[World Council of Churches [WCC] is an international, interdenominational organization of most major Protestant, Anglican, and Eastern Orthodox Christian churches; founded in Amsterdam in 1948, its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member of the council but sends delegated observers to its assemblies; it has full membership on the council's Commission of Faith and Order and on its Joint Working Group. Currently there are 348 member Churches enrolled to WCC. Rev. Walter Altmann, a Lutheran theologian from Brazil is the newly elected moderator of WCC. He succeeds the previous moderator Catholicos Aram I of the Armenian Apostolic Church who held the post since 1991.

Most of the Indian Churches are enrolled as members of WCC. The current Indian Church memebers of WCC are Bengal-Orissa-Bihar Baptist Convention [Associate Member] , Church of North India [CNI], Church of South India [CSI], Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar, Methodist Church in India, National Council of Churches in India [National council body], Samavesam of Telugu Baptist Churches and United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India. 1961 WCC Assembly was held in New Delhi, India. In the history of WCC, two persons from India served the term of President of this most visible and comprehensive international expression of christian ecumenism. Paulose Mar Gregorios Metropolitan [1983-91] , Sarah Chacko [1951]

The governing body of the council is the assembly, which meets every seven years. The nineth Assembly meeting of WCC was convened in Porto Alegre, Brazil, 14-23 February 2006. 691 delegates from the member churches participated in this years assembly. ]


By Jerry L. Van Marter and Stephen Brown

Porto Alegre, Brazil, 27 February (ENI)--The World Council of Churches ended its once every seven years assembly held in Brazil with calls to reach out to Roman Catholic, Pentecostal and Evangelical churches that do not belong to the Geneva-based grouping. "The quest for the visible unity of the church remains at the heart of the WCC," stated a policy document presented on the last day of the grouping's 14-23 February assembly in Porto Alegre. "Our ultimate vision is that we will achieve, by God's grace, the visible unity of Christ's Church and will be able to welcome one another at the Lord's table, to reconcile our ministries, and to be committed together to the reconciliation of the world."

It was the first assembly in Latin America for the church grouping whose more than 340 members are drawn predominantly from Protestant, Anglican and Christian Orthodox traditions. The gathering urged an easing of the region's debt burden, describing it as "unjust, illegitimate and immoral", noting that according to UN statistics, 40 per cent of Latin Americans live in poverty.

With Brazilian Lutheran Walter Altmann elected as moderator of the WCC's main governing body, the central committee, alongside Kenyan Methodist, Samuel Kobia, as the group's general secretary, participants said they will look to the WCC to articulate the voice of the global South in coming debates about globalisation and economic injustice. Still, some speakers noted that globalisation was impacting not only on economic relations, but also the WCC's task to promote Christian unity.

"In this period of globalisation it is not only a dream," said Orthodox Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana and All Albania, one of the newly-elected WCC presidents, in a reference to church unity. "It is a duty and it is a necessity." The assembly was also the first meeting of the WCC's highest decision-making body since the election in 2005 of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI.

The Catholic Church does not belong to the grouping but cooperates with the church council in many areas, and, in a message to the assembly, Pope Benedict spoke of the need for a "solid partnership" with the WCC. Some participants recalled that after his election as pontiff, Benedict had spoken of the need for "concrete steps" to achieve Christian unity.

These could include churches celebrating Easter on the same date and recognising each other's baptism, said Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. He was echoing remarks by outgoing WCC moderator Catholicos Aram I of the Armenian Apostolic Church. The WCC assembly said it hoped for "substantial progress" on these issues by the time of its next assembly, "all on the way towards visible unity and a shared Eucharist".

Still, it was Benedict as the guardian of the Vatican's doctrine before he became Pope, who issued a statement restating that Protestant denominations are not churches in the "proper sense" of the word. "If we cannot recognise each other as churches in the full sense of the word, it is very difficult for us to call the peoples of the world to more unity," noted German Lutheran Bishop Margot Kässmann.

This concern was also expressed by a representative from Christianity's fast-growing Pentecostal sector, which for the most part does not belong to the WCC. "We need to accept one another without reservation, without dividing churches into first-class and second-class," said Norberto Saracco, an Argentinian Pentecostal pastor and scholar.

In the run-up to the assembly, WCC leaders had stressed the importance of inter-faith dialogue, a challenge that was underlined by the controversy over cartoons caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad which generated worldwide protests, some of them violent. The WCC assembly deplored publication of the cartoons as well as violent demonstrations, and called on WCC members to join in non-violent protests with those experiencing attacks on their religion.

"Faced with the publication of the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad of Islam ... we recognise it is crucial to strengthen dialogue and cooperation between Christians and Muslims," the assembly stated. Still, the gathering was also challenged by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to recognise the plight and courage of small Christian communities in places such as the Middle East and Pakistan.

"This is not the climate of 'dialogue' as it happens in the West or in the comfortable setting of international conferences; it is the painful making and remaking of trust in a deeply unsafe and complex environment," noted Williams, the leader of the worldwide Anglican communion. The WCC gathering saw the mid-point of the WCC's Decade to Overcome Violence initiative, which was marked by a thousand-strong march through the streets of Porto Alegre led by Nobel Peace Prize laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Adolfo Perez Esquivel.

"You know, they marched in Berlin, and the Berlin Wall fell," Tutu told the crowd. "They marched in South Africa, and apartheid fell. Now we march in Porto Alegre, and violence will end." [836 words]


Back Home Top
EmailEmail this Link to a Friend FeedbackSend Your Feedback



By Maurice Malanes

Porto Alegre, Brazil, 24 February (ENI)--Young people from developing countries are losing the means to be citizens in their own countries due to commercialised education, which stresses producing graduates for the global market, church and youth leaders gathering in Brazil have said.

"Young people are losing meaning in their lives, and losing what it means to be citizens in their own country. This is because of a kind of education geared towards producing graduates for the large machine of globalisation," the Rev. Romeo del Rosario, president of the Union Theological Seminary in the Philippines, told participants at a side meeting on the final day of the WCC 14-23 February assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

He cited not only young people who take up nursing so they can go to the United States, Canada, Britain and other developed countries, but referred also to young people studying in seminaries training clergy. One tenth of the 88 million people in Philippines now work overseas, Del Rosario said, citing figures from the labour and employment department.

"As a pastor, I teach my students to serve their country, but the drive of many young people to work overseas is really strong," he said. British educator Ruth Conway who works for Anglican and Methodist programmes, also bewailed how some universities in both developed and developing countries now serve the corporate interests of multinational companies.

She explained how some universities in Britain, in coordination with other institutions in developing countries, have become the research arms of pharmaceutical companies researching and developing new drugs and genetically modified organisms. The corporate mind-set has also infested many churches, says youth leader Ferdinand Pahtrose of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church in India. "Some churches see prospective 'converts' as 'clients' as if they are selling some kind of goods," said the seminary student without naming any denomination.

"So the challenge for us, seminary students, is to help push for a spirituality that promotes respect for human dignity and develops human relations based on the sanctity of the human being, not based on commercial criteria or interests," Pahtrose added.

Reflecting on the WCC ninth General Assembly theme, "God, in your grace, transform the world", Pahtrose said the world that globalisation has now engulfed could be transformed "through God's grace and through the internal transformation of ourselves". [395 words]


Back Home Top
EmailEmail this Link to a Friend FeedbackSend Your Feedback


By Stephen Brown

Porto Alegre, Brazil, 24 February (ENI)--The World Council of Churches is urging its more than 340 member churches to consider a new statement, "Called to be the One Church", that it hopes will enable them to take the next steps towards Christian unity. "Our continuing divisions are real wounds to the body of Christ, and God's mission in the world suffers," the document presented to the WCC's 14-23 February assembly in Brazil states. Still, "Noting the progress made in the ecumenical movement, we encourage our churches to continue on this arduous yet joyous path".

The document on "ecclesiology" - or the doctrine of the church - touches on some of the most sensitive issues dividing Christian denominations, including the sharing of the Eucharist, and the recognition of each other's clergy. "We affirm that the catholicity of the Church is expressed most visibly in sharing holy communion and in a mutually recognised and reconciled ministry," it states.

"This statement represents a further opportunity to take the next steps to visible unity," said Bishop David Beetge of the (Anglican) Church of the Province of Southern Africa, introducing the document to the assembly. The WCC was founded in 1948 to promote unity between Christian churches and its more than 340 member churches come from predominantly Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox traditions.

The Roman Catholic Church is not a WCC member but has official representatives on some WCC bodies, including the Faith and Order Commission, which promotes dialogue to help resolve differences between the churches and promote church unity. "The key to deepening the fellowship between the Roman Catholic Church and the WCC lies in rigorous theological discourse and holding fast to the vision of visible unity," said Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Through the WCC, the text states, "churches have been able to listen to one another and speak to one another, engaging issues that challenge the churches and imperil humankind." Still, it continues, "churches have not always acknowledged their mutual responsibility to one another, and have not always recognised the need to give account to one another of their faith, life and witness, as well as to articulate the factors that keep them apart." It states: "Bearing in mind the experience of the life we already share * it is now time to take concrete steps together."

It poses 10 questions, hoping that in responding, "churches will be challenged to recognise areas for renewal in their own lives, and new opportunities to deepen relations with those of other traditions". The questions cover issues such as the extent to which churches recognise each other's baptism, and whether they believe it is "necessary, or permissible, or not possible" to share the Lord's Supper, or Eucharist, with members of other churches.

It also asks churches in what ways they can "recognise the ordered ministries of other churches", and poses the question: "How will your church stand with other churches to contend with problems such as social and political hegemonies, persecution, oppression, poverty and violence?" The WCC assembly said it hopes all churches will have responded by the next meeting of the highest decision making body of the group in about seven years. [548 words]


Back Home Top
EmailEmail this Link to a Friend FeedbackSend Your Feedback


By Stephen Brown

Porto Alegre, Brazil, 23 February (ENI)--The World Council of Churches has condemned terrorism but in doing so has urged its members to challenge the idea of the "war on terror", warning that anti-terrorist legislation risks violating human rights. "Every attempt to intimidate others by inflicting indiscriminate death and injury upon them is to be universally condemned," the WCC assembly meeting in Brazil stated in a resolution adopted on 23 February. "The answer to terrorism, however, cannot be to respond in kind, for this can lead to more violence and more terror."

The highest governing body of the WCC said, "acts of terror and some aspects of the so-called 'war on terror' have introduced new dimensions of violence. In addition, fundamental international laws and norms, including long-established standards of human rights, have come under threat.

"Terrorists base their actions on absolutist claims. Religion is sometimes used as a pretext for the use of violence as being divinely sanctioned," the resolution stated. "Assembled as representatives from churches in all corners of the world, we state unequivocally that terror, as indiscriminate acts of violence against unarmed civilians for political or religious aims can never be justified legally, theologically or ethically."

The 14-23 February gathering of the world's biggest church grouping is the first meeting of its assembly since the 11 September 2001 terror attacks in the United States, and subsequent bombings in places such as Britain, Indonesia, and Spain.

"In this document we try to get a balance between terror and counter-terror," Bishop Tom Butler of the Church of England told a media conference in Porto Alegre where the WCC met. "In response to the attacks on the London Underground, the British government is naturally trying to do everything they can to make sure such an atrocity never happens again," said Butler, whose diocese includes part of the British capital. Still, he cautioned, "if we are not careful, human rights are eroded in this response."

The statement warned, "The 'war on terror' has redefined war and relativised international law and human rights norms and standards. A military response to terror may become indiscriminately destructive and cause fear in affected populations. It may provide legitimacy to a violent approach rather than the criminal justice approach which is appropriate in dealing with cases of terror."

The assembly said it wanted to see "interfaith initiatives to mobilise alternate responses to terrorism" that do not rely on violence. "They should reject all attempts to justify acts of terror as a response to political and social problems and play an active role in the prevention of conflicts." [444 words]


Back Home Top
EmailEmail this Link to a Friend FeedbackSend Your Feedback


By Stephen Brown

Porto Alegre, Brazil, 23 February (ENI)--The World Council of Churches has deplored the publication of cartoons caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad, and urged its members to join in non-violent protests with those experiencing attacks on their religion. "Misuse of the right to freedom of speech should be met with non-violent means like critique and expressions of firm disagreement," the WCC's assembly, meeting in Porto Alegre, stated in a 23 February resolution on the final day of its 10-day assembly.

It urged its more than 340 member churches and other partners, "to express and demonstrate solidarity to those who are experiencing attacks on their religion and join them in defending the integrity of their faith by non-violent means". The church grouping noted, "Freedom of speech is indeed a fundamental human right, which needs to be guaranteed and protected. It is both a right and a responsibility." Still, "By the publication of the cartoons, freedom of speech has been used to cause pain by ridiculing peoples' religion, values and dignity. Doing so, the foundation of this right is being devalued."

The assembly, the WCC's highest governing body, warned, "Further publication and the violent reactions to them increase the tension. As people of faith we understand the pain caused by the disregard of something considered precious to faith. We deplore the publications of the cartoons. We also join with the voices of many Muslim leaders in deploring the violent reactions to the publications."

The WCC urged a stepping up of Christian-Muslim dialogue and cooperation, while saying that long-standing grievances about political and social exclusion have inflamed tensions. "There is a need for a serious interfaith dialogue with respect for each other," Agnes Abuom, from Kenya, elected one of the WCC's presidents in 1998, told a 23 February media conference. "We stress the importance of freedom of speech but also the responsibility that goes with that."

Muslims across the globe have protested, sometimes violently, against the cartoons which they say are a blasphemy because they carried an image of Muhammad. In Pakistan and Nigeria, churches are reported to have been set on fire by protesters, while in Nigeria Christian mobs rampaged through a southern Nigerian city, burning mosques. "Churches and church leaders should make use of their contacts to make sure that things don't escalate out of control," Anglican Bishop Tom Butler from Britain told the media conference.

The WCC resolution said the conflict about the cartoons did not result only from religious tensions: "Failure to find a just and peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, reluctance to accept outcomes of free elections, together with the war on Iraq and the war in Afghanistan add frustration to historical experiences marked by crusades and colonialism."

It noted, "In many parts of the world people identify as being politically and economically excluded, and they often experience that dominant powers and cultures apply double standards in dealing with issues which are important to them." Further, it stated, "The recent crisis points to the need for secular states and societies to better understand and respect the role and significance of religion in a multicultural and globalised world." [532 words]


Back Home Top
EmailEmail this Link to a Friend FeedbackSend Your Feedback


By Maurice Malanes

Porto Alegre, Brazil, 23 February (ENI)--Church leaders who minister to migrants and victims of human trafficking, have disclosed at a global church gathering in Brazil that trafficking of women for enforced prostitution usually heightens during international sports events. "It is now public knowledge that organized syndicates have plans to bring in young women, particularly from eastern Europe and from other poor countries, to Germany in time for the World Soccer Cup 2006 [from 9 June to 9 July]," said Vivi Akakpo, West Africa coordinator for the All Africa Conference of Churches.

Akakpo was speaking at a side meeting during the 14-23 February assembly of the World Council of Churches in Porto Alegre. Along with Elena Timofticiuc, manager of the Ecumenical Association of Churches in Romania, Akakpo and other church leaders agreed to request the WCC to urge Interpol, the international police organization, to thwart the plans of organized crime groups engaged in forced prostitution.

Anticipating heightened forced prostitution during the soccer World Cup 2006, the Diakonisches Werk der EKD (Social Service Agency of the Evangelical Church of Germany) has also launched public awareness-raising initiatives to help address the problem, said a German delegate to the WCC assembly here. The delegate, who requested anonymity, disclosed to Ecumenical News International that the German social service group has launched a nationwide poster, postcard and paid newspaper statement campaign about preventing forced prostitution during the World Cup.

The group has also established a national network of centres, where victims can seek both free legal support and psychiatric and spiritual counselling. "Forced prostitution has been there, but this usually increases during international events such as the World Cup," said the German delegate, citing another European soccer event some two to three years earlier during which many cases of forced prostitution were reported.

Church leaders attending the meeting urged other denominations to help lobby governments to enact laws and policies that can help protect women from forced prostitution and to offer shelters to victims and help rehabilitate them for their long-term reintegration into society. They appealed to the WCC: "Take human trafficking seriously; one case is one too many." [366 words]


Back Home Top
EmailEmail this Link to a Friend FeedbackSend Your Feedback


By Stephen Brown

Porto Alegre, Brazil, 22 February (ENI)--Campaigners on HIV and AIDS are looking to the World Council of Churches to take a lead in encouraging denominations around the world to help combat the disease and the stigma that often accompanies it. "It is now or never," Dr Christoph Benn of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria said at the assembly in Porto Alegre of the world's biggest church grouping. "AIDS is the only disease in the world that has led to solidarity between the rich countries and people in the poor countries, in a magnitude that has never been manifested for any other disease."

The statistics seem to demonstrate the urgency of the challenge. In 2005, the United Nations programme UNAIDS and the World Health Organization reported that the overall number of people living with HIV has continued to increase in all regions of the world except the Caribbean. The two groups the number of people living with HIV globally has reached its highest level with an estimated 40.3 million people, up from an estimated 37.5 million in 2003.

"There was a time when the church was seen as a stumbling block," said the Rev. Gideon Byamugisha, an Anglican from Uganda who in 1992 became the first known priest in Africa to declare publicly he was HIV positive. "But now we are in a phase of active response." Byamugisha and another Anglican priest, the Rev. Jape Heath, who discovered he was HIV positive in 2000, have set up the African Network of Religious Leaders living with or personally Affected by HIV and AIDS (ANERELA+). This provides mutual support for members and tries to reduce the stigmatisation of HIV-positive people in society.

As well as having to deal with self-induced stigma and societal stigma, HIV positive people sometimes face faith-based stigma as well. "Faith-based stigma originates from the moralistic perspective that people living with HIV brought this on themselves and must therefore be sinners," Heath said. "Thank God we are beginning to change that."

The message that religious groups have a role to play in combating the pandemic was echoed by Renu Chahil-Graf, who coordinates the UNAIDS programme in Brazil. "We strongly believe that churches and faith-based organizations can make a significant contribution in reducing the spread of HIV and AIDS," she told journalists during the 14-23 February WCC assembly, the first meeting of the main governing body of the world's largest grouping of churches to be held in Latin America.

Still, some campaigners attending the WCC assembly said they were disappointed that HIV and AIDS had not had a higher profile on the agenda of the global gathering. "I personally think this is a lost opportunity. HIV/AIDS should be mainstreamed," said Dr Sue Parry, a medical doctor from Zimbabwe who is the southern Africa regional coordinator of the Ecumenical HIV/AIDS Initiative in Africa, a WCC programme. "Many people think HIV is just an African issue," said Parry. "But it's not. Figures show it is rising in other parts of the world."

Parry's concern was echoed by Gracia Violeta Ross Quiroga from Bolivia, who belongs to an evangelical church and is a representative of the National Network of Bolivian People living with HIV and AIDS. "We need to have more commitment from the churches," said Ross Quiroga. Still, "The situation of churches in Africa is much better than in the rest of the world. We can learn from Africa," she noted. "In the churches in Bolivia, not even my church has a formal programme on HIV/AIDS," she said. "I'm doing the work and I'm a volunteer, and there's no budget."

Said Parry, "Our whole aim is to build the AIDS competent church." And, noted Heath, "We need to break down the 'them and us'. As churches we need to stop talking about what we can do for them but what we can do together." [661 words]


Back Home Top
EmailEmail this Link to a Friend FeedbackSend Your Feedback


By Maurice Malanes

Porto Alegre, Brazil, 22 February (ENI)--A group of openly homosexual church leaders meeting during the assembly of the World Council of Churches have advocated a more inclusive Christian faith that embraces people of all sexual orientations.

"We are here, because we do not wish to be segregated or isolated," said the Rev. Nancy Wilson, moderator of the US-based Metropolitan Community Churches. "And we are here to encourage the churches to do justice within their own communions when it comes to people with HIV/AIDS; and those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered."

She was delivering a message during a 20 February service at the chapel of the Pontifical University of Rio de Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre, Brazil while speakers in another venue at the ninth assembly of the World Council of Churches were debating church unity.

The Metropolitan Community Churches was launched in 1968 to minister to 'gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons. It has since grown to include 43 000 adherents in almost 300 congregations in 22 countries. "We come to the WCC as a denomination and movement of people who have been healed and transformed by the powerful touch of a living Saviour, whose mercy and love have reached where the institutional church would and could not reach," said Wilson.

Also as the service was held, South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu was delivering an address to the main session of the assembly in which he stated that "gay, lesbian, so-called straight, all belong and are loved" by God.

"I struggled against racism because it sought to prejudice someone because of something about which they could do nothing, their skin colour," Tutu later told journalists. "I could not keep quiet so long as people were being penalised about something which they could do nothing about * their sexual orientation."

In her message at the service of the Metropolitan Community Churches, Wilson said she and others in the denomination could empathise with the persecution experienced by Christian Dalits, once called untouchables, in India, who also brought their stories to the WCC assembly. Wilson also highlighted the murder in the last 18 months of 12 gay men in Jamaica, some of whom were HIV/AIDS workers and community organizers and lamented that "no one in the government, university or the churches is speaking up, offering support or shelter or help".

She stressed that the Metropolitan Community Churches was at the WCC gathering "to publicly call on the WCC and its member churches to repudiate violence against people for their sexuality or their HIV status." But she added, "We came, even more, because we have so much to offer to the wider church and community * and because the Lord is upon us." [465 words]


Back Home Top
EmailEmail this Link to a Friend FeedbackSend Your Feedback


By Maurice Malanes

Porto Alegre, Brazil, 18 February (ENI)--Churches have been burned down in Pakistan by angry mobs protesting about the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad originally published in a Danish newspaper, says a Pakistan Christian leader who has urged media in Western countries to show sensitivity to Muslim concerns.

"Muslims are among the people on earth who are faithfully and deeply dedicated to their faith, so let us never insult their Prophet Muhammad, even in the name of freedom to write," said the Rev. Victor Azariah, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in Pakistan. He was speaking at a side meeting held during the World Council of Churches' 14-23 February assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

Church leaders needed to educate other people, including media in Western countries, to respect the deep faith of those who practise Islam, he said. Azariah had earlier reported that two schools run by the Church of Pakistan in the North West Frontier Province had been attacked by Islamic protesters enraged at the insulting of their prophet. At the same time, a joint delegation of Christians and Muslims from Norway on 17 February in the Pakistan capital of Islamabad condemned the publication of the caricatures, the Pakistan Link Web site reported.

"We felt the same pain caused to Muslims and our forum protested this blasphemous act," Arne Saeveraas of Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) was reported as saying. Alongside NCA, members of the delegation came from the Church of Norway and the Islamic Council of Norway. The cartoons were first published in the mass-circulation Danish Jyllands-Posten newspaper in September 2005 but further controversy was sparked in early January when they were reprinted by an evangelical Christian newspaper in Norway.

Senaid Kobilica, vice-president of the Islamic Council of Norway, warned that violent protests against Norway in countries such as Pakistan could harm peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims. "Over-reaction is not the right way to protest and our Prophet does not preach so," he was quoted. "We have regular meetings with the Church on the caricatures issue and together we condemn such blasphemous acts." [359 words]


Back Home Top
EmailEmail this Link to a Friend FeedbackSend Your Feedback


By Stephen Brown

Porto Alegre, Brazil, 17 February (ENI)--Disputes in churches about homosexuality are hampering the search for Christian unity, Vatican officials have said during a global meeting of the World Council of Churches in Porto Alegre, Brazil. "In the past all Christian churches had the same position on this question," Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, told a media conference at the WCC's 14-23 February assembly. "But now there are not only divisions between our church and other churches, there are also divisions within churches."

He referred in particular to the Anglican Communion, which has been riven with division over homosexuality since the election in 2003 of V. Gene Robinson as the first bishop in the US Episcopal (Anglican) Church to live openly in an active homosexual relationship. Kasper's commission has previously stated that Robinson's election "created new obstacles" for relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. And, in 2005, a Vatican statement said people with "deep seated homosexual tendencies" should not under any circumstances become priests.

"We want to be faithful to what scripture is saying," said Kasper at the 16 February media conference. "There are also some anthropological questions. People are no longer sure what it means to be a man, to be a woman." Still, the Catholic Church opposed "any kind of discrimination" against homosexuals, Kasper said.

Bishop Brian Farrell, the secretary of the Vatican's unity commission, said the Catholic Church was resolved to continue its official dialogue with the Anglican Communion. Still, it was observing developments with concern. "We must see how things develop," said Farrell. "This is one of our ecumenical partners in difficulty and we are very concerned they find a way out." [300 words]


Back Home Top
EmailEmail this Link to a Friend FeedbackSend Your Feedback


By Stephen Brown

Porto Alegre, Brazil, 16 February (ENI)--A top Vatican official says it is urgent for churches around the world to find a common date on which to celebrate Easter, noting this would mark an enormous step forward in promoting Christian unity. "Especially for churches in Muslim countries it is a scandal if Christians cannot celebrate together," Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, told a media conference during the 14-23 February assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

Easter, the festival which for Christians marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ, is celebrated most years on two different dates, one by most Protestants and Roman Catholics, and the other by most Orthodox churches. The different dates stem in part from disagreement over reform of the calendar by Pope Gregory XIII in the 16th century. This year Easter Sunday is on 16 April for most Protestants and Catholics and on 23 April for most Orthodox churches. The days will coincide in 2007 and 2010.

Much of the impetus for fixing a common Easter date has come from the Middle East where Christians from different traditions live in close proximity, often as small Christian minorities. The WCC and the Middle East Council of Churches launched an initiative in 1997 to enable all churches to celebrate Easter together every year. Although many churches around the world welcomed the initiative, hopes that the start of the millennium might mark the end of division over the dates proved unrealistic.

"If we can reach this agreement it would be an enormous step forward," said Cardinal Kasper, noting the Vatican was open to different ways of resolving the issue. The Catholic Church is not a member of the WCC, whose more than 340 members are from mainly Protestant and Christian Orthodox traditions. It does, however, cooperate with the council in many projects and serves on some of its committees and on some national church bodies that are linked to the WCC. An 18-strong delegation of Roman Catholic observers is attending the WCC gathering.

Still, the Catholic Church and WCC members remain divided over issues such as the Eucharist, the role of clergy and papal authority. The Vatican cardinal urged churches to reach agreement on the mutual recognition of baptism, saying this was "fundamental" to Christian unity. [401 words]


Back Home Top
EmailEmail this Link to a Friend FeedbackSend Your Feedback


By Peter Kenny

Porto Alegre, Brazil, 14 February (ENI)--Women are playing a stronger role than in the past at the assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) where 45 per cent of participants are females, leaders from the world's largest grouping of churches say. "The World Council of Churches provides a space for women," said Agnes Abuom, the WCC's Africa regional president on 14 February, the opening day of a global meeting of the council's highest governing body that is held once every seven years.

"This year we are celebrating an increased participation by women. We are 37 per cent of the delegates and 45 per cent of the participants," said Abuom, a Kenyan, speaking to a media conference at the assembly, which runs until 23 February with more than 4000 participants. Prior to the start of the assembly of the WCC, which consists of more than 340 churches representing some 550 million people, the council's general secretary, the Rev. Samuel Kobia, said the roles of men in society needed to be reorganized.

Speaking to a meeting of women participants, Kobia said such a change of roles for men is a pre-requisite for meaningful social transformation. Kobia said that during the 20th century, the change in women's roles from that of being homemakers to working outside the home had impacted on women and family life. But this had not yet led to changes in men's roles he rued. "The role of men needs to change for the transformation to make sense in this assembly and beyond," noted Kobia. Still, the WCC general secretary warned that men in leadership positions would not give up power easily. Therefore, women should continue in their struggle for social transformation, he declared.

Louise Bakala Koumouno from the Evangelical Church of the Congo (Brazzaville) said very few women hold church leadership positions in sub-Saharan Africa, and urged the church to give training to women so that they could take up such positions. [339 words]


Back Home Top
EmailEmail this Link to a Friend FeedbackSend Your Feedback


By Stephen Brown

Porto Alegre, Brazil, 14 February (ENI)--Pope Benedict XVI has pledged to continue working with the World Council of Churches - the world's biggest church grouping - in promoting Christian unity. "We look forward to continuing this journey of hope and promise, as we intensify our endeavours towards reaching that day when Christians are united in proclaiming the Gospel message of salvation for all," said Pope Benedict in a message to the WCC's ninth assembly which opened in Porto Alegre on 14 February.

The Roman Catholic Church is not a member of the WCC, which groups more than 340 churches in more than 100 countries mainly from the Protestant and Christian Orthodox traditions representing more than 550 million people. Still, it cooperates with the council in many projects and serves on some of its committees, and the Catholic Church belongs to some national church groupings including the National Council of Christian Churches in Brazil which is hosting the WCC gathering on a Catholic university campus.

Pope Benedict - then Professor Joseph Ratzinger - was from 1968 to 1975 a member of the WCC's Faith and Order Commission, which has Catholics as full members and seeks to promote church unity through theological dialogue. The day after his election as pontiff in 2005 Pope Benedict described his primary task as helping Christian unity and said he would do "everything in his power to promote the fundamental cause of ecumenism".

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos I who is seen by many as the spiritual leader of Eastern Orthodox Christians worldwide, underlined in his message to the gathering the commitment of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the WCC and to the ecumenical movement as a whole. "It will continue to offer its witness and to share the richness of its theological and ecclesial tradition in the search for unity among Christian churches, in all efforts towards reconciliation and peace," he noted.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the WCC and leaders of faith communities to support the world body in its efforts to promote peace, advance development and defend human dignity. "At a time when some would seek to divide the human family by exploiting differences among peoples, the United Nations needs more than ever the support of men and women of faith like you," said Annan. [395 words]


Back Home Top
EmailEmail this Link to a Friend FeedbackSend Your Feedback


By Michele Green

Jerusalem, 24 February (ENI)--The Dalai Lama has met religious leaders during a visit to the Holy Land in which he carried a message of non-violence, religious tolerance and hope, but he was not able to carry that message over to Palestinians in Bethlehem. The spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists also urged Jewish and Muslim leaders to play a role in making peace between Israelis and Palestinians even if it meant talking to their most bitter enemies.

"Any noble work is bound to have obstacles," the Dalai Lama told religious leaders in a meeting on 19 February. "We need determination to pursue justice and truth." The exiled Tibetan leader ended his five-day visit to the Holy Land on 20 February. He had intended to travel to the West Bank city of Bethlehem to meet Palestinian Muslim and Christian leaders and visit the Church of the Nativity. But the Palestinian Authority cancelled the visit due to pressure from China, Palestinian sources said.

The Chinese consul in Tel Aviv has sent a letter protesting against the Dalai Lama's visit to the Israeli government, comparing the Dalai Lama to the head of the Hamas, Israel Radio had reported. "If China would let the head of Hamas visit, Israel would be angry," the radio station quoted the letter as saying. The present Dalai Lama - the 14th incarnation according to Tibetan tradition - also had words of advice for Israeli and Palestinian youth during a lecture at Jerusalem's Hebrew University.

''Despite all the different philosophies and religions that exist in the world, they all carry the same message of love and compassion,'' said the Dalai Lama. ''Compassion is the essence of all religions, the foundation of human society." Israeli political officials did not meet the Dalai Lama but he met the country's chief rabbis as well as Muslim clerics that head Islamic courts in Israel. He was also given an honorary doctorate degree at the Ben Gurion University.

The Dalai Lama is respected internationally as a religious and spiritual figure. He has also become a symbol of the desires of many Tibetans to be free of Chinese rule. Chinese Communist troops took control of Tibet in 1951 and the Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese occupation. He has renounced independence and seeks maximum autonomy and religious freedom for Tibet within China. China, however, accuses the Dalai Lama of seeking independence. [415 words]


Back Home Top
EmailEmail this Link to a Friend FeedbackSend Your Feedback


Anto Akkara

New Delhi, 21 February (ENI)--Christians in Pakistan are pleading with their government to provide protection for them after attacks from Muslims protesting at the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in the Western media. "The properties and places of worship of the religious minorities are increasingly becoming a target for extremist attackers," said the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Roman Catholic Church in Pakistan in a statement on 20 February.

It followed the desecration and torching of two churches - St Mary's Catholic church and St Saviour's church of the Church of Pakistan - by mobs at Sukkar in Sindh province the previous day. "We strongly condemn this terrible breakdown of the law and order machinery and the government's inability to stop abuse of religion and the law in Pakistan," lamented Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha, the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Pakistan.

The Catholic forum noted further that more than six churches, Christian schools, a college and a hospital had come under attack by protesters incensed about the publication of the cartoons, first carried in Denmark. "The government has to send out a clear message to the mobs that they cannot get away after attacking minorities like this," Peter Jacob, the NCJP executive secretary, told Ecumenical News International from his office in Lahore. The government had "tried to ignore acts that showed dangerous trends" and had "failed in addressing the root causes of religious intolerance", Jacob asserted.

"It is a brutal act of religious terrorism," said the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance condemning the assaults on the churches. "The sense of insecurity and fear has worsened among minorities after the church attacks," said Shabhaz Bhatti, the alliance chairperson. Church of Pakistan Bishop Samuel Pervez, president of the National Council of Churches of Pakistan told ENI, "We are really feeling helpless." He regretted that Muslims felt indignation over the cartoons. "But, the sad result is that we have to suffer for that," said the president of the council, a grouping of four major Protestant churches in a nation where more than 95 per cent of the 162 million people are Muslims.

Meanwhile, reaction to the cartoon protests created its own controversy in neighbouring India, where 13 per cent of the 1.1 billion people are Muslims. Haji Yaqoob Qureishi, the welfare minister in India's Uttar Pradesh state, the most populous with 180 million people, offered a reward of 510 million rupees (US$11.8 million) for the head of the Danish cartoonist who caricatured Muhammad. Despite a call by some Muslim leaders for the minister's resignation, five days after his declaration, Qureishi continued to hold his ministerial post. [452 words]


Back Home Top
EmailEmail this Link to a Friend FeedbackSend Your Feedback


By Cheryl Heckler

Oxford, Ohio, 21 February (ENI)--The image of US rap star Kanye West posing as Jesus for a recent cover of Rolling Stone magazine has drawn from editorial writers and religious organizations the sort of pungent rhetoric West himself has been producing for years. The 27-year-old rapper took three more Grammy awards, the music industry's Oscar, on 12 February. But his appearance on Rolling Stone's cover at the same time with a crown of thorns and blood running down his face made as many headlines. The magazine is nearly 40 years old, has a circulation of over 1.25 million and is considered a top publication on music and popular culture in North America.

"The good news is that Jesus Christ has finally been depicted as a black man on the cover of a national magazine," one commentator, Gregory Kane, noted on the Web site. "The bad news is that the black man is rapper Kanye West." In an article accompanying the photo, West compares himself to Jesus saying both "had to fight for recognition and success". He goes on to say, "If I was more complacent and I let things slide, my life would be easier, but you all wouldn't be entertained. My misery is your pleasure."

But Kane asked, "What is it with this guy and his ego? Did his parents have to keep a crowbar handy when he was growing up, the better to pry his lips loose from the mirrors around the house?" Keira McCaffrey, a spokesperson for the Catholic League said of the whole issue, "It's moronic. I mean, Kanye West as Jesus? He's a pop star."

Catholic League president, William Donohue, accused the magazine of taking advantage of West, "It's one thing to rip off Catholic iconography. It's quite another to exploit a poor soul like Kanye West. Anyone who is this morally and mentally challenged deserves our sympathy, not our derision."

West is known for blunt social commentary, most recently for saying "George Bush doesn't care about black people" during a telethon for Hurricane Katrina victims. But he also has drawn greater awareness to the violence and tragedy of mining "conflict" diamonds in Africa, especially Sierra Leone and Angola. [380 words]


Back Home Top
EmailEmail this Link to a Friend FeedbackSend Your Feedback


By Michele Green

Bethlehem, West Bank, 17 February (ENI)--Christians living in Jesus' birthplace of Bethlehem are bracing themselves as the militant Islamic group Hamas prepares to take power of the Palestinian Authority government after winning legislature elections in January.

"There are many Christians who are afraid," said Shatha, a student at the Roman Catholic Bethlehem University. "Since Hamas is new to the government, I doubt they will be able to implement Islamic law," she said the day before Hamas was to take over the Palestinian authority on 17 February. "But it's possible they might in the future."

Bethlehem's Christian community was already concerned after a member of the city council that is controlled by Hamas suggested imposing a tax known as Jizya on Christians, one traditionally imposed by Islamic rulers on non-Muslim subjects. The councillor has since said that such a tax would only be imposed once Sharia law is imposed in line with Hamas' charter which calls for the destruction of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic state on its ruins.

But the denials that the council is considering imposing a Jizya tax has not quelled concern among some Christians in Bethlehem where there is rising tension between the dwindling Christian residents and the growing Muslim population. Since being elected, Hamas leaders have made a point of emphasising they would not force women to wear the "hijab" or veil, ban alcohol or separate boys and girls at schools.

But some Christians believe it is only a matter of time before Hamas starts flexing its muscles. They cite a list of grievances that have made life in Bethlehem uncomfortable for some and which is spurring an annual emigration rate of an estimated 2000 of the city's 40 000 Christians. Complaints range from services in the Church of the Nativity being drowned out by blaring loudspeakers from a mosque across Manger Square, to incidents of what local Christians call harassment of their women by Muslims.

Brawls between Christians and Muslims have broken out over small incidents such as car accidents as well as allegations of harassment. "A lot of Christians don't wear the cross anymore, especially the men, because they don't want to stand out and they don't want any trouble," one Christian woman said.

But not everyone is worried. A Christian shopkeeper, who declined to be named, said he is certain that Hamas will never try to ban the selling of alcohol in Bethlehem as it has almost completely done in the Gaza Strip where Christians are a tiny minority. "Hamas is smart and knows that Bethlehem is in the world's spotlight," he said. "Don't worry, I'll always be allowed to sell alcohol and they will never make our women wear the veil. [466 words]


Back Home Top
EmailEmail this Link to a Friend FeedbackSend Your Feedback


By Michele Green

Jerusalem, 16 February (ENI)--A delegation of Israeli-Arab Christians has been at the Vatican recently to discuss urgent aid for the struggling Christian communities of the Holy Land. The delegation met earlier in February with members of a Holy See assembly that discusses problems concerning Christians in the Middle East, including Israel, and sometimes approves projects for local communities. The delegates submitted a plan to help revive Christian communities in the Holy Land, whose numbers are dwindling.

The plan includes obtaining more support from Christians abroad, particularly pilgrims visiting holy sites in Israel and the Palestinian territories, as this could alleviate the sense of neglect and isolation felt by the local Christian community. One of the representatives said it was time for churches abroad to take a more active role to revitalise Christian communities in the Holy Land. "We are a dying congregation," said Dr Raed Mualem, head of the Mar Elias University in the Galilee town of Ibillin.

Mualem told Israel's daily Haaretz newspaper that soon Galilee Christians would be almost "extinct" because the migration rate is 35 per cent. Christians currently comprise about 1.7 per cent of Israel's six million population - or about 110,000 people. But Mualem said that if the high rate of migration continues then the number of Christians living in Israel will drop to less than half of one per cent of the population by 2020.

Around 40 000 Christians live in the Palestinian territories and they are migrating at a rate of about 2000 people a year. Christians who have often been wealthier and more educated then their neighbours have increasingly sought to make a better life for their families abroad rather than live as a small minority caught between the mostly Israeli-Jewish and Palestinian-Muslim populations.

The plan submitted to the Vatican includes calling for more direct support of congregation institutions, private Christian hospitals and schools as well as the establishment of a cultural centre for local Christians and community television and radio stations. "Projects of this sort ensure a better future not only for Christians but for the entire Israeli Arab population," Mualem said. [364 words]


Back Home Top
EmailEmail this Link to a Friend FeedbackSend Your Feedback


By Oivind Ostang

Oslo, 13 February (ENI)--The editor of a Norwegian Christian magazine that published cartoons of the prophet Muhammad which have sparked worldwide protests, some violent, has apologised to Muslims for the journal's action in printing the caricatures. "I am deeply sorry that you as Muslims have experienced that your religious feelings have been offended through what we have done," said Vebjorn Selbekk, the editor of Magazinet, at a press conference in Oslo on 10 February. "I have earlier stated publicly that I * regret the publication."

The cartoons were first published in a Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005 before being republished in January by Magazinet and then reprinted by other media mostly in Europe. "It was never our attention to offend anyone," said Selbekk whose apology was praised as an act of courage by some bishops. "It is also correct to admit that I as editor did not fully understand how offensive the publication of Jyllands-Posten's drawings would be experienced."

Selbekk praised the Muslim community in Norway for what he said was its "dignified" response to the publication of the cartoons, saying he denounced right wing extremists for trying to exploit the situation. "We need to take a strong stand against these developments," he said. "Now it is more important than ever that we all reject discrimination of people belonging to different religious or ethnic groups."

Meanwhile, the acting head of Norway's Lutheran bishops has also apologised for the publication in Norway of the cartoons. Bishop Riksaasen Dahl of Tunsberg diocese, speaking to the daily Aftenposten newspaper on 10 February said that violent reactions to the cartoons had to be condemned. But the West also needed an increased understanding of the sacred, she noted.

"It is now a challenge for Church of Norway priests and preachers to strengthen our perception of what is holy," she said. The faithful needed to become more aware of the holiness of God and of churches as holy places, while comedians should realise that they may offend people with satirical comments on faith and religious life. [353 words]


Back Home Top
EmailEmail this Link to a Friend FeedbackSend Your Feedback


By Anto Akkara

Bangalore, India, 10 February (ENI)--Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana, the Vatican envoy to India, has cautioned the Roman Catholic Church in the world's second most populous nation to shed an elitist tag it has gained regarding education. "In spite of all our idealism and good intentions, we are too well aware that many of our educational institutions are largely at the service of the dominant rich and of the neo-liberal and capitalist system that controls our society," Quintana said on 8 February in Bangalore at the assembly of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India.

The 160 Indian bishops were attending the 8-15 February assembly that takes place every second year and is the third largest conference of Catholic bishops after those of the United States and Brazil. "If the Catholic schools were to turn their attention exclusively or predominantly to those wealthier social classes, it could be contributing towards maintaining their privileged position and could thereby continue to favour a society which is unjust," said Lopez Quintana.

Still, he praised the bishops for taking up "Catholic education and concern for the marginalised" as the assembly theme. But the Vatican envoy urged them "to preach the good news to the oppressed through the most powerful means at our disposal - education". India has 16 million Catholics out of a population of 1.1 billion people, but the church runs 20 370 educational institutions with more than 10 million students, three-quarters of whom not Catholics.

Urging the Indian Catholic Church to identify and serve those suffering from "structurally entrenched poverty", Lopez Quintana urged the bishops "to take into serious consideration the provisions of reservation for the under privileged in private institutions being mooted by the government of India". In January a meeting of the Catholic Council of India, which gathers bishops, nuns, priests and laity, reflected on the same theme ahead of the bishops' meeting. The council had demanded that "admission shall not be denied to the Catholic child for economic and social reasons", and called for quotas for "poor and marginalised Catholic students in our institutions of higher learning and professional colleges".

The demand follows criticism that the church-run school managements deny students from poor backgrounds, especially dalits, or oppressed low castes, admission to prestigious church institutions due to pressure from the well-off sections of the population who want to attend. Dalits account for two-thirds of India's Catholics. Jesuit priest Prakash Luis, a former director of Indian Social Institute in New Delhi, told Ecumenical News International: "The nuncio has hit the nail on the head, and it is for the bishops to take the necessary policy decisions." [449 words]


Back Home Top
EmailEmail this Link to a Friend FeedbackSend Your Feedback


By Fredrick Nzwili

Nairobi, 9 February (ENI)--Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu has apologised to the global Islamic community over cartoons in a Danish newspaper caricaturing the prophet Muhammad, but urged Muslims incensed over the publication to exercise tolerance and forgiveness in their protests. "We would wish to send to the [Muslim] community the message of our distress, and hope they will be able ... in the end to forgive what has really upset them very deeply," said Tutu while attending the dedication of an All Africa Conference of Churches ecumenical centre named after him in Nairobi on 9 February.

In his message, Tutu, the former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, said Christians would be distressed if someone had portrayed Jesus in an offensive way, and Jews if the holocaust was depicted in a dismissive manner. "We pray their hearts will be persuaded and if protests have to continue, we hope the protests would be peaceful and dignified, as it is befitting of people of faith," said Tutu who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 leading peaceful protests against South Africa's racist apartheid system.

Muslims across the globe have protested, sometimes violently, against the cartoons which they say are a blasphemy because they carried an image of Muhammad. In Rome Pope Benedict XVI said he hoped the death of Andrea Santoro, a 60-year-old Italian missionary slain in Turkey by a mob protesting against the cartoons, would serve to promote dialogue between believers of various religions.

The Zenit news agency reported that at the end of his 8 February daily audience, "a visibly moved Pope remembered this priest of the diocese of Rome, who was murdered last Sunday while praying in his parish church in Trabzon, Turkey." "May the Lord receive the soul of this silent and courageous servant of the Gospel and permit the sacrifice of his life to contribute to the cause of dialogue between religions and to peace among peoples," said Benedict about the death of the priest serving in Turkey on a one-year assignment.

The cartoons have been reprinted worldwide as protests continued, while in South Africa a court imposed a ban on their publication. The Jordanian weekly newspaper al-Shihan reprinted three of the cartoons, saying people should know what they were protesting about. "Muslims of the world be reasonable," wrote editor Jihad Momani. "What brings more prejudice against Islam, these caricatures or pictures of a hostage-taker slashing the throat of his victim in front of the cameras or a suicide bomber who blows himself up during a wedding ceremony in Amman?"

Momani and Hisham Khalidi of the newspaper al-Mehwar, also in Jordan, were arrested and charged with blasphemy for publishing the cartoons. [458 words]


Back Home Top
EmailEmail this Link to a Friend FeedbackSend Your Feedback


By Anto Akkara

New Delhi, 2 February (ENI)--Following several attacks on Christian targets in January, church groups have appealed to India's federal government "to curb and contain hate campaigns and violence" against the country's minuscule Christian community. "Urgent steps need to be taken to restore confidence and check the violence," pleaded the ecumenical All India Christian Council (AICC) and the All India Catholic Union (AICU) in a joint statement to federal interior minister, Shivraj Patil, on 31 January.

The latest attack took place on 29 January when Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Dabre of Vasai went to open a hostel for Hindu students in Maharashtra state, in a remote region referred to locally as a "tribal area". Villagers chased the assailants away but not before two people, including a priest were injured, while the hostel building and vehicles were damaged. "The reason for this attack has been the same old one - [allegations of] conversion," Bishop Dabre told Ecumenical News International from Vasai. He asserted, however, that the attackers in the remote village had been misinformed that "the fathers [clerics] were coming to convert them".

The church groups also said that more than 12 Christians were injured when militant Hindus attacked an evangelical prayer meeting on 28 January in Bhopal, capital of Madhya Pradesh state. Similar attacks on Christians have been reported from several areas especially in the states of Orissa, Rajasthan and Jharkhand ruled by the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. There have also been reports of a pastor tortured by police.

Hindu protesters recently burnt an effigy of Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, who heads the archdiocese of Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand state, accusing him of masterminding the conversion of "tribal people".

"These are not isolated incidents. There is a clear strategy behind these [attacks]," John Dayal, who serves on both the church groupings that released the statement, told Ecumenical News International. He said members of a federal council chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said the latest attacks on Christians were "an attempt to revitalise the Hindutva [Hindu nationalist] forces by using Christians as whipping boys". [365 words]


Back Home Top
EmailEmail this Link to a Friend FeedbackSend Your Feedback