Sunday, 31 October 2010

Chinese characters bear the imprint of Genesis

The Chinese language is a pictorial language, which has been used for more than 4,000 years. There are about 600 basic symbols, which are basic words. Other words are formed by combining these basic symbols to more complicated pictures. What I find fascinating is how the language seems to echo Genesis, the first book of the Bible. A look at some words will illustrate this.

Chinese characters

The word "creation" or "to create" is built from 4 signs - dust, breath (or mouth), alive and walking - the first three of which, placed together, mean "to talk".

In Genesis, the first man – Adam - was made out of the dust of the earth. God breathed with His mouth the breath of life into Adam's nostrils, and Adam became a living soul able to talk and walk.

The "garden" character is made from the sign "enclosure", divided in four parts.

In Genesis, the Garden of Eden had four rivers: Pishon, Gihon, Hiddekel, and Euphrates.

The character meaning "to warn" or "forbidden" consists of two characters for "tree" and one for "God".

In Genesis, God had forbidden Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of Life.

The character for "desire" or "covet" is formed of two trees on top and the character for "woman" below.

Compare this with Genesis 3:6 where the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.

The character for "beginning" is made from "woman", "secretly" and "mouth" (also meaning "to eat").

This seems to reflect the beginning of original sin after Eve ate the forbidden fruit.

The character for "devil" is built from "alive" or "moving", "garden", "man", and "privately" or "secretly". So we find a secret man alive in the garden: the devil!

The character for "boat" is built from three signs: a vessel, eight and people. So eight people in a vessel makes a boat.

This is symbolic of the eight passengers on Noah’s Ark who survived the Great Flood.


According to the biblical account, a united humanity, speaking a single language, existed after the Great Flood, which wandered for many years and eventually settled in the land of Shinar. When the people wanted to build a tower that reached into God’s sphere of heaven, effectively to ‘challenge heaven’, God was greatly offended. He decided to confuse them and they started to speak different languages. Unable to communicate with each other, they scattered around the world.

The people who climbed the mountains to the east and eventually settled when they reached the sea became the great nation of China. They took with them the pictorial language which had been in use until the time of Babel. They also took with them the knowledge of the events in Genesis 1-11. This was before Moses wrote them down centuries later. This shows that the Bible is not a Jewish invention but based on reality.

The people who first arrived in China believed in one God. It was only after Confucius and Buddha that they got involved in idolatry.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Hope Without Fear Event, Westminster

On Saturday 16 October 2010 I went to Westminster Cathedral, the mother church of the Roman Catholic community in England and Wales, to attend Aid to the Church in Need’s annual mass and ‘Hope Without Fear’ event. I am a supporter of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), which is an association connected with the Catholic Church that works for oppressed and persecuted Christians around the world. It was founded by a Dutch priest, Fr Werenfried van Straaten, on Christmas Day in 1947 to help refugees in the wake of the Second World War. Since then its mission has gradually expanded to help poor, forgotten and persecuted Christians in more than 140 countries.

Westminster Cathedral

This was my first visit to Westminster Cathedral, which is situated a short distance from Victoria Station. Constructed between 1895 and 1903, the cathedral has a neo-Byzantine style with large domes, balconies and a tall tower, all made from red brick and Portland stone. I loved the mosaic work both on the exterior and in the interior of the building.

The sung Latin mass was celebrated by Fr Edward Hiiboro Kussala from Sudan. Not so long ago, Pope Benedict XVI also celebrated sung Latin mass in the same cathedral during his papal visit to Britain. To be there, in such an august setting, and celebrate the Eucharist with fellow Catholics was a wonderful experience.

Hope without Fear

ACN’s Hope Without Fear Event was held in the Cathedral Hall after mass. The event was attended by at least three hundred people. Speakers included: Neville Kyrke-Smith, UK Director of ACN; Fr Martin Edwards, ACN UK’s Ecclesiastical Assistant; Fr Martin Edward Hiiboro Kussala; Fr Michael Shields from Magadan, Siberia; and John Pontifex, ACN’s UK Head of Press and Information. There was a reflection by Fr Martin Edwards on Pope Benedict XVI’s highly successful recent visit to Britain and the close relationship between ACN and the Holy Father. This was followed by reports on various ACN priority countries.


Fr Edward Hiiboro Kussala talked about his native Sudan, which has been blighted by bloody internal conflict for many years. Fr Edward lost his own mother during a military raid when he was just two months old. Somehow his life was spared, and he was brought up by his grandmother who was a strong Christian woman.

Northern Sudan is predominantly Muslim while the southern part of the country has a sizeable Christian population. Over one and half million, predominantly Christian, people have been killed over the last two decades by government backed militia in Southern Sudan. Although some peace has prevailed since the signing of a peace agreement in 2005, tension is increasing again because people in Southern Sudan are due to vote in a referendum on self-determination soon. The president of Sudan has made it clear that he will not accept independence for Southern Sudan; and to complicate matters further, Southern Sudan has substantial oil deposits, which countries like China wish to exploit. Fr Edward expressed his gratefulness for the work of ACN in Sudan and for supporting his studies.

Magadan, Siberia

Alaskan-born Fr Michael Shields spoke about Magadan, Siberia, where some two million people, including many Catholics, perished in former communist gulags (labour camps). He told how his parish is involved with helping survivors of those gulags, who had previously been social outcastes. Things have certainly improved in the Russian Far-East since the end of the old Soviet regime, but there are some persistent social problems including alcoholism, unemployment and abortion. Russia has the highest abortion rate in the world with 13 terminations for every 10 live births. Fr Shields, with the help of ACN, is involved in pioneering pro-life work in Magadan.


John Pontifex began his talk about Pakistan by quoting the nation’s founding father, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who wanted Pakistan to be a homeland for Muslims but not an Islamic state. The reality is that Pakistan has not turned out to be the tolerant, secular state Jinnah expected. Over time, minority ethnic and religious groups have faced more and more discrimination and persecution. According to Catholic bishops in Pakistan, the country today is experiencing a ‘Talibanisation’ of society due to the influence of extremists.

Pakistan has notorious blasphemy laws that are meant to protect Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, but they have frequently been used as a pretext to attack minorities. Innocent Christians can sometimes find themselves the victims of malicious accusations made by angry Muslim mobs. Although the current government is beginning to think again about the blasphemy laws, change is likely to be a slow process.

Despite the many adversities Christians face in Pakistan, many of them are willing to suffer and even lay down their lives for the sake of their faith. ACN continues to provide disaster relief in the wake of the devastating floods, as well as helping to repair damaged churches and building a new seminary outside Karachi.


Finally, Neville Kyrke-Smith gave a report on Ukraine. In this former Soviet state the Orthodox and Catholic churches faced widespread oppression under the communists, but today they are undergoing a major revival. The number of seminarians has picked up markedly since the Soviet Union imploded and church attendance is high among the population. Although the shadow of Russia is still there, the revival of the church’s fortunes in Ukraine gives hope for Christians in other countries where they face oppression. In Ukraine, ACN is supporting the training of priests in seminaries, catechetical education and construction of churches.

Final thoughts

I enjoyed this event which was well organised. All the talks were highly interesting and informative. It was clear the church faced some serious challenges in various countries like Sudan and Pakistan, but the revival of Christianity in states of the former Soviet Union showed that the church had incredible staying power despite severe persecution. That was the inspiring lesson for me.

ACN does some sterling work in many different countries throughout the world, helping to support persecuted Christians and fulfil the church’s missionary commission. All the speakers were grateful to ACN’s benefactors who made the organisation’s work possible, and rightly so. It was an event that made me feel proud to be a Catholic.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Boyhood dreams

A boy once said to God, “I know what I want when I grow up.” He proceeded to give God his list: to live in a big house with two Saint Bernard's; to marry a tall, blue-eyed woman; to have three sons - one who will be a senator, one a scientist, and the other a quarterback. He also wanted to be a mountain climber and drive a red Ferrari.

As it turned out, the boy hurt his knee one-day while playing football. He could no longer climb trees, much less mountains. He married a beautiful and kind woman who was short with brown eyes. Because of his business, he lived in an apartment in the city and usually rode the subway. He had three loving daughters, and they adopted a fluffy cat.

One daughter became a nurse, one an artist and the third a music teacher. One morning the man awoke and remembered his boyhood dream. He became extremely depressed.

Heartbroken, he called out to God, “Remember when I was a boy and told You all the things I wanted? Why didn't You give me those things?”

“I could have,” said God, “but I wanted to make you happy.”

Author Unknown

Moral of the story

We often chase things that we think will make us happy: money, a beautiful woman, a big house, a fast car, success in our career and success in other areas. When we don't get these things, we can get down. Sometimes we even blame God for not answering our prayers. But how are we to know we would have been happier if we got these things? As Isaiah 55:8-9 says, God's wisdom and His ways are infinitely higher and better than ours can ever be:

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.
"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Life is full of ups and downs, twists and turns. Rather than trying to achieve everything the way we want, we should trust God will allow things to happen in His perfect order. God yearns for each of us to build an intimate relationship with Him, and He knows what is best for each of us.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Life after death experience

Father Jose Maniyangat is pastor of St Mary's Mother of Mercy Catholic Church in Macclenny, Florida. In 1985 he had a life-after-death experience and this is his personal testimony:

I was born on July 16, 1949 in Kerala, India to my parents, Joseph and Theresa Maniyangat. I am the eldest of seven children: Jose, Mary, Theresa, Lissama, Zachariah, Valsa and Tom.

At the age of fourteen, I entered St. Mary’s minor seminary in Thiruvalla to begin my studies for the priesthood. Four years later I went to St. Joseph’s Pontifical Major Seminary in Alwaye, Kerala to continue my priestly formation. After completing seven years of Philosophy and Theology I was ordained a priest on January 1, 1975 to serve as a missionary at the Diocese of Thiruvalla.

In 1978 while teaching at the St. Thomas minor seminary in Bathery, I became an active member of the Charismatic Renewal movement and began conducting charismatic retreats and conferences in Kerala.

On Sunday April 14, 1985, the Feast of Divine Mercy, I was going to celebrate Mass at a mission church in the north part of Kerala, and I had a fatal accident. I was riding a motorcycle when I was hit head-on by a jeep driven by a man who was intoxicated after a Hindu festival. I was rushed to a hospital about 35 miles away. On the way my soul came out from my body and I experienced death. Immediately I met my Guardian angel. I saw my body and the people who were carrying me to the hospital. I heard them crying and praying for me. At this time my angel told me: “I am going to take you to Heaven, the Lord wants to meet you and speak with you”. He also said that on the way he wanted to show me hell and purgatory.


First, the angel escorted me to hell. It was an awful sight! I saw Satan and the devils, an unquenchable fire of about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, worms crawling, people screaming and fighting, others being tortured by demons. The angel told me all these sufferings were due to unrepented mortal sins. Then, I understood there are seven degrees of suffering or levels according to the number and kinds of mortal sins committed in their earthly lives. The souls looked very ugly, cruel and horrible. It was a fearful experience. I saw people whom I knew but I am not allowed to reveal their identities. The sins that convicted them were mainly abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, hatefulness, unforgiveness, sacrilege etc. The angel told me if they had repented they would have avoided hell and gone instead to purgatory. I also understood some people who repent from these sins might be purified on earth through their sufferings. This way they can avoid purgatory and go straight to heaven.

I was surprised when I saw in hell even Priests, Nuns and Bishops, some of whom I never expected to see. Many of them were there because they had misled the people with false teaching and bad example.


After the visit to hell, my Guardian angel escorted me to Purgatory. Here too, there are seven degrees of suffering and unquenchable fire. But it is far less intense than hell and there was neither quarreling nor fighting. The main suffering of these souls is their separation from God. Some of those who are in Purgatory committed numerous mortal sins; but they were reconciled with God before their death. Even though these souls are suffering, they enjoy peace and the knowledge that one day they will see God face to face.

I had a chance to communicate with the souls in Purgatory. They asked me to pray for them and to tell the people to pray for them as well, so they can go to heaven quickly. When we pray for these souls, we will receive their gratitude through their prayers and once they enter heaven their prayers become even more meritorious.


Next, my angel escorted me to heaven passing through a big dazzling white tunnel. I never experienced this much peace and joy in my life. Then immediately heaven opened up and I heard the most delightful music, which I have never heard before. The angels were singing and praising God. I saw all the saints, especially the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, and many dedicated holy Bishops and Priests who were shining like stars. When I appeared before the Lord, Jesus told me: “I want you to go back to the world. In your second life you will be an instrument of peace and healing to my people. You will work in a foreign land and you will speak in a foreign tongue. Everything is possible for you with my grace.” After these words, the Blessed Mother told me: “Do whatever He tells you. I will help you in your ministries.”

Words cannot express the beauty of heaven. There we find so much peace and happiness, which exceed a million times our imagination. Our Lord is far more beautiful than any image can convey. His face is radiant and luminous and more beautiful than a thousand rising suns. The pictures we see in the world are only a shadow of His magnificence. The Blessed Mother was next to Jesus; she was so beautiful and radiant. None of the images we see in this world can compare with her real beauty. Heaven is our real home, we are all created to reach heaven and enjoy God forever. Then, I came back to the world with my angel.

Soul Returning To Body On Earth

While my body was at the hospital, the doctor completed all examinations and I was pronounced dead. The cause of death was bleeding. My family was notified and since they were far away, the hospital staff decided to move my dead body to the morgue. Because the hospital did not have air conditioners they were concerned that the body would decompose quickly. As they were moving my dead body to the morgue, my soul came back to the body. I felt excruciating pain because of so many wounds and broken bones. I began to scream and the people became frightened and ran away screaming. One of them approached the doctor and said: “the dead body is screaming.” The doctor came to examine the body and found that I was alive. So he said: “Father is alive, it is a miracle, take him back to the hospital.”

Now, back at the hospital, they gave me blood transfusions and I was taken to surgery to repair the broken bones. They worked on my lower jaw, ribs, pelvic bone, wrists, and right leg. After two months, I was released from the hospital, but my orthopedic doctor said that I would never walk again. I then said to him: “the Lord who gave me my life back and sent me back to the world will heal me.” Once at home we were all praying for a miracle. Still after a month at home and with the casts removed I was not able to move. But one day while praying I felt an extraordinary pain in my pelvic area. After a short while the pain disappeared completely and I heard a voice saying: “You are healed. Get up and walk.” I felt the peace and healing power on my body. I immediately got up and walked. I praised and thanked God for the miracle.

Conversion of the Doctor

I reached my doctor with the news of my healing and he was amazed. He said: “your God is the true God. I must follow your God.” The doctor was Hindu and he asked me to teach him about our Church. After studying the faith, I baptized him and he became Catholic.

Following the message from my Guardian angel, I came to the United States on November 10, 1986 as a missionary Priest…Since June 1999, I have been pastor of St. Mary's Mother of Mercy Catholic Church in Macclenny, Florida.