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Stewardship and Trusteesh
  By A.J. Philip  
  I ACCOMPANIED Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his visit to South Africa on the occasi  
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Letter to Metropolitan
  By Rev A.P. Jacob and five other priests  
  Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan Most Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar  
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Back to infancy -- they n
  By Shaheen Chander  
  ENJOYING a relaxed weekend, I was checking updates on the Facebook page. I came across a b  
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Hunt for righteousness
  By James Chacko  
  THE world has been shocked by the devastation of an entire nation as a massive earthquake had its epicenter in the very densely populated downtown area of Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital city. Already one of the poorest nations on Earth, this horror has greatly compounded the agonies facing this island nation.

In the wake of the earthquake in Haiti I heard some people say this was a judgment on the nation. I believe that it is not for us to determine. It is true that two places in the Western Hemisphere that have been hit hardest by natural disasters -- New Orleans and Haiti -- are also the two areas where the occultic practice of voodoo has been most prevalent in the Western Hemisphere.

And it is true that in 1791 a group of Haitian slaves plotting revolt against the French officially dedicated the nation to Satan. But it is also true that in 1997 many Haitian Christians gathered to renounce this act with repentance, prayer, and fasting. Today, statistics indicate that at least 22 per cent of Haiti's people are evangelical Christians, and the number has been rising.

I am reminded of Paul's words found in 1 Thessalonians 5:9: "For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ."

When you think of Sodom and Gomorrah, what comes to your mind? Is it not God's wrath and fiery judgment? The truth is that God was not all out to judge the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. He was not on a sin hunt. He was, in fact, on a righteousness hunt!

This is evident because if God was on a sin hunt, He would not have allowed anyone to stop Him. But we know that He let Abraham in on what He was about to do and even allowed Abraham to entreat Him.

Abraham asked God if He would destroy Sodom if He could find 50 righteous people there. God's reply was, "If I find in Sodom 50 righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes" (Genesis 18:26). Abraham then asked God if He would destroy the city if there were only 45... 40... 30... or 10 righteous. And each time, God's reply was that He would spare the place for the sake of the righteous.

Abraham stopped at 10. If he had gone down to just one righteous man, I believe God's reply would have been the same because He was on a righteousness hunt.

Now, if God was not all out to destroy then, how much more today, when God has already judged our sins in the body of His Son? At the cross, Jesus exhausted all of God's fiery judgments until there was no more fire of God's wrath left for us!

Today, God is not judging us for our sins because He has found the righteousness of the one Man -- Christ Jesus. So do not let anyone tell you that God judges you for your sins and punishes you with cancer, car accidents, business failures or brokenness. God would be unjust if He punished the same sins twice -- in Jesus' body and then in yours.

Beloved, God is not out to judge you but bless you today, not because you deserve it, but because Jesus was judged and punished in your place! Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be found as righteous in Him.
Rev. James Chacko, the Lead Pastor at LifeBridge Worship Centre, Chandigarh, is pursuing his Ph.D. through the centre for Religious Studies in Punjabi University, Patiala.
Our Guard and Protector
  By Elizebath Philip  
  WE were on the picturesque Puri beach in Orissa when my husband's mobile rang. But before he could answer the call, the phone got disconnected as it had run short of power. My own phone was at the guesthouse in Bhubaneswar where we stayed. Thus we remained incommunicado for a few hours.

As soon as we returned to the guesthouse, my husband put his mobile on the charger. Soon it rang. On the line was Ruchira, our daughter-in-law, who was upset that she was unable to contact us for a long time. She had a bad news to give us.

On the night of January 19-20, our flat at Dwarka in New Delhi was burgled. The thieves had entered the house by breaking open two locks -- on the gate and the front door. I missed a heartbeat when Ruchira told me that one of my bags was lying on the bed.

From the description of the bag, I concluded that a large sum of money kept in it for payment of annual LIC premia, PPF, ULIP etc must have been taken away by the thieves. I got worried as my ornaments were also in the house. We felt like returning to Delhi but it was too late for the last flight that day.

We were restless as we wanted to know what all things the burglars had taken away. Everything in the house was almost lying open, including my ornaments, a laptop and cameras. But we had to wait till late in the evening when Ruchira returned from her office. Our son was away at Haridwar covering the Kumbh mela. I had a long telephonic conversation with Ruchira and she helped me check the valuables I had kept.

We found that the burglars had ransacked all the almirahs and drawers. They took out the pouch containing Ruchira's ornaments and a bag containing my cash. Both were found open and the ornaments were found lying scattered. Nothing was missing, though.

Except the inside pocket zip where the cash was kept, they had opened all the zips of the bag. It was a miracle that the cash remained untouched.

It is beyond anyone's understanding how and why they didn't take the things and what actually happened.

But I know for certain that God worked and they left leaving everything because of His intervention. I would love to believe that angels Michael and Gabriel, as mentioned in the Bible, had guarded us. I shudder to think what would have happened if they had taken away the items we had bought over several decades with our hard-earned money.

How true when the Psalmist says, "Your protector is always awake. He never dozes or sleeps. He will guard you."

This I write as a thanksgiving to God and as a testimony of His care. This has strengthened my faith. Yes, I have again "tasted that the Lord is good" and "my help will come from the Lord".
The writer is Chief Manager, Oriental Insurance
Religious honesty
  By Balvinder Singh  
  THE other day my car broke down and I had to take a ride with a close acquaintance. His fast driving reminded me of my own younger days. He jumped almost all traffic lights with impunity while talking sundry matters that generally, and paradoxically enough, revolved around social decadence.

At one traffic signal, he was forced to stop, as there were a few other vehicles ahead of him, waiting for the green signal. However, when the countdown of the light timer showed seven seconds left for the light to turn green, he started honking, rather impatiently.

This made me analyze his highly 'patient' mien about which he had told me only a while ago. For, he had told me about his recent visit to 'Darbaar Sahib' (all devout Sikhs call the Golden Temple as such with reverence), where he had waited for three long hours to pay obeisance!

I was wondering how a person who could stand in queue with utter patience for hours could not show similar serenity for just a few seconds on another count. What an absurdity indeed!

This reminded me immediately of an old friend, Joshi, who is no more in this world. A well-read Leftist having sharp intellect and a well-trained eye for art, Joshi was very fond of Shiv Singh, a local well-known sculptor. He could well be described as Singh's best 'friend, philosopher and guide'.

Unfortunately, I had not developed much liking for Singh's sculptures, possibly for 'rival-istic' reasons.

Once I asked Joshi the reason for his blind fondness for Singh and his work. A slickly smiling Joshi, as was his natural façade, gave me a quizzing look and told me the following, rather convincingly:

"The first time I visited Singh's house, we sat down for a couple of glasses of beer. After pouring frothy beer into two large glasses, he started cutting cucumber for salad. To my utter amazement, I saw him peeling the cucumber with the same involvement and finesse with which he chisels his wood sculptures. It was for the first time that I saw a person engrossed in his work with such sincerity that it reflected in his mundane behaviour too. Hence, I have deep fondness for him, despite a few shortcomings that everyone has."

As a large majority of us swear by our religious beliefs and dogmas, it would, perhaps, be a great service to humanity if we all imbibe some of our religious practices in our daily life as well!
The writer is a former government college principal
Illicit sex
  "You will be saved from the loose woman, from the adventuress with her smooth words,
who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God; for her house sinks down to death, and her paths to the shades;
none who go to her come back nor do they regain the paths of life. So you will walk in the way of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous."

These verses are given as a warning to young men who desire to walk in the wisdom of God.

The verses tell us that if we hide the Word of God in our hearts and we obey Him, then when we are tempted, we will not fall into a trap of the enemy.

These words are as timely today as the day they were written. Many men have ruined their lives by having affairs with loose women. If their lives are not ruined, they still have a stain upon it that remains all the days of their lives.

Even though God can and does forgive illicit love affairs, most people are not as forgiving, as they still remember them. We have seen this not only in political leaders, but religious leaders as well over the past number of years.

It has left the nation and the church weakened and our young people have been disillusioned by dishonorable role models.

The verses above describe loose women as those that run around on their husbands and forget their covenant with God. They become ensnared with lust and the devil uses them to flirt with men and lead them astray.

These verses refer to her house as one that sinks down to death and shady paths. This refers to sin that leads to death or carries the death principle (which means anything that eventually leads to death). Sin always brings a curse.

Our nation (USA) today is cursed with many painful and incurable sexually transmitted diseases. Statistics show that more than one in five Americans are infected with a viral sexually transmitted disease.

This is not including AIDS. Aids ranks as the ninth leading cause of death in the USA. Men and women who are unfaithful will find it hard to return to the paths of righteousness without the help of God.

The warning above for men to stay pure is applicable to women also who would be tempted by lustful men. We must pray for our young people and our nation to return to the Biblical virtues of virginity and chastity before marriage, and faithfulness to the marriage vows after wedlock.

Divorce, fornication and sexual sins are not only dividing our homes, but are destroying the very heart of our nation. (
Spirit of the desert
  By Hector Welgampola  
BRISBANE, Australia (UCAN) -- Just as a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, the region of Jesus' birth would be sacred whether it is called Middle East or West Asia.

However, if the former name's European slant clouds the upcoming Synod for West Asia with crusading hang-ups or post-9/11 prejudices, the synod would miss the spirit of the desert for its sand. For the spirit of the desert is the essence of that region's Christian heritage. It is a spirit that can rev up the Church to respond to today's spiritual thirst.

Last year, Pope Benedict XVI scheduled the West Asia Synod for this coming October. He announced it at a meeting with the patriarchs and major archbishops of the Eastern Churches. The heads of Churches in Egypt, Iraq, India, Lebanon, Syria and the Ukraine were among them. They said the synod should tackle regional issues. Some key issues noted by the Chaldean archbishop of Iraq included Christian witness among Muslims and the flight of Christians from West Asia.

These problems were not addressed by the 1999 Synod for Asia. True enough, West Asia is an essential part of Asia. But the early preparations for the Asian synod were not sensitive to that region's realities. The first preparatory document for that synod, the lineamenta issued in 1996 by the Vatican-based General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, used the British-coined name, Middle East, to describe the region.

The synod working document issued in 1998, with Asian Church involvement, rectified the error and named the region West Asia. It went further. Three of its four paragraphs on Asia's many Churches described in detail the region's various Oriental Churches. The Asia-wide Latin Churches were summed up in just one para!

These were promising gestures. Yet, they failed to be more than tokens, as evident in Pope John Paul II's 1999 post-synodal apostolic exhortation, "Ecclesia in Asia." Although it said "Western Asia became a land of promise and hope for all mankind" because Jesus was born there, it did not focus on the region's problems. The document dealt mostly with concerns of the Latin-rite Churches within the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC).

Not that a West Asia Synod should shut out all FABC concerns. For example, West Asia currently hosts hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from FABC-member countries. And their voices should be heard at the synod. But issues related to West Asia go deeper, and should go beyond a Eurocentric mindset or a re-emerging Islamophobia.

Over the last millennium, political hang-ups of Christendom and the crusading spirit conditioned the psyche of many Western Christians. While some of them continue to be obsessed with fears of Eurabia, Muslims' longstanding antipathy to colonial expansion prejudices their relations with a religion that has much in common with Islam.

These impact West Asian Churches and scar the faith and life of Christians there. These isolated Christians deserve the support of the worldwide Church far more than is currently extended to Churches in Eastern Europe. The synod will offer the Latin Church an opportunity to apologize for the historical negligence of West Asia.

Preparatory work for the synod needs to be open to the region's religious reality. History shows how the hub of Christianity moved away from the land and culture of Jesus' birth, while Islam remained close to its own roots. Both realities had their pluses and minuses, as much as the two faiths contributed in the fields of education and culture.

However, while Islamic society stayed largely monocultural and centralized, Christianity found its own historical sojourn a path to multiculturalism. Yet, Islam cannot be blamed for not acquiring the democratic nuances evolved during Christianity's Western sojourn.

The proposed synod comes at a time of revival in the Islamic world. As evident in major projects like Qatar's Education City, West Asia strives to educate the region's youths for an age and an economy beyond the oil boom. Also, several countries of the region see the need for contextual democratization.

Christians can contribute much in both areas. However, if such a contribution is to be of service to West Asians, it has to be based on the religious roots of Christian education and Christian social doctrine. Not as a Western import with a political agenda.

They need a Christian witness to core democratic values as distinct from Western secularity which, for one reason or other, many Muslims consider depraved. And the Church's re-focus on liturgy can find inspiration in the Mozarabic traditions that helped break new ground in a difficult era.

May the West Asia synod be a grace to the harried peoples of the shared homeland of Christianity and Islam. May it help them revert to their heritage of contemplative spirituality. May it also help eliminate Western hallucinations about Islam. Even despite endless fears of Islamic fundamentalism, such Spirit-led moves can rekindle hope for the rest of humanity as well, and prevent political hijacking of the Abrahamic tradition.
Hector Welgampola, a Sri Lankan journalist, was Executive Editor of UCA News from 1987 until he retired in December 2001. His email address is
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