Hong Kong: Church warns voting or civil disobedience will follow

July 26, 2013 by  
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ProtestHong Kong, July 25, 2013: With an urgent appeal “to the government and all stakeholders”, the Territory’s diocese invites representatives of the executive to end delay on debate for introduction of the “one man, one vote” system. This “should enter into force in time for the election of the new Chief Executive”, scheduled for 2017. Otherwise, in the light of the Social Doctrine of the Church and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the population will begin peaceful and non-violent civil disobedience. The full text of the document.

The government “and all those who have a role” in democratic reform in Hong Kong “must immediately begin an open and honest dialogue between the parties, aimed to achieve a true democracy in the Territory through the system of universal suffrage. Otherwise civil disobedience is justified”. This is the issue at the heart of a long text published today by the local Catholic diocese in the Kung Kao Po, a Chinese-language weekly Church magazine and the Sunday Examiner, the English-language weekly paper.

The text refers not only to the Social Doctrine and Gaudium et Spes, but also the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations: “Every people has the right / duty to choose their own rulers.” Moreover, the “Occupy Central” movement – was meant to put pressure through peaceful protests on the executive and thus obtain democracy – has its own legitimacy: “If you do not respond to requests made by the usual methods, it is right to choose other streets. ” Universal suffrage for Hong Kong, never granted during the colonial period under the British, since 1997 has been blocked by China, which does not want to lose control over the territory. Please find the full text below:

In recent months there have been growing concerns that “genuine universal suffrage” for the election of the Chief Executive in 2017 might not be achieved.  In particular, there are worries that Art 45 of the Basic Law might be restrictively interpreted or otherwise used to set up a “nominating committee” that is “broadly representative” in name only but in reality is not, and a “method for selecting the Chief Executive” which professes to be, but is in fact not truly “in accordance with democratic procedures”.

It appears that the “Occupy Central” movement currently being organized by some local people, as a form of “civil disobedience”, has come about precisely as a consequence of the above and other related concerns which must be seriously and responsibly addressed by the authorities and by all who have a stake in the future of Hong Kong.

Since a democratic form of government is essential for the well-being of Hong Kong society, the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong calls upon the Government to begin formal consultations on the appropriate electoral reform model without any further delay, and urges all stakeholders to enter into and maintain sincere and earnest dialogue with one another and actively search for solutions that will help to remove all root causes for civil disobedience and realize the goal of universal suffrage.

On 19 February 2012, in the diocesan weeklies, Kung Kau Po and the Sunday Examiner, and in three local newspapers, the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong issued a statement expressing its expectations for the new government of the Hong Kong SAR.  In that statement, the words of the late Pope John Paul II, quoted from his encyclical  On the Hundredth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum (“Centesimus Annus”, 1 May 1991, #46) voiced out the aspirations not only of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong, but of all people of good will: “The Church values the democratic system inasmuch as it ensures the participation of citizens in making political choices, guarantees to the governed the possibility both of electing and holding accountable those who govern them and of replacing them through peaceful means when appropriate.”

In fact, a strong appeal for States to establish a democratic form of government had been made many years before in Article 21 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (10 December 1948):

“The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government. This will is to be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage, and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.”

The Catholic Church, in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (“Gaudium et Spes”, 7 December 1965) of the Second Vatican Council, states that “the choice of political regime and the appointment of rulers are left to the free decision of the citizens.” (#74)  The same document continues: “It is fully consonant with human nature that there should be politico-juridical structures providing all citizens without any distinction with ever improving and effective opportunities to play an active part in the establishment of the juridical foundations of the political community, in the administration of public affairs, in determining the aims and the terms of reference of public bodies, and in the election of political leaders.” (#75)

Citizens have the right, and indeed at times the duty, to express their just criticisms and to make related recommendations in regard to what seems harmful to the dignity of persons and the good of the community. [cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), #2238]  Such right and duty are part of our civic responsibility and are fully consistent with the respect that is due to civil authority, which exists to serve the common good. (cf. CCC, ##1898, 1902)

In general, the legislature and the courts are the principal legal instruments for citizens to express discontent, achieve change and/or to redress grievances. Nevertheless, if persistent calls to correct serious injustice have not been given any positive response, or legal recourse is unavailable, or if non-democratic political structures do not allow any effective access to the normal means of redress or reform, exceptional situations can arise in which “civil disobedience”, within certain limits, is justified.

“Civil disobedience” by its very nature is intended to be non-violent.  This feature, important though it is, is clearly not by itself a sufficient justification. In the case of the “Occupy Central” movement, it appears to be accepted by its supporters that there are other factors as well as contingencies to be taken into account, including, for example, such questions as when the government is going to start formal consultations and what nomination mechanism and procedures are eventually put forward by the authorities as being permitted by or ruled out as being incompatible with the Basic Law.

Whether “civil disobedience” in the form of “Occupy Central”, or indeed in any other form, is in fact justified must be considered on a case by case basis.  It is the position of the Diocese, in line with the Catholic social teaching on civic responsibility (cf. CCC, #2234-2243; #1898-1903), that the conditions that justify “civil disobedience” are strict.  In general, in the context of a society such as Hong Kong which values justice, peace and freedom under the Rule of Law, an act of civil disobedience must not only be carried out in a peaceful and non-violent manner, but must also itself be an act of conscience directed at preventing or removing grave injustice and/or violation of fundamental rights. Other conditions include:

All concerned should continue to make every effort at rational dialogue.

All other peaceful means of redress have been exhausted.

The act of civil disobedience must itself be a just and proportionate response to the injustice that it reasonably seeks and hopes to prevent or remove.

The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong takes the view that unjust exclusion from meaningful political participation in the choice of one’s leaders and representatives in civil government is certainly a grave injustice and violation of fundamental rights which ought to be redressed without further delay.   Therefore, in line with its statement of last February, the Diocese calls upon the authorities for the following to be planned for and achieved, with an increased sense of urgency :

The Chief Executive shall be directly elected by universal suffrage in 2017 (on a one person, one vote basis).

All the members of the legislature shall also be directly elected by universal suffrage in geographical constituencies (on a one person, one vote basis), in any event, no later than 2020. Functional constituencies should be abolished.

All members of District Boards shall be directly elected on a one person, one vote basis by citizens of each District.

The mechanism and procedures for nominating candidates for election to the office of Chief Executive must be truly democratic so as to facilitate the right of the citizens to choose their leaders and fully realize the principle of universal suffrage.

The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong makes this urgent appeal for earnest dialogue and responsible action in the hope that, through the collaborative efforts of all, the HKSAR will be able to build up a truly democratic, fair and accountable system of government which is essential for the maintenance of justice and peace.

– asianews

“Face difficulties positively”

July 26, 2013 by  
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HEATED  GOLD  BECOMES  ORNAMENTS.
BETTED  COPPER  BECOMES  WIRES.
DEPLETED  STONE  BECOMES  STATUE.
SO  THE  MORE PAIN  YOU  GET  IN  YOUR  LIFE  YOU  BECOME MORE  VALUABLE.

old muleThis parable is told of a farmer who owned an old mule. The mule fell into the farmer’s well. The farmer heard the mule praying or whatever mules do when they fall into wells.

After carefully assessing the situation, the farmer sympathized with the mule, but decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth the trouble of saving.

Instead, he called his neighbors together, told them what had happened, and enlisted them to help haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well and put him out of his misery.

Initially the old mule was hysterical! But as the farmer and his neighbors continued shoveling and the dirt hit his back, a thought struck him.

Shake it offIt suddenly dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back, HE WOULD SHAKE IT OFF AND STEP UP!

This he did, blow after blow. “Shake it off and step up…shake it off and step up…shake it off and step up!” He repeated to encourage himself.

Shake it offNo matter how painful the blows, or how distressing the situation seemed, the old mule fought panic and just kept right on SHAKING IT OFF AND STEPPING UP!

It wasn’t long before the old mule, battered and exhausted, stepped triumphantly over the wall of that well! What seemed like it would bury him actually helped him . . . all because of the manner in which he handled his adversity.

THAT’S LIFE!
If we face our problems and respond to them positively, and refuse to give in to panic, bitterness, or self-pity.

Once we decide to Succeed , there is no limits for success .

Try & never get turned down.

EGG  BROKEN  FROM  OUTSIDE  FORCE……..A  LIFE ENDS  .
IF  AN  EGG  BREAKS  FROM  WITHIN…….LIFE  BEGINS .
GREAT   THINGS  ALWAYS  BEGIN  FROM   WITHIN .

Got Problems?

– fwd: vc mathews

Ramadan: Non-Muslim pupils forced to eat in bathroom

July 26, 2013 by  
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Malaysia, July 24, 2013: The act of segregation is condemned by politicians and Muslims. Our “religion does not dictate this,” Muslim woman says. However, in many Islamic countries, non-Muslims are required to respect the eating ban during the period of fasting.

Children forced to eat in bathroomNon-Muslim children in a Malaysian primary school were forced to have lunch in the facility’s change room whilst their classmates fasted during Ramadan. Pictures of ethnic Chinese and Indian (usually Christian or Hindu) children were posted on the internet by one of the mothers, Guneswari Kelly, causing an uproar among politicians and Muslims opposed to unhygienic segregation.

On her Facebook page, Kelly Guneswari wrote that staff at the Sri Pristana School, in suburban Kuala Lumpur, told non-Muslim children to eat in the school’s bathroom and not in the canteen. “Is this fair? Can [a national school] treat [non-Muslim pupils] like this” during Ramadan?

After being informed, Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin ordered an investigation into the matter, saying he would take action.

School officials have not released any statement, but Jehan Bakar, a Muslim woman lawyer and mother of two, said she was “horrified” by the segregation of non-Muslim children. Our “religion does not dictate this,” she insisted.

In fact Islam does not ask non-Muslims to fast or hide, but in many Islamic countries, Christians, Hindus or people of other religions are asked (and sometimes forced) not to eat in public or are not allow to eat at all during the fasting period, which runs from dawn to dusk.

In Malaysia, there are often signs of impatience towards Islamic rules that are often applied in a very restrictive way. Recently, a Chinese couple was accused of sedition for posting online a Ramadan greeting that showed them eating pork, which is forbidden in Islam.

In 2010, the principal of a secondary school in the state of Kedah accused ethnic Chinese students of being insensitive towards their Muslim classmates because they ate at school during Ramadan, telling them to “return to China” if they could not respect the culture of other ethnic groups.

– asianews

The battle against political Islam is ideological

July 26, 2013 by  
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“This book may prove to be the most important one you will read this year” Washington Times review

“This book may prove to be the most important one you will read this year” Washington Times review

Egypt, July 25, 2013: In Fighting the Ideological War, a book of essays to which I contributed and that I co-edited, I argued that Islamism (or political Islam) can be defeated only by challenging its ideology. The West has been extremely reticent to associate the terrorist activity and political extremism of Islamists with the teachings of Islam, when in fact the ideology they espouse is deeply rooted in Islamic texts; hence their effectiveness in attracting devout Muslims to the cause.

The Islamist movement has been sponsored for years by wealthy Gulf States such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and their efforts appeared to have paid off with the political success of Islamist parties in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. It seemed that the Islamist goal of enforcing sharia law had triumphed over the call of liberal secularists, who had brought about the Arab Spring, for Western rights and freedoms.

But the fall of Mohammad Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has changed the landscape once again, with the secularists now holding the upper hand and political Islam in total disarray.

The movement is fracturing, losing support from within and without as divisions between the Islamists emerge.

A group of around 1,400 within the Brotherhood in Egypt has launched a petition of no confidence in the group’s supreme leader, Mohamed Badie. Ahmed Yehia, a lawyer and co-ordinator of the new movement, “Brotherhood Without Violence”, said:

We have to regain the trust of the public by returning to the old tolerant, non-violent way and dealing with the public as we always have, through social services.

Islamist parties enjoyed political success following the Arab Spring

Islamist parties enjoyed political success following the Arab Spring

The Salafist al-Nour party in Egypt backed the removal of Morsi, and, surprisingly, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have supported the military transitional regime with a US$12 billion aid package.

Western governments have not been persuaded by the Brotherhood’s argument that Morsi was removed in a coup; US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron have avoided any explicit criticism of the military takeover.

The Brotherhood is thus essentially defeated and isolated in Egypt, and its failure has ramifications for the Islamist cause elsewhere, such as Turkey, which has aspired to become a regional role model for new like-minded regimes, andSyria, where Islamists are waging war against President Bashar al-Assad.

It would be premature to write off the movement completely. The question now is, how will the Brotherhood respond?

The group seems highly unlikely to bow out graciously, as its violent clashes with the security forces during protests over Morsi’s ouster indicate. It has refused an invitation by Egypt’s interim president Adly Mansour to take part in national reconciliation meetings with all political forces, saying it will not enter into any talks until Morsi is released and reinstated as president.

Spokesman Ahmed Aref said:

We ask that whoever opposes us not trivialise us as a weak enemy. We have accumulated much experience since our founding more than 80 years ago. We have been through hardship that others cannot even imagine. We have strong institutional work based on preaching and educational values, and thus we can be a bitter enemy.

Having first been forced out of government and then refused to take part in the transitional process, the Brotherhood will most likely go underground, where it was previously kept for years, and look to create mayhem.

One of Egypt’s most popular newspapers, El Watan (“The Nation”), published on 5 July the final dialogue between General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Mohammad Morsi, which took place on 2 July shortly before Morsi’s removal. As Sisi explained that the military was backing the Egyptian people and putting Morsi under arrest, the latter replied:

Don’t think the Brotherhood is going to stand by if I leave office. They will set the world on fire.

A violent fight-back is already underway, with attacks against Christians, military targets and other perceived enemies, which could develop into a full-blown civil war.

The Brotherhood is trying to justify its response by saying that it is contending for “legitimacy”, an argument that could attract support both at home and abroad. The group is likely to ramp up the religious rhetoric, telling Muslims that it is their duty to join the cause.

Egypt’s interim leaders and secular campaigners must not allow the fallen Brotherhood to attract sympathy from the people and must continue to challenge the group’s ideology.

The masses have made it clear that they do not support an Islamist agenda for the country and have exposed the key political failing of the Brotherhood: its inability or unwillingness to include and protect those who do not share its values.

The Egyptian people have taken a strong stand for freedom, but the battle is not yet won. As the country looks to hold elections in around six months’ time, the secularists must this time win the war of ideas, demonstrating how a secular democracy, while not a perfect system, offers equality and rights for all.

If they can secure their position in Egypt, this will give confidence to their counterparts in neighbouring lands. The West must help, by getting to grips with and countering the Islamist ideology that opposes secular values of freedom and democracy.

– dr. patrick sookhdeo

Kerala bishops oppose circular on appointments

July 25, 2013 by  
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They have termed it as ‘anti-minority’ and ‘unconstitutional.’

Kerala CabinetKerala, July 23, 2013: The Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC) has dismissed a government circular on appointment of staff in aided higher secondary schools (HSSs) as unconstitutional.

“It infringes on the Christian minorities’ constitutional right to establish, administer and manage educational institutions for the community,” KCBC spokesperson Father Stephen Alathara said.

If the government goes ahead with the circular, the bishops would consider taking legal options against it, Father Alathara told ucanindia.in.

He said Catholic-managed schools should have the freedom to choose teaching and non-teaching staff in their institutions to safeguarded the interest of those institutions.

The circular issued by the directorate of higher education violates principles of the constitution, he said.

The Kerala Aided Higher Secondary School Managers’ Association too has come out against the circular. Association leaders have said that the circular would complicate appointments to teaching and non-teaching posts.

The Nair Service Society (NSS) had come out against the circular at the very outset, prompting state education minister P.K. Abdu Rabb to say that he would look into the matter.

Although these managements and community organizations have come out against it, pro-Left organizations have fully endorsed it on the plea that it is a step in the right direction to curb corruption in teaching and non-teaching staff appointments in aided higher secondary schools.

Although faced with loud objections, Director of Higher Secondary Education Kesavendra Kumar is understood to have stood his ground and explained to higher-ups in the department that he had only codified the rules and regulations that were already in existence.

– press release

Converts to Christianity endangered in Sudan

July 25, 2013 by  
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The Sudanese authorities are tracking down converts from Islam in their latest bid to rid the country of Christianity; they threatened to kill one Christian for refusing to divulge names.

Churches and other Christian-owned buildings are being demolishedMiddle East and North Africa, July 24, 2013: In accordance with sharia law, apostasy – leaving Islam – is punishable by death in Sudan, although nobody has been executed for the “crime” in nearly 20 years. Almost 170 people were however jailed or charged in 2011 and 2012.

The danger for converts has increased following the secession of South Sudan in July 2011; Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has repeatedly stated his intention to strengthen sharia law, making the country 100% Islamic.
A Christian from the Nuba Mountains who fled Sudan last month has now revealed how the authorities are trying to track down converts from Islam.

He was arrested in a raid on his home in Khartoum on 23 February and taken in for interrogation. Officials from the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) told the Christian, “If you need your life, just cooperate with us.”

His computer, two laptops, iPad, mobile phone, passport and other documents were confiscated, along with his brother and sisters’ mobile phones.

The security officers accused the Christian of being a spy for insurgents in the Nuba Mountains, against whom Sudan has been waging a ferocious military campaign for two years, and threatened to kill him in accordance with Sudanese law.

He was released but ordered to report to the NISS office daily. He told Morning Star News before fleeing the country:

They told me I must cooperate with them in giving them the names of Muslims who have changed their religion, and they asked me about the whereabouts of my friend, a guy who was a Muslim and became Christian.

I am now threatened badly before them, and they were making me every day to be in their office, saying if I refused to deal with them, they will accuse me with unknown fate.

Persecution of Christians in Sudan, which is 98% Muslim, has increased sharply since the secession of the predominantly Christian South Sudan. Churches are being demolished, Christian institutions and schools closed, Christians arrested, foreign Christian workers deported and literature seized. In April, a government minister announced that no new licences will be granted for church buildings.

On 25 June, plain-clothes police officials raided the offices of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church, chasing pastors and others out, in an apparent bid to take over the property.

– barnabas team

Malaysian couple face jail for eating pork

July 25, 2013 by  
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Couple posted photo of them eating during Ramadan.

Couple posted photo of them eating during RamadanMalaysia, July 24, 2013, A non-Muslim Chinese couple who posted on Facebook a photo of themselves eating pork during the Islamic month of Ramadan face up to 15 years in prison in Muslim-majority Malaysia for sedition and other crimes.

“They were charged under the Sedition Act, the Film Censorship Act, and the Penal Code,” the Malaysia Chronicle reported on Thursday (July 18).

Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee — also known as Tan Jye Yee and Lee May Ling — pleaded not guilty at the Sessions Court in Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur.

“They have the potential to upload content that could stir anger,” said Malaysia’s Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail, demanding the man and woman be jailed pending their next hearing.

Tan, 25, and Lee, 24, are Malaysian citizens.

They allegedly posted a photograph of themselves earlier in July, smiling at a roadside restaurant while eating pork stew with chopsticks.

The photo included a caption greeting Muslims during Ramadan, plus their personal website address.

That website displayed several of their YouTube videos including “Vaginas,” “Sexual Fantasies,” “Gays and Homosexuals.”

In court, Mr. Tan said the dinner photo was meant as humor and not as an insult, and he also apologized in a YouTube video asking “for forgiveness for offending Muslims in this holy month of Ramadan.”

– religion news service

Cardinal Gracias lauds Pope’s encyclical

July 25, 2013 by  
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He appreciated Pope Francis’ “down to earth, direct approach.”

Cardinal Oswald GraciasBangkok, July 24, 2013: Cardinal Oswald Gracias has lauded Pope Francis’ encyclical “Lumen Fidei” as notable for exploring the “valuable richness” of faith and for being an “answer to the present challenges to faith.”

“Lumen Fidei is a challenge to us not to take our faith for granted, but to understand our faith, to live it ethically, and proclaim it confidently,” the cardinal told the Catholic New Agency.

Cardinal Gracias appreciated Pope Francis’ “down to earth, direct approach,” as shown in his statement that the encyclical was “written by four hands.”

The encyclical has the “theological depth” and insights of Benedict XVI as well as the “direct approach” of Pope Francis, making concrete examples to form direct appeals to people of God.

“I think the combination has been excellent (in) the depth, clarity and appeal” of the document.

While the encyclical is addressed to all the faithful, Cardinal Gracias examined it in the light of his Asian context, linking it to Blessed John Paul II’s 1999 apostolic exhortation “Ecclesia in Asia,” which promoted a “great harvest of faith” on that continent.

“Lumen Fidei” is addressed to the “universal” Church, Cardinal Gracias said, and each diocese is called to pastorally “apply” the teaching of the Bishop of Rome to its “particular” situation.

The cardinal indicated that the years between Blessed John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation to Asian Catholics and the present Holy Father’s encyclical letter have been the occasion of a “re-awakening,” a call to rediscover the richness of the faith in Asian cultures.

“I think everything links up beautifully with ‘Ecclesia in Asia,’ which speaks of the richness of faith in the Asian context and the challenges to us to make an Asian response,” he said.

Cardinal Gracias said that Benedict XVI’s call for a “deepening” of our faith has been served by his successor’s encyclical, which has helped in really “understanding” the “richness” of the light of faith in the midst of darkness, and in showing how the values of the Gospel can be the “answers to our problems.”

There is a “cry against corruption,” a cry for “good governance” and an “attitude of servant leadership” all over the world, Cardinal Gracias reflected.

“This is evangelization,” he said, “understanding the faith, living the faith, and proclaiming the faith.”

– cna

India’s first transgender pastor finds fulfilment

July 25, 2013 by  
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Faith in Christ helped her through many hardships.

Pastor BharathiTamil Nadu, July 23, 2013: Ten years ago, Bharathi, then a teenager, would dance with other transgender friends in the streets of Chennai for money. But now as a Protestant pastor she leads the faithful in worship and plans to minister to her fellow transgenders.

Pastor Bharathi, 28, of the Evangelical Church of India, a Protestant church active in South India, is widely considered the first transgender pastor in the country.

“I feel like a special person,” she says. But her life has been full of tears, agony and hardship.

Born as Bharath Raja, she was the third child and first son to a Hindu family near the coastal district of Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu state.

“I realized I was different as I was growing up. Deep down I felt I was a woman while all the while I was being treated like a boy,” she told ucanews.com.

Her family was angry at her feminine traits and repeatedly told her to act like a boy. The taunts and pressure were so great she even attempted to kill herself.

It was during her struggle with her sexuality in school that she was introduced to Christianity. “I believed in Jesus from a young age,” she said.

Her father would often beat her for attending church, she recalled. But she held firm to her faith.

After finishing her schooling and being unable to take the pressure from her family any more, she ran away to the state capital Chennai and joined a group of transgender people.

“I learned their ways, culture and how they survived in difficult situations. I felt comfortable with them,” Bharathi said.

Transgender people generally live on the margins of society and work as commercial sex workers or beg for a living, according to Angel Glady, a transgender activist and member of an NGO working for their welfare.

India has an estimated 500,000 transgender people, who can be generally seen on the streets and at railway stations begging for money. They also do street performances to make a living since they are not accepted in normal social life.

“Suicide rates are highest among us, most have psychological problems, and generally their average life expectancy is less than others,” Glady told ucanews.com.

“Everything is difficult for us … obtaining food, clothing and shelter,” Angel said.

Luckily, there has been more political acceptance for transgender people in Tamil Nadu over the last six years. The state has introduced several welfare measures for transgender people like free sex change surgery, housing, separate welfare boards and accepting transgender people as a “third sex.”

In 2007, Bharathi underwent sex change surgery to complete her transformation into a woman. All the while she kept her faith in Christ and love for working among transgender people, she said.

Bharathi’s break came when a Protestant helped her through a theology course to become a pastor. In 2011 she graduated in theology and became the first transgender graduate of India’s Serampore University in West Bengal.

“She is a dedicated and committed person and a unique personality,” said Bishop Ezra Sargunam of the Evangelical Church of India.

“We had no issues with a transgender person doing ministry work,“ the prelate said.

Glady, a Catholic, said Bharathi being accepted into a ministry “is definitely a sign of our acceptance” in Christian society.

Rural parishioners with whom she works accepted her for who she is.

“She is good in teaching scriptures, and does good work in our community,” said Dayalan, one of her parishioners.

Bharathi’s estranged family finally accepted her after she became a pastor.

“One can live a holy life despite being a transgender,” said Pastor Bharathi, who now plans to set up an orphanage for HIV positive transgender people and a counseling center.

“I am not angry with God for creating me like this, I only see myself as an instrument to glorify his name,” she said.

“One day I hope to get married and lead a beautiful family life,” she said with a smile.

– ucanews

Christian couple charged with blasphemy

July 25, 2013 by  
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Latest case in Punjab follows life sentence last week.

Christian couple charged with blasphemyPakistan, July 23, 2013: Police in Gojra, Punjab province, have charged a Christian couple with blasphemy. This comes a week after a Christian man was sentenced to life in prison in the same town after being found guilty of defaming the Prophet Mohammed.

Shafgat Masih, who is handicapped, and his wife Shagufta Kosar, a maid at a school, were detained on Saturday and charged with sending text messages containing blasphemous content, a police officer said on the condition of anonymity. Following a court hearing on Monday they were held in jail.

“The couple is under arrest and an investigation is being carried out by the police,” the officer added.

The arrest was made on the complaint of local Muslim cleric Maulana Muhammad Hussain Atari, who claimed he received a text message that contained derogatory remarks against the Prophet Mohammed, according to police.

Other people also reported receiving blasphemous texts from Kosar’s phone, Pakistan Today reported, and Masih has “admitted” sending the texts.

Police raided the couple’s house, seized their mobile phone and moved them to an undisclosed location.

In last week’s case Sajjad Masih (no relation), a Christian also from Gojra, was sentenced to life in prison and fined US$2,000 after sending a text message to a Muslim man defaming Islam in December, 2011.

Relations between minority Christians and Muslims in Gojra became strained in 2009 when a mob set a Christian neighborhood on fire, leaving eight people dead including women and children. Trouble flared again last August when a teenage Christian girl was charged with blasphemy.

Since 1988, more than 1,000 cases have been filed in Pakistan alleging the desecration of the Qu’ran and making derogatory remarks against the Prophet Mohammed, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

– ucanews

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