Diocese offers recipe for reviving Paschal tradition

March 28, 2013 by  
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recipe for reviving paschal traditionNew Delhi, March 28, 2013: The newly created Syro Malabar diocese in the national capital territory has distributed a recipe to cook a traditional Paschal meal in an effort to revive the age-old customs of this oriental church among its young generation.

“The young migrants have forgotten our local customs. Many of them do not know how to prepare” the Pesaha appam (paschal bread) and pal (milk drink) as part of Maundy Thursday observation in Syro-Malabar families, says Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara of Faridabad diocese.

“We want to preserve not only the liturgy but also such customs” of the Kerala-based Church, the archbishop told ucanindia.in on Tuesday.

The archbishop said his diocese created a year ago has distributed a leaflet containing the recipe to all its parishes spread over the National Capital Region, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh.

Traditional families join together to prepare the rice bread and drink made of coconut milk after the Maundy Thursday Church service in the morning. By evening, the eldest in the family cut the bread after reading the Old Testament narration of “Passover feast.” He then offers pieces of bread to each in the family. They also visit houses of friends and relatives, sharing the Passover bread and drink.

“The celebration is a local version of the Israelites’ Passover rites and Christ’s Last Supper. But the new generation has forgotten the ways to prepare the bread and drink. The recipe will help the younger generation to preserve our tradition,” the prelate added.

The preparation for “pesaha appam” starts a week before Holy Thursday.

“We dry rice and grind them a week before,” said Chinnmma Chacko, 82. The head of the family makes a cross from the palm leaf collected from the parish church on Palm Sunday and places it on the dough. Then the dough is cooked in steam.

The Delhi Syro Malabar Youth movement (DSYM) initiated the move to distribute recipe. It will be displayed on the notice board in all the parishes and on the youth website, said Father Denny Kattayil, DSYM director.

Sindhu Mathew, a migrant Syro Malabar member, who got the recipe by e-mail said it is “very useful for people like me.” The 32-year woman said she “will be making it for the first time this year.”

The diocese created in March 2012 is spread over 950,000 square kilometers and caters to more than 100,000 Catholics.

– jessy joseph

Bsp Thomas Dabre: Religion must help cope with existence

March 28, 2013 by  
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Religion must strengthen people to cope with pain of existence

Bishop Thomas DabreToday as Christians all over the world commemorate Good Friday, they reflect, meditate and pray over the agony and anguish of Jesus Christ. Good Friday is a day to remember the crucifixion of Jesus Christ which was preceded by all kinds of suffering that was inflicted   upon Him by ambitious, scheming and evil-minded people.  Jesus experienced prejudice, rejection, injustice, hate and envy which brought about His death on the Cross. His suffering was not    just physical but also psychological and spiritual.

However, what is at the heart of Jesus’ suffering is that He courageously and willingly faced up to it.  Thus His suffering is a confluence of infliction and acceptance.  He said ‘no one can take my life from me.  I lay down my life and I take it up again.’  He also said ‘a grain of wheat must die. Only if it dies, then it will fructify in many grains.’ Jesus described the purpose of His life saying ‘I have come to serve and to give my life for the salvation of mankind’.  Thus at the end of it all, the suffering of Jesus was an act of His supreme freedom.  He teaches us that we must be ready to cope well with suffering.  This is at the heart of religion.  Religion must teach people to learn to handle suffering which accompanies us from womb to tomb. The pain of existence can be handled well and fruitfully only by spiritual power and strength which only religion can provide which is its specific function.

Indeed, life in this world is a vale of tears.  Schopenhauer, Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and many other contemporary philosophers have spoken of the pain of existence.

Religion must empower people to live happily and   with hope in this present life. Karl Marx was off the point when he said religion is the opium of people. Jesus did not did not offer any palliatives to   his people. He called upon his followers to take up their cross and follow Him. He gave people the light, strength and hope to deal with suffering.

In India, there are so many religions, temples and places of worship, but have people, who are proud of their religions, learned to live with suffering?  Suicides, addictions, despair, family breakups and social tensions are only manifestations of weak souls, unable to grapple with problems and challenges   of life.  All this shows that religions have not been effective in inspiring people to deal with suffering. Thousands of people commit suicide every year in India.

Politicians must solve the material and economic problems of the people. But their role is limited. We need spiritual strength, power and light to cope with suffering .And only religions can do it. That is the task of all religions. May this Good Friday help us all to cope with the pain of existence.

– thomas dabre, bishop of poona

Dr Fr. MD Thomas awarded ‘Icon of India 2013’

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fr. M.D. Thomas AwardedNew Delhi, March 12, 2013: Parwaz Express, a National Weekly Hindi Newspaper, a division of Parwaz Media Vision, conferred the award ‘Icon of India 2013’ on Dr Fr M.D. Thomas. This honour was extended to him for his outstanding contribution for nearly three decades to promoting harmony among religious faiths and ideologies through diverse ways as a ‘Spiritual Leader’.

The award contained a ‘Crown’, ‘The Icon Certificate’, ‘Stole of Honour’ and ‘Momento’, along with a ‘Souvenir’ of the names and photographs of all the icons and a Special 50 page Edition of the newspaper with the profile and lifestyle of all the 53 icons selected for the award on the occasion. Dr Fr Thomas is the only Keralite and Christian who is honoured with award by the above organization.

The above award was under Parwas Express award scheme ‘100 Icons’ from various arenas of life, such as social service, athletics, education, art and literature, media, industry and business, politics, religion, communal harmony and spirituality.

The award ceremony took place in Janpath Hotel, New Delhi, on 10 March 2013, marking the 10th anniversary of the Parwaz Express, celebrating a decade of its commendable journey in media and social service. The honourable presence of many ministers, Mps, MLAs and other officials of the central and state governments and of the city of New Delhi gave a ceremonial touch to the entire programme. Including the Icons of 2013, a gathering of eminent people from various sectors numbering nearly 500 made the programme colourful.

Fr Thomas has been deeply committed to fostering understanding, good relations and collaboration with persons and organizations of other religious and social communities for nine years from 2003 to 2011 as National Director of the Commission for Religious Harmony, CBCI, on behalf of the Catholic Christian community in India. In the same capacity, he had also been promoting understanding, interaction and fellowship by editing and publishing a half-yearly and bi-lingual journal called ‘Fellowship’, with a circulation capacity of 10,000 copies in India and overseas.

Dr Thomas holds M.A. and Ph.D. in Hindi Literature and a seven-year B.Mus. in Hindustani Classical Music. He is recipient of ‘Saahityik Kriti Sammaan–2003-2004’ from Hindi Academy, Delhi, for his book ‘Kabeer aur Eesaayee Chintan’, which is the fruit of a multi-disciplinary research. He has also received over 10 awards and honours from interfaith, literary, cultural and social organizations by now.

He has been delivering ‘guest lectures’ at different Departments of the universities, nearly 40 by now, as well as colleges on diverse themes. He has also delivered ‘extension lectures’ on ‘harmony of faiths for social integration’ at over 35 Christian Faculties, as a National Professor. He has been a resource person at national associations of school teachers as well as at one-day seminars for school-teachers on ‘national integration and social harmony’ in over 10 cities. Besides, he addresses a large number of local, regional, national and international conferences of diverse compositions in India and abroad on a variety of harmony-related themes and current concerns.

He has two Audio-CD albums with his musical compositions to his credit, one ‘Samanvay-dhaara’ on ‘multi-faith values’ and the other ‘Samanvay Sarita’ on the lines of saint poets of Hindi on ‘socio-spiritual values’. He is member of over 20 literary, social, cultural, religious and inter-faith organizations. He has authored nearly 200 articles in Hindi and English as well as appeared some 15 times on diverse TV channels for interactions. He has also travelled over 20 countries overseas for cultural exposure and educational contribution.

Presently, Dr Thomas is involved in authoring articles and books on ‘harmony themes’ and on ‘current social concerns’ and in processing universal values of sacred scriptures and classics in to poetical-musical renderings as well as actively promoting mutual interaction, harmonious living, national integration and social harmony. ‘Religion in public sphere’ is his current focus and making a more harmonious society is his life mission.

– press release

Ten anti-Christian incidents in Sri Lanka in March

March 28, 2013 by  
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Buddhism is afforded the "foremost place" in Sri LankaSri Lanka, March 27, 2013: A “sudden increase in violence against the Christian community” in Sri Lanka has been reported; incidents include a brutal attack on a pastor’s home and the burning down of a church building.

Barnabas Fund received news last week of ten anti-Christian incidents in different parts of the country during March.

The most violent of them was an attack by Buddhist extremists on Pastor Pradeep Kumara’s house in Katuwana, Weeraketiya, that was used for worship meetings. The family was out when the mob forced open the gate and broke into the premises on 18 March.

Pradeep’s wife and children returned as the assailants were damaging the property. They threatened her, and she called both her husband and the police. Four officers arrived but could not control the mob.

The attack went on for three and a half hours; the assailants desisted only once they had forced Pradeep’s wife to promise that there would be no more worship meetings at the house.

The pastor has faced intense opposition to his ministry. On 8 December 2012, Buddhists had threatened him and told him to close down his church. The next morning, the group returned and attacked the building during a service. They damaged equipment, furniture and vehicles, and warned Pradeep, “Leave this place or be killed.” He was injured during the attack.

The pastor complained to the police and filed a case at the Supreme Court, which allowed him to continue holding services at the centre for the time being and ordered police protection.

The Supreme Court is still considering the matter. A further hearing took place this month, in the week after the attack on the pastor’s home.


Among the other anti-Christian incidents in Sri Lanka this month were the burning down of a church building in Batticalao on the 9th and, around the 12th, a pastor from Angunakolapelessa being threatened by police, who told him to stop holding services.

Additionally, seven churches faced harassment, mostly from Buddhist monks but sometimes with police or mob support.

Around 2 March, two Pentecostal churches, one in Kottawa, the other in Galle, were targeted. The following Sunday (10 March), a different church in Kottawa was disturbed, and on Sunday 17 March, three churches, in Agalawatte, Polonnaruwa and Embilipitiya, were harassed. Another church in Hikkaduwa was also threatened.

They were told to stop their meetings amid claims in some cases that the Christians had not obtained permission from the local authority. In one of the incidents, four monks arrived with a cameraman and accused the pastor of converting Buddhists.

It is rare to hear of so many anti-Christian incidents in one month in Sri Lanka; these may indicate a concerted campaign by Buddhists.

On Sunday (24 March), hard-line Buddhist group the Bodu Bala Sena said that Sri Lanka is not multiracial or multi-religious but a Sinhala Buddhist country. Secretary Galaboda Aththe Gnanasara thera said that the country should be ready to rally against what he described as Christian and Muslim extremist groups operating in the country.

The Christian minority, who comprise around 8% of the Sri Lankan population, are vulnerable to discrimination and attack, as Buddhism is afforded the “foremost place” by the government. The authorities consequently do little to investigate or prevent attacks by Buddhist extremists.

– barnabas team

Empowering Thoughts

March 28, 2013 by  
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Albert Enistein








– fwd: vc mathews

Islamists in powerful position as Syria conflict enters 3rd year

March 28, 2013 by  
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SyriaSyria, March 27, 2013: The conflict in Syria entered its third year this month. More than 70,000 people have been killed, over three million displaced and much of the nation’s infrastructure destroyed. Hope of a political solution has all but dissipated, and as the official opposition is in a state of disarray, Islamist units are asserting their strength, imposing sharia law in rebel-held areas. Sectarian strife is tearing apart communities in which people of different creeds used to live peaceably together. Where will it end?

Despite key losses, such as in Aleppo, the country’s largest city, and the advance of the rebels in the north-eastern provinces of Deir al-Zour and Raqqah, President Bashar al-Assad has given no indication that he is willing to step aside.

Meanwhile, the opposition National Coalition does not seem to have the strength or support to force his ouster. True, it has received some international recognition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people and was this week invited to take the country’s official seat at the Arab League summit in Qatar.

But the National Coalition has struggled to establish effective leadership and broad support among the Syrian people. The resignation of its president, Moaz al-Khatib, on Sunday (24 March) left the coalition in disarray and also weakened the prospect of a political solution to the crisis. While Mr Khatib had pushed for talks with the Syrian government, the interim prime minister, Ghassan Hitto, elected last week, rejects dialogue.

Announcing his resignation, Mr Khatib complained about foreign powers that he said were withholding aid from the Syrian rebels while trying to control their every move.

Western governments do not seem to know what to do with Syria, recognising perhaps that they are choosing between a rock and a hard place: they are opposed to Assad’s government and back the National Coalition politically but have refused to supply arms  to the rebels for fear that these will fall into the hands of extremists. The UK and France, however, last week pushed the EU to lift an arms embargo and indicated that they may take action alone if their European partners remain reluctant.


Syria has been ravaged by two years of brutal fightingSo with both the government and the official opposition lacking the strength to prevail, a third force has been coming to the fore and may hold the key to the country’s future.

Numerous Islamist militias have been fighting the battle against the regime on the ground and have established a reputation as the rebellion’s most effective forces. The al-Nusra Front (also known as  Jabhat al-Nusra), which has been designated a terrorist outfitrganisation by the US because of its suspected links to al-Qaeda, has emerged as the most prominent. It has won the respect of many Syrian people for both its success on the battlefield and the way it has helped meet the practical needs of civilians.

The Islamists control bakeries and the distribution of essential resources such as flour and fuel in areas they have seized. And they are imposing sharia law. The al-Nusra Front is the driving force behind a new Sharia Authority, known as the Hayaa, that has been established in Aleppo. It adjudicates on crimes and family matters such as marriage and divorce, and it also administers issuesareas such as property and vehicle ownership.

A spokesman for the Hayaa said that the codes applied are “derived from the Islamic religion” but the more extreme sharia punishments, such as cutting off the hands of thieves, are not applied, because Islamic law requires that these are suspended during war.

Christians remaining in Aleppo continue to be targeted. More than 300 from different churches gathered for a united day of prayer on 15 March to mark the second anniversary of the uprising. They narrowly avoided danger: three rockets had been fired at the church where the meeting was taking place a couple of hours before it began, causing some damage.

Then on 20 March, the rebels attacked an Armenian Christian neighbourhood, exploding twelve mortars in the area. But they were fought back by government troops.

Aleppo It is neverthelesshas become a disturbing microcosm of what could become of the whole country if the Islamists emerge ascendant in this ever-splintering conflict.

They are in a powerful position. Without them, the National Coalition probably cannot force Assad out and win sufficient support among the people. But with them, the coalition is unlikely to secure extensive military support from the West.

When the US designated the al-Nusra Front a terrorist organisationutfit in December 2012, the National Coalition and other opposition groups did not distance themselves from the Islamists but rather condemned Washington’s decision, showing where their allegiance lies.

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

It is becoming increasingly apparent that Islamists will are likely to play an influential role in the future of Syria. They are already asserting their authority and imposing sharia law. But while they are building support among the Syrian people, there are many within the country who are fearful of its becoming an Islamic state in which their rights and freedoms are denied. This scenario would leave the Christian minority in an especially vulnerable position and the future of the once strong Church in serious jeopardy.

– barnabas edit

Good Friday Way of the Cross on the streets…

March 28, 2013 by  
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Mumbai: Stations of the Cross Musical Drama Acted Out on the Streets – Pass the word on…
Good Friday: Walking Pilgrimage Starts from Sacred Heart Church, Santacruz West – 10.30 am onwards

* Thousands to Pray & Walk – Over 5 Hours in Fasting & in Penance

* India’s Only 26th Annual Good Friday Dramatization on Mumbai’s Streets

* Enactment of Crucifixion & Resurrection at St. Charles Convent, Vakola, 2.00 pm

* Prayers from The Indian Chaplaincy of the Holy Land for Good Friday Stations of the Cross

Do you have children, whom you need to show the Stations of the Cross?
Are you a youth – who wants to discover in a small way how Jesus felt then?
Good Friday happened on the streets – and not in comfortable surroundings?
Is the Holy Spirit calling you to move out & join thousands on 29th March 2013?

Then walk with us and thousands of others, who will also witness, evangelize and tell the world about – the Hows & Whys of Jesus’ suffering, crucifixion and resurrection.

Earlier pics of the program by Reynold D’Cruz….



Be There

Your brother in Christ,

Joseph Dias

Worry not

March 25, 2013 by  
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Worry Not

Worry Not

Worry Not

You can worry about tomorrow and by so doing lose today forever.
Or you can work for tomorrow and as a result you’ll keep the value of today with you always.

You can worry about what others think of you, and by so doing lose their respect.

Or you can work in the service of your highest and best vision
and others will beg to follow in your footsteps.

Worry not! You can worry about making a living and
by so doing have no time left in which to live.

Or you can work to create real,
lasting value and experience fulfillment in every moment.

You can worry and be afraid,
and by so doing you’ll give power and substance to your fears.

Don't WorryOr you can choose to be bold and live
each moment in freedom and fulfillment.

Whatever you’re worried about,
your worry will get you nowhere.

When you feel the urge to worry about life, use that energy instead to live it fully,
and reap its many magnificent rewards.

Worry Not

Worry notNo matter how dark the situation, Worry not
Let me always hold on to the steady
light of hope.

Worry Not

– fwd: vc mathews

Pope Francis affirms his commitment to ecumenism

March 25, 2013 by  
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The pope also held out a hand of friendship to people who follow no religion.

Pope FrancisVatican City, March 21, 2013:  Pope Francis extended a hand to those who don’t belong to any religion, urging them on Wednesday (March 20) to work with believers to build peace and protect the environment.

In his first ecumenical meeting, the new pope greeted representatives from Christian churches and other religions, including Jewish and Muslim leaders, who had come to Rome to attend his inaugural Mass on Tuesday.

Francis said that he intends to follow “on the path of ecumenical dialogue” set for the Roman Catholic Church by the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

But he also reached out to those who don’t belong “to any religious tradition” but feel the “need to search for the truth, the goodness and the beauty of God.”

Francis echoed his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, saying that the “attempt to eliminate God and the divine from the horizon of humanity” has often led to catastrophic violence.

But Francis, who has set a humbler tone to the papacy since his election on March 13, added that atheists and believers can be “precious allies” in their efforts “to defend the dignity of man, in the building of a peaceful coexistence between peoples and in the careful protection of creation.”

Francis also stressed the “very special spiritual bond” between Catholics and Jews.

“There is no doubt that Catholic-Jewish relations will go from strength to even greater strength during Pope Francis’s pontificate,” said Rabbi David Rosen, International Director of Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee, after meeting with Francis.

Earlier on Wednesday, the pope met privately with the spiritual leader of Eastern Orthodox Christians, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

According to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Bartholomew and Francis are planning a joint visit to Jerusalem in 2014 to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1964 meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras.

That meeting led to the cancellation of the reciprocal excommunications between the leaders of western and eastern Christianity in 1054, otherwise known as the “Great Schism.”

Bartholomew attended Francis’ inauguration on Tuesday, the first Patriarch to do so in over 900 years.

– religious news service

Will lessons be learnt after attack on Pak Christians?

March 25, 2013 by  
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A Muslim mob torched 178 homes in Joseph ColonyPakistan, March 21, 2013: The authorities in Pakistan have faced severe criticism over the destruction of an entire Christian neighbourhood by a Muslim mob earlier this month. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said that the attack on Joseph Colony could have been avoided had lessons been learnt from a similar episode in Gojra in 2009 and a system put in place to protect Christian communities. Will the latest outbreak of violence prove to be a catalyst for change or just another incident in an endless series of attacks?

There have certainly been some signs of hope in the way the authorities and others have responded to the incident. The Punjab government was quick to react, with the Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif apologising to the Christian community and promising that the perpetrators would be dealt with severely.

The District Coordination Office set up emergency shelters and provided food for the victims. And repair work on the torched houses and other buildings got underway almost immediately; 60 homes and two churches have already been restored. The authorities pledged on Sunday (17 March) to complete the reconstruction of the other homes and shops within a week. Police have been deployed to protect both the Christians living in tents and the labourers doing the repair work on their homes.

The promised compensation has been paid, with each family receiving 500,000 Rupees (£3,350; US$5,100).

Scores of arrests have been made, with a First Information Report, which launches criminal proceedings in Pakistan, lodged against 83 named suspects.

Reconstruction work on the Christians’ homes is underwayThis response by the authorities has been uncharacteristically positive for an attack on a Christian community. But with a general election pending in the next two months, it has been suggested that the motives of the governing party in Punjab, the PML-N (PakistanMuslim League), may not be altogether altruistic. Before the Joseph Colony attack, the PML-N was riding high in the opinion polls, but severe criticism of the authorities over the incident has threatened their position. Their response may therefore have more to do with pre-election posturing than concern for justice for the Christian minority. It remains to be seen whether their care will outlast the election campaign.

In addition to the support from the provincial authorities, there has been a great deal of sympathy and solidarity expressed for the Christian victims in the Pakistani media. And Muslim groups, including Islamist ones such as Jamaat-e-Islami, have condemned the violence.


But there has also been hostility. Christians who have staged peaceful protests in support of their brothers and sisters in Joseph Colony have faced threats and violence.

Police fired tear gas at and beat Christian protestors with sticks in Youhanabad and Kot Lakhpat. Elsewhere, Pastor Naeem Bhadhar, who had arranged a protest rally, was beaten severely by radical Muslims as he was travelling back to his village in Sialkot on 14 March. He was warned that any Christian who organised further protests would be killed.

Following a rally by Christians in Jhelum city on 12 March, Muslims accused Pastor George Naz of blasphemy, saying that he had criticised the country’s blasphemy laws. Announcements from the mosques warned that Muslims would burn Christians’ homes if the police did not take action against George within 72 hours. CLAAS, a Christian legal organisation in Pakistan supported by Barnabas Fund, intervened and succeeded in restoring calm to the area, perhaps averting another catastrophe.


Hostility towards Christians is never far from the surface in Pakistan, and an unsubstantiated accusation of blasphemy can be all it takes for violence to flare.

Since the Gojra attack, there been several major incidents of religious incitement, such as the blasphemy allegation against Rimsha Masih that led to an entire Christian community having to flee their homes.

A judicial tribunal investigated the Gojra violence and submitted a report to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif in October 2009. He had assured the Christian community that the assailants would be brought to justice and the recommendations of the judicial tribunal implemented in full. But over three years later, the tribunal’s findings have still not been made public and nobody has been prosecuted.

Those involved in the Gojra inquiry believe that the Joseph Colony violence could have been averted if the Punjab government had implemented the tribunal’s recommendations. The report said:

The Gojra tragedy must be taken seriously and the needful should be done on war-footing without further loss of time to avoid a replay of the gruesome episode.

The police were criticised for their “inadequate precautionary and preventative measures” and “complete failure … while discharging their duties”. The report also proposed amendments to the country’s blasphemy laws, which underpin hostility towards Christians and other non-Muslims in Pakistan.

Similar statements have been made in response to the Joseph Colony attack. One commentator wrote that the police had “stood aside helplessly as silent spectators” while the neighbourhood was razed to the ground.

The similarities between these cases demonstrate a cycle of failure by the authorities that must be broken once and for all. They have missed crucial opportunities to put in place procedures that could stem the tide of violence against Christians, and they must not let this one pass.

A contact in Pakistan said:

I don’t think that such incidents will stop happening, as the government has hinted at neither making changes to the blasphemy laws nor taking steps to change the majority community’s attitude towards Christians and other non-Muslims…The government response does not indicate any intention to remove the root causes behind such violent attacks against Christians in Pakistan.

It has been encouraging to hear how the authorities have swooped in to help the Christians of Joseph Colony after the attack against them. They must now work on preventative measures so that such devastating incidents are consigned to the past.

– barnabas edit

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