has intensified during last couple of decades. Faith has been misused during this time to launch violence by vested interests. The aim of this use, nay abuse, of faith for political goals was a very well calculated move by vested interests to come to power. Surely interfaith dialogue is the best contribution the clergy can make for the peace of society. It is also true that it is not the clergy which is instrumental in misuse of faith.

In last three decades faith has been misused for political goals by US when it resorted to cultivating terror groups and then launched War on Terror, unleashed ‘crusade’ and attacked Afghanistan. Then the Al Qaeda, Taliban types liberally misused the word Jihad, Kafir in an insane manner to launch their ‘revenge’ offensive, apparently for the glory of their faith. In India the adverse effect of Al Qaeda violence added on to the misuse of faith here. At another level with Ram Rath Yatra, as it was riding on the chariot of faith and leaving behind the trail of blood, the misuse of faith for divisive politics tormented the society. Those blinded by lust for power saw the resurgence of faith around the chariot and ignored the spilling of blood in the back. It did achieve the purpose of sectarian forces occupying the seats of power for six long years.

The other misuse of faith was around defense of Hindu faith by organizations in Adivasi areas. A group of swamis descended in these Adivasi areas and dubbed the charity work done by section of missionaries as being a danger to Hindu faith and so burnt a Pastor from Australia working amongst Leprosy patients and backed it up by further misuse of faith in unleashing violence in the Adivasi belt from Dangs to Orissa.

The clergy’s effort in the direction of restoring peace is laudable. Though the problem is not of their making they do realize a large section of society looks up to them for guidance. The organizations of religion have a very different role to play in today’s World. True, in feudal times, clergy was associated with the kings and legitimized the system of economic exploitation, social subjugation of landed labour and women. Today when democracy is struggling to be the norm, clergy has to play a different role. It should not associate with powers that be to perpetuate the unjust social, economic system. They have to act as the soothing balm to the suffering humanity. It is in this direction that the meeting of Archbishops and Shankarachayas is a welcome move. With such dialogues the perpetuators of violence in the name of religion will loose their legitimacy after such pronouncements by the men of religion, and that will be a big step in curbing the violence, emasculating the politics deriving its legitimacy in the name of religion.

One point which strikes in the discourse of these holy people is their emphasis on spirituality. While Cardinal Gracias said ours is a spiritual country, Sri Sarswati went in to call that India should be declared as a spiritual state. There is some problem here. Being spiritual is a personal Endeavour, effort to discover oneself, to connect one self with the divine powers etc., is a personal matter, not the matter for state apparatus to deal with. The state cannot be and should not be declared spiritual. In modern times even religion which has visible aspects in the form of identity markers cannot be a state matter. Spirituality is an abstract concept, persons’ own path to be at peace in the universe. Many a mystics, saints adopted the path of spirituality as a way of life for themselves. Spirituality can be expressed, but not transferred. In democratic society as religion is a personal matter, spirituality is much more so. Individual path of spirituality of people cannot make the state as spiritual. State has to have its own norms of laws, schemes for welfare of material betterment of its citizens.

As such the formulation that India is a spiritual nation is not a new one. It began with British coming to India. They propounded that India is essentially a religious country and spiritualism is its core. This myth was started by British rulers who were consolidating their hegemony over India. The sole aim of such a fabrication was to dominate the political, social machinery, the 'material realm' of socie­ty, while leaving the 'spiritual arena' for the Indians. The idea was to flatter the Indians away from the matters of civil and political society, where they wanted to establish unhindered hegemony.

The fact is, India was the cradle for multiple rich materi­al pursuits: trade and commerce, which was well developed, Indian traders going far and wide for their business pursuits, crafts­manship had reached its glorious heights in different professions. Art and architecture had a rich spectrum to offer from the paintings of Kangada Kalam, to temples of Khajuraho, to the majestic palaces of Kings to Taj Mahal. It was a comprehensive develop­ment of all the faculties of society, spiritual and material. This civilization and culture had rich inputs from different cultures, which came and interacted with the local cultures. Starting from Aryans down to British, all those who came contributed to the culture of this land. Indian cul­ture is a rich outcome of interaction of multiple cultures and syncretic traditions which not only left their deep mark on the ‘way of life' of the people but also a pleasant imprint on the social and cultural lie of society.

So while welcoming the move to understand each other, to shun from looking at the ‘other’ in a humiliating way, to having a pro-active affinity for each others’ positive values, one also hopes clergy tunes itself to the values of democratic society and democratic ethos rather than stick to formulations which are either borrowed from the practitioners of divisive politics or from the past, which have no relevance today (rpuniyani.2002@gmail.com).

2. “Gays versus the Rest in India” by Dominic Emmanuel

One wonders if it is a sheer coincidence that when barely a few days ago the law minister Mr. Veerappa Moily made sounds about the repeal of IPC section 377, which was again coincidentally followed by a colourful gay parade in some cities, the High Court of Delhi has come out in favour of decriminalizing it. Before the exact details of the judgment are known, there is great commotion in the media and certainly an outburst of gay feelings.

Earlier the announcement made by Mr. Moily had met with much resistance both from within the ruling UPA as well as the opposition party in the parliament, the BJP. Mr. Moily has himself since backtracked on his earlier statement saying that he was misinterpreted. Curiously Mr. Moily in his statement had specifically referred to consultations and approval of the ‘Christian Churches’ before taking a final decision.

Not surprisingly even before he set out with his task of consulting Churches, reactions had already begun to pour in. The first one to oppose the repeal came from the all important Islamic seminary, the Darul Uloom of Deoband followed by other Muslim organizations such as the All India Muslim Personal Law Board. They plan to get other religious bodies on board to oppose the same. Certain Christian groups have also joined the chorus though not as vociferously as some others.

It is not yet clear whether the difference of opinion that has cropped up within the Congress party on the issue is the result of religious minorities raising objections or it is because they genuinely believe that such a move will be offensive to the general public which in India clearly means the Hindus. While Mr. Moily might have had his own reasons to refer to Church’s views, he would have done well to have included a wider section of society rather than singling out one particular religious community which is often wrongly presumed as a kill joy by the gay community.

To begin with the IPC 377 held, “Whosoever has carnal intercourse voluntarily against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall be liable to fine.” It was thus considered a crime in the eyes of law. Now the court says that homosexual relationships between two consenting adults should not amount to a crime.

It needs to be made clear both for the benefit of the general public as well as the gay community that the Christian community does not (No it does not) treat people with gay tendencies as criminals. They can’t be regard on par with other criminals. No way. And therefore it has no serious objection to the repealing of IPC 377, which incidentally what the Delhi High Court seems to have ruled today in its historic judgment. In other words, it does not object to decriminalizing homosexuality, though it fears that doing so might increase cases of HIV/AIDS. But one must hasten to add and this is what all religious leaders, not just of minorities’, should distinguish too that decriminalizing is not the same as, a) granting legal benefits and b) accepting it as normal or natural.

It is not the case that only Muslims or Christians would consider it as unnatural. Are Hindu, Sikh and other religious groups ready to accept it as natural? For, legalizing it would mean granting them many other rights including that of marriage and of raising a family. And here lies the basic problem.

Let me clarify further that it is not just the Church but all religions and the society in general accept the fact that the fundamental entity of society is the family based on marriage between a man and a woman and where a child is nurtured in a natural environment to further God’s beautiful creation. The Creator has ordained it so that a child is the fruit of union between a man and a woman. This is the natural law and however much society progresses or believes itself to be liberated from archaic laws, it cannot change this fundamental fact. And one does not even need to go to the Bible or the Koran or the Gita or the Veda-Puran to substantiate this reality of nature. Having same sex relationship does not serve this God-given purpose of procreation.

Thus what the religious groups need to distinguish between is decriminali-zation of homosexuality and granting it legal benefits. The former will help us extend our compassionate understanding towards this group of people rather than condemning them or rejecting them. Research has established that a good number of people have changed their unnatural behaviour through counselling. It has been found that men living in prisons or boarding schools or even serving in the army develop such behaviour temporarily but then are back on track to natural relationships. Similarly children who have been brought up by a single parent, after counselling, have experienced a total turn around.

The Catholic Church’s stand on this is quite clear, “Homosexuals must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2358). The judgment of the Indian High Court in someway reflects, I presume, this teaching of the Church (rdominic@gmail.com).

3. “Still the fear factor is continuing in Kandhamal” by Mansoon Nohanty

On the eve of 28th August 2008, no Dalit Christian had any idea about the brewing communal violence in their life. The people who were till yesterday their friends, ready to help and known to them for years, had turned into bitter foes. This the human mind could not comprehend. Those helping hands had suddenly turned into blood thirsty weapons. This incident had occurred almost year ago but still had the fear been removed from their hearts? How far have we been successful to return to them their normal lives? The answer might be “no”.

Assuming that everything is under control now the local administration is trying to wash its hands off the situation, but the truth is that the situation still persists in these villages and the people still suffer its after-effects. Out of total effected population, more than 47% of the victims still live outside the villages in temporary dwellings.

When the police refused to register their cases earlier, saying that it was false and now when the communal forces are emerging stronger than before; offenders are winning cases since no evidence is found against them and in many cases the witness are withdrawing out of fear, the dalits find themselves at the receiving end of all sorts of trouble. Due to this, the rest are loosing their faith and confidence in justices and the legal process. According to one of respondent, in the case of the raped nun, if she who was being backed by the whole congregation could not get justices till now, then how can we being ordinary people expect justices? Due to this, they have left all expectations on the justice and now focusing on re-building their lives from the bits of leftovers.

All these things are proving to be a tonic for the communal forces; they are emerging full fledged with more confidence than ever before. In view of facts, now we can’t overlook the on coming violence which may be more intense than before (irfanengi@gmail.com).

III. NEWS

1. Pope’s Encyclical breaks new ground on Social Issues

The new encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), breaks new ground on such topics as micro-financing, intellectual property rights, globalisation and the concept of putting one's wealth at the service of the poor, according to Catholic scholars and church leaders (catholicnews.com).

2. Minority Affairs Minister in India meets the Christian Community

The Christian Community of Delhi, under the auspices of the Federation of Catholic Associations felicitated the Union Minister of State for Minority and Corporate Affairs, Mr. Salman Khursheed, at the Archbishop’s House last evening. The minister was welcomed and felicitated by His Grace Archbishop Vincent M. Concessao and Bishop Franco Mulakkal. During the programme Fr. Dominic Emmanuel SVD, Spokesperson of Delhi Catholic Archdiocese and Dr. John Dayal, senior laity member of the Church, presented the concerns of the Christian Community to the minister in the form of a memorandum (frdominic@gmail.com).

3. Christian School, Principal Attacked In Gujarat

Hindu extremists allegedly from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council or VHP) and Bajrang Dal (Youth Wing of the VHP) attacked a Christian school and the principal in Dahod, Gujarat. A few female students in St. Stephen’s High School went to the school wearing henna tattoos on their arms. The teachers asked the girls to wash off the tattoos as too much application was against the school rules and regulations. The parents of one unidentified student took the matter to the Hindu extremists. The following day, in an apparently pre-planned move, the Hindu hardliners stormed the school with a local television channel. The extremists questioned the school principal, Fr. C. Rayyapan SVD, and started beating Fr. Rayyapan. The Hindu hardliners also desecrated the statue of ‘Grotto of our Lady” installed in the school premises (Rev. Dr. Richard Howell, General Secretary, Evangelical Fellowship of India).

4. Protestants Celebrate 500 Years of Calvin's Birth

Protestant are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the birth of Jean Calvin, the French-born church reformer who inspired a movement that now has tens of millions of adherents worldwide. Calvin was born on 10 July 1509 at Noyon in northern France, and is known throughout the world for his role in the Reformation while he lived in Geneva, a once independent city state that is now part of Switzerland. Religious and political leaders gathered on 10 July at Geneva's Cathedral of St Pierre, the church where Calvin preached during the Reformation, where they heard a call for the theologian to be commemorated as a source for a contemporary response to social issues. "We need to focus on how to care about all that God cares for: justice for all, for all human beings and for all of creation," said the Rev. Setri Nyomi, general secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, which groups 75 million Reformed church members. Calvin died on 27 May 1564 in Geneva, and was buried the following day without pomp. At his wish, no gravestone was placed above the burial site (eni.ch).

IV. BOOKS (AVAILABLE FOR HALF PRICE ONLY AT ISHVANI KENDRA)

1. Rocha, R. and Pandikattu, K. (eds.), Dreams and Visions: New Horizons for an Indian Church, 2002. Rs.200/-

It contains essays in Honour of Prof. Kurien Kunnumpuram SJ. More than a dozen theologians share their dreams and hopes, vision and aspirations for an Indian Church. The twenty-first century, and maybe the third millennium, would be a providential time to let the Church bloom on the Indian soil, rooted and grounded in the culture of this ancient land, the cradle of great religions. The way to become truly Indian is, without a doubt, an art. The articles in this volume are both relevant and committed: relevant both to the modern world and the present India and committed both to the Christian tradition and Indian heritage. They are also contextual and interdisciplinary.

2. Pandikattu, Kuruvilla, This Too Will Pass Away, 2003. Rs.100/-

This is both the ancient Buddhist wisdom and contemporary scientific insight. It is the perennial human recognition that everything changes and change alone is real. When this insight is applied to ordinary human activities, it gives a means to cope with the tragedy and to enjoy the ecstasy of life. It is hoped that the book provides inspiration for the readers to relish life creatively, savour change spontaneously and enjoy time ingeniously.

3. Pandikattu, K. & Rocha, R. (eds.), Bend Without Fear: Hopes and Possibilities for an Indian Church, 2003 Rs.180/-

Being true to her Teacher, the Church in India has to be prophetic without fear or favour. In a developing country, the Indian Church has to render her prophetic voice to help guide new and humane structures and institutions. Above all, the Indian Church would have herself to overcome the internal divisions and become a creative, committed and compassionate community. The transformation of the Indian Church as a communion of Local Churches, a light to the nations, may be an inspiration to our nation as well to Bend without Fear. More than eighteen scholars and theologians have come together to express their hopes and dreams for an Indian Church as an expression of gratitude for the untiring work of Prof. Kurien Kunnumpuram SJ.

4. Pandikattu, Kuruvilla, The Bliss of Being Human, 2004. Rs.225/-

How come there is something rather than nothing? How come there are living beings in this world? How come there are paradoxical humans who want to know themselves? These are some of the questions we deal within this collection of essays in science and religion meant for general audience.

5. Pandikattu, Kuruvilla, Together Towards Tomorrow: Interfacing Science and Religion in India, 2006. Rs.400/-

It reflects creatively on the contemporary scene of science - religion dialogue in India today. Fondly dedicated to Prof. Job Kozhamthadam SJ, the pioneer of science - religion dialogue in India, this “work of love” by more than 20 scholars mostly from India offers pertinent suggestions for insightful and enriching interactions between science and religion.

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.