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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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Holding on to Hope
  By Nancy Guthrie  
  IT was one month to the day after my six-month-old daughter, Hope, had died of a rare metabolic disorder. Heading out alone on a business trip, I thought getting away and being busy might actually alleviate my grief. But instead, sadness traveled with me. That night in my hotel room, I desperately wanted someone to remember Hope with me.

I did what most people do when they feel lonely -- I reached out to find someone to help make my loneliness go away. I punched my way through the numbers programmed on my cell phone, but no one answered. I didn't know how to connect with God in a way that would soothe my loneliness, so I finally cried myself to sleep.

Throughout the Old Testament, God promises Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and the Israelites he will be with them. He told Joshua, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Joshua 1:5). While I've believed these promises are for me too, sometimes when I've read them, I've thought, Well, I was hoping for something better than that. God's presence seemed more like the consolation prize than the reward.

But when my friend Angela lost her husband, she told me, "It took me two years after Wes died before I was willing to say to Jesus, in the loneliness of my bed, 'I need you to make your presence known to me, to satisfy me.'" She admitted it was awkward to wait in silence for him, but it's been worth overcoming the awkwardness for her to experience God's friendship.

The trouble is, I'm rarely quiet or patient enough to wait for God to meet me. Perhaps what's more deeply true is that I really didn't fully believe being alone with Jesus -- even when I'm lonely -- would satisfy me.
Obviously I've much to learn from the Old Testament patriarch Moses. After the children of Israel rebelled against God in the desert, God had it with his "stiff-necked" people and told Moses he would send an angel to lead them into Canaan instead. The very thought of living in the land of milk and honey without God's presence among them brought Moses to his knees: "If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here" (Exodus 33: 15).

To Moses, experiencing the felt presence of God was more important than anything. Seeing his example, I've started looking for ways to live like I really value God's presence. So I occasionally turn off the radio in my car and think about him or I turn off the television in my house to cut down on the world's noise. When I'm willing to wait for him to make himself known to me, I offer more than just lip service to what's truly important.

What I wanted in the hotel room that lonely night was to hear the voice of someone who really knew my sad circumstances. But who could know more about me than God? If I want to hear his voice, I have to open up his Word in a spirit of quiet humility and expectation, and wait for him to speak to me. Now I set aside time to meet with him rather than rush through it. I persevere in listening, chew on words and ideas, and open myself up to his words, rather than listen for only what I want to hear. Sometimes he speaks comfort, assuring me of his sovereign care in my life. And other times he speaks conviction, pointing out patterns in my life that need to change.

When I'm lonely, I also want to pour out my heart to someone who'll come alongside me and be touched by my concerns. What a relief it is to know that I can talk to God about what matters most to me; I can share my victories and defeats, questions and concerns, joys and sorrows. That's our privilege in prayer -- we can have this ongoing conversation with a cherished friend. It's this kind of deep, ongoing sharing that helps me feel and know the friendship of God.

Sometimes I'm lonely because I'm waiting for someone else to make the first move. But when it comes to God, he's already made the first move. God doesn't want to love me from a distance; he invites me to draw near. James 4:8 says, "Draw close to God and God will draw close to you" (NLT). But there's only one reason we can draw close to God himself in the midst of our loneliness -- because Jesus willingly experienced the ultimate loneliness in our place.

As Jesus prepared to face the cross, his frightened friends abandoned him. As he readied himself to drink the cup of God's wrath in our place, he anticipated what lay ahead -- when God would withdraw from him. This desperate loneliness caused Jesus to cry out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46).

So when I've felt desperately alone, I find comfort in the truth that Jesus understands. He experienced the ultimate abandonment and loneliness of the cross so my sin -- and yours -- would never be a barrier between God and us. His sacrifice cleared the way so we can go to God and experience his felt presence in the lonely times of our lives.

Since that night in the hotel room when I couldn't seem to find God, I've been learning how to bring my loneliness to God with the expectation he'll meet me. Recently, I lay awake one night rehearsing all the wrongs done against me, practicing my best "I'll put you in your place" speech to let people know how much they'd hurt me. Caught up in my loneliness and pain, I suddenly remembered what I'd studied in the Bible the week before, that Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would "convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness" (John 16:8).

And that's exactly what God did. As I brought my loneliness and pain to him, God spoke to me that night, suggesting all that I'd labeled as "baggage" was nothing more than the sin of unforgiveness in my life. I heard God calling me to repent. His presence was with me in the room -- and his voice of conviction was clear.

Now when I struggle with loneliness, I'm able to tell God, "I feel lonely." This begins a conversation that makes his presence real. I've discovered that as I draw close to him, he draws close to me, and I don't feel so alone. (Courtesy: Christianity Today)
Nancy Guthrie is the author of numerous books including Holding On to Hope and Hoping for Something Better: Refusing to Settle for Life as Usual, a study of the book of Hebrews (all Tyndale).
Faith on mountaintop
  By Raja Jaikrishan  
  If the lease on faith is over, why the remorse?
And yet, this always happens, for a brief
moment the rear-view mirror confounds:
are you moving into or out of unbelief?
(From Bypass of Keki N. Daruwala)

AN exile from faith lies on his bed in Fagu village of Shimla district, 9,000 feet above sea level. The pines on the road cower as a local passes by slinging an axe from his coat collar. The people here are used to the wind and cold. They keep to themselves on their terrace farms and trudge long distances for a bucketful of water. Rains have been failing the area for the past three seasons.

In this place, called the Land of Gods, Octavio Paz saw:

"The mountains of the sages
where the wind mangles eagles
(A girl and an old woman, skin and bones,
carry bundles bigger than these peaks)"

In order to escape the dreariness of his hotel room -- the Peach Blossom -- the wanderer descends three flights of stairs and finally reaches the front office. The receptionist is sleeping under the office lights with his feet on an assistant's chair. It's not only children, but men also who need light to dream.

He leaves the reception and takes the gravel path that heads to the gate. As he touches the hotel's nameplate at the gate, the headlights of a truck strike his eyes and illuminate the road going downhill. This was followed by another vehicle. Their headlights made a bow at his feet. He realizes that he is in bathroom slippers.

The moon had hidden behind the mountaintop. The man searches the dark, alight on a stair. Standing on its first stony step, he sees the ones ahead. He drags on, hoping that the steps would free him from nagging memories that accompany him. He pauses after every second step.

Besides the buzz in the head, he has strong wind for company. He continues the ascent in the hope that fatigue will induce a dreamless sleep.

He wishes he were a child climbing to see Shiva with a garland of snakes; holding the crescent moon with the river Ganges in his matted hair, dancing to the beat of his hand-held drum.

He holds a rock with both arms. His arms lose grip and the earth under his feet loosens. He slips down a few yards.

He tries again. Seized by fright, he turns fidgety. He tries again, but falls. Exhausted, he turns away from the climb. He then notices a trodden path nearby. He begins another ascent on the narrow serpentine path leading to the temple, all the while cursing his loneliness.

He strikes the tongue of the bell several times to see the benign and awesome Shiva emerging out of the phallic god (Sculptor Brancusi called it the perfect image). The god doesn't oblige. He watches the water drops gliding down the dark and stony surface for a while, and then moves on.

The exile covers the auspicious 1001 steps in his bid to see God. The shadow of pines ended here. He is able to hear the fluttering of flags and see the compound wall of a temple.

The temple has a rock, thrown by Bhima, son of Kunti and Yama (the god of death). He gathered this information, a mix of myth and facts, from the notice board outside the temple.

The temple has idols of gods and goddess of great beauty. The forms in stone are inward-looking and serene; with an irresistible pull. Those who bow before the idols seldom look for beauty at the altar.

The priest put a saffron mark on his forehead and offered him prasad. He relishes it.

The dhoti-clad priest then invites him for tea to Ganshyam's house. Ganshyam is the temple keeper. Steam is pouring out of a vessel on an improvised wood stove in the middle of the low-roofed room. At the right end sits Ganshyam. His long and thin black mane, salt and pepper beard and tinted glasses covering his slit eyes point out his ordinariness; not symbols of his faith. His simple straight talk about his past in Nepal makes him endearing. It was for the first time that he was meeting a hermit from the Himalayan republic.

Here was a man whose faith in the mother goddess made him a vegetarian at nine. He left home at 15. He didn't even go back when his parents completed their time. At 62, without any security of money or property, his laughter has childlike innocence and his words ring true.

He calls it blessings of the mother goddess. I call it courage to be. In case of illness, he gets treated by a doctor in the nearby primary health centre. A complete teetotaler, Ganshyam spends his time with the gods that are pasted on all four walls of his room.

Interestingly, although there is power supply in the temple, no radio or TV plays here. He has daal-chawal by 9 pm and goes to bed soon after. Like Zen fakirs, he eats when hungry, sleeps when tired and wakes up when the Mother goddess commands.

Nissim Ezekiel describes this state of consciousness as:

I have made my commitments now,
This is one; to stay where I am,
As others choose to give themselves
In some remote and backward place,
My backward place is where I am.
The writer is a senior journalist. He lives with his family in Noida
Fear not Islam
  By Jean-Louis Tauran  
  THE cardinal heading the Vatican office for inter-religious dialogue says without avoiding Islam, Catholics should seek opportunities to deepen their faith through dialogue with Muslims.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue said this in Granada during his Feb. 10 opening address for a two-day congress sponsored by the Faculty of Theology of Granada. The congress was titled 'Christianity, Islam and Modernity.'

"We must not fear Islam," the prelate affirmed, "but I would say more: Christians and Muslims, when they profess their own faith with integrity and credibility, when they dialogue and make an effort to serve society, constitute a richness for the latter."

He pointed out that "in these five years, the climate of dialogue with Muslims has improved, although contrasting elements still remain." Islam is the religion with which the council maintains the most structured relations.

Among these differences, the cardinal mentioned discrimination of women and freedom of worship, which is absolutely denied in Saudi Arabia.

Cardinal Tauran said that each one of us must address a "triple challenge: that of identity -- to have a clear idea of the content of our faith; that of difference -- knowing that the other is not necessarily an enemy; and that of pluralism -- acknowledging that God is working mysteriously in each one of his creatures."

Read more: Says Interreligious Dialogue Can Deepen Faith (Zenit
Double standards
  By Balvinder Singh  
  A LOCAL court that was trying SPS Rathore in the infamous Ruchika molestation case found him guilty and awarded six months' imprisonment along with a fine as punishment.

It is being debated, and contested in the court of law also, that the punishment is light compared to the enormity of the crime. Still the court was well within its admissible purview to award the punishment as it deemed fit.

Thankfully, no provision exists to initiate an enquiry against the court to find out the dissimilarities between the quantum of punishment given to Rathore and those convicts of similar nature that the court might have punished in the past.

But schools are treated differently, at least by the Chandigarh administration. If the Sacred Heart School struck off, from its register, the name of Ruchika Girhotra, who remained absent for six long months, what crime did the school commit? And this was compounded by the fact that her fee, too, was not paid during all these months.

In a hurry to 'nail' the school, the Administration made unethical comparison between dissimilar Ruchika's case and all those others who had not paid their school dues, but had not stopped coming to the school.

The Administration initiated not only a hurried enquiry against this school but also punished the Principal by taking her duly-earned honours back like a fast track court. Not so strangely, this very Administration has initiated no action against any of those schools that has not been caring even two hoots for the fundamental rights of the students of the weaker sections of society.

Article 21-A, as inserted by the Constitution (Eighty-Sixth Amendment) Act, 2002, provides for free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of six to 14 as a fundamental right.

One of its most salient features is that it "provides for 25 per cent reservation for economically disadvantaged communities in admission to Class 1 in all private schools".

Leave aside this very fundamental right that the Administration has been taking lightly. Under its own provisions that the Administration reportedly has laid while making land available to various private schools, on heavily concessional rates, all these schools have to earmark 15 per cent seats for the students of economically weaker sections of society.

As per a report, based on information sought through RTI from the Administration, most of these elitist schools, particularly those that are reportedly owned by the big shots of society, have not been fulfilling the condition.

In fact, they reportedly have "invented new ways to circumvent" these provisions. Some schools that have been admitting a few students, much below the prescribed norm, from the weaker sections of society, do not allow this backward class to mingle with the elitist class. One school reportedly has managed to run these "poor" children's classes outside its premises in a government school building!

Going by the Administration's doings, had this rule been flouted by any of the schools run by the minority community their land would have been resumed by now.

Interestingly, the Sacred Heart School, which has fallen on evil days, is reportedly exempt from this provision of compulsory seats for students from the weaker sections of society because of its being run by a minority community. However, it is a different matter that it has given the highest number of seats (13.27 per cent) to this unfortunate class.

Amending the Constitution is one thing but putting its provisions to practice is something else. It requires a sincere willingness and a whole-hearted effort to make it work.

Unless strict action is taken against the faltering class-conscious schools and those in the Administration who have been hobnobbing with those who run them, this well-intended scheme will fail miserably.
The writer is a former College Principal. He lives in Chandigarh
Down with parochialism
  By Santosh Kr. Singh  
  CONTRADICTION in forms is negotiable but contradiction in essence is doomed. What is happening in Bombay (sorry Mumbai) is a clear reminder of this.

Paper tigers roared and roared for more than three decades. First, they targeted Madrasi, a term applied even today to refer to the South Indians and which, incidentally, only expose how geographically challenged we are in the North.

Next in the line of their fury were Muslims. They dug the cricket pitch of Wankhede Stadium and wanted Pakistani cricketers to be boycotted. All this they did to show how much they loved this country called India.

In the old dark days of closed Nationalism when defeating Pakistan in a cricket match used to be a moment of jingoistic euphoria these gimmicks, perhaps, worked and encouraged them. Gradually, they spread their wings beyond Maharashtra and had their units in other states as well.

However, the ambitious patriarch from the then Bombay was a better cartoonist than a student of Indian history and culture. He soon realized that this country is much too complex for his overtly straight-looking but dangerous cognitive faculty. Recently, he resigned saying that the country is full of 'traitors' who did not understand his simple logic of patriotism -- mono-cultural Hinduism as Indianism.

The world in these years had changed. Sunny 'Ghadar' Deol and his cinema became redundant and Shah Rukh 'Veer Zara' Khan became the darling of the masses. The patriarch was growing old. The son was turning out to be a simpleton and unimpressive in comparison to his foxy-smart nephew.

Most importantly, along with the distress of the impending loss of dynasty, the progressive decline and rejection of the politics of hate and communalism in the country made the patriarch make a hasty retreat to his roots and his primeval magic formula. He returned to Maharashtra dejected and angry with his countrymen.

While thousands of poor farmers in Vidarbha region committed suicides consuming pesticides under his nose, the octogenarian 'Marathi manoos' went on an ethnic cleansing drive.

He exhorted his lumpen brigade to clean Mumbai off the North Indians. Poor and hapless labourers, taxiwallahs and Bhelpuriwallahs from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh were killed, thrashed and beaten in full public view. His new enemies were not from Pakistan, they were all Indians.

The entry of his disgruntled nephew in this battle for upmanship in the politics of hatred made the patriarch more belligerent and desperate in his execution of hate crimes. He roared at Sachin Tendulkar, and then he targeted Mukesh Ambani and now Shah Rukh Khan and Amir Khan are his targets.

In the same breath he has also threatened to boycott and disrupt the cricket matches with the Australian players. Apparently, the patriarch is miffed and peeved at the increasing cases of racial attacks on Indian students in Australia.

This is not just plain hypocrisy, this is politics of a very dangerous kind by a joint family whose patriarch has gone senile and suffers from serious ideological schizophrenia. Take him to a mental asylum, instead of jail.

Well done, Mr. Rahul Gandhi. Thank you, Sachin. Uncanny resemblance between the two of you is quite stark as I see in the background a tall man from Bollywood walking for a change with a bearded but not bald man in company in these times of politics of opportunism, convenience and strategy.
The writer is a Chandigarh based Social commentator.
Net faith
  By Ucan  
SEOUL (UCAN) -- The Pope's recent message on the pastoral use of new media is a vindication for Father Matthew Cho Myeong-yeon.

The priest has since 2005 run a faith-based website, updated daily, on spirituality. This is over and above his regular duties as parish priest of Kansuk 4-dong Church in Incheon diocese.

He says he usually gets up at 3 a.m. and works for two hours on the website. This is "quite demanding," the priest stated.

Father Cho pointed out that although most local priests have their own computer, they use it only in a limited way such as e-mailing and searching the Internet.

"As the Pope reminds us, we need to maximize the use of new media for our pastoral work. My website has 8,664 members who are longing to quench their spiritual thirst. It's why I reflect, write and update my website everyday," he said.

Subscribers to his website, Opening Dawn, can also receive a daily missive by e-mail. Subscribers are mostly in their 20s and younger and include Protestants and Buddhists as well as people who do not practice any religion.

"The so-called 'non-practicing Catholics' also visit my website and sometimes leave a thank-you note for helping them to rediscover their faith," he said.

Younger priests embracing Internet

He observed that many younger priests run websites, blogs or mini homepages to attract Catholic youths but lamented that this is not the case with priests in their 40s and older.

Pope Benedict XVI on the other hand recently urged priests to use multimedia tools to preach the Gospel and engage in dialogue with people of other religions and cultures.

In his message for the 44th World Communications Day, the 82-year-old Pope said just using e-mail or surfing the web was not enough. Priests should use the latest technologies to express themselves and lead their communities.

His message, issued on Jan. 23, and titled "The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word" suggests using images, videos, animated features, blogs and websites.

For Father Simon Kim Myoung-jung, the Pope's suggestion is relevant.

Homilies alone 'not enough'

Just giving homilies is not enough although "we priests try hard to make homilies interesting, moving and relevant to various age groups," he said.

The 33-year-old assistant parish priest of Gil-dong Church in Seoul archdiocese has run a website for five years, uploading his reflections using PowerPoint slides, videos and text.

He said many priests visit his website to get material for their pastoral work.

Another web user, Father Stephen Chang Jae-bong, says he highly values the Internet and says that "online media is God's gift that we must use as much as we can."

On his blog Chang Jae-bong's Playground that is primarily for seminarians, he has, since 2008, uploaded his daily reflections on the Bible and social events.

“I am not a parish priest who has to prepare his homily but am willing to take up that job because I can spread God’s love to ‘unknown’ people through my blog,” he said.

The theology professor at the Catholic University of Pusan points out that "priests should contribute to creating a better environment in cyberspace, which many people blame for its content of violence, sex and drugs."
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