Dubai has world’s largest parish

February 28, 2014 by  
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Dubai, February 27, 2014: Saint Mary’s is one of seven parishes in the UAE and its congregation is overwhelmingly made up of Indian and Filipino immigrants.

Indian and Filipino immigrantsWith some 400,000 Catholics, the St, Mary’s parish in Dubai, UAE, is probably the world’s largest parish.

The church has space to seat at least 1,700 people – certainly more than most churches in the Western world. Yet despite this vast interior, the church is nevertheless sometimes too small for the assembled congregation, for there will often be as many as 2,000 people here – even on a weekday.

When there is no space left inside the church, Holy Mass is relayed via loudspeakers and projectors on giant screens in the open square in front of the church.

Incredibly, on major feast days, somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 Catholic faithful will throng this square, filling the parish grounds.

The land for the parish was granted to the parish in 1966 by the Emir, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum. In addition to the church, the grounds also contain the presbytery, the convent for a congregation of religious sisters, a school and a small sports ground.

The present Church building dates from the year 1989 however, although a church was built an year after the land was handed over.

The parish priest, Capuchin Father Tomasito Veneracion, estimates that there are somewhere between 300,000 and 400,000 Catholics living in the parish, much more than the Catholics in some of the northern Indian dioceses.

Father Tomasito, along with nine brother priests from various different countries, takes care of the parish.

Saint Mary’s is one of seven parishes in the UAE and its congregation is overwhelmingly made up of Indian and Filipino immigrants. In fact 85% of the population of the emirate of Dubai are foreigners.

These migrant workers most often leave behind their families back in their home and in most cases it is just one of the parents who has emigrated.

The men are frequently employed on building sites, the women in the hospitals or as housemaids. There are around 400,000 Filipinos living in the UAE amid a total population of around 9 million.

“In this state of temporary emigration, the Church becomes a sort of second home. As a result, in the handful of parishes that we have here, the parish grounds become a kind of meeting place, both in a spiritual and a human sense”, Bishop Paul Hinder, the apostolic vicar for southern Arabia, explained in an interview with a representative of the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

– members4.boardhost

India refuses to ban sharia courts

February 28, 2014 by  
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Indian supreme courtNew Delhi, February 27, 2014: Supreme Court says fatwa is often ‘for the general good’.

India’s Supreme Court has declined to interfere with orders from religious courts, refusing to ban Islamic sharia courts from operating in the country.

It said on Tuesday that the country has systems to protect those who refuse to follow the decrees of such courts, stressing that no one can impose the ruling of a religious court.

However, critics say the Suprems Court’s refusal to impose a ban will increase obscurantism and religious fanaticism in the country.

“It simply shows the weakness of the Indian constitutional system and the moral poverty of the government,” Nava Yogendra Swami, a senior monk for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.

“We are not yet secular. We need to revise the constitution,” he told

The court’s observation came on a case challenging the fatwa of an Islamic court that forced a Muslim woman to desert her husband and marry her father-in-law, who allegedly raped her.

“We can protect people who are subjected to suffering due to this … If somebody forces them on you, then we can protect you,” the court reportedly said.

Ahmed Bukhari, head cleric of Jama Masjid mosque in Delhi, welcomed the court ruling and said sharia courts are “a religious necessity” for Muslims.

“[Sharia courts] are part of a right Muslim life according to the Qur’an, they do not interfere with secular values of the country and they do not impose the order on anyone,” Bukhari told

The petitioner, lawyer Vishwa Lochan Madan, challenged the constitutional validity of the sharia courts, saying they represented a parallel judicial system.

Madan said sharia courts are active in some 60 of India’s 670 districts where Muslims are a majority. Poor villagers, who live away from the courts and police systems, cannot oppose the decrees and fatwa of these courts, which violate the basic rights of citizens, he argued.

The court countered that Madan was assuming that all fatwas are irrational.

“Some fatwas may be wise and may be for the general good. People in this country are wise enough,” the court said. “These are political and religious issues and we do not want to go into it.”

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board, a body established to apply and protect Muslim personal law in India, told the court that no fatwa is binding on people and their religious courts have no power of implementation.

The latest observation of the court, in an election year, comes in contrast with its own 2011 order against khap, or community, courts. The court had deemed such courts “wholly illegal” and said persons behind them “deserve harsh punishment”.

One reason for the change is seen as the general elections due in May and the unwillingness of the ruling coalition to offend the voting bloc of 176 million Muslims, observers said.

– ucanews

VHP leader Ashok Singhal’s remark ‘Hindus must bear five children’ stirs controversy

February 28, 2014 by  
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File photo of Ashok Singhal with Narendra ModiMadhya Pradesh, February 23, 2014: Controversy swirled around Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Ashok Singhal’s remark, which said “Hindus must bear five children in order to revive community’s declining population in the country”.

While addressing a news conference in central Bhopal, Singhal said that the population of Hindus was fast declining and if it continued at this pace, they would become a minority in India. He added that it was important not to let Muslims and Christians outdo their numbers by converting Hindus and by marrying the religion’s girls. “Hindus should all have five children. I have been saying that going in every camp. And I feel this campaign will go on in the country,” he said.

Defending the leader’s remark, VHP spokesperson, Prakash Sharma, said that there was no problem with what the former said. “Is it only the burden of Hindus to take up the responsibility of family planning? One sect is producing as many children as possible without any restrictions and its population is increasing day in and day out. To stop it something has to be done and to make ourselves successful something has to be done so I don’t see any problem in the statement,” said Sharma.

Hindus make up around 80% of India’s 1.2 billion population, while Muslims account for 13%.

Meanwhile, a ruling Congress party leader, Rashid Alvi, said Singhal’s remark came from his worry about vote bank. “He doesn’t want five children of Hindus; he is rather worried about the votes. They have this misimpression that Muslims produce more children and he wants to do a split voting between Hindus and Muslims. Today he is talking about five children; I hope that in the future he doesn’t start talking about four wives,” said Alvi.

– dna

Where are the Muslims in Aam Aadmi Party? Where are Christians? asks CSF

February 28, 2014 by  
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Arvind KejriwalDelhi, February 26, 2014: Currently the Aam Aadmi Party’s nationwide campaign is in full swing. It is both an electoral campaign and a public relations campaign to reform the country’s political and governance system from the very grassroots. In December only about five AAP leaders (Arvind Kejriwal, Yongendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan, Kumar Vishwas, Myanak Gandhi) could be recognized from their earlier public achievements.

But since then another dozen prominent Indians with records of upright service to the public and struggles in pursuit of public causes have joined AAP, and every week we hear of more prominent people joining this resurgent political party. Thus people like Medha Patkar, Rajmohan Gandhi, Meera Sanyal (former CEO – Royal Scottish Bank), V Balakrishnan of Infosys, Parveen Amanullah (minister, Bihar government) have joined AAP.

Yesterday I heard a video interview with Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, in which he praised AAP a lot. Maybe he may join AAP or become a member of its advisory board. While AAP’s short term objective is to make a good showing in the parliamentary election in May and be an influential payer at the Centre; it has a long term objective to gain public recognition as a viable and reform oriented political party that has a future in India. In the months and couple of years thereafter they plan to compete in the elections to various state Assemblies, hoping to form government in some states in addition to Delhi. That will help them in their quest to implement their impressive reform platform.

That brings us to the question that if AAP is gaining so much popularity among prominent Indian thinkers, in addition to among the masses, where are the recognizable Muslim-Indians in it? And if they are not there, what are they waiting for? To date Parveen Amanullah is the only prominent Muslim face to join AAP. As the election campaign heats up we will hear from her, at least in relation to Bihar, if not India as a whole. But where are the other prominent Muslim citizens? Let us hope that by end March when the election campaign heats up, another few prominent Muslim names will be found on the AAP platform.

Browsing the AAP Facebook page one finds that quite a few Muslims are participating in the discussion on AAP and its programs. Muslims’ participation in AAP, both masses and prominent citizens, should be in rough proportion to their population in the country. This is not to invoke any special demands of the Muslims, or to bring religion into politics, but to participate in the mainstream movement that AAP has now undoubtedly become. As AAP is successful in helping implement a justice based political system, it is hoped that some of the core grievances of the Muslim community like security, educational improvement, economic uplift will get serious consideration and implementation in due course of time.

– tcn

Jihadist rules of submission on Raqqa Christians

February 28, 2014 by  
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 Jihadist groupSyria, February 27, 2014: Payment of “protection” fee, ban on Christian signs and restoration of churches and monasteries. The group “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” accused by other Damascus opponents of playing into the hands of Assad. An ultimatum of five days.

A jihadist group linked to al -Qaeda has released a set of rules of submission for Christians of Raqqa. These include a protection fee, the order to practice their faith in the privacy of their homes and a ban on wearing any obvious sign of Christianity.

The rules (termed “Agreement”) were drawn up and are being imposed by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a group linked to al- Qaeda in Iraq and which aims to create a single caliphate that spans the Middle East, North Africa, Andalusia and southern Italy, the ancient Arab and Islamic lands.

Raqqa city in northern Syria had 300 thousand inhabitants before the start of the civil war in March 2011.  Of these, 1% was Christian. Now many people have fled and the city is in the hands ISIL, which released the text of the Agreement on jihadist websites.

Under the threat of violence, Christians must pay a “jiziya”, the ancient mandatory fee for non-Muslims.

Rich Christians have to pay a sum equal to the value of 13 grams of pure gold (half an ounce), those of the middle class half of the sum, and the poor a quarter.

Christians are banned from displaying crosses or symbols of their faith in areas frequented by Muslims and especially the market; they must not use loudspeakers for the call to prayer; they must perform their rituals behind closed doors in buildings of worship.

The group also demands that Christians comply with the rule for modest dressing that is imposed on all inhabitants.

Christians are forbidden to carry weapons and they are also forbidden to restore any of the churches or monasteries in the area that have been damaged. Those who does not adhere to these rules, will share in the destiny of those “people of war and rebellion”, in short they will be killed .

ISIL is part of the Islamist extremist fringe in opposition to Bashar Assad. Since January last a merciless war between secular and Islamist opposition groups has been ongoing, as well as among moderate and less moderate Islamists. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights , the clashes between the two camps have caused the death of at least 3300 people, of which 924 among the members of SIIL.

Opponents are coalescing against ISIL, accused of “playing into the hands of Assad”. Just yesterday, the Al- Nusra Front (Al Qaeda in Syria) launched a five-day ultimatum against ISIL to put an end to the internal conflict and appear before a religious court.

– asianews

Barnabas Edit: Muslims take stand against Islamic violence; call for aid fund

February 28, 2014 by  
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Two British Muslims have been jailed for the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby

Two British Muslims have been jailed for the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby

UK, February 27, 2014: In the wake of the sentencing yesterday of two British Muslims for the bloodthirsty and brutal murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby on the streets of London, it is worth noting that there are other Muslims taking a courageous stand against violence practised by Muslims. A particular example is Khaled Hroub, a scholar from Cambridge University.

Dr Hroub has addressed the issue of Islamic violence against non-Muslims and also the hollow defence offered by many Muslims to try to protect their religion. He goes so far as to call for the creation of a special Muslim fund to provide aid for the victims of Muslim violence.

Below are as series of quotations from an article by Dr Hroub in Al-Ayyam, the Palestinian Authority daily newspaper (30 September 2013).1 He is to be much applauded for his courage. Our hope and prayer must be that his example will influence the House of Islam and turn them away from violence to become – as they claim – a religion of peace.

“Where is moderate Islam, and where are moderate Muslims, in light of the actions of a criminal minority that affiliates itself with them and carries out shameful terror acts in the name of their religion? We have lost track of the terrorist acts carried out by groups that morphed into multiple other groups. Terrorist acts are carried out in the name of the religion and jihad, and with their actions the perpetrators are staining all those with ties to Arabs or Muslims.

“Defending ourselves verbally, and attempting to present theories on our religion’s tolerance, its [capacity for] coexistence, and its past – which is a legacy for the generations – will neither convince nor compensate any mother who has seen her children murdered in front of her by mujahideen bullets. They will also neither convince nor compensate any orphaned child, or any of the dozens of wounded, or any of the families of those murdered or tortured, or any of the [men or] women violated in the ‘heat of battle.’

“Words cannot contradict action, and we cannot put out the fires caused by the terrorism of these groups that are burning up the overall image of the Muslims with statements stressing that we are [actually] good. [Such statements] are meaningless [in the face of] the blood of the slaughtered innocents. [Such statements] are a naïve, even an impudent, attempt to alleviate the pain.”

“The Muslim majority, headed by the Arabs, as leaders and founders of the so-called ‘Islamic terror,’ must respond to Islamic terror in a concrete way, not just with words. This majority, the intellectuals and shapers of opinion, must toil day and night to come up with ways for presenting the other Islam – the moderate Islam – to the world, to people, and to the casualties of the acts of terror perpetrated by the radical groups.

“It is our duty to establish an Islamic Public Fund for Compensating Victims of Terror. Its main task would be to reach out to all those harmed by the criminal actions attributed to jihad and Islam, to provide them with moral and humanitarian support, to show solidarity with them, and to compensate them monetarily for their loss of life and property.”

– dr. patrick sookhdeo

The Church I know

February 28, 2014 by  
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If this is not a place where tears are understood,
Where do I go to cry?

The church i knowIf this is not a place where my questions can be asked,
Where do I seek?

The Church I Know If this is not a place where my spirit can take wing,
Where do I go to fly?

The Church I Know If this is not a place where my feelings can be heard,
Where do I go to speak?

The church i know

If this is not a place where you’ll accept me as I am,
Where do I go to be?

The church i know

If this is not a place where I can learn and grow,
Where can I be just me?

The church i know

– fwd: samuel machado

‘It may be just a story but…..’

February 22, 2014 by  
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throwing small pebblesA man was sitting by a lake. He was throwing small pebbles into it from time to time.
A young boy happened to cross by, he was intrigued to see that after every few minutes or so, the man would toss a pebble into the lake.

The boy went up to the man and said, “Good pastime, this stone throwing, he?”
“Hmmm,” said the man.
He seemed to be deep in thought and obviously did not wish to be disturbed.

Sometime later, the man said softly, “Look at the water, it is absolutely still.”
The boy said, “Yeah, it is.”

The man tossed a pebble into the water and continued,
“Only till I toss a pebble into it now do you see the ripples?”

“Yeah,” said the boy, “they spread further and further.”

“And soon, the water is still again,” offered the man.
The boy said, “Sure, it becomes quiet, after a while.”

throwing small pebblesThe man continued, “What if we want to stop the ripples?
The root cause of the ripples is the stone.
Lets take the stone out. Go ahead and look for it.”

The boy put his hand into the water and tried to take the stone out.
But he only succeeded in making more ripples.
He was able to take the stone out, but the number of ripples that were made in the process were a lot more than before.

The wise man said, “It is not possible to stop the movement of the water once a pebble has been thrown into it.
But if we can stop ourselves from throwing the pebble in the first place, the ripples can be avoided altogether!

So too, it is with our minds. If a thought enters into it, it creates ripples.
The only way to save the mind from getting disturbed is to block and
ban the entry of every superfluous thought that could be a potential cause for disturbance.

Throwing Small pebblesIf a disturbance has entered into the mind, it will take its own time to die down.
Too many conflicting thoughts just cause more and more disturbances.
Once the disturbance has been caused it takes time to ebb out.

Even trying to forcibly remove the thought may further increase the turmoil in the mind.
Time surely is a great healer, but prevention is always better than cure.”

Before you allow a thought or a piece of information to enter your mind,
put it through the triple filter test of authenticity, goodness and value.

– fwd: vc mathews

Mumbai: CSF writes to CM protests Mother Teresa’s home land required

February 22, 2014 by  
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Expropriation of a house of Mother TeresaMumbai, February 17, 2014: The official explanation is the widening of a road to relieve traffic congestion in the neighborhood. Sisters and activists explain, however, that changing the road at that point will not solve the problem it will only will destroy a part of the Cardinal Gracias Destitute ‘s Home. Founded in 1962, the house for the sick and dying today houses 70 women.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The Mumbai local government has presented a notice of expropriation to the landowner of the Cardinal Gracias Destitute ‘s Home, a hospice for the sick and dying of the Missionaries of Charity. The administration is demanding 3.5 m2 for the purpose of widening the road, in order to ease traffic congestion in the area. However, activists and the women religious explain the traffic problem is in the area around the station, and not that close to the house.

“The Cardinal Gracias Destitute ‘s Home – Mother Superior, Sr. Praxi, told AsiaNews – is currently housing 70 women. The land expropriation would destroy chapel dedicated to the Virgin, eight trees and a cistern. Moreover, it would also reduce the entrance passage for the ambulance”.

The structure belongs to the Church of the Sacred Heart . “Already in 1983 – Fr. Vernon Aguilar, explains to AsiaNews – the church gave 58 m2 of land to widen the road. A 150 year old Crucifix is located  in the site that the administration wants to acquire”.

Msgr Nereus Rodrigues, a close associate of Mother Teresa and the Sacred Heart parish in the past, spoke to AsiaNews about the value of this house to the city of Mumbai: “The Cardinal Gracias Destitute ‘s Home was opened May 24, 1962 , on the feast Mary Help of Christians. The land on which it stands is a gift of the Church, which is still the legal ‘owner’. Mother Teresa frequently came to visit and had a special bond with this house”.

– asianews

Karnataka: Shrine on Pope JP II’s visit

February 22, 2014 by  
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Pope John Paul IIMumbai, February 21, 2014: The bishop of Mangalore, where the monument will be built, has asked the state’s chief minister for a financial contribution. The shrine will rise where the Blessed met 500,000 faithful during his trip to India in 1986.

The Catholic Church in India has asked the government of Karnataka for help to build a shrine dedicated to the Blessed (soon to be Saint) John Paul II.

A delegation led by Mgr Aloysius Paul D’ Souza, bishop of Mangalore, made the request on Wednesday when they met with Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.

The project involves the construction of a shrine at Bajpe in Mangalore where Pope John Paul II met with more than 500,000 people on 6 February1986 during his historic trip to India.

Fr William Menezes, public relations officer of the diocese of Mangalore, explained to AsiaNews the importance of the initiative.

“John Paul II’s visit to Karnataka was historic because no pope had ever come before. The Holy Father was also a state guest, and more than 500,000 people came to greet him.”

On 27 April 2014, Pope Francis will canonise John Paul II.

When he met with the chief minister, Mgr D’Souza also asked for more government financial aid for minorities, poor families and children in need.

– asianews

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