89

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

I. REPORT AND DOCUMENTATION

Edinburgh: Missionary Conference looks at Asian Progress

China in particular and Asia in general were the major focus of a missionary conference held 100 years ago with the aim of Christianising the whole world “in a few years’ time.” But throughout Asia today, Christianity remains a minority religion, its members under pressure from governments and other faiths, according to a paper presented at a conference marking the centenary of that meeting. In some countries, said the paper presented to the Edinburgh 2010 conference by the Rev. Rudolf H. Pasaribu of Indonesia, Christianity even faces the threat of extinction. Pasaribu who as well as being pastor of the Batak Protestant Christian Church in Medan, north Sumatra, teaches Christian religious education at the state university there said there is increasing pressure on Christians in Indonesia as shari’a law becomes more widely practiced. Burning, destruction and closure of churches is not uncommon, but is “usual all year round,” he said and new regulations mean house churches are not allowed, and it is increasingly difficult to get permission to build new churches. Under shari’a law, Christians and other minorities “will find it difficult to get a job, conduct business or enter government schools or universities.”

A different aspect of Christianity in Asia was revealed by keynote speaker, Dr Lee Young-hoon, pastor of the Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul. Pentecostals - of which his church is a member - were often criticised for “triumphalism,” he said. He acknowledged: “The growing success in missionary work and exponential spread of the Pentecostal movement may have contributed to this perception.” Lee was speaking on one of the three main themes of the conference, Missionary Power. The others were:

The conference closed on 6th June 2010, with a service at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Edinburgh, at which the preacher, Anglican Archbishop John Sentamu of York, pleaded for Christian unity, saying: “The unity of the spiritual house is vitally important” (ucanews.com).

India: Nation-wide Programmes to mark Mother Teresa’s Centenary

Catholic groups across India are planning a series of programs to mark the birth centenary of Blessed Mother Teresa on Aug 26. Various dioceses in the country have planned their own programs which include prayer services, public meetings and social work. A national-level symposium on the ‘Life and Message of Mother Teresa’ will be held in the capital on Aug 27. President Pratibha Patil will preside over a commemorative meeting in New Delhi on Aug 28. A commemorative coin will also be released by the government on the occasion. A week-long photo exhibition on the work of Mother Teresa will be held in New Delhi from Aug 23 to 30.

In Kolkata, a week-long film festival on Mother Teresa will be the highlight of the celebrations. Some groups have reportedly written to the Vatican seeking speedy canonization of the saintly nun, who was beatified in 2003. Mother Teresa was born in 1910, in Skopje in Macedonia, to Albanian parents. She was baptized as Gonxha Agnes. She came to India in 1929 to work as a nun of the Loretto Convent in Kolkata. She started the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata, which has spread its work in several countries, providing shelter to leprosy patients, the homeless, destitute and orphaned children. Mother Teresa was honoured with the Nobel prize for Peace in 1979 and the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour, in 1980. She died on Sep 5, 1997 (dailynews@cathnewsindia.com quoting sindhtoday.net)

India: Asia's biggest statue of Jesus Christ

Asia's biggest statue of Jesus Christ was unveiled in Miao in Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh along with the opening of the first Cathedral in the state on 2nd May 2010. During the dedication ceremony, the newly erected two-storied Cathedral was blessed by Cardinal Toppo. About twelve thousand people from different parts of Arunachal Pradesh, besides Christians from the neighbouring states thronged to the Cathedral. The colossal statue of Jesus Christ was unveiled by the State's Finance Minister Setong Sena. The statue measures over 12 meters and stands at the forefront of the Cathedral (pkgsdb@gmail.com).

Sri Lanka: Sinhalese discover their Tamil Brothers

Sinhalese seminarians visiting Sri Lanka’s Jaffna region say that the visit has transformed them. “None of these young seminarians have ever been to Jaffna before,” said Fr. Anthony Jayakody, Rector of the National Seminary at Ampitiya in Kandy, who led the tour of 45 seminarians and 15 priests. In the first such trip since the war’s end, the seminarians met people who had lost their loved ones. They found deserted houses with sagging roofs, buildings reduced to rubble and others riddled with bullets.

The students also met their counterparts from Jaffna seminary. “Certainly this experience will have an impact on the ministry of all the brothers who will be ordained in the near future,” said Fr. Jayakody. “I thought that all the people who live in the north were terrorists. But this visit helped me understand that the Tamils are innocent people,” said Nirmalal Perera, a Sinhalese seminarian. “The way they welcomed us was amazing,” he added. Several seminarians have now decided to request their bishops and superiors to give them a chance to go to the North to learn Tamil and do pastoral work (ucanews.com).

Nepal: A Kyros for Evangelisation

“For mission in Nepal, the time is ripe. There is a real Kyros for evangelisation. We ask religious congregations all over the world to send missionaries to Nepal", says Fr. Pius Perumana, pro-Vicar Apostolic of Nepal. "Now, as life in the country is settling down again, there is room for mission. This is an opportunity which the local Catholic Church must take; she must speak up with sincerity and coherence to propose the Gospel” says Fr. Pius.

The community of 8,000 Catholics in Nepal continues to welcome new members. "Every year we register about 500 baptisms and this is a positive sign. The local Catholic Church can and must be more incisive in her missionary efforts and we urge missionary priests, religious and lay men and women to come to work in the Lord's vineyard in Nepal. Nepal today is a field ready to receive the Gospel. The local Church is increasingly present in society. She receives many requests to open schools and local vocations are growing. We have 8 Nepal born seminarians and 4/5 others.” The reason for these new fields and opportunities,” the pro-Vicar explains, is that "while Nepal was a kingdom with Hinduism as the state religion, most Nepalese citizens were Hindus in name. Today people enjoy more freedom to choose between the different beliefs Christianity, Islam and Traditional religions".

In this political time of transition, as the Constituent Assembly enters the third of the three years allotted for drafting a new Constitution, Nepal's Christians trust the new Constitution will guarantee all citizens "full rights and full religious freedom, freedom to worship and freedom to build churches, seminaries, cemeteries", says Fr Pius. "To take advantage of this God given opportunity and freedom in a secular nation, what we need now are ‘more workers for evangelisation," he concludes (fides.org).

Vatican: Pope announces New Department in Vatican

Pope Benedict XVI has announced the formation of a department in the Vatican which will be dedicated to the new evangelization of Europe and America. The Pontifical Council for New Evangelization of the West will be dedicated to bringing Christian faith to places where the concept of God has been overshadowed. The pope made the announcement during a ceremony in the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls (dailynews@cathnewsindia.com).

Austria: Indian Sisters Work to ‘Re-evangelize’ Europe

An Indian sister says that hundreds of Indian sisters like her are working in Europe to “re-evangelize” the Christian continent. “Faith level has gone down” in several European nations and missioners from Asian nations such as India are on “re-evangelization” mission, said Sr. Lillian Kumbappallil SRA, a medical doctor preparing to go to Vienna. Lack of faith in God, breaking up of families and increased loneliness have become marks of communities in many European nations, “where we have increased chances of meaningful pastoral work,” said the sister, completed her medicine degree in 1988 and worked in a village health mission for more than a decade (dailynews@cathnewsindia.com).

II. NEWS

Global: Bible Translations in every Language by 2025

A Christian endeavour of almost 2,000 years could be substantially completed by 2025 when Protestant translators expect to have the Bible - or at least some of it - written in every one of the world’s 6,909 spoken languages (dailynews@cathnewsasia.com).

India: Indianised form of Bible

An Indianised form of the Bible will show Mother Mary wearing a sari and a ‘bindi’ (dot) on her forehead and her husband Saint Joseph in a loincloth and a turban. The Indian Church will bring out this form of Bible in July. The illustrated Bible will also be annotated with the commentary that runs side by side with the original biblical text making references to Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi and quoting from Hindu texts and Rabindranath Tagore. “Our attempt is to make people feel at home with the Bible. When one hears one’s own cultural expressions, it is easier for the Indian Christian community to understand the Bible,” said Fr. George Chathanattil of the Society of St Paul, which plans to print 50,000 copies for distribution (The Telegraph).

Mongolia: Authorities raze City’s only Catholic Church

The only Catholic church in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, was destroyed overnight and the priest and lay leader detained by police. The demolition is believed to have been carried out pursuant to a court order. Parishioners set up camp near the ruins to try to prevent any new construction on the site. They had arrived for morning Mass on June 8 to a pile of rubble littered with pieces of the altar and five-meter cross. About 100 people arrived around midnight on June 7 to demolish the Dongsheng Church belonging to the open Catholic community. The 150-square-meter church, which served a community of about 1,000 Catholics, was legally registered in May 2009. However, the local government recently demanded the demolition of the church to make way for a new road (ucanews.com).

Myanmar: Sisters Train as Youth Trainers

The Catholic Religious Conference of Myanmar (CRCM) has organised a programme to train young sisters as youth trainers. Twenty sisters from ten different congregations took part in the participative June 10-17 course in Yangon. Topics included human development awareness, leadership skills, environmental awareness, facilitation skills, public speaking, creative dramatics and creative liturgy (ucanews.com)

Thailand: Relationship Issues ‘Key’ to forming Priests and Sisters

Religious Formators in Thailand say that discussing sex and relationships openly is the key to helping fledgling priests and sisters. “We need to use a positive approach particularly with regards to friends of the opposite sex, said Sr. Kanlaya, a formator for the Sacred Heart congregation in Bangkok. Catholic seminarians and junior sisters now mix freely leading to many “new” relationships. “Some of our novices admire the seminarians whom they work with,” she said. “We need to support students to have appropriate relations so that they will be good colleagues in the apostolate,” Sr. Kanlaya said. Even though some junior sisters and seminarians exchange e-mail, they promise to pray for each other (ucanews.com).

India: JDV, Pune starts “World Class” Theologate

A new institute for post graduate studies in theology, philosophy and spirituality has been opened by Jnana Deepa Vidyapeeth (JDV) of Pune. This is the first such program in India, says Fr. Edward Mudavassery, who heads the JDV as the Jesuit provincial of South Asia. “Our aim is to offer masters and doctoral courses of world standard here,” he asserted. The new programme is also an inter-congregational venture. Women students stay at a nearby hostel managed by the Holy Spirit Sisters. A hostel for postgraduate women is part of the future plans. Scholarships are available for students (Jose Kavi in religiousindia.org).

Korea: Christian Groups Up in Arms over Bush Peace Prayer

Christian groups in South Korea have denounced an invitation to former US president George W. Bush to address a prayer meeting organised by major Protestant churches. The 22 groups issued a joint statement welcoming the peace prayer meeting but describing the invitation as “absurd”. The groups insisted that Christian peace is based on reconciliation and love, not on weapons and suppression of the enemy. Up to 70,000 Protestants were expected to attend the June 22 prayer meeting hosted at a Seoul stadium by conservative churches including the Full Gospel Church (ucanews.com).

India: Layperson gets Top Papal Award

A Catholic layman in South India, has been honored posthumously with the highest papal award given to a layperson for contributing to the Church through his songs. The late Wilfy Rebimbus was honored with the Pro Ecclesia Et Pontifice (for Church and Pope) award by Bishop Aloysius Paul D’Souza on June 13 at Milagres Church in Mangalore. Rebimbus, who was 68 years old when he died, composed nearly 1,000 songs in the local Konkani language. These devotional songs are sung in Mangalore churches (ucanews.com).

USA: Atheist Lawyer plans to appeal on President’s Swearing-in Ruling

Atheist lawyer Michael Newdow has said he plans to appeal a court decision that said his bid to halt prayers and the words “so help me God” in U.S. presidential inauguration are now moot and there is nothing to rule on. “We will be petitioning for a rehearing,” said Newdow, who represented himself and other atheists in the case (eni.ch).

III. REFLECTION

The Importance of a True Education - Bishop Paul S. Loverde (Bishop of Arlington, Virginia)

St. Thomas More, the patron of the Diocese of Arlington, was martyred because of his refusal to swear an oath of loyalty to King Henry VIII. The king defied the authority of the Pope and declared himself the head of the Church of England because he did not wish to accept the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage.

St. Thomas More’s principled resolution in refusing to swear the oath was not only the result of much reflection, but also of his keen intellect, which contributed to forming his conscience in order to make wise decisions. His holy example of martyrdom demonstrates the true value of an education: the ability to apply the reality of our faith to concrete life decisions that occur on our path to holiness.

So often, we are preoccupied with statistics, no less so in the field of education. Statistics are often indicators of academic success. While all of these achievements are laudable, there is an even richer component to Catholic education. In a quote popularly attributed to him, St. Thomas More wrote, "Education is not the piling on of learning, information, data, facts, skills, or abilities — that's training or instruction — but is rather making visible what is hidden as a seed.” It is not that practical subjects are unimportant, but rather that everything a student learns in the classroom should be related to who he or she is as a human person. The very first article of the Catechism teaches us, "God calls man to seek him, to know him and to love him with all his strength" (No. 1). Without a sound education in the faith, St. Thomas More would not have known God in the way the Catechism describes. He would not have recognized the importance of loving God with all of his strength to the point of losing his elite status in society and, eventually, his life.

In a similar fashion, we too must recognise God’s call to learn about our faith and to teach that faith to others. Primarily, children learn from their parents, through their words, their instructions and, most of all, through their example. What better way to learn about the importance of prayer than by a daughter watching her mother rise early to pray each morning? How much does a son learn from a father who will occasionally give up watching a favourite sports game to spend an hour at Eucharistic Adoration? Parents know that children learn by imitation.

The next time you are caught in an ethical quandary — Should I drive excessively over the speed limit? Should I cut corners on my taxes? Should I allow others to take responsibility for my mistakes? — think about the persons you wish your children to become. Yes, adults have a great responsibility in educating children, not only about the truths of the faith, but also in the way in which they live out that faith in their daily lives.

Young people also take in much information from the world around them: at school and at the mall, from their Ipods and from their friends. Too often, youth are exposed to the falsehoods that there is no such thing as the sanctity of life, that there is no true religion and that, in the end, each person must only do what makes them happy, instead of what is right. Sadly, relativism has become prevalent in our culture, making it a challenge for young people to receive a true education which will prepare them for the challenges of living a life of holiness. For these reasons, we must vigilantly defend and teach the truth not only in our classrooms, but in our homes and workplaces, ever witnessing to our faith and the gift of life the Lord has given us.

Though we may never be called to martyrdom like St. Thomas More, each of us is called to use our education every day. The focal point of our education is that "Man is made to live in communion with God in whom he finds happiness" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 45). When young mothers are faced with the "option" of abortion, they must recall that each of us is imbued with dignity by God and that life is precious. When an entrepreneur is offered a job in a morally corrupt corporation, he or she must remember we have a responsibility to defend the truth in the public sphere. When we are tempted to treat another with disdain because of the person’s race or creed, we must remember Christ calls us to love our neighbour.

Yes, at some point in our lives, we are each asked to make difficult decisions. These dilemmas are not easy; the alternatives to making ethical decisions can often be very attractive. Hence, we must value our own true education and seek to teach others that Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. The next time you are confronted with a difficult decision, I challenge you to pray to St. Thomas More for the fortitude and the wisdom to glorify the Lord with your educated choice (catholicnewsagency.com).

IV. BOOK-REVIEW

Ho, Huang Po: Mission from the Underside: Transforming Theological Education in Asia, Bangalore: PTCA/SATHRI/SCEPTRE, 2010, pp.248. ISBN 1682-6086 (pbk) (USD $20, or Rs.385/-).

This book is an outcome of 30 years of the author’s theological journey in Taiwan and Asia. He argues that unless we take the perspective of the margin and do theology from the underside of history, theological education will make very little impact on the life of the Church. The gospel takes a decisive location. It stands for the victims and poor in all historical situations. It demands us to locate the incarnation of Jesus in the middle of people struggling for selfhood and right to life. We need to consciously distance ourselves from the intellectual and dogmatic approach of theology. All forms of discrimination and marginalisation based on gender, ethnic identities, social and economic have to be resisted since God is actively present with the victims of systems in all historical context. For him doing theology from the margin is the only option.

Panjikaran, J. G.: Paul’s Concept of Mission: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 10:8-17, Delhi: ISPCK, 2009, pp.338. ISBN 978-81-8465-020-4 (pbk) (USD $ 18, € 14 or Rs.325/-).

“The God News, power of God for salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16) is the missionary dynamism of the Good News that the author of this book analyses in his detailed study of the mission agenda outlined by Paul in Rom 10:8-17. As a doctoral thesis, the study is solidly technical. But the reader will be rewarded with both a refreshing new outlook on the epistle to the Romans and original insights on the nature of the Mission.

Jacob, Grace & Paulson Pulikottil (eds.): Beyond Borders. Challenging Boundaries of Philosophy, Faith and Education, Bangalore: Primalogue Publishing and Media, 2010, pp.222. ISBN -13: 978-81-908904-1-0 (pbk). (USD $ 9.99, INR 280/-).

In this volume that honours one of the outstanding educators of present-day India, one finds excellent resources on Higher Education and related subjects written from various perspectives both national and international. Several critically important issues for us – religious, philosophical, cultural and social, are discussed by well-known authors. This masterpiece should be carefully studied by all who take their religious, social and educational responsibilities seriously.

Harvey, Graham, (eds.): Religions in Focus. New Approaches to Tradition and Contemporary Practices, Oakville, London: Equinox, 2009, pp.366. ISBN 978-1-84553-217-8 (hbk), 978-1-84553-218-5 (pbk). Euro 12.16.

The book presents religions as contemporary ways of life that motivate and inspire people. Because religious people refer to sacred texts, honour the founders of their religions, learn from elders, or mould their lives according to authoritative teachings, it explains the relationship between tradition and contemporary practice. It offers an introduction to religions that is rooted in the best scholarship of the Study of Religions and provides a secure foundation for further study. A team of Religious Studies scholars from many countries, all skilled communicators about the contemporary religions with which they are thoroughly familiar, introduce what it means to live as a religious person today. They insist that however old or young these religions may be, what is most interesting is the ways in which people express them today. This is not a history of religions but an insightful introduction to living religions.

V. NEXT COURSES AT ISHVANI KENDRA

  1. LEADERSHIP FOR RECTORS AND SUPERIORS (09-28 August)
  2. LEADERSHIP FOR PASTORAL MANAGEMENT (13-25 September)
  3. EDUCATION AS MISSION (20-25 October)

Dr. Joy Thomas, SVD (Director)

ISHVANI KENDRA
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E-mail: ishvani@dataone.in
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