Forgiving abortion empowers women: Caritas India official

September 6, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

ConfessionNew Delhi, September 4, 2015: Pope Francis’ decision to allow priests to forgive abortion is in a real sense an indicator of female empowerment, a Caritas India official said.

Welcoming the pope’s statement, M. Shimray, head of Caritas India’s Gender desk, said the decision affirms Caritas’ mandate to value human life.

Shimray told that while many might call Pope Francis radical, his sensitiveness to women’s issues is an indicator of “empowerment to women.”

She said that if a woman makes a drastic decision to have an abortion, one must understand the factors and pressures that influenced that choice.

“The decision to become a single mother in the West may come quicker than in developing countries like India where economic independence for women is still largely deficient,” she said.

Welcoming the pope’s call for forgiveness to women in such a scenario, Shimray said “forgiveness should also include molding the woman back to a value base so that she does not commit this sin again.”

However, she said the pope’s call for forgiveness should not be misunderstood as a “promotion to practice abortion or single motherhood.”

“It should be seen in the right context,” she said.

The Vatican announced Sept. 1 that Pope Francis was extending to priests worldwide the authority to absolve women for the sin of abortion.

“This jubilee Year of Mercy excludes no one,” the pope wrote in a letter to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of New Evangelization, the office organizing events for the holy year, which opens Dec. 8, reported Catholic News Service.

In the Catholic-majority Philippines, retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan called the pope’s announcement a “concession” to the sinner.

Archbishop Cruz, who is also head of the legal office of the Philippine bishops’ conference, stressed that the pope’s statement is not intended to say that abortion is any “less evil” than before.

“This provision is not to say that abortion is OK. It is only meant to say that the mercy of God is bigger than the sin of abortion,” the archbishop told Sept. 2.

The Church’s Code of Canon Law identifies abortion as a grave sin punishable by excommunication.

– ucan

RSS nationalists like Egypt’s Muslim brotherhood

September 6, 2015 by  
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RSS VolunteersNew Delhi, September 9, 2015: Members of the Hindu ultranationalist paramilitary group Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS) “now influence directly the programmes of the ruling BJP* government. Many of them are from the higher castes and work in the public service. They have been trying to link up with business interests in order to rule through people who share the same ideology,” said Lenin Raghuvanshi, director of the People’s Vigilance Committee for Human Rights.

Raghuvanshi, spoke to AsiaNews about a meeting this week that brought together members of the RSS and members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP in New Delhi.

Some 93 Sangh Parivar (Hindu ultranationalist) leaders from 15 RSS-affiliated groups gathered, including senior Union ministers (Interior, Defence, Development and Human Resources, Relations with Scheduled Tribes), and government officials. Prime Minister Modi was expected at today’s session.

The Dalit rights advocate reiterated what opposition parties, led by the Congress Party, have already said namely that the meeting “sends a clear message that the group’s hold over the government is now in the open rather than in the background.”

Officially described as a simple routine meeting for discussions within the movement, the event underlines increasing Hindu nationalist sway over government policies and confirms the RSS’s role as the BJP’s ideological mentor.

For many analysts, this meeting is the most importance since Modi’s election just over a year ago. Its stated aim is to propose changes to the country’s political and economic reforms, following the release of disappointing Q2 data, which reported a lower than expected growth.

On the first day (Wednesday), growth and development topped the agenda. Yesterday, the focus was on internal and external security, in particular the border dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir and the border agreement with Bangladesh.

With regards to Bangladesh, speakers expressed concern over last week’s census data on religion, which indicated that the Muslim population was growing faster than Hindus.

RSS nationalists blame the trend on illegal Muslim immigration from Bangladesh and Nepal, warning that it could change the demographic balance in Indian states, like Assam and West Bengal, that border the two countries.

By contrast, for Raghuvanshi “Muslims in India are not a problem;” instead, “Hindu nationalists are.” The latter “can be compared to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.”

And he is not alone in his assessment of the situation. The “RSS-BJP meet demonstrates that remote control is now overt control. Modi may be PM but Bhagwat is the boss BJPGovt puppet of RSS& oligarchs,” twitted Manish Tewari, an important Congress Party leader.

For Randeep Surjewala, general secretary of the All India Congress Committee (AICC),** “The fact that some Union ministers honoured with their presence unelected rascals from a supposedly non-political organisation and received expressions of esteem from the RSS for the work that they are doing is a grave travesty of democracy.”

– asianews

For Indian Jesuit, the Catholic Church stands with 150 million workers on strike against Modi

September 6, 2015 by  
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ProtestNew Delhi, September 09, 2015: “India’s central government led by the BJP* is not responding to workers’ demands. The latter could lose their jobs if the proposed law in Parliament is adopted,” said Fr Cedric Prakash, a Jesuit priest who heads the Prashant Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace in Ahmedabad (Gujarat), western India.

“The reforms would result in grave injustices,” he told AsiaNews. For this reason, “The Catholic Church in India stands with workers”, 150 million of whom were out on a 24-hour strike yesterday.

Hawkers, domestic workers and daily wage labourers joined the strike to demand an increase in the minimum wage.

“Throughout India clashes with the police have occurred. The government does not understand the reality of workers in the country,” he said.

Ten of India’s largest unions, in the banking, transport and manufacturing sectors, took strike action yesterday against the economic policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was elected last year on a promise of boosting growth and jobs.

In fact, in the second quarter of this year, Indian growth rate was lower than expected, 7 per cent instead of 7.5.

“For workers, the government’s plans are too favourable to big business and jeopardise their future facilitating redundancies and the closing of non-manufacturing firms,” Fr Prakash said.

Unions object to government plans to sell off stakes in state-run companies and shut down unproductive factories. It also wants to exempt small factories, which have up to 40 workers, from the labour laws.

Unions say this would take away the job security of most of the workforce, weaken collective bargaining and union influence in the banking, manufacturing, construction and coal mining sectors.

“The Catholic Church of India believes that the protesters’ demands are legitimate,” Fr Prakash said. “I do not have the perfect recipe to ensure a better future for workers, but the strike yesterday certainly serves to remind the government that it has to listen to them before implementing any law that changes their current living conditions.”

– asianews

Christian man faces blasphemy accusations in Pakistan

September 6, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

blasphemy lawsKarachi, September 4, 2015: Rights activists say that a Christian brick kiln worker was arrested in Pakistan on charges of making derogatory remarks about Prophet Mohammed.

Pervaiz Masih, 40, a resident of Garrewala village of Kasur district, was arrested Sept. 2 after being accused by his Muslim contractor of committing blasphemy — a charge he denies.

Shamoon Masih, brother-in-law of Pervaiz Masih, said that he was being punished for demanding his wage.

“Pervaiz and one fellow Muslim had a brawl with their Muslim contractor on the issue of payment of delivery of four trolleys of sand,” he told “The contractor did not make the agreed payment, resulting in heated arguments between two sides,” he said.

Sardar Mushtaq Gill, a human rights activist and lawyer, said that police lodged a case of blasphemy against Pervaiz under Section 295-C of the criminal code, which prohibits making derogatory comments that insult the prophet. The maximum penalty for being convicted of the charge is a death sentence.

Joseph Francis, national director for the Center for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement, a charity that helps persecuted Christians in Pakistan, said the development is reverberating through Pervaiz’s community.

“We have received reports that some Christians families have already fled the village over fears of any potential mob violence, but a heavy contingent of police has been deployed to protect the minority members,” Francis said.

The case is another example of the power of the country’s controversial blasphemy laws. Critics have repeatedly said that the laws are misused to settle scores and personal vendettas. Minority Christians have often become the target of accusations of blasphemy.

Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, national director of National Commission for Justice and Peace, the human rights body of Pakistan’s Catholic Church, strongly condemned the arrest of the brick kiln worker.

“We cannot even think about disrespecting Islam, any other religion or holy figures. Respect for religions is part of our teaching. How can someone commit such an act, which carries the death penalty?” he questioned.

Pevaiz Masih’s brother-in-law said the family is suffering because of the accusations.

“Pervaiz is a poor man who has four children and wife with a minor disability. They are all terrified over what has happened,” Shamoon Masih said.

Masih is not a surname but is used to identify a male Pakistani as a Christian.

– ucan

Planets aligned to form Jesus on the cross with halo on day of crucifixion, researcher observes

September 6, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-lead

Planets aligned to form Jesus on the cross with halo on day of crucifixion, researcher observesSeptember 1, 2015: A historical researcher has observed that the planets Saturn, Uranus, Jupiter, Earth and Venus aligned in an orrery model to form what can be seen as a man on a crucifix on the day associated by some with Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, namely April 3, 33 A.D.

“More than a few studies have pinpointed that date based on the Bible, calendars, astronomical conditions, even geology,” researcher and University of Wisconsin-Madison history major Miguel Antonio Fiol said in a statement.

An illustration released to the public shows the positioning of the planets on the date close to 2,000 years ago, noting that Saturn’s rings at the top of the figure could be seen as representing a “halo” or the crown of thrones placed on Jesus’ head. Uranus and Jupiter form the stretched hands, while Earth and Venus form the feet.

“Even at first glance I knew it looked like the crucifixion,” Fiol added. “But it took time to uncover all the incredible parallels.”

The researcher says that the planetary alignment began in mid-March and lasted through mid-April of 33 A.D. The same alignment occurs once every 333 years, and has been observed six times between the year 0 and 2000 A.D.

Fiol admitted that not everyone will see a crucifix in the planetary alignment, which is open to different interpretations.

“People will see what they want to see though I think coincidence is a hard argument,” the researcher said.

“It’s like spotting Jesus on a Reuben or any kind of sandwich, either you see it or you don’t.”

The historical date of Jesus’ death has been debated among Christian circles, though a number of researchers have pointed to Friday, April 3, A.D. 33 as the likely date.

Scholars Andreas J. Köstenberger and Justin Taylor, who wrote the book The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived, have also agreed with the April 3, A.D. 33 date.

“To be clear, the Bible does not explicitly specify the precise date of Jesus’s crucifixion and it is not an essential salvation truth. But that does not make it unknowable or unimportant,” they write in an article for First Things.

“Because Christianity is a historical religion and the events of Christ’s life did take place in human history alongside other known events, it is helpful to locate Jesus’s death — as precisely as the available evidence allows — within the larger context of human history.”

– christian post

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