FIACONA, welcomes the Prime Minister of India to Washington.

October 1, 2014 by admin  
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ModiWashington DC, September 28, 2014: Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America (FIACONA) welcomes the Prime Minister of India to Washington.

Although Prime Minister Narendra Modi has primarily come to attend the UN general Assembly in New York, he is expected to visit Washington DC tomorrow, September 29, at the invitation of President Obama.

Mr. Modi, who was denied a visa to visit the United States in 2005 because of his obvious culpability in the political massacre of religious minorities in the state of Gujarat, India, while he was the state’s chief elected official, was granted a US visa to attend the UN General Assembly as India’s elected Prime Minister.

But unfortunately, Mr. Modi’s past has been proving to be an unnecessary distraction during this important visit where so much is at stake for India’s economic development and trade. Such distractions involving the Prime Minister of India during his meetings with other world leaders is regrettable but unavoidable as FIACONA has pointed out several times in the past.

While we strongly support multi-faceted close cooperation and engagement with India, we caution US officials and policy makers to keep in mind the radical ideologies and political background of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its affiliates, which remains as a serious concern for FIACONA. It becomes an important responsibility of the international community to prevent a progressive and liberal democratic country like the size of India, turning into a radical religious state with a naked majority rule, in a fashion similar to that of Egypt, Uganda or Tibet. We advise those policy makers who are either ambiguous or think otherwise, to please refresh themselves with the recent history of US policies supporting leaders belonging to radical nationalist groups, for one or other “compelling” reasons.

FIACONA urges our policy makers to develop long term strategies for the mutual benefit of both countries grounded on common political and social values. It is advisable not to be seen rushing to reward or validate groups that harbor radical ideologies for short term strategic or trade gains.

Mr. Modi’s political party and its ideological partners have been implicated in several violent campaigns against religious minorities, especially against Christians since 1999, including the massacre of Christian villagers in the eastern Indian State of Orissa recently.

We must keep in mind that dozens of US and European visitors are denied entry upon arrival in India or deported, every single day even today, for having merely attended a Sunday worship service in a church or for having met Indian Christian leaders in the past.

The continued enactment of legislations in BJP ruled states, including the one passed by Mr. Modi while he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat, restricting people from following whatever religious faiths they choose, while protecting party operatives who are engaged in massive illegal intimidation campaigns to convert non-Hindus to Hinduism continues to be a serious concern.

India, under Mr. Modi’s leadership continues to throw road blocks at social and educational institutions run by Christian organizations. Government policies are on a full scale assault on Christian institutions by cancelling their licenses on flimsy grounds every single day in India. Other strategic policy decisions of this BJP government has the potential to deeply harm Christian institutions and their very presence in India.

Pushing a sectarian nationalist agenda which they call Hindutva, on an economic powerhouse like India by Mr. Modi and his party is neither good for the economic development nor for its trade with the rest of the world.

Loud and aggressive display of support by a small percentage of Indians both among Indians and expat Indians does not change these facts above.

We hope the United States, while welcoming the Prime Minister of India to Washington, would stand by its commitment to support plural liberal democracies.

In a country like India the United States cannot afford to be otherwise.

We urge our leaders who are meeting with Mr. Modi, to go on the record, encouraging him to uphold the values of the modern plural civil societies instead of pushing the nationalist BJP party’s stated sectarian Hindutva agenda at the expense of Christian and other religious minorities in India.

John Prabhudoss, President
K.P. Verghese, Vice- President
Angeline Lazarus, General Secretary

Indian high court moves to overturn ban on Non-Hindu evangelists

October 1, 2014 by admin  
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High-Court-of-Chhattisgarth-BilaspurIndia, September 26, 2014: In a positive move for Christians, the Bilaspur High Court in India has been persuaded by Christian organisations to oppose a ban preventing non-Hindu religious missionaries from entering villages in Bastar district.

Governing bodies in Bastar, Chhattisgarh state, were given three weeks from 8 September to respond to a petition by Christian bodies questioning the constitutionality of the ban. The wording of the ban appears to prohibit non-Hindu religious activities altogether, undermining religious freedom in the area.

In May 2014, a resolution passed under section 129(G) of the Chhattisgarh Panchayat Raj Act declared:

To stop the forced conversion by some outsider religious campaigners and to prevent them from using derogatory language against Hindu deities and customs, the Sirisguda Village Council bans religious activities such as prayers, meetings and propaganda of non-Hindu religions.

The resolution was agreed to by more than 50 Gram Panchayat (assemblies in self-governing small towns and villages) in Bastar. It was immediately opposed by the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum, which filed the petition with the High Court.

Despite this, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a Hindu fundamentalist organisation, has continued to demand that the ban be fully implemented.

Furthermore, it is reported that the VHP and other Hindu extremists have increasingly attacked and discriminated against Christians in the region as a result of the ban. Ten Christians, including three pastors, have been assaulted by Hindu radicals because of the ban, according to the Salt Foundation, an Indian religious freedom organisation.

Hindu extremism has been a growing concern for Christians in Chhattisgarh state, where believers make up around 2% of the population. In Chhattisgarh, there is already an “anti-conversion law” that prohibits religious conversion by “force, fraud or allurement”. Such laws are often misused to prohibit legitimate Christian evangelism.

- barnabas team

Maharashtra: Christians can learn from 17 Muslim candidates to fight from single seat

October 1, 2014 by admin  
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muslim-votersMumbai, September 29, 2014: Yes, you have read the headline right. At a time when Indian Muslims are particularly in need of strong political representation from community at government forums, 17 Muslim candidates have filed their nomination from a single seat of Malegaon for the Maharashtra assembly elections due on 15th October.

Malegaon, more popularly known as textile town of Maharashtra is a densely Muslim populated region which came to the limelight after twin Malegaon blasts in 2006 on the eve of Shab-e-barat and another serial blasts in 2008 during the fasting month of Ramadan.

The seat was previously won in 2009 by Mufti Ismail Abdul Khaliq on the ticket of Jan Surajya Shakti Party. More recently after announcement of election date he has joined Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) of Sharad Pawar and on Saturday filed nomination on NCP ticket.

Besides Mufti Khaliq, 16 other Muslim candidates have filed their nominations from the same seat on different parties’ tickets. Interestingly Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena (SS) have also given their party ticket to Muslim candidates for this seat considering over 60% of population in the region comprises Muslims.

These candidates are : Mufti Ismail Abdul Khaliq (NCP), Aasif Shaikh Rashid (INC), Abdul Malik Shaikh Yunus (MIM), Buland Iqbal Nihal Ahmad (Janata Dal),Syed Salim Syed Alim (SP), Shan Hind Nihal Afmad (Janata Dal Secular), Shaikh Arif Shaikh Bilal (BJP), Khan Hamid Kasim (Suraksha Maha Sangh), Sajid Akhtar Aitazaduddin (Shiv Sena), Shaikh Rasheed Shaikh Shafiq (Ind.), Ayyaz Ahmad Sultan Khan (Ind.), Mufti Abdul Malik Abdul Khaliq (Ind.), Arif Ahmad Shaikh Jafar (Ind.), Khan Muhammad Ayyub (Ind.), Rafiq Ahmad Haji (Ind.), Muhammad Ismail Juman (Ind.) and Abdul Wahid Muhammad Sharif (Ind.).

There is only one non-Muslim candidate Rajesh Mangu More who will fight on the ticket of Mayavati lead Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

Debuting Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) is trying very hard to win this seat and hence Akbaruddin Owaisi had a big rally here on Friday urging the Malegaon people to give MIM a chance. During the rally he asked Muslims in the region, “Every community in India has its own party. If Yadavs, Bahujan Samaj and Marathas can have their parties in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra, why not we Muslims?”

MIM is viewing Malegaon as a crucial seat due to the Muslim traditional culture followed in the town and the national attention grabbed by the town due to serial blasts blamed on right wing activists including Army intelligence officer Col. Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya Thakur.

Malegaon People’s mood after declaration of candidates

Although all but one candidate to fight from the seat are Muslims but people in the region have different feelings regarding such a number of candidates from the very community.

I. Shaikh, a cleark working for Techinical College in Malegaon said to TwoCircles.net, “This much number of Muslim candidates from Malegaon shows that they have more desire of power than a will to serve the community. Also when the ideological differences of Muslims with BJP and Shiv Sena are widely known then it is reprehensible for such Muslim candidates to fight on their ticket. “

“People of the town are not happy with the performance of Mufti sahib (referring to sitting MLA Mufti Ismail) as none of the problems of the town have been solved in last 5 years”, he said when asked if he will support sitting MLA who recently joined NCP.

Abdul Rasheed, a tailor in the power loom town said, “Why these Muslims are fighting against each other. Rather they should draw a common objective and support each other. We need someone to raise the voice in the assembly for the problems faced by common man in the town. We need someone like Assaduddin who speaks for the community with vigor in Parliament”.

“This town is well known for the couple of blasts carried out by Hindu activists. Many innocent people died whose families are still waiting to see justice done to their loved ones. Even though 17 out of 18 contestants are Muslims (but) I don’t see anyone have courage to lift up the matter of speedy justice to blasts victims of the town”, said Tazil Ahmed, a social activist.

“Number (meaning 17 out of 18 contestants being Muslims) shows that Muslims are more divided even at a place where they are more in number. There should not have been so much Muslim candidates when none of the party in Maharashtra is talking about development agenda in the state for election”, said Maulavi Nisar Milli.

“Muslims should introspect and realize their weaknesses and come up with solution for their own problems and should not pay any heed to such power longing (candidates)”, he advised.

- tcn

ICC calls on President Obama to discuss issue of religious intolerance in India

September 30, 2014 by admin  
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President ObamaWashington D.C, September 29, 2014: International Christian Concern (ICC) is calling upon President Barak Obama to discuss the issue of religious intolerance in his upcoming meeting with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Since taking office in May, the new Modi-led government has been witness to a dramatic escalation in communal violence across India, many instances of violence being perpetrated against India’s religious minorities. In India’s Uttar Pradesh state alone, over 600 attacks have been recorded in Prime Minister Modi’s first months in office.

The visit will be Prime Minister Modi’s first since a decision that banned him from receiving a U.S. visa was made in 2005 based on the International Religious Freedom Act that bars foreign officials accused of violating religious freedom from receiving a U.S. visa.

This afternoon, Prime Minister Modi will be flying from New York City to Washington, DC to hold two days of meetings with President Obama and other high ranking U.S. officials. During Modi’s visit, the White House announced the leaders “will discuss ways to accelerate economic growth, bolster security co-operation, and collaborate in activities that bring long-term benefits to both countries and the world.”

Not among the issues to be discussed are those of growing religious intolerance and the need for greater protection of religious minorities in India. In the months following the general elections, communal violence across India, often fought along religious lines, has dramatically escalated.

In an interview with the Times of India, Mallikarjun Kharge, the leader of the Congress Party, said, “There have been some 600 communal clashes in Uttar Pradesh along since the new government came to power in May 2014.” Among these communal clashes are attacks on Christian communities. “Attacks on Christians in Uttar Pradesh are on the rise,” Rev. Victor Das told ICC. “Aggressive Hindu radicals are creating terror in the minds of Christians and other minorities.”

In a letter to President Obama, Congressmen Joseph Pitts and Keith Ellison have requested the issues of religious inclusion and the protection of religious minorities in India be discussed in addition to the topics announced by the White House. “Reports indicate that there has been an increase in violence against Muslims and Christians,” the letter read. “Prime Minister Modi’s visit could open a dialogue about the positive steps his government can take in preventing oppression and encouraging religious inclusion.”

ICC’s Regional Manager, William Stark, said, “Following Prime Minister Modi’s victory in the general elections, many Christians in India were afraid for the future of the freedom of religion in India. What has followed during Prime Minister Modi’s first one hundred days in office has done little to calm those fears. Christians across India continue to face restrictions on exercising their faith freely and many have been attacked by radical Hindu groups operating with near impunity. This must not be allowed to continue under India’s new national government. Positive action must be encouraged by President Obama in his meetings with Prime Minister Modi to ensure the rights of all of India’s citizens, including Christians and other religious minorities, are respected and enforced.”

- icc

Zero Tolerance, not moratorium, needed to end communal violence

September 30, 2014 by admin  
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Minorities-under-attackNew Delhi, September 27, 2014: Civil society activists and representatives of religious minorities have called upon the Central and State Governments to take urgent action to end the orchestrated and motivated campaign of hate and violence  which targets and coerces minorities, and impacts on communal harmony in towns and villages in many parts of the country.

The hundreds of incidents of “Shuddhikaran” and “Ghar Wapsi” against Muslims and Christians specially in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, and the mobilisation against the so-called “love jihad” has terrorised youth in these regions. The blatant support from  central and local political leaders to these anti social groups has triggered violence in  many places. The media has recorded over 600 incidents of violence against minorities since the results of the General elections were declared on 16th May 2014. State governments had been tardy in taking action against the guilty. This impunity had further encouraged  the unlawful elements.

A public protest against Attacks on Minorities, was held at Jantar Mantar today to focus attention on  the rapidly deteriorating situations. Speakers  impressed upon  the Prime Minister and Union and State Governments and the Union Government to take action under the law of the land against  those creating disharmony and polarising the people.

A Report on Attacks on Minorities was released at the public meeting endorsed  by over 30 civil right and constitutional right groups and minority right to raise the issue of defence of minority rights, the right to live with dignity as equal citizens of India. The country, several speakers said, needed a Zero Tolerate against Communal and Targetted Violence, and not jsut a moratorium for some years.

Speakers noted that the situation had become so critical that even a person of the eminence of jurist Mr. Fali Nariman went on record to voice his concern,

“We have been hearing on television and reading in newspapers almost on a daily basis a tirade by one or more individuals or groups against one or another section of  citizens who belong to a religious minority and the criticism has been that the majority government at the Centre has done nothing to stop this tirade,” …
“And how does one protect the interest of minorities who (or a section of which) are on a daily basis lampooned and ridiculed or spoken against in derogatory language?”   Mr. Fali Nariman said at  function organised by the National Commission for Minorities at which the Union Minister for Minority Welfare, Dr. Najma Heptullah, was present.

We had hoped that the acrid rhetoric of the election campaign would end with the declaration of the results, and the formation of a new government at the centre. The first 100 days of the new regime have, however,  seen the rising pitch of a crescendo of hate speech against Muslims and Christians. Their identity derided, their patriotism scoffed at, their citizenship questioned, their faith mocked. The environment has degenerated into one of coercion, divisiveness, and suspicion. This has percolated to the small towns and villages of rural India, severing bonds forged in a dialogue of life over the centuries, shattering the harmony build around the messages of peace and brotherhood given us by the Sufis and the men and women who led the Freedom Struggle under Mahatma Gandhi.  The attacks have assumed alarming proportions.

Over 600 incidents of targeting religious minorities have taken place from May to September 2014 in several parts of the country, but especially which have seen, or will soon see, by-elections or elections to the Legislative Assemblies.

The hate campaign, the violence, the open threats have stunned not just the religious minorities, but civil society, jurists and academics. Many of them articulated their concern not just at the violence but at the silence of  the Government.

Many of the incidents of violence were directed against individuals and places of worship of the Muslim community, especially in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. These incidents of violence include at least 36 recorded incidents against the tiny Christian community in various parts of the country. The Christian community, its pastors, congregations and churches, were targets of mob violence and State impunity in dozens of cases in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Target dates, one of them coinciding with Christmas 2014, have been set to “cleanse” various areas of Muslim and Christian presence. The state apparatus and specially the police often became a party arresting not the aggressors but the victims to satisfy the demands of the mob. There have attempts at religious profiling of Christian academic institutions, and their students in the national capital.

There has been a well planned shift the locus of violence and mobilisations from the urban centres to small towns and rural areas; another course is to keep the “dead-count” low and use variants of everyday, “routine” violence to spread tensions and create panic. Yet another scheme is to convert India-Pakistan relations into a subset of the Hindu-Muslim relations within India. The most prominent method deployed in recent weeks has been the issue of “Love Jihad”.

While the Southern University System of Louisiana in the United States has decided to offer Prime Minister Narendra Modi an honorary doctorate for his work in inclusive growth and in recognition of Mr. Narendra Modi’s contribution towards social transformation, especially for empowering women and minorities in Gujarat, the facts on the ground are very different.

The people and organisations gathered at the Public meeting demand:

  1. Zero Tolerance against Communal and Targetted Violence, including Hate crimes, profiling and attacks on Freedom of Faith as enshrined in the Constitution of India.
  2. Govt of India and State governments should swiftly take action against those who create tension among minorities through their utterances,  by immediately arresting them and filing cases against them.
  3. The Union Home Ministry and State Home Ministries should issue a directive to all Police Posts across the country to treat all citizens equally and not come under pressure from certain groups and harass minorities.
  4. Govt should set up a mechanism to provide conducive environment to all citizens of our country and to ensure defence of minority rights, the right to live with dignity as equal citizens of India.

 

- press release

MP: Police investigate church burning

September 30, 2014 by admin  
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Church burningMadhya Pradesh, September 29, 2014: The burning of a church in India’s Madhya Pradesh has stoked fears of widening religious violence against Christians in the Hindu-majority state.

State police said they are searching for suspects responsible for the church torching in a village in Mandla district. The church, part of the Kerala-based Believers Church denomination, was found severely damaged when members of the congregation gathered for morning prayers on Friday.

The church’s pastor told police that attackers broke open the main door of the building and set fire to a Bible, the carpet, musical instruments and other items used for worship.

The fire was “so powerful that its flames even spoiled the walls of the church,” Pastor Rajesh Parthe said in his police complaint. Attackers also broke three crosses erected outside the church.

Human rights groups say Madhya Pradesh is one of several states where religious violence has been a major concern. Christian leaders in the state say they have recorded many cases of attacks against Christians since the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2003 state elections.

“In the past decade of BJP rule in the state, we have recorded at least 200 major attacks against the Christian community, such as this,” Jerry Paul, general secretary of Isai Mahasangh, a Christian advocacy group based in the state capital, Bhopal, told ucanews.com on Monday. “There are many unrecorded.”

In many cases, suspects are neither arrested nor punished. Paul said this perceived impunity emboldens others to engage in anti-Christian violence.

The Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission has repeatedly called on the state government to investigate Hindu fundamentalist groups for suspected attacks on Muslim and Christian minorities.

Parthe, the church pastor, said this is the first time in 10 years that his congregation has been hit by violence.

A government source, who is not authorized to speak to the press and therefore has requested anonymity, told ucanews.com that the village where the church was burned has no history of sectarian troubles. Given the history of communal violence in the state, police are concerned that the attack may be an attempt to divide people along religious lines, the source said.

Local police have yet to make arrests and have announced a reward of 15,000 rupees, or US$250, for information leading to an arrest.

- ucan

Summons issued against Modi by a US Federal Court

September 27, 2014 by admin  
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US Federal CourtNew York, September 26, 2014: The US Federal Court for the Southern District of New York today issued summons against the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his role in the massacres committed in Gujarat during 2002, when he was Chief Minister of the Indian state. Narendra Modi is expected to arrive in New York on Friday.

The court issued the summons in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Justice Center (AJC), a non-profit human rights. AJC has filed the suit along with two survivors of the horrific and organized violence of Gujarat 2002. The suit has been filed under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) and the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA). Names of the survivors have not been disclosed.

Seeking compensatory and punitive damages, the twenty-eight page complaint charges PM Modi with committing crimes against humanity, extra-judicial killings, torture and inflicting mental and physical trauma on the victims, mostly from the Muslim community.

An estimated 2,000 people were massacred and over 100,000 were displaced from their homes in Gujarat in 2002. The pogroms were marked by unspeakable sexual violence against hundreds of women. AJC is providing legal support and advice to the survivors in their effort to hold Mr. Modi accountable for his complicity in the violence. The survivors are suing Mr. Modi for the loss of lives and trauma in their families, and caused emotional, financial and psychological devastation in their lives.

“The Tort Case against Prime Minister Modi is an unequivocal message to human rights abusers everywhere,” said Dr. John Bradley, a Director at the AJC, a veteran activist from the civil rights era. “Time and place and the trappings of power will not be an impediment to justice,” added Dr. Bradley, a known associate of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The Alien Tort Claims Act, also known as Alien Tort Statute (ATS), is a US federal law first adopted in 1789 that gives the federal courts jurisdiction to hear lawsuits filed by US residents for acts committed in violation of international law outside the US.

AJC has also announced a press conference to share details of the case, and the legal path ahead in the survivors’ quest for justice. AJC President, Mr. Joseph Whittington Jr., who is the 2nd Ward Alderman of Harvey, Illinois will address the press conference.

- tcn

Court ruling on freedom to “not disclose” religion hailed

September 27, 2014 by admin  
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Bombay High CourtMumbai, September 26, 2014: Bombay High Court early this week ruled State has no right to compel anyone to disclose religion, which legal experts say was a “progressive” step.

“It is an excellent judgment with no negative implications whatsoever. Why should anybody know about my religion, or whether I believe in any? It is a private affair. The court seems to have accepted that religion is a social construct,” advocate Mihir Desai, a leading human rights lawyer, said.

Advocate Uday Warunjikar too welcomed the judgment as “progressive and balanced”. “The judgment is in accordance with the mandate of the Constitution of India, and in accordance with the prevalent situation in the country,” he said.

No citizen can be compelled to declare religion in any form or declaration, the Bombay High Court ruled here on Tuesday.

“Freedom of conscience under Article 25 of the Constitution encompasses in itself a freedom to an individual to take a view that he does not belong to any religion. No authority which is a State can infringe the fundamental right to freedom of conscience,” the division bench of Justices Abhay Oka and Girish Kulkarni held.

They were hearing a PIL filed by three individuals belonging to a registered organisation named “Full Gospel Church of God” which claims to have more than 4,000 members.

The petitioners claimed that the organisation does believe in the existence of Lord Jesus Christ, but does not believe in any religion, much less Christianity.

They had made an application to the State Government Printing Press for notifying the change of religion. “They wanted a gazette notification to be issued recording that they are not the Christians but they belong to “No Religion”. The applications were rejected by the Government Printing Press,” the court said.

They thereafter filed a petition before the court claiming that their fundamental right to freedom of conscience was being infringed upon. They contended that a person can always declare that she or he belongs to “no religion”.

The State Government had rejected this view. But the court observed that Article 25 of the Constitution included the right to be an atheist.

“There is a complete freedom for every individual to decide whether he wants to adopt or profess any religion or not. He may not believe in any religion. If he is professing a particular religion, he can give up the religion and claim that he does not belong to any religion. There is no law which compels a citizen or any individual to have a religion.

The freedom of conscience conferred by the Constitution includes a right not to profess, practice or propagate any religion,” the order stated.

“The freedom conferred by Article 25 of the Constitution also includes a right of an individual to claim that he is an ‘Atheist’. As the freedom of conscience confers a fundamental right to entertain a religious belief, it also confers a right on an individual to express an opinion that he does not belong to any religion,” it further said.

- the hindu

What Catholics could learn from the Dalai Lama

September 27, 2014 by admin  
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ChurchSeptember 19, 2014: Historically, Christianity hasn’t been very open to the idea of being influenced by other religions. In the early days of the faith, we borrowed from Hellenism, Zoroastrianism, Gnosticism, Judaism and various “pagan” religions, repurposing their symbols to mean something new. Following the adoption of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire, we focused more on converting others to our faith, or at least denigrating the legitimacy of other faiths to establish ours as superior.

Oh, but times, they are changing.

Our numbers are down, our influence continues to wane, and we’re struggling with what I call in “postChristian” both an identity crisis and a credibility crisis. The good news is that in this newly humbled state lies a glimmer of opportunity. Not the kind we’ve had previously, to once again dominate the cultural landscape. That time has passed. Rather, as more of us within the Christian faith take less for granted, we’re asking harder questions:

Who are we?

Why do we still identify as Christians?

How could our faith be better?

We need not look any further than the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and political head of the Tibetan Buddhist faith, and in particular, the titular leader of the Tibetan people (don’t tell the Chinese government). In a recent statement, some of which was shared in a Huffington Post article, the Dalai Lama put forward the bold proposal that he is the last in a line of Dalai Lamas, a position within Buddhism for almost five centuries.

“The 14th Dalai Lama now is very popular,” he said. “Let us then finish with a popular Dalai Lama.”

Now, imagine the Pope saying that.

Actually, it’s a little more conceivable coming from Pope Francis than from his recent predecessors. Or imagine the head of a major denomination dissolving their position and the general office than accompanies it, not out of financial necessity, but simply because they felt the role had run its due course.

Considering the entire scope of the comment, it’s reasonable to assume that part of his intent is politically strategic. After all, communist China claims Tibet – the spiritual and cultural epicenter of Tibetan Buddhism – as one of its own territories, and Tibet itself is not a democracy. Ganden Thurman, Executive Director of Tibet House US, told the Huffington Post for the same article that “His Holiness is looking for the resolution to the China issue and for [the Tibetan people's] own governance. Both of those issues are looking for what’s best for the Tibetan people.”

Imagine a religious body potentially sacrificing centuries of tradition and spiritual practice for the betterment of its people. Sounds like something Jesus would do.

What might such sacrifice look like in the Christian world?

The United Nations estimates that the entirety of the world’s hunger problems could be solved with an annual budget of approximately $30 billion. Meanwhile, a recent study by The Economist magazine estimated that the Catholic Church in the United States alone had an annual combined budget of $170 billion in 2010, when all of the assets of the Church are considered together. So in theory, by allocating about one-sixth of the total budget of the Catholic Church in the United States to solving hunger (not counting any other denominations, religions, or even Catholic institutions outside the US), hunger could conceivably disappear from the face of the earth.

The Dalai Lama also went on to say that if the Buddhist community determines to keep with the tradition of appointing a new Dalai Lama upon his death, the faith might benefit from a woman’s hand and heart. He cites the desperate need for greater compassion in the world as at least one reason why a female leader might be better suited to lead.

When it comes to Christianity’s institutional systems, preserving what once was too often gets in the way of actively and fearlessly invoking what might be. Let’s take this opportunity to learn from the Dalai Lama’s example and practice a little bit more of what we preach.

- patheos

Caritas resolves to change attitude

September 26, 2014 by admin  
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cartisBangalore, September 22, 2014: Caritas India has resolved to bring about an attitudinal change in the organization as well as at community levels for entrusting ownership of development action to the community.

The decision was taken at the Caritas’ National Assembly held in Bangalore last week.

By declaring to adhere to the principle of subsidiarity, the diocesan directors of social apostolate also resolved to accompany and support the development process of people by playing a facilitating role.

Caritas India’s executive director Fr. Frederick D’Souza called the heads of the member organization to shift role from directors to animators.

He called Pope Francis as one of the greatest animators of the present time with “highest Twitter followers, after US President Obama”.

While clarifying concerns that the assembly is not held in the pretext of the post the general election scenario in the country, Fr. D’Souza said “Caritas has a mandate from Jesus and we are not afraid of the emerging political scenario”.

Taking support from the health sector he said, “70,000 hospital beds across the country is a huge, huge responsibility” shouldered by the Church and nobody can deny that.”

- press release

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