Ajmer dargah: Zardari donation for ‘noble causes’ *Goa: Mayor joins Easter celeb

April 10, 2012 by  
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Rajasthan, April 09, 2012: The donation of $1 million offered by Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari during his visit to the dargah of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti will be spent on education, health and other welfare activities in Ajmer, the shrine authorities said.

“The donation will be put to use for noble causes including education, health, religious functions and financial help for widows among others,” said Wahid Chisti, secretary of the Anjuman Syed Zadgan, a custodian body of the shrine.

He said the body would receive the donation from Zardari through Indian government channels.

Accompanied by his son Bilawal, Zardari offered prayers at the revered shrine here Sunday.

The 21-member body, which holds the purse strings of the shrine, represents the khadims (caretakers) who claim to be relatives of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti.

“Anjuman spends a lot of money for the cause of education. The body runs one English medium higher secondary school and a seminary in Ajmer,” Natiq Chisti, a khadim who helped Zardari and his son in the prayers Sunday, told IANS.

“The media reported that the donation is for the dargah. The donation will be for Anjuman Syed Zadgan,” a khadim told IANS on the condition of anonymity.

“The Pakistan High Commission said the Pakistan government will offer the money for Anjuman Syed Zadgan,” he clarified.

Anjuman also runs a small hospital in the city.

“Apart from this, we also send money to major shrines across the country and arrange for the langar (community kitchen) at these shrines,” Natiq Chisty told IANS.

He said the body also provides scholarship to meritorious students of the khadim community and financial assistance to widows.

– ians

Goa: Mayor joins Easter celeb


Goa, April 08, 2012: The concelebrated mass offered by the Goan Catholic Welfare Union (GCWU) on Easter Sunday at Don Bosco Shrine (Our Lady of Fatima) Panjim was attended by a congregation of a thousand Christians that sang, prayed and listened to the Easter message.

Rev. Fr. Mousinho de Ataide (Professor at Rachol Seminary) was the main celebrant and delivered the homily. Rev Fr. Paul D’Souza, Fr. Simon Fernandes SJ, Fr. Wilfred Fernandes and Fr. Olivio Miranda were the co-celebrants. Fr. Romulu Noronha read the announcements and the Choir sang hymns to the tune of music from the organ and guitar.

After the mass, the faithful were treated to Easter cake and refreshments. The Mayor of Panjim, Vaidehi Naik made it a point to attend and wish Catholic brothers and sisters. “Don Bosco area falls in my ward and I am most happy to participate in this joyous occasion”, she said.  “Several Hindu friends also joined in the celebrations and exchanged Easter greetings. It is like one big Goan family celebrating Easter” remarked Sister Augusta from Holy Cross Convent who came all the way from Mapusa.

Juino De Souza, President of GCWU said “the election process that took place during the period of lent was generally peaceful and the new government led by Chief Minister, Manohar Parrikar is being expanded with more members of his cabinet being sworn in on Easter Sunday and they need our prayers. Easter is when we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ and which provides a strong message that every work of evil shivers before the power of goodness. We must reciprocate to the ‘zero tolerance to corruption’ policy of the government and ensure that Citizens do not pay or encourage bribes”.

“Catholics during Easter remember the life, sacrifice and living legacy of Jesus who was a man of incomparable compassion, generosity, grace, humility and love. These are the values that Jesus embraced and it is these values that can make Goa more tolerant, generous and caring”, Juino said while thanking the Salesians of Don Bosco for their support.

Mizo Church’s dress code strict on women *Goa plans advisory body on Muslim, Christian issue

April 10, 2012 by  
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Mizoram, April 10, 2012: It follows complaints that church aisles have become like red carpets for fashion shows.

The Presbyterian Church, Mizoram’s largest Christian denomination, wants women to refrain from wearing trousers and see-through dresses inside places of worship.

The Church’s second-highest decision-making authority, the Synod Executive Committee, yesterday issued a dress code that insists women should not wear clothes that expose breasts or show too much skin. It also wants women to avoid tight garments inside the church.

The best option for women is to wear the traditional “puan,” a piece of cloth women wrap around waists reaching to the ankles, that the Church terms as a “respectable” dress.

The Church code encourages women to use cosmetics, but with moderation, and urges brides to wear beautiful and respectable wedding dresses.

It also wants men to wear clean shoes and respectable suits inside churches.

The code comes in the backdrop of a long drawn debate over proper church wear in Mizoram, a Christian majority state in northeastern India. Some church-goers have complained that church aisles have become like red carpets for fashion shows.

Mizoram’s patriarchal society has always discouraged “indecent” dresses and some people have blamed “indecent dressing” by women for the recent increase in rape cases in the state.

Earlier, under pressure from student bodies, the state education department issued a dress code that asked girls not to wear skirts that reach only above knees.

The Young Mizo Association has disapproved girls wearing tights at funeral services.

State Culture Minister P. C. Zoramsangliana has appealed colleges to fix a day in a week for students to wear the “puan.”

In 1987, former Chief Minister Laldenga told government employees that although law-enforcement officials would not tolerate “indecent exposure” as described in the Indian Penal Code, no one should impose a dress code for women.

– timesofindia / hindustantimes

Goa plans advisory body on Muslim, Christian issue


Goa, April 02, 2012: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition government in Goa is planning to set up a minority advisory council, which will sift through the demands of Muslims and Christians, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar said here on Monday.

According to him, the council would be set up by May.

“We should be in a position to set up an advisory council in May. It will have members of the Catholic and Muslim communities,” Parrikar said on Monday.

“The council will meet twice a month with the government, and advice on matters related to minority communities,” Parrikar said.

The simple majority to the BJP in the 40-member Goa legislative assembly in the April elections have been credited to a social engineering exercise by the chief minister, who wooed the state’s 26 percent Christian minority ahead of the March polls.

The BJP, which contested 28 seats, had fielded six Christian candidates and backed two other Christian independent candidates. The party has already allotted two cabinet berths to the Catholics, and has also promised to induct an independent minority legislator in the first round of expansion.

The BJP now aims to focus its attention on the nearly seven percent strong Muslim population, who have traditionally kept the saffron party at an arm’s length.

In an emotional pitch to Muslim community members at a public function in Panaji last week, Parrikar said the community could “kick” the BJP out of power after five years if he did not deliver good governance, adequate jobs and “respect” to them.

“In five years I assure you not just a good government and representative jobs, most importantly, I assure you that the government will accord the community a sense of respect. If the BJP does a good job, vote for us, if we don’t, kick us out,” Parrikar said.

– ians

Bishop with Indian roots to head Karachi diocese *‘Police tortured me, I couldn’t recognise myself’

January 27, 2012 by  
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Old Goa ChurchGoa, January 27, 2012: Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday appointed Bishop Joseph Coutts of Faisalabad, Pakistan, as archbishop of Karachi- Pakistan. Archbishop Coutts ( 66), who traces his roots to Ranoi- Aldona, succeeds Archbishop Evarist Pinto, who has resigned from pastoral care of the archdiocese having reached the age limit.

Coincidentally, Archbishop Pinto also traces his roots to Goa. Hailing from Olaulim- Pomburpa, Archbishop Pinto grew up at his mother’s place in Corjuem, Aldona, Goa. Archbishop Coutts also happens to be the cousin of Bishop Anil Couto of Jullundur ( India).

Karachi — the largest city, main seaport and the main financial centre of Pakistan — has 1.5 lakh catholics ( 40 priests and 185 religious) within a population of 1.55 crore. There are as many as six prelates in the Catholic Church who trace their links to Aldona.

They are Auxiliary Bishop ( retired) Ferdinand Fonseca of Bombay, Bishop ( retired) Anthony Lobo of Islamabad ( Pakistan), Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi ( Pakistan), Archbishop Felipe Neri Ferrao of Goa and Daman, Archbishop ( retired) Evarist Pinto of Karachi Archdiocese and Bishop Anil Couto of Jullundur ( India).

– alwin fernandes

Multiethnic Karachi, a challenge for Mgr Coutts in his new mission

Archbishop Joseph CouttsPakistan, January 27, 2012: The outgoing bishop of Faisalabad is back to the city where he did his seminary studies and was first priest. On Wednesday, Benedict XVI named him archbishop of Pakistan’s southern metropolis. Speaking about his new posting, the prelate describes the demographic explosion and bursts of violence in this “multiethnic and multicultural” city.

“Karachi was a fairly peaceful city,” said Mgr Joseph Coutts as he remembered it from the time when he attended the local seminary to become a priest. It was “not subject to sporadic bursts of violence and terrorism, as it is now,” the newly appointed bishop added as he described the southern Pakistani metropolis, which is also the capital of Sindh province. Speaking to AsiaNews about the city, which he knows very well, he stressed its multiethnic and multicultural character, which will be the main challenges of his new pastoral posting. On Wednesday, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him as the new archbishop of Karachi, in lieu of Mgr Evarist Pinto, in place since 2002, who has reached the normal age limit.

The 66-year-old Mgr Coutts was born on 21 July 1945 in Amritsar, British India. Since 1998, he headed the Diocese of Faisalabad, where he took the placed of Mgr John Joseph who killed himself in protest against the country’s blasphemy law.

Following studies at Karachi’s Christ the King Seminary, he was ordained priest on 9 January 1971 in Lahore. After that, he completed ecclesiastical studies in Rome from 1973 to 1976, and then became professor of philosophy and Sociology at Christ the King Seminary in Karachi from 1976 to 1980.

Appointed rector of St. Mary’s Minor Seminary in Lahore, he was later elected as the Vicar General of Diocese of Lahore where he served from 1986 to 1988. On 5 May of that year, he was appointed bishop of Hyderabad. In this diocese, he defended the rights of landless farmers and was instrumental in creating the new Vicariate Apostolic of Quetta. After ten years of service in Hyderabad, he was transferred to the Diocese of Faisalabad on 27 June 1998.

Thus, Mgr Coutts performed his episcopacy in three of Pakistan’s provinces, Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan. As prelate, he opened avenues of dialogue with leading Muslim clerics and scholars in Faisalabad, and helped build bridges among the different communities. For his efforts, he was honoured in 2007 with the Shalom Prize by the Catholic University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt in Germany for his commitment to peace and interfaith harmony in Pakistan. At present, he serves as president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan and head of Caritas Pakistan.

“I am not a total stranger to Karachi,” the new archbishop of Karachi told AsiaNews. “I did my philosophy and theology studies there and then taught at the Major Seminary for four years while being pastorally engaged in a number of parishes.” “But that was many years ago. Karachi was a fairly peaceful city then, not subject to sporadic bursts of violence and terrorism, as it is now. The population too has exploded largely because of refugees who have settled” in Pakistan’s southern metropolis.

“Karachi is a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural megacity of around 15 million people,” he noted, that “grew in size and importance after the creation of Pakistan in 1947.” By contrast, “Faisalabad with about 3 million people is in the heart of the Punjab”, which “In spite of its size, [. . .] still has a rural flavour with a homogeneous population. The Christians in the diocese live mainly in the surrounding small towns and villages. The way of living and problems of citizens in both the cities are dissimilar. The climate too is very different as the two cities are about 1,400 kilometres apart, one inland the other on the Arabian Sea coast.”

‘Police tortured me, I couldn’t recognise myself’

Arun Ferreira
Arun Ferreira

Maharashtra, January 12, 2012: Labelling himself as a “political prisoner”, Arun Ferreira said just because he believed in the Leftist ideology he was branded as a ‘naxal’ and put in prison. Speaking at a press conference at the Press Club on Wednesday, Ferreira said the state government had become intolerant and was out to curb any movement it did not approve of.

“Be it the movement against the Jaitapur nuclear plant, the one against POSCO, or Anna Hazare’s movement, the government immediately says there are naxals or maoist involved,” he said.

Recalling his days in the Nagpur jail, Ferreira claimed that because of the torture he underwent in the police custody, he could not recognise his own photograph published in the newspapers, “Nowadays the police have perfected the techniques of torture to ensure that no marks are left behind,” he alleged.

He added, “One can find a good place to sleep [in jail] if he has money or else he has to sleep near the toilet. The prison manuals are outdated. The rules of British days are still applicable, which means the jail authorities run the place the way they want to.”

Coming down on the police, Ferreira said he was not the first one to be re-arrested after being acquitted by courts. He termed the tactics of the police as their “modus operandi”.

“Even the principal district judge at Gadchiroli has come down on these methods of the police,” he said, adding that his family and friends in Mumbai had managed to put pressure on the government and the police for his release.

Ferreira, along with naxal leader Arun Satya Reddy alias Murli, was arrested in 2007 for an alleged attempt to hold a secret meeting at Dikshabhoomi in Nagpur.
Though released in September last year, he was re-arrested by the police on charge of involvement in the Jafargarh police-naxal encounter case in Gadchiroli.

– hindustantimes

Activists name Catholic priest as nominee for polls

January 13, 2012 by  
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PollGoa, January 11, 2012: A Catholic priest has been named by public groups to contest Goa Assembly elections scheduled for March 3.

Blessed Sacrament Father Bismarque Dias, who has been leading protests against illegal mining, a land-use plan and other issues concerning the western state, was named Tuesday as a candidate by Zagrut Goenkarancho Ekvott (ZGE, Vigilant Goans’ Collective).

This is an umbrella organization reportedly having the support of some 160 village groups.

Fr Dias has been selected for the Cumbarjua constituency near Old Goa.

The priest, who addressed a press conference in Panaji, the state capital, told reporters that he was “legally” bound to seek permission from the Archbishop to contest the elections.

However, he added that his role was beyond being just a priest and that he was committed to social justice.

Citing the parable of the Good Samaritan, he said he was entering the political arena to tend the ailing land, trees and children of the state.

Fr Francis Caldeira, spokesman of the Goa Archdiocese, said Fr Dias was not a diocesan priest and that “he will have to follow the required procedure with the approval from his superior.”

This is the first time in the state’s election history that a priest is scheduled to contest the polls.

– ucan

Church points out ‘glaring distortions’ in RP-21, in letter to chief minister

December 15, 2011 by  
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Goa ChurchGoa, December 14, 2011: The Council of Social Justice and Peace, the social arm of the Church in Goa, has hit out at the state government for what it terms are “glaring distortions” in the Regional Plan 2021.

In a letter addressed to the Chief Minister, Fr Maverick, claiming to represent the voters of Goa, has said that “those involved in the final preparation of the Notified RP-2021 have ignored the aspirations and genuine recommendations of the Gram Sabhas and Nagar-Palikas, who sacrificed immense time and resources in preparing their correct maps and plans.”

“The voters are outraged because the whole exercise has been distorted and as it stands today, is a threat to the ecology and the existence of the Goan people and further compounded with vague, irrational and contradictory planning policies and laws such as the introduction of MIZs, Eco-tourism Zones, indiscriminate increase in settlement zones, development in Eco-sensitive zones and NDZs, Amendments to Sections 16, 16A and 17 in the TCP Act and the new The Goa Land Development and Building Construction Regulations, 2010. Unless and until the Government rectifies all the above mentioned Acts, Amendments, Regulations etc, the Goa Regional Plan will continue to be unacceptable,” Fr Maverick said as he minced no words asking for the plan to be rectified.

To support his claims, Fr Maverick pointed out several instances, where he felt that the planner had erred.

Dealing with the issue of roads, Fr Maverick questioned how the Roads, with ‘Road Right of Ways’, 15m and more in width are proposed even in the interior lanes of Villages.“Examples are Wangal Ward in Keri Ponda; Borvon, Zoida, Vaigan Wards in Nachinola; Caraim in Caraim-Chodan; Gaddir Vanxem Ward in Loutolim;  Baida Ward in Nuvem. These have been objected to by the voters as absolutely unnecessary, and are obviously fraudulently inserted in the Plans for the benefit of Real Estate Developers.

The letter also brought to light a few inconsistencies in the regional plan such as “in Release 3 an entire village is shown as VP2, but just the opposite is seen in Release 1, where only part of the same village is listed under VP2 and the other part under the ODP for non-PDA areas.
In a certain village, the Surface Utilisation Plans show cultivable lands but the tabulation shows that cultivable land as NIL,” Fr Maverick said without naming the villages concerned.

The Council of Social Justice and Peace said “In the meanwhile, the Government must stop granting any permissions, with the exception of single dwelling units in settlement areas, under the notified RP-2021 (not accepted in its present form), in consonance with Goa Land Development and Building Construction Regulations 2010,” Fr Maverick said.

“The glaring distortions on the Maps and the text’s of the Releases are: marking some forests (public/private), scrub vegetation, grazing lands as Natural Cover whereas they have to be clearly classified and shown in the maps as private forests, fublic forests, scrub vegetation, and grazing lands separately.

The unique khazan lands – sluice gates system have been shown as fields whereas they have to be distinctly classified and marked as khazans or kher or morods. Khazans form part of the Eco-sensitive Zone I, whereas in the Notified RP 2021 in Release I  under Appendix XI, No III, ‘Khazan Lands’ are clubbed with  ‘Paddy fields’

– herald

IFFI clash with St. Xavier feast: GCWU petitions Sonia Gandhi *Protesters condemn government

December 3, 2011 by  
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Feast of St Francis Xavier GoaGoa, December 01, 2011: The Goan Catholic Welfare Union (GCWU) has strongly condemned the adamant attitude of government for refusing to re-schedule the closing date of IFFI which is clashing with the Feast of St. Francis Xavier thus playing with the sentiments of the people. We have faxed letters to the Prime Minister of India, Mr Manmohan Singh and the Chairperson of UPA, Sonia Gandhi stated Juino De Souza, President of GCWU.

We have written stating that it is the bounden duty of every government to protect the religious rights of its people and specially of the minority community that is guaranteed under our constitution and it is regretted that the Minister of Information & Broadcasting, (Smt) Ambika Soni and the Chief Minister of Goa, Shri Digambar Kamat are hurting the religious sentiments of not only the Catholic community but entire goan community by holding the closing ceremony of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) currently underway at Goa on the 3rd December 2011 that is coinciding with the feast of St. Francis Xavier, Patron Saint of Goa which is a public holiday declared in his memory.

The letter further states that on this day lakhs devotees of all faiths converge at Old Goa to pay their respects, homage and offer prayers and devotion in honour St Francis Xavier. It is therefore a gross violation of religious rights for the government to have IFFI closing ceremony sponsored by the Central government on this holiday with gala dinners and fireworks and is an insult and attack on the religious sentiments of the people who believe in St. Francis Xavier and whose relics are preserved in the BASILICA BOM JESUS for all to venerate.

There is an uproar at Goa with people staging agitations, dharnas and black flag protests during IFFI which is showing the Congress led government in Goa in poor light. The BJP has also addressed the issue  calling the Congress party communal.

The people are furious that the Congress government instead of taking responsibility and applying the right correctives are instead giving lame excuses and making incorrect statements by placing blame on extraneous bodies such as the International film Committee and the Film Federation of India who have no role to play in changing the closing date of IFFI, thus taking the people for a ride.

We have brought to their notice that all the people are asking is to advance the closing ceremony from 3rd. December to 2nd December 2011 which is no big deal. Let the people be free to focus on the Feast of St. Francis Xavier with any diversion and which is their right.  I shall thank you on behalf of ‘The Goan Catholic Welfare Union’ to kindly use your good offices and intervene in this religious matter urgently so as to avoid the clashing of IFFI closing date with that of the feast of St. Francis Xavier.

Copies of the letter have been sent to the Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister, A. K. Anthony, Minister of Information, Smt Ambika Soni and the Senior  BJP leader L.K. Advani.

Protestors against holding IFFI on feast of St. Francis Xavier

Goan Catholic Welfare UnionGoa, December 03, 2011: The Goan Catholic Welfare Union (GCWU) and leaders of NGO’s namely the Pillerne Citizens Forum, Villagers Group of Goa, Porvorim Residents Welfare Association (PRWA), Goemchea Rakhondarancho Awaz (GRA), Saligao Citizens Committee and other lay persons staged a protest dharna chanting slogans condemning the government’s adamant and challenging attitude in going ahead with IFFI closing ceremony followeded with gala dinners, wine and fireworks on the sacred feast day of St. Francis Xavier by ignoring the sentiments of the people.

The participants were carrying a long black banner and holding placards with captions such as IFFI-Digambar Kamat stop the sacrilege,  Respect the rights and sentiments of the people, D’ont destroy goan culture, etc. They paid rich tribute to St Francis Xavier while holding his portrait and singing hyms and praises to the great patron saint in konkani.  Goehcho sahib amkam zai, amkam zai, they chanted. Ek do, ek do,  IFFI ko fek do.  

Addressing the demonstration, Juino De Souza President GCWU said that it is the question of attack on the religious rights and sentiments of the people. IFFI is a distraction and diversion and we have come here directly from Old Goa after hearing the first mass at 5.30 am to show our solidarity with the large section of goans whose sentiments have been hurt with an unjust decision and government will pay the price in the ensuing elections.

Speaking on the occasion Fr. Antonio Rodrigues a senior priest and scholar said today is a great feast of Goa and our goan culture has been destroyed. This is the time when all of us should united to defeat those who are out to wipe out Goa.

Joao Phillip Pereira a social activist said that people are not fools to be deceived by false excuses of vested interests who seem to have no respect for St. Francis Xavier who died on the 3rd December and his death anniversary is celebrated with prayers and devotion. 

Yatish Naik lawyer and activist said St Francis Xavier is not only respected by Catholics, but by people of all faiths who flock to Goa to venerate and pay homage to the patron saint and we do not require IFFI that is costing over 100 crores to the goans. 

Floriano Lobo of GRA stated that IFFI is not wanted by any other state and hence was pushed into Goa during the Parrikar regime. St Xavier is our protector and he will work a a miracle to help goans get rid of IFFI forever.

Joe Carneiro, Joaquim Rodrigues, William Pinto, Hermie Caldeira, George Mascaranhas, Roque Dias,  Alex D’Souza, Merwyn D’Souza, Bosco Souza, Prakash Bandodkar, Rex D’Souza and others also expressed their feelings. 
– juino desouza

Church wary of government assurance on IFFI scheduling

December 1, 2011 by  
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IFFIGoa, November 29, 2011: Despite assurance from the ruling Congress-led coalition in Goa that the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) next year will not coincide with the feast of Saint Francis Xavier, the Church in the state is not satisfied.

Father Savio Baretto, rector of the Basilica of Bom Jesus, said the Congress is only talking about the feast. “We have always maintained that IFFI and the feast and novenas of Saint Francis Xavier should not be held together.”

“We are not satisfied, though the assurance is welcomed.”

Mauvin Godinho, deputy speaker of the state legislative assembly said the issue was discussed with officials of the central government and IFFI organizers, who assured to change the dates from next year.

“Even the party feels that IFFI dates should not clash with the feast,” he said.

He said this year we could not effect a reschedule as the infrastructure was already in place for the festival.

“The party promises the Catholic community that IFFI dates will not overlap with the feast from next year,” he added.

Earlier, Information and Broadcasting minister Ambika Soni too had assured that the dates would be changed changed next year.

The Church has been demanding a change in the IFFI dates since 2006 and it was this year that it coincided with the feast of the Spanish missioner on December 3.

– bosco d’souza eremita