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  Report on Ayodhya: Liberhan relieved; Government tense
  By Andalib Akhter

New Delhi, July 1: Even as Justice M S Liberhan is feeling relieved after submitting the much-awaited report on the demolition of Babri Masjid to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre is finding it difficult to handle the report.

In fact, the government has apprehensions about how to treat the explosive report at a time when everything has been going smoothly for it. Secular opposition and Muslim groups are pressurising the government to place the report in Parliament along with the action taken report (ATR). It is certain that the BJP and its Hindutva brigades would leave no stone unturned to accuse the government of appeasing Muslims.

Sources in the Home Ministry say that the government would adopt a very cautious path while dealing with the report. "The government would not do anything that whip up communal tension in the country," says a government official on the condition of anonymity. He even said that the government would not be able to table the report in the coming session of Parliament which begins on July 2. "It is a very comprehensive report and it will take time to study the pros and cons of it."

A group of officials and some Congress MPs would study the report thoroughly and on the basis of this an action taken report would be prepared. The government would take into account both the administrative and political consequences of the report.

Though officially the Congress party says that the report would be tabled at an appropriate time, sources say the party is divided on the issue. One section is in no mood to give Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani a new lease of life as he is dying a political death. Any action against Mr Advani would prove politically beneficial to him. But the other group wants to soothe the hurt feeling of the Muslims by exposing and punishing the perpetrators of the crime.

It is obvious that the report could reveal the role of Mr Advani and the Bajrang Dal in the demolition of the mosque. The report could also shed light on a number of other top BJP leaders.

Meanwhile, political analysts are of the view that certain parts of the report would be leaked to the media to generate a debate over the issue.

Political parties have already begun to score points over one another over the report. The Congress said that mere apologies by the BJP leaders were not enough. The BJP claimed that Mr Advani has been framed in the Babri case.

BJP President Rajnath Singh denied allegations that the BJP leaders had not fully cooperated with the Commission. Former BJP leader Uma Bharati, who was present at Ayodhya on the day of demolition, said that she would not apologise to anyone, even if she was implicated in the report.

Communist Party of India leader D Raja also regretted the delay in the report. "It's sad that the commission took so much time. The government should now table the report in Parliament as soon as possible and tell the people of this country what actions they plan to initiate," he said.

The Liberhan Commission was one of the costliest Commissions having spent nearly Rs 8 crore in the 17 years of the probe. The bulk of the amount was spent on the salaries and perks of the supporting staff.

During the extended proceedings spread over 400 sittings, the Commission recorded the statements of senior BJP leaders L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and former UP Chief Minister Kalyan Singh, during whose tenure Babri Masjid was demolished.

  Historic basilica robbed
  CHENNAI, JUNE 30 (UCAN) -- Thieves have looted the historic Santhome basilica here stealing money from four wooden donation boxes that they broke open.

The basilica, which is an international shrine, is believed to be the burial site of Saint Thomas the Apostle who is said to have preached in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and to have been killed by a Hindu extremist in 72 A.D.

Parish priest Father Kanikai Raj said the robbery was discovered on June 26 when the church opened for morning Mass.

The priest said the collection boxes contained four days' worth of donations amounting to a few hundred thousand rupees. The police have formed special teams to investigate.

Father Raj says the police believe the thieves may have entered the church as devotees and hidden in the building. After breaking into the boxes they then could have escaped by mingling with devotees after the church opened for worship.

It is the second major robbery in a church in Chennai this year. Nearly Rs 100,000 were stolen from the Our Lady of Vailankanni, a popular city shrine, in January.
  Bridge the distance between the Vatican and Asia: Japanese envoy
  By Gerard O'Connell, Special Correspondent in Rome

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 30 (UCAN) -- The Vatican and Asian countries "pay too little attention to each other," according to Japan's ambassador to the Holy See. He believes both would benefit significantly from greater mutual engagement.

Tokyo- and Cambridge-educated Kagefumi Ueno, who has represented his country to the Holy See since November 2006, recently shared his views with UCA News in Rome.

He made a similar point, though perhaps less bluntly, in a mid-May lecture, to diplomats from 16 Asian countries attending a course in Italy on the international politics of the Holy See.

"Asian countries give a rather low profile to their relations with the Holy See," he said, because Christianity is a minority religion, and generally considered "foreign" in the continent where two-thirds of humanity live.

At present, the following Asian countries have diplomatic relations with the Holy See: Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Singapore, the Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor Leste, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

But only Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan and Timor Leste have their embassies and ambassadors in Rome.

The following Asian countries have not yet established diplomatic ties with the Holy See: Afghanistan, Bhutan, Brunei, China, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, although Vietnam appears close to doing so.

Ueno thinks the Holy See should make it easier for countries to have their ambassadors in Rome by modifying the position it agreed with Italy in the Lateran Treaty of 1929, which laid down that a country could not have the same ambassador to Italy and the Holy See. Times have changed, he said and in economic terms it would certainly be easier for some countries if their ambassador to the Holy See could also be accredited to Italy and vice-versa.

"If you have an ambassador in Switzerland or Paris, then practically speaking -- not in theory -- they can allocate only one or two per cent of their time to the Vatican, but if the ambassador is here in Rome then, while his or her attention may be dominated by relations with Italy, nevertheless that ambassador could still allocate at least 10 or 20 per cent of his/her attention to the Vatican," he said. "Of course, I think the Vatican may not be happy to hear that opinion, but it needs saying!"

Ueno, who professes to have "a Buddhist-Shintoist philosophy," suggested some reasons why Asian countries should have ambassadors to the Holy See.

The first relates to "the moral power" of the Pope and the Holy See.

The Japanese diplomat said he was greatly impressed soon after coming to Rome when, together with ambassadors from 175 other countries, he listened to Pope Benedict XVI deliver his New Year's speech on the international situation. The pontiff touched on 45 "issues of gravity" ranging from such global issues as poverty, disarmament, peace-making, conflict settlement, human rights, minorities, immigration and climate change to issues affecting Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.

This was just one of an enormous number of speeches the Pope delivers each year, noted Ueno, "and even if you put aside the religious message -- which my country is not terribly interested in -- there are still many, many messages that are very valuable."

Ambassador Ueno concluded that "the Pope -- and the Holy See -- are a kind of public goods" of the international community. The Pope is "very precious" to the international community because "he expresses moral values even in the political arena," and "can say something even against Washington or Moscow or Beijing."

"His moral voice, his moral value is taken for granted by Muslims and Buddhists as well as Protestants and Catholics, and his neutrality is, to some extent, also taken for granted. That is important", he added.

"There are not many people who could play a similar role," Ambassador Ueno stated.

For this reason, he believes "even Asian countries should have embassies here to monitor what the Pope says."

A second reason which he thinks could justify Asian countries having ambassadors to the Holy See is "the expanse of the Catholic media network" which carries the Pope's words to the far corners of the globe, far beyond what the main Western news agencies are actually able to do. "Rome is a kind of hub of this very sizeable media network," he stated, and this fact too could encourage Asian countries to locate their embassies here.

Spreading his message across the globe is one thing, but do world leaders actually listen to the Pope and take heed of what he says? The Japanese ambassador believes that "in the short term, the answer is usually no, but in the longer term probably yes."

Ambassador Ueno knew and greatly respected the late Japanese Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao, who headed the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants, and "to some extent" shared his view that "the distance" between Rome and Asia is not just "physical."

Ueno agreed with the cardinal that "at least in Japan, there is some religious, or, to be more precise, cultural element which prevents many Japanese from becoming Christian or Catholic." And while "to some extent that is attributable to the local Japanese culture or civilization," the ambassador said Cardinal Hamao claimed that "more flexible modalities" exist to communicate the Gospel, and advocated that "the Vatican should consider a more flexible approach to Japanese or even towards Asians, so that the cultural conditions of the locality could be more seriously taken into account."

"Hamao implied that this kind of seriously flexible approach has not taken place so far," he recalled. But the cardinal was not alone in saying this, the ambassador added; others too are of a similar mind including the distinguished Japanese Catholic novelist, Shusaka Endo (1923-1996), and some leaders of the Japanese Catholic Church, such as Archbishop Leo Ikenaga Jun of Osaka diocese.

Ueno, who has written a book on civilizations, believes the Vatican could bridge this "distance" with his homeland by drawing on the "many priests" in religious orders "who are not just very good at Japanese but are also deeply knowledgeable about Japanese culture, Japanese sentiments etc."

The Vatican already has "many human resources" at its disposal, he noted, "but most of them belong to religious orders" and "are not being utilized by the Vatican." He believes that if the Vatican were to make use of these people's knowledge", draw on their advice, and adopt "a more anthropological approach," then its whole approach to Japan "might be changed."

In actual fact, though he Ueno did not say so, the Vatican has already adopted such an approach to China. In 2007, Pope Benedict established the Commission on China to advise him on matters regarding the situation of the Church in the mainland, and appointed to the commission not only Vatican officials but also Chinese bishops, though none from the mainland, and members of religious orders who have expertise on China.

If the Vatican were to follow through on the ambassador's suggestion, then it would set up a similar commission for Japan, and perhaps for other Asian countries too. This could have far reaching consequences for evangelization in Asia.
  Home Minister's apology fails to impress Orissa Christians
  BHUBANESWAR, June 29 (UCAN) -- The Union Home Minister's apology for last year's anti-Christian violence has been dismissed by Church people as too slow in coming and pointless unless it is followed up with justice for the victims.

Home Minister P.C. Chidambaram visited Orissa's Kandhamal district on June 26, the epicenter of anti-Christian riots that killed about 90 people and displaced 50,000.

Chidambaram visited four relief camps in the district and urged the victims of violence there to return to their villages. He promised them security and gave his contact numbers to call if the state administration failed to protect them.

He told the survivors that the sectarian violence was unfortunate and regrettable, and promised to punish the perpetrators.

However, Father Mrutyunjay Digal, treasurer of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar archdiocese that covers Kandhamal, dismissed Chidambaram's visit as a "mockery," since it took place more than 10 months after Christians were attacked.

The violence began on August 24, a day after Maoists gunned down a Hindu religious leader in Kandhamal district. Hindu radicals blamed Christians for the murder and destroyed houses, churches, convents and killed people who refused to become Hindus.

Father Digal told UCA News June 28 that the minister's comments had not impressed the survivors. The government must take additional action to re-house the people or the statements would be dismissed as mere talk, he said.

Father Bijay Kumar Pradhan, secretary of a peace-building forum in Kandhamal, said the minister's assurance of security was not practical.

"On the one hand, he gives solemn advice to people to go back to their villages, but on the other hand he is withdrawing the central forces" from some areas where the situation is still volatile, he said.

J. Parichha, a human rights activist in Kandhamal, says Christians want impartial justice that will allow them to live with dignity, not the minister's apology or sympathy.

Father Joseph Kalathil, the archdiocese's public relations officer and vicar general, said he saw "no use" in Chidambaram's assurances unless local officials seriously took "concrete action" to bring justice to survivors. He wants the administration to focus on areas where Christians still face threats.

Father Kalathil said that the Central government has limited its action to mere expressions of sympathy and had taken no real steps to help those affected by the violence. At least, Chidambaram "could have announced some relief packages for the victims," he added.

Hitesh Kumar Nayak, a lawyer working for the victims, noted that nearly 95 percent of those accused of attacking Christians now freely move around villages and intimidate survivors. "Saying sorry is not enough, justice should accompany such gestures," he stressed.

Jakarias Digal, a survivor in Kandhamal, says the local administration is helpless in confronting Hindu radicals. He said a middle-ranking officer had recently forced the residents of a relief camp to return to their village in a hired vehicle. Hindu radicals, however, prevented them from staying there. The Hindus surrounded the officials and overpowered policemen who accompanied the group, he said.

"Finally, we had to return to the refugee camp. We do not expect much from the minister's visit unless the culprits are arrested," he added.

Rabindra Kumar Parichha, a social worker in Kandhamal, said that during the minister's visit the survivors presented him with a memorandum stating that they seek adequate protection from their attackers, compensation for damaged property and proper maintenance of relief camps.

  News Analysis by Meetu Tewari: Dress code for girls under fire in Uttar Pradesh
  UTTAR PRADESH is a populous state and to cater to the needs of the growing number of students, it has witnessed the opening of several colleges and private institutions offering professional courses, apart from established centres of learning like the BHU, AMU and Lucknow University.

A few days ago, the principals of some colleges, under the ambit of the Uttar Pradesh Principals' Association, drafted a proposal which stated that they wished to ban jeans on campuses in Lucknow.

UPPA convenor Ashok Srivastava, however, maintained that nothing would be decided without taking into consideration the views of students and their guardians.

While this news created a furore in Uttar Pradesh, with students expressing strong views against attempts to curtail their freedom, the State government was quick in its response. Chief Minister Mayawati made it known through Rizvi, her secretary, that the government would not support such a resolution and any college, attempting to impose any such restrictions, would face legal action.

Though the controversy seems to have died out, it is interesting to note the reasons behind such a proposal and whether people feel it could actually help in curbing cases of eve teasing. While a few hundred cases may be reported, many more are not.

"Of course, if you dress indecently you can attract negative attention. But I disagree that banning jeans is the means to creating a wholesome atmosphere," says Nidhi Srivastava, an anthropology student at Lucknow University.

According to Chandan Singh, a student in Varanasi, the proposal was definitely not to be tolerated. "It's ridiculous to expect that banning jeans is the way forward. What needs to change is the mindset of the people through education; edification of the mind and character, something which one does not find in textbooks," he said.

However, there are some students who believe that such a restriction is necessary. "Indecent dresses should be banned. If you wear dresses that are revealing and do not listen to repeated calls for restraint, then prohibition is the way to ensure safety," feels Pratiyush Shukla, a management student.

Some students have pointed out that even when dressed decently, they face eve teasing. Priyanka Jain (name changed) narrates her experience "I always wear ethnic Indian dresses and yet I was harassed by some youths. Some guys on bikes used to regularly stalk me. They would follow me, pass comments and try to grab me. They even learnt of where I lived. The situation became so bad that I had to tell my parents and we finally went to the police."

Wearing tight dresses, short tops and skirts may attract the wrong kind of attention, but wearing Indian dresses certainly does not guarantee that one will be spared. Banning a certain form of attire is not the answer, although girls should be taught to dress decently.

However, it is even more important that the young generation be taught certain values, especially how to respect others. Forcing a certain dress code on a person is not the answer to the larger problem facing India, as more and more girls venture out for studies and jobs.

"Though a dress code ensures equality amongst students, banning jeans is not the way forward. Statistics might show that only girls wearing jeans are eve teased, but that is not true. It is unsafe out there for girls. Whether it's in college or at work, the cause lies much deeper. Banning jeans is simply a means of letting mischief makers know that they are not being blamed. This is utterly wrong," feels Dikshit, the principal of a college in Lucknow.

The problem is symbolic of a deeper malaise that is eating away at the moral fibre of the youth today. If girls face harassment at their workplaces, stopping them from working is not the solution. The problem makers must be reprimanded severely so that they will be afraid of indulging in any such activities.

However, to actually overcome this problem, it is necessary that people are educated, so that it is not just the fear of law that provides safety to young girls, but the respect bestowed upon them.
  Neighborhood Watch: Need to strengthen quadrilateral strategic forum
  By Sarvjeet Singh

THE recent India bashing in the Chinese media (widely acknowledged as the official mouthpiece of the Chinese Government) should serve as a grim reminder to Indian policy makers that the country's interests would be best served by taking measures that recognise the possibility of our giant neighbor flexing its economic and military muscle to influence India in the future.

One clear indication of this threat looming large over the country has come by way of the Chinese government's strong response to imposition of anti-dumping duty on Chinese goods, which Beijing claims would undermine the 'interests' of the Indian people.

As the Chinese economic might grows, this proclivity to relentlessly impose its writ on others would only become more pronounced. Swaminathan S. Aiyar has underlined how China has resorted to blatant manipulation of the Free Trade Agreement by keeping its currency, Yuan, underpriced by 15 per cent.

This translates into subsidy for Chinese goods, while Indian goods have to bear the burden of an additional 15 per cent duty in hidden form.

The government deserves to be congratulated for taking necessary measures to safeguard our interests in the face of such unscrupulous competition. Chinese intentions on the future of political relations are also shrouded in uncertainty and occasionally assume menacing proportions.

Naham Nebia, Rajya Sabha MP from Arunchal Pradesh, raised the issue of repeated Chinese incursions (140 incidents in 2007) along the state's border. The Chinese government has consistently projected Arunachal Pradesh as a disputed territory even protesting against Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh's visit to the State.

We must understand that no matter how much the Indian establishment and media downplay the Chinese posturing on the issue, it can set the stage for a unilateral military action at an opportune time.

The Chinese government has also assiduously wooed India's smaller neighbour, Nepal, especially where it sees a difference of opinion. The Maoists in Nepal have been provided with all support and Sri Lanka has been provided with a no-string attached $1 billion aid package against the backdrop of India's discomfiture over the humanitarian crisis in the Northern part of the island nation.

As the Chinese economic might grows, so will its ability to influence the region and that will also mean shrinking India's strategic power. The newly formed quadrilateral strategic forum comprising the US, Australia, Japan and India assumes significance. It is in India's interest to nurture and strengthen this forum.
The writer is Assistant General Secretary, New Delhi YMCA
  Japan's Catholic Prime Minister to meet Pope
  By Gerard O'Connell, Special Correspondent in Rome

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 26 (UCAN) -- Japan's Catholic prime minister, Taro Aso, will meet Pope Benedict XVI in a private audience at the Vatican on July 7, the day before the G8 Summit opens in Italy, according to Vatican and diplomatic sources.

"The fact that the Pope and the prime minister are meeting is both significant and valuable," Japan's ambassador to the Holy See, Kagefumi Ueno, told UCA News. He recalled that Japan and the Holy See established diplomatic relations in 1942.

It will be the first meeting between a Japanese prime minister and a Pope since former Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi visited Pope John Paul II in 1999.

The 68-year-old Aso and the 82 year-old pope will talk through translators in the Pope's private library at the Vatican.

After the audience the Japanese leader, who is a grandson of the country's post-war prime minister, Shigeru Yoshida (1946-54), will present his wife, Chikako, and others accompanying him, to the Pope.

After the papal audience, Prime Minister Aso will also hold talks with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

Topics of conversation have not been revealed. However, observers in Rome believe the talks are likely to include G8 Summit issues such as world economy, poverty, climate change, international denuclearisation -- in particular the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula -- and the Palestinian-Israeli issue.

Archbishop Peter Takeo Okada of Tokyo, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan, together with the heads of the episcopal conferences in other countries, sent a letter on June 22 to Japan's premier and leaders of the other G8 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation, the UK, and the US).

In it, the bishops urged these countries' leaders "to take concerted actions to protect poor persons and assist developing countries in the upcoming G8 Summit," and also indicated how this could be done.

Many of the issues raised in this letter (available on the website of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan: could surface again in the Japanese leader's discussions at the Vatican.

Moreover, since Pope Benedict's first social encyclical, "Caritas in Veritate" ("Charity in Truth"), which emphasizes the fundamental need for ethics in the economy, will be published sometime between June 29 and the start of the G8 meeting, this might also feature in discussions.

And since it is known that Pope Benedict is considering visiting one or more countries in Asia next year, sources in Rome think the prime minister might extend an invitation to him to visit Japan. Pope John Paul II visited the country in 1981.

Although Catholics are a tiny minority in Japan -- 1 million in a population of 127 million, and only 445,000 are native Japanese according to 2007 statistics -- Taro Aso is actually the third Catholic to become prime minister in modern history, according to Ambassador Ueno.

But he is the only one of the three to meet the Pope.

The other Catholic prime ministers were Hara Takashi (1918-1921) and Hosokowa Morihiro (1993-94).

Aso's audience with the Pope will be the second high level encounter between the Holy See and Japan this year. In March, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican secretary for relations with states, was in Tokyo for meetings with his Japanese counterpart, Hirofumi Nakasone, and other government officials. It was the first time a Vatican foreign minister had visited the country since diplomatic relations were established 67 years ago.
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  Christians demand minority quotas in Parliament
JABALPUR, June 26 (UCAN) -- Christians in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh are demanding proportional representation for religious minorities in Parliament and state legislatures.

India's democratic system has neglected minority religious communities, the annual plenary meeting of the Madhya Pradesh Isai Mahasangh (great confederation of Christians in Madhya Pradesh) agreed.

The June 22 meeting determined to press the authorities to reserve a quota of seats in legislatures for Christians, Muslims and other religious minority groups in proportion to their population.

Minorities "have been alienated from major decision-making bodies due to their negligible numbers," Father Anand Muttungal, the confederation coordinator and spokesman for the Catholic Church in the state, told UCA News.

The political rights of religious minorities have been neglected since independence in 1947 and if the situation continues, minorities "would be pushed further backward from echelons of power," he said.

There are approximately 23 million Christians in India, just 2.3 percent of the population. There are 827 million Hindus and 138 million Muslims. Other minorities, including Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains, number 30 million.

The problem is most acute at state level. There are just two Christian members of Madhya Pradesh's 230-seat legislature, the confederation's general secretary Richard D'Silva said.

Assemblies in most northern states, where Christians form less than 1 per cent of the population, have no Christian representatives.

Nationally, the situation appears better, with 16 Christian members in the 543-seat Parliament. Strict proportional representation would imply just 12 Christian members but Father Muttungal said the parliamentarians are drawn from areas where Christians are socially and politically assertive. Elsewhere they go unrepresented, he said.

Without adequate representation, laws have been passed that are contrary to minorities' interests, said Father Muttungal.

Some states, including Madhya Pradesh, have passed laws that are unfavorable to Christianity, such as those regulating freedom of religion and religious conversions, he said.

"We are not speaking only for Christians. We want representation for all minority religious communities in states and national decision-making bodies. Christian-dominated states may be now electing more Christians. That should end and minorities there too should get representation," he said.

Confederation president Joshi Kurishingal said that suppressing the voice of people because they were in a minority was not right.

"Religious minorities have a constitutional right to be heard and to be party to the decision-making process," he said.

Joshi said the confederation is planning ways to bring their demands to the attention of national leaders and heads of political parties. They also plan to write to Catholic and Protestant bishops on the matter.

  Former St. Stephen's Principal Anil Wilson dies of cancer
  New Delhi, June 25: Dr Anil Wilson, a former Principal
of the prestigious St Stephen's College here and who also
served as Vice-Chancellor of Himachal Pradesh University, died in the national capital today after battling pancreatic cancer.

The 62-year-old educationist, who held a doctorate in English, breathed his last at his residence in north Delhi's Civil Lines this morning, his family and friends said. He is
survived by his wife Reeta and two children.

He was buried at Nicholson cemetery this evening after a
service at St James Church in Kashmere Gate which was attended
by a large number of people, including his friends, admirers,
colleagues and students.

Dr Wilson, who was associated with St Stephen's for 15 years from 1991, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October

He was the 11th Principal of the prestigious institution in
the national capital and the first to be appointed without prior teaching experience at the college.

Throughout his tenure as Principal, he continued to serve as a lecturer in English.

Dr Wilson was also associated in academic and administrative
capacities with a number of universities and colleges abroad
including the University of Philippines, Macao University,
Christ Church College, Canterbury, University of California at
Berkeley and the Westcott House Cambridge.

In 1996, Dr Wilson was appointed Pro-Vice Chancellor of Himachal Pradesh University where he also officiated as the Vice-Chancellor later, but before he could complete his term, he was recalled by St Stephen's College.

He again served the college as principal till 2007.

The renowned educationist was also a recipient of a number of prestigious awards, including the Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini Award for outstanding achievement and
contribution to education in 1999 and the Distinguished Educationist Award in 2001.

He was also nominated by the President to the Executive
Committee of the North Eastern Hill University in Shillong and
was the nominee of the Governor of Jharkhand on the Executive
Council of the Birla Institute of Technology in Ranchi.

See Obituary: Principal extraordinary
  Court orders probe over missing evidence in nun's murder
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM (UCAN) -- A court in Kerala has ordered an investigation after it was told that prime evidence in a nun's murder case is missing.

The evidence is three compact disks used to record the confessions of two priests and a nun accused of murdering Sister Abhaya 17 years ago. The original disks are missing.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested Father Thomas Kottoor, 62, Father Jose Poothrukayil, 57, and Sister Sephy, 47, in November 2008 on the basis of this evidence. The three were released on conditional bail January 1.

The CBI claims it has enough evidence to prove the three had murdered Sister Abhaya to conceal a sexual escapade. Investigators say Sister Sephy hit Sister Abhaya with an axe and the three accused then dumped the nun's body into the well at her Pius X Convent in Kottayam.

Sister Abhaya's body was found on March 27, 1992. She and the arrested nun, both members of the local Sisters of St. Joseph congregation, resided at the convent.

The case resurfaced in mid-June after the murdered nun's father complained that someone had tampered with copies of the original CDs to destroy evidence against the priests and nun.

The Chief Judicial Magistrate of Ernakulam who heard the case had asked a Kerala government lab to test these CDs. The lab found them tampered with and edited. The court then asked for the original CDs but was told they were missing.

It then asked for an explanation from the doctor who conducted truth drug tests on the priests and the nun last October. The doctor is already under suspension for tampering in another case.

According to A.X. Varghese, lawyer for Sister Abhaya's father, the court had examined the CD copies given by the laboratory in the presence of lawyers and CBI officials.

Thomas Aykkarakunnel, Sister Abhaya's father, said he filed his recent complaint as he feared the tampering would destroy vital evidence against the accused. Investigators had used truth drugs in their interrogations of the three.

Varghese said the 32-minute CD on Father Kottoor's drug-induced testimony has been edited in 30 places, Father Poothrukayil's 25-minute CD has 19 edits and Sister Sephy's 19-minute CD has 23 edits. "It's clear that this tampering of evidence was carried out by laboratory authorities to save the accused," he charged.

Udaya Bhanu, Father Kottoor's lawyer, on the other hand, said he questioned the authenticity of drug-induced tests on his client. "Even after seven months, the CBI has not filed a charge sheet against the accused. It shows it has no evidence against the accused," he said.

Jaya Shankar, a High Court lawyer who claims to have keenly followed the case, says without the original CDs the case would be weak and the accused could be set free easily.
  Thousands attend Spanish missioner's burial at Anantapur
ANANTAPUR (UCAN) -- About 80,000 people from a variety of religions paid tribute to Spanish missioner Vincent Ferrer at a state funeral on June 22.

The former Jesuit priest, who worked among the poor in southern India for more than 40 years, died of old age on June 19. More than 500,000 people in all paid homage to the former priest.

The 89-year-old missioner, popularly known as Father Ferrer, was buried in Bathlapalli, a village near Anantapur town in Andhra Pradesh where he started his work among mostly Dalit people.

Dalits are former "untouchables" in the Indian caste system.

He is survived by his Protestant wife Anne, son Moncho and daughters Tara and Yamuna.

Father Mummadi Joji Reddy, former vicar general of Kurnool diocese, led the funeral Mass along with 10 priests, including three Jesuits. Christian, Hindu and Muslim scriptures were read during the service.

A 100-member delegation from Spain also attended the funeral service.

The state government declared a holiday on June 22 in Anantapur district where the missioner worked. It also gave him a state burial accompanied by gun salute.

Ferrer was born in Barcelona in 1920 and arrived in Mumbai (then Bombay) in 1952 as a Jesuit priest. He left the priesthood in 1970 and traveled to drought-prone Anantapur. He then founded the Rural Development Trust that provides schools, healthcare, housing, development for women, ecology and water programs.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, in a condolence message, hailed the deceased missioner as "an icon of nobility, humility and veracity, who gave 56 years of relentless work to India."

Bishop Moses D. Prakasam of Nellore said Father Ferrer was "a real Father." The prelate told UCA News the missioner identified with the poorest of the poor and "his dedication and selfless works brought glory to his organisation and to his donors in Spain."

Jose Bonono, speaker of the Spanish parliament who led the delegation sent by his country, said Father Ferrer was an honor to Spain as he alleviated poverty in a distant land.
  Raped nun identifies one more assailant

BHUBANESHWAR (UCAN) -- A Catholic nun raped during the anti-Christian violence in Orissa has identified one more assailant in a police lineup, but not the rapist.

"She was able to identify the one who (tried to) strangle her," said Father Madan Sualsingh who works with Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar. The archbishop heads the Catholic Church in Orissa.

The June 23 police lineup was conducted inside Choudwar Circle Jail in Cuttack, the state's ancient capital, under tight security, Church sources said.

The 28-year-old nun was taken inside the prison to examine the lineup, along with Father Thomas Chellan, who was also attacked on the same day, August 25, 2008.

Police lined up about 80 people, mixing prisoners with eight people they arrested in the case. They wanted the nun to identify those who attacked her 10 months ago, Church sources said.

In a similar exercise on December 5, 2008, police paraded about 90 people and the nun identified only two people -- one who slapped her and another who was in the crowd that attacked her.

"The Church is happy that she (the nun) was able to identify one more culprit. That will help the case a lot," Father Sualsingh said. "She is also relieved that she could identify him after such a long time."

Archbishop Cheenath was not available for comment as he is abroad seeking help for his people who have endured violence, a senior priest in the archdiocese said.

"The Church is hopeful of justice. But it has a long way to go," he said, adding that government officials and local media had earlier projected the rape incident as a "cooked up" case and a "Christian ploy" to tarnish the government. "Now at least the administration admits she was indeed raped."

Montfort Brother Thomas Thannickal, who accompanied the nun and Father Chellan to the lineup, said the case is "in a precarious situation" as the Church does not know where it is heading. "We do not know if the prime accused has been arrested. If he was arrested and was there in the lineup, we could not identify him."

Anti-Christian violence flared up in Orissa after a Hindu leader was killed on August 23, 2008, in the state's tribal-dominated Kandhamal district. Hindu extremists blamed Christians for the Hindu leader's death, and orchestrated a four-month long campaign of violence against Christians.

The rape case was initially ignored but hit the headlines after the nun addressed a press conference in New Delhi on October 24, 2008, where she said she had no faith in the Orissa police investigation. She told reporters that the police were friendly with her attackers and tried their best to dissuade her from registering a complaint.

The Church pleaded against taking the victims to courts in Kandhamal or having a police lineup there, saying the district is not yet safe for Christians to freely travel. Church people later agreed to a court suggestion to have the police lineup in Cuttack.
  Parish feast celebration attracts twins

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM (UCAN) -- A Catholic parish dedicated to twin brothers Saints Gravasis and Prothasis has been attracting scores of twins, including Hindus, for its annual feast.

This year's June 19 feast day Mass at Ss. Gravasis and Prothasis Church in Kerala was no different. It was attended by 151 twins and two sets of triplets. The parish church is in Kothanallur village and comes under Palai diocese.

Saints Gravasis and Prothasis grew up at a time when Christians were persecuted in the Roman Empire. They were martyred for refusing to give up their faith in Jesus Christ and worshiping the pagan gods of the Roman emperors.

Twin Fathers Joseph and Antony Kollaparambil, and Fathers Jose and Thomas Choolaparambil, led the June 19 celebration while twin Fathers Roy and Roby Kannanchira led a procession that followed the Mass.

Carmelite of Mary Immaculate Father Roy Kannanchira, said, "It was amazing. Even Hindus attended the feast and Mass and offered their prayers."

He said he learned the parish was planning to celebrate the feast "in a mega way" from next year onward.

Among the twins who attended the event, the oldest were 79-year-old Alexander and Cheriyan Kattakayam who traveled 47 kilometers to attend the feast. "If God permits, I will come next year also," Cheriyan said.

The church began organising the annual celebration specially for twins in 2007, after several twins started attending feast day celebrations earlier, according to parish priest Father Joseph Puthenpura.

They believe that praying to the twin saints will help them progress in life and overcome difficulties, he said.

Only 35 pairs of twins attended the feast in 2007 but that number increased to 95 pairs last year. "It has further gone up this year to 151 twins, including six pairs of Hindus," said the 72-year-old priest.

Father Puthenpura said his parish has seen the birth of a total of 55 twins over recent years, an unusually large number for a parish with 702 families. He said many parishioners believe twins are a blessing of their patron saints.

The church, whose history dates back to 826 AD, was originally named after Sapor and Prot, he said. These men are variedly projected as Chaldean bishops, or as saintly men or merchants from Syria, who helped Christians establish themselves on the Kerala coast in the ninth or 10th Century.

In the 16th Century, when Portuguese missioners began to evangelise Kerala, they attempted to "Latinize" the church here and renamed it after the martyr-saints Gravasis and Prothasis of Milan.
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  News Analysis by Kumar Rana: Maoists, like George Bush, believe in physical elimination
  IMAGINE a world with no policemen. How would that be? Many people idealise such a situation. That's exactly what happened in Khejuri and Lalgarh in West Bengal.

It apparently made some of the residents there happy (for a while), but the consequences were not good. The khaki was quickly replaced with lungis and jeans, and the gun by, perhaps, a more lethal form of AK47.

There are, however, vital differences between Khejuri and Lalgarh. At Khejuri, the police was made temporarily inactive. It had not been denied existence. For a short period, supporters of the emerging Trinamool Congress (TMC) controlled the area by 'un-policing' it.

However, they were restrained by their leadership, as their chief, the strongest aspirant to the post of Chief Minister, didn't want to risk her chance by undertaking something rebelliously unconstitutional.

Moreover, by then the entire area had already come under their control. They sought to spread the Khejuri-type 'people's anger' elsewhere, keeping the 'movement' within a certain limit, so as to avoid any constitutional complications.

Lalgarh was different. The police there had been replaced by the Maoists -- self-styled liberators of the people with guns on their shoulders. Although the presence of the Maoists was not unknown, it was not until June 14 that they appeared in public, when their leader Bikash held a unique media conference with his back to the camera!

All that photographers could capture was the sophisticated gun on his back. The mute weapon was so eloquent that words appeared unnecessary. The gun made the people realise that they were now under Maoist subjugation. Although Maoist leaders claimed that the "liberated" Lalgarh belonged to the people, the gun on their leader's shoulder said otherwise.

The Maoist message was clear: "Be loyal to us and we will save you. Defy us and you will end up like Salku Soren", a poor farmer who was killed by the extremists and whose corpse lay in front of the CPM office for five days before it was removed.

The Maoists have always been successful in demolishing human dignity (including punishing a tribal woman by garlanding her with shoes. She happened to be the wife of a CPM supporter). They commit acts of brutalities on anyone they perceive as enemy. Their method of identifying the adversary is somewhat similar to that of George Bush's: Anyone who talks differently is a foe and needs to be removed from physical existence.

It is not only the ruthlessness involved in Maoist methods of usurping power that looks obnoxious, but more nauseating is the romanticisation of their movement by sections of the intelligentsia, completely ignoring the fact that their move is no less hegemonic than that of the CPM or the emerging TMC.

These parties look at people as mere subjects meant to be ruled through some form of policing. Here, the police and gun are almost synonymous. The gun enables a person to be a policeman. And, this has proved to be the biggest barrier in the formation of peoples' agencies.

Whenever a potential peoples' movement emerges, hegemonic forces appear with their guns. In Nandigram, the gun intervened in reducing a potentially strong peoples' movement into a mere vote bank for a particular party -- the TMC.

The Maoists are basically a part of a bigger hegemonic state, where one section of the people are conquered by another and the dominants use a variety of weapons, including alphabets, language, technology, kinship, lineage, culture and history, in addition to the gun.

As long as the Maoists were working under the cover of a peoples' committee, the state did not felt challenged. But, alarm bells went off soon after the Press conference. Sources say that the Maoists have instructed their counterparts to keep the red corridor (through Orissa and Jharkhand) open so that their men can leave safely whenever needed. But what will happen to the people?

The people of Lalgarh, who have been fighting a heroic battle, not with guns, but with their solidarity and commitment, are at the receiving end of the state as well. They are all alone: no intelligentsia, no Maoist, no media. They have been denied of their rights to land, forest, food, education, health and life. They have been forced to live a sub-human life, mimicking the much-heralded guarantee of human dignity.

While the state and the larger society have been continuing these onslaughts to keep their hegemony unharmed, the Maoists, in the name of opposing these attacks, are actually using it to establish their dominion.

Now, the fight to 'un-police' the society is imperative. The question is how. Here lies the relevance of an agency independent of any party. And, that is the only thing that will free the people from fear and dread.
Kumar Rana is a Senior Research Associate with Pratichi (India) Trust in Kolkata. The views expressed in this article are his own.
  Mother Teresa inspires Australian cricketer's charity
NEW DELHI (UCAN) -- Australian cricket legend Steve Waugh has launched a unit of his charity foundation in India, saying his inspiration to do social work came from Mother Teresa.

The Steve Waugh Foundation will collaborate with Udayan, a home for children of leprosy-affected people in Kolkata, the eastern Indian city where Mother Teresa based her life and work.

Waugh launched his Foundation's Indian unit in New Delhi June 19 along with George Tomeski, co-founder of, an entertainment business that targets young mobile phone users.

The 44-year-old former captain of the Australia cricket team said his interest in working for poor people began when he met Mother Teresa "many years ago," while touring India.

He set up the Steve Waugh Foundation-Australia after retiring from professional cricket in 2004. It aims to help "children who have a disease, an illness or an affliction that doesn't meet the set criteria of other charitable organizations," the foundation's website says.

"India gave me this life-changing movement when I met Mother Teresa in Kolkata," he told media during the New Delhi launch. "I always believed that I could use cricket and my influence to make a difference to those children who face different kind of challenges."

Meeting the nun known around the world as Mother Teresa was a catalyst, he recalled. He became associated with Udayan, whose director, British Reverend James Stevens, he describes as having done "an incredible job."

Blessed Teresa was known as the "saint of the gutters" for her work among the poorest of the poor in India and, through the Missionaries of Charity congregation, around the world.

The nun, born in Macedonia, arrived in Kolkata at the age of 19 and began her own congregation in 1950. She lived and worked in Kolkata until her death in 1997 at the age of 87.

Waugh recently told "The Hindu," that when he met her, she convinced him of the need for charity.

"I realized what I had to do ... to bring about a difference in the lives of those who don't have enough to survive," he said in the interview.

"Charity is very important for me. It's a significant part of my life. Those in privileged positions have an obligation towards the less fortunate."

Noting that many voluntary organizations work for the same social cause, he acknowledged that "being a celebrity surely helps."
  Declaration of Goa basilica as 'Portuguese wonder' draws protests
PANAJI (UCAN) -- Some people in Goa are up in arms about a plan to list a 17th-century basilica and a fortress in Diu among seven wonders of Portuguese origin in the world.

The New7Wonders Foundation, a project aimed at conserving world monuments, on June 10 declared the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa and Diu Fortress among the world's seven wonders of Portuguese origin.

The nominations sparked an angry reaction from the Goa Freedom Fighters Association, whose members spearheaded opposition to Portuguese rule.

Goa, India's smallest state in terms of territory, was a Portuguese colony for 451 years until Indian forces took control of it in 1961. The Portuguese also controlled Diu.

The Portuguese had "no business to claim the basilica as being of their origin, since the raw materials and human resources used in its construction were very much our own," said association president Naguesh Karmali.

Some 239,000 people around the world voted by phone and text messages to choose the seven wonders from a shortlist of 27 monuments in 16 countries.

The other monuments selected are the Fortress of Mazagao (Morocco), the Old Town of Santiago (Cape Verde), the Church of St. Paul (Macau), the Convent of St. Francis of Assisi (Brazil) and the Convent of St. Francis (Brazil).

The initiative, the brainchild of Swiss-born Canadian filmmaker, author and adventurer Bernard Weber, was reportedly supported by Portugal's Culture Ministry. Voters were asked to select monuments that represented Portuguese courage, ingenuity and dedication.

The Basilica of Bom Jesus, which holds the remains of Saint Francis Xavier, a 16th-century Basque Jesuit missioner, is now a world heritage site listed by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Built from laterite in 1605, it is cited as an example of baroque architecture in India, incorporating Doric, Corinthian and other styles.

The fortress in Diu, in the union territory of Daman and Diu, near Gujarat, is even older, having been built in 1535 following a defense alliance between the Portuguese and the local king against Mughal Emperor Humayun. The alliance soon failed, and the fortress came under siege, but the Portuguese reconstructed it.

Karmali said the Portuguese used "prisoners of the Inquisition" to build their churches, convents and fortresses. These laborers "were indigenous people who worked until they dropped dead."

The Inquisition in Goa was established in 1560 to punish converts from Hinduism and Islam to Christianity who had returned to their former religion.

"How can a colonizer claim whatever is constructed during the colonial period is theirs?" Karmali asked.

Some Catholic priests support the freedom fighters' objections. Father Delio Mendonca, director of Jesuit-run Xavier Centre of Historical Research at Porvorim, on the outskirts of the Goa capital of Panaji, said nobody could declare the basilica "as of Portuguese origin."

"It is not Portuguese, not even Indo-Portuguese. Rather, it belongs to Goan heritage," he insisted, adding that architects of different nationalities were involved in the construction. He commented that there are several Roman-style buildings in Portugal, but Rome does not claim them as Roman.

Catholics pioneered the liberation movement in Goa, but freedom fighters now claim the Church was supportive of the Portuguese system and government.
  The Herald of India launched: Follow the Prophetic tradition, says Bible expert
  New Delhi: The Herald of India was launched at a function at St. James Mar Thoma Church, Dwarka, here on Sunday, June 21.

Rev. Geevarghese Mathew of the Mar Thoma Vaidika Seminary, Kottayam, Kerala, launched the Internet-based newspaper by making it online.

Speaking on the occasion, the priest who specializes in the Old Testament said newspapers should follow the Prophetic tradition of courageously telling the truth.

Rev Mathew hoped the newspaper would uphold justice and fair play and provide a truthful portrayal of events, political, religious and social. He wished the venture all success.

The inaugural was followed by a discussion on the Christian origin of journalism.

Mr A.J. Philip, who is the editor and publisher of The Herald of India, dwelt at length on the origin of journalism in England, the US and India.

He said the corrupt British administration could not tolerate the 'Bengal Gazette' when it was launched by James Hickey in 1780.

Within two years of its launch, Warren Hastings, who was the Governor General of India, saw to it that it was closed.

The people of India had to wait for 36 long years till William Carey began publishing the 'Friend of India' from Serampore in 1818.

He said it was not a coincidence that all the first newspapers in all the languages in India were brought out by the Christian missionaries.

Mr Philip's talk was followed by a lively discussion on the subject.

The Vicar of the parish, Rev Mathew Thomas, hoped the newspaper would never deviate from its chosen path.
  German nun's canonisation process begins in Kerala
  KANNUR (UCAN) -- Catholics in Kannur in Kerala are celebrating after the local bishop began the process of having a much-loved German nun declared a saint.

Bishop Varghese Chakkalakal of Kannur declared Mother Petra Moeinngmann a Servant of God during a Mass on June 14.

The declaration precedes a three-stage process by which a sainthood candidate may be declared "Venerable," then proclaimed "Blessed," and lastly canonised.

Baby Edacheriyil, 40, who was at the service, cried with joy upon hearing the news. "Petramma (Mother Petra) was a saint. I am what I am today because of her mercy and love," said Edacheriyil, who was among the first to live in the orphanage the nun established in 1969.

He told UCA News that he and hundreds of orphans and destitute children owed their lives to the nun and her congregation.

Mother Petra founded the Deena Sevana Sabha (servants of the poor) congregation in 1969 in Pattuvam, a village in Kannur district of Kerala, along with her orphanage. The congregation now has about 600 nuns working in remote areas in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka.

The saintly nun was "love made flesh on earth," retired Bishop Jacob Thoomkuzhy of Trichur said, while officiating at the Mass. "There was nothing extraordinary about her, but her love for the poor and sick was remarkable," said the bishop who had worked with the nun.

Edacheriyil claimed he was a "living witness" of this love. The man who grew up as an orphan with crippled legs now works as a carpenter.

Standing in front of the room where the nun once lived, he said he "was unable to walk or sit properly" as a child. "Most of the time Mother Petra and the other sisters carried me in their arms," he reminisced.

"Mother sacrificed a lot for me, until my legs were cured," he said, recalling how the nun often took him to hospital and applied to his legs ointments brought from Germany.

He said hundreds of orphans and destitute people in the region have similar "stories to share about her burning love for them."
Mother Petra joined a German Ursuline congregation in 1957. According to Sister Vandana, postulator of Mother Petra's sainthood cause, the late nun was moved by the stories she heard about the poor in India and decided to leave her teaching profession to travel to Kerala in 1966.

She served at a Catholic hospital in Kottayam and later founded her congregation to help the poor. Each of the congregation's 85 convents runs either an orphanage, a home for the elderly, a dispensary or schools for mentally handicapped people, said Sister Vandana.

Mother Petra died in a road accident in 1976 in Kannur.
Anichan Thomas Kulangaramuriyil, a Catholic from Thalassery diocese, said the Deena Sevana Sabha nuns "inspire" people with their "lives of poverty and charity handed down by Mother Petra.

Thomas Kadavumpally, another Catholic layman, remembers how Mother Petra talked "to each visitor with respect and love" and shared with them "whatever she had."

Sister Yesudasi, who worked with Mother Petra in taking care of Edacheriyil, said the nun was "very fond of handicapped and abandoned children" like Edacheriyil.

According to Sister Vandana, Catholics from different parts of the diocese pray at her tomb, and many find that their prayers are answered.

Edacheriyil affirms this. He said he prays to Mother Petra whenever he faces crises and the nun's "miraculous intervention always" helps him overcome them.

"I know she cannot turn a deaf ear to the cries of orphans like me, even if she is in heaven," Edacheriyil said, as he wiped away his tears.

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  A new beginning for Indian church as the first Bhil tribal bishop is ordained
  JHABUA, India (UCAN) -- The first bishop to be ordained from the Bhil tribal community says he wants to "empower" his people "socially, economically and politically."

Bishop Devaprasad Ganawa of Jhabua told UCA News on the occasion of his June 16 episcopal ordination that he wants to take up "a holistic revival plan" for his community with the people's support.
The Divine Word prelate also stressed the need to protect tribal dialects, culture and traditions, as well as fight increasing drug and alcohol abuse that have become part of tribal life.
About 10,000 people, mostly Bhil tribal Catholics, attended the ordination ceremony, with many saying they have high hopes that the new bishop would help them develop as a Church community.
The predominantly tribal diocese in central Indian Madhya Pradesh state, created in 2002, has been without a bishop since its first prelate, Bishop Chacko Thottumarickal, was transferred to neighboring Indore diocese in October 2008.
Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal led the ordination ceremony, which saw tribal people in traditional dress dancing to the beat of drums. Eleven other bishops, including three archbishops, more than 300 priests and about 500 nuns also attended.
Sharing his elation during the event, Vijay Martin Meda, a Catholic, told UCA News: "Now the tribal people can go and see the bishop directly to share their problems. They will feel that they would get a proper hearing as the bishop knows the community well."
He also said people expect the new bishop to expand education, health care and other Church services "to every remote corner of the diocese, even where there are no Catholics."
Manual Ganawa, nephew of the new bishop and a catechist in the diocese, shared that "we now have overcome the biggest hurdle, the communication gap."
Although the former bishop and other missioners were "doing a good job," several of them failed to see the importance of local traditions and customs as they came from "outside the community," he said.
Father Casmir Damore, a Bhil tribal, echoed this view, saying that the ordination of Bishop Ganawa "is a dream come true for our community,"
Bishop Thottumarickal also told UCA News that a local person heading the Church here is in a better position to identify with people's feelings and sentiments than people from outside the community.
In his homily during the Mass, he noted that a local person becoming bishop "was a real recognition of the aspirations of the people."
About 10,000 people, mostly Bhil tribal
Catholics, attended the episcopal ordination
Fifty-eight-year old Bishop Ganawa heads a diocese of about 31,000 Catholics in an area which is home to about 4 million people, mostly Hindus.
Presently, 14 of the 61 priests in the diocese are from the Bhil community.
Christianity is more than a hundred years old here with the first parish set up in 1896 in Thandla village.
The Catholic Church created Jhabua diocese out of Indore and Udaipur dioceses so as to better meet the needs of the tribal people.
Jhabua district is considered a backward district in India, having poor health care facilities and a less than 23 percent literacy rate. The district made headlines in 1998 with the rape of three Catholic nuns by suspected members of rightwing Hindu groups.
Since then, the local Church has witnessed a series of attacks on its members. Extremist Hindu groups have accused the Church of using education and health care to attract and convert gullible tribal people.

  Orientalist Catholics remember fight against Communists in Kerala in 1957

THIRUVANATHAPURAM, India (UCAN) -- A group of Catholics in Kerala state, southern India, has observed the 50th anniversary of the Church\'s struggle against communists that killed 15 Catholics. Others, however, have ignored it.

About 15,000 Catholics from the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese, which belongs to the Syro-Malabar Church, held a requiem Mass and public meeting on June 13 in Angamaly, where seven of the 15 victims were buried 50 years ago.

Vayalar Ravi, the federal Overseas Affairs Minister, state opposition leader Oommen Chandy and leading Catholic politicians attended the meeting along with retired Archbishop Joseph Powathil of Changanacherry.

During the meeting, the archbishop told Catholics to be wary of the government\'s policies. \"The government should adopt a policy of consensus, but the communist government always opted for the path of confrontation with the Church and its leaders, whenever they were in power,\" he said.

The result of recent parliamentary elections was proof that the communists cannot prevail against the people\'s will, he said, noting that they won only four of the 20 parliamentary seats in the state.

Federal minister Ravi, a Hindu, lauded the contributions of the Church in the state\'s development, particularly in education. He also met family members of the \"martyrs of Angamaly\" and placed wreaths on the victims\' tombs.

The Catholic Church in Kerala involved itself in an emotive struggle against the state\'s communist government soon after it came to power in April 1957. Catholic leaders said the policies of the world\'s first elected communist government attempted to smother the Catholic faith and its institutions.

The Church had accused the government of trying to control Church educational institutions by attempting to exercise direct control over the appointment of teachers. The Church had argued that this went against the constitutional rights of religious minorities to manage their own educational institution without state interference.

The Christian opposition led to a statewide protest, popularly known as vimochana samaram or liberation struggle. On June 13, 1959, this turned bloody when police opened fire on demonstrators in Angamaly. The federal government dismissed the communist government later that year.

A communist-led coalition came to power in 2006 but the Church continues to be at loggerheads with it over its education and administration polices.

K.C. Kidangoor, 74, who participated at a demonstration in Angamaly on that fateful day 50 years ago, recalled the \"people\'s movement against the government.\"

He said \"the people who were killed in Angamaly were from poor families.\"

\"They had gathered around a police station to demand the release of a person who was arrested from a nearby village,\" he said. \"Police then fired several rounds at the mob.\"

Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil of Ernakulam-Angamaly in a June 3 pastoral letter recalled that 15 Catholics were killed in police firing. Police clashed with protestors in 247 locations and jailed 177,850 people.

\"Even after 50 years, the leftist government is following the same policies which led to the liberation struggle,\" Cardinal Vithayathil said in his letter.

He also criticized the communist party for attempting to distort the liberation struggle. \"It will remain in the history of Kerala forever because it was a people\'s movement against anti-people policies of the government,\" he said.

Eight of the 15 victims, in the almost yearlong struggle, were from the Latin-rite Trivandrum archdiocese.

Although the struggle was a statewide Catholic movement, only Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese publicly commemorated it. Father James Kulas, former vicar general of Trivandrum archdiocese, said, \"We chose not to commemorate it because it could be misinterpreted as confrontation with political parties.\"

The Syro-Malabar Church and the smaller Syro-Malankara Church, both Oriental rites that follow Syrian Church traditions, and the Latin rite, which follows the Roman tradition, make up the Indian Catholic Church.

The two Oriental rites are based in Kerala state, where Ernakulam-Angamaly is located. The larger Latin rite, a product of missionary activity since the 15th century, follows the Roman liturgy.
  Priest attacked in Kandhamal shares his experience
NEW DELHI (UCAN) -- A four-month long campaign of violence against Christians by Hindu radicals in Orissa last year has shown the strength of Christians' faith, says a priest who was severely attacked himself.

Father Thomas Chellan was beaten and paraded half-naked on the road on August 25, a day after violence began in the eastern Indian state. His colleague, a 29-year-old Catholic nun, was raped on the same day, also in Kandhamal district. Both were paraded by the extremists in public.
In the nun's rape case, police arrested 17 of 19 suspects and have scheduled a lineup on June 23 for the nun to identify her violators. In a similar exercise in January, the nun could identify only two people who were in the gang that attacked her. Father Chellan also attended the earlier lineup.

Father Chellan, 56, spoke with UCA News in New Delhi after receiving an award from the Fides et Ratio (Latin: faith and reason) Foundation in Italy. The annual award honors a person for the heroic defense of faith.

The priest says hundreds have been widowed and orphaned in the violence in India, but media and local governments seem to have forgotten them. However, those poor women and children hold on to their Christian faith despite experiencing violence, death and other threats to make them convert to Hinduism, he says.

His interview follows:

UCA NEWS: What do you think about the future of the nun's rape case?

FATHER THOMAS CHELLAN: In our legal system, any case depends on so-called witnesses. Many criminals escape the law because witnesses defect for various reasons. In the nun's rape case, I wonder how many would come forward to testify to what they witnessed. What security is there for the Hindu family that sheltered me (on the previous night of attack)? But if (the system) wants to do justice in the rape case, it can, because the incident occurred in public and did not happen on the spur of the moment.

Why are people concentrating only on this case? What about other women whose husbands were killed? Why are they forgotten? Their cases should be more severe than mine and the sister's case. Since the sister's rape case has made international headlines, everyone is concentrating on it.

Even our prime minister (Manmohan Singh) described the nun's case as the most shameful thing to happen when he visited some European nations during the Orissa trouble. But there are some 75 women whose husbands were killed. Why is the prime minister not ashamed of what happened to those women? The entire nation should be ashamed of killing people in the name of religion. At least I and the sister are alive.

Have you overcome the trauma?

I think I have. However, those scenes keep coming back to me when people ask about the incident. Otherwise, it does not bother me now. I do not have any nightmares about it. When we go to court, they may make you recall it all. The defense lawyer would want to prove the case is false. But I recall everything clearly. People came armed with axes, iron rods and wooden sticks and broke the door.

Policemen were around when they attacked me. I pleaded with them to save me from those men. One attacker hit my face hard and asked, "Why do you seek police help?" So what security do people who come forward to testify have? Everyone fears for his life. Ours is just one of several cases.

Why is there so much hatred for Christians? Is it because the Church has neglected other people?

It is not correct at all to say the Church has neglected other people. We have not neglected anybody. Our educational and health institutions are open to all. Most people who attended programs in our pastoral center were people of other religions. We gave the place to many NGOs and groups to conduct their programs. So how can anyone say we keep people out on the basis of religion or caste?

The fanatics' hatred for Christians is not unique to Orissa. Kandhamal is a very backward district. In the past 25 years, the Church has been very much involved in educating and helping the tribal and Dalit people to become self sufficient. So, what is the problem? The former untouchable people now sit with others. If someone questions them, they shout back. Now these people claim their rightful place socially, economically and politically. Christianity has contributed to this change and some resent this.

There have been tensions between tribal and Dalit people in the district for some time. It is a social problem and has nothing to do with the Church. The Church has people from both groups. The cause of the violence is wrongly interpreted and the Church is unnecessarily dragged into the social problem.

Kandhamal is considered the backbone of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar archdiocese as many Catholics live there. Has the recent violence destroyed this backbone?

They might have intended to break the backbone but I do not think it is broken. If you consider institutions as Church, then most of them are destroyed. For us people are the Church. I am told people are slowly going back to their parishes and homes. Rebuilding our institutions is not our priority. We want people to have their houses first. We are talking with the government to rebuild houses.

People may be scattered now but they will come back once the situation becomes favorable. Even those who agreed to convert to Hinduism to escape death will come back. Some have come back quietly. Others stay back only because of threats. They also will all come back. The attack has only strengthened their faith.


Just imagine this. Some people threatened Christians to make them change their religion, and promised help and protection. They also threatened to kill Christians if they did not change their religion. But Christians stood their ground. Why does a woman and her children hold on to their faith even after the father was killed for not changing his religion? If they could withstand such trying times, they will continue to remain in the faith.

Some complain that priests ran away from parishes as soon as the troubles began. This is wrong. It is true many parishes went without priests for a week or two. But now most priests are back in their places.

Some priests stayed in relief camps but police asked them to move out saying their presence would create trouble for others. They were not allowed to be with people in the camps. Even now in parishes, priests are not going around much because of administrative restrictions. How many people know of this reality?

I have heard some pious Catholics in southern India praying for the Church as they were upset that the priests and bishop were away from Orissa when the violence began, leaving people to fend for themselves. I appreciate their prayers but they could have done better if they had gone to Kandhamal and offered their prayers with the displaced people. I don't know why they did not do that. It is easy to preach.

How has the attack affected you as a priest?

After this incident, I had so many opportunities to be away from Orissa. There were many offers for me to leave Orissa and forget about it. But I have taken up a mission which I do not want to abandon. In that way, I can only say the attack has strengthened me. I only want to see that our people are back in their homes and continue their activities, forget the past and lead a new life.

I'm alive today because of God's providence. My attackers had poured kerosene on me and wanted to burn me alive with matches. I thought that was the end. But then one person said there was no point in burning me inside the building as no one would see it! Another suggested parading me and the sister on the road and later burning us together. Then a group brought the sister from another building. One searched for a rope to tie us together. I think we escaped death because each of our attackers had different ideas about killing us. When they paraded us to the market place, I saw people burning used tires, but do not know why they did not put them on us.

What is the future of the Orissa mission?

The Church in Orissa has been responding to the needs of its people. Hundreds of people studied in Church schools and secured government jobs. So when the Church began to work in Kandhamal, it realized the most urgent need of the people there were education and healthcare. The majority of the priests in the archdiocese have come from Kandhamal district. Priests from outside are just a handful. From where did these local priests come? They are all products of some 20 hostels the Church manages in various parts of the district. If these facilities were not there, many would not have completed high school.

Our contact with people should improve. That does not mean we are not doing it now. But there is need for more interaction with people. We should not be tied down to our institutions.

Should the Orissa Church move away from institutions?

This is a contemporary worry that the Church is institutionalized. Church institutions in Kandhamal are buildings with basic facilities. They help people come up in life. We have thousands of poor children to educate. They have no other place to stay and study. So such institutions are necessary as long as the Church wants to help the poor.

Some say what happened in Orissa should happen in other parts to purify and strengthen the Church in India.

I pity those people for making such statements. Is that the only way to purify the Church in India? Are those people willing to undergo persecution? How has the Church renewed itself over the centuries? I don't think persecution is the only means of renewal. We should not invite and await persecution to renew ourselves. If one thinks only persecution can renew him or her, he or she should go to places where Christians face violence and get renewed.

People who say persecution is required for renewal seem to say they do not need it but others do. If one thinks he needs persecution, please go to one of these places and get beaten up.

People in Orissa have held on to their faith despite violence and even threats to their lives. Some were forcefully tonsured in an attempt to make them Hindus. But they said they have only lost their hair but not their faith. We know our people, we know our Church.

Do you think the trouble in Orissa is over?

I cannot say it is over. Problems in Orissa started more than a decade ago with the killing of (Australian Protestant missioner) Graham Stuart Staines and his two sons.

What is your plan now?

I went to Orissa (from my native Kerala state in southern India) when I was 16. I had no blood relations there nor had anyone invited me there. My aim was to become a priest. In 1974, almost all my companions had left the seminary or joined elsewhere, but I stayed back. I have been a priest for 29 years. So my interest is to go back to the same place and work there. How far is it possible now? Local people have left the area and live in relief camps. Unless I have confidence in the situation, I cannot go back. If you can tell me when the situation will become peaceful and conducive for work, I can tell you when I will go back.
  Church faces threat in Pakistan
LAHORE, Pakistan (UCAN) -- A Church center in Pakistan's cosmopolitan eastern city of Lahore has been threatened with a suicide bomb attack, one of a series of intimidating messages given to Christians as the country's security crisis worsens.

The threat was delivered on June 10 to a Christian woman who lives next to Rabita Manzil, the National Catholic Office for Social Communications, which includes the offices of the WAVE (Workshop Audio Visual Education) studio, Radio Veritas Asia's Urdu service and the Union of Catholic Asian News.

The woman said two masked men arrived on a motorbike without number plates.

"We know that you and those at the recording studio are Christians. We warn you to leave this area, embrace Islam, pay 1,500,000 rupees (US$18,750) or be ready to die in a suicide bomb attack. Inform your neighbors as well," she quoted the men as saying.

Christians have received similar threats in various parts of the country as fighting between government troops and the Taliban militants continues to rage in the country's northwest.

Sacred Heart Cathedral, several Catholic schools in Lahore and various pastors have received threatening notes telling them to convert to Islam.

A Pentecostal Bible school in the southwestern city of Quetta was closed indefinitely after suspected Taliban militants threatened a suicide bomb attack last month.

Father Nadeem John Shakir, director of Rabita Manzil, issued a statement in Lahore immediately after learning about the threat to his center.

"This is the first time the studio has received such warning," Father Shakir said in the press release June 10. "This has made us sad and very insecure. We are quite helpless in this regard. The threat has also demoralized our employees. If something happens to our center a number of Church activities will collapse."

In his statement, Father Shakir called on people to prayer for studio staff and those engaged in "such inhuman acts or supporters of such beastly activities, so that they may change their nature and become good human beings."

The priest told UCA News that neighbors of the center had been supportive.

"However, no one can guarantee the security of our houses, convents, churches, schools, hospitals and other institutions. Even the law enforcement agencies are not safe themselves."

Intense government fighting against Taliban militants has triggered a wave of attacks in cities across the country, the most recent being a suicide bombing of a hotel in Peshawar on June 9. The attack on the city's premier Pearl Continental Hotel left 11 dead, including two UN aid workers, and 60 injured.

The latest bombing affects relief efforts in the country. Peshawar lies near the Swat Valley, where Pakistani government forces are battling Taliban militia in fighting that has forced more than 2.5 million people from their homes. The hotel was used by some foreign aid workers helping the displaced.
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