Mar George Alencherry Elected Major Arch Bishop of Syro-Malabar Church

May 28, 2011 by  
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Mar George Allencherry

Mar George Allencherry

Kochi, Kerala, 26 May 2011: “The CSF hails the election of Mar George Allencherry and looks forward to an era of greater collaboration between the various rites, denominations and even between religions, since Kerala is a state, marked by unity in diversity”, said Joseph Dias, The CSF general secretary.

How does Major Archbishop George Alencherry feel being the first elected Asian Church leader?

“I feel it is part of the plan of God for this individual Church. I happened to be the instrument for that plan,” the prelate said, a day after his election as the leader of the larger of India’s Oriental Catholic rites. Although Church observers and media groups described him as the dark horse in the race, the new leader says he was prepared for the post as other bishops had recently given him enough indication for him to believe he could be elected. “The surprise was lessened because other bishops used to tell me to accept the post if such a call comes from God. So, I was reflecting on their friendly advice,” the 66-year-old prelate said. He is convinced he has a special mission and he will fulfill it with the cooperation of bishops of his Church as well those in Latin and Syro-Malankara Churches that make up the Catholic Church in India. Major Archbishop Alencherry says his priority is to collaborate with other Churches and religions for the welfare of all people in the country. He would also strive for unity and communion within his Church so that it can take up “effective evangelization” works within India and in other mission countries. He regrets, however, that his Church cannot exercise its right to evangelize because Rome has restricted its jurisdiction to Kerala, the southern Indian state where it is based.

His election indicates divine intervention. He is simple… and not a man of confrontation. The Syro-Malabar Church needs a person like him to guide the Church in modern times,” said Babu Paul, a theologian and expert on Church affairs. Bishop Alencherry emerged as the “dark horse” as he was not even among the probables, he said. Sebastian Paul, lawyer and former Member of Parliament, said Bishop Alencherry’s election “surprised us all.” He said: “I’ve no doubt that he emerged as a dark horse. Nobody thought about him till he was elected. Most of us were expecting Curia Bishop and Administrator Bosco Puthur would be elected.” Several television channels in Kerala state, where the Church is based, flashed Bishop Puthur as the winner, prior to the official announcement, he said.

Thuckalay Bishop George Alencherry has been named the new Major Arch Bishop of the Syro-Malabar Church. Born on 19 April 1945 at Thuruthy in Changanassery, Alancherry was ordained priest on 18 December 1972. Alancherry who graduated in economics from the Kerala University with second rank in 1965 also came out with flying colours from of the the Pontifical Theological Institute, Alwaye where he completed his Masters in Theology with a first rank. Alencherry also has a D.S.E.B. and D.Th. conjointly from Sorbonne University and Institut Caholique de Paris, France in 1986. He was ordained the bishop of Thuckalay on 2 February 1997.

 The Syro-Malabar Church has for the first time elected a new head. The Kerala-based Oriental Catholic rite, which claims its origin to St. Thomas the Apostle, elected Bishop George Alencherry of Thuckalay as its Major Archbishop May 26. The newly appointed bishop said his services will be for all people of India. He stressed inter-rite relations, inter-faith harmony and ecumenism. The Syro-Malabar Church along with the other Oriental rite Syro-Malankara Church and the Latin rite make up the Catholic Church in India. Bishop Alencherry, 66, succeeds Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, who headed the Church. The 84-year-old cardinal died April 1 after a prolonged heart ailment. Pope John Paul II had appointed Cardinal Vithayathil its Major Archbishop in 1999.

Bishop Alencherry, however, is the first head to be elected by the Oriental Church’s synod. The election is part of the new administrative system put in place within the Syro-Malabar Church after Pope John Paul II made it a Major Archiepiscopal Church in 1992. With that elevation the pope appointed Cardinal Antony Padiyara as its first Major Archbishop. However, the pope reserved the powers to appoint the major archbishop and bishops. The Vatican in 2004 granted full administrative powers to the Church, including the power to elect bishops. The synod, following Syro-Malabar Church rules, met at its headquarters in Kochi to elect a new leader. The synod will conclude on May 29. He is currently the secretary of the Syro-Malabar Synod and also the chairman of the Synodal Commission for Catechesis.

Orissa: False Accusations of Conversion to Oppress Tribals

May 27, 2011 by  
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Tribal christians in Orissa prayingBhubaneswar, Orissa, 27 May 2011 (AsiaNews): Two Christian lawyers in Orissa have reported false allegations of conversion from Hinduism in the village of Bada Saara Sahi, near Khurda. On May 8, three men were arrested on charges of practicing forced conversions in the village. While another 55 people were arrested on 22 and 23 May in episodes related to the first event. The two lawyers, Manas Ranjan, human rights activist, and Rasmi Ranjan Jena, have conducted an investigation on the spot. Accusations of forced conversion or proselytism are often used by militant Hindu organizations against Christians, who are accused of attempting to increase their numbers through bribes, favours, and charitable aid.

The Catholic bishops have challenged these accusations many times demanding evidence of these forced conversions, but so far no facts have been presented. Campaigns against forced conversions, however, are behind many episodes of anti-Christian violence, as well as the pogrom against Christian institutions in Orissa in 2007 and 2008. The indictment, filed by Kailash Pradhan, is as follows: those arrested, along with others, are charged with trying to convince the plaintiff and others to abandon the worship of Hindu gods and goddesses, and to embrace another, non specified, religion. All the defendants are tribal, and considered “untouchable.” The two lawyers have spoken with them and other people of the village.

“There is anger on their part to the natural rule of untouchability. They do not wish to be part of the Hindu religion, but at the same time said they have not converted to any religion. They try to influence other members of their community to oppose the caste system, but they will not convert anyone to another religion, “say the two lawyers. The accused are part of an anti-caste organisation, the “Samajika Nyaya Macha”, or “Manvabadi. The lawyers also spoke with a police official in Khurda, who defined the allegations of conversion as “false and frivolous” and stated that “there is no involvement of any religious group in the incident.” The two lawyers conclude that the complaints come from members of the upper castes, who are opposed to the struggle of the tribals and untouchables against discrimination. But the two Christian lawyers also suggest the role played here by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, national voluntary organization), the militant movement of the radicals be investigated.

Algerian Police Orders Closure of All Churches

May 27, 2011 by  
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Algerian ChristiansAlgerian Christians have appealed for urgent prayer after the police ordered the closure of churches across the country “once and for all”.

The head of the Algerian Protestant Church Association (EPA) – to which the majority of Algerian churches belong – received a notice, dated 22 May, from a High Police Commissioner informing him that a decision had been made to close down all Christian places of worship throughout the country that are not designated for religious purposes.

Most church buildings have not been officially designated because it has proved impossible for them to obtain registration from the authorities following stringent regulations introduced in 2006, which were designed to restrict the religious activity of non-Muslims.

The closure order applies to existing church buildings and those under construction. The High Commissioner threatened “severe consequences and punishments” for violation of the order.

Church clampdown

Algeria is overwhelmingly Muslim; there are around 60,000 Christians in the country, almost all of them converts from Islam. Christians enjoyed six years of relative religious freedom following the end of the civil war in 2000, but the authorities have been clamping down on their activities since the new regulations were introduced.

These required churches to register with a National Commission set up specifically for this purpose, but numerous applications have been met with no response. Churches have been subjected to sporadic closures and police clampdowns on their unregistered activities.

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, said:

This closure order is the latest and most worrying development in what appears to be a systematic campaign by the authorities to eradicate Christianity in Algeria. Many churches will be driven underground with believers denied the right to practise their faith freely. But praise God that, despite the authorities’ best efforts, the Church in Algeria is growing.

Barnabas Fund supports a number of projects in Algeria including pastors’ training and support, a church-based nursery for Christian children and a theological institute. We have also supported a leadership and discipleship training school and small business initiatives for Christians.

Algerian Christians have made the following prayer requests:

  • “May the Lord give wisdom to the church leaders how to deal with this new wave of persecution. The vast majority of the churches are affected by this order.
  • For the Lord to take away the spirit of fear and give His Spirit of power, love and self control, to stand firm against the threats of the authorities. (2 Timothy 1:7)
  • For the abolition of the March 2006 ordinances.
  • That the Church will be allowed to meet and worship in full freedom.
  • May our Lord Jesus manifest powerfully His salvation and glorious victory against the evil one in this situation. Amen!”
 

– Barnabas Team

Politicians Assure Christians of Burial Land

May 27, 2011 by  
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Politicians assure Christians of burial landKathmandu, Nepal, 25, May 2011: More than a thousand Christians defied an ongoing general strike yesterday to attend a national convention in Kathmandu of the “Christian advisory committee for the New Constitution.” Among the topics was the result of a 40-day protest held last month in the capital over the issue of giving burial land to Christians. Group vice president Pastor Isu Jung Karki reminded the meeting that members of the government had visited the protesters and promised that land would be identified for burial purposes for the Christian community. “So we are feeling, for the first time, we are first class citizens and we are heard.”

Udaya Sumsher Rana, constitutional assembly member and Congress Party representative, said: “Until minorities are not protected no peace can come to Nepal. I won my elections from the very place in Lalitpur district where you have identified land to be allotted to you. I will help you to use it as soon as possible.” Laxmi Pariyar, constitutional assembly member and the only Christian in parliament, said she had joined in the protest in its late stages. She said it was only a matter of time before burial land would be allotted and added “we learned a lot as we protested.”

Secretary of the Christian Advisory committee Pastor Chari Bahadur Gahatraj told the meeting the Chief district officer of Lalitpur (in southern Kathmandu) was interacting with locals so the identified land in Badikhel could be handed over to the Christians. Gahatraj said: “Once we get this land, then the allotment of lands in other 75 districts of Nepal can move ahead.”

– ucan

Ecumenical Response Requested Communal Violence Bill

May 27, 2011 by  
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Communal Violence BillDelhi, 26 May, 2011: The National Advisory Council (NAC) has brought out a draft Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill, 2011 prepared by its Working Group.  The NAC has decided to put the draft Bill in public domain.  The NAC expects citizens to send their comments and suggestions on or before 4th June 2011. The draft bill has also been sent to the Union Home and Law ministries for their comments. This draft bill has been brought in the context of Communal Violence in Gujarat in 2002 and anti-Christian Violence in Kandhamal in Orissa. The civil Society groups and religious minorities have been demanding a strong law to prevent mass violence against minorities.

 Key Guiding Principles at a Glance

• Broaden title and applicability of the law to include ‘communal & sectarian violence’
• Shift from empowering the State, to seeking action & accountability of State/public officials
• Basic framework of law must not rest on declaration of “disturbed areas”
• Need for an independent National Authority to ensure effective compliance with the law, without disturbing the federal structure.
• Ensure accountability & criminal liability of public officials for acts of omission & commission, for preventing or controlling communal & sectarian violence, or extending timely and adequate rescue, relief and rehabilitation
• Incorporate the doctrines of Command & Superior responsibility
• Definition of communal & sectarian violence to cover both isolated incidents as well as mass crimes, against people based on religious, caste, linguistic, regional and other identities.
• Need to specifically define and include new crimes/offences including sexual assault, enforced disappearances, torture, long-lasting social & economic boycott, and genocide, among others
• Need to remove prior sanction requirement for Hate Speech (Sec. 153A & 153B – IPC)
• Statutory obligation on government to lay down national standards for the entire spectrum of provisions for victims – including rescue, relief, compensation, rehabilitation, resettlement, restitution, reparation and recognizing the rights of internally displaced persons.
• Implementation according to the norms in point 10 to be a statutory obligation under this law
• Compensation amounts to be specified in terms of national norms under the law, and revised every 3 yrs
• Need for amendments in CrPC and Indian Evidence Act to meet extraordinary circumstance of communal & sectarian violence to protect victims’ rights
• Specific provisions for victim-witness rights to be made under this law
 
The new Draft Bill can be downloaded fromhttp://www.nac.nic.in/pdf/pctvb_amended.pdf For more information on the Bill please visit www.nac.nic.in

Suggestions on this Working Group Draft may be sent by 4 June 2011 towgcvb@nac.nic.in  or by post to Secretary, National Advisory Council, 2 Motilal Nehru Place, Akbar Road, New Delhi – 110 011

The National Council of Churches in India encourages Member Churches, other constituent bodies and individuals to send their comments and/or feedback to the NAC on or before 4th June, 2011.  Please also mark a copy to the National Council of Churches in India ncci@nccindia.in and samncci@gmail.com so that we can follow up with National Advisory Council.

– NCCI Commission on Policy, Governance and Public Witness
 

Will Communal Violence Bill be an Effective Tool ?
 
Bhopal, 26 May, 2011: Even though people of this country had to wait long to find solutions to the centuries old communal violence history of India, the proposed Bill gives hope to the Nation. The Indian history is smeared with sporadic violence but large scale communal violence began in 1784 with the Mangalore Treaty signed between Tippu Sultan and the British East India Company. Tippu Sultan carried out continous persecutions of Christians and Hindus for over a decade. The violence after the forced partition of India on communal lines, are many – The anti-sikh riots in 1984,  the large scale violence that followed the Rath Yathra of L K Advani and the Babari Masjid demolition in 1992 , intermittent uprising of violence against the linguistic minorities, Gujarat violence in 2002 and the Kandhmal communal violence in 2008 etc. These have all given a wide spectrum to the makers of the Bill, aimed at addressing not just victims of communal riots, but also dalits, tribals, linguistic minorities or any community that is in a minority in a particular region who are vulnerable to attack by more powerful members of society.
 
The 1992 communal violence, besides the growth and capturing of power by BJP, has encouraged political parties to enter into a secret understanding with the fundamental organizations. The extended influences of fundamental organizations have forced the political organizations to observe silence during communal clashes. We need to see the Bill against this back ground. The proposed Bill gives the Centre, power to intervene in cases of communal or targeted violence by invoking a provision in Article 355 of the Constitution that states, “It shall be the duty of the Union to protect every state against external aggression and internal disturbance and ensure the government of every state is carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.”
 
The Bill defines communal and targeted violence as “any act or series of acts, whether spontaneous or planned, resulting in injury or harm to the person and or property, knowingly directed against any person by virtue of his or her membership of any group, which destroys the secular fabric of the nation….” In Indian law, so far, only the SC and ST Atrocity Act recognises that certain groups can be targeted. The features of the Bill includes setting up a National Authority for Communal Harmony, Justice and Reparation that will ensure national standards for the entire spectrum of provisions for victims, including rescue, relief, compensation, rehabilitation, resettlement, restitution, reparation and recognizing the rights of internally displaced persons. The National Authority that works as independent body will have the power to approach even the highest court of law to secure orders and the governments would have to respond to its reports within a period of one month. It has also provisions to deal with hostile environment like economic boycott, denial of public services, and forced migration etc. The national and state authorities will be empowered to take suo motu action to quell communal violence.   
 
The National Authority will have seven members of which at least four will be women, and no more than two can be retired civil servants and thus it provide greater space for civil society members. A specific feature is that it also provides provision to punish the head of a communal organisation for the acts committed by the foot soldiers, dereliction of duty by officials including the chain of administrators and political persons like Chief Ministers etc. The civil society activists see this Bill as the effective step to enforce the law, while those in government perceive it as a way of usurping its powers and this controversy even led to several extensions, and exit of members of its drafting and advisory committees. The Babus accused civil society activists of trying to disempower the existing administrative and justice mechanisms, but the goodwill of people persisted. Taking note of the opinions of different groups, we need to wait and see how this Bill will be used by the successive Governments to deal with communal and sectarian violence.
 
– Fr. Anand Muttungal

Open Letter To Annaji

May 26, 2011 by  
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Open Letter To AnnajiDear Annaji,

Welcome to Gujarat – to you, Arvind Kejriwal and Swami Agnivesh,

At the outset, we sincerely commend you and the others for the stand against corruption in India. In December 2010, when Swami Agnivesh was visiting us, we readily accepted to support this campaign because corruption seems to have become a way of life for many, in most parts of the country.
 
Now that you are in Gujarat, we hope that you will make a sincere effort to see how corruption has not only become institutionalized, but in fact, has entered our system in such a big way that everything seems to be ‘alright’ as long as there are a few who reap the “benefits” of a so-called “development model”. We therefore invite you to look closely (among other things) into

1. The nexus between the politicians and the corporate / industrial sector
Be it in the urban or in the rural areas, the poor and the marginalized have literally no say as the corporate houses manage to steam-roll their way. A classic case which has been flaunted all over is about one big corporate house getting all its permissions in a few days. Does the Gujarat Government have an industrial policy? Will a small entrepreneur be treated the same way? Or is it the big bucks / big guys that matter here?

2. The plight of the victims of development-induced displacement
The poor, very specially the slum dwellers in the urban areas and adivasis have been displaced because of so-called “development”. The River Front Development programme in Ahmedabad is an example of how the poor are uprooted overnight. Adivasis, displaced by the Narmada Dam are still struggling for justice and compensation. Your colleague Medha Patkar can furnish you substantial data on this. Besides, the small farmers of Mahuva will surely tell you about their situation.

3. The trigger-happy policeman of Gujarat
Gujarat is famous for its trigger-happy policemen. For several years, encounter deaths seem to become the “in-thing”. The powerful industrial / mining lobbies play a significant role in this. Some of the policemen (now in jail) have amassed unbelievable wealth because of their “encounter speciality”. Fortunately, because of civil society and judicial interventions, there has been a halt to it, but the fact remains, that these encounter deaths were because of the nexus between the police and powerful vested interest.

4. The endemic corruption which destroys, pollutes our environment
Gujarat pays scant attention to the environment (an RTI activist Amit Jethawa was killed because he took on the vested interests who were destroying the Gir forests). There is enough of data showing that chemical and pharmaceutical companies pollute several of the rivers / towns of the State very specially Narmada, the estuary in the Gulf of Khambhat; Vapi and Nandesari. This is obviously done with a total connivance of the Gujarat Government.

5. The situation of the adivasis
The State has a sizeable number of adivasis. These have been systematically denied forest lands which are rightfully theirs. It is common knowledge that the tribals continue to be victims of exploitation and at the mercy of Government officials. Adivasis in this State continue to be denied their rights to the forest lands.

6. Government programmes not reaching the poor
It is also common knowledge that several from the Government are involved in plenty of scams. The Sujalam Sufalam scam, the ‘MGNREGS’ scam and the Fisheries scam are just at the tip of the iceberg. In order to get things done or for that matter-to get a job or a plum-posting, people certainly have to pay hefty sums. The scams here run unto crores of rupees.

7. Communalism in Gujarat
To assume that communalism has nothing to do with corruption in Gujarat is, not being able to read a reality! The hegemony perpetuated on the minorities, by the Government and some others is a moot-point of how corrupt our system has become! The victim survivors of the Gujarat Carnage of 2002 are still denied justice and even today adequate compensation is not given to them. There are enough of instances of how minorities are systematically targeted through subtle and not-so subtle ways and denied access to opportunities and privileges which are rightfully theirs. Those who take a stand on behalf of these victims are consistently hounded, intimidated, harassed… and even framed!

Dear Annaji and your colleagues, what we present to you is just a tiny bit of the reality which has gripped the State for the last many years. It is true that plenty of aggressive propaganda has perhaps shown things in a different light. We also get fooled by the ‘cosmeticization of society’, by some of the urban middle class who are obviously reaping the benefits. On the whole, we live in a society which thrives on myths, lies and illusions!

While we welcome you once again, we humbly request you to open your eyes to the reality here in Gujarat: of the poor and the marginalized, the dalits and the adivasis, the child-labourers and women who are victims of violence, the poor fisher-folk and the small farmers. They all bear the brunt of a corrupt system.

We have taken a stand and we truly appreciate your stand. Yes, let’s work together for a corruption-free Gujarat in order that we move towards a corruption-free India!

Yours sincerely,
Sd /-
Fr. Cedric Prakash sj
Director

Iraqi Christian Killed After $100,000 Ransom Demand Not Met

May 26, 2011 by  
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Ashur Yacob Issa's decapitated body was found dumped

Ashur Yacob Issa's decapitated body was found dumped

A 29-year-old Iraqi Christian was kidnapped and brutally murdered after his family failed to pay the $100,000 ransom demanded by his abductors. The decapitated body of Ashur Yacob Issa, a construction worker, was found dumped in Kirkuk, northern Iraq, last Monday morning (16 May). The husband and father had been captured late Friday night (13 May) and had clearly been subjected to extensive torture by his attackers. The kidnappers contacted Ashur’s family the day after his disappearance, demanding a $100,000 ransom for his release. But the family could not pay the hefty sum.

A senior Iraqi church leader, who suspected that radical Islamists were behind the crime, said:

The murder was meant to intimidate Christians so that in the future they will more readily pay ransom demands.

He said that since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq up to 573 Christians have been killed in religiously and politically motivated attacks, and that 66 churches have been attacked or bombed as well as three Christian centres and a church-run orphanage. Christians have increasingly been the target of threats, bombings, killing, kidnapping and rape since the first Gulf War in 1990-1, when they inadvertently became associated with the Western adversaries.

The murder of Ashur Yacob Issa came as a spate of deadly bombings rocked Iraq last week. A series of seven explosions ripped through Baghdad, killing at least 21 people and injuring more than 80, early Sunday morning (22 May). This followed two co-ordinated blasts in Kirkuk on 19 May that claimed 27 lives and left around 85 wounded; four Iraqi soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb south of Mosul on the same day.

As the US prepares to withdraw all its remaining troops from Iraq by the end of this year, it is feared that the country will descend further into a state of lawlessness, making attacks on Christians more likely. Anti-Christian persecution has worsened since the withdrawal of large numbers of Western forces in 2009.

– Barnabas Team

Pakistan Christian Women Kidnapped, Raped…

May 26, 2011 by  
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Pakistani Christian women praying at St. Anthony's Church in Lahore.

Pakistani Christian women praying at St. Anthony's Church in Lahore.

Islamabad, May 23, 2011 (BosNewsLife): Pakistani Christians have expressed concerns about  renewed kidnappings and abuse of women and girls by Muslims in a country still reeling from the recent assassination of a Christian government minister. Among those targeted was Sehar Naz, a 24-year-old employee with Pakistan’s State Life Insurance Corporation in Punjab province, who was recovering of her injuries Monday, May 23, after she was allegedly kidnapped and raped by a Pakistan Army officer. BosNewsLife identified her as she had openly spoken about the case with the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), an independent group “working for Christians who are persecuted because of their faith in Pakistan.”

In remarks published by CLAAS, Naz said the troubles began when she was meeting with her company’s “Area Sales Manager on April 14 when they were approached by a man who claimed to be a police officer.”

IDENTIFICATION CARDS
He allegedly said he had received a call about them and requested to see their identification cards. As she did not have her ID card with her at the time, the man took her away to his home, Naz said. She claimed she was repeatedly raped at gunpoint in different locations around the Punjab cities of Faisalabad and Lahore over a period of four days before being dumped by her kidnapper at Faisalabad train station. The army major, identified in media reports as Rana Atif, allegedly threatened to implicate her parents in a bombing if she told anyone about her ordeal. There was no response to the allegations by the Pakistan Army or the major. Police and medics have confirmed she was raped, but the alleged rapist remained at large Monday, May 23, with police saying they are still investigating the case.

TEENAGER KIDNAPPED
Naz case is no isolated incident. Earlier, news emerged that a Pakistani teenager, is being held against her will by an influential Muslim family in a village near the city of Sheikhupura in Punjab province. The 17-year-old girl,  Maryam Masih, is being held since last Tuesday, May 17, because one of her brothers allegedly eloped with a woman from the Muslim family, Christians said. Local Christians said the situation is pitting the area’s 1,800 Muslim families against the up to 1.000 Christian families in the area. The Christian family said they have been warned that involving police would lead to even more bloodshed than the carnage on Gojra town nearly two years ago. At least seven Christians were burned alive by Muslim mobs in Gojra after Christians were accused of blaspheming Islam on August 1, 2009, investigators said.

MOUNTING TENSIONS
Reports of the kidnappings come amid mounting tensions in Pakistan where Pakistani Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian in the cabinet, was shot dead by gunmen in March after publicly campaigning against the country’s controversial blasphemy laws. In January, the governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was assassinated by his own bodyguard. Bhatti praised the slain governor for speaking out against the misuse of the Islamic law of blasphemy, and told reporters the killing was “a barbaric act”. Pakistan’s Christians make up less than five percent of the country’s 175 million people and have long complained of discrimination, according to official estimates.  

With reporting by BosNewsLife correspondents in Pakistan and Stefan J. Bos.

Fr. Franklin to be new CBCI Youth Secretary. Call to Reinvent Religious Brotherhood

May 26, 2011 by  
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Call to reinvent religious brotherhoodA convention of Religious Brothers called for restructuring of religious congregations that can bring about creative ministries to address the modern needs of society. The triennial convention in Bangalore from May 18-21 was attended by 130 Religious Brothers, including most of the Major Superiors of Brothers Congregations. Celebrating the inaugural Eucharist, Archbishop Bernard Moras of Bangalore called on the Brothers to be witnesses of the core values of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Inaugurating the convention, Father Jaganathan spoke of a creative approach to life that will result in creative ministries “wherever we are”.

Brother K.M Joseph, President of CRI, felicitating the participants, pointed out to the “ups and downs of an organization” and how the convention is an opportunity to build up the Association of Brothers for our times. Patrician Brother Augustine Paul, president of National Convention of Religious Brothers of India (NARBI), in his keynote address spoke of the achievements of the organization during the last 3 years. He proposed various possibilities for creating an impressive future for the brothers in India.

Montfort Brother Paulraj, who gave an extensive paper on “reinventing religious life today”, elucidated upon “reinventing religious congregations” as a strategy. He expressed the hope that “‘refounders’ will emerge in the congregations with the same dynamism as that of the founder to make this happen.” Brother Mani, the National Secretary of CRI, speaking on “Creative Ministry of Brothers” spoke of “the need to restructure the traditional religious congregations” in order to facilitate the evolution of unlimited opportunities for Brothers. There is a visible downward trend in the clerical congregations and it is time to think big and out of the box to put in place new growth dynamics,” he said.

Sacred Heart Brother Jesudoss elaborated on the present day challenges to the vocation of religious brothers. He expressed the need for ‘refounding’ in the field of spirituality, community, mission, formation and above all the leadership structure. Making a final statement on the convention, the Brothers said: “consecrated life itself is a mission. Religious life cannot be reduced to some apostolic activity alone but it should be a life of witness that gives meaning and direction to life.” They called upon the Superiors ” to seriously consider structural changes wherever necessary, and be open to major changes in areas of frontier ministries.”

The group elected a dynamic team to lead the organization during the coming 3 years. They include the President, Brother Giles, who is a Provincial of the Franciscan Brothers, and vice president in the person of Brother Paul Raj, a Provincial of the Montfort Brothers. The Board comprises 10 Brothers from different congregations, including what is known as clerical congregations.

Fr. Franklin to be new CBCI youth secretary

Father Franklin Philip D’Souza has been appointed as the new secretary of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India’s (CBCI) Commission for Youth. He will also be the new national director of Indian National Youth Commission (ICYM). Bishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal made this announcement on May 24. “Father Franklin will assume charge on August 15,” said Father Alwyn D’Souza, current secretary of CBCI Commission for Youth.

Born on October 22, 1973, Father Franklin was ordained as a priest on May 10, 1999. He obtained his bachelors degree from Bangalore University, masters in History from Mysore University, Bachelor of Philosophy (B Ph) and Master of Theology (M Th) from St Peter’s Pontifical Institute, Bangalore. From 2008, he has been serving as a Karnataka regional youth director of ICYM and the Youth Commission. He also renders service to the prisoners of Central Jail, Bangalore and is a member of Prison Ministry of India.

Mumbai’s Christian Population Falls. Christians Open To Voting For Others

May 24, 2011 by  
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Mount Mary Church in MumbaiMumbai, 23rd May, 2011: Here are excerpts from two news items from The Times of India, that provide fresh insight on the changing Mumbai Christians – their declining numbers and attitudes towards politics. The CSF calls on the community to unite and fight for its rightful share. The CSF would network and encourage Christian activists to enter public life, supporting and even putting up candidates, if the community gets a raw deal.
 
Mumbai’s Christian Population Falls. Muslims Grow Fastest
The Christian community in the city recorded negative population growth as against Hindus and Muslims who are growing at a faster rate, birth and death figures from the civic health department showed. Last year, 3,763 infants were born to Christians while 3,887 members of the community died, indicating a fall in growth rate. In this period, there were 1.2 lakh Hindu births and 74,003 deaths; the Muslim community saw 50,353 children being born as against 16,898 deaths. The birth-death rate ratio of Muslims is almost double that of Hindus, showing a much more robust population growth.
 
Demographers and community leaders said family planning and migration seemed to be the main reasons behind the shrinking of the Christian population. “Many Christian youths have migrated to the US and Canada. In many Christian-dominated areas like Bandra and IC Colony, there is a large population of senior citizens and, perhaps, this is also a reason for the increase in Christian deaths,” RTI activist Chetan Kothari, who filed a query on the issue, said.
 
Social scientists and Islamic scholars who have been tracking demographic changes among Muslims attributed the higher population growth to lack of adequate family planning and poverty. “The belief that more pairs of hands can earn more seems to be holding sway in the lower middle class Muslim community. Many community members have more than four children though there has been a high incidence of infant mortality among the poorer sections,” said Asghar Ali Engineer, director of the Institute of Islamic Studies. He said the increase in birth rate has nothing to do with Islam as a religion. “It is related to issues like poverty, illiteracy and lack of women’s empowerment, he said.
 
Christians Open To Voting For Others
When Cardinal Oswald Gracias recently came out in support of Anna Hazare’s battle against corruption, Congress leaders were worried. The Catholic community has traditionally voted for the Congress, but party leaders feel there may be a change ahead of the civic elections next year. The shift is already apparent: Congress MLA Baba Siddiqui scraped past BJP’s Ashish Shelar with a wafer-thin margin in the Catholic stronghold of Bandra. Adolf D’Souza got a thumping victory in the last civic election in Juhu, where Christians have always voted for the Congress. Recently the community protested against the Congress over the removal of crosses in the city.
 
“In Vasai, Catholics support MLA Vivek Pandit, who was elected with the Sena’s help. A faction of East Indians recently joined the MNS. The community is now open to supporting other groups,” said Hansel D’Souza, president of the Juhu Citizens’ Welfare Group (JCWG). Civic activist Anandini Thakur said the change cannot be missed. “Earlier Christians voted for the Congress irrespective of the candidate. Now, they talk of voting for the candidate and not for the party. This is a radical change,” she said.
 
BJP’s Ashish Shelar said, “In the parliamentary elections of 2009, held a few months before the assembly elections, Congress MP Priya Dutt had a lead margin of 36,000 votes. In the assembly elections, Siddiqui won by a margin of 1,600 votes. Even if 10,000 of these are Christian votes, it is a major shift,” Shelar said. Shelar was supported by Bandra’s citizens’ groups whose members are largely Catholic. However, Siddiqui denies any shift in loyalty. “I had a lead of 11,000 in my old Bandra assembly constituency. The loss was in the two wards that were added after delimitation. These have always been Sena strongholds,” Siddiqui said.
 
Father Tony Charanghat, spokesperson for the Mumbai Archdiocese, said, the church does not promote any political party. “The cardinal’s stand on corruption is not against any political party. We stand for secularism as enshrined in the Constitution. However, Christians also want to participate in the democratic process. If they feel that someone is not addressing their grievances they are bound to look at others who will take up their issues seriously, irrespective of the candidate’s political affiliation,” he said.  A senior Congress leader, on the condition of anonymity, admitted that if civil society were to put up candidates, the party would get “the biggest jolt”.

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