Mumbai BJP President Finances Convent Re-structuring

May 30, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Mumbai, May 30, 2016: The Sister Disciples of the Divine Master (PDDM) of Bandra, Mumbai, yesterday inaugurated the new asphalt resurfacing project on their Prarthanalaya convent. The project is being financed with the private funds of Ashish Shelar, a local member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, the Hindu nationalist party). Speaking to AsiaNews the politician says: “As a representative elected by the people, it is my responsibility to do the best for the community, neighborhood and society. Prarthanalaya is a sacred place of prayer, where every person is welcomed. The sisters are at the service of society and are building new communities through their prayers, and various forms of social activities. I am happy to offer my help. “

The initiative responds to the need for modernization of the structure and was immediately supported by the Hindu leaders, contacted by the sisters. Prarthanalaya (house of prayer) is a complex that houses the convent of the congregation and a chapel, which is open for Eucharistic adoration for all the faithful, including those of non-Christian religions.

The opening ceremony of the project of asphalting of the entire complex began with a short prayer and the blessing by Fr. Michael Pinto. Following this Sister Amita Mascarenhes, superior of the convent, and Sister Vimla, split a coconut, in a typical Indian ritual with which augurs”good luck”.

In addition to the nuns, the Deputy Mayor of Mumbai Alka Kerkar, many friends and benefactors were present. Ashish Shelar also dug the first hole to start off the construction process.

After the ceremony, Fr. Pinto blessed the grotto dedicated to Mary Queen of the Apostles. Ashish Shelar also entered the cave to pay homage to the Virgin. Before he crossed the threshold, he took off his shoes as a sign of respect, then laid wreaths around the statue and bowed his head in an act of veneration.

– asianews

Central scheme for ‘disaffected’ Kashmiri students in shambles

May 30, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

New Delhi, May 30, 2016: Following the 2010 clashes between stone-pelters and the police in which more than 100 Kashmiri youth were killed, the then UPA dispensation devised a Rs 1,200 crore Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme (PMSSS) to integrate alienated Kashmiri students with the mainstream.

The scheme was to enlist 5,000 students per year for college scholarships. However, more than five years later, thousands of economically marginalized students who took up New Delhi’s offer of free higher education in various parts of the country, find themselves abandoned, as the programme is in disarray amid allegations of corruption.

Several Kashmiri students in various colleges of Delhi and Rajasthan told TOI that they had registered for scholarships but either did not get the funds, or were compelled to take educational loans mid-course after their funds stopped abruptly.

According to the scheme, 5,000 students were to be given scholarships each year. In the first year, 2011-12, owing to lack of awareness about the programme, barely 40 students were registered and selected. But since 2012-13, the registrations rose every year: 5,186 in 2013; 6,706 in 2014; and 9,371 in 2015 (data for 2016 isn’t available).

But, while the four-year target of 20,000 registerations for scholarships was exceeded marginally, standing at 21,301, sources citing RTI queries to All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) told TOI that of the registered students only 10,500 got scholarships.

More, of 10,500 students, around 3,000 were forced to give up their courses after a fund freeze, said Malik Imtiyaz, chairman of Peoples’ Forum, a Kashmir-based NGO which raised awareness about the scheme among economically poor students in Kashmir.

A Sopore girl, who was expelled mid-course after her scholarship funds were stopped abruptly, said, “Our friends went back because some colleges refused to admit them while others threw them out mid-course because they hadn’t received scholarship funds.

“I was evicted from the hostel one day because my college said it had not received my scholarship funds. I didn’t know where to go. So my friends and I stayed in the Bangla Sahib Gurudwara for several days,” the girl, who took an educational loan in desperation for her physiotherapy degree in a Gurgaon college, told the TOI.

“Like many others, I’d come to Delhi against the advice of my family elders, and it was humiliating to return without a degree,” the girl said.

Many students who were asked to quit their programmes midway went to J&K High court which asked AICTE and the government to release their grants. But the students told TOI that college authorities have ignored court directives and instead demanded the fee that the government owes them.

Imtiyaz said, “Instead of bridging the gap, this poorly implemented scheme has widened the trust deficit between Kashmiri youth and New Delhi.” He alleged that the execution and monitoring agency, AICTE, and college authorities, had misappropriated funds allocated for the scheme.

AICTE chairman Anil Sahasrabudhe told TOI there was no misappropriation. “Many students may have returned to J&K because they could not pay the fee as demanded by colleges and universities. The scholarship was not paid to them because they were not selected under the scheme and had taken admission on their own in non-approved programmes or colleges or universities,” he said.

But AICTE, according to the students, had held physical verifications and scrutinized merit for their selection and only recently disqualified some students. One B Tech student from Surankote, Poonch, at a Noida college, said his college told him after three years that he was not eligible for scholarship due to a new rule for cut-off in the merit.

“Had they told me during the admission process, I would have gone back. But I have been doing part-time jobs to pay for my rented room and education,” he said.

Imtiyaz pointed out that the scheme was supposed to create merit out of non-meritorious students. “These are underprivileged students who didn’t go to good schools and were raised in a conflict zone. How are they supposed to be in high merit?” he asked.

Students said that in some instances, scholarship winners were allocated colleges which did not even exist. In other cases, scholarship was drawn by students who were not even enrolled in any of the colleges under PMSSS.

Imtiyaz has filed several RTIs on behalf of students and pleaded with the government to make the scheme an operation between the Centre and the state, instead of colleges, NGOs and AICTE.

“If the mission was to build trust, this scheme has thoroughly failed. The government shouldn’t ruin the future of these poor students and release their funds immediately,” Imtiyaz said.

– times of india

Philippine church leaders urged not to keep silent

May 30, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

Philippines, May 30, 2016: Philippine Church leaders should not keep silent despite attacks leveled against them by incoming president Rodrigo Duterte, a former lawmaker said.

“I don’t know why church leaders have been silent since Duterte’s recent attacks against the institution,” said former Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr.

Pimentel, whose party backed the presidential candidacy of Duterte, said Catholic Church leaders should stand firm against the incoming president’s proposal to reimpose capital punishment for heinous crimes.

“Speak up, it is your right,” said Pimentel, adding that the “public and the church are entitled to the right of free expression.”

“While we still have the right, I am urging people to stand for it, especially the church,” said the former senator.

“Capital punishment affects the life of the people, and the church has an obligation to protect life,” said Pimentel, who claimed to be a “pro-life advocate.”

Several church leaders earlier called on Duterte to focus on cleansing the country’s police force and to strengthen the judiciary instead of reimposing the death penalty.

Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila blamed the weak enforcement of laws as one reason for a growing crime rate in the country.

“The police can easily be bought, and in many cases they are the ones behind drug syndicates,” said Bishop Pabillo.

“The death penalty is not a deterrent. Big criminals will not be afraid of the death penalty if they can buy themselves out of trouble,” the prelate said.

In a statement to the media after his election on May 9, Duterte said he will ask Congress to pass a law that will restore the death penalty for certain crimes.

The former mayor of Davao, who has been dubbed “The Punisher” for his tough stance on crime, said criminals involved in illegal drugs, gun-for-hire syndicates, and those who commit “heinous crimes” will have to face the death sentence.

The Catholic Church has largely been against reviving capital punishment.

The Philippines placed a moratorium on capital punishment in 2001 and five years later downgraded the sentences of 1,230 death-row inmates to life imprisonment in what Amnesty International described as the “largest ever commutation of the death sentence.”

– ucan

Nigerian Catholics scramble to cope with kidnappings, strikes

May 30, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-world

Nigerian ChristiansNigeria, May 30, 2016: In Africa’s most populous nation, Catholic leaders in late May found themselves struggling to do two things at once: To maintain the Church’s role as a national voice of conscience, while at the same time protecting their own vulnerable personnel.

On May 21, Bishop Felix Femi Ajakaye of the Diocese of Ekiti in western Nigeria appealed for the release of a Catholic priest and two Catholic nuns, whom had been kidnapped in separate incidents. The religious sisters in question were later rescued by police.

In a statement released to Nigerian media, Ajakaye said that Father John Adeyi, the Vicar-General of the Diocese of Otukpo, had been in captivity since Sunday, April 24, taken by unidentified assailants. Adeyi, who’s the first priest from the diocese, which was created in 1995, was returning from saying Mass at a parish outstation when he was grabbed.

Ajakaye also said that two nuns, Sisters Perpetua Apo and Bukola Familade, along with their driver, Zwugwa Zibai, were also kidnapped on Thursday, May 12, after their car broke down on an area highway.

The bishop demanded that the Nigerian government step up its efforts to apprehend the culprits in such incidents.

“We must stop chasing the shadows,” Ajakaye said.

“Whenever somebody is abducted, it is sickening to hear state governors prepared to give millions of naira [referring to the Nigerian currency] to anybody or group with any information on the whereabouts of the abducted persons,” he said.

Recently the Governor of Benue State where Adeyi was taken, Samuel Ortom, offered a reward of 5 million naira, a little over U.S. $25,000, for information leading to the priest’s safe return.

He also appealed to the kidnappers to release their victims.

“They should release them so that they can continue their humble service to humanity, as directed by God,” Ajakaye said.

The two sisters were rescued by a police intelligence unit the day after Ajakaye released his statement, but the fate of Adeyi remains unknown.

Nigerian observers say that kidnapping is a chronic threat in the country, including for church personnel. In some cases, people perceived to be linked to groups with resources are taken by criminal bands simply for profit; in other cases, Christian personnel are also exposed to the risk of abduction and torture at the hands of Boko Haram, the country’s radical Islamic terrorist group.

In the same period of time, Catholic leaders were also scrambling to try to avert national strikes that threaten to further paralyze what’s already considered an often dysfunctional economy, despite the fact that Nigeria is the largest oil producer in Africa and the 13th largest in the world.

Although Nigeria is a major oil producer, the country only has the capacity to refine 40 percent of its domestic requirements, meaning it has been paying over $200 million a month to import liquid fuels.

In what was described as a budget-balancing measure, the Nigerian government recently suspended subsidies on domestic fuel sales, causing spikes in prices estimated at up to 67 percent.

Labor unions have threated across-the-board work stoppages and strikes, causing the Church’s communications director in the Archdiocese of Abuja, the national capital, to appeal for restraint.

“This is a critical moment. I have looked at Venezuela. Venezuela is a Latin American country, they depended on oil, and right now as we speak, Venezuelans are queuing up to buy sugar, milk, rice, diapers for children, and they ration them,” said Father Patrick Alumuku, stressing that declining oil revenue is a global phenomenon.

Alumuku was speaking at a May 17 press conference to mark the 35th anniversary of his priestly ordination, and also the release of his autobiography, titled Candle Wax.

“I think we have to be able to weigh all of these situations that we find ourselves in and move forward,” he said. “We should reflect appropriately before the labor unions embark on their strike.”

While it may seem unusual for a Catholic spokesman to comment on a proposed labor action that doesn’t directly involve the Church, in much of sub-Saharan Africa it’s customary for religious figures to address public policy questions explicitly.

In part, that’s because churches and other religious venues are often seen as the primary venues in which civil society takes shape.

– crux

Pope: The Church is not a closed system of standards, but open to prophecy

May 30, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-lead

Vatican City, May 30, 2016: The Church and Christians must be careful not to trust and close in on a set of standards, but leave room for the “memory” of the gifts received from God, opening the “prophecy” and the horizon the “hope”. The said Pope Francis, in the Mass celebrated this morning at home Santa Marta.  The Pope took as the central focus of his reflection the Gospel passage of the day, on the parable of the murderous tenant-farmers.

Against the landowner who planted a well-organized vineyard and entrusted them with its care, the tenants  decided to revolt, insulting, beating and killing first the  servants the master sent to reclaim the land and collect his due, and then, at the climax of the drama, murdering the only son of the owner – wrongly believing that such an act could earn them a right to inherit the owner’s substance.

The killing of the master’s servants and of the master’s own son – a Biblical image of the prophets and of Christ Himself – shows a people closed in on itself, one not open to the promises of God, a people that does not await the fulfilment of God’s promises: a people without memory, without prophecy and without hope. The leaders of the people, in particular, are interested in erecting a wall of laws, a “closed juridical system”, and nothing else: “Memory is no concern: as for prophecy, it were better that no prophets come; and hope?

But everyone will see it. This is the system through which they legitimate: the lawyers, theologians who always go the way of casuistry and do not allow the freedom of the Holy Spirit; they do not recognize God’s gift, the gift of the Spirit; and they cage the Spirit, because they do not allow prophecy in hope.” This is the religious system to which Jesus speaks: “A system – as the First Reading says – of corruption, worldliness and concupiscence,’ so St. Peter says in the First Reading.”

Pope Francis went on to say that, at bottom, “Jesus was Himself tempted to lose the memory of His own mission, to not give way to prophecy and to prefer security instead of Hope,” i.e. the essence of the three temptations suffered in the desert. Therefore, Pope Francis said: “To this people Jesus, because he knew temptation in Himself, reproaches: ‘You traverse half the world to have one proselyte, and when you find him, you make him a slave.’ This people thus organized, this Church so organized, makes slaves – and so it is understandable how Paul reacts when he speaks of slavery to the law and of the liberty that grace gives: a people is free, a Church is free, when it has memory, when it makes room for prophets, when it does not lose hope”

The Holy Father stressed that the well-organized vineyard is in fact “the image of the People of God, the image of the Church and also the image of our soul,” for which the Father always cares “with so much love and tenderness.” To rebel against Him is, as it was for the murderous tenants, “to lose the memory of the gift” received from God, while, “in order to remember and not make mistakes on the way,” it is important “always to return to the roots”: “Do I have the memory of the wonders that the Lord has wrought in my life?

Can I remember the gifts of the Lord? I am able to open my heart to the prophets, i.e. to him, who says to me, ‘this isn’t working, you have to go beyond: go ahead, take a risk’? This is what prophets do: am I open to that, or am I afraid, and do I prefer to close myself within the cage of the law? Finally: do I have hope in God’s promises, such as had our father Abraham, who left his home without knowing where he was going, only because he hoped in God? It will do us well to ask ourselves these three questions.”

– asianews

God doesn’t leave you in the dark

May 29, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-miscellaneous

“No one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:11b NIV)
Have you ever heard someone say, “Well, that’s just your interpretation of the Bible”?
It’s as if that little phrase disproves everything that’s been said.
But it really doesn’t disprove anything.

There are right ways and wrong ways to interpret Scripture.
Here are six principles of interpretation that are accepted just about everywhere.

You need faith and the Holy Spirit to interpret Scripture.
The Bible doesn’t make sense to non-believers. It is God’s love letter to believers.
When an unbeliever reads the Word, he is reading someone else’s mail.
The Bible is a spiritual book that must be understood by spiritual people.
The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 2:11, “No one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (NIV).

The Bible is its own best commentary.
Scripture interprets Scripture. Practice this principle by getting a Bible with cross-references in the margin.
By looking up cross references, you’ll get a much bigger and clearer picture
of what God has said in all of his Word, not just that one context.

Read the Old Testament with the New Testament in mind,
and read the New Testament with the Old Testament in mind.
The New Testament is hidden in the Old Testament. The Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament.

Always interpret unclear passages in the light of clear passages.
Look at the full counsel of God in Scripture to get a clear understanding
when you find a passage that seems contradictory or confusing.
For example, 1 Corinthians 15:29 has a very obscure reference to baptism for the dead.
It’s the only time the idea is mentioned in Scripture.
Paul isn’t condoning this. Nothing in Scripture condones it.
Let clear passages about salvation and baptism interpret this unclear one, not vice versa.

Bible
Don’t form a doctrine based solely on an historical event.
Take historical passages of the Bible for what they’re meant to be: good lessons.
Don’t build your doctrine upon them.
For example, in Mark 1:35, the Bible says Jesus got up very early, went to a place of solitude, and prayed.
Does that mean you must get up every morning at 4 a.m., leave your house, and go somewhere and pray?
Of course not! God may convince you that’s a good idea, but it’s not a command.
Use doctrinal passages to base doctrine on. Use narratives to teach lessons.

Never interpret Scripture based on your own experiences.

– fwd: vc mathews

Bengaluru church attacked by miscreants

May 29, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

karnataka riotsBengaluru, May 29, 2016: Miscreants attacked and defiled a church in Pillanna Garden in Bengaluru yesterday night, leading to tension in parts of the city.

According to the police, a group of unidentified men barged into the church past midnight and ransacked it.

Church authorities have lodged a police complaint with KG Halli police station and have sought protection.

However, church authorities told police that they did not suspect the involvement of local residents, since they share an excellent rapport in the neighbourhood.

Police have sought for CCTV recording from nearby commercial establishments and are probing the case. Additional forces have been deployed near the area to prevent any untoward incident.

– india today

Serving Bishop to donate kidney to Hindu man

May 29, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Kerala, May 27, 2016: In a noble gesture, a Catholic Bishop in Kerala has decided to donate one of his kidneys to save the life of a 30-year-old Hindu man, who is suffering from the organ failure.

Auxiliary Bishop of Pala Diocese Jacob Murickan today appeared before an authorisation committee of Kottayam Government Medical College to complete all legal formalities with regard to donating one of his kidneys to E Sooraj.

“This is perhaps for the first time in the history, a serving Bishop is donating one of his kidneys to save a valuable life,” said Kidney Federation Chairman Father Davis Chiramal.

Chiramal, who had earlier donated his kidney to an ailing person in Kerala, said the organ transplantation surgery will be performed at Lakeshore Hospital, Ernakulam, on June 1.

“Sooraj belongs to a very poor family. He is the sole bread winner of his family comprising his mother and wife”, Chiramal said.He had lost his father four years ago. Later, his brother died of heart attack.

“Hearing his sad stories, the Bishop decided to donate one of his kidneys to the Hindu youth. We also want to generate money from generous people for successfully completing the organ transplantation surgery,” the priest said.

Muricken was declared Auxiliary Bishop of Palai in 2012 while serving as the Diocesan Pastoral Coordinator.

On 19 September 2013, he, along with the other newly-appointed Bishops from around the world, was received in audience by Pope Francis at the Vatican.

– persecution.in

Modi after two years: economic boom, and Hindu nationalist revival

May 29, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Hindu ExtremistNew Delhi, May 27, 2016: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi marked his second year in power with a big rally in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh.

During in the two-year period, the economy has boomed, investments have grown, largescale projects have been launched, all the while, the prime minister has globetrotted around the world.

Speaking before a huge crowd, Modi admitted that a huge task lies ahead, including the fights against corruption, attracting foreign investments, and reforming the labour market.

However, a climate of religious intolerance has grown worse, minorities have become more oppressed, opposition parties have been muzzled, and tensions with India’s neighbours Pakistan and Nepal have worsened.

Most pundits agree that the leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has become one of the most popular Indian political leaders. His approval rating hovers around 74 per cent, especially for his success in rebooting the Indian economy. This year in fact, growth is expected to reach 7.6 per cent.

In office, the prime minister has focused on improving relations with other major powers, starting with the United States. He has also sought to extend Indian influence in non-traditional areas, like Central Asia, and reinforce it elsewhere, like Iran where Delhi plans to invest in the port of Chabahar.

Conversely, foreign policy and economic success cannot hide growing religious intolerance and Hindu nationalist attacks against minorities and freedom of expression.

According to Ram Puniyani, who chairs Mumbai’s Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, the Modi administration has reignited sectarian violence, and gradually demonised diversity, especially at the expense of religious minorities.

Last year, the death of Mohammad Akhlaq, a Muslim resident of Uttar Pradesh who was lynched by an angry Hindu mob on suspicion of eating beef, caused an uproar.

More recently, students at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi protested against the arrest of a student leader on sedition charges.

These episodes and more mark a low point for the nationalist government, increasingly blamed for attacking freedom of expression and religion.

Hence, taking stock of the past two years shows a mixed bad. Not only have economic development and infrastructural improvements (electrification in 18,000 villages) been uneven and sparked high inflation (6.3 per cent), bad news especially for low income households, but Modi’s administration has not shied away from flexing its muscles with its neighbours, mots notably Nepal after it imposed an embargo on the Himalayan nation.

Domestically, Indian society also continues to be at risk of further political polarisation as a result of the persistent interference of nationalist ideology (Hindutva).

– asianews

Pakistan: Christians protest police brutality against their pastor

May 29, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

Pakistani ChristiansPakistan, May 28, 2016: Hundreds of Christians continue to protest against police brutality in Faisalabad, following an incident in which police burst into a church in the city’s Christian Town area, interrupted an ongoing religious service, and beat up the pastor.

In the wake of the act of aggression, local residents took to the streets on Wednesday and Thursday. Speaking to AsiaNews about the affair, Rev Kamal Chugtai, the Protestant clergyman involved in the case, said, “We approached high officials but no one helped us.”

On 19 May, Rev Chugtai was in his church with hundreds of his parishioners when Gulberg Station House officer Shahid Waheed stormed the building with several agents, breaking up the service. After mistreating some of the women present, they forced people out.

When the clergyman approached the police officers to ask them to stop harassing his congregation, Officer Waheed struck his ear with the butt of his gun, causing bleeding. After that, the other agents began beating up the reverend. They later took him to his home, which they ransacked without a warrant, and then to their police station, where they continued thrashing him.

Local residents believe that police attacked Rev Chugtai because of his human rights activities. For many, years, he has worked on behalf of Christians who are victims of injustice. For this reason, he has received many threats from local police who now turned to action.

Naveed Walter, who chairs Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP), slammed police for their brutal treatment of the clergyman. In view of what happened, he wants to see a public investigation against the attackers. He also wants the officers involved in the incident to be suspended.

In the meantime, police “filed a complaint against 35 Christians, including myself,” said Rev Chugtai. “Now the whole community lives in fear, and women do not feel safe after they were humiliated by the cops.”

The lack of reaction from government officials speaks volume about their desire “to silence us,” the clergyman added, “but we shall not be silenced; we shall continue to raise our voice on behalf of minorities. I am glad my community is standing by me in the fight for justice.”

– asianews

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