CHRISTIAN NEWS MAGAZINE FOR KERALA MALAYALEE CHRISTIANS FROM INDIA AROUND THE WORLD
MARCH 2009 WORLD NEWS & EVENTS
VOL:08 ISSUE:03

INDIAN CHURCHES DEMAND DISBANDING OF MINORITIES' WATCHDOG


ENI-09-0130

By Anto Akkara

Bangalore, India, 12 February (ENI)--Church leaders in India's central Madhya Pradesh state have demanded the abolition of the commission for minorities for proposing government intervention in the management of church properties. The protests by the Christian leaders follows a recommendation by the commission, set up to safeguard the interests of religious minorities, that legislation should be enacted to bring the management of church-owned trusts and other properties under government control.

"This commission has been set up to protect the interests of [religious] minorities. But it is taking away our rights," Church of North India Bishop Laxman Maida told Ecumenical News International on 10 February. "This is like the fence eating the crop," said Maida speaking from his diocesan office at Indore. Earlier, Roman Catholic Archbishop Leo Corneliohopal of Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh, in a statement strongly condemned the recommendation of the commission.

"It is clear that the minority commission is working against the interest of the Christian minority. Therefore, the commission has lost its moral authority to continue in office," asserted Archbishop Cornelio demanding the sacking of the commission. The Rev. Anand Muttungal, spokesperson for the Catholic church in Madhya Pradesh, told ENI that the minority commission was acting as if it was an extension of the state government controlled by the Bharatiya Janata Party. The BJP has often faced accusations of having a Hindu nationalist agenda.

The BJP, or Indian People's Party as it is in English, has been accused of attempts to curtail the rights of religious minorities and of harassing institutions run by the churches, in states where it is in power. The Christian council formed an action committee to organize protests against the proposal across the state where Christians account for less than one percent of its 80 million people.

"Christians are very much upset with this recommendation," said Muttungal, who is the convenor of the "Isai Mahasangh" (the Grand Council of Christians) that is spearheading the protests demanding the sacking of the commission. Christians have already had several demonstrations across the state since the recommendation about church properties was made public on 17 January, he said. [363 words]

[COURTESY TO ENI AS SOURCE]

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SURVEY AMONG INDIAN NUNS FINDS MOST CONTENT BUT SOME UNHAPPY


ENI-09-0120

By Anto Akkara

Bangalore, India, 10 February (ENI)--A survey of young Roman Catholic nuns in India's southern Kerala state has found that a quarter of them feel unaccepted or sometimes unwelcome in convents while the remainder are "contented and happy " with their life there. "The survey findings are very positive in the context of the present consumerist lifestyle," the Rev. Paul Thelakkat, editor of Sathyadeepam, a Catholic periodical that published the results, told Ecumenical News International on 4 February.

Thelakkat said, however, he was disappointed with secular media, who had been "blowing up" the survey to project convent life in a bad light. Still, he noted, "We should have the openness to discuss what is wrong with us and address it." The survey was conducted by the Rev. Joy Kalliyath who said he chose the subject in the context of his medical psychiatry study amid reports of nuns committing suicide and leaving convents. Kalliyath found that about 5 percent of nuns felt unaccepted and that 20 percent, "feel accepted some times and unaccepted at other times. The rest, that is 76.7 percent, are contented and happy in their religious life."

In an interview published in Sathyadeepam, Kalliyath noted that convents have nuns belonging to different educational and professional categories. "Those who are highly qualified and are in well paid jobs enjoy greater power," he stated. "Their views and ideas carry more weight. There is no equal acceptance or status for all in our convents."

As a result, "The less influential group feel dejected and sidelined," Kalliyath said. "This in turn pushes them gradually into negative thinking and disillusionment. And if they are offered a chance to go outside for higher studies, they take more freedom than they should. They are usually so cut off from the world that they get carried away by the freedom they get outside." Some church commentators criticised media coverage of the survey, saying that news reports emphasised "negative" findings in the survey.

"The secular media looks for sensational news," Ignatius Gonsalves, a Catholic journalist who has worked in secular media for 30 years, told ENI "So, we are not surprised that the negatives in the survey have made headlines."

Still, some Catholic leaders have welcomed the publication of the survey. "Community life has become subservient to efficiency," said Bishop Yvon Ambroise of Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu. He rejected the idea of transfers as a way of dealing with nuns who were unhappy. Instead of solving the issue, he said, "transfers only push the problem under the carpet," leaving those who have been transferred feeling unaccepted also in their new surroundings. [441 words]

[COURTESY TO ENI AS SOURCE]

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INDIAN CHRISTIANS SAY THEY ARE FIGHTING AN 'APARTHEID' IN ORISSA


ENI-09-0109

By Anto Akkara

Nuagam, India, 6 February (ENI)--Tapan Kumar Nayak was delighted when officials in the Orissa state's troubled Kandhamal district declared that the crowded relief camp at Raikia would close from mid-January and that the inmates would be shifted nearer to their villages. "We came here with much enthusiasm. But, now our plight is worse," Nayak told Ecumenical News International at a relief camp at Mondakia, just three kilometres from his village of Bakingia. "There is no water supply here and the [Hindu] villagers here are objecting to us taking water from the tube well," he lamented.

Nayak pointed out that 300 Christian refugee families who had moved to Mondakia relief camp are now in "no man's land". Nearly half of the 100 000 Christians in Kandhamal district were displaced in 2008 after a wave of violence left more than 70 Christians dead, and more than 6000 Christian houses looted and destroyed.

Such is the concern about the situation the refugees now face that the Global Council of Indian Christians said on 5 February, "The GCIC strongly condemns the heinous attempts to initiate apartheid against Christian Dalits in Orissa." It alleged that the World Hindu Council and groups it said are based in the United States and other Western nations, "are believed to be behind the experimentation of Hinditva ideology of fascism in the western state of Orissa". Sajan K. George, the president of the council, urged the world community rescue Christians "from humiliation and the worst type of ethnic cleansing in western India".

Kikos Pradhan, a camp refugee, told of his plan to go back to his village of Bakingia as early as possible to be closer to home. His hopes were, however, dashed when he visited the village on 16 January and a Hindu extremist leader poked a sword at his neck and threatened him against returning unless he became a Hindu. Pradhan said camp residents have bitter memories of their attempts to return to their villages five months after the burning down of Christian houses and churches following the assassination of Hindu leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, who was shot dead on 23 August.

Maoist rebels claimed responsibility for the murder, but Hindu extremist groups insisted the murder of Saraswati was a Christian conspiracy. They targeted Christians for weeks with those on the receiving end saying police did little to curb the violence against them. "In many villages, they [Hindu extremists] are even asking shopkeepers not to sell anything to Christians and deny us access to common wells," Pradhan added.

The Catholic Church decided on 18 January to take 70 programme staff to the gutted headquarters of Jan Vikas, the development and social action wing of Bhubaneswar archdiocese. The staff spent their first night on the floor of the still-charred office complex in the same place where one of their followers said she had been raped. The entire office complex had been gutted, and three vans, seven motor bikes and everything from computers to vital documents reduced to ashes when the centre at Nuagam was attacked following the killing of the Swami.

"It's really shocking and sad," Smita Paikray, a Hindu staff member at Jan Vikas told ENI pointing to the burnt room where she used to stay with three other female staff. Jyothi Prakash Hota, a Hindu and project coordinator of the agency, stated, "This is the work of misguided people." He noted, "Had they been aware of the social work Jan Vikas was doing, they would have never done this."

Like Hota, most of the 140 staff of Jan Vikas are Hindus who implement programmes such as organizing self help groups and water projects to generate employment among impoverished villagers in the Kandhamal jungles. Most of the beneficiaries are Hindus. "What has happened is history. But, we cannot delay resuming our work any longer," the Rev. Manoj Kumar, one of the coordinators of Jan Vikas, said. "The people want us to restart our work. It will certainly help others realise that they had been misled about us Christians." [686 words]

[COURTESY TO ENI AS SOURCE]

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