NEWS

Nazareth
nun who pioneered mission in India dies.

June 2015


Ann Roberta Powers of Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, who pioneed their mission in the Indian villages soon after Indian independence, died June 27 in Bihar. She was 90.
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PAKISTAN: A change in the Blasphemy Law?

June 2015


A draft bill has been finalised by the government, and will next be put before the government for approval. To combat the growing abuse of the law, the proposal will also introduce severe penalties against those who make false allegations of blasphemy.
more

PAKISTAN: Further Killings

March 2015


The Church of Scotland, the United Reformed Church and the Methodist Church have come together to issue a joint statement and a prayer for Pakistan following Sunday's terrorist bombings in Lahore. They have united to issue the following condemnation of the atrocity: "Christians and Muslims across the world are shocked and dismayed by this barbaric attack. There is never any justification for hatred. We join with everyone who is praying for Pakistan, for the families and communities that have been devastated by this attack. "Freedom of religion is a precious human right. We must do all we can, at home and abroad, through our prayer and action, to protect it. Governments around the world must do all they can to help defend minorities from violence and discrimination. "At home we hope that we can continue to foster a culture of tolerance and respect, through education, dialogue and mutual understanding. We pray that God will guide us in the ways of love and forgiveness." The statement has been supported by the Rt Rev John Chalmers, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland; the Revd Kenneth Howcroft and Gill Dascombe, who are the President and Vice President of the Methodist Conference of the Methodist Church in Britain; and John G Ellis and the Rev John Proctor, who are the Moderator of the General Assembly and General Secretary of the United Reformed Church. The churches also recommended a prayer for Pakistan which is posted on the Methodist website. The joint statement followed a release from the Church of Pakistan issued yesterday, Sunday 15 March 2015. The release condemns the attacks and urges Christians in Pakistan to refrain from retaliation. It also quoted Bishop Samuel Azariah saying: "The Bishop expressed his deep disappointment in the individuals that took the law in their hands and in their state of anger brutally killed two people. Taking of life is not what is taught in the Christian faith and the Bishop said that we must be careful of such acts and let the law take its due course."

Here is a link to BBC coverage: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-31894708 and, sadly,
violent Christian response: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-31904690

PAKISTAN: Horrendous Atrocity

November 2014

A Christian couple in Pakistan have been beaten to death by an angry crowd after being accused of desecrating a Koran. Their bodies were burned at the brick kiln where they worked in the town of Kot Radha Kishan in Punjab province and some reports state they were burned alive. Here are links to some news reports:
BBC 4th Nov ; BBC 5th Nov. ; BBC 7th Nov. ; Guardian 4th Nov.
You can also hear Wilson Chowdhry, of British Pakistani Christian Association interviewed on Premier News here. There was a protest demonstration outside 10 Downing Street on Saturday 22nd Nov.

INDIA: Death of Rev. Samuel Isacc

August 2014

The World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit has given thanks for the life of Samuel Isaac , whom he said made contributions in the "search for unity" and in the churches' "determination to respond to the needs of people". Isaac, who served as deputy director of the WCC's former Commission on Inter-Church Aid, Refugee and World Service (CICARWS), passed away on 20 August in Chennai, India at the age 72. Remembering Isaac's work at the WCC from 1980 to 1996, Tveit said that Isaac's "critical thinking and managerial skills were crucial as the churches worked together in proclaiming the Good News while alleviating poverty, violence and suffering." "We owe a great debt to Samuel Isaac for his unrelenting honesty in analysing where both churches and societies went wrong in their actions and activities, especially in his outspoken critique of the churches' and government's role in the tragedy of Rwanda during the 1990s," Tveit said in a condolence letter, issued on 21 August .

Full text of letter of Condolence

WCC Member churches in India

INDIA: Cyclone Phailin

October 2013

Please pray for all those affected by Cyclone Phailin which hit the east coast of India this week. Many have been left homeless, without food and supplies; homes, crops and infrastructure have been destroyed up to 25km inland. Christian Aid partners on the ground are helping to meet needs. An estimated 12 million people are likely to have been affected.
Of the hundreds of thousands of people evacuated, many have no home to return to and their source of food and income has been destroyed.

PAKISTAN: Muslim mob torches 178 Christian homes in Pakistan over blasphemy claim

March 2013

On 9th March, Badami Bagh, a district of Lahore was the scene of extreme violence as a result of a young Muslim accusing a Christian man of blasphemy. 2 churches and 178 homes were burned and seriously damaged by hundreds of extremists. A special edition of 'The Frontier News' documents the church's response. Please remember those traumatised so severely in prayer.

BANGLADESH: Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor's Visit

November 2012

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor represented Pope Benedict XVI this week on a five-day visit to Bangladesh to mark the 400th anniversary of the presence of the Christian faith in that part of south Asia and the 125th anniversary of the creation of the Diocese of Dhaka, writes Abigail Frymann.
Speaking at a seminary in Dhaka on Monday, the archbishop emeritus of Westminster told seminarians to put Christ rather than status first because "status means nothing, compared | with the love and care you receive from the | people to whom you minister."
At a meeting of the bishops' conference, he highlighted the Second Vatican Council documents and encouraged the Church to | work with Muslims for the common good.
The cardinal on Wednesday addressed Muslim figures at the Islamic Centre in Dhaka, saying: "Genuine religious belief... reminds us of the... duty to live peaceably with our neighbour, of the importance of living a life of integrity." He was due to preach at Friday's Mass to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the ' archdiocese.
'THE TABLET' 10th November 2012

One of highest Civilian Honours in Pakistan for Catherine Nicol

September 2012

Catherine, a C of S missionary 'retired' in 2001 but immediately returned to Pakistan and continues to run a Girls' Hostel. She has completed 50 years in Pakistan. Read Press Release

Dr Daleep Mukarji elected as Vice-President Designate of the Methodist Conference.

August 2012

At the recent Methodist Church Conference (July 2012) held at Plymouth, Dr Daleep Mukarji was elected Vice-President Designate of the Conference. He will take up his office at the next Methodist Conference to be held in July 2013 in London. Daleep is a Patron of Friends of the Church in India and Chair of the Mission Working Group of the Methodist Church. He is a graduate of Christian Medical Copllege Hospital, Vellore and retired CEO of Christian Aid.

New Bishop of Dornakal Diocese, CSI, consecrated

July 2012

The Rt. Rev. Dr. V Prasada Rao was consecrated on July 9th. There is a report of the consecration on the CSI website

Rt Rev Dr M Azariah of S. India

May 2012

Rt Rev Dr M Azariah died on 17th May 2012. An obituary, written by Rev. Eileen Thompson is now on our Obituaries page.

New Moderator of Church of N. India

Oct. 2011

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Philip Marandih, Bishop, Diocese of Patna was elected as the 12th Moderator of the Church of North India for the triennium 2011-2014 at the recently concluded 14th Ordinary Synod of the Church of North India, at St. Thomas School, Mandir Marg, New Delhi, on October 6-9, 2011. (more)

New Bishop of Hyderabad, Pakistan

Sept. 2011

Rev. Kaleem John has been appointed

New Bishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka

August 2011

Rt. Rev. Dhiloraj Ranjit Canagasabey was ordained and installed as the 15th Bishop of Colombo on 14th May this year. Full Report

New Bishop of Diocese of Multan, Pakistan

30th June 2011

Election of the fourth bishop of the diocese of Multan, Church of Pakistan The Church of Pakistan has formally announced the election the fourth Bishop of the Diocese of Multan -Church of Pakistan. The elections took place on Friday the 3 June 2011, in St Mary's Cathedral, Multan. The Rev Leo Paul was elected as the Bishop. The consecration has been decided for 19 June 2011. A church spokesman said, "We are grateful to the Lord for this achievement after a struggle of almost 7 years in electing the fourth Bishop of Multan. We look forward to your prayers and support in the future."

Petition Calling For UN Commission Of Inquiry in Burma

14th May 2011

A petition with 5,323 signatures calling for a UN Commission of Inquiry into crimes against humanity in Burma and organised by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) and Partners Relief and Development, has been delivered to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). In a letter to Foreign Secretary, William Hague, accompanying the petition, CSW and Partners Relief and Development said they "warmly welcome the support the UK government has already given" for the recommendation made by the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Burma for the establishment of a UN Commission of Inquiry to investigate crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Special Rapporteur has made this recommendation in his reports to the UN in March 2011, October 2010 and March 2010. CSW and Partners Relief and Development urge the UK, as a member of the Security Council, "to provide increased, proactive leadership in support of these recommendations."

Assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti

3rd March 2011

Shahbaz Bhatti , the Pakistan Minority Affairs Minister was assassinated on 2nd March. The following is reproduced from the Ekklesia website.

"Following the assassination on 2 March 2011, of the Pakistan Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti who was the first Christian to be a member of the Pakistani President's Cabinet, church leaders and spokespeople have condemned the killing.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, Rowan Williams and John Sentamu issued a joint statement saying: "It is with the greatest shock and sorrow that we have heard of the assassination of Mr Shahbaz Bhatti."
"This further instance of sectarian bigotry and violence will increase anxiety worldwide about the security of Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan, and we urge that the Government of Pakistan will do all in its power to bring to justice those guilty of such crimes and to give adequate protection to minorities."
Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, international director of the World Evangelical Alliance, said he found it hard to express in words his response to the murder, especially as it came just a day after he had received an "upbeat email" from Bhatti.
"Shahbaz Bhatti had become a good friend and was a great hero of the faith," he said in an email to colleagues.
The Vatican said the assassination reinforces what Pope Benedict XVI had been calling for – the need to protect Christians against violence.
"The assassination of … Bhatti ... is another terrible episode of violence. It shows how right the Pope is in his persistent remarks concerning violence against Christians and against religious freedom in general," the Vatican stated.
"Our prayers for the victim, our condemnation for this unspeakable act of violence, our closeness to Pakistani Christians who suffer hatred, are accompanied by an appeal that everyone many become aware of the urgent importance of defending both religious freedom and Christians who are subject to violence and persecution."
Christine Elliott, Secretary for External Relationships for the Methodist Church in Britain, said: “The killing of Shahbaz Bhatti is deeply shocking. He is known to have understood the potential consequences for his stand on the interpretation of Pakistan’s blasphemy law, but as minister for minorities he was clear that it was his obligation to promote tolerance, acceptance and justice for Pakistani citizens regardless of their religious affiliation."
Bhatti, a Roman Catholic, had spoken out against Pakistan's blasphemy laws, which he said were being abused to persecute religious minorities, including the tiny population of Christians. He was seeking reform, specifically an amendment, so that the law would not be used "as a tool of victimisation," he told the international new channel France 24, earlier this year.
He also had defended a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, after she was sentenced to death in November for allegedly insulting the prophet Muhammad.
His position angered extremists who issued death threats against him. Fliers left at the scene of the killing were signed by two Islamist militant groups – al-Qaida and the Punjabi Taliban – described Bhatti as an "infidel" and warned others who oppose the country's blasphemy laws that the same fate awaits them. Though well aware of the threats, Bhatti was committed to standing up for religious minorities and for human rights." See also video where he anticipated his possible assassination

Assassination of Governor Salman Taseer

5th Jan. 2011

Governor Salman Taseer from the Punjab was one of Pakistan's most outspoken liberal politicians. He was shot on Tuesday by a bodyguard angered by his opposition to blasphemy laws. Although many have condemned the assassination, some religious leaders have praised the governor's killer. The governor - a senior member of the governing Pakistan People's Party (PPP) - had recently angered Islamists by appealing for a Christian woman, sentenced to death for blasphemy, to be pardoned. (see below). There is full coverage on the BBC website

ASIA BIBI

3rd Jan. 2011

Asia Bibi is still waiting in jail for the High Court in Lahore to decide the date for her appeal against the death sentence for blasphemy passed in November 2010. In the midst of an imminent governmental crisis Islamic religious parties are stepping up pressure against the government to prevent any change to the controversial blasphemy law. In an attempt to ease the pressure, the government announced in no uncertain terms that it does not plan to eliminate or amend the blasphemy law. In a statement before the National Assembly on 1 January, the Minister for Religious Affairs Khursheed Shah said the government is not responsible for the proposal put to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Pakistan People Party (PPP) to change the law. The Parliamentarian Rheman Sherry submitted the proposed amendment to Parliament. "The government has no plans to remove the blasphemy laws ... to ensure respect of the Holy Prophet is part of our faith," said Kursheed Shah.
The minister assured the minorities that the government will take the necessary steps to ensure that the law is not misused against them. Protests by Islamic parties began when President Asif Ali Zardari announced his intention to pardon Asia Bibi, a Christian sentenced to death on false charges. The government had previously indicated their willingness to amend the law, and had formed a committee for this purpose, headed by Minister for Minorities Shabahz Bhatti.

Sheem Gill, a member of the committee of FOST wrote:
'Asia Bibi' in Pakistan has been sentenced to death under the Blasphemy Law.
This is the first ever sentence of its kind for a woman.
Also for the first time, I believe, the President's pardon has been rejected by the Judiciary.
Christian organisations in Pakistan are supporting Asia's family and have a meeting scheduled with the hierarchy of Islamic Clergy in Lahore.
(I think most people who surf the net for News in Pakistan will be aware of this.) See also useful report from Episcopal News Service

SANDY SNEDDON's REPORT from PAKISTAN

Sandy Sneddon, Asia Secretary of the World Mission Council of the C. of S. was in Pakistan from 11-21 Sept. This is part of his report.

……. Earlier I went to Pandoki village on the outskirts of Lahore where Bishop Azariah dedicated a new church building. The informal service contained some of the best of Punjabi culture – exuberant singing of Psalms, reverence for elders and guests and wonderful food to mark the occasion. On Sunday morning I joined the congregation of Central Church and brought greetings to the congregation as well as the assurance of the Church of Scotland’s continuing concern and support for the Pakistan Christian community.
On Sunday evening I arrived in Sialkot. This was the excuse for some of the teachers at St Columba’s to prepare a special meal of rice, beans, potatoes and sweet rice. I then joined over 200 young girls to watch some of their peers perform sketches of two parables – The Parable of the Talents and the Ten Virgins – where the lessons of using opportunity and preparedness were driven home, along with energetic bhangra dancing! Catherine Nicol has been retired for ten years but still runs St Columba’s and told me many of the girls’ life stories. Many come from disadvantaged backgrounds – orphaned, poor, broken family – to St Columba’s which gives them a safe place to grow up, access to education and training and the opportunity of employment and better life chances.
I then travelled to Peshawar where on Wednesday and Thursday I visited Tarnab, a village on the outskirts of the city, Charsadda and Risalpur. Along the roadside there were a number of relief camps as well as piles of mud that had been cleared from roads that had been underwater. Fields were covered in mud and many crops, even trees, were flattened. Hundreds of houses are uninhabitable. In Tarnab families are currently sleeping in the church hall, itself damaged. Everywhere flood waters have undermined the foundations and as the buildings settled, the structures cracked. I saw house after house with collapsed or cracked walls and roofs, broken floors, ruined furniture and some rooms that had been swept away. As the ground dries out the houses will settle further causing even more damage. The damage to these houses is irreparable and they will have to be demolished and rebuilt. In the Christian community no lives had been lost and people were extremely resilient and thankful for the assistance they had received. Government offices and schools have been wrecked and important records have been lost. Children have lost school books, ministers’ libraries have been destroyed. In Charsadda I joined diocesan office bearers to deliver relief goods to Muslim families and Bishop Humphrey Peters held a press conference with Muslim leaders showing common cause. Building interfaith relationships and cooperation is important when tensions are running high but this itself is building on several years of interfaith work initiated by the diocese following the 11 September 2001 attacks by al-Qaida and the US- and UK-led wars and invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
On Friday 17 I travelled south to Sind and discussed various issues with Rt Rev Rafique Masih, Bishop of Hyderabad, including how WMC grants can continue to support diocesan priorities. On Saturday we went to Mirpurkhas where I saw classrooms, science and computer laboratories at St John’s High School paid for by WMC grants over the past two years. The rooms are ready to be painted and equipped. The Principal, Mrs Najma Caleb, asked that her thanks be conveyed to WMC for this financial support. Students from the Muslim, Christian and Hindu faith communities all study at the school. On Sunday morning I joined the congregation at the refurbished 150-year old St Thomas’ Cathedral for the communion service and was introduced by Bishop Rafique. We sang Psalm 99 in Punjabi to the tune of Auld Lang Syne and Rev Naseer John preached on being Children of God from 1John 3:1-11.
On Sunday afternoon I joined a team from Church World Service and travelled five hours north to Khairpur. One of CWS’ local partners, Participatory Village Development Programme, gave a presentation on their work in the area and the next day we visited some communities that had been displaced by the floods. Thirty families had been ordered to vacate the school premises they were occupying in the village of Agra so school could re-start but their houses had been destroyed. Another village, Tayyab Sheikh, had been flattened when water two meters high had flooded their village. Some families were returning and those who were able had begun to rebuild some kind of shelter. The village had organised a makeshift school for their children under a tree, though none were educated enough to lead proper lessons. In Sukkur we saw non-food items being distributed to 500 families and later visited a community on the banks of the River Indus where a number of people were grateful for the cooking utensils, soap and mosquito nets they had been given. These people were living in wretched conditions and the only help they received was from a coalition of organisations working under the umbrella of the Diocese of Hyderabad.

FLOODS in NORTH-WEST PAKISTAN

Read about the floods in a special edition of C. of S. World Mission Update

Dear friends, Thank you for continuing to pray for us in the light of recent events. Another challenge for Pakistan…. Multan city itself has had more rain than usual, and more is expected so that affects buildings and roads unused to such treatment. The hosp is ok but we do have one building with a floor beneath ground level which easily can get flooded so needs vigilance. Rooves are ok and have been swept to clear standing water/debris Flooding is occurring further west , along the River Chenab (not so much as 1992 but still came without warning which caused more problems altho not so much loss of life) (the river we sometimes go to for a picnic), further west still is the Indus, which has collected much more of the rainfall from further west and north and it is seriously flooded and taking its floodwaters further south too. North and West they have had flash floods in numerous valleys causing havoc and loss of life, as you have no doubt seen on the news. So some of our patients have been affected but the city so far ok, and further afield things are dire in some areas. Tank Hospital had some problems with a foot of water in the wards after heavy rain on the 3rd. This has been cleared meantime. The monsoon season usually lasts until the first week of Sept or so… so we could have much more rain in the country yet. If the rain is heavier in the North East rather than the North West (as now) our closest river will get much worse…. Thank you for your continuing interest in me and mine! Marian Morrison (Women's Christian Hospital, Multan)

BANGLADESH MOURNS AFTER DEADLIEST FIRE

The national flag flew at half-mast and people of all faiths joined in prayers last Saturday (June 5th 2010) as Bangladesh mourned the deaths of nearly 120 people in the country's deadliest blaze. The fire raged for three hours late Thursday, destroying at least six multi-storey apartment buildings in one of Dhaka's most densely populated areas. At least 117 people have died in the inferno but officials feared the toll would rise as dozens of critically injured patients lay fighting for their lives in Dhaka's overstretched hospitals. Investigators Saturday took witness accounts as they launched a probe of the blaze which firefighters said was fuelled by an illegal chemicals warehouse. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has visited the injured and announced compensation and free treatment for the victims. Fires caused by short-circuits, substandard wiring and electrical faults are common in Bangladesh, where building regulations are rarely enforced. "Dhaka is growing vertically at a rapid pace as our economy is growing fast. But many of the buildings are simply death traps," said Jahangir Alam, a civil engineering professor who led a government study on Dhaka's quake preparedness. "In 2008, Dhaka had 583,000 buildings. But most of its high-rises and apartment buildings don't have enough fire protection measures. They are built ignoring basic construction rules," he said. (Source:AFP via Church of Scotland 'Update')

Visit of Bishop of Calcutta.

23 members of the Fellowship of St. Thomas met in Edinburgh on 10th February 2010 to hear Bishop Ashoke Biswas of Calcutta. He has been bishop since 2008 and was in UK to attend a consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Several of the persons present were shortly going to pay a visit to the Calcutta Diocese. The Calcutta Diocese contains 26 congregations and 5 out stations. There are 30 priests and also non-stipendiary priests and church workers. It also contains 14 English medium schools, a Bengali Medical School, 2 colleges - an Engineering College and a Nursing College. There is also an active Mothers’ Union and Youth Fellowship.
2 homes for elderly persons have been opened and it is hoped to raise the standard of care in both of them. Social services are run by St. Paul’s Cathedral and other churches.
The main ethos of the diocese is to show the church as the house of God open for all, and seeking to show Jesus in the lives of its members. The diocese has opened a clinic in association with CMC Hospital, Vellore for providing medical checkups. There is also a TB clinic and a TB Hospital in Howrah. Hospices are being set up for the treatment of HIV and other terminal illnesses. The church has a responsibility to continue the missionary outreach to those outside, who expect a Christian response.
The CNI brings unity but the freedom to act in individual ways with Anglican, Presbyterian and Congregational emphasis. The church has strong links with the CSI and the churches in UK. Bishop’s College has started lay persons’ training.
In Orissa the conflicts arose from old tribal problems about land ownership which became religious squabbles. Newly educated young people are threatening the power of the old landlords. As the tribals are enlightened the new church leaders take over the influence of the BJP. The Communists stopped English medium in the schools for 25 years but realising their mistake they are now re-introducing it.
The challenge for the church is to involve the youth in its programmes. The presbyter is meeting the young people and providing for them. The Pastorate Committee includes 2 women and 2 young people. The church seeks to strengthen the Mothers’ Union in order to build up the home and the young people in the family. Hindus invite Christians to their festivals and vice versa. The Governor comes to the Easter and Christmas festivals.
Many people first gain interest in the church after a visit to CMC Hospital, Vellore.
A centre has been opened for the treatment of HIV/Aids with a separate home for the children of patients. An annual HIV Sunday is held in the churches and teaching is given in the schools and the youth groups.
The Bishop is invited to special functions in other denominations.


 
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