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Stewardship and Trusteesh
  By A.J. Philip  
  I ACCOMPANIED Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his visit to South Africa on the occasi  
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Letter to Metropolitan
  By Rev A.P. Jacob and five other priests  
  Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan Most Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar  
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Back to infancy -- they n
  By Shaheen Chander  
  ENJOYING a relaxed weekend, I was checking updates on the Facebook page. I came across a b  
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Scientific humanism
  By Dr James W Gustafson  
  AS we look at scientific humanism, we encounter a worldview that makes a lot of noise in our society and influences our culture profoundly. There is a lot of confusion here, mostly between what science tells us directly and what people wrongly think science implies.

Science, in itself, explains nothing. Science examines causal links between things we observe. For example: we observe the sun rising followed by the dew on the grass disappearing. Science tells us there is a causal link here. We take a pill; our headache goes away. We reasonably conclude that there is causal connection.

But what all the events science examines mean when taken as a whole, science can never tell us. Nor can it tell us the meaning of life or the ultimate origins of the universe. When we speculate about the ultimate origin and meaning of things we leave science as such.

We are in the realm of philosophy. Science can tell us what to do to live longer -- eat right, keep your weight down, exercise a lot, don't smoke, and so on. But science can never tell us what to do with our life or what to believe about our lives. Many people are brainwashed by their education to think that we should only pay attention to what science can 'prove.' So they make science into a philosophy of life without even realizing it. This is known as scientific humanism. Philosophers call it naturalism.
I say it is a pretty disappointing outlook on life.

For one thing, it affords no hope whatever. You do whatever you do for 60, 80 or 100 years -- and what do you have to show for it in the end? Nothing. In a matter of years, nobody even knows you existed unless you make the history books. That's not likely.

Another thing, it provides no basis for how we should treat each other. Why be kind and good and honest? Really, there is no reason not to cheat and use people if that's what pleases you.

A third thing, it offers no convincing basis for a stable society in which human beings can flourish. It all boils down to the survival of the fittest -- those who can dominate others most successfully, even while perhaps using a cloak of altruism. Why should anyone care about the unborn, the poor, the mentally ill, and so on? Why should anyone care about the environment? The whole solar system will melt down some day. The human race will go extinct like every other species. So why get so concerned about it? If it bothers you to think our great-grandchildren may suffer from environmental degradation, then go green if you want. But if you don't give a damn who's to say you are wrong? Go with your flow. Whatever floats your boat.

Now most people don't think that way. My point is that scientific humanism has no way to convince anyone to "get with the program." It ends up with 'eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.' Get yours while you can. If you want to be like Mother Teresa, go for it. If you want to be like Osama Bin Laden, why not?
We need to ask ourselves this question. What is the most reasonable worldview in light of what we know from our own consciences, from history, from philosophy and religion, as well as from science?

My point is, one cannot simply say: "Go with what science proves." Science proves nothing. It shows some useful causal connections, but says nothing about the meaning of it all: where everything came from, where it is all going, and what makes for a meaningful and flourishing life.
Dr James W Gustafson has been teaching philosophy at Northern Essex Community College, United States, for over 30 years. He also teaches as a volunteer in Kenya and India. Dr Gustafson has published 'The Quest for Truth, an Introduction to Philosophy', now in its 6th edition. He wrote this exclusively for The Herald of India.
Acknowledged Christ, Unacknowledged Disciples
  By Ashish Alexander  
  I HAD always wanted to read this book and this evening (Jan 28) as I met a friend at his house and shared a bit about my trip to Union Theological College ((UTC), Bangalore, haunted by spectres of Bangalore theologians, I asked him if he had a copy of M.M. Thomas' "The Acknowledged Christ of the Indian Renaissance".

He immediately pulled out a copy. I was pleasantly surprised to see the original 1970 edition published by the Christian Literature Society, Madras. I expected some kind of a photocopy, originals of such books being rather rare, more so in my city, which is very far from Bangalore, in terms of distance as well as in nurturing theological reflection (I, in fact, remember once glancing through a photocopy of this title long time back).

The blurb of the book reads: "A good deal has been written in recent years on the 'hidden' or 'unknown' Christ of traditional Hinduism. Mr. M.M. Thomas deals here with 'acknowledged' Christ of renascent Hinduism which was integral to the total Indian awakening. He surveys how some of the great spiritual leaders of the Indian renaissance -- leaders like Raja Rammohan Roy, Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi -- sought to understand the meaning of Christ and Christianity for the new India that was emerging.

"And he studies, as part of his theological evaluation, the salient features of the dialogue that went on between these men and some of the Christian spokesmen in India.

In the preface, Thomas lays out his thoughts behind writing this book:
"I am deeply concerned with men's reflections on the truth of Jesus Christ in the context of their grappling with the meaning of life in concrete situations of history... The theological fragments of this book relate to one historical situation, namely the awakening of Indian nationalism in the nineteenth and the early part of the twentieth century.

"What I have done in this study is to survey how some of the foremost spiritual leaders of the Indian renaissance, especially of Neo-Hinduism, sought to understand the meaning of Jesus Christ and Christianity for religion and society in renascent India... As part of the survey, I have also tried to study how the Indian Church, in the thought of some of its theologically-minded representatives, has attempted to enter into dialogue with the ideas of these leaders and to formulate its own faith in Christ and the meaning of Indian nationalism.

This must be the most important book to be rediscovered by both Hindus and Christians of India, and of Karnatka in particular, a state that has witnessed some of the ugliest expressions of communal and cultural bigotry in recent times. I wish more people read and discussed this book and its author.

Be that as it may, it's going to be a slow read. I am a slow reader. And given the battered condition the book is in (it's a 40-year-old paperback) it needs to be carefully handled. It needs to be carefully handled because it belongs to a friend and, in a strange way, the book belongs to the history of my city.

It originally was part of Mr J. S. Dethe's library. On the full-title page there is rubber-stamp mark, upside down, that gives the particulars of its first owner, his name, designation, address and a three-digit phone number.

Mr Dethe was one of the senior architects in the team that planned and developed the city of Chandigarh. I am intrigued to know that an architect was interested in matters theological. One wishes one could meet and talk to late Mr Dethe about his ideas about developing structures for human habitation and also his notions about developing a framework for Biblical theology in India.

Mr Dethe was also a member of a small group that got the church built in Sector 18. It would have been interesting to know what he felt about this book and how much did Thomas, who himself wasn't a trained theologian, influenced his efforts in community building. That church today is called Christ Church and is part of the Church of North India's (CNI) Diocese of Chandigarh.

I have been told that Pratap Singh Kairon, the then Chief Minister of Punjab, wanted only one church, one temple, one gurdwara and, possibly, one mosque in the newly built capital city of Chandigarh. For that reason, Mr Dethe and others had aimed to build this one church as an interdenominational church, where Christians from all doctrinal backgrounds may come and worship.

Ravi Kalia, the author of "Chandigarh: The Making of an Indian City", mentions the fact that Maxwell Fry had a 'Quaker background' and Le Corbusier had a 'Calvinistic upbringing' and these affected the work of these two architects of Chandigarh. In this context too, it would too be interesting to know Mr Dethe's church background.


A.J. Philip adds:

I WAS then Secretary of the St. Thomas Mar Thoma Church, Karol Bagh, New Delhi. One Sunday, as I was attending the church service, I noticed a white kurta-dhoti-clad senior person standing orderly in the queue waiting for his turn to receive the Holy Communion. Few people in the congregation recognized him. He was Dr M.M. Thomas, then Governor of Nagaland. Of course, our then Vicar T.P. Koshy recognized him but he could not exchange greetings with him, busy as he was leading the Holy Communion service. Just before the service was to end, Dr Thomas left the church as unobtrusively as he came. He was in Delhi to attend the Governors' conference called by the President and he came to the church in a taxi. I am not sure whether he broke the protocol in hiring a taxi to attend the church service that day or not but he won the hearts of all those who heard the story of his visit to the church. I narrated this anecdote in a middle in the Indian Express when Dr Thomas died.
Get it right
  By Sarvjeet Singh  
  THE outrage in Pakistan over the recent Indian Premier League (IPL) bidding process, which left out its players, is bizarre. For once, the Ministry of External Affairs makes a lot of sense when it says that introspection is needed within Pakistan over the development, which cannot be linked, even remotely, to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) or the Indian Government.

It is no secret that Pakistani cricketers have for long enjoyed affection and adulation from Indian fans ever since cricketing ties between the two nations were restored. This may not have been altered altogether, but the common Indian feels a deep sense of outrage (much more than the Pakistani sentiment on IPL) at the 2009 Mumbai attack carried out with the active support of the Pakistani establishment, a fact contested by Islamabad, but corroborated conclusively by facts emerging from the Headly-Rana arrest in the United States.

Unfortunately for the talented cricketers, they represent the State of Pakistan, just as the Mumbai attack main accused Mohammad Ajmal Kasab does. This is the dilemma and challenge confronting Pakistan and its people. Will Pakistan continue to live with its double-sided character? On one side, they talk of dialogue and on the other they lend active help to terror factories from where impoverished youth are being sent to India to carry out their missions.

The extent to which these nefarious designs are reviled within this country became apparent when the Muslim community here refused to bury the slain terrorists. How can Pakistan allow its gullible citizens like Kasab to be used as pawns; ultimately to either die in indignity or rot in prisons far away from their homes?

It is for Pakistan to decide who should represent their country in India. It could be the immensely talented Pakistani cricketers capable of steamrolling the Indian team or hugely-admired Pakistani musicians or jihadis waiting to cross over with only hatred, murder and destruction on their minds.

One hopes that Pakistan will one day see the tragedy of putting a talent powerhouse like Shahid Afridi on the same frame as Kasab with a common caption reading 'Pakistan'. Pakistan certainly deserves better.
The writer is Assistant General Secretary of New Delhi YMCA. The views expressed are his own.
'Allah' for God
  By Francis Chan  
  THE storm which erupted after a High Court ruled that the national Catholic weekly "Herald" was allowed to use the word "Allah" saw eight churches and one Christian institution in the country attacked.

A Sikh temple and a mosque were also targeted. Such attacks are unprecedented in Malaysian history and it has left the country in crisis.

There are nevertheless signs of hope with a tremendous outpouring of sympathy by Muslims and others after the incidents.

But let's first look at the "Herald" itself and its influence in the country.

The first thing to note is that it is extremely difficult for a Muslim to get hold of a copy of the "Herald" due to the government's strict publishing laws. The paper is only sold at Catholic churches and has a circulation of just 13,000-14,000 among the country's 900,000 Catholics.

The country's laws against proselytizing Muslims strongly discourage any Catholic from giving a copy of the "Herald" to his or her Muslim friend or neighbor.

Second, English is the main language used in the publication. There are small sections in Malay, Chinese and Tamil.

The "Herald" wants to be able to resume using the word "Allah" only in its Malay section.

This leads to another pertinent question: Who are the Christians who use the word "Allah?"

Christians who worship in English, Chinese or Tamil would never use "Allah" for God -- only Malay-speaking Christians use this term. They are mainly the indigenous peoples of the eastern states of Sabah and Sarawak on Borneo island, although many work or study in western or peninsular Malaysia, and many Catholic churches there conduct Malay-language Masses to serve them.

The heated debate following the court ruling has generally missed these points.

Even some Christians have called for their fellow Christians to drop using the word "Allah" for the sake of national peace and harmony, not being aware that East Malaysian Christians have been using this word for more than 100 years. (Courtesy: CathNews India)
Pope walks tight rope to synagogue
  By Cindy Wooden  
  A CARTOON in the January edition of an Italian Jewish newspaper showed Pope Benedict XVI crossing the Tiber River on a tightrope, trying to balance himself using a pole labeled "dialogue" on one end and "conversion" on the other.

As he prepared to cross the river and travel from the Vatican to Rome's main synagogue Jan. 17 no one pretended the journey was going to be easy.

There is continuing unease in the global Jewish community over Pope Benedict's decisions to advance the possible beatification of Pope Pius XII, to lift the excommunication of a Holocaust-minimizing traditionalist bishop and to issue a revised prayer for the Jews in the Tridentine-rite Good Friday liturgy. The sensitivity to these actions is heightened in Rome.

Jews lived in Rome before Christ was born, and centuries of interaction between the city's Jewish community and the Popes means Jewish-Vatican relations in the city have a unique history, much of it sad.

The staff of the Jewish Museum of Rome, located in the synagogue complex, is planning a special exhibit that will illustrate part of that history for Pope Benedict and for other visitors in the coming months.

The centerpiece of the exhibit comprises 14 decorative panels made by Jewish artists to mark the inauguration of the pontificates of Popes Clement XII, Clement XIII, Clement XIV and Pius VI in the 1700s.

For hundreds of years, the Jewish community was obliged to participate in the ceremonies surrounding the enthronement of new popes -- often in a humiliating manner.

Various groups in the city were assigned to decorate different sections of the pope's route between the Vatican and the Basilica of St. John Lateran. The Jewish community was responsible for the stretch of road between the Colosseum and the Arch of Titus, which celebrates the Roman Empire's victory over the Jews of Jerusalem in the first century.

The Roman victory included the destruction of the Temple, Judaism's holiest site, and the triumphal arch depicts Roman soldiers carrying off the menorah and other Jewish liturgical items.

While Catholic-Jewish relations have improved enormously over the past century -- especially because of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and the outreach of Pope John Paul II -- the cartoon of the tightrope-walking pope in the Pagine Ebraiche newspaper made it clear the unique history of Rome's Jewish community and the popes has not been forgotten.

Read full story: A tightrope act? Pope prepares to visit Rome synagogue
Towards Dummy Principals
  By Balvinder Singh  

MY apprehension, sadly enough, has turned out to be true. While Ruchika's alleged 'mighty' molester might still drag the court case for many more years, Sister Sebastina, Principal of Sacred Heart School, Chandigarh, has been pronounced guilty by the local administration rather quickly.

Apart from the irrevocable damage to the reputation of the school, the Principal is being asked to return her 'State Award' that this very administration had given earlier for her 'then' meritorious service to the cause of education.

I, like everyone else, and, perhaps, foolishly too, was under the impression that it was the prerogative of a school to condone a student's irregularity, in attendance or paying of fee or its likes, or not.

At least from now onwards, all local school principals should understand that it is no more their prerogative.

Going by the present 'intelligent' administrative line-up, it can, perhaps, be asked that the fools who earlier had recommended Sister Sebastina appropriate enough for a State Honour, without looking into the school's 'serious' irregularities of taking its administrative decisions without seeking permission from the local Administration, must also be punished.

Obviously, the Administration wants all Principals of local educational institutions, both public and private, DUMMY HEADS! The non-appointment of regular heads of a majority of local government educational institutions for years clearly points towards the seemingly shady moves of the administration to keep its haughty hold on them.

Can one expect any justice from such a blatantly biased Administration that could dare not pursue a transparent inquiry against its former School DPI who was found guilty of hobnobbing with criminals involved in a serious job scam?

So, in future, the total teaching community should beware of the administrative wrath before taking any decision even while performing its routine duties.

For instance, see that you either expel all those who are creating small troubles during an examination, or ignore even the most notorious one of them. For, you cannot act harshly to some and leniently towards others.

You must know that the age-old lesson that you have been teaching that 'to err is human' applies to the Administrative high-ups and Court judges alone.

However, thank God for such small mercies that no fool, like the Chandigarh Administration, has ever sought for the proverbial pound of flesh from a judge/court for pronouncing a death sentence that his/its higher authority condones!
Outright exploitation
  By Mahadev Desai  
  FREEDOM of expression is a fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution of India. We are proud to live in a nation that believes in the ideal of universal human rights. However, sometimes the state expediently forgets its professed ideals and tries to ride roughshod over the rights of citizens. These transgressions have become more frequent as commercial, industrial and mining interests from all over the world have become more interested in the resources of this country. Unfortunately, there has never been a dearth of local collaborators within this country who for the sake of a few personal crumbs are willing to sacrifice the future of a vast majority of our population to these foreign interests. The adivasis of Chhatisgarh along with the poor in many parts of the country have been suffering exploitation and repression for a long time. Shri Himanshu Kumar, a long time Gandhian activist has gone on an indefinite fast in solidarity with his adivasi bretheren. The government, whether belonging to the BJP in the state or the Congress at the Centre has irrespective of political affiliation, chosen a path of brutal suppression of people's aspirations. The lure of wealth underground has proved stronger than the well-being of people living overground. It does not behove us as a people of a democratic nation to allow this brutality. I appeal to the government of both the state and the Centre to respect the inalienable rights of the people and to rethink and realign their policies in line with people's wishes.
Narayan Desai is a veteran Gandhian and son of Mahadev Desai who was Gandhiji's secretary
Quit drinking
  By Mata Amritanandamayi  
  Dear Children,

ONCE again, a New Year has dawned. It is natural that new hopes and aspirations fill our minds with the advent of the New Year. Anything new is attractive. Children, right from your birth, the new has always attracted you. Everybody remembers the childhood when he or she went to the school with new books and in new clothes. Actually, what is new is in our mind. A child sees the world with great joy. He finds new in everything. Children, as you grow older, you tend to miss the newness around you. Thereafter, it's only complaints and grumblings.

Children who have newness in their minds have love in their hearts. They find beauty in everything. Hence, every object in this world appears beautiful and enjoyable to a child. Children, you should be able to maintain such a love for the world in your mind. If you do so, everyday will appear to be a New Year day for you. The year that has gone by had given us a lot of things to cherish. Of course, there were unhappy moments, too. We should learn from our experiences and move ahead. We should also be able to forget and forgive those who hurt us. After all, life is a happy blend of memory and forgetfulness.

It is our ability to forget that helps us to lead a joyous life. Life is like a garden. The falling of leaves is a natural process. The leaves of the past dry up, crumble and become manure. Likewise, the events that pained us should become manure for our growth. Then we will be able to lead a happy and contented life.

During the last few years, we have seen Kerala known as "God's Own Country" becoming "Liquor's Own Country". We feel ashamed about the amount of money spent on liquor during the festival days. Many people consider festivals as an opportunity to drink. Even the owners of liquor shops are fed up with some of them. I have heard the story of a man drinking non-stop at a liquor shop. The shop owner told him, "The night has fallen, please go home". He replied nonchalantly, "I will leave, I will leave".

When the shop owner lost his patience, the tipsy customer sat on a desk and began to row. The shop owner became angrier and told him, "I told you to go, but you are sitting on the desk". Then the drunkard replied, "Don't you see me rowing fast to reach home?" The owner lost his cool and asked, "Where is the boat? There is no boat here". Then he told him, "If there is no boat, I will rather swim". Thinking that there was water under the desk, he jumped and broke his limbs.

A child told me about a humorous piece of writing in a Tamil newspaper: "Have you heard how much liquor was consumed in Kerala? They drank liquor worth Rs 43 crore. We should beat them by drinking more during the next Deepavali". Children, in the New Year, you should resolve to say 'No to liquor', which destroys both peace and sense. We should keep aloof from liquor that ruins families. Children, you should remember that liquor, which gives momentary happiness, will take joy and peace away from the rest of your life.

The decision to say 'No to liquor' is a mall step towards a healthy and peaceful Kerala. Children, you should stop all kinds of entertainment where liquor is served. This should be your solemn pledge in this New Year. Mother
Translated from the original in Malayalam by Elizebath Philip
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