International human rights day – OJPD-CBCI

December 11, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

International human rights dayOn the eve of the 64th International Human Rights, one is baffled by the sheer magnitude of human rights violations in India and in the world at large. It is very disconcerting to note that the State which is under covenantal obligation to respect, protect, and fulfil human rights of its citizens has failed them. What is comforting, however, is the fact that there is growing awareness among the people of their rights. Hence, one sees massive protests and demonstrations by people in defence of their rights.

On the occasion of the International Human Rights Day this year, the Office for Justice, Peace and Development, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (OJPD-CBCI) wishes to compassionately delve into the human rights situation in India, and, at the same time, to urge those who act on behalf of the State to urgently remedy the situation.

The most distressing is the situation of the religious minorities whose right to religious freedom is ruthlessly rubbished and trampled upon by the militant majoritarian groups that apparently enjoy utmost impunity in the new political ambience following the general elections this year. These militant groups not only take the law into their own hands, and violently assault and intimidate the minority religious groups but also challenge the local / district administration that honestly attempt to maintain rule of law. The incidents in Trilokpuri and Bawana in Delhi, Alirajpur in Madhya Pradesh, Kundupur in Karnataka and Bastar in Chhattisgarh are only the tip of the iceberg. Unless restrained, these footloose majoritarian groups that have little regard for constitutional norms can become a national menace and imperil human rights.

Equally disconcerting is the situation of the tribals whose rights are not respected in the name of ‘development’ in order to placate the profit-hungry corporates. Hundreds of MoUs signed between the state governments and the companies only result in the displacement of millions of Adivasis in the central India. Their struggles for jal, jangal, jamin are heartlessly repressed. And, the bloody repression is ‘justified’ by powers that be by merely branding the Adivasis as Maoists/Naxalites. The situation of dalits leaves much to be desired. They have been unscrupulously subjected to violence and riots. This being the reality, Article 17 of the Constitution of India states: “Untouchability” is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden. Indisputably, the most discriminated among the dalits are the Christian and Muslim dalits who, unlike the Hindu dalits, have been denied the Scheduled Caste status and, hence, their right to affirmative action.

The other vulnerable groups that merit special attention are women and children in India. According to India’s National Crime Bureau, 92 women are raped in India every day. Another recent survey reveals that 91 percent of women and girls in India face sexual harassment in their lifetime. On the other hand, the Child rights activist Mr Satyarthi, who is one of the two recipients of this year’s Nobel peace prize, laments that not enough is being done to protect children from servitude.

There are two groups of people in India whose three-decade-long quest for justice remains unfulfilled: the survivors of the 1-3 November 1984 anti-Sikh riots that left about 7,000 Sikhs dead; and, the survivors of the 2-3 December 1984 Bhopal gas-leak disaster that killed more than 3,000 people instantly and thousands more over the years.

Against this backdrop, one can rightly appreciate the pertinence and significance of the announcement by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that the theme for Human Rights Day this year is: Human Rights 365. The theme encompasses the idea that every day is Human Rights Day. The theme also celebrates the fundamental proposition in the Universal Declaration that each one of us, everywhere, at all times is entitled to the full range of human rights.

On the occasion of the International Human Rights Day, the CBCI Office for Justice, Peace and Development underscores the need for inculcating rights-respecting codes of conduct among people everywhere and endorses as well as echoes the following message of Pope Francis:“The Church renews today her strong appeal for the protection of the dignity and centrality of every person, respecting his fundamental rights, as her Social Doctrine stresses, rights that she requests be really extended where they are not recognized to millions of men and women in every Continent.” (Pope Francis’ Address to Pontifical Council for Migrants, Vatican City, on 24 May 2013).

OJPD-CBCI calls on government authorities to honour their obligation to protect human rights everyday of the year and also urges all, especially the people of good will, to seek out more meaningful roles where they can make a difference in their attempt to respect, protect and promote human rights that belong to each of us and bind us together as a global community with the same ideals and values.

– rev dr charles irudayam, executive secretary, ojpd-cbci

Malaysia: Christians seething after Bibles stamped with warning

December 11, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

Bible stampedMalaysia, December 9, 2014: Iban and Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Christians in Sarawak are seething over the stamping of Malay and Iban-language Bibles with a warning by the Selangor religious authorities, saying the act of desecration had marred any sincerity over the release of the holy books which were seized earlier this year.

Pastor Graman Ujang, the chairman of Gempuru Besai Sarawak, the largest Christian grouping representing 6,000 Iban-speaking congregations in the state, said the Selangor religious authorities had showed bad faith in the return of the Bibles.

“It showed they were not sincere in wanting to return them. They did so because they were pressured to. “But why on earth did they do that, stamping the Bibles?” Ujang asked.

Ujang said he also felt embarrassed because the stamping showed Muslims in Malaysia were so weak in their faith that they would go to such lengths to reassure themselves.

“It also shows they just don’t have any respect for other religions,” Ujang told The Malaysian Insider.

The Bibles contain the Arabic word “Allah” for God. In the Alkitab and Bup Kudus, the Iban-language Bible, God is referred to as “Allah Taala”.

A total of 321 copies of the Bible were seized by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) from the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) bookshop on January 2. They were released to Sarawak Christians through the Association of Churches of Sarawak (ACS) at a ceremony witnessed by the Sultan of Selangor on November 14.

They were released to Sarawak Christians rather than the peninsula-based BSM from where they were seized, as the scriptures were not to be used in Selangor, a press statement by the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) had explained.

However, the Bibles were stamped with a warning that the holy books were not to be published or used anywhere in the state of Selangor.

The warning in English reads: “Strictly for non-Muslims usage only and shall not be published or used in any part of the state of Selangor pursuant to section 9 (1) Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Amongst Muslims) Enactment 1988”.

The Malaysian Insider had reported on Sunday that the stamping was most likely discovered only after the handing over ceremony of the Bibles towards the end of November, as the BSM had released an earlier statement thanking the sultan for helping to secure their release. It had also considered the matter settled then.

The BSM, in a strongly-worded statement on Sunday, had demanded an apology from the Selangor religious authorities.

“The Christian minority in this country has been made to suffer at the hands of religious zealots and extremists working within the government,” BSM president Bishop Datuk Ng Moon Hing had said in the statement.

The BSM also considered the stamping a repeat incident of desecration, the first time being in March 2011, when 5,000 copies of the Alkitab were stamped and serialised by the Home Ministry, which held the consignment worth RM70,000 (US$20,000) for two years after seizing them at the Kuching Port on March 20, 2009.

Prominent social activist Nicholas Bawin told The Malaysian Insider he was “very angry” as the desecration had violated one of the greatest fears Sarawak’s founding fathers of Malaysia had, that the freedom to worship any religion in predominantly Muslim Malaysia would gradually be eroded.

“Where is the hope of freedom of worship with all these,” said Bawin, who is also a PKR politician.

Ujang had earlier this year commented on the January 2 seizure of the Bibles from BSM’s bookshop in Petaling Jaya, calling it a “serious and intolerable” violation of the constitutional right of Christians to practise, preach and propagate their faith.

“If one copy had been taken, it would have been understood to be for inspection.

“But seizing multiple copies is a clear attempt to restrict the Iban-speaking Christians from accessing the Bible in our own language,” he had said.

Iban Christians make up some 52.6% of Sarawak’s Christians. Christianity is Malaysia’s third largest religion, with 2.6 million followers or about 10% of the country’s population, a 2010 census showed.

Malaysia has an ongoing dispute in the courts over the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims, which began with the Catholic Church’s suit against the government for banning the word in the Bahasa Malaysia edition of its newsletter, Herald.

The Federal Court first denied the church leave to appeal a Court of Appeal ruling which banned the word, and has now fixed January 21 to hear the church’s review application to set aside the earlier ruling and to establish a new panel to re-hear the leave application.

The word “Allah” and several other Arabic words pertaining to prayer, faith and worship were first banned from non-Muslim publications under a Home Ministry circular in 1986. This prohibition is now in several Islamic state enactments.

A 10-point agreement by the federal government issued before the April 2011 state elections in Sarawak allowed the Alkitab and Iban-language Bibles to continue being imported, distributed and used.

But there has been ambiguity in its implementation, with some politicians saying it can only be used by Sabah and Sarawak Christians in their states, despite the fact that many of them live and work in the peninsula.

News of the recent stamping and the BSM’s angry response follows a plea by Sarawak’s largest church group, Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) Sarawak, for the right to use the word “Allah” in worship throughout Malaysia.

SIB Sarawak president Rev Dr Justin Wan had said that “Allah” was used in almost all native languages of the Sarawak natives, and noted the “high mobility” of people between the two Borneo states and the peninsula. – December 9, 2014.

– the malaysian insider

Barnabas edit: Islam in crisis?

December 11, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-world

IslamAfrica, December 04, 2014: Two brutal attacks by Al-Shabaab on Christians in Kenya have followed quickly on the heels of one another, with up to 64 people shot or beheaded because they refused to recite the Islamic creed.  Meanwhile Boko Haram’s attacks in Nigeria are so many it is getting hard to keep up with the news, let alone tally the number of dead.  In both these contexts Christians are one of the prime targets, as zealous Islamists seek to extend their rule, believing that this is what their God demands.

On a smaller scale, but even more horrifying, was the mob lynching of a Christian couple in Pakistan, thrown alive into the furnace of the brick kiln where they worked.  Again it was a religious motivation that prompted the frenzied attack, because of a rumour that the wife had desecrated pages of the Quran.

Such examples are multiplied across the world.  Although Barnabas Fund works all out to try to help victims of anti-Christian violence, how much better it would be if the violence itself could be halted so there were no victims needing aid.

This week I have attended a conference of progressive, liberal Arab Muslim scholars, who are seeking to reform Islam to make it into a truly peaceful religion, taking its place harmoniously alongside others in our multi-faith modern world.  These courageous men and women put their lives at risk to make known their views.   As was pointed out very clearly at the conference, it is the theology and ideology of Islamist militants that drive them; their killings are not wanton depravity but completely legitimate according to the doctrines they have been taught.

Such teaching is exactly what the progressive scholars would like to counter, by means of fresh interpretations of the Islamic sources that emphasise the peaceable teachings rather than the belligerent ones that urge and model hatred, intolerance and violence. Their writings, and those of other like-minded Muslims, have now been published in a book which I have had the privilege of co-editing.

Very little is heard of such scholars, despite their learning and their boldness.  They have no funding to get their message across.  They are not asked to advise government and security. They are not invited to international inter-religious conferences where extremism is discussed. They are left to fend for themselves and to try to influence as best they can. One spoke of how he had been threatened and there was no protection.

All the scholars were agreed that the voices of the extremists are increasing rather than decreasing, and that it is the extremist ideas which are taking root, not the liberal ideas. This does not bode well for the future.  However much Muslim leaders have denounced extremism and organisations like Islamic State, they remain faced with the fact that many, including their young people, are moving in the opposite direction.

The Christians living in Muslim-majority countries are faced now, not just with marginalisation, discrimination, alienation or harassment, but with sheer brutality threatening their very existence.  And this is not the only context where Christians face such pressure. A Christian leader in India recently compared the situation of Christians in that country to living in Nazi Germany in the 1930s because the present political leadership is seeking to eradicate Christianity from India.

In places like Sri Lanka and in some other Buddhist-majority countries, Christians face similar problems.  Whether it be religion of its most extreme form or developing nationalism, Christians find themselves increasingly at risk.  Thankfully governments have now recognised this, and the media have now taken up this cause.

Christian leaders, however, lag behind. As to solutions, few know what to do, for Christians have no guns (thankfully), no power, no oil.  This renders them not only defenceless, but also economically irrelevant to the West and therefore not worth defending.

And yet, in the midst of it all, there is God, who remains in control of the nations, who holds His people in His hands and will control their ultimate destiny.  As we move towards Christmas and think of the coming of the Messiah, we remember also that He came into a dark world where His advent saw the massacring of little children. But we remember that He is a god of justice, who has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly (Luke 1:52).

– dr patrick sookhdeo

Lifetime warranty

December 11, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-miscellaneous

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. —Psalm 139:14
Buying a new car is a major investment.
We want to be sure we are getting our money’s worth.
We also want to be certain that the vehicle won’t cause us trouble.
So we carefully file the manufacturer’s warranty,
confident that if something doesn’t work right we can take our car back to the dealer.

worth

Not only are we sure they have trained people
who can troubleshoot the problem and fix it,
but we know they have all the manufacturer’s specifications
and the parts that may be needed.

When we run into difficulties in life and aren’t able
to get things working right, where can we turn for help?

Help

” Doesn’t it make sense that the One who made us is
totally qualified to supply the indispensable help we need ? “

The psalmist David found great comfort in this fact.
He wrote, “You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
marvelous are Your works . . . .
How precious also are Your thoughts to me,
O God! How great is the sum of them!” (Ps. 139:13-14,17).

great is our god

God’s help is as available today as it was then.
And who is more qualified to know what we need than the One who made us!
All that I am I owe to Thee,
Thy wisdom, Lord, has fashioned me;
I give my Maker thankful praise,
Whose wondrous works my soul amaze. —Psalter

God’s warranty

” God’s warranty: You’re covered for a lifetime “.

– fwd: v c mathews

Christians join new militia to combat ISIS in northern Iraq

December 10, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-lead

Christians join new militia to combat ISIS in northern IraqIraq, December 5, 2014: The Assyrian Democratic Movement has announced the formation of the Nineveh Plain Protection Units, a militia largely comprised of Christian volunteers created to defend civilians from ISIS. The NPU also hopes to recapture land that was taken over by the terrorist organization.

There are reportedly between 500 and 1,000 Assyrian volunteers in training with the NPU, which was fomed by the Assyrian Democratic Movement, the primary political party of Assyrians in Iraq, according to Aletia.

“The mission of the NPU will be first to protect the remaining Assyrian lands from further attacks by ISIS, and then to participate in the necessary military campaigns to liberate the Assyrian homeland of the Nineveh Plain from these notorious terrorists,” reads a press release from the American Mesopotamian Organization, which is helping the project by raising awareness and support for the NPU.

“As a means of protection for themselves and other ethno-religious peoples under attack from ISIS, the Assyrian Democratic Movement is now actively recruiting and training young Assyrian volunteers for service in the Nineveh Plain Protection Units, readying them for combat with ISIS,” according to the press release.

David W. Lazar, a Baghdad native who runs the American Mesopotamian Organization, said that the program is being funded by “Assyrian communities in the diaspora,” specifically in the U.S. and Europe, and plans to eventually seek help from the U.S. and European governments.

“As the NPU grow in strength and size, they will become part of the official security forces of the proposed province, ensuring protection for the lands, homes and lives of Iraq’s minority populations,” according to the press release.

“They will be part of national guard, a project Iraq is putting together,” said Lazar. “We will be pushing for creation of Nineveh Plain Province because it’s our right.”

The units are being formed by Assyrian Christians out of frustration with the Iraqi government and military who they feel failed to protect them during the most critical times. They specifically hold the Kurds, a group that runs part of northern Iraq, responsible.

“Kurds told Christians: ‘Relax, stay in your house, we’ll take care of it.’ They got them to hand over their weapons, saying, ‘We can’t have a lot of weapons floating around; that might cause problems,'” claimed Jeff Gardner, who is helping the American Mesopotamian Organization with public relations.

While some Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters have been successful at pushing ISIS out of certain areas, including the village of Bakufa in northern Iraq, ISIS had driven the Christian population out of the area, which is comprised of 95 houses and is located 243 miles north of Baghdad.

However, after they took back the town, the Kurdish fighters began setting up village militia that was made up of about 70 volunteers. The militia, which is made up of many Christians, now patrol the area around the clock to keep the village free so that their families could return.

“We found ourselves helpless,” Caesar Jacob, deputy to the Christian militia’s commander, told The Associated Press. “We must defend ourselves to defend our land for now and the future.”

The Kurdish peshmerga fighters seem proud of their accomplishments in Bakufa.

“We came here to protect our Christian brothers and their homes,” said Abdul Rahman Kawriny, the local peshmerga brigade commander. “There is constant cooperation and assistance. We are always together.”

It is important to ensure safety once an area is cleared of ISIS, according to Michael Stephens, a Middle East expert at the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies.

“One of the biggest problems is that when ISIS leaves an area, it leaves it full of roadside bombs and mines and traps everywhere, which makes the place uninhabitable for anybody who wants to move back,” he told Aletia.

The placement of bombs along roads, and inside homes and churches was also reported by The Christian Post in October.

Both sides of this fight will face a potential harsh winter and displaced people and refugees face an even greater challenge as the U.N. recently announced that its World Food Program ran out of funds and is cutting off its programs in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt.

– christian post

Card Gracias calls for the rediscovery the new evangelisation in the footsteps of Saint Francis Xavier

December 10, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

St. Francis Xavier ExpositionMumbai, December 03, 2014: Today India celebrates the feast day of Saint Francis Xavier, Apostle of the Indies and patron saint of missions and the East. Goa, where the Jesuit priest began his work of evangelisation, is also home to the saint’s remains.

Revered by local Catholics as “Goencho Saibh”, the “Saviour of Goans,” he was remembered today by a big Mass celebrated in his honour. Card Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, attended the service.

In what follows, Card Gracias talks about the legacy of St Francis Xavier, and the path the Church in India must follow for the new evangelisation.

Today on the feast of St Francis Xavier, we give thanks to God for the gift of St Francis Xavier. So many of us owe our faith to him. I personally thank God because of my own ancestors received the faith due to his preaching. And so thousands and thousands of us have come from all parts of Goa, all parts of India and all parts of the world to pray before the relics of St Francis Xavier. This solemn Mass is the best thanksgiving we can give for this glorious son of Spain to us.

As we thank God we also ask ourselves, what use have we made of this gift? We received the Gospel; we were evangelized 500 years ago. Has the Gospel, the life of Jesus, become vibrant, brighter or dimmed in our lives? Is the Gospel still the driving force of all that we do? We come here to thank Francis Xavier for what he brought to us, but will he be proud of us? Can we say we have made good use of what he gave us? Do we feel that we have genuinely used his gifts?

Pope Saint John Paul II, who came here to Goa, often spoke of a new evangelization.  And what does this new evangelization mean for us? For you and for me? Christianity is like a jewel in our life which must be polished to make it shine more brightly.

I present to you a few possibilities for new evangelization.

  • To understand our faith more. Survey after survey in India has shown that we Christians do not know sufficiently about our faith. We must learn more about our faith, read more about our faith, understand more deeply what Francis Xavier has taught us. In Goa, we have the privilege of having the SCCs. This is an excellent instrument of deepening our faith knowledge.
  • Living our faith more. The Gospel values of love, service, becoming peacemakers, bringing reconciliation, honesty, truth, should become even more our way of life. We should deepen more what St Francis Xavier taught us and live by these principles.
  • Proclaim our faith more. By being active in our parish associations, in our communities, by building up what St Francis Xavier first gave us, by being active in service in our villages, for our people, not only Christians but also non-Christians who are brothers and sisters of one family. Goa has a very good history of harmony among religions. This is what we must build on through the values that St Francis Xavier taught us.
  • We work out our spirituality, our happiness, our joy in the family. The whole Church the world over is thinking of family life through the Synod, through meetings, discussions, plans and programmes. Family life in Goa was always strong, united and continues to be so because of the prayer in the home. Keep the prayer in your homes, keep God in your homes through prayer, Bible reading, sharing. Prayer brings God’s blessings, prayer brings unity, prayer strengthens love. Francis Xavier gathered together families in the evening to pray together. Let us continue this holy tradition today.
  • Pope Francis has always been reminding us that we must reach out to the poor and the marginalized, those in need. This we must do as an expression of the faith that St Francis Xavier has brought us.

At a recent meeting in Barcelona, on the Pastoral Care in Mega cities our Holy Father Pope Francis outlined the challenges of mega cities.  The four challenges that the Pope outlined, is very applicable to the situation in India.  And the  Church in India, continues  the  Mission of St Francis Xavier,  with the  New Evangelisation  with “concrete mercy and tenderness”,  through our Apostolates of  Education, Health Care and Welfare services,  even though the Christians are a miniscule 2.3% of the population.

  • The Church in India is continuously engaged in a multicultural dialogue through our various Apostolates, without discrimination, the Church serves the people of all cultures and faiths. St Francis Xavier’s missionary work also speaks to us, in engaging in multicultural dialogue, knowing the ways of thinking of our culture, discerning what is good and what is inauthentic, seeking to engage with it but always bringing Christ;
  • Going to the peripheries – the Pope spoke of “evangelical horizon”, and in India, this is an immense challenge, bringing God back to the centre of our lives from the apathy towards the spiritual life and practice of the faith, the challenges of injustice, and the culture of death
  • Embracing hardships as St Francis did, going into the geographical peripheries and caring for the care of the poor and migrants.
  • Another challenge the Holy Father outlined was care for the great city mission with passionate zeal and following in the footsteps of St Francis Xavier, we are all called to have a passionate zeal – preaching by our lives and our genuine compassion for all, especially the most needy, as Pope Francis continuously reminds us, the Church of the Poor, for the poor.
  • Seeking always the Kingdom of God, and not our own gain – solidarity – The Catholic Church in India following in the footsteps of the Patron of the Mission, has always selflessly worked in the remote rural and unreached areas, serving without discrimination the poorest, the vulnerable and most oppressed sections of society, showing solidarity and working for the Kingdom of Justice Peace and Development and Truth..

Such lessons from the life of a great missionary about how to be an evangelist in our time and place will help us bear fruit as Xavier did. My dearest people of Goa, my dearest pilgrims from all over the world – A very Happy Feast to you, remembering the day when St Francis Xavier entered heaven 462 years ago.

May the gift that St Francis Xavier brought to each one of us shine brightly in our lives. May the prayers of St Francis Xavier bring many blessings to each one of us. May the fire that burned in the heart of St Francis Xavier touch our hearts, and make us live our Christian faith with great fervour, enthusiasm and commitment.

Happy Feast.

– archbishop of mumbai

Indian Shias are disappointed over restrictions due to ISIS threat

December 10, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Indian Shias are disappointedDelhi, December 05, 2014: The annual ritual of Arbaeen – it falls on December 12 this year – has commenced. Young and old, men and women, more than 20 million of them clad in black are marching towards the city of Karbala, south-west of Baghdad in Iraq. Chants of Labbaik Ya Husain (being at the service of Husain, the grandson of Prophet Mohammed) rent the air.

These mourners from Shia faith are visiting the shrine of Imam Husain, risking their lives to travel through Iraq, braving the threat of deadly attacks, which have in the past targeted the Shia community. Many pilgrims walk barefoot from the city of Najaf to cover a distance of 80 KM; some even take over 500 KM foot journey from the port of Basra to Karbala over two weeks. Braving the scorching sun and chilling nights, the pilgrims now also face threats passing through the ISIS – known as Islamic State – controlled areas.

Arbaeen marks the end of a 40-day mourning period following Ashura, commemorating the martyrdom of Husain, one of the Shia Islam’s most revered figures. He gave his life in saving Islam against the tyrannical rule of Yazid in 680 AD. Karbala is one of the holiest places for Shia Muslims as it holds the shrine of Imam Husain.

Millions throng to pay the respect to the bereaved Imam. Last year, more than 20 million people visited the shrine. This number is almost four times more than the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca. Easily, one of the largest annual religious peaceful congregations, only the Hindu pilgrimage of Kumbh Mela in India sees more pilgrims than this, but it is held once every three year.

While Arbaeen is an exclusive Shia spiritual exercise, Sunnis, Christians, Yazidis, Zoorastrians and people from other faiths also take part in both the pilgrimage as well as for serving the devotees.

The pilgrimage was banned during the regime of Saddam Husain but was reintroduced in 2003.

Security threats in Iraq

Many pilgrims have lost their lives during their pilgrimages to holy Karbala since 2003 in bombings and armed attacks. This year with ever-growing presence of the radicalized ISIS terror group, the threat is more extreme as many hardliners denounce Shias as Muslims and regard them as apostates; thus justifying their killing. They attack both the believers and their places of worship. Last year, the terror groups attacked the pilgrimage with suicide bombers and rockets leaving dozens dead.

Security forces in Iraq have been taking tougher measures to secure the routes for this year’s pilgrims, according to the Iraq state news agency. The police have increased the number of highway patrol and check points. They are working in tandem with the National Security, the Army and the Intelligence agencies to counter the attacks.

Shias in India

Shia is a minority but a growing community in India. In July, more than 6,000 Shias had applied for visa at the Embassy of Iraq for this annual pilgrimage and volunteering for the relief mission. Incidentally, many others from Sunni and Hindu communities joined in to be a part of the volunteers in facilitating the relief work for Shia community in Iraq.

The Indian government is sceptical in issuing visas to these pilgrims-cum-volunteers, apparently because of the security fear as ISIS has also listed India as one of their targets. It is also being reported that 40 missing Indians in Iraq have been shot dead by ISIS.

About two week ago, a Shia delegation known as Anjuman-e-Haideri flying to Iraq headed by a notable Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawad was detained at the Delhi airport.

The Maulana, who clarified that they had taken prior permission from the Ministry of External Affairs and were going for the rehabilitation and relief work, later condemned the move. Mahmood Pracha, legal advisor of the delegation said, “The lookout circulars (LOC) issued against the delegates were illegal and so is the forcible abduction and detention of the delegates by Delhi Police.”

Anjuman has now written to the Prime Minster and the Home Minster seeking intervention. Bahadur Abbas Naqvi, general secretary of Anjuman-e-Haideri, told TwoCircles.net that the government has stopped a peaceful delegation that was going to voluntarily serve the pilgrims and to make a public statement that Muslims are against terrorism. “When Sri Sri Ravi Shankar can go, why was the delegation led by Maulana Kalbe Jawad denied permission,” he wondered.

Unrelenting Spirit

Even after the potential life threats, the devout defy the worst security conditions, terrorists’ threat. Every year the attacks take place but with each passing year, the pilgrims continue to grow in numbers. What moves them?

It’s the spirit to challenge terrorism and oppression that these worshippers have embodied from Husain, who defied tyranny, about 1400 years ago but continues to live among the hearts of billions of faithful.

Being at the service of Husain, expresses the idea of fighting for the justice and being on the side of the justice. Once again, ‘Labbaik Ya Husain’ is a slogan of believers who only worship Allah and thus they support the righteous slave of Allah – the Imam Husain. Just as Mahatma Gandhi had aptly summed up after achieving freedom for India “I learnt from Husain how to achieve victory while being oppressed.”

– tcn

500 Christians join BJP in Delhi

December 10, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Christians join BJPNew Delhi, December 9, 2014: The BJP’s Delhi unit on Sunday made a special membership drive among Christians ahead of state elections in the national capital and successfully enrolled some 500 Christians.

Atif Rasheed, president of Delhi BJP’s minority wing that organized the drive, said his people worked at four churches for two hours from 10 in morning and enrolled over 500 Christians, according to a report in the Indian Express.

The membership drive was at four churches including the Sacred Heart Church, the Catholic cathedral of Delhi archdiocese. The other churches were in Mandir Marg, Turkaman Gate and Kingsway Camp, he said.

During the drive, “over 500 people took membership” and “a similar drive will be carried out for next few Sundays in similar fashion,” said Rasheed.

The minority cell of the BJP, which always focuses on the Muslim community, has decided to reach out to other minority communities in the city, some reports said.

The BJP aims to enroll over 10,000 Christians in the party in next one month.

Delhi’s 70 assembly constituencies have some 500,000 Christians with voting rights and they are at the center of BJP strategy for the upcoming Delhi elections.

– new indian express

Pak: Blasphemy case lawyer gets death threat

December 10, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

blasphemy lawKarachi, December 5, 2014: A Pakistani lawyer says he has been threatened by gunmen posing as members of the Islamic State movement for defending a man accused of blasphemy.

“Two gunmen riding a motorcycle opened fire outside my residence at 9:30pm [on Wednesday] and sped away. They returned again after midnight, knocked at my door and dropped a letter,” Shahbaz Gurmani told ucanews.com on Friday.

Gurmani is defense counsel for Junaid Hafeez, a lecturer in the English department at Bahauddin Zakariya University in Karachi.

Hafeez was arrested in March 2013 after being accused by the student wing of a hardline Islamist party of posting derogatory comments about the Prophet Muhammad and Allah on his Facebook page.

Hafeez denies the charge, claiming he was falsely accused by a supporter of the party who wanted his job but was overlooked for the position.

“In the letter, supposedly sent by Daish, the Arabic acronym for IS, I have been told to withdraw from the Junaid Hafeez case or face serious consequences,” Gurmani said.

“Haven’t you learned any lesson from what we did to Rashid Rehman Khan? You will be beheaded if you do not quit this case,” he said, quoting the letter.

Rashid Rehman Khan, a lawyer and coordinator for the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, was shot dead inside his office in May this year for defending Hafeez.

Khan had taken up the case after two other defense lawyers, Muddassir Sagheer and Haq Nawaz, withdrew following death threats.

Gurmani said he would not be intimidated by threats and would continue to fight Hafeez’s case.

Rights campaigners say Pakistan’s blasphemy law is misused to target minorities, stoke religious hatred and settle personal scores.

– ucanews

China: Why churches full and communists are furious

December 10, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-world

Catholicism in ChinaChina, November 24, 2014: China’s Communist government has been on an anti-Christian rampage of late, tearing down churches in the coastal city of Wenzhou and elsewhere, arresting underground bishops and home church leaders, and illicitly ordaining pliant priests as Catholic “bishops”. But underneath this escalating campaign of repression — in fact, the reason for it — is a rapidly growing population of Christians.

There are now an estimated 100 million plus Christians in the world’s most populous country, with Catholics alone accounting for about 12 million of this number. Many of these are new converts who, eager to fulfill the Great Commission, are busy evangelizing their fellow Chinese citizens.

The Chinese Communist Party has been doing some recruiting of its own in recent years, opening its ranks to intellectuals, business owners, and other previously suspect classes — even capitalists! Still, the 86.7 million formal members of this decaying “faith” — most of whom are Communists in name only — are now outnumbered by a growing and vibrant Chinese Christianity.

For China’s leaders, who vastly prefer that the Chinese people believe there is no god but the Party (and remember: they are the Party), this is an intolerable situation. This latest wave of persecution is their answer. The good news is that Catholicism in China is on the rise nonetheless.

Let me share with you some of the many hopeful faces of the Catholic faith that I saw on a recent trip to China.

One is the face of a Catholic priest, serving as the pastor of a large parish near a major Chinese city, who is determined to save souls. As we sat in his office, he unrolled a drawing of a huge statue of Jesus. He intends to have it built in secret and then erected overnight on a pedestal overlooking the freeway that runs near his church. “How are you going to get permission from the authorities?” I said. “It’s Church land,” he said firmly, “I don’t need permission.”

There were no churches being torn down in the North China provinces I visited, but there were certainly churches being built. The thousands of churches that were torn down or confiscated on Party orders during the fifties and sixties have nearly all been rebuilt or refurbished, often with foreign donations. This includes the parish church at Dongergou in Shanxi province that I visited, where Masses have been held continuously for more than 220 years.

Many new churches have been built as well, sometimes with official permission, sometimes without. This is an area where the laity often takes the initiative. In one village, the parishioners — many of them new converts — were holding prayer meetings and occasional Masses, when a priest was able to be present, in an abandoned stable.

– ucan

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