Pope calls for abolishment of capital punishment, life imprisonment

October 28, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-lead

Capital Punishment and Life ImprisonmentVatican City, October 26, 2014: Pope Francis called for the abolition of the death penalty as well as life imprisonment, and denounced what he called a “penal populism” that promises to solve society’s problems by punishing crime instead of pursuing social justice.

“It is impossible to imagine that states today cannot make use of another means than capital punishment to defend peoples’ lives from an unjust aggressor,” the pope said Thursday in a meeting with representatives of the International Association of Penal Law.

“All Christians and people of good will are thus called today to struggle not only for abolition of the death penalty, whether it be legal or illegal and in all its forms, but also to improve prison conditions, out of respect for the human dignity of persons deprived of their liberty. And this, I connect with life imprisonment,” he said. “Life imprisonment is a hidden death penalty.”

The pope noted that the Vatican recently eliminated life imprisonment from its own penal code.

Francis also rebuked unspecified governments involved in kidnapping people for “illegal transportation to detention centers in which torture is practiced”.

– cns

Sabarimala shrine to produce 14 mn cans of prasad

October 28, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Sabarimala templeSabarimala, October 22, 2014: The Sabarimala shrine, whose new pilgrimage season starts Nov 17, will produce a record 14 million cans of ‘prasad’.

Situated on the Western Ghats at an altitude of 914 metres above sea level, the Sabarimala temple in Pathanamthitta district lies around 100 km from here. It is accessible only on foot from Pamba.

Even though the temple is now open on the first few days every month of the Malayalam calendar, the peak pilgrimage season begins on the first day of the Malayalam month in November. This year, this falls Nov 17.

Temple executive officer V.S. Jayakumar said the production of prasadam, called aravana, will commence Oct 27.

“This season we expect to produce a record 14 million (250 ml) cans of aravana. When the temple opens for this festival season, we will have with us close to three million cans of aravana ready,” Jayakumar told IANS.

The main ingredients of the aravana are rice, ghee, jaggery and spices.

Pilgrims can book the prasad in advance online or at all branches of Dhanalaksmi Bank or through coupons from temples run by the Travancore Devaswom Board.

“This is to avoid the rush once they come to Sabarimala, where they can collect their prasadam,” Jayakumar said.

He said the production of appam, (another prasadam) will begin only Nov 12 because it has a shelf life of just two weeks.

“This time we plan to make a record 7.5 million appams. We will have two kits. One will include two packets of appam and one can of aravana besides a packet each of sandalwood paste and vibhuthi for Rs.160. For Rs.270 one gets an additional can of aravana and two additional packets of appam,” added Jayakumar.

– ians

Bishop of Pune: The Asia Bibi death sentence is an affront to the dignity of us all

October 28, 2014 by  
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Asia BibiMumbai, October 17, 2014: I was greatly shocked and deeply saddened when the judges decided to uphold the capital punishment to ..hapless Christian woman, Asia Bibi. In my view it is against all norms of both humans and international laws , dignity and all laws.

Anycase everybody should be able to follow his/her religion there should be religious freedom and this in my view is a  grave violation of the freedom to practice one’s own religion but one may not be able to see the connection. I totally condemn this sentence because in my view it is against all human dignity against all laws not only international laws but all laws , human rights. It is a violation of human rights.

It is my deep conviction that these laws are hopelessly against the human spirit and it is betrays a medieval and obsolete  mindset it is an abuse of power and authority to award such sentences and any case such laws are always open to misinterpretation and abuse on various grounds.

Pakistan being a Muslim  majority nation, where Christians and those of other religions are a tiny miniscule minorities, t is all the more incumbent on them to be vary of  such accusations of blasphemy. The  Pakistan government there should be very careful in applying such laws and the International community should hold the  government of Pakistan  accountable. The Pakistan government cannot disown responsibility of this death sentence  and should overturn immediately the death sentence of innocent Christian woman Asia Bibi

I would expect international authorities and bodies to make the Pakistan government withdraw this punishment as well as these draconian Blasphemy laws, which  betrays a mindset that are against present day affirmation of human rights.

Providentially the universal church will observe mission Sunday on 19th which is intended to promote Jesus and his values . Jesus mission was to impart to fullness of life in all liberties to all humanity,  therefore such an sentence  of capital punishment , on the dubious  grounds of the application of blasphemy law is contrary to the vision and mission of Jesus Christ.

– asianews

Dialogue will light up our lives

October 28, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Muslim Christian dialogueReligion is for spiritual guidance and growth of people. It is a significant resource for promoting peace, harmony, liberty and Justice. We must use religions to esteem and enrich our composite culture and plurality of faith traditions, which is our asset. Our response must be based on reverence, respect, tolerance and compassion.

Every person is an image of God (Genesis 1:27). Hence, a person is sacred, unique, and irreplaceable. This confers on every person an irreducible dignity and honour which must be respected and protected by all people and institutions. The basic tenets of all religious traditions orchestrate into a symphony of harmony. God, Iswar, Allah are the articulations in name and form of the experience of the Ultimate Divine Mystery which transcends all names and forms. One’s authentic religious world vision, the worth of prayer and spirituality lead one to respect religions as ennobling culture which enables people to believe in the goodness of humanity as preached by the founders of religious traditions.

A person’s spiritual quotient leads him/her to the recognition of Islam and Christianity as faiths beyond fanaticism. Christianity and Islam share a historical connection. Both are Semitic religions, having a common origin in the Middle East. They are prophetic in character emphasizing on a vital connection between faith and ethics: that the authenticity of one’s faith is to be seen in good deeds. Both are also known as Abrahamic religions. Muslims commonly refer to Christians as ‘People of the Book’, people who follow the same general teachings in relation to the worship of One God (Tawhid) as this was acknowledged in the eleventh century by Pope Gregory VII.

It is appropriate here to remind ourselves of the declaration of the Second Vatican Council on Christian-Muslim faith affinity:  “The Church has also high regard for the Muslims. They worship God, who is one…merciful and almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth…They strive to submit themselves without reserve to the hidden decrees of God, just as Abraham submitted himself to God’s plan, to whose faith Muslims eagerly link their own. Although not acknowledging him as God, they worship Jesus as a prophet, his virgin Mother they also honour… Further, they await the Day of Judgment and the reward of God following the resurrection of the dead. For this reason they highly esteem an upright life and worship God, especially by way of prayer, alms-deeds and fasting.” The Council further exhorts Christians and Muslims to work together for promoting world peace, liberty, social justice and moral values (Nostra Aetate, 3)

We know that religion and society constantly influence each other. Hence, an assessment of the Muslim and Christian faith-commonality shall help these two faith communities to work with world community to purge the human race of a sin which the seventeenth century French philosopher Blaise Pascal states as inherent in human nature: “Man never does evil more joyfully and wholeheartedly than in the name of religion.”

We need to promote interfaith dialogues at both the individual and institutional levels. As Dr. Hans Kung formulated, “There will be no peace among the nations without peace among the religions. There will be no peace among the religions without dialogue among the religions.”

In pursuit of implanting the importance of values and dialogue in students, St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata has introduced a two credit Foundation Course on “Religious Studies and Social Harmony” from 2014-15 academic session. This course proposes to promote national integration and cause appreciation for all religious traditions and values. A student, as he or she leaves the portals of St. Xavier’s College, must carry within  greater knowledge and appreciation of multi-religious realities of India.

– j. felix raj

3 Christian clerics handed 6-years sentences in Iran

October 28, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

IranIran, October 22, 2014: Two Christian pastors and a deacon have each been given six-year sentences by an Iranian court. A persecution watchdog group has expressed concern over the development, noting that the prisons are isolated and will force the men’s families to travel great distances to see them.

“We are deeply concerned by the six-year sentences given to pastors [Benham] Irani and [Matthias] Haghnejad and deacon Silas Rabbani, and the fact that they will serve these sentences so far from their families and home towns,” said Christian Solidarity Worldwide Chief Operating Officer Andy Dipper.

“We are particularly appalled by the extra six years given to pastor Irani, who has already endured ill-treatment whilst in prison and now faces nearly a decade in prison on trumped-up charges. We urge the Iranian government to release without delay every person who is imprisoned for their faith. Their incarceration contravenes international covenants guaranteeing freedom of religion or belief, to which Iran is party.”

The sentences were handed down by Judge Asef al-Hosseini of the Iranian court. Irani now faces a total of 12 years behind bars, having been initially arrested in December 2006 for “action against the state” and “action against the order”.

Back in September, the evangelical Christian leader was hit by 18 new charges, including one of “spreading corruption on Earth,” which carries the death penalty.

Irani, who led a 300-member Church of Iran in Karaj city near the capital Tehran, has suffered from serious health problems, including severe bleeding due to stomach ulcers and colon complications.

– christian post

Kazakhstan: 2 Believers sent to prison for distributing Christian books

October 28, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-world

Kazakhstan Christian PersecutionKazakhstan, October 24, 2014: Two Christian men in Kazakhstan have been given ten-day prison terms for distributing Christian literature after the authorities claimed the contents of one of the books incite religious hatred.

Vyacheslav Cherkasov and Zhasulan Alzhanov were sentenced on 6 October, five months after the authorities confiscated Christian books that the two men were handing out near a market in Shchuchinsk, in the Akmola region.

The book Jesus: More than a Prophet, which was among 252 Christian books seized by the authorities on 10 May, was found by officials who conducted “expert analysis” to contain “elements inciting religious hatred and discord”, according toForum 18. It is a collection of testimonies written by Muslims who became Christians.

Vyacheslav and Zhasulan were also fined the equivalent of four months’ average wage inKazakhstan for repeatedly distributing religious literature without the required state permission.

This is the sixth time Vyacheslav has faced trial, and the fourth for Zhasulan. Both were sentenced to ten-day prison terms in a separate case earlier this year, for failing to pay earlier fines for exercising their right to freedom of religion.

A growing number of religious publications, including Christian materials and web pages, are being banned as “extremist” in court in Kazakhstan.

A Christian source in Kazakhstan spoke of the increasingly repressive situation for Christians in the region, saying:

The situation in every Central Asian republic is different, but we see that persecution is increasing. The Kazakh authorities put tougher pressure on… churches. All countries have passed new regulations in administrative and criminal laws that toughen punishments for illegal religious activity.

At the same time the authorities don’t protect… churches from zealous local Muslims or just criminals. [Violence] happens not very often but we don’t have any protection from the authorities.

– barnabas team

Nails in the fence

October 28, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-miscellaneous

There once was a little boy who had a bad temper.  His Father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence…

Bag of Nails

The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence.

Hammering the Fence

Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down.  He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.  Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all.

Pull out one nail for each day

Holes in the fenceHe told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper.

The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.

The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence.  He said, ‘ You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence…  The fence will never be the same.  When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one.

You can put a knife in a man and draw it out.  But it won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound will still be there.  A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one..

Remember that friends are very rare jewels indeed. They make you smile and encourage you to succeed; They lend an ear, they share words of praise and they always want to open their hearts to us.

– fwd: allen johannes

Shia LaBeouf ‘became a Christian man’ while filming ‘Fury’

October 28, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-lead

Brad Pitt & Shia LaBeoufUS, October 22, 2014: Actor Shia LaBeouf has said that he found God while working on his latest film, “Fury,” and is now a saved and changed man, thanks to co-star Brad Pitt.

“I found God doing ‘Fury,'” LaBeouf told Interview magazine. “I became a Christian man … in a very real way. I could have just said the prayers that were on the page, but it was a real thing that really saved me. And you can’t identify unless you’re really going through it. It’s a full-blown exchange of heart, a surrender of control.”

LaBeouf’s change of heart comes after months of speculation about his behavior. He was involved in a feud with Alec Baldwin during rehearsals for the play “Orphans” and later was found to have plagiarized his apology for plagiarizing a graphic novelist. He was also arrested for disturbing the production of “Cabaret,” but said that he was trying to do performance art. He insists that he is a changed man, haven taken control of his life.

“I’ve been a runner my whole life, running from myself. Whether to movies or drinking and drugging … or whatever it is, I’ve always been running. I’m a dude who loves delusion. It’s why I love being an actor—I never have to actually look at myself or be faced with my [expletive] or take responsibility,” the actor explained.

“Fury” helped him find himself and find God at the same time. It forced him to look inside and make an important decision—to give his life to Christ. He credits Pitt with sharing his faith.

“Brad was really instrumental in guiding my head through this. Brad comes from a hyper-religious, very deeply Christian, Bible Belt life, and he rejected it and moved toward an unnamed spirituality. He looked at religion like the people’s opium, almost like a Marxist view on religion,” LaBeouf said. “Whereas [‘Fury’ writer-director] David Ayers is a full subscriber to Christianity.”

LaBeouf decided to give his heart to Christ and says he is done with his existential crisis.

– christian post

Christians attacked in Chhattisgarh

October 28, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

ChhattisgarhNew Delhi, October 27, 2014: Twelve Christian villagers were injured in central India’s Chhattisgarh state after they were attacked by Hindu fundamentalists, according to a Christian activist.

The villagers were part of a group of 40 Christians who had gathered on Saturday for what was supposed to be a mediation meeting to resolve tensions with members of the local Hindu community in the state’s Bastar district. District officials and local police had called on members from both communities to reconcile their differences after months of discord between the two sides.

However, Christian villagers arrived to find nobody there from the district administration or their counterparts in the Hindu community, according to Arun Pannalal, president of the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum. Instead, he said, 50 Hindu fundamentalists armed with swords, sticks and axes showed up on a truck and started attacking the Christians, who they accused of engaging in forced conversions.

“The attack happened without any provocation,” Pannalal said. “Christians had gathered for the meeting, which never happened and instead they were attacked.”

However, district officials insist the attack was not part of any ongoing religious tensions, but a personal dispute.

“This incident is not related to any kind of religious thing happening in the village,” Ankit Anand, district collector of Bastar district, told ucanews.com. “It was due to some personal issues between the two groups. The concerned authorities have spoken with both groups and now there is no reason for the tension to escalate in the area.”

Anand said local police have filed cases against 15 people in connection with the attack.

Pannalal said four Hindu fundamentalists were arrested Sunday and Monday, though ucanews.com was unable to confirm this with police.

Pannalal, however, believes the attack was clearly part of escalating religious tensions between the two communities. In June, 50 villages in the district passed resolutions outlawing non-Hindu religious ceremonies. Pannalal is petitioning the state’s high court to overturn the ban.

– ucanews

Govt opposes SC status to Dalit Christians & Muslims

October 28, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

dalit christiansNew Delhi, October 17, 2014: Times of India on 10th October 2014 reported that the Government is opposed to Dalit status for converts.

It reported union social justice minister Taawar Chand Gehlot’s statement about SC status to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims, which reveals that the Government is not inclusive in its development policy.

The demand for the inclusion of the Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims has been going on for the past 64 years because of the Constitution (Scheduled Caste Order) 1950 paragraph 3 which reads as “no person who professes a religion different from the Hindu religion shall be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste”. Later it was amended to include Sikhs and Buddhists in 1956 and 1990 respectively.

A public interest litigation case was filed in the Supreme Court of India in 2004 (Civil Writ Petition No.180/2004) challenging the validity of this order.

Denying SC status to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims is Unconstitutional:

Denying SC status to Christians and Muslims of Scheduled Caste Origin is unconstitutional because it is against the Secular nature of the country ( Preamble of the Constitution) against Article 14 which says “The State shall not deny any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India prohibition of discrimination of religion, race, caste sex, or place of birth”, and against article 15 which says “The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds of only religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth or any of them”.

Dalit status to converts will not eat into SC quota

SC list is the rightful place for the Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims. The percentage of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims is very meagre compared to the vast majority of the Hindu Dalits. Most of the reserved seats of the SCs are not filled and there are many backlogs every year. Crores of money from the Special Component plan is unspent every year.

Every year some backward castes are added to the SC list and this argument does not arise there.

More over when the Sikh Dalits and Buddhist Dalits were included in the SC list there was question of earing the quota or sharing the cake of the Dalit Hindus.

Dalit converts availing facilities extended to (backward) Christians and Muslims and if they get SC status, they will be not be eligible for dual benefits:

Once the Christians and Muslims of Scheduled caste origin are included in the SC list they will be automatically removed from the BC list. Thus there is no question of enjoying dual benefit by these groups.

Christianity and Islam do not accept caste system and therefore do not approve untouchability. But in reality the caste system in the larger society is reflection in these religious communities also:

The caste system in India has religious origin and sanction in the Hindu religion. But unfortunately it has become part and parcel of the Indian society where majority are Hindus. Though Christianity and Islam does not approve the caste system and untouchability it is being practiced by its members since they are the part of the larger society. Besides that the Christians and Muslims of SC origin live in a larger society where the caste system is prevalent and who are treated as untouchables by the caste Hindus.

Sikhism and Buddhism do not approve caste system but Dalits belonging to these religions are extended SC status.

Many state Governments and many commissions appointed by the Union of India have supported SC status to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims:

The state Governments of Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have recommended to the Union to extend SC status to the Christians of Scheduled Caste Origin.

The National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities (NCRLM) Report, the ‘Dalits in the Muslim and Christian Communities- A Status Report on Current Social Scientific Knowledge’ prepared for the National commission for Minorities Government of India by Satish Deshpande and many other reports formed by the Government clearly say that the socio, economic, educational condition of the Dalits has not changed much even after their conversion to other religions.

Unnecessary fear that it will lead to conversion:

The Constitution of India guarantees the freedom of religion to every citizen of India.

‘Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all person are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion’.( Article 25).

The Constitution Scheduled Caste Order 1950 rather takes away this basic right to practice a religion of one’s own conscience. Rather by denying the SC status to Christians and Muslims of Scheduled Caste Origin the order proselytises the Hindu Dalits and prevents them from converting themselves to the other religions.

It is minimising the value and credibility of Hindu religion and the Hindu Dalits, if somebody says that people would move away from Hindu religion if SC status to extended to all.

It should be also noted that the Dalit Hindus did not convert to Sikhism and Buddhism when the SC status was extended to the followers of these religions.

Denying SC status to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims is recommended by UN:

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 17th session (19th Feb-9th March 2007) states “The Committee notes with concern that Dalits who convert to Islam or to Christianity to escape caste discrimination reportedly list their entitlement under affirmative action programmes, unlike converts who become Buddhists or Sikhs. The committee recommends that the State party restore the eligibility for affirmative action benefits of all members of scheduled Castes and scheduled tribes having converted to another religion”.

Denying SC status to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims is against Human Rights of these groups:

Denying Scheduled Caste status to Christians and Muslims of Scheduled Caste Origin is denying their basic Human Rights to practice any religion of their conscience.

BJP’s  National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution:

National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC) in 2002 formed by  NDA, Bharatiya Janata Party observed  the fact that in some parts of the country particularly in the south converts to Christianity  from specific SCs are  subjected to crimes and atrocities as their exact Hindu counterparts are (difference of religion making no difference in this regard) and the fact that trials in such cases get bogged down on the issue whether this is an atrocity since they are not SC on account of conversion.  They recommended that Clause (c) of section 2 of the Act should be amended by adding the following words at the end of it “and converts to Christianity from Scheduled Castes”.

The National Executive of the Minority Morcha of BJP:

The National Executive of the Minority Morcha of BJP in Bangalore in 2011 passed a resolution “ The benefits of reservation granted to any caste, or race or tribe could not be denied to them on the basis of their religious faith or they belonged to a particular religion”.

Conclusion: The Government should give reply to the Supreme Court

Based on the report of National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities (NCRLM) we request the Government to give a reply to the Supreme Court of India so that the long pending issue may be resolved in the Supreme Court of India soon.

Fr. Devasagayaraj, Secretary, CBCI Office for SC/BC;
Mr. Samuel Jeyakumar, Secretary, NCCI National Commission on Policy Governance Witness;
Mr. Franklin Caesar, National Coordinator, National Council for Dalit Christians (NCDC);
Dr. Syed Zafar Mahmood, President, Zakat Foundation of India.

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