Eighteen years after Samunder Singh stabbed and murdered a Catholic nun in northern India, the former prisoner has been invited to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican.
Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for Family, invited Singh after the pope expressed his desire to meet him. Accompanying him will be a Catholic priest and a nun, the younger sister of the slain Rani Maria.
“I am excited after getting the news,” 40-year old Singh told ucanews.com.
Singh, who with the guidance of the Catholic priest became a Christian while serving a 12-year jail term, is busy preparing his travel documents.
The priest, popularly known as Swami Sadanand, was instrumental in counseling Singh after the killing. The Carmelite of Mary Immaculate regularly met him in jail.
The invitation to the Vatican is to attend a special screening of a documentary on the killing, called The Heart of a Murderer, by award winning Australian-Italian director Catherine McGilvray.
The documentary depicts the murder, Singh’s conversion and his acceptance by the murdered nun’s family. McGilvray, in an interview, said when she first heard the story, she was moved by the images of “the mother kissing her daughter’s murderer and of the assassin becoming like a real brother to the sister of his victim.”
Pope Francis was reportedly moved by the film.
The family of the slain nun had publically forgiven him and accepted him as one of their family members. Every year on the Hindu festival of siblings, the sister of Rani Maria ties a rakhi, or ceremonial thread, onto Singh. The ritual is a common practice among siblings.
The murdered nun was declared a Servant of God, the first major step toward canonization, in 2007.
New Delhi, December 02, 2013: Relying on the power of prayer to cure the country of its social and political ills, all the Churches came under one umbrella and stormed the heavens with praise and worship.
The first-ever ecumenical ‘United Christian Prayer for India’ witnessed simultaneous mass prayers held at over 1,000 venues, including all state capitals, important districts of the country.
More than 10,000 faithful from Delhi and neighboring states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, assembled at the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi for the historic occasion.
Welcoming the gathering, Archbishop Emeritus Vincent Michael Concessao, president of the National Organizing Committee, said that “our nation is passing through a crucial juncture and in desperate need of our prayers”.
With the country battling social, political, economic and moral crisis, it was incumbent upon the community to indulge in a sustained effort of prayer to tide over the problems, he said.
During the five–hour program, 10 different Churches prayed for 30 minutes apiece. Each prayer capsule comprised thematic prayers, scripture reading, hymns and skits highlighting social evils.
Reverend Samson Nath of the Methodist Church, said, “We need to learn how to become a people of prayer. Only then will God hear us and heal our land.”
Quoting The Holy Bible, he said it is written, “If we would humble ourselves, pray … seek God’s grace and turn from our wicked ways, then He would hear our prayer, forgive our sin and heal our land (2 Chronicles 7)”
Prayers were offered for the Constitution of India, its three pillars – legislature, executive, judiciary, including the president, prime minister, various political parties, the media and the Church in India.
Prayers were also offered for various issues, including social and economic, for national reconciliation, for youth, women and children and the poor and destitute.
Young Advocate Febin Mathew, who belongs to The St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India and a Christian legal organization, was impressed by the prayers for the judiciary.
He said “justice is a casualty in Indian courts. Only the rich who can afford senior lawyers get justice while the poor find it difficult toget justice.”
The Catholic Church set the ball rolling with the first prayer capsule which included prayers for national reconciliation, the Constitution and Constitutional heads, scripture reading and a cultural dance.
The historic Ramlila Maidan reverberated to the strains of hymns like “Mukti Dilaye Yeshu Naam, Shanti dilaye Yeshu Nam (Let Jesus’s name bring salvation, Let Jesus’s name bring peace); “Pray for India, pray for India,” “Tera India, Mera India, Apna India (your India, my India, our India), by a 100-strong inter-denominational choir.
The Methodist Church, Syro Malabar Church, Church of North India, the North-East Churches and Protestant were some of the other Churches that took part.
After the prayers by the different churches, Archbishop Concessao gave blessed the gathering.
The whole program was designed in keeping with Jesus’ teaching that “where two or three are gathered in my name I am there,” said Fr. Dominic Emmanuel, a Catholic priest and spokesperson of the Delhi Archdiocese.
Prayers for the nation are said every Sunday in particular but this is for the first time that all Churches have come out in a public place for the purpose, he added.
“We choose to stop putting the blame on others, and examine our own hearts and lives. We choose to acknowledge our own sin, neglect, defiance and even rejection of God. This day we choose to repent,” he said.
Commenting on this massive show of unity, an elated octogenarian Lucy John exclaimed, “This is unprecedented. Never did I imagine I would ever get to see the Churches unite like this on one platform in my lifetime.”
Nisha Samuel, a member of CNI Church and member Public Grievances Commission of Delhi Government, said “This is a good message we are sending down to the next generation. We should not remain in isolation, united we can weather many a storm.”Summing up the proceedings, Dr Hepesh Shepherd, Secretary and Treasurer of Baptist Church Trust Association, said that the program materialized after a year of planning. All the Churches were happy with the concept.“We have collaborated to take the mission of service forward – On one platform with one voice to the One God whom we serve,” he added.
- matters india
Assam, December 04, 2013: Assam’s main opposition party All Indian United Democratic Front (AIUDF) which is all set to spread its wing in West Bengal for the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls is not going to have an alliance with Congress at any cost. Party chief Badruddin Ajmal said that it will be like committing suicide if they join hands with Congress. He, however, said that door is open for any secular party for partnership.
He also slammed the ruling party of not having a holistic approach towards the minority communities in the state. “We have taken an anti-Congress stand since the beginning and we will never compromise with our ideologies at any cost. Joining hands with Congress means killing ourselves with our own hands. Even if Sonia Gandhi approaches us, we will not change our stand,” Ajmal said.
On the possible alliance with other parties, Ajmal said that his party is ready for any such development provided if the party believes in secularism. “Our door is open for any secular party—be it AGP, CPI (M), Samajwadi or anybody but never for BJP and Congress,” he added.
On the alliance with United Progressive Alliance (UPA) at the centre and opposing Congress here in the state, Ajmal said that between UPA and National Democratic Alliance (NDA), they had to choose for UPA. “UPA does not mean Congress. There are other parties as well and comparatively they are more secular than NDA,” Ajmal said.
Development of various minority communities will be main agenda of the party for the elections both in Assam and in West Bengal. AIUDF will contest from at least 14 seats from the neighbouring state besides 10 seats in Assam this time.
“For the last 10 years or so the status of not just Muslims but all people belonging to the minority communities has been extremely pathetic both in Assam and Bengal. There is no any holistic approach from the government to work towards the uplift of the community. The huge amount of fund either goes back to centre or is misused by the ministers,” he said.
The perfume baron also said of giving opportunity to the people of all communities to contest in the election for the party to bring a change in the image as many tagged the party as for Muslims only. “We will give minimum tickets to Muslims and majority will be given to the people of other backward classes who really deserves. Though some try to say that we are a Muslim based party but we are not. We have given opportunities to all the communities and this time we will do it more,” he said.
The Dhubri MP further said that there will be no effect of Narendra Modi in Assam and criticized the Gujrat chief minister and BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Modi for spending huge sum of money in the name of publicity and to try to win people with such means.
In Assam the party is expected to contest Dhubri, Barpeta, Mangaldoi, Tezpur, Nagaon, Guwahati, Lakhimpur, Koliabor, Silchar, Karimganj, Dibrugarh and Kokrajhar seats while in West Bengal it will contest in Cooch Behar, Raiganj, Malda (North), Malda (South), Jangipur, Murshidabad, Burdwan, Krishnanagar, Basirhat, Joynagar, Uluberia, Srerampur, Diamond Harbour, and Balurghat constituencies.
In the last assembly polls, it managed to win 18 seats and emerged as the largest opposition party in the state Assembly. Since its formation in 2006, AIUDF has not tied up with any political party but has been gaining strength with each election.
Minority Affairs Minister K. Rahman Khan Saturday urged the Muslim community to draw up its own roadmap for the future and define its own priorities, adding that a Rs.50,000 crore educational fund should also be created.
Khan was inaugurating a national seminar on “Professionalisation of Education: Problems and Opportunities for Indian Muslims,” organised by the Centre for Promotion of Educational and Cultural Advancement of Muslims of India at the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).
He said India had achieved a lot of progress through the planning process and such type of “planning is needed for the Muslim community by its own intelligentsia”.
Paying rich tributes to Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, founder of the AMU for his vision and mission, he suggested Muslims should make an effort to mobilise their own resources and establish educational institutions on their own.
Khan lamented that Muslims were equally responsible for their backwardness.
He said in south India, Muslims have established 16 medical colleges and more than 100 engineering colleges to provide professional education to the community. He said lack of awareness is a major cause of backwardness of Muslims.
Delivering the keynote address, Syed Zafar Mahmood, IRS (retd) said Muslims are the most backward community in education and their share in job market is the lowest.
He pointed that the National Minority Scholarship Scheme was not implemented in Gujarat while it was implemented by other BJP-ruled states like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh.
He suggested ITI courses should be extended to the Muslim-dominated areas and these professional courses should be extended to Madrassa-educated children.
Khan said Muslims should adopt a positive attitude. He said that since Muslims form the second largest majority, the country cannot progress without their active participation.
Brigadier (Retd.) S. Ahmad Ali, Pro-Vice Chancellor, AMU, in his presidential address, said we live in an age of competition and in job market the demand of professionally and educationally competent and skilled persons is more as compared to merely skilled workers.
Professional education seems a better option especially for Muslims who are blessed with multi-faceted skills yet lag behind in getting coveted jobs due to lack of formal education, he added.
Brig. Ali urged the Muslim community to provide quality education. He suggested the government should fix accountability from Delhi, establish community targeted centres, provide girls hostels in Muslim-centric areas and demanded secularisation of education at the school level.
Earlier, Shamim A. Ansari, Director of the Centre, said this centre is one of the most important centres of the university working for the promotion of Muslims. He said knowledge without use is worthless with regard to professionalisation of education. He said educational institutions must have their fingers on the nerve of market where most demanded jobs are available.
Ansari observed that Muslim institutions fail to visualise the changing scenario of the world with regard to conditions and nature of job opportunities attracting people. As a result, Muslims students are generally compelled to pursue traditional education.
The temple has been built during past two month’s time. because during my last visit to Phulbani, there was no temple. How could a temple be built on govt land in a town which is headquarters of the district?
Is it possible without support of district administration? A temple built on govt land opposite to church is surely with malafide intentions.
According to Fr Angelo, the Asst parish priest of Phulbani, he had met the collector to discuss the matter. He told the collector that it is possible that both christians and Hindus may have a feast on same day and crowds may on both sides to the road, some persons in the crowd may be intoxicated too. Hence there is every possibility of breach of peace. According to Fr Angelo, response of the collector was not satisfactory.
- bro. markose
Tamil Nadu, December 02, 2013: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa Monday voiced her strong opposition to the Prevention of Communal (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2013, saying it trampled on the authority of the states.
She also asked the central government not to introduce the bill during the winter session of parliament.
In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the text of which was released to the media here, she said: “I would like to strongly reiterate, on behalf of the government of Tamil Nadu, that I am completely opposed to this bill which seeks to trample upon the authority of the states.”
“With barely five months to go for the term of the present Lok Sabha to end and for general elections to be announced, any hasty attempt to bring in such legislation without wide consultation among all political parties and stakeholders would be a completely undemocratic move,” she said.
Jayalalithaa urged Manmohan Singh not to move the proposed Prevention of Communal (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2013 in the winter session of parliament, which begins in New Delhi Dec 5.
According to her, the bill, as drafted, suffers “from too many lacunae and will not meet the intended objective of preventing communal violence.”
“It would, therefore, be extremely unwise to pose the bill as a one size fits all solution to a complex problem that requires sensitive cooperation between the centre and states. In fact, the remedy proposed would end up being worse than the disease itself,” Jayalalithaa remarked.
Stressing that law and order is the fundamental responsibility of state governments, Jayalalithaa said there should be functional cooperation and understanding between the centre and the states.
According to her, the present bill contains cosmetic modifications to the earlier bill of 2011. The revised draft bill contains many of the serious issues that were there in the earlier version.
There has been a spate of attacks on Christians and Muslims in India in the last year. Mapping of the attacks on Christians and Muslims show that the worst affected areas are Gujarat and Orissa, where the upper-caste Brahmins hold significant economic power.
They use this power to enforce their ideology which is to reduce the “Dalits” – or lowest caste – and Christians and Muslims to be second class citizens.
In Kandhamal, Odisha, in 2008 attacks were carried out on “tribal” Christians and the agencies that helped them, with 38 Christians killed, 18,000 injured and 50,000 displaced.
World Vision, a Christian relief agency, was forced out of the area.
Before that, in 2002, some 2,000 Muslims were killed over three days in Gujarat. The chief minister, Narendra Modi, described himself as a Hindu nationalist and was accused of condoning the attacks. He is the prime ministerial for the BJP party.
A seminar held this week in Delhi by the Centre for Religious Freedom to develop a Religious Freedom Support Group was encouraged to form groups that would respond to attacks at six levels:
1) Spiritual support providing spiritual and crisis counselling and prayer support
2) Media and information
3) Legal rights- providing details of making legal complaints nationally and to international for a
4) Developing good relationships with the police for protection and action
5) Developing good relations with community leaders so that churches can be seen as a benefit to their communities
6) Direct relief – providing contacts for relief support and places of refuge
Seminar participants were encouraged to see that issues of religious freedom could not be separated from issues of social justice and economic empowerment, something which appears to go against the default position of many pastors in India.
One aid worker said pastors in her city held that their role was evangelism and left social action to agencies. This was held to play into the hands of those who wish to allow Christians to practice their faith as long as they do not do anything to address the social injustice that Dalits experience.
Research shows that the reason why attacks on Christians have increased in the last twenty years is because indigenous Christian mission groups have been addressing the social needs of the poorest of the poor – Dalits and Tribals.
These groups have been empowered by Christians through the gospel, education and social support who have therefore become the object of attack.
Attacks against Christians have become intense in the last 10 years in seven states, two in South India and five in the north.
“The Indian church will be better equipped to address religious freedom through the creation of these support groups to address the spiritual, legal, political, social and development issues that such persecution raises,” said Rev Richard Howell, the General Secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, which sponsored the event.
- christian today
Washington DC, November 29, 2013: When Christianity reached a small village in Assam, India in 2012, it was met with extreme violence and led to seven Christian families being beaten, robbed and left homeless because of their faith.
Hiding in the jungle with nothing, these Christians were left to wonder if the God of their new faith would provide for them in their time of need. Putting their trust in God to come to their aid, these Christians had their faith rewarded in more ways than they ever could have imagined.
Christianity Comes to Assam
In 2012, one of Moneswar Rabha’s daughters was very sick. Being a Hindu from a rural area of India and with little access to modern medicine, Moneswar turned to the Hindu priest of the village for help. The priest told Moneswar if he were to sacrifice one of his chickens to local Hindu gods, his daughter would be healed.
“Upon hearing this, I sacrificed a chicken without success,” Moneswar told ICC in an interview. “I then sacrificed more chickens to heal my daughter; still no healing.” In total, Moneswar sacrificed over 20 chickens.
When sacrificing chickens did nothing to heal his daughter, Moneswar returned to the village priest. Upon hearing the chickens did not work, the priest told Moneswar he needed to sacrifice a goat instead. Again, following the direction of the Hindu priest, Moneswar sacrificed a goat. Still his daughter’s illness continued.
After the goat sacrifice failed to heal his daughter, Moneswar was desperate. Where else could he turn? If the gods weren’t listening, what could he do to save her? Finally, someone from Moneswar’s village told him about a Christian pastor traveling in the area. The villager told him he had seen Christians pray over people for healing.
Desperate, Moneswar tracked down this traveling pastor and invited him to his home to pray over his daughter. After the pastor prayed over his daughter, she was healed. Moneswar and his family were astounded by this miracle and asked to be taught about Christianity. After several meetings, Moneswar and his entire family converted from Hinduism to Christianity and were baptized.
A Night of Terror
After his conversion experience, Moneswar could not keep his new faith to himself. “I would tell everyone I met about Christianity and the healing of my daughter,” Moneswar said. “I wanted everyone to know.”
When the other villagers heard Moneswar’s story about Christianity, many became interested in his new faith. After seven families in the village had converted to Christianity and a small house fellowship was formed, the Hindu village leaders felt threatened.
They called Moneswar to a meeting where they told him he was no longer allowed to spread Christianity. The village leaders claimed Christianity was a foreign religion and warned Moneswar if he continued to spread it he would be punished. Despite this, Moneswar continued to talk about Christianity and hold regular fellowship meetings at his house.
When the village leaders discovered Moneswar did not heed their warning, they rounded up a mob of radicals at night to punish Moneswar. Before the mob could find Moneswar, he was warned by another villager and fled into the jungle. Two other Christians from the village, Prasata and Michael, volunteered to go to Moneswar’s home and protect his family from the radicals.
When the mob arrived at the house, they demanded Moneswar be given over to them so they could teach him a lesson. When Prasata and Michael refused to let the mob into the house, they were beaten. The men then entered Moneswar’s home and dragged his wife, Mala, into the street and beat her too.
Barely conscious, the three Christians were taken to the meeting house of the village leaders where they were interrogated and beaten with flashlights into the late hours of the night. As they were tortured, their new faith was mocked. Their tormentors said, “If your Jesus is real, he would stop us from torturing you.” The two men were beaten so badly their attackers believed they were dead.
Worked up into a destructive frenzy, the mob went to the homes of all the Christian families in the village and destroyed everything. They beat the Christians they found, burned down their homes and looted all of the valuables. As the Christian families fled the village, they found Prasata, Michael and Mala in the meeting house and carried them off to safety. From that night on, these Christian families were banished from their village.
Resettled and Restored
Fortunately, this is not where the story ends. After the attack, ICC’s Regional Manager for Central Asia, who had worked in Assam in the past, discovered the plight of these seven families and sent International Christian Concern’s (ICC) India staff out to meet them and see how ICC could assist.
After discussing their options, ICC helped these persecuted families resettle in a new village where a Christian community was already established. ICC assisted with the construction of new homes, supplying food and starting sustainable businesses that will provide these families with livelihoods for years to come. In August 2013, ICC visited these seven families in their new village to see how they were doing now.
“We were crying and hopeless when the radicals beat us, demolished our houses and looted everything,” Moneswar said during ICC’s visit. “We became poor in just a moment and worried about many things. God is the great provider. When we were driven from our village, I was working on a boat as only a laborer. I never thought I would be the owner of my own boat. I am very grateful that God led ICC to us to provide for us in our time of need.”
“During our distress, we were in sorrow,” Michael told ICC. “Then one man came to us, asking about our wellbeing. This surprised us. Later we came to know that from the other side of the world, people were praying for us and wanted to make sure we were OK. This amazed us and boosted our faith. Only by God’s grace we were able to overcome our distress. I thank God for not leaving us, but using us to glorify Him.”
GAP, a leading American brand for clothing and accessories, has a new task at hand. To fight racism.
It recently had to face a full-blown public racial attack on its subway advertisement that was defaced with racist messages by vandals. The ad featured Sikh actor and jewelery desinger Waris Ahluwalia. The caption “Make Love” was altered to “Make bombs” and the poster also had “Please stop driving TAXIS” written onto it by the culprits.
Arsalan Iftikhar, founder of TheMuslimGuy.com and senior editor at Islamic Monthly, posted a snapshot of the the GAP subway ad to his Twitter and Facebook walls. The picture soon went viral and took the Internet by storm. GAP immediately got in touch with Arsalan on twitter and asked him the location for the place where the ad was posted and defaced.
At the same time, to show solidarity with its Sikh model Waris Ahluwalia and back its ad, GAP changed its display image on its Twitter page to that of its ad which featured Waris.
Arsalan tweeted “You know that you’ve made it in America when your social media campaign on a vandalized @Gap subway ad hits BuzzFeed.”
He also lauded the power of social media for bringing to light the issue of racism that is widespread around the world.
- india today
The Council of Catholic Bishops of India ( CCBI ) National Youth Commission held its historic first national consultation, where for the first time, the regional secretaries, and the diocesan secretaries of Youth Commissions and the national directors and coordinators of five major youth movements in India came together at Apostolic Carmel Generalate, Bangalore, on 9-10 November 2013. The first national consultation focused on two significant needs of the Church in India, namely implementation of the CCBI Pastoral plan at the grassroots levels for a vibrant youth apostolate in India and the need and ways of networking between Youth Commissions and Youth Movements across India.
Fr. Elias ofm, the Executive Secretary, in his a short inaugural address stressed on the need of the national Youth Commission to transform millions of Youth in Indiafrom “being Observers of Life to Participants of Life, and the need for the Commissions and Movements to create a value chain and make the youth of India as an innovative power”and welcomed the delegates to the first national consultation.
At this historic event, The CCBI national youth Commission released a handbook which consisted of the structure of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India, CCBI- National commission for youth , extracts from the pastoral plan of CCBI, strategies for implementing CCBI pastoral plan for a vibrant youth apostolate in India.
Bishop Henry D’souza the Chairman of CCBI youth commission explained to the delegates the vision, mission and role of CCBI and CCBI youth commission, namely “The Catholic Church in India, a Community of Christ’s faithful, called to proclaim the Gospel and to be at the service of God and all people, and that we live it by being committed todeepen our faith in Jesus Christ through the Word of God and Prayer to proclaim the Gospel in word and deed, by living lives of love and service, to promote integral human development with a preferential option for the poor and marginalized for the salvation of all”
He also explained the objective of the youth movement to make young people true Disciples of Christ – declaring and living one’s Catholic identity, to participate in the Life of the Church – enriched by the Word of GOD and Sacraments, to transform young people into Christian Leaders building a new society, to empower ‘youth to youth’ out-reach initiatives and to foster a culture of Excellence that leads to Holistic Success – Individual and Collective. He invited the priests to lead the youth to faith and to transform the society and give Jesus to the youth.
While Fr. Faustin Lobo the National Director (PMS) presented the pastoral plan, Fr. George SJ focused on implementation of the pastoral plan for a vibrant youth apostolate in India. The Regional and Diocesan Commissions and the Youth Movements were given a framework through which they were asked to formulate an action plan for their regions. Translating strategies into an action plan at Regional and Diocesan levels and movements’ level was discussed by different groups. Each group presented their objectives and plan of implementation for their regions for the coming three years.
Day Two focussed on the ground reality of youth today. While the youth stressed on their currents issues/problems, they also expected the priests to be role models to inspire youth in parishes. Sharing of best praticses by various youth movements and commissions became an eye opener. While we learned on each others’ best practises, we also recognized the contritubtion made by many various movements and commissions for a vibrant youth apostolate in India. the panel also discuessed on importance, and ways and means of networking with each other.
All the delegates, while complementing the CCBI Youth Commission for inviting them for a national level consultation, promised to implement the pastoral plan of CCBI at the grassroots levels. The secretaries and the national coordinators were asked to go back to their regions, and with the the help of diocesan secretaries and youth, to come back with a concrete plan of action within the next three months. The National Youth Commission will follow up with all the Regional Commissions and Youth Movements every quarter to ensure on the implementation of the pastoral plan for a vibrant youth apostolate in India.
The National Youth Commission with this historic event has certainly begun a journey of network and companionship. Rightly so, the CCBI Youth Commission has found the compass for leadership direction and Youth animationto reach milestone across India.
- fr. elias