Institute of Missiology and Communications
Pune – India
February – 2010
Haiti: A Tragedy Worse than Tsunami
There are tens of thousands, maybe 100 thousand victims of the devastating magnitude 7 earthquake that hit Haiti on 12 January at 16:53 local time. Dozens of aftershocks, some intensive, have followed. The aid machine has been set in motion to bring the first relief, but the situation is dramatic. They lack doctors and medicine and the exact number of victims will never be known. The dead, according to some rumours, may even overwhelm the tragedy of the tsunami in December 2004 that caused more than 230 thousand deaths across Asia.
Catholic sources in the capital report that people "are digging through the rubble with bare hands in search of relatives." From collapsed houses and public buildings "wailing and requests for help can still be heard". Compounding the budget of the tragedy there is illegal building and the failure to meet minimum safety standards. "Haiti is a poor country - they explain - and 90% of housing is built very badly." Currently the only hospital operating is that of UN troops from Argentina, but there are "no more spaces available. The lack of doctors and medicine is a dramatic reality" (www.asianews.it)
Haiti - Brief National Overview
The Republic of Haiti has an area equal to approximately 27,000 square kilometres, is located about 80 km from Cuba, and has 9,035,536 inhabitants, of which only 3.4% have the hope of reaching their 64th birthday. The annual income per capita is just $1300, which puts Haiti at number 203 among the 229 countries in the world. Haiti occupies the western half of the island of Hispaniola, where Christopher Columbus docked at the end of his first trip in 1492. The literacy rate is 45% and life expectancy at about 50 years. The total population is formed by 95% black and 5% mixed and Caucasian people. The country is often in the path of hurricanes that cause death and destruction.
Despite the substantial exports of sugar, coffee, banana, and mango, Haiti remains one of the poorest and most struggling countries of the world. Unemployment affects more than 60% of the population. Founded in 1749, by French sugar planters, the country, originally a Spanish settlement, became a French colony in the seventeenth century and in 1804 was the first 'black' republic to gain independence. Haitians are 70% Catholic and 23% Protestant. (fides.org).
Global: Church must bring Hope to World's Divisions
The global ecumenical movement must bring the hope of peace and justice to a suffering and divided world, says the new general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit. "As we enter into the second decade of the 21st century, the world continues to face many crises: financial crisis, climate crisis, a food crisis, a new wave of terrorism and violence, new burdens of injustice and violations of human rights," said Tveit. "We start this year also with a greater concern for the religious freedom of some of our Christian sisters and brothers in several places," noted Tveit as he took up his post at the head of the world's biggest church grouping. The WCC gathers 349 churches - principally Anglican, Orthodox and Protestant - and represents some 500 million Christians worldwide. Tveit was elected to the WCC post in August during a meeting of the church grouping's main governing body, its central committee (eni.ch).
Thailand: ‘Bamboo school’ gives hope to kids on the margins
Thailand’s rapid development and industrialization over the past three decades has created many winners but has also left some sectors behind. One group, literally living on the margins of the country, has been particularly affected — the mostly stateless ethnic people living on the country’s border with Myanmar. A De La Salle missioner is one of those working in the region providing education for children through his "bamboo school," so called because the students use bamboo desks and chairs. The 230 kids, aged four to 17, are mostly ethnic Burmese, Karen or Mon, although some are Thai. They are from families that practice animism, Buddhism and Christianity (ucanews.com).
Vatican: For Pope Benedict, a Different Shade of Green
Over the last few months, Pope Benedict XVI has opened a wider dialogue on the subject of environmental protection, and in the process put a sharper focus on an issue that's become central to his pontificate. It's increasingly clear that the "green" label slapped onto Pope Benedict after he installed solar panels at the Vatican and joined a reforestation project in Europe was not the whole story. Now the pope is defining which shade of green -- in moral arguments that are not always popular.
The pope began weighing in on environmental themes in 2006. His strong defence of the Amazon's fragile ecology, his appeals for safe water and his warnings on pollution's burden on the poor all received general acclamation. When he approved the installation of solar panels on several Vatican buildings and funded tree-planting in Hungary, the Vatican drew praise for trying to become the world's first carbon-neutral state.
But lately, the pope's words on ecology have raised eyebrows and even some objections. In a speech January 11 to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Vatican, the pope extended the discussion of "human ecology" to same-sex marriage. "Creatures differ from one another and can be protected, or endangered, in different ways, as we know from daily experience. One such attack comes from laws or proposals which, in the name of fighting discrimination, strike at the biological basis of the difference between the sexes," he said.
In the same speech, the pope underlined that protecting the environment makes no sense unless it begins with protecting human life, including the life of the unborn. Here, too, the pope was emphasizing that the church's "green" philosophy always puts the human being at the centre, precisely because humans are made in God's image. Likewise, the pope probed the link between war and ecological damage. He noted that many current conflicts around the world arose from a struggle for natural resources, and in turn inflicts immense harm on the environment (catholicnews.com).
Vatican: Pope asks Priests to get Online
In a message embracing the evangelizing potential of digital media, Pope Benedict XVI asked priests around the world to use Web sites, videos and blogs as tools of pastoral ministry. "The world of digital communication, with its almost limitless expressive capacity, makes us appreciate all the more St. Paul's exclamation: 'Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel,'" the Pope said in his message for the 2010 celebration of World Communications Day.
"Priests stand at the threshold of a new era: as new technologies create deeper forms of relationship across greater distances, they are called to respond pastorally by putting the media ever more effectively at the service of the Word," he said. The Pope's message was tailored to the current Year for Priests, focusing on the theme: "The priest and pastoral ministry in a digital world: New media at the service of the Word." The pope said that while priests should not abandon traditional methods of pastoral interaction, they cannot afford to pass up the opportunities offered by digital media. He said "the recent, explosive growth and greater social impact of these media make them all the more important for a fruitful priestly ministry" (catholicnews.com)
Indonesia: Journalists told to put Faith into Action
Catholic journalists must stand up for the truth and use Gospel values to bring peace to society, says Coadjutor Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo of Jakarta. Catholic journalists should not only share ideas with the public, but also tell people what is right, he told 200 Catholic journalists recently. "Every word or sentence that you write can strongly influence people to change," said Archbishop Suharyo. The prelate was speaking at a seminar titled "The Country Needs You," organized by the Catholic Journalists Association of Indonesia (PWKI), at Canisius College in Central Jakarta. Archbishop Suharyo likened the challenges Catholic journalists face in putting their faith into action to the Eucharist bread. "You are like the Eucharistic bread which is broken and distributed … In other words, you must be prepared for sacrifice," he said (ucanews.com).
Leadership in the Church by Joseph Mattam SJ
"Surely it is high time, and surely it would be to everyone’s advantage to ‘shake off the dust of the Empire that has gathered since Constantine’s day on the throne of St Peter” (Congar 1964:127). These words were spoken by John XXIII of happy memory. They keep challenging the Church. There are many areas and ideas in the Bible that can be disputed; even in the New Testament there are areas of confusion, but there is one area where no ambiguity is possible: that is, about the nature and functioning of authority in the Church. On no other area was Jesus clearer than on the area of authority. His understanding of leadership in the community was very distinct; he differentiated it from the way people exercised authority in the world: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them…It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave (Mt 20:24ff).
The visual image of chapter 13 of John, where Jesus, while affirming his role as Master, washes the feet of his disciples can hardly be missed. The "foot-washing" is to be the norm for the disciples of Jesus, especially for the leaders. All Christians share in the priesthood of Jesus; the leaders in the community of sharers in Jesus’ priesthood, have to represent Jesus who chose to a servant, have to reveal Jesus as he revealed the Father in his attitudes, choices, compassion and whole life.
With the conversion of Constantine, and other emperors and the setting up of the Christian kingdoms, the practices of the feudal kingdoms and of the empire passed into the Church. The Roman civil administration had collapsed and the Church did fill in a social need and create a structure that helped society. While one appreciates this, one cannot exaggerate the evils that have entered the Church through the policies of the Emperor and of the empire.
Only when the Church becomes what Jesus had envisaged it to be, namely, a servant Church, the leaders becoming truly servants and ceasing to be Lords, etc., then the Church regains its authority to speak for God and in his name. Leadership in the Church is for service as friends, and all the gospels show in no unclear terms that Jesus’ life was one of service and if anyone wishes to follow him, s/he will have to be a servant of all. Obviously the term ‘service’ is used in the Church, but that is service of un-equals, of the high and low, of the ‘haves and have-nots’. Jesus meant service as friends, as equals, though with distinct and different functions (Jn 13). Obviously, there are distinct functions in the Church which Jesus himself claimed when he washed the feet of his disciples (Jn 13:13-14).
Once the concept and practice of hierarchy is given up, there is a chance for the Church to become a brotherhood. A participatory decision making pattern has yet to be worked out. It is true that Vatican II spoke of the Church as a people of God, but it is only too obvious how it has been effectively negated in the Church since Vat II. Jesus opted to be like us, instead of threatening us with his formidable divinity (Phil 2:5ff) (firstname.lastname@example.org),
The Centre for Mission Studies consultation at Union Biblical Seminary, Pune from 13-15 January 2010, was like a train journey with 9 stations along the way. Those “stops” were ambitious attempts to touch upon each of the 9 centenary study themes from an Indian perspective. The integrating theme was entitled: “Edinburgh 1910 Revisited: Give Us Friends!” The phrase “Give Us Friends!” comes of course from V. S. Azariah--one of the few Indians present at the original conference in 1910. In a similar vein we sought to give an “Indian spin” to the themes as they have played out in the last hundred years of Church and mission. Fifteen presentations sought to create a conversation which looked back at the documents of Edinburgh 1910 and reflected on the 100 years of mission which followed, especially in India.
On the first morning, we began with a welcome and challenge from Dr. P.S. Jacob, officiating principal at U.B.S., in which he called the consultation to order by pointing us toward Acts 2:17 and the call to “dream new dreams” all in the context of the former vision of Edinburgh 1910 to bring Christ to the whole non-Christian world.
On our first stop we considered the foundations of mission with a paper by Dr. Cor Benema, N.T. professor at SAIACS, on the role of the Spirit in mission. He reminded us of the need for a biblical theology of mission which balances to role of Christ and the Holy Spirit. In this we may avoid some of the negative effects upon mission which followed from Edinburgh 1910.
The next paper in this area was by Fr. Joseph Mattam SJ, who gave his own personal theological perspective on the meaning of foundational terms: salvation, conversion, baptism, and membership. He called the group away from classical concepts of mission to consider mission foundations in the light of what we as humans can do to change the face of injustice and human suffering around us in the social moment. His was not an official Catholic position by any means but his own honest, thoughtful reflection on what these essential concepts can mean in a liberational light. As you might gather these two papers were two very divergent vistas on this first stop.
Second, we stopped to consider mission among other faiths with two papers, the first by Rev. S. D. Ponraj, mission author and activist. This paper emphasized the uniqueness of the Christian faith much in line with the one hundred year old call to “evangelize the world in this generation.” He stressed a respectful but biblical approach to other faiths and actively opposed any rethinking of the evangelistic responsibility toward those who are separated from Christ by religion. Dr. K. P. Aleaz, professor of religions at Bishops College, took quite a different approach preferring the terminology “witnessing Christ in the company of people of other faiths.” By this he inferred a dialogical learning about the gospel in mutuality with different faiths as Christians lay aside out-dated absolutism. These two approaches to mission were quite distinct and led to some animated discussion.
Third, we journeyed by way of a topic that was not really a part of the non-Christian world at Edinburgh 1910, that of mission and postmodernity. Dr. Santhosh Sahayados, theology professor at NTC, laid out a treatment of the prospects and challenges of mission in the postmodern context. This gave the broad landscape of presuppositions, features, and difficulties. He also critiqued postmodernism and suggested avenues of mission within this ethos of ambiguity and pluralism. Dr. Arun Kumar, professor of religions at SAIACS, continued this tour of postmodernism with a description of the relationship of postmodernism with neocolonialism and globalization. He used the contextualization model of Hiebert to suggest an appropriate mission approach based upon a biblical hermeneutic of Jesus. These two papers drew our attention to the updated “missionary problems” of the context we serve in today.
Fourth, our journey should have taken us to directly consider issues of mission and power. However, both of the presenters in this area had to cancel for various reasons. Of course issues of subaltern peoples, women’s representation, imperialism, casteism, religious intolerance, and various systems of international hegemony came up again and again; but there were sadly no specific presentations and discussions under this rubric. The name of V. S. Azariah and the consultation subtheme “Give Us Friends!” were oft-repeated and did bring the conversation back to how systems of power were and are evident in the last century of church and mission. Even in the next two papers discourse related to power differentials is very evident.
Fifth, we stopped to consider forms of missionary engagement through the eyes of Mr. Christhu Doss, a Ph.D. history candidate at JNU. Mr. Christhu Doss explores the tension between missionary attempts to Westernize Christianity and local efforts to Indianize. He uses a somewhat critical approach toward Western missionary attempts to Christianize as he traced the struggles toward Indianization with special attention given to V. S. Azariah in South India. He notes that these indigenous efforts met with limited success. On this stop, Dr. B. Y. Cho, a Korean professor of mission at UBS, looks back to the unity in mission that existed in 1910 to call for a restored partnership between the WCC and Lausanne movements which are officially each celebrating Edinburgh 1910 in separate events in 2010. He calls the bifurcated evangelical vs. ecumenical movements to again come together for the evangelization of the world. He presents his own biblical subject position on the missio Dei and calls those who have left the classical meaning of mission to return to a more biblical mission theology. Here reconciliation around the one hundred year old call for evangelization of the whole world is carried on by a non-Western voice.
Sixth, our journey brought us to the context in which most of those present have our daily interaction, the theological seminary with the topic of theological education and formation. Rev. Krickwin Marak, mission lecturer Harding Theological College, considered the place of mission studies in the Senate of Serampore curriculum, which many of us are involved with. He summarized the commissions of Edinburgh 1910 which were relevant to mission curriculum, then reflected on the polarization in mission thinking which has taken place, and finally suggested how we can continue the spirit of Edinburgh 1910 in modern curricula. Dr. F. Hrangkhuma, history professor SAIACS, drew from the 1910 commission dealing with problems in the “Home Base of Mission” to point out the general neglect toward the need for integrating mission into theological education. He then explains the different models for bringing mission into theological studies and prophetically diagnosed “reasons why” mission may have been marginalized in the theological seminary. As members of seminary communities we were called to introspect about our own theological programs and how we may be obscuring what God wants to highlight.
The seventh stop on our journey through one hundred years of mission brought us to consider the expression of Christian communities in contemporary contexts. Dr. Eliya Mohol, O.T. professor at UBS, gave a fascinating narrative of how a British railway engineer had a connection with Edinburgh 1910 and bringing the gospel to his own subaltern community in Maharashtra. The world seemed much smaller after listening to the social networks which connected this remote and depressed community of North India to J. Oldham, the secretary of Edinburgh 1910, and also to the people movement which occurred in that remote community from which Dr. Mohol originates. Dr. R. Jayakumar, president of BBCM and ACPL, interacted deeply with some of the chief concerns of the Edinburgh 1910 records to reflect on ways in which the church in India today is and can express itself. He raised, reflected on and responded to relevant issues such as: world evangelization, genuine discipleship, Christian unity, international partnership, social responsibility, and healthy congregations. It became obvious that issues that were alive one hundred years ago are still relevant in modern contexts.
The eighth stop on our journey brought us to the theme, mission and unity. Dr Jurgen Schuster, professor of mission at Liebenzeller Seminary, used Azariah’s call for friends as a starting point for his discussion of the ecumenical legacy of Edinburgh 1910 with special attention to Leslie Newbigin’s vision for a unified church in India as an expression of this spirit. He points out that the only decision made was to initiate a continuation committee, which would later give birth to the International Missionary Council and the journal International Review of Missions, and which is hailed in retrospect as an a turning point in the history of ecumenical relations. Dr. Richard Pierard, Professor Emeritus of History, Indiana State University, adds an important piece to this by showing that the nature of a growing missionary movement necessitates lowering walls of doctrinal and ecclesiastical differences. Another important contribution of his paper was the suggestion that ecumenism does not require loss of identity or surrender of important doctrinal markers. He traces how the history of missions to non-Christian peoples has always had the much-needed effect of drawing diverse Christians together across various boundaries.
The final stop on this journey from Edinburgh 1910 to 2010, was to consider the theme of mission spirituality and authentic discipleship. Professor Franklin Samraj, a historian from Spicer College, shared his ecumenical vision to see a Christian University developed and called us to join him in seeing that vision realized as an expression of spirituality and discipleship. The final paper by Dr. Dipankar Haldar of Serampore College, who was not able to be present in the consultation, explored the polarity that developed in the last 100 years between Ecumenicals and Evangelicals. As he traces the attempts at coming closer through some of the important conferences of this past century, he expresses optimism that the two factions are indeed coming nearer to each other and ends his chapter suggesting an Ecumenical-Evangelical Approach of Witness which is both Christocentric and inclusivistic.
In all of these nine stops with whatever subtle movements there may have been by those of various camps, there remain two very distinct conceptions of mission that have developed and persist. Celebrations will be held by both groups, i.e. those generally characterized as Ecumenical and Evangelical, meeting at two different venues (Edinburgh in June and Cape Town in October) to commemorate Edinburgh 1910. Many of these papers and discussions highlighted the polarization between the two camps and some were hopeful at finding ways to come closer together. Others seemed to have their “faces set like a flint” to continue to go in their own direction away from the other. Some of the suggestions for coming together seem to call either side to allow itself to be swallowed up by the other. At the end of the journey the question, which was also the topic of a panel discussion on one night of the consultation involving the entire seminary community, remains--whether the legacy of Edinburgh 1910 World Missionary Conference was more of a bane or a blessing to the Church and Mission in this past one hundred years. Christians still appear to be very divided in their perspective on key doctrines and relationships to non-Christian faiths. After one hundred years, it seems that the two unreconciled branches of Christianity are left calling to each other across a vast chasm: “Give Us Friends!” (Frampton F. Fox: email@example.com).
Sanskriti Announces a National Seminar on “Concept of God and Religion”
The North Eastern Institute of Culture and Religion (Sanskriti), Guwahati is a research centre in Anthropology, Folklore and Sociology. It was founded in 2006 by Divine Word Society (SVD), and K. Jose SVD, is appointed as its first director. The year 2008 being the centennial year of Dr. Stephen Fuchs SVD this institute organized Memorial Lecture in honour of him and an award was instituted as a tribute to this renowned scholar of Anthropology. In the year 2008 this award was given to Prof. S. M. Michael SVD an eminent Anthropologist from Mumbai University who also delivered a Memorial Lecture. In the year 2009 Dr. Gautam Kumar Bera a well known anthropologist from Agartala was the recipient of this award and he in turn delivered a memorial lecture. These lectures are ordinarily delivered by a renowned scholar who has contributed substantially to research in social science disciplines preferably in Anthropology, Folklore or Sociology. The next National Seminar entitled, Concept of God and Religion: Traditional Thought and Contemporary Society,” is taking place from 19-21 November 2010 at Agartala in the North-Eastern state of Tripura (firstname.lastname@example.org).
China: Vatican offers Bible in Chinese Online
The Vatican is now offering the complete text of the Bible online in Chinese on its Web site, www.vatican.va. When users click on a particular book of the Bible, it pops up in an easy-to-read PDF file. The Vatican launched the online Bible on January 1. In its online resource library, the Vatican also has a number of documents from Vatican II translated into Chinese. It also plans on putting the complete Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Code of Canon Law online in Chinese in the coming months. (cnsblog.wordpress.com).
India: Khandwa Diocese holds Youth Festival
Khandwa Diocesan Youth commission organised a Youth Festival, 28-30 December on the theme at the St. Mary’s Cathedral, Khandwa in the state of MP in India. The theme of the festival was "LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE", which was core theme of Prabhu Yesu Mahostav in Mumbai. There were 300 youth participated in the youth festival from 32 parishes of the diocese. The festival was inaugurated by Bishop A.A.S. Durairaj SVD, of Khandwa. Several distinguished guests from Madhya Pradesh as well as diocesan youth directors attended the programme. The Festival included animation talks, spiritual renewal programmes, Bible quiz Taize Prayer and a clanship drive of the city by the youth. The sessions dealt with themes like health apostolate, environment, job opportunities and careers. The youth delegates undertook a cleanship drive in the city of Khandwa with a slogan of cleanliness is next to godliness (cbcisite.com).
Canada: Former Vietnamese Refugee to become Toronto Bishop
Vincent Nguyen will become the youngest bishop in Canada, marking the latest chapter in an incredible life that includes a life-changing journey in a leaky boat on the South China Sea more than 25 years ago. Vincent Nguyen was just a teen when his family decided to flee Vietnam. In June, 1983, Nguyen and 19 relatives piled into a small fishing boat and pushed off into the night, hoping to make it into the shipping lanes where they would be rescued and taken to a refugee camp for resettlement. His family was one of the lucky ones. Despite rough seas their fishing boat stayed afloat. After seven days at sea they were picked up by a Japanese ship and taken to a refugee camp in Japan. After a year Nguyen and his family were allowed to immigrate to Canada. They settled in Toronto in 1984. Last year Pope Benedict XVI announced Nguyen would be elevated to the rank of bishop — not only the youngest bishop ever in Canada, but also the first bishop of Asian ancestry. Nguyen will be an auxiliary bishop with responsibilities for eastern Toronto and the growing Durham region. But he will also be looked to for leadership from Canada's Vietnamese community, as well as many other Asian, African and Latin immigrants (cbc.ca).
1. Puniyani, Ram, Religion and Politics, Thiruvananthapuram: Mythri Books, 2009, pp.146. (Rs.100/-)
In this book the author says: “We are living in times when the interpretation of events has taken a sharp turn from the earlier decades. Currently most of the political phenomena are going on in the garb of religion. The language of religion and other identities has come to the fore of social affairs. The issues related to the needs of the people, the issues related to the rights of people has taken a step back in the face of severe onslaught of identity politics.
2. Wilkinson, Steven I., Religious Politics and Communal Violence, (ed.), Oxford: University Press, 2005, pp. 446. (Rs.345/-)
This reader answers key questions in the study of religious politics and communal violence in India. It discusses why religious issues become prominent in politics at certain times but not at others, and why religious mobilization leads to communal riots and pogroms in some cases but not in many others. The essays provide sociological, psychological, economic, and political explanations for incidents of communal violence in Gujarat, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bengal, Maharashtra, and Delhi.
3. Murray, Paul Beasley, Transform your Church, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2005, pp.215.
This book is the result of a three-year project administered by the Maryknoll Centre for Mission Study and Research in which a team of scholars investigated the faces of popular Catholicism in seven different locations and explored the variety of forms in which Catholicism presents itself. The result of their studies is worth reading for both Catholic and Protestant students of mission and inculturation.
4. Rist, John M., What is Truth? From the Academy to the Vatican, England, Cambridge: University Press, 2008.
This book studies the nature, growth and prospects of Catholic culture, viewed as capable of appropriating all that is noble from both internal and external sources. John Rist tests his argument via a number of avenues: man’s creation in the image of God and historical difficulties about incorporating women into that vision: the relationship between God’s mercy and justice; the possibility of Christian aesthetics; the early development of the see of Rome as the source of an indispensable doctrinal unity for Christian culture; the search for the proper role of the Church in politics.
5. Corrie, John, Dictionary of Mission Theology, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2007, pp. 461.
This book draws on the work of many scholars who are contributing to the renewal of mission thinking and practice among evangelicals. It highlights and explores the missiological implications of a wide range of Christian doctrines and theologies, and the theological dimensions of many mission themes. Contributors have been encouraged to discuss their subjects contextually, grounding their ideas and arguments in the real worlds where these have been conceived and applied. The resulting Missiology both has its roots in cherished and recognized evangelical categories and interprets them in fresh and dynamic ways.
Dr. Joy Thomas, SVD (Director)
Please forward this Mission Scan to any of your friends and acquaintances.