Card Bo calls on leaders to allow all religions to advise the government

July 29, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

Myanmar, July 28, 2016: Mgr Charles Maung Bo, archbishop of Yangon, has asked State Counsellor and Minister Aung San Suu Kyi that all religious communities, not only Buddhists, be allowed to work directly with the government, to advise and assist the national reunification process in interfaith harmony.

So far the Myanmar government, including the former military junta, has had relations only with the Buddhist community.

Card Bo met two met Ms Aung San on 19 July, ‘Martyrs’ Day’, which commemorates the death of Bogyoke Aung San, Suu Kyi’s father and Burma’s independence hero, who was assassinated along with eight of his companions in 1947.

The Nobel peace Prize invited religious leaders at her Yangon home for a joint ceremony.

“The cardinal suggested that representatives of religions other than Buddhism should be available to advise the ministry,” said U Aye Lwin, the leader of the Islamic Council of Myanmar Interfaith Friendship Group, who was also present at the meeting.

“His suggestion is good because the religion ministry has lacked the other religions’ representation. I’m also satisfied with it,” said the Muslim leader.

Director of the Ministry of Religion and Culture U Aung San Win declined to comment when asked for a response to the cardinal’s suggestion.

“I would like to remind everyone that according to the 2008 Constitution, all citizens have freedom of religion. They are able to observe their religious holiday. For example, Christians can celebrate Christmas, and Muslims can observe Eid,” he said. “I think the law is clear.”

Myanmar’s previous military government and the National League for Democracy-led government have been subject to pressure from Buddhist fundamentalist groups (like Ma Ba Tha), who oppose minorities and back the notion of a “state religion”.

In 2015, Ma Ba Tha pushed for laws to defend “race and religion” with specific provision on polygamy and conversions that targeted Muslims, accused of growing in number.

Census data released on 22 July show however that Muslims constitute only 2.3 per cent of the population or 1.1 million. Buddhism is by far the largest religion at 89 per cent, followed by Christians at 6.9 per cent.

– asianews

New Spine-Snapping ISIS torture device uncovered: ‘The Flying Carpet’

July 29, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-world

Iraq, July 28, 2016: In its jails in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State terror group uses a new method of torture to extract confession from prisoners. “The Flying Carpet” is a hinged board, to which inmates are strapped and then bent in half, breaking their backbones, a dissident group has revealed.

Terrorists from Islamic State, a Sunni group also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh, strap their prisoners to the board with hinges in the middle and bring the ends together, bending the spine of the hostage, a covert dissident group, “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently,” has said, according to the U.K.’s Express newspaper.

ISIS uses another method of torture called “Shabeh,” which means “Ghost.” It involves a prisoner being hung by his hands above the floor for days to dislocate her or his joints and to possibly damage the brachial plexus, the nerves that control arm and hand moment, causing permanent disability.

ISIS also torments inmates psychologically, according to Daily Mail.

Abu Alnour, a prisoner who was recently freed after paying a huge ransom, was quoted as saying, “I do not want to talk about the beating, the electric shocks and the daily insults, I would rather talk about the young Abdullah who went crazy inside the prison. He was accused of being a former FSA fighter, and he had the biggest share of torture within our group, which consisted of 13 prisoners in a less than eight-square-metre-sized cell. One night we woke up and his voice was screaming. We later knew that some ISIS members entered into the room and put a severed head next to him and woke him up and when he saw the head he lost his mind.”

In June, after Iraqi special forces recaptured the city of Fallujah from ISIS, they discovered a makeshift prison where the group used some other torture devices to interrogate and punish its captives.

The Iraqi forces released pictures that suggested that ISIS held some of the captives in a filthy dog cage and administered shocks by attaching the battery’s metal clips to their genitalia.

ISIS, an offshoot of al-Qaeda and which wants to establish a caliphate in the Levant region and beyond, has 18,000 to 22,000 fighters in Syria and Iraq despite some 13,000 airstrikes by the international coalition led by the United States, according to CIA director John Brennan.

While the terror group has lost territory in recent months, its terror activities carry on in Iraq and Syria as well as in other countries. Christians and other minorities are among its main targets.

In its English propaganda publication, ISIS last year sought to justify its barbarity, saying it is “Islamic” to capture and forcibly make “infidel” women sexual slaves.

“Before Shaytan [Satan] reveals his doubts to the weak-minded and weak hearted, one should remember that enslaving the families of the kuffar [infidels] and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Shari’ah that if one were to deny or mock, he would be denying or mocking the verses of the Qur’an and the narration of the Prophet … and thereby apostatizing from Islam,” stated the IS’ propaganda magazine “Dabiq.”

– christian post

In first balcony talk, Pope tells youth to ‘make chaos’

July 29, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-lead

Poland, July 27, 2016: On his first night in Krakow Pope Francis was already stirring things up with participants in WYD by hosting an off-the-cuff Q and A and telling them to ‘make chaos’ by spreading the joy of their faith.

“You must do your duty and make chaos all night. Show your Christian joy, the joy the Lord gave you to be in the community who follows Jesus,” the Pope told those participating in World Youth Day after arriving to Krakow July 27.

He spoke from the balcony of the Bishop’s Palace, telling the thousands of youth gathered below not to be afraid, but to have faith and spread the joy that comes from following Christ.

Pope Francis is currently in Krakow for this July 27-31 trip to Poland for WYD. Every night when he comes back to the city after the day’s activities, Francis is set to appear on the palace balcony to address youth gathered below.

The tradition was initiated by St. John Paul II, who spoke to youth from the balcony every time he visited his homeland as Pope. It was continued by Benedict XVI when he visited Poland in 2006, and is now being carried on by Francis.

In his brief speech, the Pope first recalled the story of a young man who had studied graphic design for just over two years, but decided to leave his studies in order to volunteer for WYD.

He immediately put his talents to use, designing all of the banners that currently decorate the streets of Krakow in honor of WYD, the Pope said, noting that “images of the patron saints” found on practically every street – St. John Paul II and St. Maria Faustina Kowalska – were done by this young man.

In the process of his work for WYD, the youth rediscovered his faith, but was diagnosed with cancer in November, Pope Francis recalled. He noted how the doctors had amputated the young man’s leg in an effort to save his life, but it didn’t work, and the cancer continued to spread.

This young man “wanted to live through the Pope’s visit” and had even reserved a place on the Krakow tram that the Pope will take later in the week with sick and disabled youth as his special passengers. However, the young man didn’t make it, and died July 2.

“He did a lot of good for everyone,” Francis said, leading the youth below in a moment of silent prayer for the young man who died.

“We must get used to the good things and the bad things. Life is like this, dear young people,” he said, while stressing that “there is something we cannot doubt: the faith of this young man, of our friend, who worked so much for this WYD.”

After leading the youth in a round of applause for the example of the young man, he urged them to give thanks to the Lord “because he gives us examples of courage, of courageous youth who help us to go forward in life.”

“Don’t be afraid, God is great, God is good, and all of us have something good,” he said, and bid the youth farewell before telling them to “make chaos” all night in a show of their Christian joy.

Before going to the balcony, Pope Francis connected virtually with Italian youth participating in WYD as part of the July 26-29 youth festival, during which the youth show their culture through performances, singing, and dancing.

During the conversation, Pope Francis took questions from three Italian youth who gave their testimonies and asked a question afterwards.

He spoke to the first young person of the importance of knowing how to keep going in both good and bad moments, explaining that joy helps saves us from being “neurotic.”

The Pope then heard the testimony of Andrea, a 15-year-old from the Diocese of Bergamo who was teased growing up. As a result she attempted suicide at the age of 13. However, when she was recovering in the hospital she realized that there was nothing wrong with her, but rather with those who teased her, and that she was stronger than she thought.

While she has moved beyond that period in her life, Andrea said she still feels the pain and finds it hard to let go, and asked the Pope how she can learn to completely forgive the people who teased her.

In his response, the Pope said that cruelty is a common problem among children, and even adults. “Children are cruel many times, and they have that capacity to hurt you where it will do the most damage,” he said, noting that cruelty is the “base of all wars.”

This cruelty “kills even the good name of another,” he said, and warned against the “terrorism of gossip.”

“Gossip is terrorism,” Francis said, explaining that when a person gossips, “it destroys the dignity, the fame of a person.” To gossip, he added, is like “throwing a bomb” that explodes and destroys everything around it.

Pope Francis said this temptation is something that must be overcome with peace and forgiveness, but noted that to forgive “isn’t easy, because one can say ‘I forgive, but I don’t forget.’”

“You always carry with you the hurt of this cruelty,” he said, explaining that to completely forgive someone for harm done “is a grace that we have to ask the Lord for. By ourselves we can’t, but we have to ask the lord to give us the grace to forgive, to forgive our enemies.”

The final question Francis received was from a group of youth and a priest who had been in Munich Feb. 22 when an 18-year-old German teenager of Iranian descent killed nine people and injured nearly 30 others after opening fire at the city’s Olympia shopping mall.

After they were forced to cut their trip short and head home, the group still managed to make it to WYD, and asked the Pope how youth can spread peace in a world filled with hate.

In reply, Pope Francis spoke of the difference between peace and hate, explaining that peace always builds bridges, whereas hatred only builds walls.

“We all have a decision to make in life: do I build bridges, or do I build walls?” he said, noting that bridges unite, whereas walls divide.

“In our daily lives the ability to build a bridge when you extend your hand to a friend, you make a bridge. But when you hit, hurt another, you build a wall. Hate always grows with walls,” he said, noting that many times when we reach out our hand to build a bridge, we’re left hanging.

He said there are certain “humiliations” like this that we’ll have to experience in order to truly walk the path of unity, but stressed that we must “always build bridges.”

As the youth gathered to speak to him took up one another’s hands in a concrete show of unity, Francis closed by emphasizing that “we must build bridges, not allow ourselves to fall on the ground. No. Always seek the way to build bridges.”

– cna

Spiritual way of seeing things: Why we SHOUT when angry?

July 29, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-miscellaneous

“Do you know why we SHOUT when angry? A Hindu sage who arrived at the Ganges River to take bath found a group of family members shouting in anger at each other.

He then turned to his disciples, and asked, “Why do people shout in anger at each other?” The disciples thought for a while.  Then one of them said, “Because we lose our patience, we shout.”

“But, why shout when the other person is just next to you?  Could you not express what you want to say in a soft manner?,” asked the sage.

Some disciples gave their answers but none satisfied the sage and the other disciples.

Finally the sage explained, “When two people are angry at each other, their hearts grow distant. To cover that distance they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the louder they will have to shout to hear each other. Compare this to two people in love.  They don’t shout at each other but talk softly, because their hearts are very close. The distance between them is very small.”

He continued, “When they love each other even more, they do not speak, a mere whisper will suffice. And when they have ultimate love for each other, even a whisper is not needed.  They have only to look at each other to communicate their feelings. That is how close two people can become when there is love.”

He looked at his disciples and said, “So when you argue do not let your hearts grow distant; watch your tongue – do not say words that distance each other, or else there will come a day when the distance is so great that you cannot find the path to return.”

– fwd: a n dass

The sneeze

July 27, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-miscellaneous

They walked in tandem, each of the ninety-three students filing into the already crowded auditorium. With maroon gowns flowing and the traditional caps, they looked almost as grown up as they felt. Dads swallowed hard behind broad smiles, and moms freely brushed away tears.

This class, however, would not be praying during commencement—not by choice but because of a recent court ruling prohibiting school prayer. The principal and student speakers were very careful to stay within the guidelines allowed by the ruling. They gave inspirational and challenging messages, but not one mentioned divine guidance, and no one asked for blessings from on High upon the graduates and their families. The speeches were nice, but they were routine…until the final speaker…

A solitary student walked proudly to the microphone, he stood still for just a moment, and then he delivered his speech—an astounding sneeze. The entire graduating class immediately rose to their feet, and shouted in unison, “God Bless You!”

The audience exploded in applause. That graduating class found a unique way to invoke God’s blessing on their future…with or without the court’s approval.

– fwd: reuben tellis

Girl allegedly raped, then murdered for being Christian

July 27, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Chhattisgarh, July 26, 2016: A 14-year-old girl in central India’s Chhattisgarh state was found murdered, which her family and church leaders say were orchestrated by Hindu extremists for them refusing to abandon their Christian faith.

Family members found the scantly clad body of the girl in a forest near their Jattarbeda village in Kondagaon district July 22 after she failed to return home from school.

The family and church leaders say there is clear indication of rape before murder, a charge that police are yet to confirm.

Pastor A. K. Netam, who knows the family told ucanews that it was “a revenge attack for her not abandoning her faith.” The family of the girl became Christians 18 years ago but was under pressure from local Hindu leaders to give up their faith, he said.

Netam said Hindu villagers socially boycotted the family “but they did not give in.”

The girl’s father Maner Sori, said he too suspects his daughter was killed for his family’s faith.

The Indian head of Persecution Relief, Pastor Tomson Thomas told ucanews that “Christians in the country continue to face violent attacks.”

Christian leaders like Tomson say such violence has increased in states ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, considered the political arm of groups that want to build a Hindu-only India.

– ucan

Arvind Kejriwal to attend Mother Teresa’s canonisation in Vatican

July 27, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

New Delhi, July 27, 2016: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal will be travelling to Vatican City in Rome to witness the sainthood ceremony of Mother Teresa. The Roman Catholic nun is to be declared a saint on September 4 by Pope Francis.

Sources in the Delhi chief minister’s office confirmed that Kejriwal received and accepted an invitation for the ceremony from the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata, the organisation founded by Mother Teresa in 1950.

The Delhi chief minister said that he had met Mother Teresa in 1992 and she had asked him to work at Kalighat in Kolkata. Kejriwal worked for Mother Teresa for few months before joining the Indian Revenue Service.

Kejriwal will be joined by West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee who had earlier accepted the invitation to attend the sainthood ceremony.

Earlier in March this year, Pope Francis announced that the Mother would be made a saint in a canonisation ceremony on September 4, the eve of her 19th death anniversary.

– india today

Muslim women beaten up in MP for allegedly carrying beef; uproar in Rajya Sabha

July 27, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

New Delhi, July 27, 2016: : In yet another violence caused due to suspicion of possessing beef, two Muslim women were thrashed and abused by Hindu Dal activists in Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur district. A crowd beat them up over the rumours that they were carrying beef.

The incident comes close on the heels of Dalits beaten up in Gujarat by cow protection group that has created uproar in the parliament. Similar incidence has now taken place against Muslim women in the BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh.

The women were slapped and kicked by a group of men and women at the railway station even as railway cops tried to stop them.

Soon a video of the incident taken by one of the spectators went viral showing the policemen making only a half-hearted attempt to stop the attackers. The women were thrashed for nearly half an hour before the police drove them away.

Later, local police claimed to have recovered around 30 kg of meat from the women. However, a preliminary veterinary report indicated it was buffalo meat and not meat of bovines.

This was confirmed by state Home Minister Bhupinder Singh to news agency ANI.

Regarding action against the mob that assaulted the women, Singh told ANI, “If the women register a complaint, then action will be taken against the attackers.” Reports have indicated that no action has been taken in the case so far.

On September 29, 2015 Mohammad Akhlaq was dragged from his house in Uttar Pradesh and was beaten to death over rumours that his family had eaten beef. Incidences of violence against Muslims and Dalits under the pretext of beef have increased ever since the BJP came to power in May 2014.

Opposition parties including BSP and Congress today created uproar in the Rajya Sabha and registered strong protest against the beating up of two Muslim women in Madhya Pradesh in the pretext of cow protection.

BSP supremo Mayawati upped the ante against BJP as soon as the working of Rajya Sabha initiated and said after beating of Dalit youths in Gujarat, ‘Gau Raksha’ groups beat up two women in Madhya Pradesh over suspicion of possessing beef.

The BJP, on the one hand, talks of protecting the girl child and giving dignity and honour to women but on the other unleashes goons on them, Mayawati alleged.

Mayawati asked Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi to respond to targeting of women of his community in the name of cow protection.

Soon BSP members trooped into the Well of the House, shouting anti-government slogans and were joined by Congress members.

Anand Sharma (Congress) asked why Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not responded to attacks on Dalits in name of ‘Gau Raksha’. “He has done ‘Chai-pe-Charcha’ (talk over tea) and ‘Mann-ki-Baat’ (straight talk from heart) but why not on this issue,” he asked.

Ghulam Nabi Azad said the Congress was not principally against cow protection but was against targeting of Dalits and Muslims in the name of ‘gau raksha’. “Let it be very clear. We are not against gau raksha. But in the garb of it, targeting Dalits and Muslims is something we are against,” he said.

– tcn

Beijing’s tricks and violence to stop Chinese youth from reaching WYD

July 27, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

China, July 26, 2016: The Chinese government yesterday stopped a group of 50 young pilgrims who had boarded a plane to Krakow, and forced them to get out and go home. The Beijing airport officials blocked the airplane, already on the runway, and detained the young people: immigration interrogated them for hours, they were “admonished” and sent home with orders not to contact anyone abroad. The news was reported to AsiaNews by a young Chinese Catholic, now in Poland, who learned of the episode from his parish priest who had been in charge of leading the delegation.

The blocked group consisted of young people from Beijing and surrounding dioceses. Having failed to find European sponsors that would guarantee for them, they simply visited the Polish consular office in the Chinese capital to apply for a visa. On having obtained the document, they bought tickets and boarded the plane. The government accuses them of having “violated the guidelines for traveling abroad,” and withdrew their passports, threatening the pastor with “serious consequences” if attempted to “violate the law” again.

The AsiaNews source, anonymous for security reasons, said that despite this, the Chinese presence – from the mainland, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan – is still “considerable. We are talking about several thousand people, maybe even 8 thousand throughout the Chinese world. We are very happy to be here and to be able to see the Pope and pray with him”.

However, a shadow hangs over their pilgrimage in this XXXI World Youth Day: “All those with whom I have just spoken are sad and they are afraid of what will happen when they get back home. It is not good to live like that”.

Beijing intends to closely monitor compatriots who managed to make it to the events around World Youth Day, and to do so have dusted off a Maoist era trick: he asked the employees of Chinese companies in Poland and officials of different Chinese cultural institutes in Poland to go around WYD sites carrying the Chinese flag, to approach other Catholic groups of countrymen and try to get the most information possible.

This morning, in the great Mariacki square dominated by the cathedral dedicated to the Virgin, one of these small groups were visibly waving their red flag. On being approached, they said they were from Hebei province – the “tronghold” of Chinese Catholicism – and explained that it was “easy” to get here to be with young people from around the world. When asked about their diocese of origin, however, they were unable to respond; to the question as to who their bishop was – also asked in Chinese – they asked what a bishop was. To the last question, asking who the priest who accompanied them was, they responded “we do not need one”.

– asianews

Pope Francis: ‘The world is at war, but it is not a war of religions’

July 27, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-lead

Poland, July 27, 2016: On his way to Krakow to participate in World Youth Day, a week-long Catholic celebration that’s often labeled as the religious version of Woodstock, Pope Francis denounced what he described as a worldwide war.

“But it’s a real war, not a religious war,” Francis told journalists travelling with him to Poland.

“It’s a war of interests, a war for money. A war for natural resources and for the dominion of the peoples. Some might say it’s a religious war. Every religion wants peace. The war is wanted by the others. Understood?” he said.

The pope spoke twice during the short flight from Rome to Krakow.

First, as soon as the plane took off, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi asked him to give a few words to reporters, adding that he might want to address “what’s going on in the world today, what happened yesterday.”

Francis readily agreed, saying that when the world talks about “unsafety” the actual word that should be used is “war.”

He also referred to the murder of French priest Jacques Hamel, slain on Tuesday by two Islamic terrorists as he was saying Mass.

“This holy priest who died in the very moment he was offering a prayer for the whole Church, is [only] one, but there are so many Christians, so many innocents, so many children … let’s think about Nigeria … ‘But it’s Africa’ … But it’s war!”

“Let’s not be afraid to say the truth. The world is at war, because it’s lost its peace!”

The pope also said that this might not be as “organic” as other wars, mentioning the two world wars by giving their dates and other “big wars.” However, he said, the one going on now is “an organized” one.

Francis has often spoken about a “piecemeal war,” but this time he avoided this expression, describing the current global situation with armed conflicts in several regions, such as in the Ukrainian border with Russia, and terrorist attacks perpetrated by Islamic terrorist organizations such as ISIS and Boko Haram not only in the Middle East or Africa, as well as violence in many Western countries such as the United States, France and Brussels.

Speaking about the youth, the motive behind his July 27-31 visit to the land of St. John Paul II, Francis said that the young always give hope.

“Let’s hope the tell us something that gives us some more hope in this moment.”

Before ending these remarks, he thanked the French President Francoise Hollande for calling him on Tuesday to express his regret over the death of Hamel.

Hamel, 85, was murdered as he was celebrating the morning Mass for a small community: three nuns and two faithful. One of the sisters managed to escape and alert the authorities, and her action probably saved the lives of the others.

Before slitting his throat, the perpetrators, self-declared members of the terrorist Islamic organization ISIS, forced Hamel to kneel down. They said a prayer in Arabic, and killed him with a knife in his church, in the small city of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, in rural Normandy.

On his way back to the front of the plane he decided to clarify his remarks regarding the current state of war, adding the words about this not being a religious war but a real one.

– crux

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