85

ISHVANI KENDRA
Institute of Missiology and Communications
Pune – India
March  – 2010

I. REPORT AND DOCUMENTATION

Chile: Earthquake struck near the City of Concepción

Incredibly, another devastating earthquake has struck our hemisphere. At 3:34 a.m. on 27th February a massive magnitude 8.8 earthquake struck Chile near the city of Concepción. The following letter is the personal experience of an Indian SVD, Fr.David Raju Mannekanti, from Chile:

“Well, it was terrific on 27th February at 03:34 hrs. First started slowly and picked up the momentum and it went on for more than two minutes. In Santiago, the capital of Chile we had 8 degrees on Richter scale. In the epicenter which was more than 600 kms it was 8.8 degrees the devastation is in grand scale. Just now we hear the news that death toll has gone up to 800 and many people have been disappeared and under the debris.

On the unmemorable and terrific night of earthquake was in deep sleep and when it started to shake I remained on the bed but put on the light and looked at the clock then as it picked up the momentum I got up and went to the window and after 10 seconds the heavy wooden cupboard with books etc which was on the wall just behind my bed fell on my bed, if I was there on the bed I would not be writing this mail now. The whole house shook like any thing which I never experienced in my life. I should really thank God for this grace. We in the community were really terrified then once it stopped we went to revise the house and then went to the school to see the damaged caused.

There were minor damages but no loss of life in the community or in the province. We begin the classes on 8th instead of 3rd and we have to repair the damages during the week we have. But in Chile there is really chaos especially in three cities and near by villages. Lot of damage has been done and the causalities may go up very much. After the quake there were lot of shall quakes every now and then and on 28th there was a quake of 4 degrees and in the epicentre it was 6 degrees. So right now in Santiago electricity, water and telephone are re-established more or less in all parts but in the surrounding areas it is very difficult still to establish” (svdinm@mtnl.net.in).

India: CBCI discuss ‘Youth for Peace and Harmony’

The 29th Plenary Assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India began on February 24 at Don Bosco Institute, Guwahati, Assam with a solemn Holy Mass. 163 Catholic Bishops of India have gathered at Guwahati for their Plenary Assembly which will discuss the theme, ‘Youth for Peace and Harmony’. The eight day long Plenary Assembly from February 24-03 March 2010, will have deliberations on the theme and formulate strategies as a means to bring out a National Youth Policy and thus enhance the youth ministry in the Church and society at large (cbcipro@gmail.com).

India: A Sister reports to UN on Women’s Rights

Nazareth Sister Ann Moyalan, will be among representatives and officials at a UN meeting in New York from 1-12 March to review progress in providing greater equality for women. She said that her presence at the meeting would be "proof" of what Catholic Religious have done for women’s liberation in India.

The UN-sponsored meeting aims to review progress that countries have made in implementing the Beijing Declaration. In September 1995, representatives of 189 governments and more than 2,100 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) met in Beijing and charted a new agenda for women’s empowerment and equality. The official conference and a parallel NGO forum were the largest in UN history, attracting over 50,000 participants and observers.

Catholic Religious "toiled day and night in the villages and slums of India trying to help women and children" before corporate social services began. Sr. Moyalan urged women Religious to come "out in the open." She wants them to take leadership roles so that their works get better support. "The world should see the good work we are doing. It will help us get support. It will inspire others to stand for a just cause, which in turn will make the world a better place" (ucanews.com).

Indonesia: Inter-religious Dialogue to foster a Pluralistic Society

The Indonesian Catholic Church is to increase inter-religious dialogue at the local level so as to foster a pluralistic society. The ecumenical and inter-religious affairs commissions of the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference and dioceses in the country agreed to do so during their meeting in Bogor, West Java. "During the meeting, the commissions agreed to be more pro-active in helping Catholics in Indonesia dialogue, since dialogue is part of the evangelization of faith. Evangelization will not exist if there is no dialogue," Fr. Antonius Benny Susetyo, executive secretary of the bishops’ commission. "I think if we want to live truly, our life must be filled with dialogue," Bishop Mandagi said. Fr. Guido Suprapto from Palembang archdiocese said he will improve the local catechesis program to help Catholics understand their faith better as well as engage in interreligious dialogue (www.ucanews.com).

Nepal: No Space for Christians and Muslims to bury their Dead

Christians, Muslims and Baha'i have no place to bury their dead in Kathmandu. Rapid unplanned urbanisation has led the government to give Hindus land originally set aside for minority groups. Unlike Hindus, Christians and Muslims do not cremate their dead. Fr George Karapurackal, who is the parish priest at Kathmandu’s Assumption Cathedral said, "This problem applies to all religious minorities. To solve it, we Catholics might have to start to cremate our dead, and place a memorial stone in our churches (asianews.it).

Philippines: Catholic Migrant in Saudi Arabia

"During my three years working in Saudi Arabia I was never allowed to leave the house or have a day off to go to mass". This is the story of Rebeka Perlas, a 35 year old from the Philippines, who until last week was employed as a maid in a Muslim family in Riyadh to maintain her two sons. "The only thing I could do was get up every morning at 3 and recite the rosary on my knees in my room, before beginning my days work," she said. This woman is one of more than 10 million Filipino workers forced to emigrate abroad to support their families. Of these, over 200 thousand are residents in Saudi Arabia, where there is no freedom of religion and all religions other than Islam are banned by the Wahhabi kingdom (asianews.it).

Sri Lanka: Displaced Tamils Battle to rebuild their Lives

The Church in the Jaffna peninsula is continuing to help displaced Tamil families with accommodation and food months after the civil war ended. But priests say the situation remains bleak. "Re-establishing their livelihoods and rebuilding their lives are a struggle that loom large for the displaced," said Fr. Amirthanathar Francis Xavier Jayasegaram, president of the Justice and Peace Commission of Jaffna diocese. "While the physical signs of the fighting may be slowly disappearing, the psychological effects remain deeply embedded in the minds of the people," he said.

Some people also warn that the government needs to do more to win the hearts of Tamils after its victory over the Tamil Tigers, who were fighting for a separate homeland for their community in Sri Lanka. President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced recently that soon after the conclusion of the parliamentary election, he intends to enter into a dialogue with the Tamil community and address their grievances (ucanews.com).

Sri Lanka: Church promotes Tamil Language to heal Rift

The Church is hoping a programme to teach the Tamil language to Sinhalese may help heal divisions opened up during the 26-year civil war. "A lack of knowledge of Tamil language creates division between the communities and that led to war," Fr. Rohan Silva believes that a genuine commitment to give Tamil an equal status in the administration could help reconciliation. "Language is widely considered both a divider and unifier depending on how it is used, said Fr. Silva.

The Oblate-run Centre for Society and Religion (CSR) has begun to teach Tamil to youths, adults and sisters. CSR was founded by Fr. Tissa Balasuriya in 1970. It conducts seminars, workshops and classes for building a just society. It also publishes magazines and books, especially on religion. The government also runs some Tamil classes in offices (ucanews.com).

Bangladesh: Seminar exposes Digital Communications Chasm

"Most of the priests, nuns and brothers have little knowledge and scope to use digital media and communication tools," said Fr.Theotonius P. Rebeiro, chancellor of Dhaka archdiocese. "It’s costly and we’re not asked to use them for our ministries. In my case, I can’t use digital media because I am busy with pastoral duties and deal with an irregular electricity supply," said the priest, who is also pastor of Holy Rosary Church in Tejgaon, the largest Catholic parish in Bangladesh. "For a long time I’ve not opened my e-mail inbox and I’ve no idea about how to blog, use podcasts or social networking sites such as Facebook and YouTube," he said. "But I realize that the Church needs to be present in this digital world" (ucanews.com).

Bangladesh: Mother Church celebrates 100 years Ranikhong

The oldest Catholic Church in Mymensingh diocese in northeastern Bangladesh is celebrating 100 years by honouring early Catholic settlers. "Today we would like to thank those pioneering Garo tribal leaders who paved the way for the Catholic Church in Ranikhong, the first church in Mymensingh," said Archbishop Robert Sarah, Secretary of the Holy See Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. "If they hadn’t taken the decision to invite Catholicism here, the history of Mymensingh diocese would be different," he said. Holy Cross Bishop Ponen Paul Kubi of Mymensingh described the "Garo forefathers" as the "Magi of the Bible". "Like the gentile wise men they embraced suffering to get the light of a true religion through an unknown and impassable road.Today we bear witness that their toil has not gone in vain but has bore fruit" he said. The local Church dates back to 1909 when five Garo tribal leaders travelled to Dhaka to ask Holy Cross Bishop Francis Frederick Linneborn to evangelize their people. The bishop sent two Holy Cross priests and one brother the following year to Thaushalpara village near Ranikhong to prepare a base for evangelization in the region. In 1911, Fr. Francis A. Gomes, who was the first Bishop of Mymensingh, became its resident pastor, building the first church out of bamboo and bushes. By 1913 the number of Garo Catholics rose to 400, and in 1915 the church was moved to Ranikhong (ucanews.com).

India: Mother General Smitha calls for Political Involvement

India’s Catholic Religious should involve themselves in politics for marginalized people and help build a just society, says Mother Smitha, who heads the Kerala-based Sisters of the Destitute congregation. The Church’s tendency to shun politics "is not good" in the modern world, however, her call is "not for direct involvement in party politics." Religious should "speak out for the poor and stand with them on issues that concern them." She cited the example of communists in Kerala, who formed the world’s first democratically elected communist government in 1957. They succeeded because they stood with the poor and marginalized.Mother Smitha also said that the "biggest challenge" for the Religious is the "falling quality" of vocations and changing values among people. Being poor is no longer seen as a value, she said adding that "more people look for power and positions and lack the willingness to totally surrender to God’s will." She wants Church attitudes to also change. The quality of service women Religious get largely depends on how the Church "treats them", she said (ucanews.com).

Laos: ‘We are part of the Universal Church’

Bishop-elect Jean Marie Prida Inthirath is set to be ordained and installed on April 10 as apostolic vicar of Savannakhet in central Laos. Pope Benedict XVI appointed him to Savannakhet, which is one of four vicariates in the communist country. It has about 12,500 Catholics spread across 54 communities and villages among a total population of more than 1 million mainly Buddhists. “People from other countries may not even know where Laos is,” said the bishop-elect, “but the important thing is for the Church in other countries to know that we are part of the universal Church (ucanews.com).

USA: Laity to evangelize 'De-Christianized' American Culture

Archbishop José H. Gomez of San Antonio issued his third pastoral letter urging the laity to embrace the task of evangelization, calling it "the duty of every believer." The task of evangelization is all the more necessary because of the "de-Christianized" American culture. Archbishop Gomez explained that he is issuing the call to evangelize since "powerful interests have been at work for some decades now, patiently erasing the influence and memory of our nation's Christian heritage from our laws and public policies, from our arts and literature, from our schools and media, our language and customs, from our entire way of life. The result of this deliberate strategy of secularization is that more and more of our brothers and sisters today live without any awareness of their need for God" (catholicnewsagency.com).

India: EU Delegation visits Persecuted Christians of Orissa

Representatives from the European Union were met by Hindu protesters from the Vishva Hindu Parishad as they began their visit to the State of Orissa, scene of anti-Christian violence at Christmas in 2008 and the summer of 2009. The European delegation is in India to take stock of the situation in that state. Archbishop Raphael Cheenath, archbishop said, "vested interests are not interested in the truth. They are afraid that the truth might come out and that the EU might want to address this problem.” In fact, the situation in Kandhamal is still difficult, the Archbishop said, “life will be normal only when all the people have returned to their village and can live in peace in their homes, and pray safely in their churches” (asianews.it).

II. REFLECTION

“Welcome others as they are” says Fr. George Pattery SJ

Jean Vanier, the founder of L'Arche inspires us by his life, and by his simple but profound thoughts. The following excerpts from his new year message challenges us and invites to live at a depth that will make us joyful and true in our communities and for our mission. "Our God of tenderness, who loves us, wants to reveal to each of us - that we are important and precious. So often, we believe we are important because we do "great" and admirable things. We must then be strong, courageous, competent and show how capable we are. Our God of compassion loves us at a much deeper level, in our weaknesses, our vulnerability and our smallness. Our God welcomes us in his arms and says: "I love you as you are". He raises us up so that we can all be instruments of his justice, his peace and his love.

I like to tell the story of a little boy of eleven years old who had real intellectual difficulties and whose mother was crying because of him. He said to her, "Don't worry Mummy, Jesus loves me as I am". This little boy did not need to be what others wanted him to be. He could simply be what he was and then respond to the love of Jesus. I realize more and more that loving means welcoming other people as they are, with respect because they are different; they are someone, they are a child of God. Others have their gifts, their vulnerability, their beauty and of course their fragilities. When we welcome others, we free them so they can be themselves.

Let us neither be a hedgehog nor a doormat! Not crushing others, nor letting ourselves be crushed by them. Being true: Trying to see in the other person somebody important who has their own relationship difficulties; Acting with respect and love to help bring down the walls of protection in the other person, and trying to bring down our own walls; Seeing all the positive and beautiful things in the other person, before seeing the negative. That does not prevent us from being prophetic and from saying things which may upset others. What is important is that we live in truth with each other. We create a path of peace when we are loving and true. God became flesh so that we would not be afraid, nor would we need to show how we are good. God who became small calls me to be poor and small. God who comes to welcome us calls us to welcome those who are poor." Who is the 'other' that I have to befriend, who enables me to appreciate my true self, bringing down walls of protection in me? (caljesuits@gmail.com).

III. STATEMENT

"Women Living the Eucharist in South Asia"

Introduction: Bringing our stories of women living the Eucharist we gathered together. Twenty-five women, four bishops and two priests, came from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, and India with our Bangladesh hosts, to the Centre of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh (CBCB) in Dhaka, from the 20th to the 24th January 2010, for the Third South Asia Meeting on Women, organized by the Women’s Desk of the FABC Office of Laity & Family. The theme "Women Living the Eucharist in South Asia" stimulated us to draw stories from the rich depths of the inner well of women’s experiences. The more we drew from the well, the better we were able to realise the following objectives of our meeting: 1) Women who make up the majority in liturgical congregations be helped to understand the meaning of the Eucharist in the context of their lives. 2) To promote women’s participation in the mission of the Church, especially in the context of the FABC vision of "A Participatory and Co-responsible Church - living as a Communion of Communities." 3) To learn from Mary - how she lived a Eucharistic life.

Insights: Our visits to the survivors of violence and trafficking, sexual exploitation, drug addiction; as well as an encounter with differently abled women who were empowering economically deprived women with skills; the various inputs, discussions, our liturgical reflections and stories gave us the following insights:

  1. The sacramental celebration of the Eucharist and the living of the Eucharist are distinct but related. All the baptized are sent forth to live the Eucharist.
  2. Living the Eucharist is being bread broken which can become a transforming and liberative suffering for a better world.
  3. Due to the sinful structures in society women experience brokenness which they bring to the Eucharist for reconciliation, healing, peace and communion. In their turn they become bread broken and shared for others.
  4. The Eucharist is being lived powerfully by broken women, when they make a conscious decision to counter the cause of their brokenness with dignity, and help others to do the same.
  5. The Holy Spirit is working actively in and through women in the Church and in wider society.
  6. We recognize that women of different faiths are also blessed with living elements of the spirit of the Eucharist.
  7. In its totality the Eucharist is a call to wholeness and celebration of life in Christ, of relationships and communion.
  8. As exemplified by Mary, the characteristics of a true disciple are listening to God, discerning the will of God, and participating in God’s plan to the extent of being bread broken.
  9. Mary as a courageous and dynamic person is a powerful paradigm for women in the 21st century, especially in her spirituality of "the other and otherness".
  10. Women living the Eucharist have a special gift to be peacemakers and reconcilers.

Challenges:

  1. To transcend the socially conditioned feminine and masculine qualities in order to foster mutuality in relationships and partnership in mission.
  2. To deal with the negative forces that diminish woman’s dignity and capacity to live the Eucharist meaningfully.
  3. To create an awareness of Eucharistic spirituality to enable men and women to live it consciously.
  4. To retrieve the Mary of the Gospels who stood up valiantly for the values of the Kingdom.

Commitment: As Eucharistic people we commit ourselves to:

  1. Continue to work for the empowerment of women and campaign against violence to women that is so prevalent in the countries of South Asia;
  2. Be trained and encourage women to be trained to share the Word so that the faithful have a meaningful encounter with Christ in the Scriptures;
  3. Promote the Mary of the Gospels in theology and devotion as a powerful and prophetic paradigm for discipleship;
  4. True discipleship which entails a courageous following of Jesus free from all fears, with deep conviction and commitment to the Kingdom Mission;
  5. Bring peace and justice to our South Asia region inspired by "Mary of the Magnificat";
  6. Acknowledge and promote the contribution of women in building and maintaining Small Christian Communities (SCCs) and in the broader mission of the Church.

Conclusion: In following the Lord’s mandate we strive as Spirit-animated ecclesia in South Asia to rediscover the significance of the Eucharist and live it meaningfully. We are grateful to our hosts the Women’s Desk of the CBCB Laity Commission and the Chairman Bishop Patrick D’Rozario CSC for their warm welcome and hospitality. We appreciate the partnership of men and women that facilitated the smooth process of the meeting. We are thankful to God for the blessings received for a grace-filled meeting (fabclaity@gmail.com).

IV. NEWS

India: Cardinal Gracias elected CBCI President

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) has elected Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai as its new President for the next two years on Monday, March 1, 2010 at its 29th General Body Meeting being held at Don Bosco Institute in Guwahati. One hundred and forty five member bishops of CBCI took part in the election of new office bearers. His Beatitude Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis, the Major Archbishop the Syro-Malankara Ecclesiastical Traditions and Archbishop of Trivandrum was elected as Vice-President I and Bishop George Punnakottil of Kothamangalam belonging to the Syro-Malabar Church was elected as the Vice-President II of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India. Archbishop Albert D’Souza of Agra was elected as the new Secretary General of the CBCI for next two years. He is assisted by the Deputy Secretary General of CBCI Rev. Fr. Thomas d’Aquino Sequeira. CBCI has 228 member Bishops from the Latin, Syro-Malabar and the Syro-Malankara ecclesial traditions. Among these are 158 heads of dioceses of whom 3 are Cardinals, 27 Archbishops and 51 Retired Bishops (cbcipro@gmail.com).

USA: Mother Teresa’s image on US Stamp for 2010

The U.S. Postal Service is honouring Mother Teresa of Calcutta in 2010, making her one of the many subjects of this years stamp program. The stamp features her portrait painted by award-winning artist Thomas Blackshear II of Colorado. Mother Teresa was well respected world wide. Ronald Regan presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985 and later in 1997 she was honoured with a Congressional Gold Medal for her "outstanding and enduring contributions through humanitarian and charitable activities." Mother Teresa died in Calcutta on September 5, 1997. She was 87 years old. Pope John Paul II beatified her in 2003 (romereports.com).

Myanmar: Seminaries strive for Self-sufficiency as Funds dry up

Seminaries in Myanmar face a funding crisis as assistance from outside the country continues to tumble, forcing the local Church to step up efforts at becoming self-reliant. The 20 minor seminaries in the country have borne the brunt of the decline in foreign funding, although the three major seminaries have been relatively unaffected, according to Fr. Hyginus Myint Soe, rector of St. Joseph's Catholic Major Seminary in Yangon. However, he says major seminaries must "also launch a self-support program ... because funding is decreasing year by year" (ucanews.com).

Singapore: Interfaith Group reaches beyond Religion

A small informal gathering of women of different faiths has now become more than just an inter-religious programme. The events are the brainchild of Infant Jesus Sr. Maria Lau, and are jointly organised by Singapore’s Inter-religious Organisation (IRO) and Harmony Centre, an Islamic organization. "It goes beyond religion," first-timer Susie Wong, 42, from the Baha’i faith, said after a meeting this week. "It’s more like friendship and personal experiences, but at the same time we get to see how the faith of others in the group inspire them and give them strength to face their problems" (ucanews.com)

Asia: Paradigm Shift in Ministry of the Priest

An international seminar for priests on "The Paradigm Shift in the Mission and Ministry of the Priest in Asia" will be organized by the FABC-Office of Clergy from May 10-15, 2010 in Bangkok. The meeting takes up the various challenges faced by priests in Asia today. The purpose of the seminar is to develop a better appreciation of priesthood and ministry, in view of a deeper renewal and commitment, to help understand the ministry as a means of sanctification, and to help enhance the priests' spiritual life as true leaders of their people. Topics of the seminar will include "The Priest as a 'Servant-Leader'," "Models of Priestly Spirituality," and the "Presbyterium as the Source of Sacramental Brotherhood" (fabc.org).

India: Sr. M. Wilberta B.S. Becomes New Superior General

The XV general chapter of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Little Flower of Bethany, held in the Mother House of Bethany, elected Sr. M. Wilberta B.S. of the Northern Province, as the new superior general. She has been serving as the I Councillor of Bethany Generalate and also as the vice president of Bethany Educational Society. She has also served as the provincial superior of the Northern Province from the year 1986 to 1993 and again, during 1997 – 1998. Sr. Jyothi B.S. had been serving as the superior general for the last 12 years (ksandesha1@gmail.com).

India: Cardinal Hummes opens priests’ congress Vailankanni

Cardinal Claudio Hummes, Prefect for the Congregation for Clergy opened the first national congress of Catholic priests in India on February 9, 2010. About 800 priests and many bishops from the country’s three ritual Churches are attending the three-day congress at Vailankanni, a costal village in Tamil Nadu state that holds India’s most famed Marian shrine. Msgr. Chibuike Onayeaghala, Charge d’Affaires at the Apostolic Nunciature in New Delhi, also joined the programme. Cardinal Hummes opened the congress lighting kuthu vilakku, the traditional Indian lamp used for inaugural functions. The Vatican official commended the Indian Church for organizing such a program in the Year of Priests (ucanews.com).

V. BOOKS

1. Mathew, Suseela: Breaking the Barriers. Towards Women’s Empowerment, Bangalore: Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society, 2009, pp.57. (Rs.100/-)

The author has made use of a few true life stories to call to attention some of the focal issues faced by women in their families. This presentation will help the readers to reflect on and, discuss the issues, and act creatively. The empowered woman is a source of strength, and can be an asset to the development process. She hopes that this book will spark further initiative and eagerness to know more about dynamic women leaders who, through their lives, have shown us that with determination, commitment and faith impossibilities may be transformed into possibilities, for a better world.

2. Mekkattukunnel, Andrews (ed.): Lamb of God: Essays in Johannine Theology, Kottayam: WiGi Printers, 2010, pp.33. ISBN 978-81-88456-49-9. (Rs.160/-)

A Festschrift to honour Dr. Mathew Vellanickal on the occasion of his Sacerdotal Golden Jubilee is a laudable contribution to Johannine scholarship. The title ‘Lamp of God’ is chosen not only because of its theological importance in John but also because of its association with priesthood, an association that is dear to the heart of Dr. Vellanickal, who is an expert in Johannine writings which emphasizes the theme of love – the hallmark of Christianity. He has been trying to proclaim this message through his life and writings.

3. Gesch, Patrick F. (ed.): Mission and Violence. Healing the Lasting Damage, Madang, Papua New Guinea: DWU Press, 2009, pp.394. ISBN 9980-9956-2-9. (pbk-Available at Ishvani Kendra for Rs. 500/- including postage)

The point of taking a look at “Mission and Violence” in Papua New Guinea, South Pacific, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, the Philippines, South Korea and India is not primarily from the aspect of the threatened missionary. PNG missionaries presented the perspective of the besieged missionary, their attitude of refusing to be overcome by the situation is also typical, showing rather a sweeping desire to wrestle with the violence of their worlds. Some of the accounts given are simply tragic. This book takes up the concern of mission researchers throughout the Asia-Pacific region that the work of mission today is being done in a world which is increasingly aware of violent structures and violent deeds on every side. The approach of the missiological researchers generally was to show the unreasonable nature of violent ways of life and to demonstrate the call to serve the Mission of God to this violent world.

VI. COURSES AT ISHVANI KENDRA

Dr. Joy Thomas, SVD (Director)

ISHVANI KENDRA
P.B. 3003, Off Nagar Road, Sainikwadi
Pune – 411014 – INDIA
Ph : (0091) - 020 – 27033820; 27033507

E-mail: ishvani@dataone.in
Website:
www.ishvanikendra.org

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