Modi criticized for silence on religious clashes

July 29, 2014 by  
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Rajan Vichare forcing a Muslim staffIndia, July 28, 2014: India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi is facing criticism for remaining silent about incidents deemed anti-Muslim in the past week, underscoring fears that his Hindu nationalist followers will upset religious relations in the multi-faith nation.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party swept to power in May after an election campaign that mainly focused on promises to revive the economy but that also made reference to India’s majority Hindu identity.

Footage emerged this week of a radical Hindu party lawmaker trying to force food into the mouth of a Muslim caterer. Separately, a BJP politician questioned the national identity of an Indian Muslim tennis star, while an ally of the prime minister said India could become a Hindu nation under Modi.

Several commentators said Modi’s failure to speak out about the incidents risked encouraging aggressive behavior by fringe elements of his party and related organizations.

“The prime minister needs to come out strongly against such comments in order to reassure the minorities that their apprehensions about the intent of his regime are misplaced … Silence on his part will only encourage such elements,” The Times of India said in an editorial.

India has a dark history of religious violence, especially between the Hindu majority and Muslims, who account for more than 150 million people, making India the world’s third most populous Muslim nation.

On Wednesday, footage was aired of a lawmaker from the Shiv Sena, a radical Hindu political party and ally of the BJP, trying to shove chapati, an Indian flatbread, into a Muslim caterer’s mouth during the Ramadan period of fasting.

The Shiv Sena lawmaker, Rajan Vichare, a high school dropout and suspect in 13 criminal cases, later said he did not know the caterer was Muslim and that he was fasting. He said he had been making a point about the bad quality of the food being served.

The incident led to chaotic scenes in parliament, with one BJP member demanding that some opposition politicians be sent to Pakistan. He later apologized for his comments.

Sania MirzaOn Thursday, BJP politician K. Laxman denounced a move to name Indian tennis star Sania Mirza the brand ambassador of newborn Telangana state, calling Mirza, who is married to a Pakistani cricketer, the “daughter-in-law” of India’s rival nation.

Mirza broke down during a television interview to a local news channel and said it was unfair that she had to keep asserting her “Indianness”.

“I am an Indian who will remain an Indian until the end of my life,” she said on Thursday in a statement posted on micro-blogging site Twitter.

The BJP distanced itself from Laxman’s remarks.

“Sania Mirza is the pride of India,” cabinet minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters, but newspaper editorials highlighted Modi’s silence.

“He could say these are non-issues, he could say these are trivial misunderstandings being communalized by a hyperactive media. But he chooses to say absolutely nothing,” said an editorial on the Firstpost news and opinion website.

“Unfortunately his silence can get uncomfortably loud.”

– reuters

Kandhamal girls rescued from Mumbai bondage

July 29, 2014 by  
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Kandhamal girlsMumbai, July 29, 2014: Nine girls from Odihsa’s riot-hit Khandamal district, who were forced into bounded labor in a Mumbai fish processing firm, were rescued with the help of Catholic nuns and voluntary agencies.

The attempts started July 14 when Holy Spirit Sister Julie of Streevani in Pune called up Bethany Sister Violet in Panvel, Mumbai, and said that some girls who are trafficked from Kandhamal are working in a fishing company at Taloja, Panvel.

The nuns learnt that these girls were not allowed to come out of the company and their agent has taken their salary and escaped.

Sister Violet and a MSFS priest at Taloja visited the factory in person without revealing our identity but the tight security at the gate did not allow them inside.

The nuns said they did not want to inform the police fearing that local police may help the factory owners move the girls to other places over night since trafficking is a big racket in Mumbai city.

They also contacted child helpline but were not satisfied with their directions, Sister Violet said in a note circulated to press. On July 16 they contacted a voluntary organization called Indian Rescue Mission.

The mission team worked out the strategy to raid the factory. On Friday with the help of Panvel Police commissioner and Labor commissioner, the organization members raided the place and found out that there are above 200 girls working and among them 97 are minors.

The four managers are arrested and in Jail and they are in search of the agents who brought these minors to work. The FIR under child labor has been filed against the Managers. The minors are shifted to remand home at Mumbai for further investigation and care of the children.

The 9 girls from Kandhamal received their three months salary that they were deprived of and have been sent back home with two social workers from Kandhamal.

The minors are from Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

– press release

Tears on Eid eve at BTAD relief camps in Assam

July 29, 2014 by  
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BTAD relief campsGuwahati, July 28, 2014: For Momiron Dewa, a 60 year old inmate at Narayanguri relief camp in Assam’s Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD), the festival of Eid seems to be more pain than joy. Even as the followers of Islam celebrate the festivity of joy and gaiety, the poor lady is being haunted by the memory of her husband who was brutally killed by gunmen months back.

“Nothing left for in this world anymore. The memory of celebrating the Eid is giving me pain and tears now. There is no joy and celebration for us anymore here. I even could not provide water to my husband at the dying moments,” a tearful Dewa said at her camp. With her only daughter is married off years back, no one is here to give her company.

Her husband was one of the 45 victims who were killed by Bodo militants in Baksa district in the month of May. Along with her around 300 people have been living in the relief camps since the bloody incident took place.

If her story was so, Ramzan Ali’s life is no less painful as this ill-fated man has lost his four kids and his wife in the same incident.

“After losing your near and dear ones, does this festival mean anything?” a sorrow looking Ali asked. He said that at a time when their lives are not secured, festivals cannot bring happiness anymore.

These people have been struggling hard since the incident broke out in the BTAD. At one time the inmates were even sat at hunger strike seeking basic facilities in the camp. “Only after our 48 hours of hunger strike, we were regularly provided food supplies,” Ali said.

There is no proper electricity facility in the camps and rain water flooded the camps making it unhygienic for the inmates, especially the kids to live under such circumstances.

But the situation remained the all the same. Their demands were never met. Not even proper action was taken against the accused.

However, among the heaps of pain and agony, there was a moment to cheer about with a group of kind hearted people coming forward to make their Eid celebration a bit happier. Several individuals on Sunday, provided clothes and food stuff to the people.

“We tried to do our bit. We also want them to celebrate the Eid in a happy mood. We wish their lives will be normalized as soon as possible. But the best part has to be played by the government,” said young community worker Abdul Kalam Azad.

The inmates will offer the Eid Namaz at a nearby Mosque on Tuesday. “This is what we have decided to do. All of the inmates will offer namaz and pray to Almighty for better days and peace,” said another inmate. For these people the holy month Ramadan was also tough to observe with lot of hardship.

The inmates are worried after they come to know that the only power supplying generator has not yet been repaired before Eid. “The district administration keeps promising but so far they have not even made the lighting facility available. We have to face problems during the night for this. During rainy session water gets through the camps making the condition worse. This is very unhygienic for the children,” said 38 year old Jamaluddin.

– tcn

Pope meets Pentecostals. Apologises and talks unity

July 29, 2014 by  
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Pope FrancisVatican City, July 28, 2014: His voice breaking with emotion, Giovanni Traettino, a Pentecostal pastor in southern Italy and longtime friend of Pope Francis, welcomed the pope, “my beloved brother,” to his partially built church in Caserta.

Pope Francis said he knows some people were shocked that he would make a special trip outside of Rome to visit a group of Pentecostals, “but I went to visit my friends.”

Traettino told the pope his visit was “unthinkable until recently,” even though, he said, “even among evangelicals there is great affection for you. Many of us pray for you, every day. Many of us, in fact, believe your election as bishop of Rome was the work of the Holy Spirit.”

Pope Francis told the Pentecostals that “the Holy Spirit is the source of diversity in the church. This diversity is very rich and beautiful. But then the same Holy Spirit creates unity. And in this way the church is one in diversity. To use a beautiful Gospel phrase that I love very much, reconciled diversity” is the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In addition to the visit, the pope fulfilled one specific request of the Italian evangelical community by recognizing the complicity of some Catholics in the fascist-era persecution of Italian Pentecostals and evangelicals.

“Among those who persecuted and denounced the Pentecostals, almost as if they were crazies who would ruin the race, there were some Catholics. As the pastor of the Catholics, I ask forgiveness for those Catholic brothers and sisters who did not understand and were tempted by the devil,” Italian news agencies quoted the pope as saying.

The Vatican had described the visit as “strictly private” and, except for Vatican media, reporters were kept on the roof of a nearby apartment building. In the new worship space of the Pentecostal Church of Reconciliation, still under construction, Pope Francis met with about 200 people, including members of Traettino’s congregation, other Italian evangelicals and representatives of Pentecostal ministries in Argentina and the United States, the Vatican said.

The pope and Traettino first met in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in the late 1990s when Traettino was establishing ties between charismatic Catholics and Pentecostal Protestants. The then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio and Traettino also appeared together at a large ecumenical charismatic gathering in Buenos Aires in 2006. Traettino was present June 1 in Rome’s Olympic Stadium when Pope Francis spoke to an international gathering of Catholic charismatics.

Meeting with Caserta’s Catholic priests and bishops from the Campania region July 26, the date originally scheduled for his visit with the Pentecostals, Pope Francis said he had not known that date was the city’s big celebration for the feast of St. Anne.

If he had gone to the Pentecostals that day, without celebrating the feast with Catholics, “the newspaper headlines would have been ‘On the patron feast of Caserta, the pope visits Protestants,'” he said. So, he asked an official in the Vatican Secretariat of State to help organize the Mass “to remove this noose from around my neck.”

Pope Francis also gave the priests a glimpse into his thoughts about Catholic relations with the Pentecostals, which some people have found surprising, especially given how many Catholics in the pope’s Latin America have joined evangelical communities.

He told the story of a priest who went on mission in a remote area of Argentina and met a woman who told him the Catholic Church had abandoned her and her fellow Catholics.

“I need the word of God, so I had to go to the Protestant service,” the woman said.

The pope said the priest apologized on behalf of the Catholic Church, but recognized and respected the depth and sincerity of her faith.

“Every man, every woman has something to give us,” the pope said. “Every man, every woman has his or her own story and situation, and we must listen. Then, the prudence of the Holy Spirit will tell us what to say.”

“Never be afraid to dialogue with anyone,” Pope Francis told the Caserta priests. Dialogue is not being defensive about one’s faith, although it can mean explaining what one believes. And it is not pressuring another to join one’s faith.

Pope Benedict XVI was right when he said, “The church grows not through proselytism, but through attraction,” Pope Francis said. And attraction is “human empathy guided by the Holy Spirit.”

Msgr. Juan Usma Gomez, who handles the Catholic Church’s official relations with evangelicals and Pentecostals, told Vatican Radio July 22 that Pope Francis teaches that “to work for Christian unity you need brotherhood,” which is why he continues to nurture the friendships he established in Argentina. The iPhone video message the pope made in January with another Pentecostal friend, Bishop Tony Palmer, who died in a motorcycle accident July 20, “opened a door because it reached a really significant number of people,” Msgr. Usma said. “It’s an adventure that Pope Francis is asking us to establish. … He’s way ahead of us and we’re trying to follow this pattern.”

– cns

Pope Francis apologizes to evangelicals for Catholic hostility

Pope visits CasertaItaly, July 29, 2014: Pope Francis apologized for Catholic cooperation in campaigns against Pentecostalists and Evangelicals, during a visit to a Protestant congregation in Caserta on July 28.

The Pope was traveling to the Italian city for the 2nd time in 3 days. On the previous Saturday he had visited the Catholic community in Caserta.

Pope Francis spoke to the Church of Reconciliation at the invitation of the pastor, Rev. Giovanni Traettino, with whom he has been friendly for years. The pastor greeted him as “my beloved brother,” and said that many Evangelicals pray daily for the Roman Pontiff.

The Pope, in his short address, said that some Catholics acted against Evangelicals “as if they were crazies,” and asked for forgiveness “for those Catholic brothers and sisters who did not understand and were tempted by the devil,” according to Italian news reports. His talk was warmly received by the 200 members of the congregation.

The papal visit to the Evangelical congregation had become a sensitive matter in Caserta, where Catholics had insisted that the Holy Father should first visit with the Catholics of the city. The Vatican stressed that the 2nd papal trip to Caserta was a “strictly private” visit, and no secular reporters were allowed into the church. Reports on the Pope’s talk came from Vatican sources and from others in attendance.

– catholic culture

Catholic church is “best” in protecting human rights in Nepal

July 24, 2014 by  
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NepalNepal, July 23, 2014: The Catholic Church and Catholic organisations are the safest and most respectable groups in Nepal in the field of human rights, this according to activists and representatives of various religions who spoke to AsiaNews, responding to accusations – in other parts of the world – of abuse by some priests.

“In our country there are many cases of human rights violations, but none involves Catholics or their institutions,” activist and National Human Rights Commission member Subodh Pyakurel told AsiaNews. “Indeed, according to our data they are the most reliable for children and women.”

“We cannot speak for priests in other countries,” said Biswanath Upadhya, former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission and former president of the Supreme Court, “but those who work with us are a model for Nepali society.”

“We believe in the good seeds planted by Christians,” said Nazrul Hussein, Muslim representative on the Interreligious Council of Nepal. “As minorities we work together and Catholics are the best in promoting the human rights of children and women.”

– asianews

Great piano master and a little star

July 24, 2014 by  
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This is a wonderful story to remind us how God works in our lives.

concertWishing to encourage her young son’s progress on the piano, a mother took her boy to a Paderewski concert. After they were seated, the mother spotted a friend in the audience and walked down the aisle to greet her.

Seizing the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall, the little boy rose and eventually explored his way through a door marked “NO ADMITTANCE.”

When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that the child was missing.

Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage.

Kid PlayingIn horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, quickly moved to the piano, and whispered in the boy’s ear, “Don’t quit. Keep playing.”

Then leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around to the other side of the child and he added a running obbligato.

Together, the old master and the young novice transformed a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience.

The audience was mesmerized.

That’s the way it is with God.

What we can accomplish on our own is hardly noteworthy.

God plays with usWe try our best, but the results aren’t exactly graceful flowing music.

But with the hand of the Master, our life’s work truly can be beautiful.

Next time you set out to accomplish great feats, listen carefully. You can hear the voice of the Master, whispering in your ear, “Don’t quit. Keep playing.”

Feel His loving arms around you.

Know that His strong hands are there helping you turn your feeble attempts into true masterpieces.

” Remember, God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called “. And He’ll always be there to love and guide you on to great things.

– fwd: valliamannill mathews

Meriam Ibrahim faces challenges from Muslim family

July 24, 2014 by  
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Daniel and the childrenSudan, July 22, 2014: Meriam Ibrahim’s ordeal continues as her Muslim family pursues legal action in an effort to stop her from leaving Sudan after she was cleared of apostasy and adultery.

On Friday (18 July), the family filed a second lawsuit against the Christian mother of two, seeking to annul her marriage to joint US and South Sudanese citizen Daniel Wani. If successful, the couple’s two young children, Martin and Maya, would no longer be recognised as Daniel’s.

The family had lodged a first lawsuit, seeking to prove the biological link between Meriam and her Muslim father, earlier last week but this was inexplicably dropped. It was thought that the way may then be opened for Meriam, Daniel and the children to leave for the United States – until the second lawsuit was submitted two days later. This is scheduled to be heard on 4 August.

Meriam’s Muslim relatives are also trying to challenge the Court of Appeal’s ruling last month that quashed her death sentence for apostasy and 100 lashes for adultery.

The Supreme Court is yet to decide, however, whether the family’s appeal will be accepted. Under Sudanese law, an Appeal Court ruling can be contested by an interested party but the Supreme Court determines whether the party has the necessary legal standing to do so. If the family’s appeal is accepted, the Supreme Court will review the Appeal Court decision in a process that could take up to three months.

Following her acquittal on 23 June, Meriam was released from Omdurman Federal Women’s Prison along with Martin and Maya, who were locked up with her, and reunited with Daniel. But the following day, they were detained at Khartoum airport as they tried to leave the country, accused of possessing false travel documents.

They were released on bail on 26 June but the case has not been dropped. Meriam, Daniel and the children have since been staying at the US embassy in Khartoum and are not allowed to the leave the country.

Under the strict application of sharia law in Sudan, Meriam has been regarded as a Muslim because she was born to a Muslim father, even though he left the family when she was six and her mother raised her as a Christian. She was considered to have left Islam – committed apostasy – even though she never practised it and has maintained her Christian faith throughout. Meriam was also considered to have committed adultery because, under sharia, a Muslim woman is not permitted to marry a non-Muslim man.

– barnabas team

Goa BJP makes minorities feel insecure: MLA

July 24, 2014 by  
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Rama sena GoaPorvorim, July 24, 2014: An independent member of Goa legislative member says state BJP government’s language has changed since the BJP came to power at the Centre and minorities in Goa are feeling insecure as more are applying for Portuguese passport.

Fatorda independent MLA Vijai Sardesai said on Tuesday that among things that worry minorities is the soft stance of the state towards Ram Sene chief Pramod Mutalik’s planned entry into Goa, The Times of India reported.

During a discussion in the legislative assembly, Sardesai said accused BJP of moving in directions that make minorities feel insecure.

A sign of more people feeling insecure in the state should be seen more applying for Portuguese passports. He said he has learnt that daily about 47 Goans are applying for Portuguese passports.

He also accused BJP of “double talk.” While the party proclaims it is against moral policing, the BJP mahila wing rails against pub culture in Goa.

“They say this is Portuguese culture, by which, they blame the minorities. This language has started only after the BJP came to power at the Centre. This double talk will ruin tourism. This double talk will result in a self-goal,” Sardesai said.

Sardesai also accused the BJP government of invoking the special marriage act just to facilitate the marriage of one girl but in the process, diluting the very definition of Goan-ness. Sardesai said that this had diluted the unique uniform civil code of Goa and wondered why the government was hankering after special status for the state.

He also wanted to know why BJP was silent when its central leader Subramaniam Swamy wrongly accused the Church of being against HIV infected children.

Chief minister Manohar Parrikar, however, interrupted Sardesai saying he could rake up all these issues when he spoke on the demands but that he could not do so when he was speaking on the budget.

– toi

Peace and religious harmony in India, “the goal” of Christians and Jains

July 24, 2014 by  
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Christian and JainMumbai, July 22, 2014: A fruitful conversation, aimed to strengthen the relationship between the Christian and Jain communities, with a mutual commitment to work for peace and religious harmony in India. This is how Msgr. Felix Anthony Machado, Archbishop of Vasai, describes his meeting with Swasti Shri Bhattaraka Charukeerti Swamiji, leader of the institutions of Jain Digambaras tradition in Moodabidri, a town 35 km north of Mangalore (Karnataka).

At the invitation of the bhattaraka (“Supreme Leader”) on 17 July, the prelate visited the religious center as chairman of the Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC).

Archbishop Machado tells AsiaNews: “Swasti Shri Bhattaraka Charukeerti Swamiji welcomed me warmly and graciously to the 14th Century, Jain Math.  This was my first visit to this historical Jain Maht.   I was moved by his simplicity, Swamji is very keen on Inter Religious Dialogue, World Peace and Harmony in India and in the world .”

The two religious leaders also discussed the possibility of organizing a gathering of all religions in Moodbidri, in preparation for the World Meeting of Religions to be held in Chicago in 2015.

Also known as Jain Kashi, the religious center of Moodabidri is considered sacred by the Jains, but is also popular with members of other faiths for its historical and architectural importance. Over the years, the city has become a place of pilgrimage for the Jain community not only for its many temples (Basadi), but also because it preserves the most ancient and sacred scriptures of this religion, the Dhawalas.

– asianews

Forebodings of great violence

July 24, 2014 by  
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Parveen TogadiaIndia, July 23, 2014: The violent energies unleashed by communal politics before, during and after the elections have led to social tension that might erupt into great violence any moment. These violent energies have not yet spent themselves as is evident from reports of stray communal violence in the country.

The utterances of two known provocateurs – Parveen Togadia and Ashok Singhal – in the recent days are a cause of concern. If the government at the Centre is at all serious about maintaining law and order it should restrain these two people. I know that as these two are diehard Sangh men the Sangh government would not touch them. Yet, one has the fond hope that the government would act to control the damage for its own credibility.

On July 19 in Jammu Togadia bragged in his familiar style that Muslims would be taught a lesson if they tried to “set fire to Hanuman’s tail”. In his highly toxic rhetoric he told Muslims via a press conference: “You might have forgotten Gujarat 2002 where a lot of your people were killed, but you must remember Muzaffarnagar (killings of last year).”

This speech of Togadia shows that the killings of Gujarat 2002 and Muzaffarnagar are taken as a matter of pride, a badge of honour, by the Sangh, not a cause of shame and disgrace. Secondly, that these massacres were the handiwork and proud “achievement” of the Sangh. They are proud of their deeds and declare it publicly, confident in the knowledge that law cannot touch them. The law is helpless.

Ashok Singhal (a VHP leader like Togadia) too is proud of his acts like Babri Masjid demolition and killings of Gujarat 2002. After the worst killings in Gujarat were over, Singhal announced quietly that “the experiment in the Gujarat laboratory has succeeded.” That meant both the Godhra train attack and subsequent killings of Muslim were pre-planned, organised and orchestrated. It was an “experiment in the lab” that had succeeded.

This time round Singhal declared in Delhi on July 17 that the minorities would not survive in India for too long if they did not learn to respect “Hindu sentiments”. One must ask what exactly those sentiments were. He asserted that the recent elections had proven that elections could be very well won even without the support of Muslims.

If one puts these statements in the backdrop of the ongoing tensions in the country one can take them as forebodings of great communal violence in days ahead. This is not a pleasant prospect as we know law does not exist for these trouble-makers. They were not brought to account in the UPA regime. Certainly, nobody is going to ask them to explain their conduct in NDA regime.

Now, the question is what can be done to stem the tide of lawlessness. It is for the liberal, left and centrist leadership to answer. The community leadership should also sit together to see whether they could do something about it.

– tcn

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