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Martyr Fr. Bernard – I knew & a sermon for thought

April 11, 2011 by  
Filed under India, Orissa, Persecution

Faith Without Actions is dead – James 2:14-17
Be doers of the Word, not only hearers of it – James 1:22-25

Dear Friend in Christ – www.thecsf.org

Ref : Fr. Cedric Prakash’s email – The Situation is SERIOUS in Karnataka: Start Acting Now!

Your opinion on this is valuable. Please excuse the length, but it is intended for the Serious Christian, like you. Hence, this request to bear with me & later pass this email on.

* Is the Community’s Response to Future Attacks, Killings, Rape… going to be more Pics with VVIPs, Memorandums, Signatures, Meetings, Rallies…
* Fr. Bernard – After Graham Staines & children (burnt alive), Fr. Arul Doss (pierced with arrows) and a hundred more in Orissa.
* SpiceJet Apologizes to The CSF for promoting flights to ‘Jesus Tomb’ in Srinagar. The CSF constitutes Memorial Awards.
* Terrorism, Communalism & Regionalism – Demand Reservations for Christians – Political, Education, Employment, etc.
* What has the UPA, BJP, Left, Congress & other Parties Done – other than their leaders paying lip-service in the media
* The Church in India has done much for others. What about its own ? Will the Universal Church Help ?
* How about a Disaster Plan & working towards Indian Christians 2020 ? What is the Church’s Plan ?
* Sadhvi & ex-Militarymen in Malegaon blasts. Bajrang Dal Activists killed in Nanded & Kanpur blasts.

It was with a very heavy heart and tears in my eyes, I heard of a dear friend, Fr. Bernard Digal’s sudden death. When I stayed with him for over a week in the aftermath of the Kandhamal riots, during my last visit & left him, I never expected him to be targeted so brutally. I was wrong. When I was with him in Holy Spirit Hospital ICU in Mumbai, where we advised that the three priests (Fr. Thomas and Fr Edward. , being the other two) be brought, I often prayed & thanked God for protecting him. I was wrong again. Little did I expect that it would be the last time, we would meet. It seems God brought him to Mumbai, that we should meet, if only once – before HE took him away to be with HIM forever. I became to be very close to Fr. Bernard – both of us being comrades in arms, who along with the likes of Archbishop Cheenath, John Dayal… were in the thick of it all. All I can say is ‘God’s will be done’ and I am sure his soul is resting in peace today – on All Souls Day.

The CSF Orissa Martyrs Memorial

He becomes the first Catholic priest to be martyred in the recent anti-Christian violence. On 1, September, 1999, Fr. Arul Doss, another 35-year old Catholic priest was similarly murdered by fundamentalists, who shot arrows into his chest, leading him to bleed profusely to death. His church was set on fire, as was the case with Fr. Bernard’s too. Similar was the case of Graham Staines and his two minor sons, who were burnt to death, as was Rajni, the church-worker. This could have been the case with more of the priests/pastors & laity, who have borne much of the brunt, with the official death toll reaching 60 and over 100 unofficially. Conservative estimates put the figures as – 315 villages damaged, 4,640 Christian houses burnt, 53,000 Christians homeless, 10 priests/pastors/nuns seriously injured, 18,000 Christians injured, 2 nuns gang-raped, 149 churches destroyed, 13 Christian schools and colleges damaged….. The CSF has decided to institute or contribute towards memorial & awards in honour of these martyrs for the faith and also in the name of Sr. M…., for exemplary courage in the face of great adversity. A picture of the award proposed, on the lines of a gift given to me by Fr. Bernard Digal & can be seen onhttp://www.thecsf.org/home.html

SpiceJet Apology on ‘Jesus’ Tomb

The SpiceJet airline and its in-flight magazine published by Singapore-based, Ink Publishing has tendered an unequivocal & unqualified apology for promoting Srinagar, India as a place that houses, “the Rozabal tomb, believed to be the tomb of Jesus Christ”. The CSF had taken strong exception to Spicejet featuring such information in its magazine, Spiceroute Destinations, based on the theory that Jesus Christ survived the crucifixion, ran away from the Romans & Jews, traveled eastwards to Kashmir, died and was buried there. Accordingly, the airline had urged tourists to visit the tomb, situated in the Kanyar district of Srinagar, Kashmir, India.

The CSF in a notice to Mr. Ajay Singh, director and others of Spicejet and its magazine Spiceroute, also called for twenty thousand copies of the magazine to be withdrawn and the apology to be printed prominently in the next issue, failing which the activist organization would take legal action. The same was agreeable & hence, The CSF has let the matter rest.Details & a copy of the apology letter is available at http://www.thecsf.org/csf_now.html#kash.

Terrorism, Communalism & Regionalism

It is an issue, we have been talking & being silent about, ever since Muslims were being stereotyped as terrorists – a profiling that made it easy to discriminate against the community. The truth is, not every Muslim is a terrorist. Now, Christians are being accused of converting by force or inducement and even worse – being labeled as naxalites or anti-national. And even as this is happening in the rest of the country, in Maharashtra, we have police killing a Patna Bihari boy in a bus and a group lynching a ‘bhaiya’ in a train. In Goa, fundamentalists are using pretexts like evacuee property to target a 130 year-old Our Lady of Miracles Church in Mayem, Bicholim and in Karnataka, church properties are under attack by Hindutvawadis, who have placed their flags in Mangalore.

Under the guise of protecting India from Green Terror, we now have Saffron Terror, with the involvement of Hindu extremists alleged in the Malegaon blasts & the arrests of Sadhvi Pragya & her accomplices. We have encounter cops / retired militarymen, joining parties, like Shiv Sena, which have offered legal & other support to those arrested in the Malegaon blasts. Ex & serving defence persons, as well as defence training institutions (Bhosala) are being used to build-up forces. The Samajwadi & Bahujan Samaj parties have offered similar support / tickets / seats to Muslims, as in blasts (Batla House – Jamia Nagar) or in promoting the Haj pilgrimage.

Just as the Majority-Minority issue has the Congress & the BJP in a bind, so also the Marathi Manoos card has pitted the north & south Indians against the Maharashtrians. The Shiv Sena & Raj Thackeray’s MNS are falling over each other to claim the title of saviour of the Marathi Manoos. On this issue all Bihari politicians – Lalu, Nitish, Paswan… stood one to a man, while all Maharashtrian politicians did the same, soft pedaling on Raj and even backing him – in secret or openly. Whom do the Christians have to take-up their cause ? And will they all come together, as the others do, when their own are attacked ? Christians are a divided lot & unless come together in an activist organization, our state will worsen, as it has over the decades.

Reconversion & Demand for Reservations

The violence against Christians may have subsided temporarily, under Supreme / High Court pressure, but re-conversion in Orissa is very much on by the hundreds. Thousands are still in refugee camps, you & I would shudder at the thought of. The Orissa & other state governments talk of conversion by force or inducement, which are punishable. The re-conversions are under compulsion & widely publicised. The tribal converts to Christianity are now being forced to convert to Hinduism. In Western India, we have Narendra Maharaja doing it. Such re-conversions are illegal & comes under the purview of the anti-conversion law ? There is also pressure on Dalit Christians not to freely practise their faith & the government compells them to show themselves as Hindus or Buddhists, if they are get official benefits.Christians, who share the same socio-cultural milieu as non-Christians, are being discriminated by the State on the basis of religion, if they are not granted Scheduled status. This again is nothing short of re-conversion by the Police State. In the given situation, wouldn’t we might all be forced to re-convert to Hinduism.

As our very own, Dr. Peter Rodriques says – its time to agitate & demand for Christian reservations in Jobs, Politics, Education, etc. We have enough of Government of India data to do so – NSSO Survey & Employment/Education statistics. There is enough ground to take it up legally. In fact, in Maharashtra even the influential Marathas & Parsis are asking for quotas – and may well get it. We also need to forcefully demand that Christians be recognised by the government to get at least OBC status, begining with the Dalit Christians, pending their case being decided – since its almost a Golden Century that the Church has taken-up their cause.Will some advocate take-up these issues ? The CSF is willing to assist.

UPA Still to Act. Anti-Establishment Vote ?

Will some one tell us what the Government of India has done on the anti-Christian violence ? It has laid the blame at the State Government’s door and said that the Union Government is helpless & reduced to issuing a dozen warnings! Is’nt it that the government in power, no matter whichever political party, takes Christians for granted ? If so, why not vote anti-establishment ? The assembly elections are due in 5 states and Parliament elections are around in a few months. Is it not time for Christians to reconsider their position ? Surely, if the Opposition comes to power, it would know that the minorities have voted for it. The Opposition need not be the BJP everywhere. It could be the Left, Bahujan Samaj or the Third Front. Alternatively changing governments, as happens in Kerala with the LDF / UDF or as in USA with the Democrats / Republicans, might help. And Christians will have a better deal, next time around, by God’s grace. Since that is the only reason, we are still around. Think about it.

Where is the Church ? Has it met on this issue ?

The Church’s response has been less than adequate. I doubt there has even been an all India level meeting of all church denominations – 3 Catholic Rites, CNI, CSI….including the Pentecostals & Evangelicals. Barring a handful of us in New Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai & MP, doing our little bit, there is no co-ordinated Christian laity activist movement. And even we have limitations. Some of us are into business, others are aged & still others are restricted by lack of funds or resources. The existing Church structures are not equipped to face the situation at hand & will certainly not be able to handle the future. Its time Christians wake up to meet the challenges ahead by supporting / empowering the few Christian activists, we have in the community, who have been effective, in their protests, even with the limited means, at our disposal.

We need a NETWORK, with a CORPUS FUND to animate the community. For instance, nobody reached Tamil Nadu, where an almost century-old OL of Fatima Church was vandalized, along with St. Lourdes (50 yrs), OL of Velankanni (15 yrs), Crucifix (10 yr) of Poondi Mata Church and many others in Dindigul district. No pictures & information are available because we did not have the money to go there… Same is the case with a number of other instances of anti-Christian violence, where we receive reports & appeals from. We are aware of many Christian activists starved of funds & resources – Christian activists who have great potential to resurrect a community floundering. They are looking up to / waiting for their Church to lead. Will it ?

The Church in India is almost as old as Christianity itself – 2000 years – coming from Jesus’ apostles, St. Thomas or St. Bartholomew and is responsible for a vast majority of the social services – in poverty-eradication, personality development, leadership, education, healthcare, rights, law, etc. Today, the non-Christians are way up ahead in all these areas and many more important ones, like politics, business & employment. We ‘educated’ or ‘treated’ or ’empowered’ many of our attackers. For instance, Vijendra, the son of Karnataka CM, Yediyurappa allegedly studied in St. Joseph’s College (1994-97) and we could give you a number of VIPs who have passed out of Christian institutions. The silence of the ‘non-Christian’ majority is deafening & frightening.

Why do you call yourself a Christian ? National Convention / Synod ?

But even worse – Where is the Christian leadership ? Is’nt it time for serious introspection & action – Has the Church been able to act effectively ? Our Catholic & Christian hierarchy, clergy & laity – charismatics, Evangelicals & Pentecostals – sophisticated & elite institutions – church councils & commissions – international contacts – community unions & sabhas – one-man armies…. All built-up by the common Christian – funded by Lazarus’ or widow’s mite, so to say – over centuries. What has been ou response ? Do we have a Disaster Management Plan for the future ? There is a feeling that the true Christian will not miss out, if any of these structures are not there – like the persecuted Church in China or places, where there is no freedom of religion eg. some Islamic nations. Imagine ! What would happen, if a Hindutvawadi government comes to power & our institutions are all taken over or if the Church has to move underground ? Worse is happening. We have a ‘secular’ government at the Centre & ‘communal, regional or so-called secular’ governments in the states, even as Christians are targetted & Church properties / institutions / clergy are attacked. What has the governments or even our own MPs done ? The north-east is Christian & we have tribal or women MPs too. Did they even speak-up or do something more than speak-up ? It is time we wake-up to the harsh realities & stop thinking in terms of migrating to Australia, Canada or the West. For not all of us can afford that luxury.

Christians allow religious freedom everywhere. Places of worship are allowed even in Rome & the West. Money to religious organizations, even if it is to the RSS, VHP or IRF flow easily from ‘Christian’ nations abroad. So why are’nt Indian Christians given the same basic human rights. George Menezes, John Dayal and a small group of us met in Mumbai to brain-storm. An exchange of emails or articles in church-bulletins will not help. Rallies or speeches will not help. We need to meet urgently. The CSF would like to promote National Convention / Synod in Mumbai& we urge you to send us details of Christian activists, volunteers, bureaucrats, professionals, businesspersons & those influential, whom the LORD has blessed – That can be your minimum contribution to the cause, wherever you are. Let us set our own house in order & then take on the powers-that-be – as the Bible says, a house divided against itself will not stand & unity is strength.

If you don’t help, Christian activists will go back to their work or businesses & pay more attention to it. After all that will help us to some extent, in the face of anti-Christian attacks. And nothing can stop us from praying for all of Christianity. So its time we take a stand for community development, because as the Bible say, if you are lukewarm, God will spew you out of His mouth.

Do let us have your thoughts on the above – You can be sure, every word will be taken seriously.

Please be assured of our prayers for you & your loved ones. Requesting your prayers for us, our families & associates too – without which, it would not have been possible for us to do so much.

Your Servant in the Lord’s Service

Ln. Joseph Dias, MA (Eco), Ex-Special Executive Magistrate / SEO, Govt of Maharashtra
General Secretary, The CSF
+91 9769 55 56 57 trinity.cmd@gmail.com

Cheques / DDs can be drawn in favour of The CSF and sent to our Regd Office.

Check out these links:

http://www.rediff.com/news/2008/sep/22inter.htm &

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