Christians support divorce law change; churches undecided

“If couples seek a divorce, then it is not fair that Christian couples have to wait for two years while those from other religions only have a one-year separation period,” said Dayal, who is also a member of ucanews.com’s board of directors.

Shorter mandatory separation period would bring ‘parity’ with other religions.

New Delhi: Many Indian Christians have welcomed a government offer to change the divorce law, saying it would help reduce the agony of couples suffering in a failing relationship. But various church organizations seem reluctant to take a stand on the issue.

The government last week filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court expressing its willingness to change the Christian Divorce Act.

In the affidavit, it offered to do away with a clause stipulating a two-year separation period before Christian couples can file for divorce.

The government offer came in response to a recent petition filed by a Christian man seeking to reduce the separation period to one year.

The petitioner, Albert Anthony, said the two-year separation period was discriminatory since the separation periods for other religions such as Hindus and Parsis were only one year.

However, the government told that court it would only make the change if a sizeable majority of Christians wanted it.

Laila Pasha, a women’s activist based in Bangalore, told ucanews.com such a change would bring relief to many couples.

“There are many cases where women are subjected to domestic violence, physical and sexual abuse, denial of property … in a relationship and the two-year separation period is only an extension of the violence she is already suffering,” said Pasha, who is Christian.

The government has thrown the ball in “our court and the Christian community along with Church leaders should respond to this in a positive way,” she said.

Virginia Saldanha, another women’s rights activist in Mumbai, said women in India do not go for divorce easily; they take the step only when they have exhausted all other means of reconciliation with their partners.

“So, why prolong the agony. If a person does not want to be in a marriage, a two-year separation period is not going to bring any changes in his or her relationship,” she added.

John Dayal, a lay Christian leader, told ucanews.com that the discriminatory nature of the existing law needed to be addressed.

“If couples seek a divorce, then it is not fair that Christian couples have to wait for two years while those from other religions only have a one-year separation period,” said Dayal, who is also a member of ucanews.com’s board of directors.

Christian women have demanded this for quite some time and “it should be granted to them.”

A cautious approach

However, both Catholic and Protestant church leaders were non-committal when asked about a possible change to the law.

Jose Abraham, a member of the Committee for Law and Public Interest Litigation of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, said the conference does not have any official stand on the issue.

“If the government asks us about it, we would reply but as of now we have no stance on this issue,” Abraham told ucanews.com.

The National Council of Churches in India, an umbrella group representing 30 churches including the Jacobites and the Orthodox, said its members were split on the issue.

“We might take up this issue during our meeting next month and would try to reach a consensus,” said Samuel Jayakumar of the council.

A senior Catholic churchman who did not want to be named said the Church is deliberately not taking a stand because Church leaders see the government “playing games” by raising the possibility of the amendment.

The pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party, which heads the federal government, has been clamoring for a common civil code for all Indians, regardless of religions. Courts have also been issuing judgments moving toward ending religion-based laws.

“If the Church supports doing away with this clause making it equal for all regardless of religions, that can be easily interpreted as the Church supporting a common civil code and scrapping religion-based personal laws,” the churchman said.

“The Church has to be cautious.”

Source: UCAN

Is It part of Goa BJP’s Communal Agenda?

 

How the police watched helplessly as Parulekar backed Nerul mob trespassed on Don Bosco land, abused priests

Map of Goa....

Nerul mob forcibly started “ reconstruction” of temple which Don Bosco claims was nonexistent; police watched helplessly as mob started illegal construction on Don Bosco land with the blessings of the Tourism Minister; Priests who rushed to the spot repeatedly abused by crowd

Team Herald NERUL: Incidents of violence, lawlessness laced with a fair dose of communalism have marked the ugly incidents in Nerul in the past week. Without an iota of doubt, the local MLA and Tourism Minister Dilip Parulekar and his bother have fronted the so- called “ people’s agitation” against Don Bosco, in a manner in which the Salesians never expected.

The situation in Nerul flared up , just as the revered Don Bosco institution, had got all decks cleared for the construction of an educational campus at the Nerul plateau on land leased to them by the Comunidade with all necessary permissions in place.

Even the construction license which was inordinately delayed by the panchayat, was later cleared by the Deputy Director of Panchayats who directed the panchayat to clear it within ten days. This was the precise time when troubles began and, according to the Don Bosco institution, all of a sudden it was made out that a non- existent temple was demolished, allegedly by the Salesians.

While there are two sides to a story and Herald has heard both the sides, there are certain facts that are not debatable and if we analyse how these were played out, a clear pattern of intimidation and misuse of power emerges. Herald’s conversations with several players from both sides, over the past five days reveals the Nerul Panchayat played the blocking game since Jan 2015 a) January 6, 2015: The land was given on lease to Don Bosco by the comunidade. The TCP cleared plans b) Feb 2015: Nerul panchayat asked Don Bosco for a health & construction NOC. It did not raise any questions on the legality of Don Bosco’s possession of the land for the institute c) March 2015: Panchayat asked for a possession certificate from the comunidade, though these documents were submitted d) April 2015: Panchayat sent a letter to the TCP asking it to “ confirm” that Don Bosco were in possession of the said land. A mischievous move to delay construction license since TCP does not confirm possession or ownership

 

following: 1) While the Salesians emphatically state there is no evidence of any temple or religious structure that was used regularly, there was a massive show of stage- managed protest at a “ ghumti” being demolished.

However, even if the charge of stage managing protests is not acceptable to the villagers of Nerul who agitated, the following should have been done. The place should have been cordoned off and an inquiry ordered by the mamlatdar with the support of the police.

What happened was different: On Aug 19, people from the village along with the acting sarpanch Shashikala Govekar trespassed on the property ( survey number 91/ 1) and shouted and agitated saying a temple was destroyed. The alarming communal statements made will not be reproduced here to avoid a further flare up. This was done in the presence of hundreds of villagers including the brother of Dilip Parulekar.

2) According to eyewitnesses, who spoke in confidence, corroborated by the Salesians of Don Bosco, many people gathered on the land and shouted slogans saying they would take over the property forcefully.

According to a senior member of Don Bosco, “ They threatened that they would assault our people if we went ahead with our educational institution project.” 3) The acting sarpanch along with the mob forcefully conducted some rituals on the property and said they were building a temple with some masonary stones, cement and sand with the mamlatdar and the police watching as mute spectators.

4) On August 20, Don Bosco hired security personnel as a security measure after this incident. The crowd returned again and assaulted the security personnel with one of them badly injured and his clothes torn.

5) Meanwhile the Deputy Collector had passed a status quo order that no construction could take place on the property. Defying this the villagers continued with the illegal construction on the property leased to Don Bosco.

6) On the same day the crowd thronged the Porvorim police station along with the MLA and tourism minister who demanded that one Savio be arrested.

There was no one called Savio either from Don Bosco or from the locals who were present on the spot, a clear indication that even the minister has not stepped back and taken a dispassionate view on this but acted as stakeholder for the locals who want to prevent the land going to Don Bosco at any cost.

The uprising and the incidents of violence has forced the administration to maintain a status quo till August 31, when it was earlier expected that the appeal against the Deputy Director Panchayat’s order directing the Nerul panchayat to issue a construction license would be heard on Aug 24.

This blatant misuse of force and power against an institution of learning and adding a communal colour will go down as yet another excess of this BJP government.

 Source: Deccan Herald, GOA

Odisha state urged to protect Christians;

 

The memorandum comes as Christians commemorate the anniversary of the anti-Christian violence of 2007 and 2008.

Christians celebrate a special “day of remembrance” on August 25 remembering the massacres carried out by Hindu fundamentalists in a systematic way in Odisha’s Kandhamal district.

India:

A Christian forum in eastern Indian Odisha state has sent a memorandum to the state governor S.C. Jamir seeking his intervention to ensure that constitutional rights of Christians are protected.
The Christian Forum in Sambalpur district sent the memorandum as the community commemorate the anniversary of the anti-Christian violence in 2007 and in August 2008 in the state.
Christians celebrate a special “day of remembrance” on August 25 remembering the massacres carried out by Hindu fundamentalists in a systematic way in Odisha’s Kandhamal district.
The wave of fanatic violence “cleansed” some 400 villages of all Christians, burning down 5,600 houses and 296 churches and killing some 100 people died (but the government recognizes only 56). The violence also injured thousands, raped women, and displaced some 56,000 people.
The forum reminded the government: “We, followers of Christ, are compassionate, kind, humble: we ask you to ensure peace, security and protection to Christian minorities in Odisha.”
The Forum expressed “profound gratitude to the administration of the district of Sambalpur for having enforced the law, ensuring peace and security to the Christian community in recent years”.
The interreligious situation in Odisha is currently under control, but vigilance is still needed, especially to control Hindu extremist groups.
Hindu extremist leader Pravin Togadia of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) was recently forbidden by the authorities to enter the district of Kandhamal.It was feared that Togadia’s speeches could inflame and incite new violence. Togadia had often visited the area, and in particular in 2008 on the eve of the anti-Christian violence.
Source: Agenzia Fides

 

Police mishandled Raipur nun’s rape case: NHRC;

 

No suspects two months after crime.

The nun, a Salesian, was raped early June 20 by two masked men who broke into her room, drugged her and tied her up.

Catholics in Delhi lead a June 30 protest against the rape of a Catholic nun in Chhattisgarh state. (Photo by Ritu Sharma)

New DelhiIndia’s National Human Rights Commission has accused police and government officials of mishandling the investigation into the rape of a Catholic nun.

The commission found several deficiencies in the official investigation, including failing to secure the crime scene and failing to examine possible physical evidence that could have helped identify the assailants.

The commission also said that the Chhattisgarh state government failed to offer the victim compensation, legal aid or psychological counseling as required under Indian law. The commission said in an Aug. 20 statement that it was seeking an explanation within six weeks from police and the state government about alleged missteps in the investigation.

The nun, a Salesian, was raped early June 20 by two masked men who broke into her room, drugged her and tied her up.

The incident in Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh, spurred a series of protests across the state demanding swift action by police in arresting the culprits. Outrage among the Christian community spread to the nation’s capital of Delhi.

However, two months after the incident, police are no closer to an arrest.

Raipur police superintendent Badrinarayan Meena told ucanews.com that police have interrogated “some 200 people” but have not made an arrest.

Meena said he had not seen the commission’s statement and declined to respond directly to the allegations.

Father Sebastian Poomattam, vicar general of the Raipur diocese, said the rights group’s statement confirms “all that we have been saying about” the poor police investigation.

Father Poomattam told ucanews.com that the Church will continue to press the issue until the victim receives justice. Church leaders plan on meeting with the state’s chief minister to put pressure on the administration for results.

“Our plan of action will depend on the response of the chief minister. But in any case, there will be action from the Church in the coming days,” the vicar general said.

Source: UCAN

Church leaders plan to move court against harassment of schools;

 

Christian leaders say Hindu fanatics attack their people and influence state government policies to harass Christians.

By Ucanews.com reporter
Christian leaders in Madhya Pradesh have accused the state administration of harassing their schools in a veiled attack on mission activities, and threatened to move court to protect their rights.

In the latest incident, the Indore district collector early August asked two Catholic schools–St. Mary Senior Secondary School and Rajeshwar Higher Secondary School—to explain why they increased tuition fees.

Bishop Chacko Thottumaricakal of Indore told ucanewsthe collector “seemed be acting under pressure from the hostile elements, rather than on his own”.

The prelate viewed this as part of an organized ongoing move against Christians. Without naming any particular group, the bishop said groups “inimical to the Church” have been active in the state for over a decade now.

Christian leaders say Hindu fanatics attack their people and influence state government and policies to harass Christians ever since the pro-Hindu BharatiyaJanata Party (BJP) came to power in the state in 2003.

Bishop Thottumaricakal said the collector’s move was illegal as Indian constitution guarantees religious and linguistic minorities the freedom to independently establish and manage educational institutions aiming to help their people.

He said the Christian schools enjoy full right to decide the fees and other issues related to the management of their school independently. The courts have upheld Christians’ right to run their institutions without any interference from the government, he noted.

Attacking Christian educational institutions is part of a strategy to attack Christian mission in the state, said Father Thomas Attummel, Regional Education Secretary.

The priest, who coordinates education mission of the Church in the state, said schools are “the most known face” and “the most acclaimed service” of the Church in the state.

“If Christian education mission is devalued, tarnished and demolished, you can effectively cut the influence of the Church. So this must be seen a veiled attack on the mission of the church,” he said.

Father Attummel said the Catholic schools are not getting any financial aid from the government and there are court orders against state interfering in the management of these schools. The collector seeking explanation can “amount to contempt of court,” the priest said.

The priest wondered why the administration was not bothered about other schools that charge exorbitantly, violating a state government order that regulate the fees in private schools.

He said the Church schools will move court if the government continued to harass the schools.

However, Collector P. Narhari justified his action.

“I have acted under the administrative capacity after getting complaints from some aggrieved parents. I do not find any illegality in it,” he said.

Deepak Vijayvargya, BJP’s spokesperson in the state, denied the allegation that the party and the government works against Christians.

He, however justified the collector saying “it is the duty of the collector to look into public complaints to ensure peace and harmony.”

When pointed out that Christian schools frequently get such notices from administration, Vijayvargya said that it is because Christian schools admit lots of poor children, which is the “beauty of Christian schools.”

“But look, the rich do not mind a hike of few thousand rupees. But the poor will complain about even a little hike,” he explained why complaints are filed against Christian schools and not against those charge exorbitant fees.

Meanwhile, the school officials said that the administration found fault with the fee hike, but did not say who complained about it.

Principal of Rajeshwar Higher Secondary School Father Patric Jacob agreed. He said his school has been providing “quality education at cheapest rate” for the past 132 years.

The school of some 2,000 students “is one of the oldest schools in the region,” he said.

He said his school charges 18,000 to 21,000 rupees (US$300-350) from grade 1 to 12 compared to other private schools in the area, which charges up to four times that amount. He said a hike of 25 percent was agreed in consultation with parent-teacher association of the school to comply with a federal guideline on teachers’ salary.

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), an umbrella body that governs schools affiliated to it, has asked to enhance the salaries of the teachers and other facilities. The school had no means other than fees hike, the priest said.

But it was done in a totally transparent way with the consent of the Parent Teachers Association, agreed, Anoop Batha, a parent “Even after the hike, it provides quality education at the cheapest cost,” Batha said.

Sister Elsa Gonsalves, principal of St. Mary Senior Secondary School, said the case is same with her school, which the congregation of St Mary of Angels began 123 years ago.

END

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