Vol. XIII No. 17 December 1-15, 2011 l Published from Delhi Post Box No : 10708, Delhi-110085
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Pastor Khanna released on bail
‘Coal mafia killed Sr. Valsa John’
PTA special report
Srinagar, Nov 30 2011: The Rev. Khanna was released on bail from judicial custody on Nov 30 after spending 10 days at Kothi Bagh Police Station for a bond of Rs. 25000. The pastor of the All Saints Church in Srinagar was arrested on charges of blasphemy under sections 295A and 153 A of the Ranbir Penal Code after Muslim clergy in the Kashmir valley accused him of converting Muslim youth to the Christian faith. The Church of North India, to which the pastor belongs, maintains that Rev Khanna is innocent. The church has served the Kashmir valley for the past 130 years. Those who embraced Christianity had been attending the church for over a year. The Rev. Richard Howell, General Secretary of Evangelical Fellowship of India, has welcomed Pastor Khanna’s release. It should of grave concern to this “secular” nation of India that a senior pastor of a long-standing Christian community was arrested on fabricated charges at the instigation of Muslim clergymen. Of much greater concern should be the attempt of the Muslim clergy to impose Sharia Law in the valley.
The Grand Mufti had summoned the pastor for an illegal trial that lasted several hours. The Muslim clergy accused Rev. Khanna of “converting” Muslim youth by baptizing them. They were armed with video clips of baptism scenes. The J & K police swung into action and arrested the pastor after this illegal Sharia trial. Why didn’t they arrest him earlier? Does the Abdullah government fear the rising Muslim power centre that challenges his secular democratic government? If Pastor Khanna had indeed broken a law, he should have been arrested before the Muslim clergy had an opportunity to try him. By permitting this trial, the J & K government has ceded valuable public space to the unconstitutional power centre in the Valley. Any individual or group that dares to set up a parallel government or judiciary should be booked for high treason. Failure to do so amounts to complicity with such forces that destabilize “secular” India. In a state where there’s no “anticonversion” law, the police could only slap some irrelevant and false charges on 15
West Bengal, November 29, 2011: Baby John, brother of Sr. Valsa John, has claimed that his sister was killed by the coal mafia for whom she had become a “nuisance”. “She had been under constant threat from Penam Coal Limited and had even told us about it when she visited us last,” he told ucanews.com. John said that he is sad to have lost his sister but was proud of the fact that she stood steadfast for her mission. Sr. John, who was brutally hacked to death on November 15, had been working among the tribal communities in Jharkands’s coal rich region of Santhal Parganas in Pachwara for the last 20 years. Since early 2000, Penam Coal Mine Limited, a project of Punjab state electricity board and EMTA (Eastern Minerals and Trading Agency) from West Bengal, has been operating mines in the coal reserve of Pachwara and 32 surrounding villages. To defend their rights over their land and its resources, the Santhal adivasi community had formed the Rajmahal Pahad Bachao Andolan. Sr Valsa along with others worked to organise the community and were in the forefront of the resistance that was building against the exploitation by the coal company. Despite the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the local community and Panem coal in 2006, tension had been mounting in the area, especially with regard to betrayal by the company. John said that there were many incidents where the nun had raised her voice in support of the tribals which “provoked some influential people to eliminate her”.
"Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. Matt 5:22-23.
Be aware! Be concerned! Visit www.praisethealmighty.com
NEWS AND VIEWS December 1-15, 2011
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Govt will not withdraw communal violence bill: Moily The government will not withdraw the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill 2011, Corporate Affairs Minister M Veerappa Moily said on Sunday. At a press conference in Mangalore, Moily said there was a national consensus on the government bringing the bill. The draft bill has been debated at various levels, including the parliamentary standing committee, he informed. The opposition from some quarters will not thwart efforts to bring the bill. The introduction of the bill was inevitable in the present circumstances, he said. "I am sure that even the hardcore elements among the Saffron outfits including RSS want communal amity," media quoted the former law minister as saying. Urging for expediting the process in enacting the bill, members of the National Advisory Council (NAC) last week demanded the tabling of the bill in the winter session of the Parliament. Farah Naqvi and Harsh Mander told a meeting "If the UPA was sincere, they
should do it now." The proposed communal violence bill, prepared by the NAC, intends to prevent and control targeted violence against the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and religious and linguistic minorities. The bill drew criticism from BJP and some non-NDA parties who have warned of serious consequences. BJP leader Murli Monohar Joshi on Sunday termed the bill 'draconian', and said his party would oppose if the bill is introduced in the winter session. The proposed bill was aimed at dividing the society into ‘majority’and ‘minority’, he said. “BJP would oppose it tooth and nail and also would not allow it to be passed," he added.
Pastors' Retreat in Delhi The Logos Ministries is organising a one-day retreat on 2 February 2012, for Pastors and their spouses resident in Delhi. The retreat will be held at the Apostles' Methodist Church, R. K. Puram Sector 4 from 10 Dr. R. Rajkumar am to 4:30 pm. Evangelist Dr. Rajkumar has informed that this one day retreat is open to pastors of all denominations in Delhi. He will be speaking on the topic "Rediscovering the Joy of
Ministry." Logos Ministries has conducted similar retreats in several cities in India and abroad. Dr. R. Rajkumar was a devout Brahmin Hindu who came to believe in Jesus Christ even as he attempted to refute the Bible. He is passionate about encouraging pastors and lay persons in Christian ministry. Registration is free in which a lunch is included. The organisers urge for an early confirmation from those who want to attend for better arrangement. The messages will be translated from English to Hindi. Contact : 91-11-2610-4474
"Discovering Our Roots" Seminar The House of Bread, Hyderabad, will conduct a special seminar called "Discovering our Roots" in Hyderabad from13-15 January 2012. This seminar is to help Christians to connect with the Land, Language and People of the Bible. The main speaker in this seminar will be Pastor Mark Blitz. He is a well known commentator on the Feasts of the Lord as has
been interviewed by popular TV channels such as Fox News. Besides, musician Benny Prasad will be one of the guests. There is a registration fee of Rs. 1000 per individual and Rs. 1800 per couple. For more details, contact email@example.com or visit www.thehouseofbread.in. For room reservations, interested participants may call 9000404240 or 9032836303.
Truthseekers wash feet of farmers in thanksgiving gesture H a r y a n a , N o v e mb e r 2 2 , 2 0 11 : Truthseekers, an activist NGO working among the dalit and backward communities is celebrating Farmer’s Thanksgiving Day, starting 21 Nov 2011, and ending on Ambedkar’s Memorial Day, 6th Dec 2011. Truthseekers have called on the government to declare Thanksgiving Day for the Farmers of India. This program was started at Dariyapur in Haryana. The lower caste groups from four Jat, Gujjar, Scavenger, and Weaver communities took part in this thanksgiving event. Rev. Sunil Sardar addressed the crowd and washed the feet of farmers to thank them for their labor and cultivating the land of this country. He then prayed that the Kingdom of Bali would come and misery would go. The great social reformer, Mahatma Jyotirao Phule initiated the Truthseekers movement and for him, Baliraja was Jesus. It was also a confluence of the East and
West cultures, as foreigners got an opportunity to wash the feet of Indian farmers and thank them for taking care of God’s creation and providing for the rest of mankind. Rev. Sunil Sardar said that this “is an historical event because throughout the history of India, farmers have been invaluable to the progress and life sustaining capabilities of this country. Yet the farmers have never been thanked and have often been exploited. In the memory of Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, we washed the feet of OBC farmers to thank them for their contribution in building the nation. This was a real homage to Mahatma Phule ideals, which the Truthseekers carry on today, long after Jyotiba has gone on to be with the Lord. Among others of those who participated were Dr. Ghawade, Paul Larson, Noel Becchetti, Grant McFarland, Sunil Pahlwan, Vijay Paswan, Shiv Kumar Pal, Dan Davis, Lynnel Job and other activists.
Isn't it time we honoured these Christians? “The Municipal Corporation of Delhi should constitute an allparty and communities committee to decide the name of the roads. Christians too have contributed to the development of the nation, therefore, discrimination should not be shown in taking up important issues pertaining to Christian community and naming roads”, said Arnold James. During his tenure as the Delhi Commission for Minorities member he met the concerned authorities and raised the matter of naming roads and various issues. He suggested that the Bouleward Road (Civil Lines) be given the name of Dr. Lucy Oman Marg. Dr. Lucy Oman, in her effort, promoted the St. Stephen hospital from maternity to general hospital and constructed the new building. Dr. Lucy Oman was a committed doctor who served the people of all faith and community for 50 years in the hospital. St. Thomas was on the twelve disciples who came to India and spent the rest of his life here. It is appropriate to honour him by naming one of the roads in the capital. St.
Thomas church and St. Thomas school are situated in Mandir Marg. The road being a lengthy one from Panch Kyuan crossing to Peshwa Road crossing be given the name of St. Thomas Marg. Bishop Allan D’ Lastic Arch Bishop of Delhi was very popular and accepted leader in Delhi. Naming a road around Gole Dakhana in his name will be apt for his memory. Dr. John Hala is one the principals of St. Stephens to be remembered by giving his name to one of the roads towards a college. It will be proper to change the name of Madarsa Road to St. James Church Marg, as there is no Madarsa at present and there exists the historical St. James Church that now celebrates its 175th anniversary. It is excessive to watch the Christian cemeteries are been marginalized. The unauthorized parking by the DTC and private buses blocks the entry gate to the Nicholson Cemetery. People find a hard time in bringing in the dead body and entering due to this unauthorized parking. Parking of these vehicles have to be stopped. Moreover, the open storm water drain not covered passing through inside the Nicholson cemetery. This causes flood in the graveyard and damage the graves. “Since the BJP has come to power in the MCD, it has replaced the names of many roads by the names of BJP of RSS leaders. This is not fair”, he added.
NEWS AND VIEWS PRAISE THE ALMIGHTY
Bible Society equips schools with Nativity resources The Bible Society has launched a brand new resource for schools and churches using the BBC’s hit Christmas drama, The Nativity. The acclaimed TV special was written by Tony Jordan and broadcast in four parts on BBC 1 last December. Now Bible Society is hoping schools and churches will be able to use The Nativity to take a fresh look at the story behind all the Christmas festivities. The package includes a DVD, additional resources and a license to show the film. The resources are available for teachers to download and cover the syllabus for Key Stage 3 RE. Luke Walton Bible Society’s Culture Programme Manager said: “Tony Jordan is a top quality writer and producer. His work, such as for EastEnders, Hustle and Life on Mars, shows that he creates popular and
compelling story telling for the widest audience. “It is fantastic to see this talent come together with the inspiring story of the nativity giving teachers access to Bible resources in the visual language of the next generation.” Contributions to the package have come from Elizabeth Hunter, director of Theos think tank, Simon Carver, film critic at Premier Christian Radio, and Lindsay Shaw, the Editor of Bible Society’s Reel Issues film and faith website. Bible Society’s Church Programme Manager, Michael Pfundner, said, “The nativity is a great one to watch with people who would otherwise never go to church or read the Bible – not even at Christmas. It’s an ideal Advent resource for churches and house groups.”
Shillong Choir to sing in Delhi The KJP Synod Sepngi Choir from Shillong will be in New Delhi from 9th to 12th December 2011. They will do three Concerts (programmes) for the Bible Society of India to help raise funds for “BSI’s Mission to the Blind”. The BSI solicits the support of all Delhi churches to encourage their members to Sponsor 1, 2, 5 or 10 Bibles, which will entitle them to attend the 2 ½ hr Advent Concert on Saturday 10th of December 2011 at the Sri Satya Sai International Centre, Pragati Vihar, Lodhi Road. As per the number of Bibles sponsored, s/he will be given the privilege to seat in the Auditorium accordingly. e.g. Sponsors of 10 Bibles – (Purple card) – seats will be reserved
front of the Hall. 5 Bibles – mid stall 2 Bibles – Balcony 1 Bible – rear stall. Each church should inform the BSI the number of cards they require. The following Christian Book Stores also supply donor/ sponsor cards. 1) MSS Bookshop, Khan Market, Janpath. 2) St. Pauls Bookshop, Connaught Circus, 3) ELS Bookshop, Karol Bagh. 4) O M Bookshop, New Delhi YMCA . 5) ISPCK Bookshop, Kashmere Gate. 6)ISPCK Bookshop, CNI Bhawan. 7) Good News Centre, Pankha Road. 8) The Bible Society of India, Sansad Marg, The seating capacity is upto 500 only. For details: Phone: 23362054; 23366822 & 23348179.
December 1-15, 2011
Archbishop of Canterbury launches Hindu Christian forum To facilitate dialogue and resolve potential conflict, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Sri Shruti Dharma Das Ji last week launched the 'Hindu Christian Forum' at Lambeth Palace in London. Speaking on the occasion, Archbishop Rowan Williams said, "The conversation of interfaith dialogue is always one where we look eagerly and expectantly for enrichment. We're not playing for victory, we're seeking understanding from one another... by learning the depth of one another's commitment and vision - dialogue and depth is what we all hope for." The head of the Church of England praised the launch of the Hindu Christian Forum and the role it will play in facilitating dialogue: "I believe that a dialogue is about work, real labour, but also about surprise and excitement, and it is with that vision in mind that I commend this forum to you, thank you for your support of it, and ask for your continuing prayers and solidarity with the work it will do in the future." Dr Williams also spoke about his own early encounters with the Hindu faith. He described reading a children's version of the Ramayana in the school library when aged 12, and recalled the beauty, complexity and depth which captivated him at that early age. He went on to say how later in life, while contemplating his own spiritual identity during a visit to India, he realised that "the historic Christian identity is something that constantly needs to be opened and enlarged, challenged and
enriched in conversation". Speaking of a recent visit to Bangalore, he described a day of dialogue with religious leaders from a variety of Hindu traditions: "a deeply enriching experience a day in which we were able to speak simply and directly about our traditions. We were able to say together at the end of that conversation a number of things about our mutual respect and the understanding that we sought." The Hindu Christian Forum has been formed by a group of Hindus and Christians who have been meeting together since 2001. It has become a national forum partly in response to the findings of the 'Bridges and Barriers to Hindu Christian Relations' Report which was carried out by Dr Jessica Frazier of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government. In his address, the Archbishop described the report as a "very creative and stimulating piece of work, which provides an enormous resource for reflecting on how dialogue can be pursued, and how at the grassroots level it is to be understood and worked with." The event at Lambeth Palace was introduced by the Chairs of the Hindu Christian Forum: The Ven Richard Atkinson, Archdeacon of Leicester and Ramesh Pattni, Inter Faith Chair of the Hindu Forum of Britain. The event featured Andrew Stunell addresses from Member of Parliament Andrew Stunell, Baroness Richardson and Lord Popat.
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Karnataka: Christian woman arrested on false charges of forced conversion Hers is the 41st case of anti-Christian violence in Karnataka since the start of the year. Global Council of Indian Christians president Sajan K George slams the government, police and Hindu extremists.
Mumbai – On the eve of Advent, a time of expectations and hope, Karnataka recorded its 41st anti-Christian incident of the year. A Christian woman, Mrs Janakiyamma, who is a member of the Bethel Ministry Church, was arrested. Her “only crime was to spread the word of God,” said Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), which “waits with hope for the time when the Christian minority in Karnataka will enjoy religious freedom as it is enshrined in the Indian Constitution”. On Saturday, Mrs Janakiyamma was praying with her husband and other members of her church at a home in the outskirts of Kushalnagar village, in Kodagu District
(Karnataka). During the meeting, members of the Bajrang Dal and Sangh Parivar, two ultra-nationalist Hindu organisations, burst into the home, accusing those present of engaging in forced conversions. After they called the Kushalnagar police station, agents arrived and arrested the woman, who was taken later in the day to Madikeri Prison. “When the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) is in power, police turns its back on Christians even if they are supposed to protect [all] citizens. The speed with which false accusations were made, and the repeated threats and acts of persecution against the Christian minority show a clear link between the government, police and extremists.” Since 2008, Karnataka has been under a BJP administration, which has backed Hindu extremist groups and movements from a Hindu nationalist umbrella organisation, the Sangh Parivar. These groups include the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal, all of which have carried out acts of violence against Dalits and Christians.
December 1-15, 2011
NGOs must reveal details of foreign contributions received Details of all foreign contributions received by NGOs, trusts and charitable organisations will now have to be specifically enumerated in the IT returns filed with the Income Tax Department. The Directorate General of I-T Exemption has revised the I-T return form that will now have additional columns for mentioning FCRA number and details of foreign contributions. The need for a revised form arose after it was found that some NGOs that received considerable foreign contributions had not mentioned its details in their return of income filed. It has resulted in the I-T department scrutinising the accounts of several NGOs and charitable trusts that had received foreign contributions in the past decade. Concerned that charitable and religious organisations are diverting their income to acquire new assets, the government is likely to introduce a fresh tax of 15%.
The government is also worried that some NGOs are using foreign contributions to fund anti-government protests across the country. The Home Ministry is said to have received information that funds worth crores of rupees were received by NGOs and have been given to social activists to stage protests against government policies. Taking note of this, the government is reportedly tracking about ten NGOs. And if the allegations are proven, they can be charged criminally for sedition. According to one source, the government initiated an inquiry after receiving the report of the Indian mission in Denmark last month. The Indian ambassador in Denmark reported that the newly-elected minister for development cooperation, Christian Friis Bach, expressed plans to use the “Danish official development aid as a tool to generate popular unrest in recipient countries".
John Hernandez conference in Delhi New Delhi, Dec 1 2011: Pastor John Hernandez (Vineyard Church, Tempe, USA) will be holding another conference in Delhi on Saturday December 10 2011. The theme of the conference will be "The Presence of God and His Kingdom." The conference will be held at the Banga Sanskriti Bhavan, 18/19 Bhai Vir Singh Marg near Gol Dak Khanna from 10 am to 3:30 pm. The conference is open to all Christians. Pastor Hernandez wishes to see the Church
equipped in ministry - doing the very works of Jesus such as healing the sick, casting out demons and ministering to the downcast. He desire that all will experience the Presence of God and the power of God in daily living. Those desiring to participate must register beforehand. Please contact Emmanuel Qureshi (9811801794) or Simeon (9953062310). A registration fee of Rs. 100. Lunch and tea will be provided.
Association of Christian Counsellors(South Asia) A catalyst for excellence in Christian care and counsel
6th Biennial Conference Christian Counselling in an age of Technology
Dates : 17th to 19th February 2012 Venue : Pallotine Animation Center, Nagpur, Maharashtra-440013 Registration fee: Rs 1500/- per person Rs 1250 /- for members & registrations before 15th Jan’12 Accommodation: Limited sharing accommodation available for ` 1250/-person Track Speakers P lenary Speakers Mr. Samson Gandhi Impact of Social networking - Mr. Jacob Isaac Mr. Joseph Vijayam Combating Technology Addiction - Mr. Peter Wiig Use of Technology for Counselling - Mr. Sandeep Emmanuel
For free brochure cum registration form please contact Association of Christian Counsellors ( South Asia ) Flat no : 401 , St no : 7, Rd no : 3 West Marredpalli Secunnderabad -500 026, AP www.accsouthasia.org Tel no:040-27716941 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Should religion be taught in schools?
The debate on teaching Bhagwad Gita has again come to the forefront with the recent statement of Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh that Bhagwad Gita would be included in school curriculum. "Teaching Gita is no crime and the government would include the teaching of Gita in educational curriculum." Shivraj Singh Chouhan said while addressing a function organised by the RSS-backed Saraswati Vidya Pratishthan. Political parties, secular organizations and faith based organizations have taken a different stands. The political parties and secular organizations say that religion should be kept out of the educational curriculum. They say it is against the spirit of the Constitution of India. They quote the Constitution, Article 28(1&2 &3) states that no religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institutions wholly maintained out of State Funds or receiving state aid. It makes clear that no children can be compelled to attend such classes either. Article 27 further says that tax payers' money should not be used to promote any particular religion or anybody can be compelled to pay tax for the same. Faith based organizations say that religion can be a subject in the school. India witnesses many issues related to commu-nalism. An optional subject in the school curriculum can provide children right knowledge about all religions. It can mould better citizens to live in India. It need not be called religious studies but as a subject of eternal wisdom. It can reduce communal tensions. They say that constitution of India very well allows it. In the landmark case of S.R. Bommai v. Union of India (1994) Hon'ble Supreme Court reiterated that secularism was a part of the basic structure of the Constitution. The Indian State will not identify itself with or be controlled by any particular religion. We hold that no one religion should be given preferential status, or unique distinction, that no one religion should be accorded special privileges in national life or international relations for that would be a violation of the basic
Fr. Anand Muttungal principles of democracy and contrary to the best interests of religion and Government. So teaching all religious teachings would not violate the spirit of the Constitution. The spirit of Indian concept of Secularism can be well understood in the statement of the great statesman-philosopher Dr. S Radhakrishnan, "When India is said to be a secular State, it does not mean that we reject reality of an unseen spirit or the relevance of religion to life or that we exalt irreligion." Fundamental Duties demanded in the Indian Constitution Article 51-A, (e) that every citizen shall "promote harmony and spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistics and regional or sectional diversities". Basing on these teaching a subject of eternal wisdom would enhance the spirit of the Constitution of India. We also have a third opinion that the decision by the Chief Minister is purely political. It is trying to whip up the emotions of majority community. Religion is a personal affair of people and teaching religion is basically duty of parents and communities of religions. Teaching religion as a subject can cause problems as the teachers' knowledge on all religions would be very limited and at times misinformation can be taught to children which may lead to communal tensions. They quote the Father of the Nation Gandhiji who wrote in Harijan(1946): "I swear by my religion. I will die for it. But it is my personal affair. The State has nothing to do with it. The State will look after your secular welfare, health, communication, foreign relations, currency and so on, but not my religion. That is everybody's personal concern." Even though we are confused with the varied views, we need to listen to the judgemental view of the Supreme Court of India in the case of the S.R. Bommai Vs. Union of India [1994 (3) SCC -1] have while holding that the values enshrined in the Constitution imposes a positive duty on the State to ensure the attainment of Secular values, observed So the actions of the State Govt. which are calculative to subvert or sabotage secularism as enshrined in the Constitution can lawfully be deemed to give rise to a situation in which the government of the state cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution." It has further held that the encroachment of religion into secular activities is strictly prohibited. Secularism in India has acted as a balance between socio-economic reforms.AState which doe not protect secularism or does any act to destroy secularism would, according to the Supreme Court, be amenable to action underArticle 356 of the Constitution.
December 1-15, 2011
Evangelist shot dead in Pakistan Pakistan, November 18, 2011: An evangelist was shot dead here on Wednesday (Nov. 16) by an unidentified gunman in what his family believes was a radical Muslim group’s targeting of a Christian. Zahid Jameel, 25, told Compass that his father, Jameel Saawan, and a helper were opening the doors of their cosmetics shop in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal area of Pakistan’s commercial hub of Karachi on Wednesday morning when a young man appeared and shot his father, first in the neck and then in the face. The assassin fled on a motorcycle on which two people were waiting, keeping watch for him, Jameel said. “We firmly believe that my father was killed because of his preaching of the Bible, because there is no other reason,” Jameel said. His father had not spoken of any threats on his life in recent weeks, though he had received threats after voicing his desire to start a welfare organization for poor Christians in the Essanagri area of Karachi two years ago, Jameel said. “That could not materialize after he started receiving threats from some unknown forces,” Jameel said. “We do not know who threatened him, but my mother persuaded him not to put his life in danger, for our sake.” Nevertheless, Jameel said that his father continued to preach and was widely respected for being a vocal supporter of the Christian community. “We live in a rented apartment and our shops are also on lease – we don’t have any property, and no enemies, which is why we are shocked by our father’s killing,” he said. “It wasn’t a robbery, because the assassin only walked towards my father and shot at him.” Zahid said that his mother was in a state of shock, as were his three sisters and older brother, Shahid. “Our father has been gunned down for no reason at all,” Jameel said. “He used to share the Word with Muslims, but I have never heard that he entered into an argument with any person.” Jameel said that the family had moved to Karachi from Quetta about 10 years ago, with his father starting the cosmetics business two years later. “My father was a very religious man, and some years ago he decided that it was time for him to reach out to the people and share the Good News with them,” he said. “Every day he would visit several families to share the Word of God and was very
content with his life.” His father used to sit with him at his shop from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., then go off to visit Christian families to share the Bible, Jameel said. On the day of the murder, however, his father reached the shop 15 minutes ahead of him. “The young boy who helps me in my shop told us that he was opening the locks of the other door when he heard a gunshot,” he said. “The boy then saw my father trying to grasp the assailant, but the man fired another bullet that hit my father in the cheek and exited from the back of his head, killing him instantly.” Michael Javed, a former member of the Sindh provincial assembly, told Compass that he had known the victim for several years, as both of them are from Quetta. “Saawan was a very good man and was always eager to help his community,” Javed said. “I also think that he was killed by some religious forces, because he had shared with me once that he was receiving threats from some quarters.” The former legislator said that no one had come forward to record statements with the police because of fears for their security, and it was highly unlikely that Saawan’s killers would be caught. “There used to be quite a few cases of such nature in Sindh, but now the situation for minorities is worsening,” he said. “The government needs to make efforts to provide security to our people.” Napolean Qayyum of the Pakistan People’s Party Minorities Wing told Compass that the PPP-led Sindh government would make all possible efforts to apprehend Saawan’s killers. “President Asif Zardari’s spokesman has told me that the president had tasked Sindh Home Minister Manzoor Wassan to investigate the incident and report back to him,” he said, adding that Wassan was likely to visit the family today. Sharing Life Ministry’s Sohail Johnson said he regretted that the killing of the evangelist would instill further fear in Christians in the city. “Pastor Saawan’s brutal murder shows that the forces of extremism and intolerance will go to any extent to disrupt peace and harmony in Pakistan,” he said. Although police registered the case on Wednesday (Nov. 16), they have yet to make any progress in the investigation, sources said. Saawan’s family was preparing for his burial, still holding onto some hope that one day his killers will be brought to justice.
December 1-15, 2011
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The Invisible Hand Ninan Mathullah An eventful life—a life full of vivid memories and dramatic moments is inspiring to read and hear about. It helps us to understand how, different life experiences mellow and shape the rough edges of a person’s character. It can influence, both the person going through the life experience, and the one watching it unravel, to strengthen, teach valuable lessons and to give hope to them. A person well experienced in life can look at the struggles with presence of mind. But, a novice or one who has never gone through such hardships can panic and become paranoid when a slight misfortune or accident arises. Struggles and hardships can strengthen a person, giving hope of the coming of a new dawn, even in the midst of darkness. Troubles can help us to build our character. God wants us to grow to maturity in faith to trust in Him. Life experiences give a person the strength, the courage, and the hope to face situations peacefully. Each one of us has memorable experiences. Write them down for the next generation. It is a sin not to do so, if you have the means to do so. People like to hear more about real life situations than preaching from theological issues. These real life experiences are unforgettable, while the theological issues in sermons will be forgotten soon. These experiences and the resultant strong character can equip a person to do difficult jobs easily with presence of mind. Even an apparently simple job can become enormously difficult if the person is emotionally disturbed. Once the emotions are gone, things become easy. Skill in action requires taking the emotions away from the action. The job becomes very easy now. Once you have decided that what needs to be done is the right thing, in front of God, it is easy to take the emotion out of it, through trust in Him. Suppose your child makes a mistake, and you want to discipline him. Watching his tears (the child has also learned by experience how to get out of the situation using all of the skills that work) if you get emotional, you can’t take that action. How can we keep the presence of mind in a crisis or a critical situation, where a
decision has to be made in split of a second that can lead to life or death? Once, we as a family went on vacation to Shlitterbarn, a water park some thirty-five miles north of Austin, Texas. On the second day, we explored different areas of the park, and came to a place where people were seen moving slowly on floats. There were concrete steps to get to the place. Leaving my wife there to watch over the children playing in the pool, I decided to swim in that body of water. After swimming for a few minutes, I decided to turn back and, tried to stand on my feet. To my surprise, I went down to the deep and, was shocked and panicked as water got into my eyes and nose. If I knew that the water was deep, could have managed to stay afloat, though not an expert swimmer. I went down twice before coming up for a third and last time. A vision of my wife and my children in the pool came into my mind. Next I thought about my God, “God! Is this how my life will end? How about all the good things I wanted to do in my life for your glory? Nothing is going to work out!” This was my prayer, “God if I get one more chance I will finish the work that I have postponed (including writing this book) all these years.” When I came up to the surface for the third and last time, could see people standing at a distance. I tried to make some noise and cried for help, but was not sure whether sound came from my throat or not. Before going down the third and last time, the memory of my family came to my mind. I thought of not seeing my wife and children anymore in this world and I lost all hope.
Now I could remember moving in the underwater currents. A thought came to my mind that I must have done some sin while in the park for which God was calling me back. I repented for a moment. The next thing I remember is that I am out of those treacherous waters and two men are holding my hands. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Yes! It is true! I am out of those deep waters. Sitting there surrounded by the people, the Bible verse came to my mind, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you” (Isaiah 43:2). Some park employees came, and they took me to their office for observation. I thanked the two, who rescued me. A lady had heard my cry, and yelled for help. Two guests who were visiting the park had jumped into the river and rescued me. I had been fooled to think that the body of water, the Comal River, from which the park took water, was a part of the water park watched over by life-guards. Later I saw a small sign there stating that the park authorities are not responsible if something happened there, and I had missed that sign. If they had been just a few seconds late, I would have been pulled further down by the underwater currents and the story would have ended differently. I don’t believe what happened was just by chance, but an answer to my prayer. In a situation where you need immediate help, God can send it, if it is according to His will. The prayer I made was for a time to complete the job to glorify His name. Many a time we pray for material things to indulge in or we pray for
sen sual enjoy ment rather than p r a y i n g according to His will to glorify His name. That is why many prayers go unanswered. If we pray for anything to glorify His name, the prayer will be granted at the right time, according to His will. We don’t give to our children whatever they ask if we know it is going to hurt them or teach them the wrong lesson or if it is going to affect their education. Sincerely pray for the ability to help people in need. Claim nations for God. If not in your life, God can raise children for you to see this with your own eyes. God’s ways are mysterious. That incident also taught me that I must do everything I can within my means to help myself; in this situation I cried for help. If we can move even our little finger in a certain situation, we must not stay idle and test God, but we must move that little finger. Our God is a God of miracles. If we call upon Him in time of trouble, He will deliver us or give us the grace and courage to overcome the situation. We can also learn from other’s experiences that we watch or hear from other sources. This is one of the reasons we read scriptures—to learn from them. We study history for the same reason. If we insist on learning everything from our own experiences, the hard way, those experiments and adventures can boomerang, and the price to be paid will be too high. About the Author ‘The Invisible Hand’, is the 9th chapter of the book entitled ‘Metamorphosis of an Atheist- A life journey to the Truth’, written by Ninan Mathullah. He is a Graduate of University of Texas, Houston in Health Sciences, and holds a Masters Degree in Science (Industrial Fisheries). Currently he is working as a Microbiologist in Public Health in Houston, Texas. The Book is available through 27 OM Book Stores in main cities of India and www.Christianstore.in.
EDITOR’S PAGE December 1-15, 2011
PRAISE THE ALMIGHTY
What does God give? Fortune or future?
PRAISE THE ALMIGHTY EDITORIAL
How Free Are Indians? Even as the nation is witnessing the washout of another session of Parliament, there's an atrocious incident that took place in Jammu & Kashmir that deserves urgent attention of the whole nation. The pastor of All Saints CNI Church, Rev. Chander Mani Khanna, was falsely accused of "forced conversion" of Muslim youth to Christianity. Muslims religious leaders in Kashmir behaved as if they were running a parallel judiciary and issued summons to the pastor in order to seek an explanation from him. It is said that Muslim fundamentalists and separatists are instigating religious leaders to fight religious conversions. Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir were angered by a video clips that were posted on YouTube showing the baptism of a few young people. They identified the pastor who baptized the youth and charged him with enticing Muslim youth to Christianity. Over the initial days when Muslim religious leaders issued summons to Rev. Khanna, the State Government - busy with its agenda of repealing the AFSPA - looked the other way. And finally, without ascertaining the facts the police swung in to please the Muslim powers that be. On November 18 the pastor was arrested and sent to judicial custody for 15 days. Pastor Khanna was arrested for creating “enmity” between religious communities and hurting religious sentiments. The police allegedly beat up the young men who had taken baptism. The Rev. Khanna had stated that the young people whom he had baptized were attending his church for over a year. When people who attend a church for such a long time ask for baptism, there's no reason why they should be denied the privilege of following Jesus Christ. The zeal with which Muslims pursue their Da’wah (mission) and convert thousands of Europeans to Islam is known to all. Islam regards every other religion as false. There are "government approved conversion centers" in Kerala where people of other faiths can convert to Islam. There may be other such centers in various Indian states. Did anyone have a problem when A. S. Dileep Kumar converted to Islam and became the now famous A. R. Rahman? Were there any complaints when Divya Bharti or Madhavikutty converted to Islam? If people might convert to Islam, why can’t they convert from Islam to other religions? Such converts from Islam are regarded as kafir and their murderers are promised heaven! This incident raises a number of questions. Is this a free country? Does every individual in this country have the right to choose a religion of his liking? Or, is it only a few religions that deserve to proselytize people of other faiths? When the Constitution gives people of each religion the right to practice and propagate their religion, did the architects of the Constitution anticipate that conversions could create “enmity” between religions? Or did they over-estimate the tolerance level and maturity of Indians? Words such as “freedom” – at the level of the individual – have no meaning in India. Each individual, it is believed, should pursue the religion of his parents. Even in the 21st century, many Indians believe that one should follow the profession of his ancestors! Parents decide who their son or daughter should marry. Not many Indians can choose a spouse of their liking. All converts to Hinduism are welcomed and their “homecoming” is celebrated. All converts to Islam are welcomed with shouts of “Alhamdulillah.” But converts to the Christian faith are hounded, excommunicated, tortured, paraded naked, and killed. India is not free until each Indian has the freedom to speak and act according to his conscience and convictions.
M K Babu
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“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”. Jer 29:11
Here is a man who made one of the tombs in the graveyard his bedroom; who lost his sensitivity to the extent that he wore no clothes. Who would dare to think that a bright future was in store for him? For the world, his story was a closed chapter that wouldn’t make any progress. It would be a paradox to believe that he would lead a purposeful life. This event took place almost 2000 years ago in Israel. This man left his house and began to live in a graveyard out of his insanity. Though he had near and dear ones he couldn’t identify anyone or anything pertaining to his family. Marks of wounds he cut by the stones were seen throughout his body. Scattered long hair and beard tell us that it had been long time since he last visited a saloon. He shrieked on the hills during the night. Neither darkness nor hazardous reptiles scared him. He tore apart chains that bound his arms and legs. He wandered nakedly during day and night as the sense of disgrace departed from him. No one had a second opinion about his disastrous future. What else would one think about a ferocious insane human being? He was not in his right senses to assess whether he was climbing down or up. He had no dreams or plans for his life; neither was he conscious of victories or failures. A hopeless life that was almost counting down towards the end! Something marvellous happened in his life. He had an encounter with Jesus Christ. First of all, Jesus diagnosed his problem correctly. He was possessed by a legion of evil spirits that made his life miserable and hopeless. God who created man and sustains him through His Word knows better about man’s problem. Others can, of course, make speculations and calculations. Human knowledge is limited to comprehending what is visible from outside. The Creator God only knows what pushed the man down into his present condition. Secondly, Jesus cast out the demons that dwelt in him. Consequently, he was healed of his sickness and wounds in his body. That brought him back to his senses. He asked for clothes. He recognized Jesus Christ who healed him and sat at his feet imploring to allow him to follow Him. The man who was counted among the dead received a future through an encounter with Jesus. Jesus who has power and authority on all things and has the name above all names can open the shut doors and lead us to a hope and future. Instead of following Jesus physically in religiosity, Jesus showed him another way to follow Him by testifying to the miraculous power of God that he received. Eventually, in his affection towards God, he started testifying about the new life that he received from God in city after city. He became an object of wonder. Now he had a hope and a future. He was a blessing to many hopeless and depressed people who looked forward for their healing. Are you stuck in your race for fortune after hitting a wall? You don’t know which way to proceed. You think that you have no hope and future? Jesus is the answer. A personal encounter with Him will radically change your life. Do not give up. God gives a future than fortune.
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Did You Know?
"So that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.â€? 1 Corinthians 12:25-26
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The colour of friendship Once upon a time the colors of the world started to quarrel. All claimed that they were the best. The most important. The most useful. The favorite. Green said: "Clearly I am the most important. I am the sign of life and of hope. I was chosen for grass, trees and leaves. Without me, all animals would die. Look over the countryside and you will see that I am in the majority." Blue interrupted: "You only think about the earth, but consider the sky and the sea. It is the water that is the basis of life and drawn up by the clouds from the deep sea. The sky gives space and peace and serenity. Without my peace, you would all be nothing." Yellow chuckled: "You are all so serious. I bring laughter, gaiety and warmth into the world. The sun is yellow, the moon is yellow, the stars are yellow. Every time you look at a sunflower, the whole world starts to smile. Without me there would be no fun." Orange started next to blow her trumpet: "I am the color of health and strength. I may be scarce, but I am precious, for I serve the needs of human life. I carry the most important vitamins. Think of carrots, pumpkins, oranges, mangoes and papayas. I don't hang around all the time, but when I fill the sky at sunrise or sunset, my beauty is so striking that no one gives another thought to any of you." Red could stand it no longer. He shouted out: "I am the ruler of all of you. I am blood - life's blood! I am the color of danger and of bravery. I am willing to fight for a cause. I
COLORING PAGE Jesus Walks on Water
bring fire into the blood. Without me, the earth would be as empty as the moon. I am the color of passion and of love, the red rose, the poinsettia and the poppy." Purple rose up to his full height. He was very tall and spoke with great pomp: "I am the color of royalty and power. Kings, chiefs and bishops have always chosen me, for I am the sign of authority and wisdom. People do not question me! They listen and obey." Finally Indigo spoke, much more quietly than all the others, but with just as much determination: "Think of me. I am the color of silence. You hardly notice me, but without me you all become superficial. I represent thought and reflection, twilight and deep water. You need me for balance and contrast, for prayer and inner peace." And so the colors went on boasting, each convinced of his or her own superiority. Their quarreling became louder and louder. Suddenly there was a startling flash of bright lightening. Thunder rolled and boomed. Rain started to pour down relentlessly. The colors crouched down in fear, drawing close to one another for comfort. In the midst of the clamor, rain began to speak: "You foolish colors, fighting amongst yourselves, each trying to dominate the rest. Don't you know that you were each made for a special purpose, uinque and different? Join hands with one another and come to me." Doing as they were told, the colors united and joined hands. The rain continued: "From now on, when it rains, each of you will stretch across the sky in a great bow of color as a reminder that you can all live in peace. The Rainbow is a sign of hope for tomorrow." And so, whenever a good rain washes the world, and a Rainbow appears in the sky, let us remember to appreciate one another.
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Implications of the arrest of a Pastor in Kashmir Conversions, Shariah kangaroo courts, the law of the land and fragile unity of minorities John Dayal In retrospect, the church in India has displayed remarkable sobriety and a sense of responsibility in their response to the arrest in Srinagar of Reverend Chander Mani Khanna, pastor of the All Saints Church. The Muslim Ulema of the rest of India have been reluctant to condemn the arrest, precipitated by the demand of a local Mufti. The vital issues of the rights of minorities, and freedom faith are however involved, which impinge on all minorities even in states such as Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Orissa and remain relevant in Kashmir. I suppose one can understand their reluctance in the backdrop of the complexities and sensitivities involved in anything that is concerned with the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The same is the reason perhaps for the silence of civil society in India and in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Only journalists and activists Seema Mustafa in New Delhi and Javed Anand in Mumbai have dared spoken, pleading for caution but articulating the voice of sanity and freedom. Before anything else, it is important to recall the political geography of Jammu and Kashmir. It is, of course, an inseparable member state of the Union of India, as patriotic voices constantly remind us. It was once ruled by a Hindu King, the late Hari Singh, not much liked by the large Muslim population of the Valley of Srinagar, which is one of the three district entities that make up the state. The other two are the areas of Jammu, with a huge Hindu population and a record number of temples, and Ladakh, an almost entirely Buddhist region with just a handful of Muslims, Hindus and Christians. The tiny Christian minority in the State lives largely in the Jammu region, mostly of Dalit origin, with about 500 in the valley and a much smaller population in Ladakh. For some time after Independence and the ascension of the state to the Union of India, J and K, as it is known popularly, had its own prime minister and sadr-e-riyasat, [head of state] Karan Singh, before they were designated chief minister and Governor respectively. Special status is accorded to the State under Article 370, many Indian institutions have no jurisdiction in the state and many laws have to be extended to the region through the state legislature. India and Pakistan have fought four wars over the State, the last being the infamous Kargil glacier encounter which cost both countries precious human lives with tension still prevailing in the uninhabitable heights. In the habitable valley, there is another confrontation. Half a million Indian soldiers, by some counts, are in the valley tackling both the border situation and a continuing confrontation with terrorists as well as with the civilian population, The confrontation has been violent most of the time. Many innocents have been killed, entirely illegally. Women and children have been victims. A major victim of the communalised situation in the valley has been the exodus of the Hindu Pundit population to Jammu, Delhi and refugee camps elsewhere. A sad aftermath has been the rise of fundamentalism and the supremacy of a doctrinaire kind of politicoreligious Islamic clergy. The seeds of the confrontation with the Christian community lies in the powerful segment of this clergy which is carving out its space in challenge to the established state government, the other political groups, the military and the political parties. As Seema Mustafa points out, the vast majority of Kashmiris in the valley, all Muslim, are
peaceful people adhering to a soft and melodious Sufi Islam, far removed from the stridency of Wahabism espoused by the extremist groups. But there do not seem to be any routes of approaches to the aggressive clergy, Apart from the confrontation with the state forces, and the occasional violence on the small number of Pundits who remain in Srinagar and some rural areas of the valley, there has been violence against Christians in the past too. On 26 February 2011 , the school run by a Christian family was burnt. The government helped with the reconstruction. Before this the Tyndale Biscoe School Tangmarg was burnt , The Good Shepherd School of the Roman Catholic church at Pulwama was burnt. The community as a whole has suffered much, in silence. The people, who speak with us on conditions of anonymity, and the family of Rev Khanna, say the situation is very volatile and bad, stressing they do not want to add fire to the situation there at present “but try to apply some political pressure from outside the state in an silent manner so that we get what we want and the lives of people are safe also”. This is a sentiment shared by Seema Mustafa who says “We must take into account the sensitivity of Kashmir as it is different from Madhya Pradesh and UP. That is imperative or anything you say will create more trouble than the initial trouble itself. Unlike the popular perception created here, Kashmiris are secular people and we can reach out to many there to ensure that sane voices emerge. The state government has created additional trouble with the arrest, and that needs to be countered as well. The separatists can be persuaded to give a statement for secular harmony, I am sure, as can civil society, and for the release of the pastor. But it has to be worked out properly.’ Pastor Khanna is a well known personality in Srinagar. Dr Richard Howell, general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India and outgoing secretary of the National United Christian Forum, says “I have known Rev. Khanna for many years. He in fact was involved in reconciliation work in Kashmir valley. He confidently went to Srinagar from Jammu, much against the advice of all. I am sure that he has done no wrong. We need to move soon on some sort of a dialogue to stop rumours, the latest being; now it is the turn of Christians to leave the valley. There are about 400 Christians working in schools and hospitals, a few in government service.” The events leading up to Khanna’s formal arrest at the behest of a Mullah, the Grand Mufti, have opened up serious questions that need to be addressed. Pastor Khanna had baptised some people in the church during the regular baptism ceremonies. A few of those were former Muslims who had been coming to the church for a long time. All were adults. A video was made of this event and put on YouTube on the Internet. The pastor was summoned, not by the police, but by the Mufti, He was questioned for seven hours, harangued, threatened. The government became scared, or possibly wanted to divert attention from other on-going crises in the state, not the least of which is an accusation against chief minister Omar Abdullah of involvement in the murder of a member of his own party who had become a criminal. The police told Khanna they were protecting him, then raided his church, and
finally arrested him on charges of fomenting communal strife. The church feels cornered. It took days for the local church to make statement. The NHRC, National Commission for Minorities and he National Advisory Council and others are silent though they have been informed by many. The political parties are mute. Civil society is dead in Srinagar, and silent in India. No group of activists has yet denounced the arrest or the kangaroo court. Right wing Hindutva groups agree with the mullahs. Political action is patently required and people have call upon the President of India, the prime minister, the governor of the state of J and K and the leaders of various political groups to take steps to get the priest out of the police lockup Above all, the frail relationship between Muslims and Christians -- both minorities in India – is under great stress. Remember, Christians had made common cause with Muslims in their hour of crisis in Gujarat 2002 and elsewhere. The media, as usual, seems barking up the wrong tree, giving tendentious stories, not questioning how religious groups over-rule or act on behalf of the police. This is how a local newspaper reported the episode: Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Central Kashmir Range, A G Mir told ‘Kashmir Images’ that Khanna has been arrested by Police Station Ram Munshi Bagh and FIR 186 of 2011 under section 153A and 295A registered against him. Police have also registered a case against six unidentified Kashmiri youngsters who were allegedly baptized by the Christian priest. Kashmir’s Grand Mufti, Mufti Bashirud-din last month summoned the priest to his court to explain about the alleged attempts of conversion. The Pastor, however, was out of station and had sought time to appear before the Grand Mufti, who heads Court of Islamic Jurisprudence in Kashmir. And finally when Khanna presented himself before a group of 15 Islamic scholars and representatives of various religious groups headed by the Grand Mufti, he denied his involvement first, but later on confessed his complicity. Initially he did not accept that he was doing this,” Mufti Bashiruddin said. The Pastor reportedly said he was on a “peace mission promoting communal harmony between Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Christians. But when confronted by some boys, he had no option but to accept,” the Grand Mufti said, adding that they had a CD containing evidence about how the Pastor was performing conversions. The Pastor has confessed to having converted 15 boys so far and promised to give their list to the Grand Mufti, reports said. “The Pastor said some NGOs and intellectuals were with him in this mission and some of them had accompanied him to South Africa to preach Christianity,” said the Grand Mufti. Terming the issue a “grave” one, he said Muslim ‘Ulema’ (scholars) from various organizations including the Jamat-e-Islami, the Jamiat-e-Ahle Hadees, the Islamic Study Circle and the Nadwatul Ulema would meet again to take a final decision.As of now I have reserved my judgment. The Ulema council was scheduled to meet on November 19, but it has been postponed,” the Grand Mufti said.” The Church of North India and the local Christian community deny any wrong doing by the pastor. They have also reaffirmed their resolve to continue with their mission of service in the valley and the state. The most incisive comment has come from Javed Anand, general secretary, Muslims for Secular Democracy of Mumbai.
” Addressing the media, Kashmir’s grand mufti, Mohammed Bashiruddin warned that such activities “warrant action as per Islamic law” and will not be tolerated. “There will be serious consequences of this. We will implement our part and the government should implement its," the mufti thundered. What’s Islamic law and a shariah court doing in a secular democratic polity? ... For what crime has Khanna been booked? Unlike states like Gujarat, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh, J&K does not have a law against conversions. But where there is a will there’s a way. The pastor has been charged under sections 153A and 295A of the Ranbir Penal Code, the J&K equivalent of the Indian Penal Code. Section 153A pertains to the offense of “Promoting enmity between different groups…” and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony”. Section 295A has to do with “Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs”. “Why should conversion of a few Muslims to Christianity be deemed a malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings? Why should it be tantamount to promoting enmity between different groups? These might be questions for you and me. But Omar Abdullah and his police may well be wondering whether the FIR and the arrest are enough to douse the flames. The worse quite possibly is yet to come. A Dharma Sansad comprising of leaders of different Muslim sects in Kashmir is to meet soon to deliberate over the “grave issue” and decide on further course of action. The responses to the videoclip have apparently been venomous. "We promise to kill all Christian missionaries and burn their buildings, schools and churches!" pronounces one of them while another proclaims, "We should burn this priest to death!" Echoes of Pakistan’s obnoxious blasphemy laws? “It is far from clear whether the priest is in fact guilty of a cash-for-conversion deal. Only a thorough and impartial investigation could establish if there’s any truth in the charge. But in the brand of Islam the grand mufti and most mainstream Muslim organizations espouse, the issue of inducement is irrelevant. The theology is simple: for conversion into Islam, there’s Divine reward aplenty for both the converter and the converted; but conversion out of Islam is gunaah-e-azeem(mahapaap), treason of the highest order, deserving of the harshest punishment.” Human rights groups and Muslim bodies from the Valley and elsewhere especially, must denounce the hounding of the pastor and the ‘Islamisers’ reminded that Article 25 of the Indian Constitution guarantees to all citizens “the right freely to profess, practice and propagate (their) religion”. The last word, of course has not been said. Even as efforts continue to get the pastor out of prison on bail, or to get him transferred to the Jammu jail for safety reasons, National Commission for Minorities vice chairman Dr. Hmar T Sang liana was paying a visit to Srinagar to meet with various groups and the government. Efforts were also on to open a dialogue with various national and Kashmir Muslim groups for a long term peace with a broad basic agreement that the dialogue must continue in an environment of mutual understanding, and not in short term grandstanding. The government, meanwhile, is being encouraged to stick to the points in law and not to exacerbate the situation in the guise of buying peace.
December 1-15, 2011
PRAISE THE ALMIGHTY
The Gospel and Prosperity Philip P. Eapen Recently I took part in a discussion with Christian professionals. When the question of “prosperity gospel” came up, one of them summed up the classic evangelical position. He said, “The Gospel is about salvation, about Jesus Christ and his work for us on the Cross. It’s not about getting richer.” And yet, a little while later, in his prayer for the children in the gathering, he prayed: “Lord, bless our children’s studies. Let them secure the top position in their respective classes. …” I found that interesting. Christian preachers in the Third World preach, “Believe in the gospel and the Lord will save you from your sins. He will heal your sicknesses. He will deliver you from your debts and your poverty.” Critics have always found this very objectionable. And yet, these very critics forget their theology when they pray for their children’s studies or when they advice their children. Grades/marks are for children what money is for adults. In the dogeat-dog world of academics, the guys who score the highest grades become the “top dogs.” Those who oppose any mention about God blessing the poor should indeed tell their children: “Kids, be content with what you have. If you have just enough grades to pass, that’s good. The love of grades is the root of all evil. You can’t serve God and Grades. And just because you’ve good grades, it doesn’t show that you are godlier than your friend. Or just because you scored low grades, it doesn’t mean that you are poor in faith. Contentment with godliness is great gain.” Verily, verily, I tell you, our kids will be a lot happier if they hear this from us! Instead, the most vociferous critics of “Pentecostal prosperity Gospel” tell their children that there is a link between their relationship with God and the grades they secure in school! They encourage the children to exercise their faith in God, to work hard, to succeed, because they “can do all things through Christ who strengthens” them. This might show that deep inside we all crave for a correlation between our faith in God and our earthly circumstances. It is high time we re-examine our criticism of preachers who mention God’s blessings on His people. The double-standard employed by critics in their personal lives is only one of the reasons that should lead us to it. The most important reason is that critics in India or other developing countries, instead of thinking on their own, are just mouthing the words of their friends in the US. When American critics speak out against “prosperity gospel” they indeed have a case. They see super rich, jetsetting evangelists who promise prosperity to everyone who donates to them! They claim that the godly will never be sick or poor. They show off their riches as “proof” of God’s blessing that came as a result of their faith. The gullible keep donating to these rich preachers. (They forget Scriptural warning that those who give gifts to the
The Bible’s focus on giving reveals God’s concern for the needy—not His desire to make the rich super-rich! rich “will only come to poverty” Proverbs 22:16. In fact, it is these superrich preachers who should be giving to the poor that throng to their meetings!) This American short-cut to be superrich deserves ample criticism. However, the objections raised against these preachers of “prosperity gospel” need not apply to all preachers who proclaim that the God of the Bible is a God who blesses. This is because the word “prosperity” means different things to different people. An “ordinary American” has everything – a house, one or two vehicles, heating/AC, modern household appliances, etc. – that would make him appear “super rich” to a poor Kenyan or Indian Christian. A poor Nigerian or an Indian who prays for God’s blessings or “prosperity” might just be asking for deliverance from a persistent debt or for a house and a motor-cycle. He might just be wishing for food security for his family. If an “ordinary American” Christian sits in judgment of such a man and says, “The Gospel is about salvation from sin. Be content with what you have,” it would appear that only Americans are entitled to the comforts of life. It is heartening to see that Christians in the West are slowly realizing that this issue should be addressed from the perspective of the poor. This is partly because the Pentecostal/Charismatic preaching has brought hope to the lives of millions of poor Christians in Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and India. Grant Brooke, in his Huffington Post essay titled “The Case for the Prosperity Gospel,” (3 Oct 2010) claims that the often-despised “prosperity gospel” is indeed working wonders in the lives of the poor. Instead of blaming others for their condition, the poor now think that they can do something to get themselves out of their misery. They pray. They work hard. They quit habits that eat up their money. They save. They invest. And they give to those in need. Brooke seeks support from David Martin, the author of “Tongues of Fire: The Explosion of Protestantism in Latin America” – “church-goers who believe in God-given prosperity are more autonomous, economically responsible, self-confident, and optimistic about life outcomes than their Mainline Protestant and Catholic counterparts. He [Martin] called this belief "betterment" and argued that it bore itself out in greater chances for
upward mobility into the emergent Latin American middle class. A belief in one's own prosperity, Martin suggests, is often a self-fulfilling prophecy.” In a similar vein, secular journalist Peter L Weber praised Pentecostals for preaching hope in the midst of global financial crisis in spite of the negative press they received from within the Christian fold. He attended a Pentecostal meeting and heard it for himself. He summarized the message as One, "God does not want you to be poor!" And, two, "You can do something about it!" Then, from a sociologist’s perspective, “As I left the church, I asked myself: Would I really want to quarrel with these messages?” Of course not! That’s why he concludes: “There is no sentimentality about poverty in the prosperity gospel. There is an appeal to people not as victims but as responsible actors. There is also the confidence that generally people know what is best for themselves, better than any well-meaning outsiders. It is no wonder, then, that research data, from South Africa for instance, show that Pentecostals have an unusual degree of self-confidence and optimism about the future.” (“Pennies from heaven,” Wall Street Journal, Oct 24 2008). This doesn’t mean that all Pentecostals have identical, biblical views about prosperity. Many would need correction. The Bible certainly speaks about improving the material condition of the poor. Why else would the Bible encourage giving or lending to the needy if not for improving their lot? And certainly, God doesn’t forget or neglect the cheerful giver. God repays him a good harvest, as the apostle rightly points out in 2 Corinthians 9:6-10. God doesn’t bless the giver to make him super-rich! (This is where many of us get it wrong!) Instead, God blesses the cheerful giver and returns a rich material harvest so that he might increase his giving (2 Cor 9:8, 11). The Bible’s focus on giving reveals God’s concern for the needy—not His desire to make the rich super-rich! Those who receive God’s blessings in accordance with 2 Corinthians 9:6 should not say, “I gave liberally and cheerfully; therefore, God has blessed me and has made me super-rich.” Instead of letting their expenditure and standard of living grow unrestrained with their growing incomes, they should learn to cap their expenditure in order to increase their giving. And to whom should we give? It will be well with us if we give to those in need. As a Christian, you are NOT obliged to give to someone whose standard of living is higher than yours. God doesn’t want the poor to pay for a rich man’s fancies. This applies to the Church as well. A Christian need not support a pastor who is better off than him! Sounds strange? That’s biblical. That’s what the apostle Paul taught in a pastors’ conference held in Ephesus!
He taught the pastors there that they should work and support the poor. “In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35) That’s it! A pastor must not be supported by a member of his congregation who’s poorer than him. Instead, the pastor must give to the poorer members! (Any other instruction given anywhere else – such as Gal 6:6 – regarding the support of teaching pastors must be subject to this general regulation.) “Then why did the apostle receive gifts from the ‘super poor’ Philippi Christians?” you might ask. Paul was a
A pastor must not be supported by a member of his congregation who’s poorer than him. Instead, the pastor must give to the poorer members!
prisoner in Rome. Whatever riches he might have had at other times, as a prisoner in an alien city, Paul was poorer than the Philippi Christians who faced extreme poverty. The Philippians jumped at that opportunity and gave to Paul! That was commended by Paul in his epistle. Pentecostal preaching about God’s blessings and “prosperity” should thus be tempered with these Biblical attitudes towards giving and towards receiving blessings from God. We will then understand the real purpose of God-given prosperity. Thus, we will be better stewards of the resources God places at our command. The Gospel of Jesus Christ brings total transformation to an individual and to a society. Such a transformation is not just about deliverance from sin, the destruction of criminal networks, and the reduction of crime. The gospel also brings about a better work ethic to a nation. It can help a nation to live within its means and overcome its debt (and the USA can afford to learn from this!). It can convert a perpetually borrowing individual/country into a liberal donor! The gospel is the only hope for eradicating poverty. The Gospel goes beyond charity to justice – to bring about radical transformation to our world. And it all starts at the level of the individual!
December 1-15, 2011
PRAISE THE ALMIGHTY
AIDS: Charting a Christian Response Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome -AIDS -- is the leading cause of death among Americans under age 44. First discovered in the U.S. in 1981, there is no known cure for the disease. Today, there are 1 million known cases in the U.S. Half of the estimated 19.5 million cases worldwide are in Africa, and by the year 2000, 30-40 million are expected to be infected with the virus causing AIDS. Despite the widespread impact of this disease, many know surprisingly little about AIDS and its transmission, and few in the church have developed a thoughtful, biblical response to those ravaged by this disease. Much of the fear regarding AIDS centers around a lack of understanding as to how the disease is transmitted. Aids is spread through the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which is transmitted in three ways -sexual contact, contact with the blood infected by the virus, or through prenatal transmission. Casual contact -- such as breathing the air around an infected person, or even touching or kissing -- has not led to transmission. As a result, those who do not carry HIV can, with little concern about infection, welcome those infected with HIV to join in all normal social interactions at the workplace, in their homes and in church. As HIV incubates in the body -- a process that can take years-- it severely damages a patient's disease-fighting immune system. The resulting condition is called AIDS, which leaves the patient vulnerable to a host of diseases that otherwise would not be fatal. Homosexual contact remains the most frequently reported way HIV is transmitted, which has led some Christians to incorrectly believe that AIDS is the direct punishment of God. AIDS may or may not be the consequence of sin. The disease strikes people of all ages, sexual behaviors and social boundaries. Therefore, HIV/AIDS should not be stigmatized and treated differently than other diseases. Jesus is calling His church to reach out with compassion to those devastated by AIDS. Just as Jesus touched the afflicted of His day, the church's response should be guided by compassion. If sinful behavior is connected with the disease, the church should extend the same forgiveness that Jesus offers to all who repent. As AIDS continues its alarming growth rate it is clear that this disease will soon impact every family and every church community. Christians must be diligent to overcome unwarranted fears regarding the disease and support those suffering from its deadly effects both with persistent prayer and the restorative actions that speak louder than words. 7 Day AIDS Prayer Guide Ask God to forgive the sins of the nations which have encouraged the spread of AIDS Intercede for those ravaged by the depression brought on by HIV/AIDS, and ask God to move powerfully in their lives. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal your own fears and prejudices. Ask God to forgive the church for being slow to respond to the ministry needs of those with HIV and AIDS. Pray for churches across America to reach out with compassion to those with the disease. Pray for wisdom and protection for those in the medical community treating AIDS patients.
Ask God to strengthen and equip the friends and families ofAIDS and HIV patients. Helping a Friend with AIDS Excerpted with permission from Love Action Ministries When someone you know learns that he or she has HIV or AIDS, you may feel inadequate to help. But with God's love, you don't need to feel apprehensive and inadequate. Here are some ways you can reach out.