Friday, September 19, 2014
The festival of Onam is an attribute of inter religious harmony and a fact that Christians exist in society with other people. This realisation brings us to the fact that traditions and celebrations have to be done together. Togetherness can be fostered only when we celebrate it together.
Onam in particular is not the festival of the other, the unknown, the infidel or the pagan. Onam is the festival of all because it talks of a king who fought injustice and encouraged equality. Mahabali’s sacrifice is a reminder that all have to stand up against injustice. It is not an option, as justice can never be an option. Justice can only be attained by fighting collectively. Justice is the precursor to peace. So for peace, we all have to strive for justice.
Further, the usage pagan is archaic, old and uncouth for our times. We cannot humiliate others by using such terms. Luke 10:27 says “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” The fight of the ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria is also against whom they term infidels, in essence, us. If we have now collectively come together against the inhuman ISIS, we also have to stop inhuman usages and terminologies in our own spaces.
The sanctity given for the church cannot be limited to the church. It only means that the sanctity is Sanctus sanctorum within prescribed limits but sanctity also extends to the outside of the church and further beyond the walls of the church. So every inch of the world is holy because it is God’s creation. We cannot behave in one way in church and in another way outside the church. If we do that, we are lying to ourselves and playing games with our conscience. So to not have festivities in church means we should not have it anywhere. The oft quoted concept of ‘liturgy after liturgy’ reminds us that goodness is not limited to the church and to a Sunday. John 10:10 says “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
Purity is a very dangerous concept and has been used to keep out women and people from lower castes, using the purview of holiness. This is profoundly dangerous. One cannot associate and approach festivities with purity. Purity should be broken down to include everything into our domain of spirituality. Galatians 3:28 perhaps mentions that no one is purer than the other while saying “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
Onam festivities also become a problem because we associate it with morality. Morality is one of the biggest sins of religion and Jesus rubbishes it when he says in John 8:7 “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” One should not talk of what is moral and what is not and should instead accept justice, equality and peace as the central pillars of Christianity. Whatever goes along with this can be associated with the church.
Christianity in Kerala has had its ups and downs as is the case with the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church. But the church has also managed inculturation and understanding which is reflected in the church architecture, traditional lamps and minnu or thali used by the bride. Will the church now ask all the married women to break their minnu or thali as it is un Christian? St. Paul in Acts 17 is aware and uses the language and themes of the local culture to speak to people there. It is another thing that he uses this to his advantage.
Christianity has from old adopted to and adapted local culture and has used it to their advantage and given it their own form. Indian religious beliefs have done the same with Jesus. Jesus is very wise when he tells his disciples in Mark 9:39-40 “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us.” One has to suspect a resurgent belief to throw everything out of the church as an Americanised, homogenized form of Christianity. Homogenization, as the media teaches us is essential for wide distribution of a message. But this message may not be relevant for all people.
One cannot be a Christian in church, hybrid at work, a Keralite in the house, an ‘anything goes’ with friends and a conservative at rallies. Faith and life go together. It is important for us to stop the ISIS-ization and US-ization of the world, which brands everyone as wrong, sinful, pagan, infidel and impure. As Jesus shows in John 4 in his interaction with the Samaritan woman, one should in the process of maintaining one’s belief respect the belief of others. One should also come together in collectives and co-operatives to root out injustice and violence and encourage justice and peace.
Onam and other festivals are an opportunity to understand each other. This time in our small church in Bangalore we are celebrating Onam and we have invited our Christian, Muslim and Hindu neighbours to come and join us and share our food. They have eagerly agreed because they also want blessings from God and want acceptence from our community of faith. In this process we will undergo a self purification and self correction and allow the real Christ to speak for himself, instead of putting words into his mouth. 1 John 4:7-8 clarifies “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
Churches outside Kerala are sometimes service centres which have services in class rooms, auditoriums and the like. What happens when the sacred steps into the so called profane? If it is a problem when the profane steps into the sacred, the same should apply in the reverse as well! If the understanding to keep the church off limits for certain things is to keep the profane away, what happens when after service one week the altar is again placed at the so called profane in the process of the following service?
Congregations outside Kerala rarely meet each other and the church becomes a conglomeration of everything put together. Birth, life, death, joy, festivities, togetherness, protests, prayer and the world itself becomes the church. The church becomes ‘everything’ for the believer rather than ‘something.’
Flowers, lights, colour and graceful dancing are all part of Christian culture as much as anything else. We think it is un-Christian and pagan because we associate it with the stranger across the road, chanting prayers in a language not understood by us. But our prayers are equally confusing for others. Festivities in church are a coming together, an in between, a strange but comforting place, a thought which says, I am a Christian, you are a non-Christian, but here is something which can bring us together to share a meal on a warm, green leaf.
Picture courtesy www.imgion.com
Monday, September 15, 2014
Black Sunday: Protest march and meeting held to show solidarity with Christians and Minorities in Iraq and Syria
The Federation of Karnataka Christian and Catholic Associations (FKCCA), the Indian Christian Union (ICU), the United Christian Forum (UCF), the Bangalore diocese of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church and several like minded churches including the CSI, Methodist and Pentecostal churches held a protest march and meeting yesterday at 2:00 P.M. to protest against the atrocities, violence and genocide against Christians and minorities in Iraq and Syria.
The protest march and meeting was attended by over 10,000 people from various walks of life. The march which started from St. Patrick’s Catholic Church at 2:00 P.M. ended at St. Joseph’s Indian School ground at 3 o clock. The meeting was presided over by the Catholic Arch bishop of the Bangalore diocese, Arch bishop Dr. Bernard Moras, and attended by the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church metropolitan of the Bangalore diocese, H.G. Pathros Mor Osthatheos, Sri Shanthaveera, Kolada Math Swamiji, Vicar General Msgr S. Jayanathan, CSI, Methodist and Baptist pastors, as well as Sikh representive Sri Doni, Muslim representative Mr. Agha Khan, former deputy chief minister and BJP leader Sri R. Ashok and Shanthinagar MLA and Congress leader Mr. N. A. Harris. Mr. Abraham T.J., President of FKCCA and ICU was present with a sea of priests, nuns, educators, lay leaders, church members, students and volunteers.
The speakers were unanimous in saying that no religion practises violence and what is now being seen is the misinterpretation of religion by certain elements in society. The Arch bishop Bernard Moras talked of the importance of expressing solidarity with those afflicted by human and natural calamities all over the world. This included floods in Kashmir over a week ago. He said that human beings and Christians have to come together to express a credible response to anything which is anti human and anti life. He explained the video of Pope Francis which was showed during the meeting and said how many more lives would it take for people to speak up. The Arch bishop ended by quoting Rev. Niemoller’s provocative poem saying
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Bishop H.G. Pathros Osthatheos sang a Syriac song, translated into Malayalam as well, which spoke of the prayer to God to shower grace and mercy upon his creation always and give good sense to the creation of God to act well. The bishop reiterated what other religious leaders spoke of and said that human beings are basically peace loving and the ecumenical get together to protest against the atrocities in Iraq and Syria showed that human beings care for each other. There are many regional and religious considerations which one has to take into consideration when thinking of the present crisis but above all we all have to come together for a strong response and call to peace. He informed the gathering that his church was in the direct line of conflict and that the Patriarch of the church was in talks with world leaders to bring an end to this horrendous conflict. The bishop hoped that everyone would follow the bidding of God and act according to the will of God instead of their own wills.
Sri Shantaveera Swamiji remembered the contribution of Christians in the field of education and service to the poor. He said that the Hindu way of life also calls for peace and Christians have offered so much to Hindus in India. Sri R. Ashok said that all religions are peaceful and anyone who said otherwise was not religious. Mr. N.A. Harris said that any Muslim who does not believe in Christ is not a Muslim and said that he is a public representative who tries to see everyone as human beings.
Sri Doni talked about the beatitudes and said that the message of Christ was so peaceful. He said that he was an Indian by birth, a Sikh by faith and a Christian by practise. Mr. Agha Khan stressed that he was a Muslim and a Josephite and was thankful for the contribution that his education made in his life. He urged the audience to not make the mistake of thinking that Islam is anti Christian. He talked about his own experiences in Iraq and said that the present crisis was a result of those who did not know what the Quran was all about. He then went on to promise that he was willing to give his life for the sake of others. Mr. Abraham T.J. reminded everyone that this was the time to be bold in responding against injustice in society instead of being spineless people. He repeated that silence is violence and it is time that Christians and minorities stood up and spoke instead of remaining silent saying that it is not their concern.
The meeting ended with a vote of thanks by Fr. Ronnie Prabhu who thanked the big gathering and wished that peace would replace violence in the world.
Saturday, September 13, 2014
The Federation of Karnataka Christian and Catholic Associations (FKCCA), the Indian Christian Union (ICU), the United Christian Forum (UCF), the Bangalore diocese of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church and several like minded churches including the CSI, Methodist, Pentecostal and Orthodox will be holding a protest march and meeting to protest against the atrocities, violence and genocide against Christians and minorities in Iraq, Syria and Palestine. The protest rally will start tomorrow, Sunday, September 14, 2014 at St. Patrick's Church on Museum Road, Bangalore at 2:00 P.M.and culminate at the St. Joseph's Indian School ground, near Mallya Hospital, and opposite the Sree Kanteerava stadium, Bangalore. (Google maps can be seen here)
The public meeting at St. Joseph's Indian school ground will start at 3:00 P.M. Archbishop Dr. Bernard Moras of the Catholic Church, H.G. Bishop Pathros Osthatheos, Bishop of the Bangalore diocese of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, Mr. Abraham T.J., President of FKCCA and ICU and other bishops, priests and lay leaders will be present. Dharmaram seminary has produced a short video on the crisis in Iraq. It can be found here.
Following is a report of the meeting held on August 27, 2014 to plan the above meeting.
The Meeting coordinated on 27/08/2014 by Mr.Abraham T.J-President FKCCA & ICU, to discuss the genocide of Christians in Iraq, at the Palana Bhavan, in the vicinity of the Bangalore Archbishop’s House, which was benevolently provided by His Grace, Most.Rev.Dr.Bernard Moras, the Archbishop of Bangalore, had the following participants:- Fr.Jose Kumblolickal-Provincial, Missionaries of St.Francis de Sales (msfs), Sr.Alice P.T, fsi,-Superior, Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate (fsi), Rev.Dr.D.Manohar Chandra Prasad (CSI), Sr.Lincy Cherian, scsc-Provincial, Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross, Fr.Thomas Kallukalam, cmi,-Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, cmi, Parish Priest, St.Thomas Florane Church, Rev.N.J.Samson,-Chairman & President, Karnataka Baptist Federation, Pastor. Rev. Robinson Paul Gen-Sec Bangalore City Pentecost, Fr.Jerry Kurian-Representing Bishop, H.G.Pathrose Orthathies, Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, Fr.Ronnie Prabhu-PRO of the Bangalore Arch dioceses, Sr.Rashmi, ccst,-Superior, St.Tresa’s Convent, Gadddelahalli, Fr.Peter D’Souza-Director Sumanahalli, Sr.Victoria William-Delegate Superior, Daughters of St.Mary of Providence (Guanellians) (dsmp), Sr.Mercy Abraham, rgs,-Superior, Good Shepherd Community, Fr.John Solomon-Parish Priest, Immaculate Conception Church, Fr.Thomaiar-Parish Priest, Holy Family Church R.M.Nagar, Fr.Alwyn Dias- Vicar Provincial, Capuchin Province of Karnataka, Rev.Alfred Sudarshan–CSI, Koramangala Church, Mr.Augustine Prashanth-CSI, Shaffer Memorial Church, Sr.Mable D’Silva-Superior, Sisters of St.Charles Borromeo (scb), Sr.Maxime, scs,-Superior, Satyaseva Catechist Sisters of the Families (scs), Sr.Rosa Ittira, rmi, -Superior, Relegious pf Mary Immaculate (rmi), Fr.Herald Christopher, msfs,-Principal, St.Francis De Sales P.U.College, Mr.D.William Pratap–CSI, Hudson Memorial Church, Sr.Adeena Mary, fih,-Superior, Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (fih), Sr.Francis Xavier Mary Vedamuthu,sjl-Superior, Sisters of St.Joseph of Lyon (sjl), Sr.M.Jyotsna, ac, -Headmistress, St.Antony’s Kannada Higher Primary School, Sr. Jessilia Mendonsa O.Ss.S-Superior, Order of the Our Most Holy Saviour (Bridgettiness), Sr.Vimala Savarimuttu,fsp,-Superior, Daughters of St Paul (fsp), Rev.D.N.Samuel-Faith Tabernacle Ministries and also several priests and nuns representing the Sisters of St.Charles Borromeo (scb), St.Tresa’s Generalite, Gaddalahalli, the Society of Jesuits, Carmel Ministries, Order of Friars of Minor Capuchins (ofm cap) Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions (rndm), Sisters of St.Joseph of Cluny (sjc), Missionary Sisters of the Catholic Apostolate (Pallottine Missionary Sisters) (sac), Relegious pf Mary Immaculate (rmi), Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions (rndm), Prison Ministry, Sisters of St.Charles Borromeo (scb), Order of Disabled Carmelites (ocd), Sacred Heart Congregation for Women (kerala) (sh)
The deliberations got underway with the introduction of the subject by Abraham T.J, and the commencement prayer by Rev.Dr.D.Manohar Chandra Prasad of the CSI church, after which Fr.Jose Kumblolickal, Provincial Missionaries of St.Francis de Sales (msfs) spoke of the need to collectively take a stand immediately to demonstrate and let the world know that we the Christians in Bangalore are concerned about the happenings in Iraq against Christians, especially those Christians who have preferred to sacrifice their lives, instead of embracing Islam. Sr.Alice P.T, fsi, Superior of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate (fsi), expressed solidarity and offered all the help of her community that would be required in this direction and also expressing pain about the way in which those people’s lives have been cut short for upholding the faith. Rev.Dr.D.Manohar Chandra Prasad (CSI) spoke of the need for the Christians the people of the Covenants to go into what is happening to the Palestinians in Israel also and that these holocausts were infectious and could spread into India also. Condemnation of any kind of violence and genocide was the need of the hour and we need to come together to express our disapproval of the same. Sr.Lincy Cherian, scsc Provincial of Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross, Holy Cross Provincialate, felt that there is a need for us to also remember the sufferings our brothers and sisters in Syria, Ukraine and so on, hence along with a protest against what is happening in Iraq against Christians we need to also send out our opinion of non-acceptance of violence. Further stated that any kind of a voice from Bangalore will be heard by the world, hence there was a need to invite the attention of world leaders, Human Rights forum and even the UNO. She also felt that along with this we need to physically demonstrate our anguish against the happenings in Iraq. Fr.Thomas Kallukalam, cmi, representing Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, cmi, Parish Priest of St.Thomas Florane Church felt that we need to firstly observe a day of prayer and fasting and secondly bring all denominations together and have a march or a rally to demonstrate that we are opposed to the inhuman genocide in Iraq and also else where. He felt the need to enlighten Christian’s at our parish and church level itself about the happenings in Iraq. Rev. N.J. Samson, Chairman & President, Karnataka Baptist Federation felt that it was easy for Samson to bring 400 foxes together but it was difficult to bring all Christians together and yet so many denominations have come together to discuss the action plan on Iraq. He suggested that everyone together as a Christian body and observe a day of prayer and also an action plan to chalk out the form of protest against the persecution in Iraq. Pastor. Rev. Robinson Pal, representing the Pentecostal Church felt that our protest in Bangalore, which has thousands of Churches and several Lakhs of Christians, some or most of whom have non-Christian names should let the entire Country know that we are not happy with what is happening in Iraq. Fr.Alwyn Dias- Vicar Provincial, Capuchin Province of Karnataka strongly felt “when we see violence our silence is also an equally condemnable violence and injustice against humanity, when we do not raise our voice against it”, and urged everyone to raise their voice or be ready to accept the blame that we are also a part of the violence by our silence. Fr.Jerry Kurian representing the Bishop, H.G.Pathros Osthathios of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, spoke about the need to understand the Israel and U.S. interference before coming to Iraq, and seeing Iraq, Syria and Palestine together. He felt that as per unofficial estimates One lakh 70 thousand people have been killed in Syria and the Indian media or the American media has not reported this because it is of no interest to them. Five percent of the population in Iraq consisted of Christians and now it is dwindling and this started in 2003 itself. He strongly felt that the problem in Iraq was caused by a “misunderstanding of Islam” and a misunderstanding of Christians in the Middle East as well. Those who propagate the holocaust were unaware of true Islam. Fr.Ronnie Prabhu-PRO of the Bangalore Arch dioceses, representing the Arch Bishop of Bangalore felt that we need to exercise the power of meditation and communicate vehemently, others may not listen yet there would be an effect on all of them when we communicate through protests and felt that there must be a reflection of the sufferings, the pain, the anguish and the brokenness of Christians in Iraq in every church and in every community, Fr.Herald Christopher, msfs,-Principal, St.Francis De Sales P.U.College, suggested the using of electronic media extensively and also suggested that Christians of all denominations should not only in Bangalore or Karnataka but all over India if possible observe a Sunday as a “BLACK SUNDAY”, by wearing black dress or a black badge or a black band to publicly express our resentment of the massacre of Christians in Iraq.
The meeting concluded with all those gathered there resolving firstly, that Christians of all denominations observe Friday the 12th of September as a day of ‘Fasting and Prayer’ for the suffering Christians in Iraq, all over Karnataka and if possible spread it across India also. Secondly, observe a ‘BLACK SUNDAY’ and also hold a public rally on Sunday the 14th of September in Bangalore, with the participation of all the denominations and finally to draw the attention of the State and the Central government, demanding them to condemn the genocide of Christians in Iraq.
Picture courtesy www.catholic.org
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
The Federation of Karnataka Christian and Catholic Associations (FKCCA), the Indian Christian Union (ICU), the United Christian Forum (UCF) and several like minded body's have come together and decided on a fast and prayer on Friday, September 12, 2014 to protest against the genocide against minorities and Christians in Iraq, Syria and Palestine. Churches all over Karnataka will be having prayer and fasting in churches and wherever possible on Friday. The idea is to feel the pain of the hundreds of thousands suffering and to pray to God to help those who are fleeing from the aggression of the ISIS (IS) aggressors.
The Bangalore diocese of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church under its bishop H.G. Pathros Mor Osthatheos is also passing on the message to churches in Bangalore and asking people to fast and pray wherever they are; in churches, offices, schools and public places and tell their friends as to why they are not eating. Many members of the church are directly affected by the violence in Iraq and Syria.
The press note of the press conference held on August 30, 2014 in the Bangalore Press Club is given below.
PRESS NOTE 30/08/2014
1. Five percent of the population in Iraq consisted of Christians and now it is dwindling and this has started in 2003 itself not just today. The ‘New American’ reported that- “Before the U.S. government imposed so-called “democracy” on Iraq, estimates suggested there were as many as 1.5 million Christians throughout the diverse country. They had survived centuries of invasions, persecution, and more — but in many respects, the community was still thriving. Today, experts and Christian leaders suggest the number of Christians still in Iraq is somewhere closer to 200,000. Many of those would leave if they could”.
2. As per unofficial estimates One lakh and 70 thousand people have already been killed, yet the Indian Media or the American Media has not reported this because the American Media considers it as a Middle East problem, and the Indian Media has not reported it because it’s not the OTHERS, Non-Christians who are killed or suffering in Iraq.
3. We strongly feel that the problem in Iraq is caused by a “misunderstanding of Islam”, those who propagate the holocaust are actually unaware of true Islam and Quran’s teachings.
4. The silence of Christian’s in India and also the other communities regarding the persecution of innocent children, men and women in Iraq is by itself violence in silence. When we see violence our silence is also an equally condemnable violence and injustice against humanity, if we do not raise our voice against it. Hence we urge everyone to raise their voice or be ready to accept the blame that you are also a part of the violence by your silence.
5. Today it’s us Christian’s but, tomorrow it could be you, all the others such as the Hindus, Sikhs, Jain, Buddhists & Parsi’s
6. We, Christians belonging to all denominations would be observing September 12th Friday as a day of fast.
7. We, would be observing a ‘BLACK SUNDAY’ and also hold a public demonstration of protest on September 14th Sunday, at the St.Joseph’s Indian High School grounds at 3.00 pm and later a delegation of Bishops and leaders of all denominations led by the Arch Bishop of Bangalore, His Grace. Most.Rev.Bernard Moras would submit a memorandum to the Governor of Karnataka, inviting the attention of the central government to the plight of Christian’s in Iraq and demanding a strong denouncement by India of the holocaust of Christians in Iraq.
We appeal to all right thinking people Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Jain, Buddhists and Parsi’s to condemn the execution of Christian’s in Iraq in the name of religion.
President, Federation of Karnataka Christian& Catholic Associations-FKCCA
President, Indian Christian Union-ICU
Also addressing the press are Rev.Dr.D.Manohar Chandra Prasad,CSI Pastor, Sr.Lincy Cherian,Provincial of Holy Cross Provincialate, Fr.Thomas Kallukalam, Parish Priest, St.Thomas Frlorane Church, Dharmaram College P.O, Rev.N.J.Samson, Chairman & President, Karnataka Baptist Federation, Fr.Jerry Kurian-Representing Bishop H.G.Pathros Osthatheos of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, Fr.Victor Fernandes, Capuchin Fathers & Mr.Dolphy D'Cuna, President –Carmel Kutam.
Top picture courtesy www.ibtimes.co.uk