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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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Clothing the clergy
  By Maryknoll Father William Grimm  
  TOKYO (UCAN) -- THE idea and practice of having clergy dress in a distinctive way has a long history. The phrase "man of the cloth," to mean a clergyman, goes back to the late 17th century. In 1701, Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver's Travels and himself a clergyman, used it in that sense.

In the West today, many priests avoid wearing clerical garb outside the church except when there is a particular reason to do so, as, for example, when visiting hospital patients. Of course, they have long done so when taking a day off. Nowadays, some shun clerical garb because it can reinforce a clericalism that turns priests, who should be servants, into an elite entitled to special privileges. Others avoid it because in too many places the priesthood has come to be increasingly identified with crimes against children.

I read recently that a bishop in New Zealand has asked fashion designers to develop some form of dress for clergy in his diocese that would be distinctive and comfortable, as well as suitable to the culture and climate of that country. He was responding to the fact that few of his priests wear the clerical collar which is the distinctive mark of a priest, especially in the English-speaking world.

The customs of clerical garb vary from place to place. In the first centuries of the Church's history, there was no particular dress for those exercising ministry. Even our current vestments evolved from what was at one time everyday dress. Menís fashions changed, but the Church kept to an old-fashioned style that eventually became the liturgical norm.

Particularly in the 20th century the "Roman collar," which probably has its origins in 19th-century Anglican garb, has become more and more common, though not universal. When Pope Benedict XVI was elected, news stories carried photos of a young Father Joseph Ratzinger in the common dress of German priests: a suit and tie.

In tropical countries, priests and bishops generally wear a light-colored, open-collar shirt with a lapel pin, largely because a Roman collar, uncomfortable to begin with, can be unbearable in the heat and humidity of the tropics. Clerical sweat smells and feels no better than lay sweat.

In Japan, the majority of Caucasian priests do not wear traditional clerical garb because it can interfere with our work as missioners. There is a misconception in Japan, as in much of Asia, that Christianity is a Western religion. A Roman collar under a Western face reinforces that prejudice, making the mission of the Church more difficult.

Western priests in Japan often wear a jacket and tie and a lapel pin shaped like a cross or another religious symbol that would be recognizable to Catholics. So, for us, clerical dress in Japan has by and large come to be the same as that of Father Ratzinger.

Quite a few Japanese and other Asian priests in Japan also follow the necktie or open collar fashion because non-Christians are likely to be reluctant to talk with anyone in clerical garb. While the collar might signal "shepherd" to Catholics, especially in the West, for those with little knowledge beyond what they see in films and television, the message can be "wolf."

So, many of us priests in Japan find it easier to meet people first and then in the course of conversation inform them of our priesthood. The same seems to be the situation in much of the rest of Asia as well.

This raises the question of the whole concept of special dress for clergy, especially in countries where Christians are the minority and an important part of any priest's vocation of evangelization is meeting non-Christians.

In South and Southeast Asia, Hindu, Buddhist and other religious figures wear distinctive garb that is a normal part of any street scene. Perhaps in those highly religious cultures some form of culturally appropriate and recognizable form of dress for Catholic clergy would be a good idea. Where people are used to clothing that proclaims a religious affiliation and role, Christians should probably make distinctive dress a part of inculturation. Of course, developing such a "uniform" would probably embroil bishops, priests and lay people in arguments about fashion as all advocate a different style.

In East Asia, where religious garb of any sort is seldom seen in public, the style that has evolved in Japan over the years may be the best. It allows priests to meet "those not yet gathered at the table of the Lord" (to use a Japanese Catholic phrase), who might otherwise avoid anyone who looks out of the ordinary, yet allows local Catholics to recognize a priest when they are looking for one.
Maryknoll Father William Grimm is the publisher of UCA News and former editor-in-chief of 'Katorikku Shimbun,' Japan's Catholic weekly
Ram who unites
  By Raja Jaikrishan  
  AYODHYA, the place of Lord Ram's birth and the centre of communal discord, was visited by 10 lakh devotees on the occasion of Ram Navami on March 24. Crowds flocked to take a dip in the Saryu River.

The communal riots following the demolition of the disputed Babri Masjid in 1992 made Kafi Azmi say the following in Doosra Banwas:

Tumne Babar kee taraf pheke thhe saare patthar,
Hae mere sar ki khata zakhm jo sar mein aaye,
Paun Sarjoo mein aabhi Ram ne dhoye bhee na thhe,
Ke nazar aaye wahan khoon ke gehre dhabbe,
Paun dhoye bina Sarjoo ke kinare se uthe,
Ram yeh kehte hue aapne dwaare se uthe,
Rajdhani kee fiza aayee nahin raas mujhe,
6 December ko mila doosra banwaas mujhe.

The Second Exile:

You threw towards Babar all the stones,
It is my head's fault that, instead, it bleeds,
Lord Ram had not even washed his feet in the Saryu waters,
When he saw deep blots of blood,
Getting up without washing his feet in the waters,
Lord Ram left the precincts of his own residence, bemoaning,
The state of my own capital city no longer suits me,
This December 6, I have been condemned to a second exile.

Eighteen years after creating bad blood between the two communities, the engineers of these crimes against humanity are being charge-sheeted. Local Muslims made arrangements for the devotees. "We have arranged drinking water and first aid at various points in the city," said City Board Corporator Haji Asad Ahmad at the mela venue.

Aqeel Ahmad, a Muslim youth who was distributing packets of drinking water, said the devotees were his guests.

BJP president Nitin Gadkari, an abetter of the mosque demolition, and Congress leader Vilas Muttamwar pulled the chariot of Lord Rama along with other devotees at Nagpur.

The devotees started the day by praying to the sun, the seed of the first incarnation of Vishnu's family tree. Special prayers and bhajans were offered all over the country to the mid-day born Ram. Cradles with his image were rocked by the devotees.

A confluence of Hindu and Muslim devotees gathered at the Shirdi Sai temple. The celebration highlighted spiritual bonding of the two communities.

Sadly, a young man's body was found on one of the steps of the 12th century Jagannath temple at Puri in Orissa. Visually challenged Sukdeb chose to end his life at the Vishnu temple on Ram Navami, laying bare the malice unhealed by faith.

Interestingly, former Orissa Chief Minister Girdhar Gamong performed a kirtan at Kumbh Mela in Haridwar.

A handful of Kashmiri pandits, who stayed put following the terrorist push to the community two decades ago, offered prayers at a Ram temple in Srinagar (See photo alongside in the photo section).
Deafening silence on Lohia
  By Ashish Alexander  
  MARCH 23 is the birth centenary of Ram Manohar Lohia. Not many newspapers, print or online, carry opinion pieces or reminiscences of the man. He himself apparently never celebrated his birthday citing the reason that it's the day Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were hanged by the British in 1931. He's often called the most original democratic thinker of independent India but the silence about him in the mainstream academic and public sphere is almost deafening.

The popular chronicles of modern India's political history ignore him almost completely. 'India After Gandhi', the 'magisterial' tome by Ramachandra Guha, mentions him only in passing.

Even though Guha's book is not on Gandhian legacy, the title has an ironic ring to it because Lohia understood Gandhi more seriously than most Gandhians. In 'India After Independence' by Bipin Chandra Pal and others, Lohia does claim a paragraph or so more, but even there he is chided for his anti-Congress and anti-Nehru sentiments, which, of course, were very strong. In books such as these, the authors apparently grudge his 'goongi gudiya' comment the most, and it seems that this alone disqualifies Lohia from any attempt towards a disinterested assessment.

Lohia was not known for restraint when he targeted his political opponents and in any case he must not be wide of the mark when Indira Gandhi appeared on the political scene riding largely on her father's wings. But there must be a very tender and honest aspect to his personality that even though his friends acknowledged him to be hot-headed, they did indeed respect him.

Kishan Pattnayak in his book of collected essays 'Vikalpaheen Nahin Hai Duniya' recognizes that it was betrayal of principles, Gandhian and others, that infuriated Lohia, but there were also times when he remembered his former colleagues, like Nehru, with particular fondness.

Personal issues aside, what makes Lohia a formidable thinker is the felicity with which he combined the spiritual and the social. He is able to raise questions of traditional oppression using traditional idiom. His insightful essays about Indian godhead, the conflict within Hindu society, the material tensions in Indian culture, and the challenges of technology must go down as essential texts for young Indian students. The impact of his ideas is felt four decades after his death and beyond ideological camps.

Megnad Desai in his piece (Indian Express, March 7) that he wrote as an obituary to British labour politician Michael Foot, and in which Lohia is mentioned just as a footnote, could not but acknowledge Lohia's contribution in making caste struggle an important ingredient of political movements. With electoral fortunes of Left parties plummeting, there is already a new openness for Lohia. This also points towards emergence of a reconfigured centrist position in Indian politics.

It can be expected that a renewed conversation between Gandhi, Ambedkar and Lohia will open up promising political horizons for India.
Shut the door on terrorism
  By Sarvjeet Singh  
  THE cabinet nod to the anti-hijacking Bill which stipulates death penalty for the hijacking offence is yet another example of the fits-and-start approach to terror we seem to have perfected.

In 2007 the draft report of the Counter-Terrorism Committee of the UN Security Council laid bare the Indian State's abject inadequacy in tackling terror. It mentions the thriving drug, hawala and fake currency rackets that are used to fund terrorism activities.

The financial Intelligence Unit, set up under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, is beset with problems of staff shortage and lack of support from other agencies. The report also mentions lack of effective law to deal with terror crimes. It also cited absence of a witness protection programme which allows terror suspects and their backers to get away.

The recent acquittal of a terror suspect who was arrested with RDX in his possession shows that the antiquated legal provisions of recording evidence while dealing with terror crimes falls woefully short of deterring potential terrorists. The UN report further mentions absence of a national counter-terrorism database which would "enable them to remain informed on a real time basis of terrorist-related events that occur in the country". A year later the Mumbai attacks simply substantiated this.

The overall security and law and order structure is old and feeble and grossly inadequate to meet challenges that terrorism poses today. Terrorists today are well trained, prepared and, above all, highly motivated. The new-age terrorists and their handlers know the importance of using loopholes within the system to their advantage.

The ongoing trial of the lone surviving terrorist of the Mumbai attacks, Mohd Ajmal Kasab, has demonstrated how adept he is at playing mind games and stall the case built up by the prosecution. In a very significant move he claimed to be a minor. The court immediately responded by ordering a test to ascertain his age. Fortunately, he turned out to be a major.

Since the age check was ordered by the court, could it have prevented his plea to be tried in a juvenile court if he was a minor? The people behind the Mumbai attack are sure to have noted this development and it should not come as a surprise if the next wave of terrorist crimes are committed by minors trained in the terror factories across the border.

The shrill reporting of every sentence that Kasab or his lawyer utters in the courtroom is only helping him further. His statement to the court where he used the word Klash for AK47 to describe the firing and "rifle" for the first time to describe the death of valiant police officer TukaRam Omble alarmed the court. The media attention to such blatantly frivolous antics are sure to encourage him further.

We need to ask ourselves whether our desire to get daily updates on the trial are greater than the need to ensure that judicial process is allowed to move with minimum drama, fuss and delay. The heightened media attention is one of the prime objectives of terrorist activity and the transcripts of conversation between terrorists holed up in Taj and their handlers amply prove it. In the larger interest of national security, only court authorized representatives should brief the press and not prosecution or defence lawyers. Any other reporting based on hearsay or motivated leaks should be banned.

The organisations that form their support systems are more organized and flush with funds that are quickly transferred to their wards and families sometimes right under the nose of the Indian law enforcement agencies. Indian political landscape also leaves room for support to these elements by some unscrupulous politicians. Compare this with the recent story of an NSG jawan who laid his life fighting terrorists in Akshardham temple. His family is still running from pillar to post combating state apathy and bureaucratic delays, a much greater challenge

Finally, the local police may not necessarily have the capacity or means to respond effectively in terms of collection of data from the scene of crime. Their role should be restricted to preserving the scene of crime while a specialized investigation agency like the FBI should investigate it.

During the parade marking the raising of the much-hyped Force One of Maharashtra, two of the "elite" commandos fainted. Also, when one channel was airing footage of the same Force the recruits seemed in clear discomfort while demonstrating their jumps. One senior police officer on condition of anonymity shared that this happens because of undue pressure to show that the Force is ready as early as possible which affects the quality of training imparted.
The writer is Assistant General Secretary of New Delhi YMCA
Celibacy and child abuse
  By Andrew Brown  
  Many people blame celibacy for Catholic sexual abuse. But it's much more likely to have played a role in the cover-up, writes Andrew Brown in his blog in the Guardian website today. To some extent paedophilia expresses a preference for sex with children, he says.

WHAT role did celibacy play in the Catholic crisis? The most popular argument seems to be that it played a simple and direct part, by producing sexual frustration which then found inappropriate outlets. But that has to be wrong. If paedophilia and the abuse of adolescents were solely a response to sexual frustration, it wouldn't be perpetrated mostly by people who are free to find sexual gratification elsewhere. And even in Ireland, it mostly was. The best figures I can find for this come from a 2002 government-sponsored report which says that 5.8 per cent of all boys sexually abused were abused by clergy or religious. The corresponding figure for girls was 1.4 per cent. So the overwhelming majority of child abuse in Ireland was carried out by people who were not bound to celibacy.

To some extent paedophilia and ephebephilia are the expressions of a preference for sex with children and adolescents even when adults are available. They aren't just a matter of settling for the nearest and most vulnerable candidate, as some forms of the argument blaming celibacy suggest.

This line of argument can be taken too far: in particular, conservative Catholics have argued that the problem is entirely down to homosexuality in the priesthood. Their reasoning is that since 80 per cent of the victims (at least in the USA) were male, this proves that most of the perpetrators were gay men. However, the most recent John Jay research explicitly disputed this. It claimed that much of the imbalance was accounted for by the much greater availability of boys to priests and religious. Homosexual acts are not always an expression of homosexual preference, otherwise there would be no straight men in US jails.

To think about this properly, we would need to know the number of priests in sexual relationships with consenting adults: unfortunately these figures are nowhere collected, though the psychologist and former Dominican Richard Sipe suggests in one of his books that in the Western world about 50 per cent of all priests are in a sexual relationship (in the developing world the figure is generally agreed to be much higher).

Obviously, celibacy is impossible for some people, and well-adjusted celibacy is extremely rare and difficult. But it does exist. The official Catholic claim is that all priests are capable of it, although they are a tiny minority of believers, and the evidence suggests that some are; of those who don't, the majority clearly prefer adult women as partners. So I don't think that celibacy, by itself, explains the original offences, though it did make the priesthood as a profession more attractive to men who were confused or in denial about their own sexuality.

But I do think that celibacy played an important role in the cover-up. The point about celibate brotherhoods is that they become just that -- brotherhoods, in which your primary affectionate bonds are with your brothers. The institutional loyalty is rooted in this, and will not last without it. That is what will give you a sense that no one outside really understands, something which so easily modulates into a belief that the outside world is just wrong.

This kind of groupthink isn't of course unique to Catholics, or even to religions in general. Shared hardship will always tend to weld together more closely any group it does not blow apart. But I think that corporate celibacy is a very powerful generator of group thinking, probably quite as powerful as bonobo-style corporate orgies would be.

The obvious danger of celibacy is that it forces lust into obscure and terrible channels. But the subtle danger is that it diverts love, affection and trust away from the dangerous inhabitants of the sexually active world around you and into your safe and fellow-celibate family. I know that the standard justification of a celibate priesthood is that it frees its members from particular and specific loyalties and enables them to serve and love all their parishioners equally. This isn't nonsense: as any clergy spouse will tell you, a proper vocation does tend to squeeze out family life, and vice versa. But celibacy does not so much solve that problem as displace it. To live without any particular and specific group loyalties is almost impossible. If it's hard not to put your family ahead of your parishioners, it must be even harder, deprived of a family, not to put your fellow celibates ahead of them.

All organisations and all institutions tend to cover up their own wrongdoing and to punish perceived disloyalty. There's nothing unique to the Catholic priesthood about that. But the bonds of affection and of institutional loyalty which the celibacy of the priesthood engenders must have strengthened those tendencies to the point where they sometimes became pathological.

Source: Celibacy and child abuse (
Saved from Vaasthu
  By A.J. Philip  
  BETWEEN US is a weekly reality show on the Malayalam television channel Asianet. The subject of discussion last Saturday was 'Vaasthu Shastra'. What shocked me was the revelation that in Kerala many houses are demolished and rebuilt to conform to the Vaasthu specifications.

One of the discussants quoted profusely from the Vedas and Upanishads to argue that Vaasthu was as old as the sacred texts. It did not occur to him that Vaastu would not have mattered when man first lived in caves and then on treetops. In a nutshell, Vaasthu is the "science" of eight directions. It has a profound influence on the happiness and well-being of those who live or work in a building.

That is precisely what a Vaasthu expert told then Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N.T. Rama Rao. On his advice, he got a new gate built at the State Secretariat for his personal use. But within a couple of weeks of the completion of the gate, NTR died of cardiac arrest.

I do not know much about this science. What I learnt is from experience. Soon after I joined the 'Indian Express', I found the management making changes in the office of the then Editor-in-Chief, Mr H.K. Dua. His table and chair were rearranged to "look east", long before the External Affairs Ministry thought of the "look east" policy.

When I asked Mr Dua whether the changes were with his consent, he told me that he had no say in the matter as it was the management's own decision. He added that he did not believe in such esoteric sciences. Anyway, the Vaasthu changes did not suit Mr Dua as he had to leave the Express within a short period.

Seven years ago when I joined The Tribune, I also had the onerous task of keeping the chair of the Editor-in-Chief warm for Mr Dua, who was at that time our Ambassador in Denmark.

The first thing I noticed on entering the E-i-C's office was the awkward position of the office table and chair. One could not peep into the room to find whether the E-i-C was in office. For that one had to open the door and get in. I was told that the previous incumbent had made the changes on the advice of a Vaasthu "scientist".

Thus the first thing I did in 'The Tribune' was to have the E-i-C's table and chair re-positioned. Today (March 15) as Mr Dua leaves the newspaper to devote full time to his membership of the Rajya Sabha, I feel vindicated that my decision did not harm him.

Incidentally, just a few days before I left Chandigarh, I bumped into the Vaasthu expert who had advised Mr Dua's predecessor. A Keralite industrialist in Chandigarh, he accidentally told me that he also dabbled in Vaasthu shastra. It was on his advice that the former editor had made the changes in his office.

Today Burj Khalifa is the world's tallest building. The concrete used in it outperformed the steel of Taipai and the Empire State Building, the oolite limestone of Lincoln Cathedral in England, the first building to exceed the height of the Great Pyramid of Gaza, and the stones of the soaring cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris built in the Middle Ages. In none of them was Vaasthu Shastra used. Yet, even educated people go for it and have their offices rearranged.
A case for Telangana
  By Dr K Vidyasagar Reddy  
  NOTHING supplements the argument of self-rule. Self-respect is possible only if self-rule is ensured. This is the crux of the Telangana issue. Since 1969, 369 students have faced police bullets and committed suicide for this cause. These youngsters sacrificed their lives so that thick-skinned Andhra politicians realise the gravity of the situation.

One more student, engineering graduate M Saikumar ended his life in the Osmania University hostel on March 9. In his suicide note, he has accused politicians of treachery and said he wanted his body to be carried to the Assembly. Such sacrifices cannot be dismissed as sentimental.

These well-educated students are disillusioned with our political leaders, who have always maintained double standards. Shamefully, our politicians are in collusion with one another in maintaining status quo, irrespective of party differences. It is high time we understand the agony and pain that these students underwent before resorting to such extreme measures. Ironically, our politicians are maintaining stony and criminal silences.

There are multiple dimensions to the need for a Telangana state. The Srikrishna committee is under the impression that development or backwardness alone is the bone of contention. The committee's appeal seeking information on areas where deliberate discrimination was imposed on Telangana was published in the media on February 15, 2010. Of course, the committee's terms of references were sequenced in such a way that our main focus becomes redundant, whereas mere statistics regarding allocation and utilisation of funds and resources is interpreted as they desired it to be.

If the main argument was poverty or backwardness, a few special packages or crores of rupees and additional budgets would suffice, instead of a separate state. But, that's not what this is all about. Let's not accept the argument of 'backwardness due to discrimination'. It is about political, social and cultural empowerment for the people of Telangana.

I wish to raise a few basic points regarding the problem. No one raised the issue of Andhra-legislators (189/294) dominating Telangana legislators (107/294). Andhra politicians, cutting across parties, gathered together to oppose the December 9, 2009, statement of Union Home Minister. As they are in majority in the Assembly, they were able to suppress the minority Telangana legislators, as they have been doing since 1956! This is regional discrimination.

The State Secretariat consists of just 9 per cent Telangana employees, that too only in the Class IV and menial/manual labourers' categories. Meanwhile, Andhra employees are appointed in the ratio of 91:9, violating all statuary norms and dominating their Telangana counterparts.

The Secretariat is so overwhelmed with Andhra personnel that one can only imagine the fate of Telangana projects and schemes. Whatever meagre funds were allocated was never spent properly in the Telangana region. Again, when those funds were spent, partially or otherwise, Andhra stakeholders stood ready to grab the benefits. Be it the irrigated areas of Nalgonda, Nizambad, Adilabad, Karimnagar, Mahaboobnagar, or industrialised towns and factories of Singareni, Kothagudem, Godavarikhani, BHEL and Bodhan; everywhere we find Andhra settlers holding jobs and buying land.

While Andhra's unemployed migrates to Telangana towns and cities and grabs jobs, the poor Telangana sons cannot do so, but are forced to leave for other places such as Mumbai, Chennai, Sholapur, Gujarat and the Gulf, leaving behind their ageing parents and families. It is a miracle if they return.

The saga of hunger deaths and farmer suicides in Telangana continued unabated during the regimes of both Chandrababu Naidu and YSR Reddy. None heard of such inhuman crimes being committed during the regime of our benevolent Nizam.

It is for this cause that these young students are laying down their lives. While we are not inclined to glorify these sacrifices, their continuation in the present cannot be prevented. These youngsters have realised the need to fight for this age-old struggle, and at this crucial time, none can stand in their way.

Compelled to lead the Telangana movement, students are on the warpath. This movement will not wither until their objective is achieved.

The ball is now in the Central Government's court. It is up to them to wait and watch, till the Srikrishna Committee submits its report on the subject. But, by then, many more precious lives might be lost. Hope good sense prevail in the minds and hearts of Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh, so that costly delay is avoided at the earliest.

We should introspect on our past and think about the present and future. Can we continue to live with the Andhra Pradesh legislature, bureaucracy, judiciary and media dominating over Telangana? Regional discrimination continues as usual, but in the name of democracy. Besides, we are losing our age-old identity of Telangana, and hence our self respect. We are ready to die of hunger, but not face humiliation, even for a moment.

Enough is enough. We have borne enough for more than five-and-a-half decades, thanks to our spineless politicians and their greed. To prove we are human beings, as our fellow Telugu brethren, we would like to rule our homeland Telangana. It is good if the Srikrishna Committee is convinced of our arguments and resolves to create a separate state. If provoked by the Centre or State Government, the struggle will continue as usual and it could even become more violent.
And now the bad news!
  By Maryknoll Father William Grimm  
  TOKYO (UCAN) -- Recently, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, gave a one-hour speech in Dhaka, Bangladesh, based on Pope Benedict XVI's message for World Communications Day next May 10.

In that message, the Pope invites priests "to make astute use of the unique possibilities offered by modern communications."

The archbishop stressed that message as will, presumably, any Vatican official who speaks about communications until next year's message.

In Dhaka, the archbishop said, "The Catholic Church must be present in this digital world because the Holy Father inspires us to use modern media and communications tools to fulfill the Church's mission of proclamation."

There are many reasons that the Catholic Church must be present in the world of digital communications but I had never before thought that papal inspiration might be one of them.

Aside from his novel rationale for living in the 21st century, however, Archbishop Celli fulfilled one of the chief duties of a communicator. He stayed "on message."

But even though the message was good and the archbishop focused on proclaiming it, the talk was, according to people who were there, a failure.

Why was that?

There are three essential elements in communications: the message, the messenger and the audience.

The message is, of course, key. Granted, we all endure situations when a speaker has nothing to say but keeps talking anyway. However, the archbishop's message in Dhaka was a valuable one and he single-mindedly proclaimed it.

The second element in communication is the messenger. One who hopes to communicate must have the rhetorical skills to do so but even more important is a willingness to be changed by the message. One cannot call others to change without oneself undergoing that same change. If the message cannot shape its proclaimer, it will not have an impact upon others, regardless of the messenger's technical skills.

I do not know how many Facebook friends Archbishop Celli has but giving him the benefit of the doubt, let us assume that he has let his life be changed by his message.

The malleability of the messenger is not limited, however, to adapting to the message. Equally important is the audience. A messenger who cannot or will not recognize this fact and adapt to his audience is certain to fail.

That is what happened to Archbishop Celli in Dhaka.

According to someone who was present at the talk, all the young people who were in the audience afterwards said they did not understand what the archbishop was talking about.

Poverty, an irregular electricity supply and limited access to cyberspace in Bangladesh hamper involvement with the computer-based world of digital media. The presentation reportedly did not take these facts about the audience into account. So, a talk that might have been a successful presentation in Europe, and perhaps even has been, was a failure.

There is a certain irony in the fact that the Church's ex officio guru for communications failed to take into account a key element of communications. However, the problem is not specific to the archbishop.

A major challenge to evangelization, the communication of the Good News, is our repeated and ongoing failure to take the Church's audience into account.

We have a message, the best of all messages. We have communicators whose lives are shaped by that message. Yet, most of the people of Asia have no notion of our proclamation. And that is not the case in Asia alone, it is universal.

The problem lies in our failure to present the Good News as a real answer to bad news. We often present the Church and its Gospel as a "package deal." "This is how it is, it is good for you, take it."

But something that is perceived as an institution unrelated to the concerns and problems of real people in a real place is not going to be good news to them. If we do not present the Gospel in such a way that people see that it answers the bad news in their lives, they will ignore us.

Therefore, in addition to being shaped by the message of the Church, we must become expert in bad news. We must know what shape the bad news takes in various times, places and lives. Then, we must tailor our communication to answer that bad news. Only then does evangelization become the communication of the Good News as a hope-instilling, joy-producing answer to the "joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties" of the world's people.

If we fail to preach the Good News as an answer to the world's bad news, we fail as communicators, we fail as evangelizers, we fail as a Church.
Maryknoll Father William Grimm is the publisher of UCA News and former editor-in-chief of "Katorikku Shimbun," Japan's Catholic weekly
India is awakening
  By Anand Muttungal  
  WHILE addressing a Hindu meet on the eve of Holi at Lal Parade ground in Bhopal, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat made a statement that negated the Indian Constitution and disrespected the secular fabric of India. "Not a Hindu? Then you are not Indian," he declared. The function was attended by the home minister, several BJP ministers and police officers.

Bhagwat challenged the Constitution in the presence of the ministers and officials, who have taken oath to safeguard it. If a person forgets to bring the National Flag down at sunset or wrongly unfurls it, the police rush to register cases. If those individuals happen to be Muslim or Christian, their 'wrongdoing' is termed as 'anti-national'. But here, the police had no objection.

This was also an indirect call to ignite communal passion. Bhagwat went on to say that the Lord Jesus and Prophet Mohammad are revered figures, but India cannot be united in their names, because they are not Indians. Anybody with common sense will understand that this is silly logic, as the RSS praises the infamous Hitler, a Western figure.

There is a subtle principle that works in the media: Negative publicity is more publicity. Statements made by the RSS against Christians and religious conversion have actually given huge publicity to Christianity. People have begun to wonder why Christians continue to work, even after abuses are hurled at them. There is an eagerness to know more about Christ. This should serve as a warning to the RSS that it cannot continue with its poisonous ideology against this nation and the Constitution.

The RSS claims to be the only voice of millions of Hindus in the country. However, it is clear from its appeal to join the RSS that they are worried about lesser participation. This is a warning to the RSS, which has been trying for the past 84 years to indoctrinate the secular conscience of this country with its Hindu Rashtra concept. It has always tried to suppress the voice of a majority of Hindus who are secular minded. This is a sign that India is awakening.
The writer is a priest and spokesman of the Catholic Church in Madhya Pradesh
Photo caption: Worship of arms is integral to the RSS
In Husain's defenceless defence!
  By Balvinder Singh  
  I TOO am a strong votary of the freedom of expression. I too am pained at the torturous treatment that has been meted out to artist M F Husain by the unbridled, due to the shameful incapacity of our political leaders who make laws and those who are entrusted with enforcing them.

However, after such explicit commercialization of almost all our arts, can one still believe that whatever is being churned out in the name of art today is actually art? I have my doubts.

Someone once rightly said that in the 60's, people knew what a particular artist was painting or sculpting. One used to be fully aware of their changing styles, media, influences and subject matters.

Today we know only one thing: What price a particular artist carries on his work, or say, in the present context, on his HEAD?

No wonder today that art works are sold under brand names alone. Their artistic merits have certainly taken a back(ward) seat!

We know well that there are a number of people afflicted with colour blindness. They perhaps are not in majority. However, there are a majority of people, as put rightly by Herbert Read (The Meaning of Art), who are blind to shapes and figures. Read must have said so after analyzing a popular Chinese saying that most of us see paintings by our EARS!

And this, perhaps, is the situation that today all commercially successful artists exploit to the hilt.
If one is capable of giving an instant artistic expression to every 'topical' happening, like a news-story writer, either he is a genius or a fraud. And, considering the very high percentage of such geniuses amongst our artists, one can always be skeptical.

In the case of Husain, it has been proven beyond doubt that he, soon after tasting commercial success, has been using his extremely well-honed painting skills as a creative ploy.

About two decades ago, The Tribune, Chandigarh, dared to publish one of my articles that was ruthlessly titled 'Husain's Hera Pheri'. The article was based on a fact proven by two pictures of one of his paintings that were published in different popular periodicals at different points in time. But both were titled differently as per the suitability of their topical necessity.

And this is true of many other artists as well. Long ago, an artist friend painted an exclusive series of paintings titled 'Love'. Sometime later, those very paintings were rechristened as of those who suffered during the black terror period of Punjab and were widely appreciated by one and all, including this writer, a fake friend-art-critic!

In such a politically polluted and artistically vitiated atmosphere, if Husain kept going, again and again, to those very icons that kept him in the news, I, at least, am not going to believe that his artistic outpourings were driven by his genuine love for the icons of Hindu gods and goddesses.

Frankly speaking, his work did not match even an iota of artistry that our ancient artists had poured on many an available godly icons, often in nude, to which most of the armchair crusaders of 'freedom of artistic expression' often quote in Husain's defenceless defence.
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