Vol..21*No.27 . SAR News, August 20,2001

ASSAM

Consultation on Deprived Urban Children Held

Guwahati: SAR News

A daylong consultation on the condition of the deprived children of urban Guwahati was held in the city, August 8. The programme was organised by Don Bosco Youth and Educational Services, Snehalaya, the Salesian project for street children, with the assistance of UNICEF.

The consultation was attended by heads of Catholic educational institutions and representatives from the leading NGOs of the city, Guwahati Municipal Corporation, and other government departments.

Former Assam Chief Secretary, H. N. Das said the plight of the children in the premier city of Northeast India was alarming. "About 5.5 million children in Assam are living in appalling conditions," he added.

A leading educationist working for the deprived children of Kolkata, Loretto Sister Cyril and her co-worker Rajiv Sinha shared their experience at the consultation. Sr. Cyril called for a better understanding of the needs and competence of deprived children. Sinha stressed the importance of collaboration between government, society, various NGOs, corporate sector and funding agencies to achieve maximum benefit in uplifting the lot of deprived children. The participants set up a core committee to pursue specific action plan to help the deprived children of Guwahati.

Earlier, freedom fighter and social worker, Ms. Pushpalata Das inaugurated the consultation.

BIHAR

Church Brings Solace to the flood-affected people

Muzzaffarpur: SAR News

Social service groups of the Catholic Church are chipping in their mite to alleviate the sufferings of the people affected by flood in the northern parts of Bihar State. According to sources, nearly 1.5 million people in 14 districts under Bettiah-Muzaffarpur diocese have been hit by the flood.

Mr. James Seraphim, director of Bettiah-Muzaffarpur dioceses-run Sewa Kendra, told SAR News, August 10, that "the magnitude of flood was whopping and its victims have lost most of their belongings".

He told SAR News that some 10,000 students of the two dozen Church-run schools in the region have joined hands with the social service groups in distributing food materials to the hungry people. The volunteers are also helping the victims fight diseases like diarrhoea, cholera and malaria.

Secretary to the Muzaffarpur Bishop, Fr. Anthony Samy said all the nuns engaged in the health apostolate in the region were helping people tide over the health problems caused by the flood. He added that Bishop John Baptist Thakur of Muzaffarpur had asked all the mission stations located in the flood-affected areas to do their best to provide the essentials to the flood victims.
Bishop Victor Henry Thakur of Bettiah said Bihar s 73 percent of land area was bound to bear the brunt of annual flood ravages. "Bihar s geo-topographical location is such that it is bound to face flood devastation each year during the monsoon," he said.

He said the Punjab had a desert-like landscape a few decades ago, "but today it is the granary of India. Taking cue from this State, we must plan long-term strategies to combat flood and related problems and harness both the abundant land and water resources to transform Bihar into a progressive and prosperous State. I feel the Church has a vital role in this venture despite it being a tiny organisation in the State."

CHHATTISGARH

Missionary Spirit Rekindled

Raipur: SAR News

Missionaries of Raipur diocese evaluated their missionary spirit and rededicated themselves to missionary activities in the region.

At the missionary meeting held at Raipur, August 7, they explored the reasons for their fraying missionary zeal and proposed ways to rekindle their passion to work for the Kingdom like their predecessors did. They also proposed various methods to support the local converts and to evangelise non-Christians in the region.

Vicar general, Fr. Augustine Varikycal said that the dalit Gada and Sathnami converts wanted their social status improved. "Since it is only partially met, we need to catechise and work for social development of these people. & Many of these local converts have become indifferent to their religious practices or have been allured to join other Christian sects," he added.

A missionary for 33 years, Pallottine Father T. Abraham said the early missionaries underwent a great deal of suffering to build the diocese, "but priests and sisters at present want to avoid sufferings". Fr. Varikycal stated that some missionaries even doubt the relevance of mission among non-Christians.

Fr. Mathew Mullavana urged the missionaries to link social action with evangelisation.

DELHI

Nhrc Organises Seminar on Racism

New Delhi: SAR News

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) organised a public consultation and seminar on Racism and Racial Intolerance , at the Commission Office, Delhi, August 11, in preparation for the world conference against racism to be held in Durban, South Africa, August 31- September 7.

Social activists, representatives of various NGOs and human rights and social organisations attended the programme.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Bhagwan Das said one of the reasons for India not including caste system in the agenda of the Durban Conference could be that if the countries hostile to India pressured the United Nations to convene a committee meeting each year to review the violation of human rights due to caste system, "the entire Hindu religion and way of life would come under scrutiny."

A participant in the seminar, Mr. R. Kohli, said 54 years of independence had not brought much change to the downtrodden and the underprivileged who were subjected to oppressive and exploitative treatment, in "direct contravention to the directive principles of State policy contained in the Indian Constitution". Another participant, Mr. Ashok K. Bharti, pointed out that despite the Indian Government s claim that it had abolished untouchability, "in reality it still exists in many parts of the country".

Dominican General Chapter Elects New Master

New Delhi: SAR News

General Chapter of the Dominican Order, elected Fr. Carlos Azpiroz from Buenos Aires, Argentina, as the new Master, July 14. He succeeds Fr. Timothy Radcliffe and is the 87th Master since the foundation of the Order in 1215 by St. Dominic de Guzman.

The Chapter that began July 9 at Providence, Rhode Island, United States, had 127 delegates from 102 countries, representing over 6, 000 brothers in the Order.
The Chapter appealed to the international community to respect human dignity and put an end to all forms of injustice, which destroys humankind. It appealed to men and women of goodwill and more particularly those who belong to the Catholic faith, "to do all they can to transcend the situations of injustice".

The Chapter urged that death penalty be abolished and executions suspended without delay. It also requested the national and international organisations to work towards improving the lives of those suffering from AIDS/HIV, and to support its prevention programmes that respect human dignity.

Delhi Archdiocese Donates Rs. 2.2 million to Quake Victims

New Delhi: SAR News

On the occasion of India s Independence Day, August 15, Archbishop Vincent M. Concessao of the Catholic Archdiocese of Delhi handed over a cheque for Rs. 2.2 million to the Director of Caritas India, Fr. John Noronha, for the rehabilitation work in Gujarat.

Speaking after the Flag-Hoisting ceremony at the Sacred Heart Cathedral, Gole Dakkhana, the archbishop said, "Though Rs. 2.2 million is rather small, it is the spirit behind the gesture which should inspire the millions of Indians on the Independence Day to contribute their mite towards such humanitarian causes."

The amount was collected by some Catholic institutions in the Delhi Archdiocese over the past few months, even as some others of them had made their contributions directly to the Prime Minister s Relief Fund.

Archbishop Concessao said the Independence Day was a fitting occasion to present the amount to the National Social Service Organisation of the Catholic Church to show its solidarity with the suffering people of Gujarat.

Caritas India has already spent Rs.180 million for Gujarat relief and has plans to spend an additional Rs. 800 million for rehabilitation. It had similarly spent Rs. 250 million towards the relief work in Orissa after the Super Cyclone 1999 and has already spent Rs. 20 million for the current flood victims in Orissa and Bihar, according to a press release from the Delhi Archdiocese, August 15.

Church Urges UN to Include Caste in Durban Conference Agenda

New Delhi: SAR News

Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) urged the United Nations Organisation to include Caste in its World Conference at Durban, August 31- September 7.

The press release, put out August 11, and signed by the Executive Secretary of the Commission for Scheduled Castes/Tribes and Backward classes, Fr. S. Lourduswamy, requested UN and member nations to render justice to 240 millions dalits in South East Asia including 160 million in India.

Caste discrimination (on the basis of descent and occupation) was sanctioned and sanctified by religion and been justified by tradition. It has deprived dalits of their social, educational, economic, cultural and personal rights for much longer than racial discrimination. Casteism at all costs, is worse than Racism. While racial discrimination is being eradicated in several countries, caste discrimination and atrocities against dalits are on the increase in different parts of India. Untouchability and social segregation have reduced dalits into powerless people. They enjoy neither human dignity nor human rights. They have suffered subjugation and exploitation for the past 3500 years. Dalit converts to other religions undergo the same disabilities in the community like their counterparts in other religion, the release said.

JAMMU AND KASHMIR

Kashmir Catholic Diaspora Condemn Massacre

Jammu: SAR News

An organisation of Catholic families here, Kashmir Catholic Diaspora condemned the attack of Fidayeen on the innocent civilians at the Jammu railway station, August 8, which killed 20 people and injured 35 critically.

In a statement, Mr. Joseph Dhar and Ms. Renu Anthony blamed the Government for the poor security arrangements at the crowded railway station. Due to the failure of security, the militants entered the station and after eight minutes of firing escaped with little resistance from the security forces, they said.

Bishop Hippolytus Kunnunkal Felicitated

Jammu: SAR News

Bishop Emeritus Hippolytus Kunnunkal of Jammu-Srinagar was felicitated by the faithful in St. Mary s Garrison church Gandhinagar Jammu, August 5, as he celebrates his Golden Jubilee of Priesthood this year.

They presented him a memorandum saying that he should remain in the diocese for the rest of his life.

The speakers described him as the person, who made the infant diocese grow from grass to glory. Bishop Hippolytus was appointed the Apostolic Prefect of Jammu and Kashmir, December 28, 1978. He became the first Bishop of the diocese 1986, and continued serving the people of God till September 7,1998.

SPECIAL REPORT

Haven for the Unwanted

By Samson Aseervatham

Amina had spent four years in prison for killing her illegitimate child. When she came out of jail, she was the "bad woman", who found herself unacceptable to society and even to her own family.

There was one place where Amina was welcome, a place where no one pointed an accusing finger at her, where she could confidently take the first step towards a new life, a place where she could live in peace. That place was Snehasramam (Monastery of love), an institution on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram, which rehabilitates women whom society discards.

It was in 1985 that the idea of visiting prisons and giving messages of hope to the inmates occurred to a group of priests at the Vadavathoor seminary in Kottayam. The idea took on an institutional shape with the name Jesus Fraternity. It is under this banner that the two Snehashramams in Kerala, one at Thrissur and the other at Thiruvananthapuram (set up in 1992) began functioning. Today there are eight such centres, which take care of them men, children and women.

"The women who come to us are those who have spent their days as prostitutes, rag-pickers, as petty thieves or as drug addicts. We try to help them get back on the right track", says Sr. Lilly, who heads the group of five nuns at Snehashramam in Thiruvananthapuram.

The ashramam (monastery) can comfortably accommodate 15 persons, and at any given time there are as many as 10 to 12 inmates here. It acts as a first stage in the rehabilitation process, with the inmates staying here for six months, and then moving on to the other centres.

The ashramam also gives shelter to those women, who, for some reason or the other, are not accepted by their families. Pushpa is one such person. An alcoholic father and a much-abused mother who suffered manic depression made her childhood a nightmare. Pushpa started working as a housemaid at the age of ten and literally took over the role of a mother for her four siblings. Now, many years later, her family no longer wants her. But there is no trace of despair in Pushpa. "The atmosphere in the ashramam has given me the confidence to face life boldly. I have learnt that if you pray to God, he ll surely come to your rescue," she says.

The ashramam has a daily routine that is scheduled to help its inmates set their mind at peace and discover their worth. The plan of action has its foundation in trying to kindle a new spiritual awakening in the minds of the inmates while simultaneously equipping to stand on their own feet.

The inmates help the nuns to water the plants, look after cows belonging to the ashramam and also help out in the kitchen. The women are given vocational training in sewing and handicrafts. This work schedule is interspersed with classes. The inmates are given instructions about what is good and what is evil and about the necessity to tread the path of righteousness. "The women who come here have almost invariably lost all elements of womanhood. By giving them lessons in morality and telling them religious stories, we hope to make them feel the need to repent and lead good lives," says Sr. Lilly.

The problems of the inmates are also tackled on a scientific basis. Trained counsellors from the Loyola Family Counselling Centre (LFCC) make weekly visits to the ashramam to try and help the inmates take charge of their lives. "The Women here have an acute sense of insecurity and a guilt complex. We try to help them come out of their complexes," says Chitra Devi, who is a former counsellor at the ashramam.

The greatest pain for these women is the fact that their own near and dear ones refuse to accept them into the family. This makes them think that they are of no use to this world and that no one wants them. "Our job is to try and build up their self-esteem and instil in them a sense of confidence, says Mariamma Thomas, counsellor at the LFCC and one who is a regular visitor to the ashramam.

"Society brands these women and refuses to see them as people having the potential to do good," she explains.

The psychological counselling process also includes group and individual exercises and games designed to provoke cohesive thinking and planning. The counsellors point out that the women by their very nature have very weak personalities. The idea is to help the women develop a proper mindset, they say. "Through our counselling, we teach women to see the positive side of other people and that of life itself," explains Mrs. Mariamma.

But Ms. Chitra hastens to add that success is not all that regular. "Some women just don t make it. They are too addicted to their former ways of life that they just don t want to contemplate another way," she said.

Sister Lilly points out that there is very little anyone can do to help those who do not genuinely wish to change. "Some women, mostly prostitutes, have left the ashramam after about the first two weeks saying that they found it impossible to stay on. But then, there have been women who have stayed here wanting to start new lives and are now leading family lives. It depends very much on the inmate. We can only show the way," she added.

The aim of the ashramam is simple: Act as a stepping stone for those women whose lives have gone astray and who wish to go back to the mainstream of society.

"We help them take the first few steps. The rest is left to God," says Sister Lilly.

KARNATAKA

Diocese of Belgaum Celebrates 60th Birthday of Bishop Moras

Belgaum: SAR News

The 60th birthday of Bishop Bernard Moras of Belgaum was celebrated here, August 10, at a function attended by hundreds of priests, religious sisters and the lay people of the diocese. At the evening Eucharistic celebration, delegates from each of the parishes in the diocese presented gifts like foodgrain, clothes and money to the bishop, to be distributed to the poor.

During a felicitation programme held at St. Joseph s High School hall, a special issue of the diocesan bulletin, dedicated to the bishop, was released. A purse of Rs. 1 lakh was also presented to the bishop s charities.

Mr. Dolphie Coutino paid tributes to Bishop Moras highlighting his achievements as the head of the Belgaum Church. In the past four-and-a-half years, he said, the bishop had created five new parishes, 14 new mission stations with resident priests and had started five houses of men religious and 28 new convents in the diocese.

Earlier, the bishop blessed the foundation stones of St. Lawrence School, Ranebennur, and Divine Mercy School, Machhe.

Christians Demand Separate Development Corporation

Bangalore: SAR News

The Federation of Karnataka State Christian Organisations (FKSCO) has urged the Chief Minister of Karnataka, Mr. S.M. Krishna to constitute a separate development corporation for the Christians of the State in the backdrop of the members of community not getting their rightful share of benefits from the Minority Development Corporation.

Various Christian leaders who spoke at the first ever State-level rally organised by the Karnataka Christian Federation at the Shivajinagar Corporation Grounds in Bangalore, August 11, said the members of the community were disappointed that the Christians were not being given proper representation in the State Government led by Mr. S.M. Krishna. They demanded reinstatement of former Minister, Mr. T. John, while also seeking induction of another member from the community into the Karnataka Cabinet.

Mr. T. John, addressing the convention, reiterated the injustice meted out to the Christians and added that there was not enough unity among the community members to fight that. He assured that the Chief Minister was concerned about the problems and development of Christians and "it is up to the people to make use of the facilities extended by the Government".

On the demand for a separate development corporation for the Christians, he said the benefits meant for the Christians from the existing Minority Development Corporation were "hijacked by other minority communities".

Mr. David Simeon, president of FKSCO and Deputy Chairman of the Karnataka Legislative Council, said the Christian community could not be bracketed in the forward community category because "the popular opinion that the Christians are a wealthy community is mistaken". "On the contrary, they are in dire straits. It is time Christians unite and fight for their rights."

Mr. Simeon also clarified that the Federation did not belong to any political party and that it would be used as a forum to fight for the rights of Christians.

Former Director General of Police, Mr. F.T.R. Colaso reminded that the Chief Minister had failed to fulfil his promise to name a prominent road in the City as Christa Jayanti, as desired by the Christian brethren. "The Chief Minister had assured to do so, but there is no sign of it till now," Mr. Colaso said.

The other demands put forth by the Christian leaders were housing facilities for the poor people of the community under the Ashraya scheme; release of Rs. 10 million for the renovation of churches and prayer halls in the State; issuance of Category-I caste certificate to the community; appointment of a Christian as president of the education task force, and recognition of the Christian educational institutions as minority institutions. The participants later submitted a memorandum to Chief Minister, Mr. Krishna and the All-India Congress Committee General Secretary in charge, Ms. Ambika Soni.

About 6,000 people participated in the rally and held prayers.

KERALA

Cardinal Antony Padiyara Award for Justice VR Krishna Iyer

Kochi: SAR News

The Cardinal Padiyara Award constituted by the Qatar Syro-Malabar Cultural Association will be given to Justice VR Krishna Iyer.

The award will be presented by the Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly, Cardinal Mar Varkey Vithayathil, August 21, at the St. Mary s Basilica, Ernakulam.

The award carries Rs. 25,000 and a citation. It is given to persons in recognition of their exemplary contributions to humanitarian concerns and values.

Mar Isaac Thottunkal Receives Episcopal Ordination

Thiruvalla: SAR News

Mar Isaac Thottunkal was ordained as the Auxiliary Bishop of Trivandrum and Apostolic Visitor to the Malankara Catholics in North America and Europe, August 15, at the St. Mary s Malankara Catholic Church, Thirumoolapuram, in Thiruvalla.

A procession with the bishop designate and other bishops was taken out from the Mar Evannios Nagar to the church at 8 a.m.

After the morning prayer, the main celebrant, Archbishop Cyril Mar Baselios of Trivandrum, read out the Papal Bull appointing Mar Thottunkal as Trivandrum Auxiliary. The bishop designate accepted the appointment by prostrating before the altar. During the three-hour long ceremony that followed, Archbishop Baselios gave Mar Thottunkal the name of St. Cleemis of Alexandria and adorned him with sacred signs.

Bishops from the Catholic Church, Orthodox Church and Mar Thoma Church, apart from a large crowd, were present.

After the Eucharist, religious and political leaders felicitated the new bishop.

Women Rally against Gender Oppression

Thiruvananthapuram: SAR News

The women s Organisation of the Church of South India (CSI) in South Kerala, Sthree Jana Sakhyam organised a rally, here, August 11, to support liberation of women from oppression.

The rally started from the CSI church compound and culminated in the maidan at Eastport.

Speaker of the Kerala Legislative Assembly, Mr. Vakkom Purushottaman presided over the meeting. "Though there are many laws to support the cause of women, they are not utilised sufficiently; instead criminals have used them to realise their own ends," he said. He opined that law should treat this cause more seriously and severely punish the guilty. He cautioned them to be aware of the growing rate of female infanticide in the State. He exhorted the women to unite and be in the forefront to fight against all atrocities against them.

The CSI Bishop J. W. Gladstone urged the participants to have a renewed Christian awareness about the problems of women.

MADHYA PRADESH

Christian School Faces Court for Caging Peacocks

Khandwa: SAR News

The administration of St. Pius School, Khandwa, has been dragged to the court for caging three peacocks, the national bird. The birds were residents of the school for many years as part of education of the students, according to the school authorities, July 14.

The school authorities claim that the case had been filed by a person, "as a retaliation for not getting admission for his child in the school". Besides, many false stories and allegations are being levelled by vested interests against the school and the clergy to spoil the name of the institution.
In a similar case, St. Arnold s School, Meghnagar, run by the Divine Word Society, has also become the target of harassment by bigots. The RSS elements have reportedly launched a house-to-house campaign to drum up support for their newly opened school in Meghnagar by "dissuading people from sending their children to fathers school (run by Christian priests). The Sangh school authorities are promising better schooling for lower fees. According to the school authorities, "parents are not fully convinced about it and the RSS volunteers are yet to get a satisfactory number of admissions so far."

Miscreants Burn School Bus, Convent Jeep

Khandwa: SAR News

Anti-social elements allegedly set fire to a school bus and a jeep belonging to a Catholic institution here following an accident involving the school bus.

The bus belonging to Augustinian Sisters of Punasa met with an accident while taking about 30 students to school, July 17. One student was killed and a few others sustained injuries in the mishap. The villagers working in the nearby fields rushed to the rescue of the children trapped inside bus and arranged to shift the injured to hospital.

However, a mob gathered later at the site of the accident and torched the bus, the convent sources said. They said a group of men allegedly requested the sisters to lend their jeep to take the injured children to hospital. The convent authorities obliged but on the way to the accident site, the occupants of the vehicle forced the nun who accompanied them out of the jeep and drove it straight to the city where they set it on fire, the sources added.

While thanking the local administration for providing immediate protection to the school, Social Service in charge of Khandwa Diocese, Fr. K.V. Mathew condemned the delay in booking the culprits. He told SAR News that "even the local MLA had dismissed the burning of the bus as a fallout of "mob psychology" rather than condemning the culprits and taking measures to book them".

SPECIAL REPORT

An Honest Christian Cop Who Simply Loved His Job

Honest cop , a title that cop Victor Shaw D Souza earned by dint of his hard work and clean hands is indeed a colossal witness to Christian values in a field that is known to be riddled with corruption. Adolf Washington takes you through the splendid life and career of a model police officer in an exclusive interview.

Sleepless nights, sudden raids, disguise dramas, dreaded rowdy encounters, cross-fires, breakthrough discoveries and shocking criminal investigations&All of these make up the splendid career record of this super cop. He earned a name for the Karnataka State Police and was honoured with the prestigious Chief Minister s Gold medal shortly after he investigated and arrested all the criminals involved in the church bomb blasts that rocked Karnataka State last year. Meet 43-year-old Victor Shaw D Souza, Assistant Commissioner of Police (in charge), Bangalore East (Traffic).

He s a simple, unassuming gentleman who likes to call a spade a spade. "I never aimed for high positions in my career as cop. I just did my job with sincerity and dedication, wherever I was posted. I carried out the orders of my superiors with utmost enthusiasm," he says.

D Souza has received appreciation for his "honesty, sincerity and dedication on the line of duty" from all and sundry his superiors, his subordinates, the general public, the Karnataka High Court and even the Chief Minister of Karnataka.

"By his dint of hard work, deftness and investigating capabilities, he has greatly enhanced the prestige of the Police Department," reads a citation forwarded to the Chief Minister of Karnataka. Shortly later, D Souza received for the second time in his career, the prestigious Chief Minister s Gold Medal 2000. (He received the CM s Gold Medal first in 1991 for busting various gangs involved in nefarious activities).

With the accolades and his recent promotion came a new appointment for D Souza. After having served the Law and Order wing for many years, he is now deputed to the Traffic wing as ACP In-charge.

Right from his first posting as a sub-inspector in 1974, began an exciting career.

For a cop like D Souza, a 24-hour day is too short indeed. "He (D Souza) was often posted to areas where there was communal tension, violence and bloodshed. He used to spend sleepless nights patrolling the area. There were occasions, he wouldn t shave or take off his uniform for forty-eight hours. He would skip meals when on special duty," says a constable who had the privilege of working with D Souza.

Victor D Souza is never known to have failed in restoring peace in areas of communal tension. He shot into fame during October 1989 when there were a series of bomb explosions in public places in Bangalore. He stepped in and made a breakthrough investigation nabbing eleven persons involved in the manufacture and use of country-made bombs.

For his outstanding service in restoring peace in the trouble-prone areas, he was honoured with the National Integration Award.

D Souza has delved into twenty-five cases of armed robbery, 40 cases of robbery and recovered cash and valuables worth Rs. 4 million. "I am paid for my work, I don t take bribes. My hands are clean, my superiors know it, my subordinates know it and the common citizens know it too," says D Souza, who has earned the title of a honest cop .

When communal riots rocked Bangalore shortly after the destruction of the Babri Masjid, D Souza was deputed to quell violence in troubled pockets of the city. When violence erupted due to the Cauvery water dispute, it was D Souza again. One of the biggest police-robber stories hit newspaper headlines when he swooped down on the treacherous underworld don Muthappa Rai and 15 of his gang members.

Closely following his success stories and in appreciation and recognition for his courage, determination and zeal, his superior officers delegated him to join the team involved in capturing the Rajiv Gandhi assassin Sivarasan. The CBI awarded him a special cash prize and a citation for his service. Of all laurels, the greatest one came in 1995, when during a routine investigation of a kidney donation case he stumbled upon a huge kidney racket. Acting on tip-offs and clues from various sources, the cop disguised himself as a patient and unearthed a landmine of information. The clandestine, gruesome crime of stealing kidneys from patients came to light. Within no time, D Souza brought to book everyone involved in the racket.

Victor Shaw D Souza is a family man. He lives with his wife Diana and two children Martin and Manisha. He is also a lover of birds, animals and nature. "I have great love and compassion for animals and birds and also like gardening&"

To the young men and women of this country he says, "Develop a national spirit, patriotism, and love for the Motherland. Serve the poorest of the poor like Mother Teresa."

MAHARASHTRA

Rally to Protest Attack on Mumbai Priest

Thane: SAR News

A Peace Rally of 5,000 people from different parts of Mumbai was held at the St John the Baptist Church, Thane, Sunday, August 12, to protest against the brutal assault on Fr. Oscar Mendonca, August 6. The rally was organised by Bombay Catholic Sabha.

The speakers at the rally extolled the virtues of the law-abiding, peace-loving Christian community in India. Feelings of shock and dismay were expressed at the inhuman treatment meted out to the young priest by activists of the Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).

Auxiliary Bishop Agnelo Gracias of Bombay denounced the attitude of such organisations that appeared to be "bent on doing nothing but creating ill will among the people of different faiths and thus ruining the secular fabric of the country". He reminded the gathering to be vigilant and strive hard to stop such attacks.

President of the All-India Youth Nationalist Party, Mr. Jeetendra Awhad, challenged the Hindu fundamentalists to prove that their actions had the sanctions from their religion, as Hinduism propagated unconditional tolerance, love and service towards all. He questioned why the self-styled defenders of the Hindu faith could not go to Kashmir to counter the killings of thousands of Hindus at the hands of militants.

Mr. George Abraham from the Kalina Municipal Corporation opined that if the Christian community was being targeted it was merely because they were a truly peace-loving people.

Mr. Abraham Mathai from the State Minority Commission, reminded the gathering that what was important in the world was not religion but humanity.

Editor of Communalism Combat, Ms. Teesta Setalvad came down heavily on the machinations of the Sangh Parivar that sought to eliminate all non-Hindu faiths in the country and condemned the attack on an innocent Catholic priest in Mumbai to avenge the murder of some RSS activists a few years ago in Tripura.

Earlier in the day, Cardinal Ivan Dias, the Archbishop of Bombay, celebrated Mass at the Church of St. John the Baptist, Thane, and purified the spot desecrated by the senseless act of violence on a man of God.

The day s proceedings concluded peacefully with the singing of the National Anthem.
Meanwhile, all Catholic schools in Mumbai Archdiocese remained closed on Monday, August 13, to protest the attack. In many schools in Vasai, prayer services were held for the safety of the minorities and the unity of the country.

TAMIL NADU

New NGO for People Empowerment

Nagercoil: SAR News

A new national organisation Neighbourhood Community Network (NCN) was launched in Nagercoil, Tamil Nadu, with an aim to fight alienation of the people and to ensure governance by the people, especially those at the bottom of the social rung.

According to a communiqué from the organisation, August 11, NCN hopes to promote neighbourhood communities consisting of about thirty families each and their representative networking at various levels through community awareness programmes, consultation, organising, training leaders, networking and collaborating with government and non-government organisations.

The animators of this new movement believe that the people themselves are the best agents to ensure their wellbeing and that they possess the qualities to participate in, monitor and control processes and programmes aimed at their development.

NCN would give "special attention to the poor, women and other disadvantaged groups, so as to enable them to take an effective part as equals in developmental programmes."

The first executive committee consists of environment activist, Captain J. Rama Rao (president), Retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, Mr. Turab-ul-Hassan (vice president), former executive director of SAR News, Fr. M. J. Edwin (secretary), Psychotherapist, Dr. J. Kalayil (joint secretary), and Jesus, Mary and Joseph Sister Adriana, treasurer.

Youth Protest Against Liquor Shops

Nagercoil: SAR News

The Young Christian Organisation, Kanyakumari, launched a protest in front of the District Collectorate, Nagercoil, August 9, demanding the removal of Indian-Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) shops at Manalikarai village of Kumarapuram Panchayat, and Kalkulam Taluk in Kanyakumari District, according to Robert Wins, District president of the organisation.
Field worker of the organisation, Mr. Albert Raj told SAR News that nearly 10,000 residents were living in this area and 7,000 students studying in various educational institutions trod through it.

He added that the IMFL shops operating in this village since 1992 were removed in 1998 due to the strenuous efforts of the villagers and Church organisations. But the shops were reopened, August 6 this year in spite of strong protests.

Fifty members took part in the hunger protest , which was led by Suji Prabha, member of the National Team.

Dalit Grievances are Unjustly Treated, NCDHR


Madurai: SAR News

The Madurai Regional Conference of National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) held here, August 13, noted that the Dalits in India had been discriminated against by dominant castes from time immemorial and the succeeding governments remained indifferent to their issues and justice denied.

President of the Conference, Ms. M. Margaret Kalaiselvi expressed her dismay at the poor mechanism of the government for the redressal of grievances by the dalits. In such situations, "help must be found at international fora," she suggested.

The Conference felt that the racial differences abroad were same as caste disparities prevalent in India for centuries.

Karunanidhi Depicted as Suffering Christ widely Condemned

Madurai: SAR News

Depiction of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader, Mr. M.Karunanidhi, along side with Christ carrying the cross has invited widespread condemnation.

The Tamil Nadu State Indian Union Muslim League condemned the parallel drawn between the sufferings of Christ and those of Mr. Karunanidhi. In a statement, its secretary, Mr. K.A. Abdul Wahab said Mr. Karunanidhi should apologise to the Christians on behalf of his party for hurting the sentiments of the community.

The Christian Munnetra Kazhagam too condemned the DMK for "disrespecting Jesus Christ in advertisements and banners released in connection with the arrest of the former Chief Minister".

The controversial board was put up during the rally, August 12, organised by DMK to protest he arrest of its leaders and alleged police excess.

As pressure mounted, Mr. Karunanidhi ordered the removal of boards and called it an "act of misguided cadre".

However, Mr. Karunanidhi promptly added that Chief Minister, Ms. Jayalalithaa too was depicted as Mother Mary during her earlier stint as Chief Minister.

WEST BENGAL

First Phase of Mother Teresa s Beatification Completed

Kolkata: SAR News

The first phase of the beatification process of Mother Teresa was completed, August 15. The sealed findings of the Diocesan Committee that conducted the research on the authenticity of healings and other miracles through the intercession of Mother were handed over to Archbishop Henry D Souza of Calcutta. The event took place at the St. Mary s Church, Kolkata.

The archbishop will now forward the report to the Vatican through the Postulator of the Cause, Missionaries of Charity Father Brian Kolodiejchuk.

Archbishop D Souza says, "The material collected in the inquiry and the miracle reported would be sent to Rome. If Rome accepts it, the Holy Father will proceed with the beatification of Mother Teresa." He said that Vatican is likely to speed up the canonisation process of Mother.

Fr. Brian says, "Mother Teresa s stature and her solid reputation during her lifetime makes the nun s case for sainthood an extraordinary one. She lived and worked among the poorest of poor."

According to Fr. Brian, during the second phase of the examination, the records of the diocesan inquiry will be studied by a team in the Vatican, which will also prepare a positio - a detailed study on how Mother lived her Christian life. In the third phase, a Commission of nine theologians will study the positio and submit their findings to an assembly of cardinals and bishops. If the Cause gets two-third majority, the Pope will decide whether to call Mother, a venerable servant of God. Confirmation of a miracle would lead to her beatification, Church sources said. And if one more miracle after the beatification is accepted, it generally leads to canonisation, that is sainthood.

Mother Teresa was born in Yugoslavia, August 27, 1910. She joined the Loreto Convent in Dublin, November 29, 1928. From Dublin she came to Darjeeling in India to do her noviciate. She became a teacher and taught geography for several years at the Loreto Convent in Calcutta. In 1948, she founded the Congregation called The Missionaries of Charity . After a heroic Christian life that brought hope to thousands of people, she passed away September 5, 1997. The fourth death anniversary of Mother Teresa will be commemorated, September 5.

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