Institute of Missiology and Communications
Pune – India
April – 2010
Wish you a grace-filled Easter. May this Easter truly bless you to be person for others like Jesus!
Bangladesh: Easter by reflecting on "Sacrifice, Service and Spiritual Growth"
In the church of the Holy Cross, archdiocese of Dhaka, more than 120 young Catholics gathered for a prayer meeting and meditation during the Lenten season. The seminar was held in a room of the parish and focused on the themes of "sacrifice, service and growth in spiritual life. It stressed that the Way of the Cross is the privileged experience to "feel the suffering endured by Christ," the sacrifice of his passion and death on the cross. However, the experience of death is overcome by the resurrection on Easter Sunday. The seminar is also an opportunity to "deepen their faith and understand the meaning of the Passion of Christ to the world today" (asianews.it).
Sri Lanka: Short Film Festival focuses on ‘Jesus of Today’
A Catholic group, Kithusara, recently held its very first short film festival with entries from amateur filmmakers focusing on the topic Jesus of Today. Thirteen Sinhalese films, lasting five to 10 minutes, were screened in front of hundreds of priests, nuns and laypeople at a Church-run technical school in Negombo. The movies were produced by young amateur filmmakers using mobile phones and hand-held cameras. Most of the films portrayed the economic struggles faced by youths and poor communities. They also tackled themes such as war, love, loneliness, inter-religious harmony and the fate of children in a war-torn environment.
The Life, a film on life and death directed by Jude Samantha, won the first prize, while Faith, which dealt with inter-religious harmony and directed by Samantha Perera, came in second. Koshila Peiris won third prize for her film, Defeating a Storm. The festival was held to focus on Jesus and his mission during Lent (ucanews.com).
Afghanistan: Jesuit Commitment to Education
Education in Afghanistan received a boost in recent years thanks to the efforts of the Indian Jesuits, particularly members of the Calcutta Province, who oversaw the formation of students and teachers. In collaboration with the Ministry of Education, where a Jesuit has been appointed adviser for technical education, several Jesuits worked on a programme for students aimed at teaching technical subjects and English; they also developed a plan to train 1,000 trained technical teachers in the next five years. In May 2002 the Jesuits first attempted to improve education in Afghanistan but the project was abandoned given the lack of security.
These efforts resumed in 2005 at Heart University when two Jesuits taught technical subjects to a group of 65 students. That number has soared to 400 students at three universities. The efforts of the Jesuits have resulted in the formation of the National Institute of Management in Kabul with another centre, the National Institute of Computer Technology likely to open in the near future in Kabul (sjweb.info)
Vatican: Science and Faith can be Partners in Truth
“Science and faith are not at loggerheads, but are two distinct paths that together can lead to the truth,” says Pope Benedict XVI. Many scientists, in fact, have carried forth their research inspired by the wonder and gratitude they feel for God and his creation, thus turning "scientific study into a hymn of praise. Despite some episodes of misunderstanding that have occurred in history, faith and science are not in opposition," he said (catholicnews.com).
Bangladesh: Jesuit Presence
In 2006, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to a man and a bank in Bangladesh. This man devised of way to eradicate poverty in Bangladesh and with this, the hope for a poverty-free world. In spite of the heavy drag of poverty and illiteracy, cyclones and floods, and poor governance, Bangladesh is a land of rising aspirations, with two million women from rural areas and the lower strata of society who have earned the largest amount of foreign exchange for the country through their labour in the ready-made, garment sector. The first community of the Society of Jesus in Bangladesh was opened by two Calcutta Jesuits in 1994. Today there are twelve Jesuits in the country, plus ten in formation outside the country; three more will come in the near future. Jesuits are scattered across four of the six Dioceses and involved in a variety of activities (sjweb.info).
India: Church Aims to improve Interfaith Relations
Catholic Church in Madhya Pradesh has drafted guidelines to improve its relations with other religions. The guidelines aim to dispel some popular misgivings and misunderstandings about the Church so that it can work properly in the central Indian state, says Bishop Sebastian Vadakkel of Ujjain, chairman of the commission for ecumenism and dialogue of the Madhya Pradesh Regional Bishops’ Council.
The prelate, who headed the committee that drafted the 5,470-word guidelines, said Madhya Pradesh’s multireligious and socio-cultural diversities prompted the Church to issue them. "Bridging the gap between the Church and other religions is essential for dealing with communal flare-ups and sustained campaigns against the Church in the state," Bishop Vadakkel said. The guidelines insist the need to respect every religion and foster a positive approach to them.
Fr. Prasad Kuzhivelil SVD, a committee member, said ignorance about other religions breeds confusion and distrust and leads to disharmony. He said the Church dialogues with other religions to create an environment of peace, harmony and amity. Every religion "has goodness in it and we need to accept it and work toward building confidence," he said.
The guidelines encourage people of various religions to share their joys and sorrows with each other. The Church document wants Christians and others to work for the integral development and liberation of people. It urges specialists to deepen their understanding of various religious heritages to help them appreciate each other’s spiritual values. It wants Christians, while holding on to their belief in the uniqueness of Jesus, to "remember that God has also manifested himself in some way to the followers of other religious traditions and continues to vivify them" (ucanews.com).
Myanmar: 1,500 Pilgrims pray on Cross Mountain
About 1,500 pilgrims in an act of penance for their sins have participated in a Way of the Cross and Mass at a popular mountaintop shrine in the run-up toward Easter. The 185-meter climb to the shrine on Cross Mountain in east-central Myanmar helps Catholics reflect on Jesus´ passion. The shrine, near Theinseik parish’s 80-hectare rubber plantation, was built in 1983 by then parish priest Fr. Victor Nyan Myint, who was inspired by Buddhist mountaintop pagodas. Bishop Justine Saw Min Thide of Hpa-an diocese led the Eucharistic celebration on the evening of March 25, followed by adoration. The next day, Bishop Justine led Mass with 11 priests concelebrating.
“Nobody wants troubles and trials, and we all pray that we may not have difficulties in our lives. But if we live according to the will of God, troubles can transform into happiness and through the cross of Christ we all can enter the kingdom of heaven,” the bishop said in his homily. Fourteen wooden crosses dot the mountain trail leading to the shrine that features a 12-meter concrete cross and an altar. On the Friday before Palm Sunday each year, parishioners participate in the Way of the Cross up to the shrine. People in Myanmar have traditionally made pilgrimages to religious sites on mountains, particularly to Buddhist temples and stupas (ucanews.com).
India: Gujarat Chief Minister Questioned
The Special Investigation Team appointed by the Supreme Court cross-examined Narendra Modi, Gujarat CM, for nine hours on March 27 on a petition by Zakia Jafri, widow of a parliamentarian, who was killed during the 2002 riots. Modi is among 62 people the 71-year-old widow has blamed for killing 1,180 people, mostly Muslims, during riots that lasted three months from 27 February 2002. The violence began after 59 Hindus were torched inside a railway coach.
Muhammed Shafi Madani, president of a Muslim group in Gujarat, says questioning Modi is the first victory for human rights groups against “the perpetrators of the 2002 crimes.” He expressed hope that the team would work honestly to nab those named in the widow’s petition.
Fr. Cedric Prakash, who directs a human rights center in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad city, says that the latest development is in “the right direction” although it took more than eight years to make Modi answer questions that had remained unanswered until now. He wants a case filed against Modi and “he must be charge-sheeted” since “mere quizzing of Modi” would not bring justice for the riot survivors. Modi took over as the Gujarat chief minister in 2001. Since then, Hindu radicals have targeted Christians involved in charitable works among the poor (ucanews.com).
Vatican: Recalling a Time of Grace
The church is preparing to mark the fifth anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II, an event that stirred intense emotion, expressions of faith and worldwide attention in April 2005. Pope John Paul shaped the policies and charted the directions for the church in the 21st century.
The late pope made his final public appearance March 30, 2005, when he was recovering from a tracheotomy to relieve breathing problems. He blessed pilgrims in St. Peter's Square and tried in vain to speak to them. After a few minutes, aides wheeled him from view and drew the curtains of his apartment window for the last time. Those who witnessed the scene sensed it was a farewell, and an incredibly poignant one. The Vatican later described it as "the last public 'station' of his painful Via Crucis."
The next day, the pope suffered septic shock and heart failure. He was treated immediately with antibiotics and respiratory equipment, but his condition deteriorated. Vatican officials later said it was the pope himself who decided to be treated at the Vatican instead of being taken to the hospital again.
An Italian cardinal who visited the dying pope described the scene in the papal bedroom: Assisted by several doctors and his personal staff, the pontiff lay serenely on a bed in the middle of his room, comforted by cushions, occasionally opening his eyes in greeting to the handful of visitors allowed inside.
Outside, in St. Peter's Square, the first groups of faithful -- many of them young people -- assembled to pray and sing songs beneath the pope's window. Some 48 hours later, the vigil had grown to include some 100,000 people. On the afternoon of April 2, according to his aides, the pope murmured in Polish, "Let me go to the house of the Father." They were his last words. Six hours later, at 9:37 p.m., Pope John Paul died. The announcement was made to the vast crowd in St. Peter's Square shortly before 10 p.m., at the close of a candlelit prayer service. Many in the crowd wept. Then, after a long wave of applause, the square was enveloped in silent prayer. The bells of St. Peter's Basilica tolled a death knell (catholicnews.com).
Thailand: Bishops’ Meet focuses on Political Crisis
Thai bishops in their recently concluded biannual meeting called on all Catholics to remain neutral in the current political conflict. Thousands of supporters of fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, known as “red shirts,” have descended on Bangkok, demanding that the government hold snap elections. Grenades have also exploded in some areas.
Bishop John Bosco Panya Kritcharoen of Ratchaburi, CBCT secretary general, said the bishops’ conference “is very concerned about this current situation. We released a formal letter to every church [on March 12] asking for intense prayers, special Masses, sacrifices and silent meditation for peace in the country.” During the March 16-18 CBCT meeting, “we prepared guidelines on the Church’s stand on this current situation now,” he said (ucanews.com).
Islam: the state or civilisation? By Asghar Ali Engineer
Many scholars maintain that Islam and the state are inseparable, thus reducing Islam to a political ideology. This approach, though in a way, historically dictated, has caused much power struggle among different groups of Muslims.
The bloodshed which took place between the Umayyads and the Abbasids is enough to horrify any religious Muslim, and yet this ideology has remained rooted in Islamic society for centuries; it has taken another form in a post-colonial society. In the Islamic world, dictator after dictator has seized power in the name of Islam and declared the establishment of an Islamic state, making ‘Islamic’ punishments binding. They have imposed medieval jurisprudence uncritically, resulting, among other things, in serious gender disparity. Countries from various regions of the Islamic world have suffered from this practice. There are only few exceptions to the rule in the Muslim world today. Islam, one must understand, is not primarily a political ideology but a religion which gave rise to a great civilisation, and has its own foundational values. Islam basically arose in an urban setting, and in view of inter-tribal disputes it laid great stress on unity and brotherhood of all (all believers are brothers and sisters [10:49]; the word ‘ikhwatun’ being inclusive of both genders).
Yet, a lust for power divided Muslims and caused serious enmities. The Quran stresses non-discriminatory behaviour between one tribe and another, one ethnic group and another, whereas power struggles were based on these very divisions. As opposed to that, civilisations are built on cooperation between all groups, not fighting among them. The other foundational values of Islamic civilisation are truth, justice and compassion.
These values were actually practised by the Sufis on the one hand, and ordinary Muslims on the other. The Sufis never allowed Islam to be reduced to a political ideology and kept away from divisive politics. As opposed to power, they emphasised love, another civilisational value. Great Sufi masters like Muhiyuddin Ibn Arabi and Maulana Rumi believed in the power of love and persuasion instead of power per se.
A power struggle brings about what Prof. Huntington has theorised as a ‘clash of civilisations’. The US Right needed an enemy after the collapse of communism and hence they invented one in the Islamic civilisation. The former reformist president of Iran, Mohammad Khatami, instead gave a call for a dialogue of civilisations and proposed at a UN meeting to adopt it as its programme.
As against power, the Sufis for ages carried on a dialogue with the people of other religious groups, with Jews, Christians, and Hindus in India. While kings and sultans grabbed power causing so much bloodshed, the Sufis followed the Islamic civilisation’s values and pursued the unity of people — Muslims as well as non-Muslims. Ibn Arabi even went to the extent of saying “My Sharia and din is love”.
The Quran also lays emphasis on pluralism. According to the Quran, Allah could have created one people but He created diversity and plurality so that He can test us and it is better to cooperate with each other in good deeds (5:48). Thus, rather than fighting, one should cooperate for good deeds the basis on which all civilisations are built.
Today, the world again is torn by conflict, especially countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Yemen. These are the countries where various American interests are at stake, making brothers kill brothers with bombs and acts of terror. Everyday scores die in these countries, taking them away from the path of civilisation.
What Muslims should concentrate on is their fiqh, bringing it in conformity with the spirit of the Quran rather than basing it on disputed historical literature. The Quran’s basic emphasis is on justice, especially gender justice, which in turn is the very basis of a great civilisation. Muslim societies desperately need gender equality by giving women their due. The Quran also emphasises the treading of the middle path, whereas we tend to go towards extremism in religion and politics.
The Quran has not addressed a single of its verse to kings or rulers but to the Prophet (PBUH) and the people in general, and believers in particular. If we establish the primacy of politics, it is the rulers who have to be responsible for everything whereas the Quran puts the primary responsibility on all believers who, in cooperation with other non-Muslim groups, should create a just and compassionate society. Thus, it demands of the believers to “cooperate with one another in righteousness and piety and help not one another in sin and aggression” (5:2) (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Global: Oscar Romero: the people’s saint
March 24, was the thirtieth anniversary of the assassination of Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador. Bishop Maurice Taylor, who knows the country well, preached this homily at a memorial Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, to mark the occasion. The lack of progress towards beatification and canonisation is hard to fathom, but perhaps it is unimportant. Millions of ordinary people who, after all, are the Church and provide a sensus fidelium do not doubt that he is a saint. Oscar Romero had declared that, even if he were killed, he would live on in the hearts of his people. This he assuredly does – not only in the hearts of his fellow Salvadorans but also in the hearts of countless people throughout the world who venerate him (thinkingfaith.org/articles/20100325_1.htm).
Cambodia: New Bishop to focus on Education
More than 4,500 people including Buddhist monks, foreign diplomats and NGO representatives witnessed the episcopal ordination of Bishop Olivier Schmitthaeusler, coadjutor apostolic vicar of Phnom Penh. At the end of the ceremony, held at the Don Bosco school, the 39-year-old Paris Foreign Missions bishop said his first priority would be to train Catholics in the education apostolate. Tut Leap, a 56-year-old woman from Bavil district, Battambang province, said, “It is the first time in my life that I have seen such a big Catholic ceremony … with thousands of people and so many priests.” She said in the past, she had only witnessed Buddhist ceremonies on such a scale (ucanews.com).
China: Another ‘Underground’ Priest detained
Fr. Liu Maochun of Mindong diocese, 36, was placed in detention by security officers, a day after Fr. John Baptist Luo Wen was released. They are among seven priests accused of unlawful assembly. According to Fr. Luo’s detention statement, he was charged for organizing two faith camps for university students in the name of Mindong’s “underground” Church community, which was banned by the Fu’an city government as an illegal organization in 1992. The camps, which took place at the Saiqi church from January 28-6 February, attracted more than 300 Catholic university students. Despite warnings from security officers, the priests and most students proceeded with the activities until the end. Father Luo was released on March 18 after a 15-day administrative detention in the Fu’an Detention Center (ucanews.com).
Pakistan: Catholic satellite TV starts Regular Broadcasts
Karachi archdiocese launched Pakistan’s first Catholic TV station, Good News, recently. A large number of priests, nuns, seminarians, media persons, celebrities, politicians and members of civil organizations attended the ceremony on March 23, Pakistan Day. The station began test transmissions on Christmas Eve and its programs can be viewed in Asia, Africa, Oceania and Europe. “We cannot ignore media…Through this new venture … we want to bring about love, harmony and brotherhood” said Archbishop Evarist Pinto during the ceremony (ucanews.com).
India: Women’s Reservation Bill
The upper house of Indian parliament or Rajya Sabha, passing a bill reserving seats for women in legislative bodies has profound lessons for the Church in India, says Br. Mani Mekkunnel, national secretary of Conference of Religious India. The bill has to be passed by the Lok Sabha, the lower house, and should get the president’s signature to become law. “The move in the national parliament will inspire Religious sisters to put their subservient spirituality on the backburner and surge ahead to take up leadership roles,” he said. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), in their 2008 biennial meet, had passed a resolution to give 35 percent representation for women in all Church bodies (ucanews.com).
India: Evangelical Network begins E-mail Campaign
An alliance of evangelical Christians has spoken out against the “unbridled persecution” in the southern Indian Karnataka state, which has recorded “over 1,000 anti-Christian attacks in 500 days.” The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) in a statement issued as part of an email campaign said “it has become commonplace to report on physical attacks on Christian workers and believers, vandalism of church property, desecration of statues of Jesus, and arrests of priests on frivolous complains of conversions in Karnataka” (Ucanews).
India: Ravi Shankar urges Priests to resist extremism with love
Hindu leader Shri Ravi Shankar told a national meeting of Catholic priests in India that religious extremism “can be fought only through love, genuine spirituality and education”. “The speed of the spread of fundamentalism surprises me but we have to fight it,” Shankar, founder of the Art of Living movement, told the Assembly of Indian Catholic Priests, who were meeting to mark the Year for Priests that Pope Benedict XVI declared in June 2009. More than 800 Catholic priests from across India plus several bishops led by Cardinal Claudio Hummes, Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Clergy, were among those present when Shankar addressed the gathering at Vailankanni in Tamilnadu earlier in February (ENI).
1. J. Simon, Caroline: Mentoring for Mission. Nurturing New Faculty at Church-related Colleges, Grand Rapids/Cambridge: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003, pp.129. ISBN 0-8028-2124-3. (Rs.100/-)
This book both instructs and inspires. It shows that a programme for mentoring new faculty members at a church-related college is ‘an embodiment of Christian hospitality’ and thus a natural outgrowth of the Christian tradition. It demonstrates how effective mentoring can nurture a community of scholars who actively own the institution’s mission. And it offers a wealth of practical suggestions for how to launch and maintain such a programme. If your institution already has a mentoring programme in place, this book will help you do it better. If not, this book will enlarge your vision and inspire you to get to work!
2. Miller, Jon: Missionary Zeal and Institutional Control, Grand Rapids/Cambridge: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003, pp.258. ISBN 0-8028-6085-0 (pbk.) ($40.00)
This book is finely textured and gracefully written by the author who throws much-needed light on the role of organizational structures and politics in the modern mission movement. The case study of the Basel Mission offers a compelling account of social-class dynamics within a missionary organization and the practical challenge of maintaining discipline while simultaneously encouraging creative work in the mission field. But that’s not all. More than a book only about missionaries or religion in colonial West Africa, it also teaches us much about individual commitment to organizations, intra-organizational conflict, and organizational persistence in the face of adversity.
3. Maloney, George A.: The First Day of Eternity. Resurrection Now, Bangalore: IJA Publications, 2002, pp.173. ISBN 81-86778-41-1 (Rs.85/- Available at St. Paul’s)
The author encourages the reader to learn how he or she can experience the resurrection the now-moment-experience it as part of the single whole that began on the first Easter and will reach its completion on the Last Day. Drawing upon the mystical tradition of the Eastern Fathers, he offers a contemporary exposition of the living and lived reality of the Easter Mystery.
4. Wolfe, Regina Wentzel, and Christine E. Gudorf (eds.): Ethics and World Religions. Cross-Cultural Case Studies, Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2008, pp.419. ISBN 1-57075-240-0 (pbk.) (Rs. 1095/- Available at St. Paul’s)
In Ethics and World Religions eighteen original cases explore ethical issues of diverse people and religions situated around the world. Each case is followed by two commentaries that explore the issues from two different religious perspectives. Commentaries highlight the religious values, principles, and laws that are relevant, and suggest options for resolution.
5. O’Collins, Gerald: Salvation for All. God’s Other Peoples, New York: Oxford University Press, 2008, pp.279. ISBN 978-0-19-923890-3 (hbk) 978-0-19-923889-7 (pbk) (Rs. 980/- Available at St. Paul’s)
In this new study the author investigates in depth and at length what the Old Testament and the New Testament hold about the salvation of God’s ‘other peoples’. He explores the biblical witness to the universal scope of God’s love and offer of salvation. This is a strong and lasting theme in the Bible, even though there are also numerous passages that take a negative view of ‘the others’. In the first chapters he examines how the scriptures account for the origin, nature, and destiny of human beings. He asks: what did the chosen people of God (according to the Old Testament) and Christians (according to the New Testament) think about the religious situation of ‘the others’, those who did not (or did not yet) belong to the community of faith?
Dr. Joy Thomas, SVD (Director)
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