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

I. REPORT AND DOCUMENTATION

India: Young Religious’ Programme Launched

The Conference of Religious India (CRI) has launched its special programme to prepare young Religious to meet the challenges posed by the India’s rapid socio-economic developments. Some 100 religious men and women in the age group of 30-35 attended the July 1-4 program of CRI Kerala unit, called Young Religious Convention. The programme that discussed the theme, “Consecrated Life 2020″ is first of a series of such programme CRI units across India plans to prepare young Religious for modern India.

The participants of Kochi programme studied, listened and reflected on the paschal mystery of religious life in order to create a common vision for the next decade, and plan out strategies to reach there. Centuries ago missioners initiated and led modern education and health care facilities in several parts of India. Missioners led such facilities until some decades ago when commercial institutions began to appear and dominate. However, educating the poor and caring for the abandoned continues to be the domain of Christian missioners. Religious have been venturing into “frontier missions” seeking to be relevant to their situations.

The programme reflected on the historical process of changes in religious life, the fast changing time, the concerns and challenges of Kerala, the vision and goals for Consecrated life in 2020 and strategies to realize the same. The young Religious expressed their willingness to move into leadership positions to realize the dream of a vibrant religious life in the years to come (cathnewsindia.com).

Pakistan: Christians welcome Anti-terrorism Force

Christian groups have welcomed a Pakistan government announcement of a task force to fight terrorism and a national conference of political parties and civil and religious organizations on the issue. The move comes in the wake of the July 1 bombing of a Sufi temple in Lahore. Fides sources in the Christian community in the country say that religious minorities have welcomed the government initiative and the Christians of Pakistan (overall 2.5% of the population) have announced a special prayer campaign called “Pray for Pakistan.”

The decision to deal more firmly with the emergency of terrorism was the object of debate in a national security summit convened by Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani. The Executive will enact a “National Counter Terrorism Authority” (NACTA), to assist the Government in formulating short and long term strategies against the attacks that continue to disfigure the country.” The government hopes to find a national consensus among political and religious forces,” said Information Minister, Qaman Zaman Kaira, also announcing the “National Anti-Terrorism Conference.”

Meanwhile, 23 terrorist groups have been banned by the authorities of the Punjab province of East Pakistan, where terrorist cells are lurking and acting. The government, note Fides sources, aims to stem terrorism on the one hand reinforcing the commitment of the security and intelligence forces, on the other broadening the popular base of consensus in society, uniting all the “healthy” forces of “civil and democratic society in this effort.”

Christian communities in the country have decided to support these efforts through prayer. A national campaign called “Pray for Pakistan” has been launched. Christians, note Fides sources, “will pray for love, peace, harmony, and an end to the evil of terrorism and extremism.” The initiative, launched by some Protestant churches and Christian organizations, is being promoted on an ecumenical level, gaining followers from many faith communities of all denominations, especially young people (cathnewsasia.com).

Philippines: A Handwritten Bible in Different Languages to unite Filipino Christians

Filipino Catholics and Protestants are working together to create a handwritten Bible, to spread love for the Word of God and promote "Bayanihan" or brotherhood between Christians. The project called "May They Be One Bible" was launched this week by the Philippine Bishops Conference. Each verse will be written by representatives of Protestant churches, Catholic Church, and sectors of civil society. Even the Pope will participate in drafting the text by writing the verse 1.1 of Genesis and the Apocalypse 22:21. "The 35,656 verses of the 78 books of the Bible will be written by hand by representatives of various sectors like the Church, people of the countryside and cities, migrant workers, youth, farmers, fishermen, government officials, Senate and Congress, schools and indigenous peoples". The handwritten Bible will have two columns, one devoted to the English version, the other will host the second edition of the eight native languages in the country (asianews.it).

Bangladesh: Young People Promote Development

A Catholic youth club is paving the way for socio-economic advancement in northeastern Bangladesh. In 2006, a group of young Catholics led by Pranjol Sangma, founded Sundare (“Rainbow” in the local language) Youth Club in Mariamnagar parish, in the predominantly Garo tribal Mymensingh diocese. Since then, the club has battled drug and alcohol addiction, launched development projects and organized a range of sporting and cultural programmes. “We have already started the process of setting up a co-operative credit union and our next plan is to set up an education centre and a library,” Sangma said (ucanews.com).

Myanmar: Bishop advocates Eco-spirituality

Bishop Nicholas Mang Thang of Hakha is well known in the Catholic Church and among other Christian denominations for championing agricultural and ecological issues. The 67-year-old prelate has promoted the idea of eco-spirituality for the past 13 years and one of his dreams is to restore a deforested range of hills in northwestern Chin state to its former glory. Bishop Mang Thang is already very active in ecology in Hakha diocese. He runs the agriculture commission (food security) and has bought up many plots of land to be used for planting crops and trees. He is in charge of the Episcopal Commissions for Evangelization, for Catechesis and Catechists, and for Social Development (ucanews.com).

India: Empowerment is Answer to Patriarchy’

A feminist approach and mutually-respectful cross-cultural consciousness are necessary to eliminate patriarchy in the Church, said Sr. Shalini, who belongs to Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. “Women, including sisters, have internalised the system. Most women accept male dominance,” she said. “We exclude ourselves from positions of responsibility and power. I believe we need to address the issue with a broader vision. We cannot narrow it only to the Church,” she said stressing patriarchy exists in the Church as it exists in society. She said the need is to empower the powerless; connect with people at the grassroots– the poor, tribal and dalit (oppressed) people. “We need to introduce a paradigm of solidarity and work toward the “discipleship of equality” (ucanews.com).

India: Seminary gets First Woman Professor

India’s first Catholic woman to become a fulltime seminary professor says she would work to present the Bible in “a new and meaningful” way. Assumption Sister Rekha Chennattu was appointed professor of Sacred Scripture in Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth (JDV), a major Indian seminary based in Pune, India. Her appointment was confirmed mid-June by the Congregation for Catholic Education with the approval of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Sr. Rekha joined the seminary faculty to lecture on Scripture in 1996. She has a Licentiate in Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome, and holds a doctorate in Biblical Studies from the Catholic University of America, Washington D.C. She is also the first woman to head the Department of Scriptural Studies at JDV. JDV president Fr. Job Kozhamthadam said that her presence “will bring in the much needed feminine dimension into theological” teaching and make seminarians more “gender sensitive” (news@religiousindia.org).

India: Communists See Politics in Bishops’ Circular

Catholic bishops in Kerala have issued a pastoral letter asking people to vote for “God-fearing” candidates, which a state minister says was bishops’ interference in politics. It was read out in parishes across the state on Sunday. The circular asked people not to get duped by independent candidates often put up by parties to garner votes outside their political sphere of influence.

Communist circles saw the reference to “independents” as an allusion to their fielding non-party nominees, especially from the Christian community, in an effort to get Christian votes. Communist leaders were quick to react to the circular dubbing it as a “politically prejudiced” move to help anti-Left forces and secure the narrow interests of the church establishment. Ever since the LDF Government came to power four years ago, the Catholic Church had repeatedly come out against its policies, especially those pertaining to the education sector (dailynews@cathnewsindia.com).

India: Belgians Retrace Tribal Missionary’s Route

Students and teachers from a Belgian minor seminary which trained the first missionary to India’s tribal people, Fr. Constant Lievens, are retracing the steps of the Flemish pioneer. However, the seminary in Roeselare, Belgium now has only one priest and no longer teaches theology. These revelations were made by a group of 22 students and three teachers from the same school, which arrived in India in an effort to study the life, work and contributions of Lievens in India. “This is the third group of young students who volunteered to come to India and see how the Jesuit devoted his life to the cause of poor people in a distant country,” group leader Filip Vandevelde said. Now Belgium is looking to India for priests to spread the good news of Jesus in their country, he added.

The team that arrived through the same route that Lievens once followed in 1885, when he came to Chotanagpur as a missionary after a brief stay in Kolkata, has decided to visit different villages of Jharkhand in the next 12 days wherever Lievens worked. “We know that he stayed in Chotanagpur for seven years and purchased one horse every year. He formed a group of eminent lawyers and fought for the land rights of tribals who were being deprived of their rights by the then landlords,” Vandevelde said. Jesuit missionary in India, Aurel Brys, explained that the idea is cultural exchange between the two countries. “Recently, a batch of students from St Xavier’s school went on a fortnight-long visit to Belgium and we welcomed students from there to visit India,” he said (dailynews@cathnewsasia.com).

II. NEWS

India: Founder – Director of Ishvani Kendra Remembered

It is 10 years since the Founder – Director of Ishvani Kendra Rev. Fr. Engelbert Zeitler SVD expired, leaving behind the great legacy of this National Institute of Missiology and Communications, which he founded in the year 1976. Ishvani Kendra is ever grateful to this visionary and his memory is kept alive through Memorial Lectures and Essay Competition every year. On his 11th death anniversary, which was on 22nd July, Swami Sachidananda Bharathi DCP, founder of ‘Disciples of Christ for Peace’ and Archarya of Dharma Bharathi Ashram at Kochi, delivered a lecture on the topic, ‘An Indian Face of the Christian Faith’. Fr. Francis X. D’Sa SJ, the director of the Institute for the Study of Religion Chaired the session, responded to the lecture and conducted the discussion.

The topic for this year’s Essay Competition is ‘Church and Civil Society: Political Advocacy as Mission to Birth a more Just Humanity’. We witness in society very many instances of violence, communalism, communal politics, corruption, casteism, inequality and injustice in almost all sectors. It is time for the Church in this context to proactively engage the forces that perpetuate the social ills which are systemic and structural.

Philippines: IACM Conference and Assembly

The fourth International Association of Catholic Missiologists’ (IACM) Conference and Assembly will take place from July 27-2 August, 2010 at St. Scholastica’s Center for Spirituality, Tagaytay City, Philippines. The theme is: “New Life in Jesus in the Aeropagus of a Globalized World" - (cf. Acts. 17, 22): Proclamation and Witness, Dialogue and Religions, Religious and Secular Fundamentalism, Human Rights and Eco-justice, Indigenous Peoples. There will be ten Continental Papers. But each participant is expected to present a paper on one of the sub-themes (stanis50@hotmail.com).

India: Bible for Everyone under Bhopal Plan

Bhopal Archdiocese has launched a project to ensure all its faithful has a personal copy of the Bible to embolden them to give “daily witness” in the Hindu dominated area. Under the “Bible 4 U” programme, Bhopal Archdiocese plans to supply a Hindi version of the New Testament to all its 15,000 Catholics, and the complete Bible to every Catholic family. Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal said that distribution would be completed this month. The Bibles are free, but those willing to make contributions can do so, he said (ucanews.com).

US: Catholics to protest Mother Teresa Snub

Catholics plan a rally outside New York’s Empire State Building on August 26, Blessed Teresa of Kolkata’s 100th birthday, to protest its owner’s refusal to honour her with a display of coloured lights. Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, asked the owner, Anthony Malkin, to change the colours of the 180 lights outside the building to blue and white on that day to honour the occasion. These are the colours on the cotton saris worn by nuns from Blessed Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity congregation. In an open letter on the issue, Donohue says he was “stunned when I learned my request to honour Mother Teresa was denied.” He pointed out that, by contrast, the US Postal Service is issuing a commemorative stamp. At least 6,000 people have signed a protest petition (ucanews.com).

Thailand: Bishops Set for Asian Inter-religious Talks

The Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue is organising a meeting in Thailand with its Asian members and consultants. The meeting is scheduled for July 12-18 at Baan Phu Waan Pastoral Center in Sam Phran, outside Bangkok. Thirty-six Church officials, mainly bishops, are expected to participate, including council president Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran. The bishops — from Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Vietnam — are mostly heads of the Episcopal Commissions of Inter-religious Dialogue in their own countries. They are scheduled to report on three areas of dialogue in their own countries: “Christian Dialogue with Buddhists, Taoists, Confucianists and Shintoists,” “Christian Dialogue with Hindus, Sikhs and Jains,” and “Dialogue with Muslims” (ucanews.com).

India: National Colloquium on “Indian Pluralism and Solidarity for a more Just Humanity”

Ishvani Kendra is organizing a National Colloquium from 6-8 January 2011, to respond adequately to the threat of justice and peace in the context of violence by communal forces. The growth of communal divisive politics is a danger to the democracy and pluralistic character of India. Hence, the need of the hour is to bring together Christian leaders and like minded people across religions to deliberate and work out action plans to combat communal forces. The participants consist of bishops, theologians, religious superiors, social activists, Christian lay leaders and leaders of other faiths, who have directly responded to communal violence. The Key-note Address on the theme is expected to be delivered by His Excellency, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam - Ex-President of India

III. REFLECTION

“Help us Help them” by Fr. Dominic Emmanuel SVD

Even as the debate on how exactly to tackle the menace of Maoist/Naxalite violence keeps raging within the government on the one hand, and in the media- which also occasionally allows the voice of the Maoist sympathizers- on the other, more and more innocent lives are being lost. One wonders where the ‘buck’ will finally stop.

Last month when the Congress President Mrs. Sonia Gandhi wrote in the Congress mouthpiece – Sandesh - that “The rise of Naxalism is a reflection of the need for our development initiatives to reach the grassroots, especially in our most backward districts. This is why our government is putting in place more targeted development schemes for our most backward districts", it seemed clear where the debate would finally rest. No one doubted her intentions.

Unfortunately, two days after her observations, the Maoists struck again, this time a line bus carrying civilians, though several special police officers (SPO) had boarded it too. The bus was blown up in the same area where 75 CRPF personnel had previously lost their lives when their convoy was attacked. The toll this time was 50. Following the dastardly incident, while sympathizers found it difficult to come to the Maoists’ defence, the government still dithered on the exact course of action it should take. This brought a new angle to the debate.

The new debate was not centred only on whether to take the help of army or about air-strikes/support etc, but about a two-pronged approach to the problem. This would include development as a long-term measure and military/police action as a short term measure to contain violence.

What is, however, missing in the current debate is the role of civil society and NGOs as a third force- going beyond writing articles or shouting their lungs off in television studios to more concrete action at the grassroots.

Social scientist Professor Kancha Ilaiah, decrying the recent Maoist violence, wrote in newspaper article that “about 50 years ago, the tribals of this region [North East] were as illiterate as those of Dandakaranya. But today Mizoram has 95 per cent literacy (more than Kerala), Manipur has 68.87 per cent, Meghalaya 63.31 per cent and Nagaland 66.11 per cent….This educational development has to be seen in the background of the committed activities of missionaries. They averted violent struggles and at the same time, ensured the uplift of tribals. It was a slow but sure process of development and empowerment”.

I know I am treading on hazardous ground and offering dynamite to the right-wing RSS, VHP and Bajrangdal to pounce on me, saying that in the states mentioned above, the majority are now Christians- repeating the same old stereotype, of missionaries being out to ‘convert’ the gullible masses.

Why I still dare write it is because I know as well as they do that their allegations are not all true. Rather than entering into a debate and reiterating what the missionaries have been saying ad nauseam that the RSS and its front organizations- many of them involved in Kandhamal-type of violence- need not worry about the work of Christians as three consecutive censuses in India have clearly registered a slow but sure decline in the Christian community’s number here. Nor is there a single case proved so far of any conversion that goes contrary to the provision of the Constitution.

The work of education begun by Francis Xavier and the Jesuits in Sixteenth Century in Goa, and continued later in the Eighteenth Century by William Carey in Bengal, and which goes on to this day, has been all for the development of the subcontinent- and after Independence for the poor and backward classes of India. If there were conversions, as indeed there were, and will continue to be, then it was by those who gave them human dignity and made them stand for their own fundamental human rights.

If the RSS, VHP, Bajrangdal and other outfits, instead of being paranoid about the Christians’ work for the poor, would, as Archbishop Vincent M. Concessao of Delhi keeps saying, “please join hands with us to work for the education and development of the Dalits and the poor”, they would not only help in eliminating the menace of Maoist violence but they would also come to know the truth about religious conversions.

Thus while the government decides on what action is to be taken, hopefully avoiding bloodshed on both sides, the need of the hour is for all to come together and join hands to free those areas not only of Maoist/Naxal violence but also provide freedom to our tribals from hunger, disease and darkness of ignorance which keeps them under-developed and out of the main stream. And what should stop us from working together? (frdominic@gmail.com).

IV. BOOK-REVIEW

1. Longchar, Wati A., and R. Christopher Rajkumar (eds.): Embracing the Inclusive Community: A Disability Perspective, Bangalore: BTESSC/SATHRI, NCCI SCEPTRE, 2010, pp. 127.

The Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network considers this publication, which is the outcome of a colloquium, a vital resource in stimulating theological discourse at both the ecclesiological and academic level on the previously ignored subject on Disability and the Church. This theme was chosen not only to create awareness and integrate disability concerns as part of doctoral research and consequent mission work, but also to serve as teacher’s pedagogy and hopes that this book will give new perspectives on doing theology and ministry, and also serve as a resource material for theological students.

2. Berry, Jan: Ritual Making Women: Shaping Rites for Changing Lives, Oakville, London: Equinox, 2009, pp.257. ISBN 978-1-84553-414-1 (hbk), 978-1-84553-415-8 (pbk).

This book looks at the way in which women’s making of ritual has emerged from the rapidly developing field of women’s spirituality and theology. Berry uses ethnographic material drawn from her experience of working with individuals and groups to show how the construction of ritual is a practice that uses story making and embodied action to empower women. She includes stories of women who have created or participated in their own rituals to mark significant changes and transition in their lives, and reflects on these in the light of ritual theory, social anthropology and gender studies to show that the making of ritual for women is a transformative process that empowers them in constructing identity and agency. Drawing from both Christian feminist theology and broader understandings of spirituality, women construct their own understanding of God/Goddess through the rituals they enact.

3. George, K. M.: Christianity in India through the Centuries, Hyderabad: Authentic Books, 2009, pp. 381. ISBN 978-81-7362-786-6 (pbk) Rs. 249/-

Christianity has its roots in the East. The apostles took up with courage and conviction the challenge and responsibility to ‘go into all the world and preach the gospel everywhere’. The teachings of Jesus reached well beyond the Jews, transforming the moral and spiritual life of individuals of different classes and races. The increasing mobility of people and the growth of cosmopolitanism have also encouraged the expansion of Christianity. This book starts with the global scenario of the Indian Church in the early days of Christianity, deals with the impact of Indian Christianity on society and finally emphasizes the challenges for the Indian Church of the 21st century.

4. Carrin, Marine and Harald Tambs-Lyche: An Encounter of Peripheries: Santals, Missionaries, and their Changing Worlds, 1867-1900, New Delhi: Manohar, 2008, pp. 386. ISBN 81-7304-755-3 (hbk). Rs. 975/-.

This book partakes of the post-colonial reassessment of 19th century, where agency is seen to lie, not just with the colonizing centre, but also with the colonized periphery. Here, missionaries from a peripheral part of Europe – including a Norway striving to decolonize itself – try to convert the Santals, an Indian tribe, which had rebelled against the intruding colonial order. Provincializing the European origins of the missionaries, the authors try to explore the Santal response.

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)
  4. LED BY THE SPIRIT: RENEWAL FOR EVANGELIZING MISSION (01-06 November)
  5. EMPOWERING SKILLS IN FORMATION (November 15-11 December)

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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