Chennai, April 10, 2014: Denial of BC community certificate to converted Muslims amounts to deprivation of fundamental rights, the judge said.
The court also ordered the Tamil Nadu government to instruct officials to issue backward class (BC) community certificates to people who embrace Islam.
“I have no hesitation to come to the conclusion that a person belonging to Hindu backward class community, on conversion to Islam, would get the benefit of backward class status if the person is covered under List III of the government order no. 85,” said Justice D Hariparanthaman on Wednesday.
The list contains seven sects of ‘backward class’ Muslims. They are: Ansar, Dekkani Muslims, Dudekula, Labbais (including Rawthar and Marakayar speaking Tamil or Urdu), Mapilla, Sheik and Syed, the judge pointed out.
Justice Hariparanthaman criticized government communications sent in February 2010 and August 2012 asking collectors not to issue BC certificates to converted Muslims.
Describing it as persecution of Muslims and akin to ‘untouchability’ practised on dalits, the judge said, “Denial of BC community certificate to converted Muslims amounts to deprivation of fundamental rights.”
The judge was passing orders on a petition filed by M U Aariffaa, who was a Nadar (a BC community) before her conversion to Islam in 2006.
She approached the court when officials denied her government jobs reserved for backward classes on the ground that her conversion disqualifies her.
While accepting amicus curiae M Ajmalkhan’s stance that there is no such a thing as ‘converted’ Muslim, Justice Hariparanthaman disagreed with his claim that unlike in the case of Christianity, a convert’s original caste status is erased on embracing Islam.
The judge also flayed the Tamil Nadu Backward Class Commission for its stand that no convert to Islam is entitled to get BC community certificate and that all such existing certificates are bogus.
“The view expressed by the commission has no basis and it has to be rejected, as it would result in the denial of community certificates to all converts to Islam,” Justice Hariparanthaman said.
The court directed the government to offer Aariffaa the job for which she had qualified.
- times of India
Pastoral letter of Andhra Pradesh federation of Churches (APFC) on state and general elections 2014
Secunderabad, March 27, 2014:
Dear Sisters and Brothers in the Lord Jesus Christ,
Greetings of Peace and Joy in the name of Lord Jesus Christ!
As you are aware, at this point of time our beloved State of Andhra Pradesh is in a very critical situation. In the last few years, we have gone through much tension and agitation due to the struggles for and against the bifurcation of the State. Finally, the Parliament passed the Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Act and the Central Government has fixed June 2, 2014 as the appointed day for the formation of two states of residuary Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Meanwhile, the State and General Elections have arrived and we are preparing for them. This is an important moment for us since the direction that our State and Country takes and their progress largely depends on our Assembly and Parliament.
Our Duty as Patriotic Citizens
At this critical juncture, the Andhra Pradesh Federation of Churches (APFC), which is a state-level apex body of Archbishops, Bishops and Heads of Churches, held its Seventh General Body Meeting on March 27, 2014 at St John’s Regional Seminary, Hyderabad.
During the meeting it was resolved to issue a Pastoral Letter on the ensuing state and general elections. As Pastors of our people, we consider it our duty to address you through this Pastoral Letter on behalf of APFC, so that, joining hands with all people of good will, we can effectively contribute to shaping the future of our State and Nation.
At the outset we wish to make it clear to all that the APFC, including its member-Churches, do not identify itself with any political party. But we have a responsibility as Bishops / Heads of Churches to urge every eligible citizen to exercise his / her right and duty to vote and do so prudently, carefully and judiciously. All our parish priests / pastors are urged to impress on the people their obligation in this regard.
We must remember the value of our vote and admonish our people not to dishonor it by trading it for money and liquor and by casting their vote basing one caste, creed and clan. We must be convinced that every vote does count. We owe it to ourselves, our children and our families not to let go of this opportunity to get involved in bettering our State and Nation.
We need to elect leaders who are close to people and respond to their needs; who uphold the secular and pluralistic character of our Nation and promote communal harmony; who strive for social justice and equality of the marginalized groups like the Tribals and Dalits especially Dalit Christians and protect the rights of the Minorities; who are determined to advance an inclusive economy that supports the poor especially to the unorganized labourers and marginal farmers by ensuring their basic human rights to food, water, shelter, health, education and employment;
Who strive to ensure the safety and security of women and children and their essential rights to life and livelihood; who lay focus on youth for ensuring their holistic development with character building, critical education and life skills; who make every effort to curb corruption and bring about good governance with peoples’ plans and decentralized, transparent, accountable and responsible administration; and who endeavor to protect the environment with sustainable development and safeguard the rights of Tribal and Local communities over land, water and forests.
Concerns of our Christian Community
We are deeply concerned about the pressing needs of our Christian Community in State that call for the urgent attention of the political leaders. Our State records one of the highest numbers of atrocities committed on Christians and pastors. During the recent months these attacks have increased in some districts. Organized mob attacks are taking place on Christians during their worship.
There is a plot to prevent the spread of Christianity for last six decades by denying to the converted Dalits their Constitutional rights and privileges. There is a ploy to prohibit our mission of evangelism and spreading of the Gospel through legislations and government orders (GOs). There is a sinister design to block our educational ministry by stopping the grant-in-aid and not filling-up the aided teachers’ posts. Hundreds of our Church-run schools had to be closed and thousands of posts remain vacant. There is a conspiracy to take over the properties of our Churches and educational institutions by passing a Bill.
To restrain these evil designs and to rein-in the communal forces behind them, along with APFC we must insist that Political Parties include the following demands of the Christian Minority in their Manifestos, which have been already submitted to them by APFC, and strive to implement them in earnest after the elections both in the residuary Andhra Pradesh and Telangana:
Extend SC status to the Dalit Christians by deleting the unconstitutional and discriminatory Para 3 of Constitution (Presidential) Order 19 of 1950.
Continue the grant-in-aid to the Church-run Educational Institutions and fill up vacant aided posts pending from 2004 without further delay.
Remove the ban on propagation and practice of Faiths by withdrawing G.Os Ms. No: 746 and 747 both dated 02-06-2007.
Enact “Prevention of Communal Violence Act”; and “Prevention of Minorities Atrocities Act” in line with the “Prevention of SC ST Atrocities Act”.
Constitute the State Christian (Minority) Finance Corporation fully and allocate at least 15% of the funds and schemes under the Prime Minister’s 15 Point Programme and Minority Welfare budget.
Provide representations to Christians in the legislative and civil bodies, administrative panels and in various commissions / boards. At least one Assembly seat in each district and two Lok Sabha seats in the State can be assigned to Christian Minority.
Allocate government lands for the construction of churches, community halls, education institutions and burial grounds.
Pressing need of Our Political Ministry
Although we Christians in India are just about 2% of total population, we serve the people of our country, basing on the values and example of Jesus Christ, in various fields. Our contribution in education, health and social welfare and rural development amounts to more than 20%. Nearly 80% care centers and homes for the persons affected by the diseases like HIV/AIDS, TB, Leprosy and Terminal Cancer, and for the disabled, destitute and aged are provided by us. We are very much involved in poverty eradication, skill development for self-employment and the empowerment of the Marginalized in many ways. In doing all these, our primary mission is to transmit the love and mercy of Jesus Christ to the whole of India beyond caste, creed and community.
But, often we forget that this mission includes also spreading of His message and building up His movement for the Kingdom of God. This demands Church’s involvement in the public life, civil society and political filed, by engaging in advocacy for human rights, networking with other religious and social groups, and participating in the political action where we are conspicuously absent. Signs of times call for Church’s political apostolate and promote political service. Our political ministry is the need of the hour. Hence, as Bishops / Pastors we encourage our members to opt for political vocation and to take up political life and work.
We ought to bring Christian presence to the public life and political field to cleanse and transform it in accordance with the values of love and service, and justice and peace of the Kingdom of God (cfr. Rom 14.17). We must be involved in political ministry to implement the promises of Jesus Christ made in his Nazareth Manifesto (Lk 4. 18-21).
For this, we need Christian political leaders with value-based politics and with service-motive which is inspired by our Supreme Leader and Lord Jesus Christ “who came not to be served but to serve” (Mt 20.28). Hence, we encourage Christians, especially the youth, to take up leadership roles in public and political life. We ought to strengthen our democracy by working for electoral reforms so that not only the rich and powerful and their kith and kin but all citizens can have equal opportunity to contest and participate in governance.
We urge the Christians in the State, to participate actively in the democratic process by exercising their right and duty to vote discerningly to elect service-minded, secular and sincere leaders who are free from crime, corruption and communalism.
We urge our Faithful to pray ardently at home and in our churches, especially on the Sunday before the polling day (in Telangana on April 27 and in Seemandhra on May 4) that the elections may bring us good governments. We request our Priests / Pastors to read this Pastoral Letter on that day or any Sunday before the polls and distribute the copies of the same to our church members.
Soon we will be part of two separate of states of residuary Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. All the same, the people both the states must cooperate and support each other as members on one joint family putting aside resentment. With the God’s strength and guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can all work unitedly for a bright future for all the Telugu people. As we conclude, we lift our State and Country to our Guru and Lord Jesus Christ to guide, protect and bring us abundant graces.
May God bless us!
With prayerful wishes and God’s blessings,
Archbishop Thumma Bala
CSI Moderator Bishop G. Dyvasirvadam
Presidents of A.P. Federation of Churches (APFC)
Panaji, April 10, 2014: Church people’s appeal to vote for a secular party is criticized.
The state unit of the Communist Party of India (CPI) in Goa has accused the BJP, Congress and Catholic church of sowing seeds of communal hatred by using terms like “secular” in the run-up to parliamentary polls.
“The BJP and Congress are accusing each other as communal. In addition, Goa’s Catholic church has appealed to the people to vote for a secular party,” CPI’s North Goa candidate Suhas Naik told reporters today during a press conference.
In the entire bargain, he said seeds of hatred are being sown by these organizations including the church, which is detrimental for the people of Goa, he said according to a PTI report.
“This will be harmful for the future of Goa whose secular fabric has been left untouched by any kind of developments nationally,” Naik said.
The CPI leader, who is also spearheading the agitation for resumption of mining, accused the RSS of masterminding the ban on iron ore extraction industry in the state.
“The RSS never wanted economically weaker people to be uplifted. The mining industry gave economic strength to this class which did not go well with the Sangh,” Naik alleged.
Naik also alleged that religious institutions also opposed mining in the state.
“Religious institutions had issued a circular appealing to the BJP to oppose mining, if they wanted support to come to power,” the CPI leader alleged.
He said if the CPI forms a government at the Centre, it would form a Goa Mineral Ore Development Corporation (GMODC), which would distribute shares of profits from the mining industry among all stakeholders.
- zee news
United States, April 11, 2014: Rise of internet and fall in faith affiliation may be linked.
But is it also a culprit in helping us lose our religion? A new study suggests it might be.
Allen Downey, a computer scientist at Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts, set out to understand the national uptick in those who claim no religious affiliation. These are the “nones,” which the Pew Research Center considers the fastest-growing “religious” group in America.
Since 1985, Downey says, the number of first-year college students who say they’re religiously unaffiliated has grown from 8% to 25%, according to the CIRP Freshman Survey.
And, he adds, stats from the General Social Survey, which has been tracking American opinions and social change since 1972, show unaffiliated Americans in the general population ballooned from 8% to 18% between 1990 and 2010.
These trends jibe with what the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project reported in 2012. It said one in five American adults, and a third of those under 30, are unaffiliated.
Downey says he stepped into the ongoing debate about the rise of the “nones” not because he has a vested interest one way or the other, but because the topic fascinates him. He says it’s good fodder for study and appeals to students who are learning to crunch real data.
In his paper “Religious affiliation, education and Internet use,” which published in March on arXiv – an electronic collection of scientific papers – Downey analyzed data from GSS and discovered a correlation between increased Internet use and religious disaffiliation.
Internet use among adults was essentially at zero in 1990; 20 years later, it jumped to 80%, he said. In that same two-decade period, we saw a 25 million-person spike in those who are religiously unaffiliated.
People who use the Internet a few hours a week, GSS numbers showed Downey, were less likely to have a religious affiliation by about 2%. Those online more than seven hours a week were even more likely – an additional 3% more likely – to disaffiliate, he said.
Now, Downey is the first to point out that correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation.
But he was able to control for other factors including education, religious upbringing, rural/urban environments and income, to find a link that allowed him to “conclude, tentatively, that Internet use causes disaffiliation,” he said.
“But a reasonable person could disagree.”
The Internet, he posited, opens up new ways of thinking to those living in homogeneous environments. It also allows those with doubts to find like-minded individuals around the world.
He believes decreases in religious upbringing have had the largest effect, accounting for 25% of reduced affiliation; college education covers about 5% and Internet use may account for another 20%.
That leaves 50% which he attributes to “generational replacement,” meaning those born more recently are less likely to be religiously affiliated – though he doesn’t attempt to explain why that is.
The Pew Research Center has offered its own theories.
One explanation Pew gives is that our nation is experiencing political backlash – “that young adults, in particular, have turned away from organized religion because they perceive it as deeply entangled with conservative politics and do not want to have any association with it.”
More specifically, Pew explains, this brand of religion and politics is out of step with young adult views on same-sex rights and abortion.
Postponement of marriage and parenthood, broader social disengagement and general secularization of society may also play a part, according to Pew.
- cnn belief blog
Myanmar, April 10, 2014: Archbishop Bo warns on state interference and hate speeches.
Myanmar Archbishop Charles Maung Bo of Yangon said proposed laws on “the protection of race and religion” are unnecessary, and warned against the state interfering in an individual’s right to choose their religion.
Archbishop Bo told ucanews.com that such rules risked dialing back religious freedom in Myanmar at a time when citizens are gaining freedoms in most other areas.
A nationalist movement led by Buddhist monks last year had lawyers draft a package of legislation to regulate interfaith marriage, religious conversion and population growth, backed by a petition with more than 1.3 million signatures. The government of the country’s reformist president, Thein Sein, is now drafting laws based on the proposal, which is targeting the Buddhist-majority country’s Muslim minority.
At the heart of the movement, dubbed 969, is an apparent fear that Buddhist women are being forcibly converted to Islam, and that Muslims are growing in number and influence. Inter-communal violence has displaced tens of thousands of people in Rakhine State, where the stateless Rohingya Muslim minority lives, and elsewhere since mid-2012. The vast majority of those displaced are Muslims.
The most controversial law being proposed would require a Buddhist woman to have her marriage sanctioned by local authorities, her parents and in-laws before marrying a non-Buddhist. Her husband also would be required to convert to Buddhism.
Speaking at his Yangon residence, adjacent to the city’s St. Mary’s Cathedral, Archbishop Bo said such matters should not be legally restricted.
“Suppose if somebody wants to marry a Muslim, he would have to become a Muslim according to the [religious] laws. If he marries a Catholic girl, he must become a Catholic,” he said. “But it’s different. This is the law of the religion. But they want to enforce it in the state law.”
New York-based Human Rights Watch last month called for Thein Sein and Myanmar’s Parliamentary Speaker Shwe Mann to reject the proposal, saying it contained measures “seriously jeopardizing women’s autonomous decision making and their freedom to start a family of their choice”.
“It is shocking that Burma is considering enshrining blatant discrimination at the heart of Burmese family law,” Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch’s Asia director said in a statement. “This law would strip away from women their right to freely decide whom to marry, and would mark a major reversal for religious freedom and women’s rights in Burma.”
The Attorney General’s office and government ministries are expected to come up with final drafts of the package of laws in May. Since he has not spoken about the issue publicly, it is unclear how strongly Thein Sein supports the laws on “protection of race and religion,” but the large number of signatories suggests opposing it could be politically difficult with a landmark general election expected in late 2015.
However, Myanmar’s popular opposition leader, the Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who has come under international criticism for not strongly condemning anti-Muslim sentiment in the country, has called the proposed law a “violation of women’s rights and human rights”.
Also proposed is a measure to legally regulate conversion from Buddhism to another religion.
“Conversion is an individual freedom,” Archbishop Bo said. “They cannot force anybody to become one religion or the other. Even the pope said we have to respect even the atheist who doesn’t profess any religion. I think we have to respect the conscience of each one. We cannot force them to join one religion or the other; not the parents, not the state, not the monks.”
The proposed laws would also attempt to restrict population growth. The Myanmar government has already enacted policies aimed at limiting Rohingya families to two children.
“All these areas I don’t think anyone can impose on anyone,” said Archbishop Bo, adding that such laws could jeopardize new freedoms, mainly the newfound ability of Myanmar citizens, with some restrictions, to hold public demonstrations.
“If we restrict these, it’s not democracy,” he said.
The drafters also want laws to limit the number of wives a man can take, even though polygamy is already illegal under Myanmar law.
Archbishop Bo also warned of an increasing trend in Myanmar for hate speech, which is most commonly directed against Muslims. He said he had spent time in a rural area on the outskirts of Yangon recently and heard a Buddhist monk preaching anti-Muslim sermons though a loudspeaker day after day.
“This hate speech is occurring all over the country,” he said, singling out U Wirathu, a prominent Buddhist monk and the leader of the 969 movement.
He offered his support for a new campaign called Panzagar, or “flower speech,” founded this month by Myanmar blogger Nay Phone Latt, which aims to tackle hate speech in Myanmar, particularly on social media.
“Even the ordinary simple Buddhists are becoming definitely prejudiced against the Muslims. So if anything happens, they always go for violence. So I think the government should move against this hate speech,” he said. “So far the authorities have not made any statement on this hate speech.”
The archbishop said he would use his sermons this Easter to call for more religious tolerance in Myanmar, adding that a positive approach to promoting religion was needed.
“The religious leaders must preach the goodness of their own religion in order to attract them. It’s a sort of negative mind for the Buddhists to preach against,” he said.
“Preaching the goodness of one’s religion, or holiness of one’s religion, should be emphasized, rather than attacking the other religion. If we have respect for the other religion, it’s positive.”
Brunei, April 08, 2014: A new sharia penal code that includes archaic Islamic penalties such as flogging and stoning to death – some of which will be applied to non-Muslims – is being rolled out in Brunei from this month.
The laws, which will be introduced in three phases over the next two years, have been criticised both in and outside of Brunei.
In a letter to the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said that the new penal code violates international human rights standards. It raised concerns about the imposition of the death penalty and other penalties that constitute torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; discrimination against women; and violation of the rights to religious freedom, freedom of opinion and freedom of expression.
There has been much criticism of the code by Bruneians on social media, prompting a warning from the Sultan that critics could be prosecuted under the new laws.
Non-Muslim communities, who comprise around a third of the population, are especially concerned. They would be liable to face the harshest sharia penalties for certain crimes, such as robbery and adultery.
The new laws will also further restrict their already constrained rights and freedoms.
The government of Brunei has long promoted the Shafii school of Sunni Islam and discouraged the practice of other religions; evangelism by non-Muslims is illegal, and non-Muslim public religious gatherings are restricted.
Under the new measures, non-Muslims are banned from using 19 Islamic words, including “Allah”, and there are penalties for printing, disseminating, importing, broadcasting and distributing publications contrary to Islamic teaching.
Converts from Islam as well as those who help them to change their religion will be especially endangered. Criticising Islam or bringing it into contempt will reportedly be punishable by death or 30 years in prison and 40 lashes.
Those who commit apostasy, leaving Islam, are liable to face the death penalty.
Before the new penal code was introduced in Brunei, elements of sharia law were already in force, but these mostly concerned family matters.
Christians comprise around ten per cent of the population.
- barnabas team
In a forest, a pregnant deer is about to give birth.
At the same moment, dark clouds gather around above lightning starts a forest fire. She looks to her left sees a hunter with his bow extended pointing at her.
To her right, she spots a hungry lion approaching her.
What can the pregnant deer do? She is in labor!
What will happen? Will the deer survive?
Will she give birth to a fawn? Will the fawn survive?
Will she die a horrible death at the hands of the hungry lion approaching her?
She is constrained by the fire on the one side the flowing river on the other boxed in by her natural predators.
What does she do?
She focuses on giving birth to a new life.
The sequence of events that follows are:
- Lightning strikes suddenly blinds the hunter.
- He releases the arrow which zips past the deer strikes the hungry lion.
- It starts to rain heavily, the forest fire is slowly doused by the rain.
- The deer gives birth to a healthy fawn.
Maybe we can learn from the deer.
The priority of the deer, in that given moment, was simply to give birth to a baby fawn. The rest was not in her hands any action or reaction that changed her focus would have likely resulted in death or disaster.
Ask yourself, Where is your focus?
Where is your faith and hope ?
In the midst of any storm, do keep your faith in God always.
He has your best in heart. Always.
- fwd: vc mathews
Bihar, April 9, 2014: Muslims and Christians in India are not outsiders but an integral part of the country, said retired Justice Rajinder Sachar responding to criticism against comparative report on the condition of Muslims submitted by a panel headed by him.
“Secularism and socialism are fundamental elements of the preamble of the Constitution, without which no government can run, and those against these fundamentals can be tried for treason,” said the 90-year-old legal luminary.
He was addressing a seminar on ‘Educational, economic and social uplift of Muslim minority in Bihar that Tauheed Educational Trust organized here on Monday.
The former chief justice of Delhi high court said secularism is not against any religion. Secularism means religious equality and that no religion is superior to others, he added.
He also quoted Swami Vivekanand, who had asked Hindus not to treat themselves as superior, and said all religions are one and Vedantism was incomplete without Islam.
“The country can’t progress without equal rights and participation of Muslims and Christians. Discrimination on the basis of majority and minority is sheer foolishness. The governments should examine conflict as a result of discrimination and inequality in society,” he said.
Justice Sachar said his report, which he submitted in 2006, is a comparative study of the condition of Muslims and other religious groups and so far nobody could prove his findings wrong.
He also condemned the attitude to see Muslims with suspicion in the wake of terrorism.
He referred to the December 6, 1992 demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya and said the Lucknow high court had observed that those involved in this act were not suited to run government.
- times of india
Madhya Pradesh, March 24, 2014: Hindu extremists charge the religious leaders, “guilty” of watching a movie about Jesus with a group of Christians. The police arrest them without checking veracity of the allegations. Brother Sonjith and Brother Simson, on 22 March in the city of Moraine were detained on charges by a group of Hindu fundamentalists.
The two Pentecostal leaders had organized the vision of a film about Jesus along with some Christians, in the house of one of the faithful. On being made aware of the projection, some extremists filed a complaint to the police, claiming that Christians were forcibly converting Hindus.
The police arrived on the scene and arrested the pastors. After being interrogated for two hours and having proved their innocence, the officers released them. “ The zealous pro – Hindu law enforcement agencies waste no time in arresting innocent Christians, taking them from the intimacy of a private home, without any evidence. Less than a month before the general election, we are concerned about the Christian community in Madhya Pradesh and other states led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)”, Sajan George of the Global Council of Indian Christians said.
An old beggar passed through an old village. He knocked on the door of a big beautiful house, with a tall barn and a large iron padlock on the gate. In this house lived a man, known in the village for his miserliness: he never helped people, even though he was very rich.
“Please give me some meat or milk?” – asked the beggar.
The miser replied roughly: “No, I can’t! Go away!”
“Maybe you can give me some wheat or beans?” – kept asking the beggar, forced by hunger to humiliate himself.
“I don’t have anything!” – said the miser.
“Then give me a piece of bread, and I will be grateful.” – said the beggar.
“Go away, I don’t have bread!” – was the miser’s reply.
“At least give me some water? I’m very thirsty!”
“I don’t have water.” – screamed the miser.
Then said the beggar: “Oh, my son, why are you sitting here then? Stand up and start begging food from the good people. You are even poorer than I am!”
- fwd: reuben tellis