Can corruption be banished from the Indian Church?

Pope Francis is strong and unceasing in his demands that corruption must be stamped out, and has taken several major steps to cleanse the Augean stables of the Vatican……..

John Dayal.

Will Archbishop Cardinal Oswald Gracias follow HOLY FATHER, POPE FRANCIS, and make similar efforts to stamp out and cleanse the stables of Bombay Archdiocese? Let us wait and watch.

GREG

A few honest men are battling against it

  • John Dayal, India
  • India
  • October 4, 2013

One of the untold sad stories of recent times in India is the corruption within churches who distributed aid following the pogrom against Christians in Orissa in 2007 and 2008. Some took cash from donors and walked away with it; others diverted funds to unrelated projects, splashed out on new SUVs or refurbished their own houses with money “saved” from rebuilding the devastated huts of the Dalits and the Tribals

No police complaints have been registered, and it remains something confined to the rumor mill. Since it was not government money, official agencies cannot confront the allegations unless someone files a complaint. But it highlights a pervasive problem in India that doesn’t spare the Catholic Church. Pope Francis is strong and unceasing in his demands that corruption must be stamped out, and has taken several major steps to cleanse the Augean stables of the Vatican.

“Judas [was the first]: from a greedy sinner, he ended in corruption. The road of autonomy is a dangerous road: the corrupt are very forgetful, have forgotten this love, with which the Lord made the vineyard, has made them! They severed the relationship with this love! And they become worshipers of themselves. How bad are the corrupt in the Christian community! May the Lord deliver us from sliding down this road of corruption.”

Corruption, mismanagement of lands, buildings and institutions, and the integrity of church personnel handling money at all levels have become a major issue in a growing section of the Protestant and Independent churches across India. Several Protestant bishops and senior members of the clergy in various states have gone to jail – and were released on bail pending further inquiry – and many others are on the verge of arrest following complaints of alienation of property or defalcation of funds.

Many major denominations are mired in court cases trying to retrieve their lands and buildings from errant pastors and bishops. Even some senior Catholic bishops have had cases filed against them for selling off prime property in some states. Such charges have not done their ecclesiastical and temporal reputations any good.

While the Catholic Church in India and its NGOs do not rate as high on the corruption scales as do others, casting the net wider in defining corruption could land it in hot water. If the definition were to cover, as it should, bribes given by Church functionaries and religious persons to gain government permission for projects, the figures could really shoot up.

Understandably there has been no unified movement against corruption in the Church in India even though there is a national campaign against both opacity and corruption. The grumblings remain localized and denominational. It’s not clear if the apex organizations of various denominations have ever prioritised an anti-corruption agenda.

A movement initiated by a group of Christian businessmen from various cities in the state may offer a ray of hope. Disgusted with what they have seen, the group four years ago began Operation Nehemiah, which seeks to awaken the Church to the rot that is slowly setting in. Three major consultations have taken place to develop a code of conduct and transparency, both personal and corporate, to check, control and eventually weed out every shadow of doubt in the handling of money and property. The Catholic Church was not officially present, although two retired archbishops and several lay persons have been a part of the process.

Operation Nehemiah believes that the corrupt can come back from the brink. Central to this thinking are the tenets of confession and contribution. The ethical code being devised differs from the criminal law of the land on two critical issues. One is the important fact of reparation, making good the loss caused to the Church. Second, instead of sending the pastor to jail, the code, in the shape of a document, banks on the redemptive quality of God’s mercy to ensure that the guilty can be encouraged to once again become honest members of society.

It is still too early to assess if such initiatives are mere pipe dreams of a few honest men and women, or whether they can become the sinew of a larger movement. But it is quite clear that if the Church does not cleanse itself of corruption, the government’s agencies may enter the scene. And that will not do anyone any good.

John Dayal is the general secretary of the All India Christian Council and a member of the Indian government’s National Integration Council.

Source: UCAN News

 

Christians suffer as politicians chase the Hindu vote

 

 

India’s political opponents unite in targeting the Church.

 

 

 

By John Dayal
New Delhi:

India’s microscopic Christian community and its clergy may become “collateral damage” in an unspoken but very palpable competitive wooing of the majority Hindu community in the run-up to next year’s general election, as well as the preceding elections to the state legislative assemblies.

The political trend can be seen in three states. Maharashtra is understood to be planning a law to criminalize conversions, while the Himachal Pradesh government is aiming to reverse a High Court judgment that earlier deleted some of the more vicious components of its anti-conversion law.

This notorious law forced citizens and their pastors to give a month’s notice to the state authorities and then await their decision before they could formally profess the faith. Despite the High Court ban, neighboring Madhya Pradesh now wants to incorporate it into its existing, ironically named Freedom of Religion Act.

In fact it goes a step further and wants the police to launch mandatory enquires into why a person wants to change his faith and leave the Hindu fold. Four year jail terms and 100,000-rupee (US$1,700) fines are in the offing for pastors who break the law.

In the 1960s, Madhya Pradesh was among the first Indian states, with Orissa and Arunachal Pradesh, to seek a curb on conversions to Christianity. Ruled by the BJP (Indian People’s Party), it has now gone entirely overboard on the Hindu-centric agenda of its ideological parent, the RSS (National Volunteers Association.) Their prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has made it clear where his priorities lie, wasting no opportunity to stress his support for the Hindu heartland.

The mainstay of the ruling Congress Party’s political platform has always been a non-partisan ideology, with affirmative action for the poor, the marginalized, religious minorities, tribals and dalits. But it is no secret that Congress also harbors majoritarian elements which can surface any time the party has to seek the Hindu vote.

What complicates the politics of these moves against conversions — and the phrase is generally understood to mean conversion to Christianity, and not to Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism and Hinduism — is the focus on Christian preachers and evangelists.

Since Indian independence, Islam has not really been involved in proselytizing, with its numbers growing only through birth. There have been many instances of Hindus converting to Sikhism, while conversions to Buddhism take place on a mass scale from the ranks of the dalits, who are then called Ambedkarites or neo-Buddhists. As many as 50,000 have been converted in one single event.

RSS supporters in the tribal areas routinely convert animistic and Christian tribals to Hinduism, under what they call their Ghar Wapsi program, which translates as “homecoming to faith.” There has been no legal action ever against this.

In states where the police and the subordinate bureaucracy are known to be bigoted and partisan, anti-conversion laws can become extremely punitive. Human rights activists have often pointed out that such laws encourage the persecution and victimization of the Christian community, especially of the clergy.

The Church does not seem to have anticipated this. It has no thesis for a united pre-emptive challenge to such laws. Individual groups go to court, but it is not an easy process. Some sections of the Church, in fact, are quick to blame Pentecostal groups for inviting such laws by their provocative evangelization. Others seem ready to sue for peace and are already making overtures to the BJP: the YMCA feted Narendra Modi at a function in Ahmedabad last month.

The last time the Church voiced its anger was when then prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee called for a “national debate on conversions,” and the Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Alan de Lastic challenged him, pointing out that such talk encouraged violence against hapless Christians in the country.

It remains to be seen how the Church will respond now.

John Dayal is the general-secretary of the All India Christian Council and a member of the Indian government’s National Integration Council.

Source: ucanews.com

 

Christians Suffer ,New Delhi ,Minorites ,Politicians ,Hindu Vote 

 

 

Map of India showing location of Madhya Pradesh

Map of India showing location of Madhya Pradesh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

A subcontinent of intolerance: PERSECUTION OF MINORITIES

Minority faiths are being throttled all over South Asia

Away from the international focus on Islamic states in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, South Asia’s increasing bigotry and religious intolerance has reached an unacceptable stage. Official impunity, extreme legislation and the complicity of state and non-state actors compound the issue.

Christians as minority religionists are the subject of persecution in each of the seven South Asian countries  – India, Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka [Maldives, the seventh, has almost no minorities in an entirely Islamic state] – while followers of every other major world religion are persecuted in one or the other of the sub-continent’s seven countries.

Muslims and Christians are victims in India; Christians, Hindus and Buddhists in Bangladesh and Pakistan which are Muslim-majority nations;   Christians and Muslims in the Buddhist countries of Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal. It complicates issues as the countries differ in their political structures and overlays of ethnic identities.

Ironically, India’s anti conversion laws are designed to counter Christian churches, and Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws, are sought to be replicated in the other countries to contain evangelization, and assert the supremacy of the majority religion.

This complicates sharing of good practices – such as the proposed Communal and Targeted Violence Prevention Bill which the National Advisory Council headed by Sonia Gandhi drew up in 2011 in the face of sharpening religious divisions in India in the wake of the 2002 anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat and the 2008 pogrom against Christians in Orissa state.

Recent dialogue between all religious groups from south Asian countries has cautioned against a rise in extremism that could threaten peace in the region where India and Pakistan have huge nuclear arsenals.

While majoritarianism is a common factor, and the recent rise of Wahabi Islam in Pakistan and Bangladesh a major trigger, smaller nations such as Bhutan and Nepal are falling prey to extreme protectionism to keep “alien” faiths, and immigrants, from polluting “traditional culture.”

In politically chaotic Nepal this is done without legal provisions, as the country is no longer officially a Hindu nation. However, a draft bill banning conversions hangs like a cloud. Another cause for concern is the tentacles the extreme Hinduism ideology of India’s Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh is spreading in the Himalayan nation.

The Catholic Church is tolerated here because of its educational institutions, but the sword of Damocles always hangs over around 25,000 Christian believers in house churches and Pentecostal para churches. For all practical purposes, though, it remains almost an underground church.

It is even more underground in Bhutan with its archaic nationalism and culture policy designed to preserve the purity of its Buddhist traditions and ethnicity. Even Buddhist Nepalese feel the sting of being aliens.

There are a mere 14,000 Christians in a Bhutanese population of 700,000. But the country’s first ever democratic government is yet to clear a proposal to grant Christians the right to build churches and form organizations, although it has not been tardy in enacting a law against conversions. This means that officially the state does not acknowledge the presence of Christians in the country.

Since the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka the victorious Sinhala-Buddhist government has started putting pressure on Muslims and Christians.

About 70 percent of the population of Sri Lanka is Buddhist Sinhalese, 15 percent Hindu Tamils, 8 percent Christian, and 7 percent Tamil-speaking Muslim. Almost 80 percent of Christians are Roman Catholics, many of them Sinhala. The regime is particularly suspicious of Protestant groups, 40 percent of whom suffer from the double disability of being Tamils. Many churches and individual Christians have been physically assaulted

War crimes apart, the current triumphal Buddhist onslaught against Muslims and the sustained pressure on Christians has caused deep concern in the international human rights community.

The plight of Christians in Pakistan – women raped, houses burnt and men arrested and threatened with execution on charges under the notorious anti blasphemy laws – is well known and has attracted international opprobrium and clemency campaigns. But it is the wave of violence against Hindus and Christians in Bangladesh that is an immediate cause of deep concern, especially in India, which is the recipient of people fleeing for their lives from the febrile nation.

India itself has a nuanced policy on people coming from Bangladesh; Hindus are absorbed and often given nationality as refugees, but the Muslims are deemed to be illegal infiltrators and are forever under the shadow of expulsion. The situation for Christians remains in limbo.

In recent weeks, Islamic fundamentalists protesting at a tribunal against alleged war criminals from the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan have vented their anger, especially on Hindus, in an orgy of violence that has left thousands homeless. The government is taking some timid steps to control the Islamists, but the minorities remain terrorized.

India is in no moral position to point a finger at its neighbors. Official records show that in 2012, there were reportedly 560 communal riots, leading to 89 dead and 1,846 injured. The majority of victims were Muslims. There are no official records on the persecution of Christian pastors and believers.

John Dayal is the general secretary of the All India Christian Council and a member of the Indian government’s National Integration Council.

Source: UCAN News

English: Southeast Asia with Pakistan, India, ...

English: Southeast Asia with Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, and Laos highlighted (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

Christian leaders ‘letting students down’

Christian leaders ‘letting students down’

Many missing out from failure to capitalize on govt education funds.

Posted on February 9, 2012, 7:31 PM

 

 

Hyderabad:

Apathy on the part of Christian leaders has deprived many children of educational funds provided by the government, a lay leader claimed yesterday.

John Dayal, a member of the National Integration Council, said “a large chunk of money is going wanting because no research is being carried out into how much government aid is being earmarked for the education of Christian children.”

A concrete policy should be formulated to make use of the over 300 million rupees (around US$6.1 million) set aside for Christian children’s education over the next six years, he told a seminar on ‘Good governance and Catholic educational policy in Hyderabad.

The two-day seminar which ends today was organized by association of Catholic educational institutions in the southern state of Andhra Pardesh.

Dayal said Muslims have set up NGOs to ensure that their eight million students take full advantage of these schemes while Christians lack the awareness to capitalize on these funds.

“A majority of bishops have not sufficiently explained Catholic educational policy in their dioceses,” he added.

The government seeks to boost education through a variety of funds and schemes, such as the Maulana Azad foundation, scholarships, free coaching, aid grants to states and interest-free academic loans.

Meanwhile, Raymond Peter, a government official who opened the seminar, painted a gloomier picture when he said a crisis in governance in general has led to only 20 percent of all students managing to graduate.

He stressed the need for reform in the education, governance and finance sectors to correct the situation.

Source: ucanews.com

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