Bangalore lepers evicted and “betrayed” by the government

September 28, 2012 by  
Filed under Human Rights, India, Issues, Karnataka, Karnataka, newsletter-india, Persecution

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Bangalore lepers evicted and "betrayed" by the governmentKarnataka, September 27, 2012: Karnataka has decided not to renew the lease of the Sumanahalli Society, depriving it of 45 acres. Operating in Bangalore since 1977, the centre is now left with five acres for more than 400 residents. The facility includes 50 building for lepers, HIV patients, disabled, orphans, street kids and young offenders. For the archbishop of Bangalore, this is a “betrayal of the [Christian] community by the government.”

The government of Karnataka has approved seizing 45 acres of land used by the Sumanahalli Society, a Catholic organisation that, for the past 30 years, has helped people living with leprosy in Bangalore. Based on an order issued on 21 September, the Catholic organisation will be left with only five acres to provide its services, an area where “it is impossible to contain the activities of more than 400 people,” its director, Fr George Kannanthanam, told AsiaNews.

At present, the government is deaf to pleas from civil society groups like NGOs and Church. A demonstration last Monday at the centre got nowhere. Leprosy patients joined the protest, saying “that rather than leave this land, we shall let ourselves die.”

In 1977, Karnataka’s then chief minister Devarja Urs called on Bangalore’s Christians to take care of the lepers living near the Beggars’ Colony, a government-owned area, because the state could not provide for them. To do so, it granted a 30-year lease to the Archdiocese, which set up the Sumanahalli Society.

In 2007, the government decided not to renew the lease, and reduced the area from 63 to 55 acres to widen a road. A building housing beggars and homeless people had to give way.

Mgr Bernard Moras, archbishop of Bangalore, joined the patients’ protest, calling it a “betrayal of the community by the government,” which invited Christians “to take up this most difficult work” in favour of the sick and needy.

The latest draconian cut to the area is a major headache. The centre includes 50 buildings that provide health care, rehabilitation and basic education.

“We accept lepers, HIV patients, disabled people, orphans, street kids and young offenders,” said Fr Kannanthanam. “If we close our structures, where will these people go? The government took this decision but will not provide other areas for the most marginalised.”

One study shows that 18,000 people live and sleep in the streets of Bangalore.

For the priest, it is not likely that the centre’s good work caused envy and jealousy among Hindu nationalists because of its Catholic character.

“The Sumanahalli Society has never been openly Catholic. After years of service, we do not have a chapel even though we could build one. We chose not to build it to keep the place non-denominational. We have served the sick and marginalised of society without distinction of race or creed. Only one of our residents is Christian.”

What is happening, Fr Kannanthanam believes, “ought to shake up the country’s collective consciousness. If, as a nation, we try to deprive the most vulnerable strata in society, what moral stand can we claim?

– asianews

Victory for Religious Freedom in Challenge to Indian “Anti-Conversion” Law

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Victory for Religious Freedom in Challenge to Indian “Anti-Conversion” Law
The case will now go to the Indian Supreme Court

India, South and East Asia, September 24, 2012: An Indian state’s draconian “anti-conversion” law has been partially struck down in a legal challenge brought by Christians and celebrated as “a triumph for religious freedom” in the country.

The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) took its case against the Himachal Pradesh Religion Act 2006 to the state’s high court, which ruled on 30 August that some provisions of the law were unconstitutional.

The court removed a section that required a person intending to convert from one religion to another to give 30 days’ notice to the district magistrate. Failure to do this was punishable with a fine.

Two rules regarding the implementation of the act were also struck down. One required the district magistrate to give notice of the conversion request to any affected party before granting approval, and the other required a police case to be registered if the conversion was thought to have taken place using force or inducement or without notice.

The EFI challenged the law because of the ways in which it was being used, especially by Hindu extremists, to stop people from converting to Christianity.

Those wanting to convert were listed in a public registry, which was checked by Hindu extremists, who then tracked down, persecuted, and even murdered new Christians. People wanting to become Hindus did not, however, need to give public notice.

Christians involved in evangelism have also faced false accusations of forcibly converting Hindus, for which they have been beaten and arrested.

Justices Deepak Gupta and Rajiv Sharma ruled that the state had no role to play if anyone converted to a different faith of their own will. The bench said:

Citizens not only have the rights of conscience and belief, and the freedom to change this belief, but also they have the right to keep their beliefs secret.

The World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission welcomed the verdict as “a triumph for religious freedom in India”.

The case will now go to the Indian Supreme Court where it is expected that extremist Hindu groups will exert pressure for the decision to be overturned.

Arguing in defense of the Religion Act, Subramanian Swami said that conversions are against Hindu philosophy and should not be permitted.

The EFI’s victory in this case is a step in the right direction for religious freedom in India, but there is still a long way to go. The rest of the Religion Act in Himachal Pradesh was upheld, and there are similar laws governing religious practice in other India states. These restrict the freedom of non-Hindus to share their faith.

– barnabas team

Reporters as police stenographers

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Reporters as police stenographersDelhi, September 27, 2012: As 16 terror cases end in acquittal the English press is guilty of giving in to the dubious claims of the infamous Special Cell. The writer wonders why reporters never question police claims.

Will the English press ever again report verbatim what the Delhi Police’s Special Cell tells them?

The Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association’s just-released report on 16 cases of terror filed by the Special Cell that ended in acquittal, is an indictment not just of the functioning of the Special Cell, but also of the English press. The report cites examples of reports in national newspapers such as The Times Of India, The Hindu, The Indian Express, and Hindustan Times, which carried verbatim, often without the use of the word “alleged”, the version given by the Special Cell at press conferences where often, the arrested innocents were produced as “hard core militants’.

Among the many paraded this way was 24-year-old Kashmiri Imran Kirmani, an aeronautical engineering graduate who had just landed a job in Delhi. His background came handy for the Special Cell to describe him as “part of an LeT module” planning to carry out a “9/11 plot”. “Prize catch” was the caption given by The Hindu to his picture on page one, surrounded by Special Cell plainclothesmen.

Four years later, the judge acquitted Kirmani. “And when I was released, there was no media, no cameras waiting to tell the world that I was innocent. It wasn’t a story,” Kirmani told the Kashmir correspondent of The Indian Express Muzammil Jaleel.

The JTSA report cites only the Express as having bothered to talk to Kirmani. But The Telegraph’s Muzaffar Raina did so too. The paper carried the story on page one.

Not that this in any way compensated for Kirmani’s trauma. “My dream (of becoming an aeronautical engineer) has died,” he said more than once to Jaleel. “Who will give me a job now?”

It wasn’t just Delhi’s Special Cell that ruined this blameless young man’s future. The English press also played a part.

This columnist has tried for years to find an answer to the question: why do reporters implicitly believe the police when they claim breakthroughs in “terror” cases? Because the police bear the authority of uniform? They are the ones who should know?

Even when the country’s first big terror strike took place on March 12, 1993 in Mumbai, there were doubts whether everyone picked up was part of the conspiracy. At that time, the lawyer of one of those arrested approached me with his client’s story. His client claimed that his only offence was that he had rented out a scooter, something he did everyday to strangers. How was he to know what it would be used for? (It was used to plant a bomb.) The TOI refused to publish the story, which was based entirely on the lawyer’s plea filed in court. The man was eventually discharged after spending three years in jail.

This was just after the 92-93 Mumbai riots, wherein the Mumbai police had shown just how aligned its men were with the Shiv Sena. The Times’ reportage of the riots had exposed some of this and earned it the abuse “Times of Pakistan” from the RSS. But riots were one thing, simultaneous bomb blasts across the city, killing random innocents, were a different kettle of fish. Would publishing that story have made the Times look like it was supporting the terrorists? Is that what stops newspapers from expressing doubts about police claims?

April 2006 should have been a turning point for investigations into bomb blasts. That was when the Nanded blasts took place and the RSS hand in the bomb blasts became clear. But even after Nanded, the police stuck to its only-Muslims-are-terrorists theory. Given the well-known anti-Muslim prejudice of the police, that was understandable. But what prevented the press from questioning this theory after April 2006?

Indeed, what prevents the press till today from picking holes in theories put out by our investigative agencies when it comes to crimes allegedly committed by Muslims? Why do reporters become “police stenographers” as the JTSA report calls them?

After the 2006 serial train blasts in Mumbai all newspapers faithfully reported the theory given out by the ATS. The seven bombs were assembled in a tiny room in a Govandi slum, open to all passersby. Then, from the north-east of Mumbai, they were carried to the north-west, to Bandra. They were kept in pressure cookers. These pressure cookers were kept in train compartments. Whatever you say, sirs. Never mind if the final charge sheet in the 2006 serial train blasts case has no mention of pressure cookers. Pakistan was involved, said headlines. Never mind that when it came to actually presenting evidence to Pakistan, the ATS developed cold feet.

The most bizarre aspect of the 2006 train blasts is that another branch of the Mumbai police, the Crime Branch, discovered in 2008 that quite a different set of persons were behind these blasts. The ATS had laid the blame on SIMI’s door. But an alleged Indian Mujaheedin member arrested for a series of blasts in 2008, reportedly “confessed” to the Crime Branch, headed by the legendary Rakesh Maria, that it was the IM that was behind the train blasts. Both police units stuck to their respective claims. In 2009, this man who “confessed”, Sadiq Shaikh, was discharged by the court on an application filed by the ATS which said he had no role in the train blasts, a crime to which he had reportedly “confessed”!

And these are the agencies we blindly trust. Among them is the Delhi Police Special Cell, as high profile as Maharashtra’s ATS, and, as the JTSA report shows, as dearly beloved of the Delhi press.

Sensational

On September 23, 2007, The Times of India carried a news item titled: “Indian Intelligence informer spills the beans”. The report was sensational. It quoted a letter from Tihar Jail by an ex-IB informer detailing how IB, working with the Delhi Police’s Special Cell, plants its own “jehadi maulvis” to lure Muslim youth to commit terrorist acts. The CBI, directed by the Delhi High Court to investigate the case in which this informer was arrested by the Special Cell as an Al Badr terrorist, had corroborated the most important accusations made by the informer, said the report.

In November 2008, the CBI filed a closure report in the case, gave the two accused a clean chit and recommended legal action against three sub-inspectors of the Special Cell: Ravinder Tyagi, Vinay Tyagi, and Subhash Vats, for “fabricating and planting evidence to implicate” the accused “for an oblique motive.” In its closure report, the CBI revealed that the mobile phone records of one of the accused showed that he was in constant touch with IB officers.

Despite the Times following this story, these sensational findings were not widely reported in the English press. Even the Times did not do any larger article based on this “mind-numbing” report. (This phrase was used by the Times to describe one of the many so-called terror conspiracies solved by the Special Cell.) However, subsequent developments in the case were reported, including a complaint by CBI officer Santosh Kumar that one of the indicted Special Cell men had threatened him. So it can be safely said that the entire English press was aware of the CBI’s findings against the Special Cell.

In February 2011, Additional Sessions Judge Virender Bhat, acquitting seven alleged Kashmiri terrorists, ordered an FIR to be registered against the Delhi Police Special cell’s Sub Inspector Ravinder Tyagi and three other sub-inspectors for framing the accused. He also ordered the Delhi Police Commissioner to
Hold an inquiry against the four policemen, who he said, had “brought shame and disrepute to the entire Delhi police force”.

Both the Asian Age and The Indian Express reported this judgment, with the latter even interviewing the Kashmiris who were acquitted. But again, there was no follow-up on this indictment by the court against such high-profile policemen. By this time, Ravinder Tyagi had won a President’s medal; his name had also figured in the infamous Batla House encounter.

In January 2012, Amir Khan was acquitted after spending 14 years in jail for a total of 19 cases foisted on him. Almost every paper published the story of his frame-up by Delhi’s Special Cell and his acquittal in 17 of them.

Yet, despite being aware of all these indictments and irregularities, when the Delhi Police Special Cell arrested journalist Syed Kazmi in March this year for the bomb attack on the car carrying an Israeli diplomat’s wife in Delhi, all newspapers faithfully reproduced the police version with the word “alleged” featuring occasionally–the moped left in Kazmi’s house by the bomber; the $ 5000 first installment received by Kazmi from the bombers… The team in charge of the case included many familiar names whose earlier cases had ended in acquittal. But no scepticism was voiced.

Kazmi’s son’s version was of course reported a few days later.

Speculation

Again, in December 2010, when two alleged Hizb-ul-Mujaheedin members were arrested from Dehradun, reports speculated whether the Indian Military Academy was the target. None of the reports bothered to mention that not even a year earlier, four youth arrested for allegedly planning a terror strike on the IMA had been honourably acquitted.

There appears to exist a marked sympathy towards the Special cell, which emerges in the frequent use of words such as “Special Cell dealt a blow” or “Special Cell resurrects with triple hit” (this from TOI). This report rejoiced at the return of ACP Sanjeev Yadav to the Cell. Yadav features in many of the cases documented by the JTSA report.

When courts and respected investigative agencies accuse the same police unit more than once of framing innocents, and the press, instead of highlighting these indictments, plays them down, how can the victims so framed get the publicity they deserve? Two cases cited in the JTSA report on the acquittal of Ayaz Ahmed shah, an alleged Kashmiri terrorist, are important here.

An acquittal does not mean that the accused is innocent. However, only after going through the judgment can you conclude whether the acquittal was based on technicalities or there was just no case against the accused. Quoting the judgment, the JTSA report shows that Ayaz Ahmed Shah was acquitted after the prosecution’s story was found riddled with holes. The depositions of Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma, the inspector gunned down in the Batla House encounter, and other members of the Special Cell team who arrested Shah, were found riddled with discrepancies and contradictions. Shah had been picked up on the basis of a tip off from an informer. But under cross-examination, the policemen admitted that the informer had neither revealed the suspect’s name nor description!

Yet, Midday reported on Shah’s acquittal with this headline: “Another terrorist goes free”, while The Telegraph described Shah as an “outlaw” who “slipped through”.

However, newspapers do follow-up on acquittals. Tehelka specially, does so regularly. Doing so is neither compensation nor a favour to those released. What is needed is simply news exposing the way our police have made it their dharma to frame innocent Muslims with terror charges.

Post Script:

The Delhi Police Special Cell in a rebuttal to the JTSA report claims that “six cases out of 16 referred to in the compilation have actually ended in conviction, while one case is still pending trial”.(Reported in The Hindu, September 20).

However, responding to this, the JTSA has listed out each of the 16 cases and pointed out that only in one of them were four out of the ten accused convicted of terror charges. The convictions that have been secured in other cases have been under the Arms Act or the Explosives Act, not on the charges of terrorist conspiracy or waging war against the State. “Courts have clearly held that there was nothing to prove that the accused were members or activists of terrorist organizations, or that they intended to carry out terror attacks,” says the rebuttal.

– tcn

Why calls for a global blasphemy law must be resisted

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Why calls for a global blasphemy law must be resistedSeptember 27, 2012: Violent protests against the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims have sparked renewed calls for an international law banning the defamation of religion, chiefly Islam.

These have come from unsurprising quarters, such as Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. On Tuesday 25 September, Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which comprises 56 Muslim-majority states, called for expressions of “Islamophobia” to be curbed by law. Erroneous comparisons are being made with laws that criminalise anti-Semitism; these rightly protect individuals from prejudice purely on the basis of their racial identity, as opposed to protecting beliefs and ideas from criticism or challenge. What the OIC is seeking is in no way to be equated with, for example, Britain’s archaic and toothless blasphemy law; rather it is a privileged and protected status for Islam.

This is not a new campaign by Muslim leaders. For twelve years, the OIC campaigned for a “Defamation of Religion” UN resolution. Support began to diminish as Western nations realized the consequences for freedom of speech, and in 2011 the OIC moderated its demands. The latest resolutions have shifted focus, seeking to protect individuals from discrimination or violence rather than protecting particular religions from criticism.

The danger now is that, in the face of intensifying and widespread Muslim violence in response to perceived offences to Islam, Western states will give in to fear and sacrifice vital freedoms in the interests of global security.

Sadly, a number of senior Anglican leaders have already surrendered. In a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon dated 15 September, four bishops called for a UN declaration to outlaw “intentional and deliberate insulting or defamation of persons (such as prophets), symbols, texts and constructs of belief deemed holy by people of faith”.

Their appeal came, they wrote, “in view of the current inflamed situation in several countries in response to the production of a film in the USA which evidently intends to offend our Muslim brothers and sisters by insulting the Prophet Mohammed, and in view of the fact that in recent years similar offensive incidents have occurred in some European countries which evoked massive and violent responses worldwide”.

These Anglican leaders (the Most Revd Mouneer Anis, President-Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Jerusa­lem and the Middle East, the Rt Revd Michael Lewis, Bishop in Cyprus and the Gulf, the Rt Revd Dr Bill Musk, Area Bishop for North Africa, and the Rt Revd Dr Grant Le­-Marquand, Area Bishop for the Horn of Africa) are no doubt well intentioned, attempting to protect their vulnerable churches from Islamist violence and even their eradication. But in the same way that paying the ransom demands of hostage-takers only encourages kidnappings, giving in to Islamist violence will only strengthen the hand of extremists.

While Barnabas Fund absolutely condemns Innocence of Muslims and indeed any use of language, images or media that is abusive towards the leaders of other religions, the violent Islamic response that has caused dozens of deaths and the destruction of property is entirely unjustifiable and reprehensible. The charge of “blasphemy” or “offence” should not be used either as a reason to engage in violence or as a reason to curtail freedom of speech and conscience.

A global blasphemy law must be firmly resisted for a number of reasons. Firstly, it directly contradicts existing human rights law. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. This right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.

It is quite proper for the law to protect individuals from discrimination or violence on account of their beliefs, but it is not the role of states to protect beliefs per se.

Secondly, a law against the defamation of religion would in reality protect Islam more than other religions. The fervency that drives the extremists and the fear that grips their targets, as recent events have evidenced, would see to that. While Christians try to follow Christ’s command to “turn the other cheek” in response to insults and attacks, Muslims are called instead to restore their honour when it has been taken from them, and doing this is more important to them than life itself.

Christianity is one of the most maligned religions in the world; Christ is routinely abused, ridiculed and misrepresented in films, television programmes, adverts and articles. Christians have had to learn to bear the pain this causes them in order for the full freedoms that form the basis of any civilized and democratic society to be upheld.

As the debate over the conflict between Western freedoms and Islamic sensitivities continues, it is essential to understand that Muslims believe power and honour rightly belong to them. The Quran says:

“But honour, power and glory belong to Allah and to His Messenger [Muhammad], and to the believers.” (sura 63, verse 8 )

Thirdly, a global blasphemy law would put Christians and other religious minorities in Muslim-majority contexts in a position of increased marginalization and danger. One has only to look at the effect of “blasphemy laws” in specific countries such as Pakistan, where Christians and other non-Muslims are extremely vulnerable to false accusations. Many people spend years languishing in prison and are sometimes even murdered over the flimsiest accusation of blasphemy. Criminalizing blasphemy in Pakistan has not resulted in greater harmony between religious groups; it has given the full force of the law to Islamic sensitivities, which has only served to exacerbate tensions between Muslims and minorities.

Finally, the calls from Muslims for protection and respect for Islam are outrageously hypocritical given the treatment of Christians and other religious minorities in most Muslim-majority contexts. Christians are routinely and systematically discriminated against, persecuted and violently attacked; in some countries, especially in the Middle East, there is a deliberate Islamist campaign to eradicate Christianity altogether.

While there remains such demonstrable lack of respect within Islam for other religions and their followers, demands for a global blasphemy law cannot and should not be taken seriously.

And those who may be prepared to sacrifice vital freedoms in the misguided belief that this will afford protection from extremist violence would do well to remember Benjamin Franklin’s famous words:

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

– barnabas edit

Tamilnadu Christians protest against desecration of church by police

September 25, 2012 by  
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Chennai, September 21, 2012: Hundreds of Christians in Chennai yesterday observed a one-day fast against the police raid on a village church near an atomic nuclear plant in Koodankulam.

People from various parishes too took part in the hunger strike led by Archbishop A. M. Chinnappa of Madras-Mylapore.

“The police had insulted religious symbols,” the Salesian prelate said.

The gathering demanded action against police officers who permitted his men to enter the St. Lourdes Church in Idinthakarai village.

Police on Sept. 11 searched houses in the village, four kilometres away from the Koodankulam nuclear power plant, while looking for anti-nuke protesters.

They broke windows of the houses and desecrated a statue of Mother Mary in the village.

They also went into the church in the village and desecrated a statue of Mother Mary.

The village was the epicenter of the protests against the nuclear facility.

– persecution.in

Trust in God Always

September 25, 2012 by  
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A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared.
He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole.
Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could, and it could go no further.

So the man decided to help the butterfly.
He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon.
The butterfly then emerged easily.
But it had a swollen body and small, shrivelled wings.

The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge
and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.
Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shrivelled wings. It never was able to fly.

What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon
and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were God’s way of forcing fluid
from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives.
If God allowed us to go through our lives without any obstacles, it would cripple us.
We would not be as strong as what we could have been. We could never fly!

I asked for Strength, And God gave me Difficulties to make me strong.
I asked for Wisdom, And God gave me Problems to solve.
I asked for Prosperity, And God gave me Brain and Brawn to work.

I asked for Courage, And God gave me Danger to overcome.

I asked for Love, And God gave me troubled people to help.

I asked for Favours, And God gave me Opportunities.

I received nothing I wanted, I received everything I needed!

Trust in God.

Always!

– fwd : vc mathews

Nepal, secular parties against King Gyanendra’s “religious” visit

September 25, 2012 by  
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Nepal, secular parties against King Gyanendra’s "religious" visitNepal, September 21, 2012: Nepal secular parties against King Gyanendra’s “religious” visitUnder the guise of a religious pilgrimage, the former monarch is to visit the districts of Kanski, Myagdi and Parbat in the western region. Local Maoist authorities announce a boycott. Whole villages festively decorated for the arrival of the king. Consensus, especially among the poorer classes of the Hindu religion disappointed by Maoism.

Parties and lay supporters of the Hindu monarchy are colliding over a political tour masquerading as religious pilgrimage that former Sha Gyanendra began yesterday in the districts of Kanski, Myagdi and Parbat in the Western Region. Officials of the Maoist parties and the Congress Party and other formations fear a coup by supporters of the former monarch deposed in 2007, among which the Hindu extremist parties Rastriya Janashakti Party (RJP) and Rastriya Prajatantra Party ( RPP). They accuse the king of having a parallel agenda to seek support in the western region, among the poorest in the country and where in recent months there have been several demonstrations for the restoration of the monarchy. Local sources said that these days, entire cities and villages were festively decorated to celebrate the arrival of Gyanendra.

The great popular census for the king is worrying the secular political formations that rose to power in 2008, after the deposition of the monarchy. The Maoist governor of the district of Parbat announced that block the visit of the former monarch who will not be allowed to give public speeches. The authorities of Myagdi have joined the boycott. Today, even the Maoist Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, warned the former monarch not to hold public rallies, accusing him of exploiting the climate of instability to confuse the Nepalese, who will have to choose a new constituent assembly in a few months. Dilendra Prasad Badu, spokesman for the Conservative Congress Party, said that “the authorities cannot tolerate a religious visit on the pretext of creating a monarchist party to nominate for election.”

Several analysts point to a growth of Hindu extremism and the emergence of new political alliances between the parties during the civil war who fought on the side of the monarchy and later were excluded from the formation of the new democratic state. The RLL-N draws strength from the current climate of mistrust towards the parties of the Constituent Assembly, divided among themselves, who have failed to reach an agreement for writing the new constitution. The most affected is the Maoist party considered chiefly responsible for the current situation. Between 2009 and 2011, the party of former guerrillas organized several mass strikes that have crippled the economy.

 – asianews

Concerns for Christians amid violent protests over anti-Islam film

September 25, 2012 by  
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Protests against innocence of Muslims have reached Sydney

Middle East & North Africa, September 17, 2012: Christians in countries rocked by violent demonstrations over a film deemed offensive to Islam are concerned that Muslim anger could turn against them, as a Bible is burned at a protest inEgypt, and Christians face harassment and threats.

The backlash to a YouTube trailer of the US-made film, Innocence of Muslims, has hit around 20 countries, with protestors primarily targeting US embassies. Many of the flashpoints are places where Christians are a vulnerable minority and already under intense pressure from radical Muslims. Christians in these counties tend to be associated with the West because of their faith and are therefore liable to be targets for those seeking vengeance against the US.

There are particular concerns for Christians inEgypt after a Coptic Christian living in the US was said to be a key figure behind the film. Innocence of Muslims, which portrays Muhammad as fraudulent and depraved,was directed by the US-based Israeli film maker Sam Bacile, but the exact involvement of other named parties is not clear. Allegations that Copts had helped to finance the film have also inflamed tensions.

Eric Trager of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said:

“Islamists’ use of this idea that Copts were behind it was apparently effective in drumming up support for those attacks”.

During a demonstration in front of the US Embassy in Cairo last Tuesday (11 September), Muslim cleric Abu Islam tore and burned a Bible in front of thousands of Muslim protestors, threatening, “Next time I will urinate on it.”

Christian groups in Egypt have been quick to denounce the film amid fears that Muslims will vent their anger against Christians. They have even staged their own peaceful demonstrations against Innocence of Muslims as well as joining a Muslim sit-in protest. 

One Christian man, Monier Hanna, said he saw two Christian women in Helwan being harassed over the film by Muslim men last week: “They were telling the women they are responsible for the film.”

A Christian journalist in the country, Caroline Kamel, wrote in an Egyptian newspaper on Friday (14 September) that she and her family had come under attack at a bus station in Cairo and another city as a result of Innocence of Muslims.

Threats have been made against Christians in Sudan, which has seen some of the most violent protests. Muslims descended on the German and US Embassies in Khartoum on Friday following a call by a prominent cleric on state radio for them to do so.

Islamic violence against the film began on 11 September with attacks on the US embassy in Cairo and US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

Protests spread to other Arab countries, including attacks on US embassies in Tunisia andYemen, before going global, as imams urged their congregations during Friday prayers to defend their faith. On Saturday (15 September), two US marines were killed in a Taliban assault on Camp Bastion in Afghanistan. Violent clashes have broken out elsewhere inAfghanistan and also in Pakistan, Indonesia and the Philippines. Protests have taken place in London, other European capitals and Sydney, Australia.

“VERY DANGEROUS” REPERCUSSIONS

The reaction to Innocence of Muslims is reminiscent of the violent backlash to the Danish cartoons in 2005. But the world has changed significantly since then, with a greatly emboldened Islam emerging from the Arab Spring, making these protests all the more dangerous.

In an apparent bid to prevent further attacks on US embassies and consulates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced the film ahead of Friday prayers last week. Describing it as “disgusting and reprehensible”, she said, “The United States government had absolutely nothing to do with this video. We absolutely reject its content and message.”

But the demonstrations have continued, and the whole episode could have lasting global ramifications.

– barnabas team

Pakistan Christians killed, churches burnt down by protesters against the anti-Islam film

September 25, 2012 by  
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September 21, 2012: St. Paul Lutheran Church in Mardan burnt by angry mob protesting against the anti-Islam film. 8,000-strong mob broke into the Church compound. Angry mob set the Church on fire along with two Pastor Houses and the adjacent Head-Teacher’s house of the local Christian school. The Christian school has been looted. Newly-installed computers have been stolen.

The Bishop of Peshawar Rt. Rev. Humphrey Peters has appealed for support from the Anglican Communion condemned the attack: “The damage has been very severe, and we will need to rebuild. We are asking for people around the world to keep us in your prayers”.

He Moderator of the Church of Pakistan, Most Rev. Samuel Azariah Samuel condemned the attack: “This news is very damaging to relations between the communities in Pakistan and around the world. “The government and faith leaders in Pakistan have a role to play in education people that they have the right to protest, but to damage property and terrify people in this way is completely wrong. The government and faith leaders should provide the lead in preventing attacks.”

The Diocese of Peshawar, where the attack took place, provides education and health services to the local community – Muslim and Christian alike – and provided substantial support to victims of floods and a major earthquake in recent years, regardless of their religious affiliation.

Four Christians are already killed in Karachi and one church is burnt in Karachi in response to the film “Innocence’s of Islam”.

– persecution.in

Card Gracias: Young and lay people for the new evangelization

September 25, 2012 by  
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Card Gracias: Young and lay people for the new evangelizationMumbai, September 20, 2012: The president of the Bishops’ Conference of India will be one of the three Asian members of the Synod of Bishops (7-28 October). Interviewed by AsiaNews, the cardinal underscores the contribution India and Asia can make to the universal Church in order to learn together how to respond to the faithful’s new needs. The new evangelisation is important to bring God back into the centre of society, community, family and people.

The13th ordinary general assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be held between 7 and 28 October 2012 on the topic of the ‘New Evangelisation for the Transmission of the Christian faith.’

The list of synodal fathers includes a patriarch, ten cardinals, 11 archbishops, eight bishops and four priests. Some of the main protagonists appointed by Benedict XVI are from Asia, like Card Oswald Gracias, president of the Bishops’ Conference of India, secretary of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) and archbishop of Mumbai (India); Mgr Luis Antonio G. Tagle, archbishop of Manila (Philippines); Fr Jose Panthaplamthottiyil, prior general of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (India).

 Important representatives of ecclesial movements will also attend: Mgr Javier Echevarría Rodríguez, bishop of Cilibia, head of the Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei; Rev Julián Carrón, president of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation.

Ahead of the Synod, AsiaNews interviewed Cardinal Gracias on the expectations and hopes associated with this event, and on the importance of the new evangelisation for India and Asia.

Your Eminence, how did you react to your appointment in the Synod of Bishops?
“I was humbled that Holy Father nominated me for the Synod. It is an honour to be associated with the Universal Church. The theme is very relevant and important for me. It is an occasion to learn what is happening all over the world and learn from the wisdom of so many other eminent bishops and experts.

As Secretary General of FABC, I know I represent Asia and India but I always said that Asia has a lot to learn and much to contribute to the Universal Church. Our contribution of spirituality and sense of contemplation puts a lot of value on the importance of the family. All these core spiritual values, which we cherish and hold dear, have to be strengthened, maintained and shared with the Universal Church.

Asian societies face new challenges and opportunities unheard of in human history. We must understand how young Asians create new subcultures, tackle political, economic, and environmental challenges, and continuously reinvent their relationship with tradition, with previous generations, and with global phenomena.

What contribution can Asia make to the ‘new evangelisation’?
Asia is the birthplace of many of the world’s major religions. It is the cradle of some of the world’s most ancient civilisations. Yet it also is, for the most part, a young continent in terms of its current demographics. Our beloved John Paul II said that Asia is a young continent and India is a young country. Asia’s new generation, which is approx three quarters of a billion people, is our strength. It is urgent that they hear and receive the Good News. Therefore, we must concentrate on how we must pass on the message.

Our beloved pope, the late John Paul II, said, that the new evangelisation has to be new in its ardour, new in its method and new in its message. This is the right moment, because the people want to bring God back from the margins of life and society into the centre of life and society. This is the time for us to respond to their self needs.

We need to bring God back into the life of the country, into the lives of people life, into family and community life. This is really the new evangelism that India, Asia and the world need. People are saying this in different languages and different places.

Asia is home to the largest population of young people in the world. India is home to nearly 714 million people under the age of 30. We have to celebrate with them a faith witnessed and lived. Importantly, in today’s culture of technology, the Gospel is the guide and the permanent paradigm for inculturation, purifying, healing and elevating the best features of the new languages and the new forms of communication.

The Holy Father is prophetic in calling for this synod, with the New Evangelisation for the Transmission of Faith. In the Asian context, this synod is an immense gift, a vital moment to energise and rekindle the treasures and wealth of our faith and promote new opportunities to proclaim the Gospel.

In India, civil society is restless; only God’s calm can free it.

Before the Synod, the Church in India will have a Day of prayer. I will request that all the religious houses, monasteries and convents to pray especially during the days of the Synod. It is important for all of us. There is great expectation that all of us together will be open to the spirit and be able to discern the way God is leading us so as to enable us to interpret and answer it appropriately

As president of the Bishops’ Conference of India, what are your hopes?
India is a land forever blessed by missionaries like the Apostle St Thomas, St Francis Xavier and Mother Teresa. We have received our faith from the Apostle Thomas and the Patron of the Mission St Francis Xavier. In our own times, we have experienced a faith witnessed, lived and celebrated through the life and mission of the Blessed Teresa of Kolkata, the most loved, appreciated and esteemed missionary of the 20th century. Therefore, India has the chance of witnessing faith and works.

What do you expect for the Church in Mumbai?
As archbishop of Mumbai, I am looking forward to a clear sense of direction at the end of the synod. In Mumbai, we are engaged in an archdiocese-wide consultation, and the new evangelisation will be very much part of it.

With advances in all kinds of spheres, in the secular, scientific, and communications domains, we should be equipped to respond adequately to the changing and challenging ways of transmission of faith, with new languages and new forms of communication.

In our world today, especially in multi-cultural and multi-religious Asia, our differences and diversity are not obstacles but a form of richness. Along with the Universal Church, we pilgrims move towards the fullness of life, peace, love, justice, and human dignity.

What role do women and lay people play?
Women have a special role to play to educate people and preserve the faith. Many women, religious or lay, are involved in the Church’s catechistic apostolate.

Contemplation and a profound sense of inner self must be inculcated in the faithful, both lay and clergy, because they are at the core of the Indian and Christian lifestyle. The latter agrees with a cosmic vision of the world and care for planet earth.

Through their faith in Jesus Christ, lay people can bear witness to the Gospel message; they can also use their experience in the service of the faith.

Following the spirit and letter of the Second Vatican Council, lay charisma must be acknowledged and given an opportunity to operate.
Dialogue within the Church and with all others should be the way to proceed with the new evangelisation.

– asianews

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