St Paul not anti-women, says Sister Chakkalakal

August 12, 2011 by  
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The era of St Paul was a time when women “subjugated” under the patriarchial thumb, but he was not anti-women, says Sister Pauline Chakkalakal, a Biblical scholar.

She was expounding on the theme – ‘Women’s Empowerment from a Biblical-Theological perspective’, during a workshop organised by the Council of Catholic Women, Archdiocese of Delhi (CCWAD) on Aug 9.

Sister Chakkalakal said “We need to distinguish between Paul’s disciplinary norms and doctrinal statements.”

Dispelling doubts that St Paul was anti-women, she said his writings reflect both the cultural practices and social aspects prevalent at that time.

The author of ‘Discipleship: A Space for Women’s Leadership’ explained the socio-cultural context of Paul’s recommendations that women be silent, veiled and subordinate.

She introduced the letters of St Paul and contrasted the texts of 1 Cor. 11:2-16, (women’s head covering) and 1 Cor. 14:26-36 (women keeping silence in the Church) with the liberative vision of Paul in Gal. 3:26-28,

The nun of the Daughters of Saint Paul said God’s Word in human language is liberative and empowering not enslaving and dehumanising.

During the interactive session, Elizabeth John, a housewife, stated how she was berated in Kerala last month for not wearing a veil in Church.

Sister Chakkalakal,who also hails from Kerala, said she too defied her relatives and attended Mass without a veil while at home during vacation.

Explaining the phenomenon of wearing the veil, she said open hair in ancient times was associated with “loose characters” and the veil was considered one’s own authority to chase away all evils.

Pearl Drego, an accredited psychotherapist and lecturer who chaired the session, made the participants aware of the dangers of some genetically modified food and asked them to take part in the protests against such campaigns.

Sister Helen Saldhana, National secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India’s Women’s Commission, and Sister Leona, legal advisor and activists also spoke on the occasion of the International Indigenous Day.


439 proposals pending with Maulana Azad Education Foundation

August 12, 2011 by  
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New Delhi: Under grant-in-aid scheme for construction and expansion of schools, hostels and technical / vocational training centres, some 439 proposals out of those received up to 31.03.2011 from NGOs are pending with the Maulana Azad Education Foundation (MAEF).

Giving this information in written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday, Salman Khurshid, Minister of Minority Affairs, informed the House that the main reasons for pendency of proposals with MAEF are as follows:

(i) Some proposals are pending for want of required documents from the NGOs;
(ii) With respect to some proposals inspection reports are not received;
(iii) Inspection required with respect to some proposals; and
(iv) Availability of financial resources.

Khurshid further informed the House that in order to clear the pending proposals expeditiously, the applications which are complete in all respects are considered by the MAEF on first come first serve basis. In order to augment the financial resources so as to enable MAEF to clear more cases, the corpus fund of MAEF has been increased from Rs.200 crore to Rs.700 crore during the 11th Five Year Plan period.

– tcn news

A Donkey’s Story

August 9, 2011 by  
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Jesus Christ riding into Jerusalem for the Passover

Jesus Christ riding into Jerusalem for the Passover

Some donkeys were in the field nearby Jerusalem a day after Palm Sunday. One donkey said:

“I don’t understand it, just yesterday everyone was throwing their clothes and palms on the road when I was carrying Jesus on my back but now I am back to being a nothing. Those people don’t even see it’s me who was carrying Jesus.”

Another donkey said:

“It works like that my brother; without Jesus you are nothing in this world”

Pakistan government reshuffle downgrades religious freedom concerns

August 9, 2011 by  
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Bishop Joseph Coutts of Faisalabad, Pakistan

Bishop Joseph Coutts of Faisalabad, Pakistan

Karachi, Pakistan, August 9 – The Pakistan government’s new approach to national harmony is a “downgrade” for Christians and others concerned about religious freedom, Bishop Joseph Coutts of Faisalabad has said.

The government has decided to create a Minister for National Harmony who will look at the wider issue of social cohesion. It has appointed to the post Akram Masih Gill, a Catholic who is the former Minister for Minorities.

However, Bishop Coutts emphasized that Gill’s government rank is below that of Shahbaz Bhatti, the Minister for Minorities whom Muslim extremists assassinated in March. The bishop, who is president of the Pakistan Catholic bishops’ conference, noted that Bhatti’s cabinet-level post had specific responsibilities for promoting the interests of religious minorities while Gill’s non-cabinet position does not.

“For me, all this is a step down; it’s a certain downgrade concerning the representation of minorities,” Bishop Coutts told ACN News.

He said the loss of a cabinet-rank minister could not be outweighed by the appointment of Bhatti’s brother, Dr. Paul Bhatti, as minority affairs’ advisor to Pakistan’s Prime Minister.

“It is true that with Mr. Gill’s appointment and that of Dr. Bhatti there are two chances for the voice of minorities to be heard, but neither will probably have the same impact as that of Shahbaz Bhatti as federal minister,” the bishop said.
There is growing concern that the growth of extremism is silencing Pakistan’s three million Christians as well as Hindus, Sikhs and Shia Muslims.

One key issue is proposed changes to Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law. The law has been widely abused. It has helped inspire mob violence in response to alleged offenses against Islam such as disrespect to its Prophet Muhammad and to the defacing of paper containing Quran verses.

After Minister Bhatti was killed, his assassin claimed he acted in response to the official’s criticism of the blasphemy laws.

The alleged assassin of Punjab governor Salman Taseer gave a similar motive. The governor had called for changes to the blasphemy law after mounting outrage at the death sentence given to Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old Christian mother of five.

Christians have been targeted for violence in Pakistan. In the latest suspected targeted killing, 38-year-old Arnold Archie Daas was gunned down Aug. 6 in the Drigh Road Christian colony in the city of Karachi. The Pakistan Christian Post reports that Muslim militants fled the scene after they confirmed Daas’ wounds were fatal.

 – cna

ICYM office-bearers fail to get visa

August 9, 2011 by  
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ICYM office-bearers fail to get visaAugust 8, 2011: The visas of 13 delegates, including that of the president and secretary of the Indian Catholic Youth Movement (ICYM), to the 2011 World Youth Day in Madrid have been rejected by the Spanish embassy.

“The embassy officials said that the delegates do not possess enough money to maintain themselves during the trip,” said Rakesh Singh, spokesperson of the youth commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI).

ICYM is the youth movement of CBCI and the official organization taking the youth to Madrid from Aug 15-21.

“The embassy officials have rejected the visas of the office bearers of ICYM. Such kind of thing is happening for the first time,” he added.

Singh said that the embassy officials are creating unnecessary problems.

ICYM President Ravi Raunak Robin and General Secretary Joyce Mary Anthony have also been invited to attend the night vigil led by the Pope Benedict XVI.

“I am feeling very disappointed. I am applying for the visa for the second time,” Anthony said.

She said that the embassy officials are not ready to listen. “They are adamant on their stand,” she added.

Six groups of the ICYM with 240 youth left for Madrid on Aug 7 and 8. The remaining three will leave on Aug 9 and 10.

Father Alwyn D’Souza, secretary of the Youth Commission of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), termed WYD as a “pilgrimage” and urged the embassy officials to maintain that spirit.

The visa rulebook for WYD says delegates have to provide either their financial documents or a letter from a Church-related organization taking their responsibility.

All the delegates have attached letters from parish priest, diocesan directors, regional directors and the CBCI youth commission about their credentials, Father D’Souza explained.

Some 800 delegates from India would attend the event. They would be part of 39 groups, including the youth commission, CBCI.

Three years ago, some Indian delegates to the WYD in Australia had gone missing from New Zealand but they later came back to India.


ATR on Ranganath Mishra Report not mandatory – Govt

August 9, 2011 by  
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Vincent H. Pala, Minister of State for Minority Affairs

Vincent H. Pala, Minister of State for Minority Affairs

New Delhi: Placing of Action Taken Report (ATR) in the Parliament is mandatory in the case of Commissions set up under Commissions of Enquiry Act 1952. As National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities (NCRLM), commonly known as Ranganath Misra Commission was set up under Government Resolution No1-11/2004-MC (D), dated 29th October, 2004, the ATR is not mandatory.

Giving this information in written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha on Monday, Vincent H. Pala, Minister of State for Minority Affairs, however, said the recommendations contained in the report are under consideration of the Central Government. The report was laid in both the Houses of Parliament on 18th December 2009.

He also said that since recommendations contained in the report are under consideration of the Central Government, “the question of States providing reservation of 10% for Backward Muslims based on the recommendations of the NCRLM Report is premature at this stage.”

– tcn news

Parl panel to UPA: Bring a law for effective implementation of Sachar

August 9, 2011 by  
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Madarsa students in a Chennai slum

Madarsa students in a Chennai slum

New Delhi: A parliamentary panel has criticized the UPA government for not implementing the recommendations of Sachar report and has expressed the need for a law to ensure their effective implementation.

The Standing Committee of Social Justice and Empowerment, headed by BSP MP Dara Singh Chouhan, in its 17th report, which was tabled in both Houses of Parliament on August 4, said that with exception of scholarship schemes and financial aid to the community under Maulana Azad Foundation, the Minority Affairs Ministry headed by Salman Khurshid was “not paying heed to the root of the problems as publicized in the report of Sachar Committee”.

The Parliamentary panel rejected the government’s claim that the implementation of Sachar recommendation was its high priority and said that the implementation was not being done in a serious manner.

Going a step further the panel said, that a legal step was required to ensure that the Sachar recommendations get implemented on the ground.

“The Committee hence desires that the ministry should work in the direction of bringing a law in Parliament in this regard,” the Parliamentary panel said.

The House panel also emphasized on the time bound implementation of the Sachar recommendations. “The report of Sachar Committee, which throws light on the pitiable social and economic condition of minorities, if implemented fully, will help a great deal in their upliftment. Hence the Committee recommends that necessary steps be immediately taken to implement all recommendations of the Sachar Committee in a time-bound manner,” it said.

The panel also criticized the Ministry for Minority Affairs (MMA) for non-expenditure of around 600 crore during last financial year. Interestingly during the financial years 2008-09 and 2009-10, the ministry returned only Rs 33.63 crore and Rs 31.50 crore respectively but the amount increased up to 587.70 crore in 2010-11.

The panel also expressed its displeasure over the fact that the MMA failed to execute four schemes in the absence of nod from the planning Commission. It asked the MMA to convince the Planning Commission that it should accept two schemes, the scheme which provides subsidy on loans to minority students for studying abroad and another which plans to strengthen the Wakf Boards.

– Md. Ali,

Ramadan: Wealth and poverty

August 9, 2011 by  
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Kuran8 August 2011: Don’t worry; this is not a religious sermon. I am neither an Imam, nor a priest of any kind. Although fasting in the month of Ramadan is a spiritual act for Muslims, it may offer valuable lessons that are beneficial to all humanity, and provide some insight into human nature.

To abstain from consuming food and drink, and sexual intercourse, is to break from the usual routine. By observing this annual fasting it gives the hard working organs in the body a bit of a rest, allowing them to recuperate, like the annual service done on a car. For a more in-depth analysis of the physical benefits of fasting one can consult a medic, and there is plenty of literature out there. I am more interested in the collective social benefits that can be derived from the notion of fasting.

In countries like the UK, in the summer time, this period of fasting extends from 3 AM to approximately 9 PM. My non-Muslim colleagues curiously ask me every year: do I really abstain from food and water for almost 18 hours every day for the entire month? The experience and the fear of the pangs of hunger, make human beings think about the fragile nature of life, and the value of food and drink. You would think the human race would naturally do their utmost not to waste food and drink, which is essential for survival, yet, despite witnessing poverty, there is huge wastage every year in the wealthy nations of the world.

Apart from abstinence, Ramadan is also a time for giving and sharing. Whenever I would go to the beautiful Mosque (Masjid) in Medina or some other major Masjid with a couple of dates to break my fast, I would come back home with a bag full of food, as everyone rushing to give away something and collect the reward from their Creator. If the Muslims were in this frame of mind for the entire year, there would surely be a huge reduction in hunger.

When you witness so many people walking away with more food than they brought in, it proves that when the majority are actively engaged in giving and sharing there is an abundance of food. This is something I experienced during my university years; we used to attend the weekly gathering at the local Mosque run by the group Tablighi Jamat. For most of us, it was an excuse for socialising; the students were not really interested in the boring sermons that were needlessly repeated over the weeks. After the lectures came the main event – dinner.

Some individuals brought food for themselves, but many others did not. It was shared as people grouped themselves in an ad hoc manner and ate on the floor. At the end, surprisingly everyone was full, and plenty of food was left over. How was that, given that not everyone brought food? It demonstrates a simple point about sharing and satisfaction. When the food is shared there is more available and individual consumption is not likely to be as high, because they don’t feel compelled to finish everything, and know that there are others who need to eat as well. So one eats just enough to satisfy the hunger; otherwise, human beings tend to eat more than their bodily requirement as individuals. Human greed is the age old vice, even mentioned in the ten commandments of the Bible. The proof of greed is there all around us, obesity is a problem in most wealthy nations.

If we amplify this model of sharing, most communities can collectively satisfy themselves; those with excess food and those with very little will balance out, and those with little requirement and those with more will also balance out; thus, the extremes of gluttony and poverty can be avoided to some extent. But, in the real world, there is famine in Africa and obesity in the western world. Despite all the technological advances, poverty has not been eliminated. Rather than a space-race, a race to eliminate poverty and disease would have been far more useful.

Those fasting in Ramadan should certainly appreciate poverty, where people are forced to fast continuously; the people in Somalia today will not have an abundance of food and water waiting for them when the time approaches to break their fast. The solution to poverty suggested by Islam is to share and distribute, and the general command is to circulate wealth. There are many verses that extol the believers to donate money, not because it is a favour to the poor, but to relieve the obligation on their neck. On the Day of Judgement, it is the wealthy and rich with excess wealth that will be accounted and not the poor and destitute. The solution seems to be focused on the ‘distribution’ of the wealth rather than production of wealth; because mankind will naturally produce driven by need. The real test is: can they collectively share the wealth amongst them where people of different capabilities and needs exist?

A knee-jerk response to poverty is to maximise production and accumulate; this is the doctrine of capitalism, and individuals are taught to be greedy and selfish, which dents the notion of wealth circulation. Those who have acquired wealth do not let it trickle down enough.

In contrast to hoarding, there is something magical about sharing, it binds the human family, which we appreciate less and less because living in a materialistic society, our values and our traits tells us to accumulate as much as possible, even if it means to monopolise the market and deprive others. I often wonder with amazement how large corporations with billions in their pockets would go to great lengths to deprive the small competitor. Isn’t there enough for everyone? How much can a human being consume in his life time? Why are there billionaires and millionaires? Can you really consume that much money over a life time? Even if we live for an average of 60 years, a third of that is spent sleeping.

The experience of hunger through fasting should also lead to a change in attitude towards food; it should be treated with respect, not wasted needlessly. Yet, our habit is to accumulate more food than we can consume out of fear of poverty or driven by greed. The households in the UK and other wealthy western nations, including oil-rich Muslim countries waste large amounts of food every year, even through the recession. Just think, if you spent less, the excess money could be given in charity which would mean helping someone in genuine need, rather than wasted food ending up in the bin. It might be one small contribution to eliminate the food-mountains in one place, and transfer some of that to where it is scarce.

-Yamin Zakaria

Wealthy Catholics ‘must help poor’

August 9, 2011 by  
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Bishop Frans Kopong Kung accompanies Catholic businesspeople to a meeting at Christ the King Cathedral in Kupang

Bishop Frans Kopong Kung accompanies Catholic businesspeople to a meeting at Christ the King Cathedral in Kupang

August 8, 2011: Archbishop Petrus Turang of Kupang has appealed to Catholic businessmen in the country to take active measures to help improve the living standards of poor Catholics.

“It is time for Catholic businessmen to look beyond their own welfare and see the reality of life around them. There are many Catholics who need to be freed from poverty,” the prelate said.

His appeal came during his homily yesterday at a Holy Mass to open the 2nd National Meeting of Catholic Professionals and Businessmen (PUKAT) at Christ the King Cathedral in Kupang, capital of East Nusa Tenggara province.

The meeting, which is being held at the governor’s house and attended by about 200 Catholic professionals and businessmen from Denpasar, Jakarta, Kupang, Makassar and Surabaya, ends on August 9.

“Showing concern and making promises are not enough. You must act,” he said.

He suggested the businessmen pay particular attention to education and health issues.

“These areas are not only the responsibility of the government and the Church,” he added.

Archbishop Turang later expressed hope that the three-day meeting will encourage the businessmen to play a significant role in national development efforts.

Mikhael Utama, who heads PUKAT, responded by saying the association will do what it can.

“We will try and provide more employment opportunities,” he said, adding that association members will also offer scholarships to qualified students from poor families.

– ucan

Aug 10 to be Observed as Black Day for Dalits

August 9, 2011 by  
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Christians demanding for Equal Rights for DalitsChristians from different denominations will observe Aug 10 as black day to to mark the 61st anniversary of the Constitution (Schedule Caste) Order 1950.

The protest is against the discriminatory third paragraph of the order, popularly known as the Presidential Order, which violates the human rights of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims on the basis of the religious faith they profess.

It stipulates that “no person who professes a religion different from Hinduism shall be deemed to be a member of Scheduled Caste.”

Alwan Masih, General Secretary of Church of North India (CNI) and Archbishop Vincent M. Concessao of Delhi will lead the protest at CNI Bhavan in New Delhi.

The protest is organised jointly by Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India’s Commission for Scheduled Castes and Backward Class and National Council of Christians in India.

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