Believers in China rejoice despite hardship

September 28, 2012 by admin  
Filed under Asia, Asia, China, China, Church, newsletter-world, Persecution

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Believers in China rejoice despite hardship
Shouwang Church members joyfully worship God outdoors.

China, September 27, 2012: Believers at Beijing’s Shouwang Church in China are full of joy and praise despite 17 months of difficult outdoor worship. The believers have been meeting outdoors since the government began thwarting their efforts to rent premises to worship indoors (click here to learn more).

While recently conducting their 38th outdoor worship service of the year, 22 believers were arrested. Ten were released soon after, while the rest were detained at a local police station. The remaining believers were released in the afternoon.

VOM partner China Aid has been working with house churches and teams of Christian lawyers to explore strategies for using the legal system in China to defend the rights of churches and Christians. Shouwang Church has submitted an application for an official administrative review in response to harassment and ongoing detentions by authorities attempting to inhibit their outdoor worship services.

Please join with the believers of Shouwang Church who are praying: “Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you” (Psalms 33:22). Please pray that the administrative review will shine a light on the persecution believers face and help usher in more freedoms in China. Pray that God will use the faithfulness of the believers at Shouwang Church to bring others to Him.

- canada free press

Cardinal Gracias appointed Synod Father

September 19, 2012 by admin  
Filed under Asia, Church, India, newsletter-lead, Vatican, Vatican City, World, World

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Cardinal Oswald Gracias

Cardinal Oswald Gracias

Vatican City, September 19, 2012: Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay, as one of the 34 Synod Fathers for the next month’s Bishops Synod in Rome.

Another Indian in the list is Fr. Jose Panthaplamthottiyil, prior general of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate congregation.

The 13th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops scheduled for October 7-28 will address the theme “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.”

The Synod Fathers include 10 cardinals, one patriarch, 11 archbishops, eight bishops and four priests.

The other Asian in the list is Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Tagle of Manila, Philippines.

The participants in the Synod of Bishops are called the Synod Fathers.

They include patriarchs, major archbishops, metropolitans of the Eastern Catholic Churches, bishops elected by the Eastern Catholic Churches, bishops elected by the Episcopal Conferences, ten representatives of clerical religious institutes, the heads of the departments of the Roman curia, and other representatives appointed by the Pope.

Pope Paul VI established the Synod of Bishops on September 15, 1965 in response to the desire of the participants of the Second Vatican Council to foster the spirit of collegiality they experienced at the council.

The Synod opens with the celebration of Mass and the hymn, Veni, Creator Spiritus (Come, Holy Spirit).

The Synod sessions are closed to the public and the Synod Fathers are bound by secrecy about the proceedings and the votes.

If needed, the Commission for Information on the Synod holds press conferences about specific matters related to the Synod.

The last synod held four years ago addressed the theme, “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.”

- visnews

Pope Benedict XVI Takes Message of Tolerance to Lebanon

September 17, 2012 by admin  
Filed under Asia, Church, Lebanon, Lebanon, newsletter-lead, Vatican, Vatican City, World, World

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Pope Benedict XVI, standing next to Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, waves to the crowd at Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday. The pope urged peace during a time of great turmoil in the Middle East.

Pope Benedict XVI, standing next to Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, waves to the crowd at Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday. The pope urged peace during a time of great turmoil in the Middle East.

Lebanon, September 14, 2012: • Such revolutions, “there is always a danger of forgetting a fundamental aspect of liberty: tolerance for others and the fact that human liberty is always a shared liberty.” “We must do everything possible” to encourage tolerance and “reconciliation.”Pope

Pope Benedict XVI traveled to Lebanon on Friday with a message of tolerance that took on wider resonance as protests over an anti-Muslim video produced in the United States spread to about 20 countries.

Soon after the pope’s plane touched down in Beirut for his first visit to the region since 2009, protesters 50 miles away attacked American restaurant chains in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. Soldiers opened fire on the protesters, killing one and wounding more than two dozen other people, officials said.

As the pope stepped onto the tarmac, looking tired and using a cane, he was welcomed by cheering crowds and children bearing flowers. Benedict, who has stumbled in the past when speaking of Islam, made no mention of the protests, instead praising Lebanon as an example of cooperation among faiths.

“Like me, you know that this equilibrium, which is presented everywhere as an example, is extremely delicate,” he said. “Sometimes it seems about to snap like a bow which is overstretched or submitted to pressures which are too often partisan.”

He added, “This is where real moderation and great wisdom are tested.”

The Vatican had played down security concerns, saying the pope would be warmly welcomed for his three-day visit to Lebanon, where more than 30 percent of the population is Christian and posters bearing his likeness lined the highway. On his plane en route to Lebanon, Benedict told reporters, “Nobody has advised me to cancel this voyage,” according to an informal transcript provided by the Italian daily La Stampa. “I never thought of it,” he said, “because I know that the more complicated a situation becomes, the more necessary it is to send this signal of fraternity, encouragement and solidarity.”

In keeping with Benedict’s longstanding plan for the trip, the message appeared to be aimed principally to bolster Christians in the region, an ancient community whose numbers have dwindled in recent decades because of wars, occupations and discrimination.

At a meeting with religious leaders at St. Paul’s Basilica outside Beirut on Friday evening, the pope signed a Vatican document on the state of Christians in the region.

“A Middle East without Christians, or with only a few Christians, would no longer be the Middle East,” Benedict said in the document, “The Church in the Middle East,” which is the product of a meeting of bishops at the Vatican in 2010.

Benedict said that Christians in the Middle East should be allowed “full citizenship” and not considered “second-class citizens or believers,” adding that their steady decline in the region was leading to “human, cultural, and religious impoverishment.”

The pope also focused on the war in Syria, a deepening civil conflict that has left thousands of people dead and poses a growing threat to regional stability. Adding emphasis to his previous calls for an end to the violence, he called for a halt to arms imports by both sides in the conflict.

“The importing of arms cannot continue,” the pope said. “Instead of importing arms, which is a grave sin, one should import ideas of peace, creativity, find solutions for accepting everyone in his otherness.”

Those comments, which seemed aimed at the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and the growing number of militias fighting to topple him, also served as a sharp rebuke to regional powers, including Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which continue to funnel arms into Syria.

The pope also spoke for the first time about the wave of uprisings that have transformed the region since his last visit. “I would say it’s a positive thing: it’s the desire for more democracy, more liberty, more cooperation and a renewed Arab identity,” Benedict said.

But he also added that amid such revolutions, “there is always a danger of forgetting a fundamental aspect of liberty: tolerance for others and the fact that human liberty is always a shared liberty.” He added, “We must do everything possible” to encourage tolerance and “reconciliation.”

In a dark moment in his papacy in 2006, Benedict angered Muslims when on a visit to Germany he quoted a Byzantine emperor who called Islam “evil and inhuman.” In response, Muslims demonstrated around the world, and an Italian nun was killed in Somalia. The pope later apologized.

This week, amid the spreading unrest over the anti-Muslim video, the Vatican has walked a fine line to prevent causing similar offense. On Wednesday, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, issued a statement that focused on the video, saying that “unjustified offense and provocations” against Muslims produce “sometimes tragic results” that yield “unacceptable violence.” The statement came after news emerged of the death ofJ. Christopher Stevens, the American ambassador to Libya, in an attack on the consulate in Benghazi, but before the United States confirmed it.

On Thursday, Father Lombardi issued a statement denouncing the ambassador’s death, saying that it called “for the firmest possible condemnation on the part of the Holy See.”

“Nothing, in fact, can justify the activity of terrorist organizations and homicidal violence,” the statement said.
But by Friday evening, the spokesman sought to distance the pope from the growing controversy and any comment that could cause distress. “The visit,” Father Lombardi said, “is a message in itself.”

Kareem Fahim reported from Beirut, and Rachel Donadio from Rome and Vatican City. Hania Mourtada and Hwaida Saad contributed reporting.

- reuters

Cuban dissenters find a niche in church

April 14, 2012 by admin  
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Cuba, April 6, 2012: Last year, as Libyan rebels fought Moammar Gadhafi, Fidel Castro took to his state-run newspaper Granma to defend the dictator as a revolutionary hero.

Now, the former Cuban leader faces an unlikely voice of dissent on that Libya stance—from a publication financed by the Catholic Church and published here in his own capital.

Pope Benedict XVI left Cuba last week calling on its government to allow more freedom for the church and for Cuba to change. He also leaves behind a mechanism to help accomplish this: A network of Catholic-sponsored newsletters and magazines, reaching tens of thousands of Cubans, that criticize the government and call for change.

Espacio Laical magazine, or Layman’s Space, in its latest issue called Gadhafi a tyrant and questioned why more Latin American leaders weren’t supporting “democratic Arab revolution.” The editorial was unusual because the state-run media, where most Cubans receive news, largely avoids mentioning foreign insurrections, except to support strongmen.

Throughout Cuba, those who have tried to publish information outside of official government channels have been intimidated or even jailed. A small blogger community operates largely undercover.

But as President Raúl Castro has loosened restrictions on the Catholic Church in recent years, he also has allowed the church to distribute about a dozen publications openly, mainly out of local archdiocese offices.

From a tiny office above a schoolyard in Havana’s Old Town, Roberto Veiga explains Espacio Laical’s mission: Tackling general-interest topics and printing essays and opinions on matters such as changes to the Cuban constitution and complaints about the education system. It also publishes articles by prominent Communists supporting the government.

“We want to create a place where Cubans write from all perspectives, from cultural topics to politics and the economy,” Mr. Veiga says. “The idea is to create bridges, not trenches.”

Cuba experts say that while it is increasingly possible to have critical discussions about the government in a streetside coffee shop, for example, questioning the government in the media hasn’t been possible in the past. “These publications are opening spaces about discussion for Cuban people that didn’t exist before,” explains Uva de Aragón, an expert on the island at Florida International University.

For decades, the Cuban church and state had a tense relationship in a country that was officially atheist under Fidel Castro, until 1992. Pope John Paul II’s 1998 visit to Cuba and recent economic declines have prompted the government to reach out to the Catholic Church for assistance in social programs from child care to soup kitchens, giving the church a larger influence. The church’s publications, some of which had existed for decades but had kept to spiritual issues, began to take greater editorial latitude, and new magazines were founded.

Espacio Laical, founded eight years ago, has a distribution of just 4,500 copies a month. But Mr. Veiga estimates each copy is ready by at least 20 people, and says subscribers include top political and academic decision makers.

Not far from Mr. Veiga’s offices, Orlando Márquez runs Palabra Nueva, the Havana archdiocese newsletter. “We answer everyday questions, we publish on cultural topics, sports, society, history—the kind of things you won’t see in official publications,” he says.

State outlets such as Granma, Juventud Rebelde and Verde Olivo generally portray the U.S. as Cuba’s enemy and discuss such topics as the U.S. economic embargo on the island. In contrast, Palabra Nueva has run articles about Catholic Church programs in the U.S. Despite running many pieces that don’t toe the Communist Party line, Mr. Márquez says he hasn’t received one complaint from officials.

The Cuban government didn’t respond to specific questions about the publications. But a Foreign Ministry statement said Cuba’s churches enjoy broad freedoms, including the freedom of expression.

Not everything has gone smoothly, as church publications experiment in critiques.

In 2007, the editors of magazine Vitral, a church publication in Cuba’s western Pinar del Río province, were dismissed by church officials. U.S. diplomats wrote in a cable published by website WikiLeaks that Vatican officials said Cuba’s Cardinal Jaime Ortega was behind the move because the government didn’t like the magazine’s brash tone.

The Havana archdiocese says the cardinal wasn’t involved. The magazine’s former publisher, Dagoberto Valdés, who now runs an online publication, didn’t respond to a request to comment.

Publishing a magazine in Cuba can be difficult for other reasons. Mr. Veiga must print Espacio Laical on a press that dates from before the 1959 revolution, because new ones are in short supply. Its staff are volunteers because the Cuban government requires everyone to work in state-approved jobs—most often for the government itself. And work as an independent journalists isn’t an approved occupation.

“It’s a challenge but we don’t miss an issue,” Mr. Veiga said.

Mr. Veiga’s magazine and many of the others are also published online, where they have gotten a positive nod from many in the Cuban exile community and even a few dissidents.

“The fan is opening up for a civil society in Cuba and the church publications are a part of that,” says José Luis García Paneque, who was jailed for seven years after founding an unauthorized newspaper.

- wall street journal

Stop Press *Washington DC: Rally for Pak Hindus & Christians *3500 adults baptised at Easter

April 9, 2012 by admin  
Filed under Asia, Asia, Church, Hong Kong, India, Karnataka, newsletter-lead, Pakistan, Persecution

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STOP PRESS:

Karnataka, April 08, 2012: Pastor Rajesh was beaten up by Inspector Janardhan on the Easter morning alleging conversion.The inspector also threatened pastor to vacate the rented house or to face the consequences. More details awaited.

Human Rights activists to rally for Pak Hindus & Christians

 

Washington DC, April 05, 2012: On Saturday, April 14, a rally will be held in support of human rights and dignity for Hindus and Christians in Pakistan. The event will be from 1:30 to 3:30 PM at 1615 H Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20062 – in front of the U.S.-Pakistan Business Council and across the street from Lafayette Square Park.

Mr. Jeffrey Imm, Coordinator of REAL said that the coalition supports our Universal Human Rights for all people, including freedom of conscience for all people in every part of the world.

The Organizations represented will include: Hindu American Foundation, Pakistan Christian Congress, Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.), and other activist groups and individual human rights activists. R.E.A.L. has submitted an Assembly Notification to the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia.

The coalition objects to the efforts to deny universal human rights and dignity to religious minorities in Pakistan. As reported by human rights groups, there are hundreds of abductions and forced conversion cases of Hindus and Christian women every year in Pakistan which go unreported.

Recent news has reported on a Hindu family reporting the kidnapping of a 19 year old Hindu girl in Sindh, Rinkel Kumari, who was forced to convert from her religion. The Hindu American Foundation has issued an online petition to U.S. Secretary of State Clinton, for those concerned about human rights to sign, calling for the U.S. Government to intervene on behalf of Hindu girls kidnapped and forced to deny their religious beliefs.

According to the BBC report, “Human rights activists say that other reported abductions of members of minority communities in Pakistan, which is overwhelmingly Muslim, have not been properly investigated by the authorities.” The Pakistan Tribune also reports on Hindu and Christian girls who have been forcibly converted to Islam.

The Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.) coalition calls for the universal human rights of all people, including their freedom, their freedom of conscience, and their right to human dignity. We urge the Government, courts, and the people of Pakistan to act immediately to end abuse of religious minorities, to stop and punish the ongoing kidnappings, and to stop and punish those who would forcibly deny anyone their universal human right of religious freedom and freedom of conscience.

- pakistan christian post

3500 adults receive baptism at Easter Vigil

 

Hong Kong, April 07, 2012: This Easter, 3,500adult catechumens in the Hong Kong diocese will receive the Sacrament of Christian Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion) at various parishes at the Holy Saturday Vigil today, April 7.

In his Easter Pastoral Letter 2012, Cardinal John Tong of Hong Kong specially thanks priests, deacons, sisters and laypeople to offer their time and energy in teaching catechism. The catechists “not only carry out the mission of evangelization of the Church, but also strengthen their own faith,” the 72-year-old bishop said.

According to the diocesan statistics of Aug. 31, 2011, there are 39 paid catechists and more than 1,500 voluntary catechists. Local Catholic population comprises 363,000 Chinese and 138,000 non-Chinese.

On March 3, Card.Tong stated evangelization as one of his pastoral concerns. “Certainly, the rise in the number of Catholics is gratifying, but the quality of their faith is equally essential,” he said, hoping his faithful will progress both in the quantity and the quality of faith.

Card. Tong encouraged the new Catholics to grow in faith. He cited a middle-aged volunteer catechist who was baptized three years ago. The catechist was touched by the words of St. Augustine’s words in the “Confessions”: “Oh, too late have I loved thee,… too late have I loved thee.” After baptism, the catechist lives a simple life, and he studied a course on catechetics and became a volunteer catechist. Now, he plans to study more to deepen his faith, the Easter message says.

Among the 3,500 catechumens, Janet Lo, together with her younger brother, are two of them. She told AsiaNews that she finds life, love and peace in the Catholic faith and is happy to promote faith to others.

Janet, who works in marketing field, said they have finished an 18-month catechism class and received anointment scrutiny liturgy (see photo) performed by Card. Tong and the visiting Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Esssen during Lent.

“I especially like a phrase in the Prayer for the Year of Laity of the diocese that says: Love Life, The Gift of God,” Janet said. Their search of faith was inspired by their mother’s struggles with an illness some years ago. That experience brought her whole family closer to God. “My father, though not a practicing Catholic, prayed hard with my mother in those difficult days. My mother got baptized and passed away peacefully.”

- asianews

Short stories in Punjabi, to promote Christian values and common good

February 13, 2012 by admin  
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Christian values and common goodPakistan, February 11, 2012: Fr. Mukhtar Alam has published a volume of stories of his mother. Stories that give “light” to those who are in the “dark” and teach the common good. At presentation, near the cathedral of Faisalabad, intellectuals, writers and leaders of the Church of Pakistan Muslim.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – Short stories that speak of Christian doctrine, that teach the common good and reflect the writer’s love for all humanity. This, in brief, the contents of the latest book in Punjabi, written by Fr. Mukhtar Alam and presented in recent days to Sohn Joseph Hall of Faisalabad, opposite the Catholic Cathedral, in the presence of authors, poets, priests, catechists, nuns, teachers and representatives of civil society. The volume entitled “Bay Nooran Chon Noor” – light for those in dark – it has been widely lauded by critics and the public because, says Fr. Aftab James Paul, director of the Commission for Interreligious Dialogue, it contains stories that “promote the teachings” of the Church.

Speaking at the presentation, Fr. Khalid Rasheed Asi – vicar general of Faisalabad – stressed the “huge contribution” of Christian authors to the literary history of Pakistan. He explains that the book is based on “short stories” and “criticizes bad behaviour in society” and, on the contrary, they promote “correct choices”, the stories of animals, he adds, are told “by metaphors” to teach us how to live “in peace and free from violence and discrimination.”

Speaking to AsiaNews Fr. Alam, author, poet and Christian writer, recalls that he “heard all the stories mentioned in the book from my mother, in childhood”, and has tried to relay her presence through his writing. Through these tales, he hopes that “readers will respect diversity and will bring positive changes in the ways and attitudes” toward all mankind and in particular “marginalized groups”.

Parveen Malik, a Muslim writer from Lahore, said that the work of Fr. Mukhtar Alam is a “tribute to the native Punjabi language” and promotes the culture in a “nice combination of love, peace and harmony.” Sumaira Sehar, a Muslim writer and friend, resident of Faisalabad, confirms that in this book the author has been able to “describe society in the right way.” Najeeb Ali Shah of Peshawar agrees emphasizing the role of writers “in uniting different communities”. Finally, Allama Ghulam Rasool Asif thanks Fr. Alam for “the bitter description” of a world where intolerance and violence persist against those of different opinions, faith and languages.

- shafique khokhar

Church steps up pornography fight

December 13, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Asia, Church, newsletter-asia, Vietnam

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FightVietnam, December 9, 2011: The Church in Vietnam is training counselors to try and help a growing number of people who say they are addicted to internet pornography.

Around 50 Catholic social workers, educators and volunteers were attending a five-day course, which ends Friday, to help porn addicts try and overcome their addiction.

The course, run by the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace, was being held at the Pastoral Center in Ho Chi Minh City.

“The aim is for pornography addicts to realize that this is not a normal activity and that what they are doing can be damaging to them and others,” said Father Antoine Nguyen Ngoc Son, secretary general of the episcopal commission.

Fr. Son said participants on the course are learning about the negative impacts of pornography and the best way to offer advice and spiritual guidance.

He said out of around 25 million regular Internet users in the country, about 10 million of them regularly visit porn sites.

Salesian Fr Francis Xavier Nguyen Minh Thieu, one of six trainers on the course, said more and more teenagers are visiting porn sites or playing sex games on computers, which has led to an increase in the number of rape case and reports of sexual abuse within families.

Fr. Thieu also noted an increase in the number of marriage breakdowns as partners of porn addicts are either ignored or forced to play out sexual fantasies which might often be violent in nature.

- ucan

Pope against death penalty

December 7, 2011 by admin  
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PopeVatican City, December 02, 2011: Pope Benedict XVI expressed his support this week for efforts by the Rome-based Community of Sant’Egidio to abolish the death penalty worldwide.

“I express my hope that your deliberations will encourage the political and legislative initiatives being promoted in a growing number of countries to eliminate the death penalty,” the pontiff said in English during his weekly audience on November 30.

He added that he hoped the group would “continue the substantive progress made in conforming penal law both to the human dignity of prisoners and the effective maintenance of public order.”

Sant’Egidio this week hosted an event in Rome that brought together justice ministers and government officials from countries that have abolished the death penalty, together with witnesses, former death row inmates and relatives of crime victims.

The group has campaigned for decades against capital punishment, calling on governments and international institutions to abolish or suspend all executions.

The United Nations General Assembly voted in favor of a moratorium on the death penalty in 2007.

“Asia is the continent where the death penalty is most present,” said Stefano Argentino of Sant’Egidio, but he added that the latest ‘good news’ for the campaign came from Mongolia.

After Mongolia’s President Tsakhia Elbegdorj commuted all capital sentences to 30-year jail terms in January 2010, the government is now set to adopt a UN protocol binding it to abolish the death penalty.

The Philippines, Cambodia, Timor L’Este, Nepal and Bhutan, along with the Central Asian ex-Soviet republics, are the only countries in Asia who do not have the death penalty.

China is reported to carry out the most capital punishments of any country in the world, while Iran has the highest number of executions to population ratio.

Other Asian countries, including Afghanistan, South Korea, India, Indonesia, Laos, the Maldives, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand, have suspended capital punishment while still handing down death sentence verdicts.

- ucan

The Church of the poor is not visible

November 19, 2011 by admin  
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Redemptorist Father Desmond de Souza

Redemptorist Father Desmond de Souza

India, November, 16, 2011: In 1970 the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference (FABC) formulated a new model for the Church, one that moved from the Eurocentric paradigm of the past to one that embraced the powerless and poor.

Pope Paul VI articulated this new vision at the first Asian Bishops Meeting, declaring: “It is our resolve, first of all, to be more truly the Church of the poor. If we are to place ourselves at the side of the multitudes in our continent, we must in our way of life share something of their poverty. The Church cannot set up islands of affluence in a sea of want and misery.”

What has been called the Christendom or Constantinian model of the Church is rooted in the Holy Roman Empire and reflects a hierarchical pyramid, which informed the work of European missionaries in Asia.

Pope Paul VI’s new model, however, is more in harmony with the Kingdom of God that Jesus of Nazareth proclaimed, a classless community in which everyone considers it their privilege to serve and contribute.

The poor are an untapped resource enabling the transformation of the pyramid model of past centuries, which situates those in need at the bottom, and the move towards a Church of the poor soon became a mandate for the Office of Human Development (OHD) in the FABC.

Bishop Labayen, the first chairman of the OHD, stated my job description as executive secretary of the Asian Bishops’ Conference in 1982 this way: “We want someone who can explain to the busy bishops in simple language without any jargon what is happening among the poor at a grassroots level in different countries of Asia, and how they should respond to what is happening in their dioceses.”

The mandate for the Church of the poor was implemented through the Bishops’ Institutes for Social Action. Historically, all the bishops who attend these institutes were tasked not only to understand the struggles and suffering of the poor but to show solidarity for their joys and sorrows.

A 1986 meeting of the BISA posited that while exposure resembled a doctor’s visit, immersion led to genuine empathy through lived experience. A follow-up meeting further delineated the obligations of bishops in this regard, under what was called the Pastoral Spiral method.

The method called for immersion among the poor, understanding social structures that perpetuated poverty, theological reflection on the ways in which God works in how humans respond within the context of poverty, pastoral planning with, not for, the people, and a heightened awareness of how God was already at work within such communities through contemplative prayer.

The message was not new. Mahatma Gandhi saw the wisdom of this approach when he said that “there is more than enough resources for our needs, but not for our greed.” Within the Church, the importance of the poor has been articulated by numerous pontiffs in the last several decades.

What has also been noted by some is that programs devoted to the poor can become obstacles to human relationships with the poor that is fundamental to our Catholic identity. Otherwise, we merely provide services like any other organization or government.

The ideal is an incarnational process that gradually enables us to see reality through the eyes of the poor because God sees reality that way and faith means to see reality through God’s eyes.

The spirituality of the Church of the poor bewails the absence of God in the violations of human dignity, the affront to life and the abuse and destruction of the environment. It affirms the presence of God and strives to bear testimony to His saving presence among the people through solidarity with their struggles.

In 1999 Blessed John Paul II staked out the scope of responsibility for the Church in Asia.

“Asian Catholics have to adopt a lifestyle consonant with the teachings of the Gospel, so that they may better serve the Church’s mission and so that the Church herself may become a Church of the poor and for the poor.”

Redemptorist Father Desmond de Souza formerly served as the executive secretary of the Office of Evangelization in the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference. He was closely associated with the Churches in Asia from 1980 to 2000. He is now based in Goa.

- ucan

Christians given land in northern Iraq for church and other facilities

October 31, 2011 by admin  
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The land was granted by the governor of the regional government in DohukIraq, October 24, 2011: The Grace Baptist Cultural Centre will be built in the town of Simele, with the first phase of the facility scheduled to be completed next year. 

The land was granted by the governor of the regional government in Dohuk. Deputy Governor Gurgis Shlaymun, an Assyrian Christian, attended a ceremony to mark the occasion at the end of last month. He pledged his support for the project and spoke openly about the spiritual dimension of the centre:

Jesus said your light will be shone through the people to see your works and glorify your Father in the Heaven… You understand this project is from God.

The event was attended by around 100 local officials and Christians. One Iraqi pastor spoke of the dream that God had put in his heart and the hearts of others to see such a centre established in Iraq, adding: “Thanks to our God and for His plan for us.”

It marks a positive turnaround for Christians in Simele, where they have a tragic history. In 1800, Christians were forced out of their homes and massacred, and in 1933, an estimated 3,000 Assyrian and Chaldean Christians were slaughtered by the Iraqi government.

Christian presence
The modern complex will feature one four-storey building and one two-storey building. The clinic for women and children, who generally have limited healthcare options in the Middle East, will be built first.

The new Baptist school will have a Christian ethos, teaching principles of “kindness, respect, compassion, human rights, charity, dignity, equality, and peaceful co-existence among every Kurd, Assyrian, Arab, Chaldean, Turkmen, Syriac, and Armenian”, according to one of the leaders.

Northern Iraq has become a refuge for thousands of Christians, who have been forced to flee their homes in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities because of targeted violent attacks against them.

Muslim extremists are trying to “cleanse” the country of any trace of Christianity, but Iraqi Christians are showing courageous resistance. The Grace Baptist Cultural Centre is the latest effort to maintain a visible Christian presence in the country. In July, the first new church in the country since the 2003 US-led invasion was opened in Kirkuk.

- barnabas team

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