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  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
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  "American witness to India's Partition" Phillips Talbot is no more
  Phillips Talbot, an American diplomat who helped mediate crises in South Asia and the Middle East during the cold war, died on Oct. 1 at his home in Manhattan. He was 95.

The cause was congestive heart failure, his daughter Nancy Talbot said.

Mr. Talbot was assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs from 1961 to 1965 and ambassador to Greece from 1965 to 1969. For 11 years after his diplomatic career, he was president of the Asia Society, the organization based in Manhattan that promotes American understanding of Asian cultures. He assisted John D. Rockefeller III in founding the organization in 1956 and wrote extensively about the region.

Serving in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, Mr. Talbot worked to avert international conflicts, among them the tensions between India and Pakistan before their 1965 war over control of the Kashmir region, a struggle that continues to this day. He also dealt with Pakistan's closing of its border with Afghanistan, Greek-Turkish confrontations over violence on Cyprus, and Arab refugee resettlement issues with Israel.

Mr. Talbot was ambassador to Greece on April 21, 1967, when George Papadopoulos, an army colonel, led a bloodless coup that overthrew the parliamentary government. Mr. Papadopoulos asserted that he was saving Greece from Communism and civil war. Eight months later, a countercoup mounted by King Constantine II failed. Mr. Papadopoulos's repressive military dictatorship lasted until 1973, when it was ousted by another group of officers.

There was criticism that the United States, in the interests of maintaining Greece's role in Western military preparedness, had not opposed the Papadopoulos junta. Mr. Talbot later responded: "Some Greeks have asserted that the United States could have restored a civilian government. In fact, we had neither the right nor the means to overturn the junta, bad as it was. The Johnson administration made clear its distaste for the coup, but maintained limited relations with the new government."

Relations were normalized in 1968.
Born in Pittsburgh on June 7, 1915, Mr. Talbot was the eldest of three children of Kenneth and Gertrude Phillips Talbot. Besides his daughter Nancy, he is survived by another daughter, Susan Talbot Jacox, and a grandson. His wife of 61 years, the former Mildred Fisher, died in 2004.

Mr. Talbot graduated from the University of Illinois in 1936 with two degrees, in political science and journalism. He was a reporter for The Chicago Daily News in 1938 when he received a fellowship from the Institute of Current World Affairs to travel to India and study it. While there he lived in a hut and met Gandhi.

After serving in the Navy during World War II, Mr. Talbot returned to the newspaper, which sent him back to India to report on its independence from Britain, the creation of Pakistan and the violent upheaval the partition caused. He recalled his time in India in a 2007 book, "An American Witness to India's Partition" (Sage Publications).

Returning to the United States from India, Mr. Talbot studied international relations at the University of Chicago, receiving a doctorate in 1954. He helped found the American Universities Field Staff, an interuniversity program for the study of nations emerging from colonialism. (Courtesy: The New York Times)
  Hidden language discovered in Arunachal Pradesh
  A "hidden" language spoken by less than 1,000 people has been discovered in Arunachal Pradesh by researchers who at first thought they were documenting a dialect of the Aka culture, a tribal community that subsists on farming and hunting. But they found an entirely different vocabulary and linguistic structure.

Even the speakers of the tongue, called Koro, did not realise they had a distinct language, linguist K David Harrison said Tuesday. Culturally, the Koro speakers are part of the Aka community in Arunachal Pradesh, and Harrison, associate professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College, said both groups merely considered Koro a dialect of the Aka language. But researchers studying the groups found they used different words for body parts, numbers and other concepts, establishing Koro as a separate language, Harrison said.

Only around 800 people are believed to speak the Tibeto-Burman language, and few of them are under the age of 20, according to the researchers who discovered Koro during an expedition as part of National Geographic's "Enduring Voices" project. Koro is so distinct from other Tibeto-Burman languages -- around 150 of which are spoken in India alone -- that the expedition team was unable to find any other language from the same family that was closely related to it.

"Koro is quite distinct from the Aka language," said Gregory Anderson, director of the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages. "When we went there we were told it was a dialect of Aka, but it is a distant sister language."

People of the Aka culture live in small villages near the borders of China, Tibet and Burma (also known as Myanmar). They practice subsistence hunting, farming and gathering firewood in the forest and tend to wear ornate clothing of hand-woven cloth, favouring red garments. Their languages are not well known, though they were first noted in the 19th century.

The region where they live in the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains requires a special permit to enter. There, the researchers crossed a mountain river on a bamboo raft and climbed steep hillsides to to reach the remote villages, going door-to-door among the bamboo houses that sit on stilts.

Harrison and Anderson announced this in Washington at a press conference organised by the National Geographic Society, which supported their work.

The National Geographic expedition, which also included Indian linguist Ganesh Murmu of Ranchi University, was, in fact, in search of two other languages, Aka and Miji, known to be spoken in a small district of Arunachal Pradesh.

The Northeast is known as a hotspot of language diversity and researchers were documenting some of the unwritten tongues when they came across Koro in research started in 2008. The timing of their discovery was important.

"We were finding something that was making its exit, was on its way out. And if we had waited 10 years to make the trip, we might not have come across close to the number of speakers we found," said Anderson. Previously undocumented languages are "noticed from time to time" Harrison said, so such a discovery is not rare. But at the same time linguists estimate that a language "dies" about every two weeks with the loss of its last speakers.

Counting Koro there are 6,910 documented languages in the world, Harrison said. But he added that is really just a best estimate that can change regularly. Many languages around the world are considered endangered, including Koro, he explained, because younger people tend to shift to the more dominant language in a region.

Surprisingly, Koro has been maintained within the Aka community, the researchers said, even though there is intermarriage and the groups share villages, traditions, festivals and food. In addition to the estimated 800 to 1,200 Koro speakers, the West Kameng and East Kameng districts of Arunachal Pradesh contain 4,000 to 6,000 Aka speakers.

The Koro speakers "consider themselves to be Aka tribally, though linguistically they are Koro. It's an unusual condition, such arrangement doesn't usually allow for maintenance of the minor language," Anderson said. The threat, however, is from the spread of Hindi, a dominant language in India, and many youngsters go to boarding schools where they learn Hindi or English.

The researchers said they hope to figure out how the Koro language managed to survive within the Aka community. They said Koro is a member of the Tibeto-Burman language family, a group of some 400 languages that includes Tibetan and Burmese. While Koro differs from Aka, it does share some things with another language, Tani, which is spoken farther to the east.

The research was started in 2008 to document two little known languages, Aka and Miji, and the third language, Koro, was discovered in that process. "We didn't have to get far on our word list to realize it was extremely different in every possible way," Harrison said. They said Koro's inventory of sounds was completely different, and so was the way sounds combine to form words. Words also are built differently in Koro, as are sentences.

The Aka word for "mountain" is "phu," while the Koro word is "nggo." Aka speakers call a pig a "vo" while to Koro speakers, a pig is a "lele."

"Koro could hardly sound more different from Aka," reported Harrison, author of a new book "The Last Speakers," about vanishing languages. Joining the two was linguist Ganesh Murmu of Ranchi University in India. The researchers detail Koro in a scientific paper to be published in the journal Indian Linguistics.
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  Mar Thoma Church's special school gets new building
  From Perumal Koshy

THELLIYOOR (KERALA), OCT 6 -- Head of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church Dr. Joseph Marthoma Metropolitan inaugurated the jubilee building of Navajyothi School for the mentally challenged children, run by the Marthoma Centre for Rehabilitation and Development, here today.

The function was preceded by a dedication ceremony of the building conducted jointly by Bishop Joseph Mar Barnabas and the Marthoma Metropolitan.

The new building will house the Speech Therapy Unit, the Occupational Therapy Unit and the Physiotherapy Unit. It has facilities for running a number of special programs for taking care of the mentally challenged above 18 years of age.

Bishop Jospeh Mar Barnabas, who is chairman of the MCRD Executive Board, presided over the inaugural function. Prof. P.J Kurien, M.P, delivered the keynote address. Mr. Joseph M. Puthussery, MLA, Mr. K.C Rajagopal, MLA, Mr. K.S Mohan Nair (Block Panchayat President), Rev. K.S Mathew (Marthoma Sabha Secretary) and Rev. K.M Mammen spoke on the occasion.

The school was set up in 1981 by the Marthoma Church, to commemorate the episcopal silver jubilee of the late. Dr. Alexander Mar Thoma Valiya Metropolitan, Dr. Thomas Mar Athanasius Suffragan Metropolitan, and Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Marthoma Valiya Metropolitan.

The Navajyothi school provides vocational training to enable the mentally challenged children to earn an income, however nominal it may be. At present, the MCRD provides vocational training programs in weaving, candle making, envelope makings, screen printing etc.

The school also imparts training in horticulture and farming-related areas.It has facilities to train children in fish farming as well as cow and goat farming. The Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) of Pathanamthitta district is situated on the MCRD campus.

Students benefit from the various programs there that enable them to better integrate with the society later. Rev. Eapen Cherian is the director of MCRD.
  Marriage eludes poor Indian villagers
  By Francis Rodrigues, Mangalore

A LARGE number of young men in Indian villages find it hard to get brides because they are less educated than women, a Church-managed matrimonial service has revealed.

Some 700 people have sought the help of the Cana Matrimonial Service Centre to find suitable life partners since it was opened on Sept. 26, 2009 by the Mangalore diocese as a unit of its Family Life Service Centre.

However, the center has more than 150 men's registrations "without suitable girls," says its director Father Santhosh Rodrigues.

The unsuccessful men include those employed in the Persian Gulf countries and earning well, added the priest, who is also the secretary of the family commission of the Karnataka Regional Catholic Bishops' Council.

Since these men "desperately" want brides, the Church center counsels them to accept the situation. "Some may have to remain single for life," the priest added.

He also said the center has not accepted registration fees from 116 people as it is not sure whether if it can find partners for them.

Among those registered, 200 men have no college education whereas 204 women have more than bachelor's degrees. Some women are doctors, engineers and masters in business administration and computer science, the priest explained.

On the contrary, some men have studied only up to the fifth grade.

Maxwell Mascarenhas, who gives free counseling at the center along with his wife Juliana, said educated girls want only educated boys, notwithstanding their character and jobs.

Jesuit Father Ravi Santhosh Kamath, who has conducted marriage encounter programs for the past 10 years, said less educated young men cannot find brides even in his programs.

"There may be some less educated girls in some corner of the world who would accept these boys. But they may not be aware such boys exist," Father Kamath said.
  Catholic performs Hindu construction ritual
  By George Kommattathil, Kozhikode

THOMAS marks a spot to dig for an open well. He is in great demand among Christians who want to build new homes.

A Hindu carpenter who became a Catholic 13 years ago is in great demand among Christians who want to build new homes in Kerala, southern India.

Thomas, who prefers his first name after conversion, is an expert on vastu shastra, a science of construction popular among Hindus.

People in Kerala, including Christians, seek a vastu expert's help while building their homes as they use rituals and prayers originated from Hinduism.

According to the vastu science, a new house's direction and position are important and it is the vastu expert's job to ensure strict observation of its rules.

"Vastu is a mix of science, engineering and spiritualism. It mainly deals with the shape and dimensions of a structure and the nature of land used for construction," Thomas explained.

When Thomas became a Catholic, he baptized his profession too. He now puts a cross instead of OM, the Hindu sign, on the ground to begin construction. He also recites Christian prayers and verses from the Bible.

"I help people make eco-friendly homes that boost positive energy," Thomas said.

Roy Augustine, a Catholic journalist, says construction with Christian prayers is "really wonderful." He also finds Thomas' prayers "really inspiring."

Augustine says Thomas is in great demand in Kerala's northern region as he is the only Catholic vastu expert there. "Unfortunately many Christians have to compromise with Hindu rituals," he added.

Thomas said he became a Catholic after his wife's cancer was cured after he prayed in a church. Doctors told him to take her home as she had only a few days left. "After my conversion, I was unemployed for a long time. Constant prayer inspired me to Christianize my profession too. Now, I am very busy," he said.
  Post-verdict, the BJP's talk of 'reconciliation'
By Neena Vyas

NEW DELHI: It is becoming clearer by the day that when the Bharatiya Janata Party and the larger Sangh Parivar talk of "reconciliation" between Hindus and Muslims post-Ayodhya verdict, they simply mean that Muslims must voluntarily give up all claims to any portion of the disputed land on which the Babri Masjid stood till December 1992.

Within an hour of the verdict delivered by the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court on September 30, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat said he wanted Muslims to forget the ill-will of the past and become "active collaborators in organising the necessary constitutional and practical means for building a magnificent temple" dedicated to Lord Ram.

The reference to the necessary "constitutional" and "practical" means for building a grand temple was as plain an indication as could be that Muslims should voluntarily relinquish the one-third portion of the disputed land in favour of the Hindu parties as that alone could make possible the construction of a "magnificent" temple.

Mr. Bhagwat's remarks have to be seen along with those made by the RSS's affiliate, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and the body of 'sants' mentored by it, which openly stated that the temple must come up on all 70 acres of land acquired by the Centre, including the entire 2.77 acres of disputed land.

Asked whether he wanted Muslims to give up their portion, as how else could a grand temple be built, Mr. Bhagwat said it was for the 'sants' to take a call on this. These 'sants' had already announced that there was no need for any new mosque within the limits of Ayodhya.

Two days ago, in an interview to a television channel, BJP president Nitin Gadkari also spoke of the national mood for "reconciliation," suggesting that Muslims could build a mosque "on the banks of the Sarayu river" that flows through Ayodhya.

The implication is that the mosque should not come up on the portion of land that the court awarded to the Sunni Waqf Board.

In various talk-fests on television channels, BJP leaders have studiously avoided directly saying Muslims must give up what has been awarded to them. They have also maintained a studied silence when asked whether they would approve of a mosque coming up on the one-third of the disputed land given to Muslims by the court.

The reasons they articulate in private are that for Muslims, Ayodhya is not a special place; since the disputed place has now been declared to be Lord Ram's 'janmasthan,' Muslims should not complicate matters by insisting on building a mosque next to a temple that will come up; and finally, a temple and a mosque next to each other should be avoided for, that could cause trouble in the future.

On Monday, a senior BJP spokesperson was asked what he meant by "reconciliation" -- did it mean a small step would have to be taken by both parties, or just that Muslims must show all the generosity and the wish for reconciliation? There was virtually no response, except that it was for those who sat down at the negotiating table to decide.

The spokesperson also suggested that ordinary Muslims wanted reconciliation (read want to surrender that right on the one-third disputed site) and that it was the "secularists" who wanted the conflict to continue.
  Judge slates state over religious attack inaction
  By Philip Mathew, Bangalore

THE Karnataka Human Rights Commission in southern India has criticized the state government for its tepid response to attacks on Christians and Muslims and their places of worship.

"It shouldn't just issue circulars but also show results," Justice S. R. Nayak, the chairman of the commission, said, adding that just making a few arrests was inadequate.

The commission asked the state government to hold senior police officials accountable for any attack on places of worship.

It also recommended setting up a committee at district headquarters to monitor communal tensions and deal with them effectively.

The commission directed the state administration to send within two months a detailed report on attacks on places of worship from 2007 to 2010 and the outcome of the investigation and prosecution.

It said the report should also contain details of the people accused, those who had absconded and the steps taken by police to trace them.

Hindu extremists launched attacks on Christians and their institutions in September 2008, three months after the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in Karnataka state. They claimed that some Christian leaflets had contained derogatory remarks about Hinduism and its gods.

Other attacks have been in response to alleged forced religious conversions. But the commission on Sept. 28 said that the matter should be left to the law to deal with.

"It is for the rule of the land to decide if there are any cases of forced religious conversion," Nayak said.

Sajan K. George, president of ecumenical Global Council of Indian Christians, said the commission's decision, if implemented in earnest, would "be good for the Christian community in the state."

Christians constitute 1.9 per cent of the state's total population of 53 million people.
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