Church attack accused gets bail in Agra

May 26, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

St Mary's Church at PratappuraAgra, May 25, 2015: A court granted bail to Haider Ali, the man arrested for attacking a Catholic church last month, saying his name was not in the First Information Report police filed.

Police arrested him saying he attacked St Mary’s Church at Pratappura May 16 after a tiff with his Christian girlfriend.

Additional district and sessions judge Pankaj Kumar Singh said no one identified him in court and that all the police have is a ‘self confession’.??

Ali’s defence lawyers Dinesh Aggarwal and Manoj Kumar Sharma told the Times of India that the poor rickshaw puller was falsely accused. “His only fault was that he was passing by the church when the incident occurred.”

“In the court, neither police nor the complainant party produced any evidence against him. Taking cognizance of the FIR, which did not even mention Haider’s name, and the fact that he had no previous criminal record, the judge granted him bail on two sureties of Rs 25,000 each,” the lawyers said.

Public prosecutor Shishupal Yadav confirmed that Ali had got bail on Wednesday.?

However, the 23-year-old Ali, who hails from Sultanpura area of Idagh colony, is still in the district jail, as he doesn’t have money to pay his bail bond.

The attackers had decapitated the statue of Baby Jesus and put what resembled some sort of a leash around the neck of the statue.

The desecration, which had come on the heels of a string of similar attacks on churches in New Delhi, had the 1 lakh-odd Christians in Agra up in arms, following which the state minority commission dashed off letters to the district magistrate and SSP.

The commission sought an explanation from the officers even as police lodged an FIR against unidentified persons hours after the incident came to light.

– times of india

Christian leaders meet Jaitley for confidence building

May 26, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Catholic bishops in DelhiNew Delhi, May 25, 2015: A group of Christian leaders, including the three Catholic bishops in Delhi, met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday as a measure of “building confidence.”

“The meeting was a confidence building measure between the government and the community. The discussions were cordial, constructive and very positive,” said Father Savari Muthu, spokesperson of the Delhi Archdiocese.

The leaders included Archbishop Anil J T Couto of Delhi, Bishop Kuriackose Bharanikulangara of Faridabad, Bishop Jacob Mar Barnabas Gurgaon and Jesuit provincial of South Asia Father George Patteri. The 14 leaders met Jaitley at his residence Saturday.

They had a 90-minute meeting during which the leaders expressed their concerns about the community.

Sources said Jaitley recollected the community’s contributions to the society and made it clear that neither the BJP nor its government support attacks against the minority community.

The community leaders said they will have more such meetings in the future.

The meeting is seen as significant as it was a part of the BJP-led government’s image building exercise.

The government has come under criticism for frequent attacks on churches and inflammatory statements by BJP and Sangh Parivar leaders.

– indian express

“Kill them, or else…” Ethiopian Christian jailed, then told to murder pastors

May 26, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-world

Ethiopian Christian jailedWashington, May 23, 2015: Aman Kuni was crammed into a tight jail cell with barely enough room to sleep on the floor, but that was only the beginning of the terror that he would face for his faith in Christ. Just five days after being released from prison in Asella, Ethiopia, he was forced to kneel down, with a pistol pressed between his teeth, and was given the mission to kill two pastor friends, or else his children would die.

“I was commanded to follow the instruction of four covered, armed, persons who spoke in the Oromo language. I was also slapped two times and asked to kneel down. They put their pistol in my mouth and gave me instructions to kill pastors Girma Hippo and Endezina,” Kuni told International Christian Concern’s Ethiopia staffer.

Kuni was instructed to accomplish the mission in three months’ time. If successful, he was promised an easier life abroad, but if he refused, the masked assailants vowed to murder his three children. His wife’s Muslim family had already forcibly taken them away from him, and now he faced this terrifying threat.

Christians Imprisoned on Trumped-Up Charges

On April 25, an estimated 15 police officers surrounded a Christian worship service in Asella about 100 miles south of Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. The congregation of the Meseret-Kiristos Church had just witnessed the baptisms of 40 new believers in Christ.

“We were gathered for sharing and encouraging each other with the Word of God,” Kuni recounted. “After we finished the service, police imprisoned us. Some of our friends ran away when they saw the way we were harshly handled,” he added.

Witnesses reported that the police harassed several worshipers and four new converts from Islam fled the scene. Police later arrested them also at a nearby bus station. The number of arrested Christians also reportedly included three church leaders.

The men were held at a police station for two days until they appeared in court where the judge ordered for the case to be investigated.

Kuni and his friends were charged with “holding illegal meetings in secret locations,” and he remained unsure about how long he would stay in jail. The men insisted they had fulfilled all of the legal obligations to hold their meeting, but all Kuni could cling to was his faith in Christ.

“Our main crime was preaching the Good News,” Kuni said.

During the investiagtion, Kuni said he and the others were taken to court twice with no tangible evidence found against them. They were moved to the Assela prison where they were detained for two more weeks.

“The overall situation in the prison is very difficult. More than 168 inmates are stuffed into one small space. The Christians each have just enough space to lie on their sides at night. One of them has to sleep in the area they use as a toilet,” an anonymous source said.

The men were released May 12 on 250 dollars bail each. Kuni says his faith in Jesus helped him to endure this difficult persecution.

“We count ourselves as privileged to be imprisoned like Paul,” he said

Kuni said the court warned their accusers to produce evidence or the charges would be dropped. During the investigation, officials reportedly confiscated documents about church membership. Church leaders fear the persecution will add immense burden on the vulnerable community, particularly on the new Muslim converts who are already facing pressure from their families to return to Islam.

Kuni claims that three Muslim government officials were behind the arrests: Asella Mayor Yusuf, town Security Officer Shemsedin, and Arsi Zone Police Commander Adam.

“If the case is not approved with evidence and dropped the court, it seems those officials were using the government institutions to attack Christianity,” ICC’s Ethiopia staffer said.

The cost that Kuni has paid to follow Christ has been steep. With charges pending over his head, his family estranged, and his children threatened, he now prays for strength and protection for his family during this difficult time.

“For the past five and a half years, I was struggling to care for these three kids,” he said. “Now, I am just praying to God to provide them a safe place.”

– icc

This little boy still can’t talk or move – but his mother has never been happier

May 26, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-lead

NachitoSantiago, May 22, 2015: Constanza Saavedra spends 24 hours a day devoted to her son Ignacio, or “Nachito” as she affectionately calls him. He’s only seven years-old and suffers from a serious congenital muscular condition that prevents him from breathing on his own. He depends on a respirator to survive.

When he was born on August 17, 2008 in Santiago, Chile, the midwives advised the family not to get emotionally attached to him because he would probably die within a few hours. Surprisingly, it didn’t happen.

Ignacio’s health is so delicate that his mother hardly ever leaves the house for fear of infecting him with some kind of virus or bacteria. She is with him all the time.

Moreover, the cost of his care has become so high that this family has had to sell the little they had to survive and have had to move in with their parents. She and her husband Gonzalo Opazo have now dedicated their lives to care for their only child.

For many, it’s a devastating story – but for Saavedra, her son is the best thing that ever happened in her life and is the reason for her joy.

“I am humbled to say I’m happy. I feel completely fulfilled. For me it’s an honor that such a marvelous child should be my son,” she said in an interview with ACI Prensa.

Due to his condition, Ignacio can’t move most of his muscles and has to communicate through simple sounds. Consequently, he has daily physical therapy sessions to work on his motor skills and breathing as well as two days with a speech therapist.

He spends most of his time in bed. His pastimes are reading and watching television, but without a doubt his favorite is playing with his mother.

“For sure it’s a very serious muscular condition, and true, he cannot breathe without a respirator that breathes for him, but anybody who knows him realizes how immensely happy he is,” she said.

“He is very intelligent, knows how to read, and communicates extremely well. We spend the whole day playing, learning, singing, reading, doing entertaining things…and he knows that his little head has no limits,” Saavedra said of her son.

NachitoThis mother is also a family doctor, but she could not continue practicing her profession at any medical facility after “Nachito” was born. However, as she says, this has been “the most important and beautiful medical challenge that I have been able to experience. In no way do I feel frustrated. I’ve learned a lot and I also have been able to help others.”

Saavedra said that as a family “we have everything that matters to us. We’re not lacking anything important. We enjoy our days and we want to continue this adventure with our son.”

“For me it was never an option to abort Nachito. If I had known just how much I would be losing, it would have been the biggest mistake in the world,” she said.

Saavedra noted, however, that many women in her country lack the support to make the same decision for their children.

“There’s a problem…and we can’t cover it up,” she said. “Without support there are mothers and families nowadays that are shouldering a large percentage of the expense of having a child with a chronic illness. It happened to me and it’s happening to a lot of other mothers a lot worse than for me.”

“You can’t put a price on the life of a child. And a family shouldn’t have to be out on the street because they put the well being and health of their child ahead of everything else,” she added.

“So the government has to take the responsibility to guarantee all possible available support for these women, their children and their families.”

Saavedra also runs the Facebook page “Testimonies for Life” that gathers together real life stories of mothers that have gone through an at-risk pregnancy such as she did, women who have decided to go forward with courage and resolve.

“Every human life inherently has dignity,” she reflected. “Because what defines dignity? Health? If that’s the way it is then a high percentage of society would have lives without dignity.”

“All the old people, all the people dependent on others, the little children, sick people, poor people. So who defines what dignity is? Another thing is quality of life. For me quality of life doesn’t consist in what you can or can’t do,” Saavedra said.

“Rather, it’s about how much you enjoy your life, and how much you look forward to wake up the next day and go on living, and my son clearly enjoys his life.”

– cna

Faithful woman

May 23, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-miscellaneous

One night in a church service a young woman felt the tug of God at her heart. She responded to God’s call and accepted Jesus as her Lord & Saviour.

The young woman had a very rough past, involving alcohol, drugs  & prostitution.  But the change in her was evident.

Blood Of JesusAs time went on she became a faithful member of the church. She eventually became involved in the ministry teaching young children.

It was not very long until this faithful young woman had caught / eye & heart of the pastor’s son.

The relationship grew & they began to make wedding plans.  This is when the problem began.

You see, about one half of the church did not think that a woman with a past such as hers was suitable for a pastor’s son.

The church began to argue & fight about the matter. So they decided to have a meeting.

As the people made their arguments & tensions increased, the meeting was getting completely out of hand.

The young woman became very upset about all the things being brought up about her past. As she began to cry, the pastor’s son stood to speak.

He could not bear the pain it was causing his wife to be. He began to speak & his statement was this :

“My fiancee’s past is not what is on trial here. What you are questioning is the ability of the Blood of Jesus to wash away sin. “

Blood Of Jesus“Today you have put the Blood of Jesus on trial. So, does it wash always sin or not ? “

The whole church began to weep as they realized that they had been slandering the Blood of Jesus Christ.

Too often, even as Christians, we bring up the past & use it as a weapon against our brothers & sisters. Forgiveness is a very foundational part of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

If the Blood of Jesus does not cleanse the other person completely then it cannot cleanse us completely.

If that is the case, then we are all in a lot of trouble.

What can wash away my sins….?   Nothing but the Blood of Jesus !

Nepal: Missionaries of Charity asked to get permission for aid work

May 23, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Missionaries of CharityNepal, May 22, 2015: Members of the Missionaries of Charity had to spend more than two hours waiting at police headquarters for clearance before they could deliver food, blankets and other promised relief to earthquake victims in a remote mountainous area of Nepal.

The group of six sisters, eight brothers and about six volunteers had asked for police accompaniment on their May 16 mission because, on an earlier trip, they had been accosted by looters while carrying aid to people trapped in the mountains overlooking Kathmandu Valley.

But from the Missionaries of Charity center for destitute women at Mitra Park in Kathmandu, the police escorts diverted the vehicles carrying relief material to police offices in Lalitpur District, one of the three districts in the Kathmandu Valley. The officers insisted that government permission was required for relief distribution.

After the intervention of Bishop Paul Simick of Nepal, Chief District Officer Yadav Prasad Koirala let the group get on their way but warned that, in the future, the missionaries should leave relief distribution to the government.

The nuns told the officials that they had distributed aid to more than 200 families in the Khani Dhanda mountain area and, with Catholic youth, had trekked eight hours to identify other needy families who had not been reached by relief groups.

“This is the first time we are facing such a situation,” Sr. Marica told Catholic News Service as the convoy of five vehicles took to the dusty mountain path to Khani Dhanda.

Sr. Armelle, the most senior of the Missionaries of Charity in the group, explained that they had purchased relief material from the market according to the requirements of the people after their preliminary visit. Rice, tarps, woolen blankets and other materials were packed into kit bags for distribution.

“In some areas, they asked for utensils. In other places, they asked for more rice,” Sr. Armelle said.

When the convoy reached Khani Dhanda, the Missionaries of Charity brothers unloaded the 140 kit bags, while the sisters lined up those who had been given coupons on the earlier visit.

Elderly women carried the relief materials in cane baskets on their heads.

Ram Bahadur Tamang, a student, said that recipients were grateful for the help, noting that, “except for (Buddhist) monks who came with rice, nobody has bothered to come here in three weeks.”

The Catholic Church is a major provider of relief in remote areas of Nepal after the nation was devastated in a magnitude-7.8 earthquake on April 25.

– cns

Scrutinize passports of Muslims and Christians, orders Karnataka police

May 23, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

PassportBengaluru, Nov 18, 2015: The Karnataka police has landed in a controversy after a senior police officer issued a circular, asking officers concerned to scrutinize the passport applications from Muslims and Christians deeper.

The controversial circular was faxed to police commissioners of Bengaluru, Mysuru, Mangaluru, Hubballi-Dharwad and Belgavi by Amar Kumar Pandey, Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) of the Internal Security Wing. Interestingly all these major cities have sizeable population of Muslims and Christians.

The circular stated “Apart from verifying the nationality of applicants clearing passport applications, police should find out religion and sub-sect details. In case of Muslims, they should find out if the applicant is Sunni or Shia. If s/he is Sunni, then delve deeper and find out if the applicant belongs to Deobandi or Barelvi or Ahle-Hadith sub sect. Similarly, if an applicant hails from the Christian community, details like Roman Catholic or Protestant etc should be collected.”

When quizzed by media, Pandey defended himself saying he did it in the interest of national security by focusing on “developments across the world.” He refused to divulge further reasons for his issuing the circular saying it was in the interest of ‘security.’

Temporarily withdrawn

Later he retracted on the circular saying it is “temporarily” withdrawn adding “at this moment, the circular issued by me is null and void. We will take a fresh call on it after remaining it after reexamining the matter. It may take three or four days.”

Though the circular is scrapped “temporarily,” the motivation behind Pandey’s action is still uncertain. When the media questioned him why Hindus have not been named, he gave an evasive reply, saying, “There are so many sub-castes. We are doing it.” But he had no substantive explanation to back his claim.

– coastal digest

Workshop on Mining and Migration held in Odisha

May 23, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Workshop on Mining and MigrationNew Delhi, May 21, 2015: The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) Office for Justice, Peace and Development, New Delhi in collaboration with Odisha Forum organized a two-day workshop on Mining and Migration at Utkal Jyoti Pastoral Centre, Jharsuguda, Odisha, May 19-20. Some 60 people from different dioceses of Odisha took part on this workshop.

Bishop Niranjan Sual Singh of Sambalpur, in his inaugural address said, “It is extremely important for us to know the present situation in order to bring about peace, justice and dignity in society. Due to development purpose, industrialists come to tribal areas. Industrialists are the main cause of troubling to the development indigenous people.”

“Development of society without the development of an individual makes no sense,” he added. “We may have good roads, railways, housing, and so on but if every citizen of country doesn’t develop, makes no sense. The poor and the downtrodden people need to be given more focus for their all-round development.”

The prelate talked on “Present situations in our own society.” He mainly stressed on the two points, namely: heavy mining and migration. Heavy mining has the greatest effects on human, animals and plants. Rapid mining has been the foremost contributor to environmental degradation and pollution.   The tribal people are fully dependent on their land for livelihood. Sadly, heavy mining has brought big challenge for the tribal and Dalit people in society. The church must be convinced, compassionate and inspired to bring about change. It must be an agent of change.”

Dayamani Barla, tribal lady activist from Jharkhand state started her talk saying that today the entire country is fighting for peace, justice, development and harmony.

“Indigenous people are the original settlers and original inhabitants of earth. Adivasi culture, their life, behavior, languages and ethics have direct connection with the water, land and jungle. Thus they have their own importance with regard to jungle, water, land and environment at large.  Adivasi culture dies from the moment they are displaced from their own land, water and jungle to other places.  When the indigenous people are displaced in the name of development, their culture, history and identity gets exploited, destroyed, finished off,” said Barla, known as ‘iron lady of Jharkhand.’ She added, “We are like soldiers in our own land. It is our great duty and responsibility to fight for our human rights, to fight for our tribal rights and avail justice.”

Prashant Paikray, in his talk, explained participants about the impact of mining on lives of Adivasi and Dalit, mostly referring to Khandadhar and POSCO experience. Paikray is the spokesperson for POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, the popular coalition fighting against an industrial project of the South Korean steel corporation POSCO, Jagatsinghpur district, in Odisha.

He shared of his experience in this field specifically protest against POSCO. He said that in the name of development hundreds of multi-national companies are set up in tribal areas and establishing their mining. These mining are badly affecting the indigenous people. Instead of development of these people, the disaster is followed in their lives. “The money and political power can do nothing if our people are united and stand as one,” he said.

Fr. Savari Raj, Director of Chetanalaya, social service wing of Delhi Archdiocese, spoke briefly on women trafficking issues out of his experiences. He first mentioned the major reasons of this issue—displacement, lack of job opportunities, and in order to support siblings. He shared the real situation of Tribal, Dalit and minorities in New Delhi. They are not paid full salary, sexually abused and don’t get proper health care. He suggested that in order to prevent this women trafficking, rescue operation and safe migration is must.

Fr. Charles Irudayam, secretary of CBCI Office for Justice, Peace and Development, dealt with Catholic Social Teaching and stressed on social activism. In his talk, he explained the participants why the church is concerned about human rights or why is it involved in social activism. God has endowed every human person with an inherent and inalienable dignity which entails basic rights. The church is mandated to protect human rights and to educate its members about the dignity, liberty and equality of all humans. Respect for human rights is the requisite for peace.

Quoting Pope John Paul II, Fr Irudayam, said, “Peace and rights are two benefits directly related to each other as cause and effect. There can be no peace where there is no respect for, defense and promotion of human rights.”

Fr. Ajay Kumar Singh, director Odisha Forum, presented political environment impacting Tribal and Dalit in India. “If we calculate the percentage of religious minority including Adivasi, Dalit, Muslim, Christian Dalit, the percentage will be around 34 %.  There is no single representative of these groups among Supreme Court and High Court Judges. He further explained the ideology of Hindutva that believes in one religion, one culture and one state. He touched role the role of Jaipal Munda and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in fighting for the tribals and Dalits. He too spoke about the anti-conversion law which is indirectly suppresses the Tribals and Dalits.

Fr. John Kerketta, social service director of Sambalpur diocese, said that the church has been playing a significant role in the field of education, health and social work. He added from his own experience regarding the current burning issue of separation of Christian Tribal and Dalit and non-Christian Tribal which was an eye opening for the participants to reflect.

Participants acknowledged and appreciated the initiatives of the organizers, Fr. Irudayam and Fr Singh and coordinators— Srs. Sophia Mary, SSpS and Manjula Bara, HM, on the subject on mining and migration, which provided scope to broadening their knowledge and commit on the issue on the ground.

– dr charles irudayam

Protestant churches defy Zhejiang cross removal campaign

May 23, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

Cross removed in ChinaHong Kong, May 21, 2015: A dozen Protestant churches have defied a cross removal campaign by the provincial government in Zhejiang by replacing crosses already forcibly taken down.

Authorities removed 12 crosses in Lishui City near Wenzhou in just three days from May 7 to 9 without resistance from church members, according to US-based China Aid.

Many affected churches have responded by re-erecting crosses – some larger than those removed – in defiance of recently a circulated draft law that would ban crosses from the tops of churches and restrict their dimensions and color.

“Some churches elsewhere [in Zhejiang province] have also done this but collective action is more obvious in Lishui,” a Protestant preacher who declined to be named for security reasons told ucanews.

As many as 20 Protestant churches are also facing the threat of demolition in Anji County near Zhejiang’s provincial capital, Hangzhou, the preacher added.

Zhejiang authorities have forcibly removed at least 470 crosses and destroyed more than 35 churches since the end of 2013, often following violent exchanges with local Christians.

Last month, China Aid said that the true scale of the demolition campaign may be as many as 1,000 crosses removed and up to 50 churches destroyed based on unverified reports in local media.

The campaign appeared to be slowing at the start of the year but in recent weeks dozens of crosses have been reported removed coinciding with the circulation of new draft regulations.

A number of church leaders have expressed alarm at the draft law – both privately and publicly – with many arguing it enshrines state meddling in everything from cross size to what heating systems churches may use.

Zhejiang authorities asked for feedback on the draft regulations up to yesterday. So far there has been no official word on whether the proposed rules will be amended following strong objections or when they may come into effect.

On Tuesday, the Catholic Diocese of Wenzhou became the latest critic of the proposed legislation in a statement arguing that only new churches should be required to comply.

The preamble to the draft law states that any changes or expansion to existing religious buildings will fall under the new rules, a “sneaky term” that could apply to old structures previously permitted by authorities, the diocese added.

“How could these churches be built in the first place? It reflects the lack of supervision from the relevant government departments,” the statement said.

“But now it throws a historical burden at the Church. How can the faithful not complain and oppose it?”

The diocese consulted opinions from all of its priests before issuing the statement, according to a Wenzhou Catholic who declined to be named for security reasons.

A Catholic priest in the city’s underground Church who also declined to be identified praised the state-sanctioned Church for publicly voicing its concerns.

“It is impossible for us to do the same. We can only tell our grievances to God,” the source added. “But I doubt the government would ever listen to the Church.”

– ucan

Communist Party to purge officials of faith in ‘Jerusalem of the East’

May 23, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-world

China ChurchBeijing, May 22, 2015: China’s Communist Party is planning to purge members who secretly follow a faith in Wenzhou, dubbed ‘Jerusalem of the East’ due to the city’s substantial Christian population.

The latest anti-Christian campaign in the city will see the party probe its own ranks, the state-run Global Times reported, following 18 months in which authorities have removed crosses and destroyed churches across Zhejiang province.

“Whoever loses loyalty in the party will be expelled,” it said. “The daily performance of potential members and the possibility that they practice a religion will be examined.”

The planned purge follows a visit late last year by the inspection team of the Communist Party’s Central Disciplinary Committee, which reported that “individual party members in some places participate in religious activities and believe religion”.

Catholics in Zhejiang have told ucanews it is a relatively common for party members to practise their faith in secret in a bid to find a sense of “peace”.

“The central inspection team’s report cannot stop officials from believing in religion,” said one Church source who declined to be named for security reasons. “If you believe in Buddhism, you don’t need a particular inception or sign, and you don’t have to go to church every week.”

In June last year, Zhejiang government websites posted a “commitment letter” for party members to sign, vowing that they would not believe in any religion.

Those who sign up have to make a public commitment to following the Marxist view on religion and are required to further their study of atheist education.

In 2013, the head of the religious committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Zhu Weiqun, warned that party members who follow certain religions would likely become internal agents of their faith.

In turn, that would cause them to be biased when dealing with different religions in China, he added.

– ucan

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