Wednesday, 14 December 2011

"I love Jesus"

My wife asked our eight year old daughter what Christmas meant to her. She replied it meant the birth of Jesus. Since she liked drawing, my wife asked her to draw something to do with Jesus.

She thought of a petal. Puzzled by this idea my wife asked her, "Why a petal?"

"Because Jesus is perfect like a petal," she replied.

She drew some flowers on a piece of paper and coloured them in. Then in the middle of the paper she drew a heart and within that she wrote these words:


Jesus is like a delicate petal.
Everything He does is perfect.
How can anybody be bad to Him?
He is the light of the world.
I love him deep down in my heart.

He will lead us in the right path.


Don’t you think these are wonderful words to describe Jesus? They capture a child's innocent love for Him.

When my daughter asked my wife whether Jesus was proud of her, my wife replied "Yes". I’m sure He is, and so am I.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

'Harry Potter and yoga are evil', says exorcist

Father Gabriele Amorth, who for years was the Vatican’s chief exorcist and claims to have cleansed hundreds of people of evil spirits, said yoga is Satanic because it leads to a worship of Hinduism and “all eastern religions are based on a false belief in reincarnation”.

Reading JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books is no less dangerous, said the 86-year-old priest, who is the honorary president for life of the International Association of Exorcists, which he founded in 1990, and whose favourite film is the 1973 horror classic, The Exorcist.

The Harry Potter books, which have sold millions of copies worldwide, “seem innocuous” but in fact encourage children to believe in black magic and wizardry, Father Amorth said.

“Practising yoga is Satanic, it leads to evil just like reading Harry Potter,” he told a film festival in Umbria this week, where he was invited to introduce The Rite, a film about exorcism starring Sir Anthony Hopkins as a Jesuit priest.

“In Harry Potter the Devil acts in a crafty and covert manner, under the guise of extraordinary powers, magic spells and curses,” said the priest, who in 1986 was appointed the chief exorcist for the Diocese of Rome.

“Satan is always hidden and what he most wants is for us not to believe in his existence. He studies every one of us and our tendencies towards good and evil, and then he offers temptations.” Science was incapable of explaining evil, said Father Amorth, who has written two books on his experiences as an exorcist. “It’s not worth a jot. The scientist simply explores what God has already created.”

His views may seem extreme, but in fact reflect previous warnings by Pope Benedict XVI, when as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger he was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s enforcer of doctrinal orthodoxy.

In 1999, six years before he succeeded John Paul II as Pope, he issued a document which warned Roman Catholics of the dangers of yoga, Zen, transcendental meditation and other 'eastern’ practices.

They could “degenerate into a cult of the body” that debases Christian prayer, the document said.

Yoga poses could create a feeling of well-being in the body but it was erroneous to confuse that with “the authentic consolations of the Holy Spirit,” the document said.
...
...
Father Amorth has previously said that people who are possessed by Satan vomit shards of glass and pieces of iron and have such superhuman strength that even children have to be held down by up to four people.

He has also claimed that the sex abuse scandals which have engulfed the Catholic Church in the US, Ireland, Germany and other countries was proof that the Anti-Christ is waging a war against the Holy See.

Source: The Telegraph

Monday, 14 November 2011

Libya now in the hands of Islamic extremists and foreign powers

"Gaddafi was killed at the request of powers outside Libya, for whom it was convenient to silence the Rais. He was the black box of the whole country. He had too many wheelings and dealings with too many leaders in the world. With him, unfortunately, a lot of information is gone." So says Mahmoud Jibril, former Prime Minister of the NTC, who in an interview with Bloomberg points out the problems and risks for the new Libya. The leader explains that the country is in the grip of Islamic extremists and foreign powers particularly interested in energy and financial resources of the former regime, rather than the welfare of the Libyan people. This is despite the democratic claims made by NATO countries shortly after the summary execution of Gaddafi on 20 October.

According to Jibril, economic interests have divided Libya. "During the fight against Gaddafi – he notes - we were all together and we were fighting for a single purpose. Now things have changed." The former Prime Minister stresses that the country is without a state apparatus, and this has given free rein to foreign powers interested only in oil. "No one is excluded from this fight - he says - this is the game. This is politics. "

Shortly after the fall of Tripoli under the NATO bombs, oil companies like the Italian Eni and France's Total sent their men to sign economic contracts with the new establishment. This thanks to the protection of the NTC, which once in power moved quickly to ensure its allies a return to normal production of oil by the end of 2011. The hunger for crude oil is coupled with the Islamist ambitions of Qatar, a major funder and promoter of the mission against the Rais. The country has also trained and sent thousands of Islamic guerrillas to Libya. Led by Abdel Hakim Belhaj, a former member of al-Qaeda and the current military governor of the capital, they were the real stars of the capture of Tripoli and then the hunt for Gaddafi and his loyalists. Another important tool is the television channel Al-Jazeera. The satellite broadcaster was the first to spread the images of clashes between rebels and the army in Benghazi, legitimizing the UN resolution 1973 and the NATO bombing.

Source: AsiaNews

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Blessed James Alberione

Thanks to Philo Aunty for sending me a prayer card and medal of Blessed James Alberione. If only I could achieve a fraction of what this man achieved in his lifetime, I will feel satisfaction that I have honestly tried to propagate the Gospel using modern means of communication. Fr James Alberione is the founder of the Society of St Paul, which through books, magazines, journals, film, radio, television, video and the internet, aims to follow in the footsteps of St Paul, the great Apostle and missionary, in bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world. Here follows a short biography of Blessed James Alberione.

Biography

Blessed James Alberione was born in the little town of Alba, Piedmont, in northern Italy on 4 April 1884. From his devout Catholic family he learned the rudiments of faith and the importance of hard work.

On the night which divided the two centuries on 31 December 1900, as he was pondering what he could do for Christ while kneeling in the Cathedral of Alba where the Blessed Sacrament was solemnly exposed, a particular inspiration came to him. He felt a profound obligation to serve the church and the men of the new century. Earlier he had heard GiuseppeToniolo, a well-known sociologist, calling all the Catholics to unite: "Unite! If the enemy finds us disunited, he will defeat us one by one." He had also read the invitation of Pope Leo XII to pray for the new century. Both the sociologist and the Pope spoke of the need of the Church to convert the means of evil to means for good, to oppose the bad press with a good one, the bad organization with an organization of apostles, and the need to make the Gospel penetrate the masses.

While meditating on these signs, he suddenly sensed an unusual light from the Holy Host and understood better the invitations of the sociologist and the Pope. In his own words he said: "Una particolare luce venne dall" Ostia santa" (A singular light came from the Holy Host). Many years later on, he would tell his followers: 'You were born from the Host. The entire Pauline Family has one Eucharistic soul." True indeed, for it was during that adoration of the Blessed Sacrament that he got the idea of forming a new breed of apostles, who would use new means of apostolate. That idea was like a faint light which, with the passing of years of study and prayer, became brighter and clearer.

In 1907, James Alberione was ordained priest with a Vatican dispensation for his young age of 23. For a time he worked as assistant to the parish priest of Narzole and then was appointed by his bishop as the spiritual director of both minor and major seminarians. These assignments offered him a deeper knowledge of man; he came to realize that the press was making havoc among souls through its deceptive, distorted doctrines. That urged him to conceive a plan of battling the pernicious influence of the press.

On August 20, 1914, he founded the Society of St. Paul with only two boys as recruits. It was a small seed planted during a stormy period of European politics, for several months later World War I broke out. It is said, every beginning is difficult. The beginning of the Society of St. Paul was no exception. Fr. Alberione was branded as impractical. But with his undaunted determination he surmounted all obstacles, knowing where he was heading to. He knew that the world of the 20th century would be a world of rapid communication, a world that would become one village due to the mass media of communication. So he founded the congregation called the Society of St. Paul with the specific purpose of disseminating the message of salvation through the Press, Radio, Movie, TV, Records, Tapes and other means of communication to be furnished by human progress.

Today, the Society of St. Paul, composed of Priests and Brothers, is working in twenty-six different countries utilizing the modern media of communication to fulfil the command of Christ "Go and make disciples in all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this - I am with you always, even to the end of the World." (Mt. 28:18-20).

Fr. James Alberione founded 10 religious congregations and institutes comprising the Pauline Family: The Society of St. Paul; Daughters of St. Paul; Pious Disciples of the Divine Master; Sisters of Jesus Good Shepherd; Sisters of Mary Queen of the Apostles; Institute of Our Lady of the Annunciation; Institute of St. Gabriel, the Archangel; Institute of Jesus, Priest; Institute of the Holy Family; Union of Pauline Cooperators.

Source: Society of St. of Paul

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The Miracle of the Sun in Fatima: symbolic of future nuclear destruction?

13 October 2011 marked the 94th anniversary of the great Miracle of the Sun in Fatima, Portugal. Much has been written and discussed about this event, which continues to evoke much interest and curiosity. It occurred at a time when anti-clerical forces in Europe were in the ascendancy. In Portugal, Freemasons dominated the new republican government and in Russia the Bolsheviks were on the verge of seizing power in a bloody revolution. The Church was being assailed from all sides.

Yet Our Lady intervened to try and bring people back to God, and the miracle she gave us is redolent with symbolism. Not only did it demonstrate the power of God, it was probably a warning of what may lie ahead if man continues in his present ways. Why did the miracle involve the sun? In the Old Testament, Elijah asked God to send fire from heaven. It was to demonstrate to the people of Israel who was the true god, and it had the effect of turning the people away from apostasy which they had fallen into.

Could the sun also symbolise a coming catastrophe created by man himself? Pope Benedict XVI has said, "man himself, with his inventions, has forged the flaming sword," referring to nuclear weapons. Since the miracle in Fatima was both dramatic and frightening by all eyewitness accounts, could it symbolise a possible nuclear catastrophe? It seems a distinct possibility because a nuclear bomb replicates what the sun does through nuclear fusion. Therefore the miracle should be seen in apocalyptic terms.

I believe the apparitions in Fatima are related to those in Akita, Japan. In Akita, Our Lady said to Sister Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa: "Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead." Again the imagery of these words seem to capture a nuclear explosion.

John Haffert in his book "Now, The Woman Shall Conquer" (1997) describes the significance of the miracle in Fatima very well:
"It had been raining heavily before the moment of the miracle. The great hollow of Fatima was a sea of water and mud. But immediately after the miracle (which lasted about 12 minutes) the sea of water and mud had vanished. It was like the miracle of the Red Sea.

The sun itself crashed down upon the earth. It was seen in a radius of 32 miles! It was like the miracle of the sun in the time of Joshua, when the fire of the sun appeared to act independently of the sun itself.

It was also like the miracle of Elias, who called fire from the sky so that all would believe that "God is God!"...and the fire consumed, not only the sacrifice offered by the prophet, but the water in the trench around it. Therefore this miracle of Fatima had the elments of the three greatest miracles of the Old Testament. What is more, NEVER BEFORE in history had God, "so that all may believe," performed a miracle at a PREDICTED TIME AND PLACE!

Perhaps the main reason why we feel compelled to look to Fatima as a mystical throne of the Queen of the World is because of the Miracle of the Sun. This unprecedented miracle recalls the description of Our Lady in the Apocalypse. Moreover, the essential power of the sun is atomic power, and the very "annihilation of nations" which Our Lady foretold in Her Fatima apparitions now threatens the world through nuclear weapons. Yet in demonstrating such power, in making such awesome prophecies at Fatima, our Queen could promise "an era of peace to mankind."

As Our Lady said in Fatima and Akita, the best defence we have from these dire prophecies is the Rosary.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Saudi Arabia executes eight Bangladeshi workers

A Catholic bishop and prominent rights activist yesterday slammed Saudi Arabia for executing eight Bangladeshi workers.

They were found guilty of killing an Egyptian security guard and committing robbery four years ago.

Turning down the Bangladesh government’s repeated appeals for clemency and despite an outcry from national and international rights groups, the Saudi authorities last Friday publicly beheaded the eight men.

“I condemn this barbaric execution by the Saudi authorities. People in the modern and civilized world can’t accept beheading of eight people anyway. This is a sheer violation of human rights and dignity,” said Bishop Gervas Rozario of Rajshahi, Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace chairman.

He claimed the Saudi regime acts as stepmother to migrant workers while it treats Europeans and Americans well.

“They call workers from poor countries ‘beggars’ and don’t pay them well. So they commit crimes to survive. If charged with a crime they face capital punishments while nothing happens to workers from developed countries. KSA could have never executed any European or American on the same charges,” the Bishop said.

Faustina Pereira, director of human rights and legal aid services at the NGO BRAC, also condemned the executions.

“Beheading of Bangladeshi workers is a massive human rights violation. The legal procedure that convicted them to a death sentence was [unclear],” she said.

Dr. Pereira also blamed government for not doing enough to save the migrants.

“I’m completely disappointed with the government in the matter. Why didn’t it collect mass signatures from millions of Bangladeshi people to plead for clemency from the Saudi King? Why didn’t it organize mass demonstrations? Why did we hear about it just after beheadings took place? Government can’t escape the blame,” she said.

Remittances from millions of expats plays a vital role in Bangladesh’s economy. Middle East countries employ the highest number of migrants and Saudi Arabia alone has about two million Bangladeshi workers.

Source: UCAN

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Anti-Wall Street protests spread across America

What's changed in America since the Great Recession of 2008? Not much really. The bankers are still taking home big bonuses like they always have done, while with corporate profits have reached record levels. It's business as usual on Wall Street. However, real unemployment is now about nearly the same level as the Great Depression. With the US economy slowing down, it seems there's more pain in store for middle and lower class Americans.

It is therefore no surprise to learn about protests against Wall Street and corporate greed. The 'Occupy Wall Street' protests, which have received little attention so far in the mainstream US media, is gathering momentum across across the country. The Times of India reports:

The Occupy Wall Street protests entered their third week here with protesters dressed up as "corporate zombies" marching through Wall Street, the city's financial hub.

People used social networking sites Facebook and Twitter to spread their message and garner support for their cause.

Support groups like 'Occupy Boston', 'Occupy Philadelphia', 'Occupy Chicago' were also created online.

In a radio interview, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the protests should not target Wall Street officials, "who make USD 40,000 or USD 50,000 a year and are struggling to make ends meet. That is the bottom line. Those are the people who work on Wall Street or in the finance sector."

In Manhattan, hundreds of people responded to calls from organisers and came dressed up as zombies, walking around the financial institutions clutching fake money.

They held up signs that read 'Down with the World Bank', 'How to fix the deficit: End the war, tax the rich,' 'End corporate personhood,' and 'Say no to corporate America.'

People have camped out on the streets, sleeping on sidewalks. Some supporters of the protests have distributed blankets, sleeping bags and food items to demonstrators.

In Chicago, people gathered outside the Federal Reserve Bank while protesters camped out near City Hall in Los Angeles.

Similar marches against corporate America, greed on the Wall Street and government bailouts to financial giants during the economic crisis were held in downtown Boston.

The protests, which began with a handful of people camping in front of the New York Stock Exchange on September 17, got a philip and nationwide attention after over 700 protestors were arrested over the weekend by the police as they tried cross the Brooklyn Bridge.

Similar rallies are being planned in places like St Louis, Kansas City, Hawaii, Tennessee, Minneapolis and Baltimore, according to 'Occupy Together', the unofficial hub for all events springing up across the country in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement.

The American elite love to praise protesters in other countries, especially those where they want to see regime change, but they have been silent on these protests at home. If the economic situation doesn't improve in America - and I don't see that happening for some time - these protests are likely to continue and spread. The Arab Spring seems to have arrived in America!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Are Evangelical Christians warmongers?

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9)

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)

“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. (Matthew 26:52)

It’s clear from reading the New Testament that Jesus didn’t like war. He advocated nonviolence and showing love to one another, even to enemies. Yet in recent times some of the biggest cheerleaders for war have been Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christians. I find this attitude appalling because it so clearly diverges from the teachings of Christ. Instead of being agents for peace, they often justify wars of aggression.

Chuck Baldwin has been an Evangelical Christian since childhood. He is now a pastor in Pensacola, Florida. He’s written an interesting post on his blog: Are Evangelical Christians Warmongers? He decries the warmongering attitude of many Evangelicals:

So, what has happened to turn the most peace-loving institution the world has ever known (the New Testament church) into the biggest cheerleaders for war? I’m talking about un-provoked, illegal, unconstitutional, unbiblical–even secret–wars of aggression. The biggest cheerleaders for the unprovoked, unconstitutional, pre-emptive attack and invasion of Iraq were evangelical Christians. Ditto for the war in Afghanistan, the bombing of Libya, the attacks in Yemen, etc. Who is calling for the bombing of Iran? Evangelical Christians. Who cheers for sending more and more troops all over the world to maim and kill more and more people (including innocents)? Evangelical Christians. Shoot (pun intended)! Most evangelical Christians didn’t even bat an eye when the federal government sent military and police personnel to murder American citizens, including old men, women, and children–Christian old men, women, and children, no less–outside Waco, Texas.

And where are today’s evangelical Christians giving a second thought regarding their fellow Christian brothers and sisters in many of these Middle Eastern countries that are being persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, and killed by the puppet regimes being put in power by the US government–at US taxpayer (including Christian taxpayer) expense? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but more Christians have been persecuted under the US-imposed regime in Iraq than were ever persecuted when Saddam Hussein was in power. Oh! And don’t forget that it was the US government that was responsible for putting Saddam Hussein in power to begin with. The US government set up Osama bin Laden, too. But I digress.

In addition to the “white” wars (the ones everyone knows about), the US government authorizes some 70 black ops commando raids in some 120 countries EVERY DAY. In fact, the secret, black ops military of the US is so large today it now totals more personnel than the ENTIRE MILITARY OF CANADA!

A recent report noted, “In 120 countries across the globe, troops from Special Operations Command carry out their secret war of high-profile assassinations, low-level targeted killings, capture/kidnap operations, kick-down-the-door night raids, joint operations with foreign forces, and training missions with indigenous partners as part of a shadowy conflict unknown to most Americans. Once ‘special’ for being small, lean, outsider outfits, today they are special for their power, access, influence, and aura.”

To see the complete report of America’s secret wars, go to:
http://tinyurl.com/3q7s335

Yet, how much of this knowledge would even faze the average evangelical Christian today? All we hear from today’s “churches” is “bomb,” “attack,” “wipe them out,” etc. Then, at the same time, they get all emotional about sending missionaries to the same countries that they had just cheered-on the US military in raining down missiles of death and destruction upon (to bring salvation to the lucky ones that weren’t killed, I suppose).

And who are the ones that belittle and impugn Ron Paul? Evangelical Christians. Why? Because he tells the truth about America’s foreign policy being responsible for much of the hatred and bitterness erupting in foreign countries against us. I guarantee you that many of the “conservative” Republicans who booed Dr. Paul’s comments to this regard at the GOP Presidential debate this week would identify themselves as evangelical Christians.

See the report at:
http://tinyurl.com/3otfnzr

The disciples of our Lord were called “Christians” first by the Gentiles of Antioch, because of the manner in which the disciples reminded them of Christ’s nature and teachings. I never thought I would hear myself say what I’m about to say, but the truth is, the term “Christian” today means anything but Christ-like. To many people today, “Christian” refers to some warmongering, mean-spirited, throw-anyone-to-the-wolves-who-crosses-them person, who then has the audacity to look down their nose in contempt against anyone who disagrees with them for even the smallest reason. And the word “church” has the stigma of being simply an enclave of warmongers to many people today. And that, my friends, is one reason so many people are so turned off with today’s Christianity. And I can’t say that I blame them. I’m turned off too!

Baldwin is not a pacifist but he advocates a return to biblical principles of nonaggression. This is the best way to avoid people hating America and Christianity. Otherwise, Evangelicals run the risk of being used as minions of Satan to accomplish his evil deeds, all of which will bring about the New World Order.

Considering the warmongering I’ve heard from Evangelicals in recent years, this is like a breath of fresh air for me!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Jesus in the Vedas

I recently read the story of a former orthodox Hindu Brahmin priest, Aravindaksha Menon, who converted to Catholicism. You can read it here. It’s really quite interesting how he made this journey of faith mainly by studying his own holy scriptures!

The Vedas are considered the official religious books of Hinduism; there are four of them: Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, and Adhara Veda. The other Hindu books – including the Ramayana, Mahabharatha and Bhagavath Gita – are simply epics or stories.

There is mention of only one God in the Rigveda. He is the creator of this universe; He is omnipresent; He is formless and bodiless. Nobody should make an idol of Him and worship the idol; it is worthless and useless.

As there are seventy three books in the (Catholic) bible, there are ten books (or mandalams) in the Rigveda. In the first to the ninth mandalam, it is clearly stated in several places who is the real God, who is man, why man should worship God and how he should worship Him. In the tenth mandalam there is mention about the first-born and only son of God, Prajapathy. ‘Praja’ means man, and ‘pathy’ means saviour.

Prajapathy comes to this world at the appropriate time. He travels around advising mankind, telling him what is sin and what is not sin, how he should live and how he should not. To those people who accept him and obey his commands, he offers help in this life and salvation after they die. At the end of his ministry, Prajapathy dies in a very similar way to Jesus - tied on a wooden cross. His death is both redemptive and sacrificial; it is described in verse 7 of chapter 90 of the 10th book of the Rigveda: “At the time of sacrifice, the son of God will be tightly tied to a wooden sacrificial post using iron nails by hands and legs, he will bleed to death and on the third day he will regain his life in a resurrection.”

There are other verses in the Rigveda that have striking similarities with passages in the bible.


Rig Veda X: 121:1

“Hiranyagarbha: samavarthaagre
Bhuuthasya jaatha: pathireka aaseeth
Sadaadhaara Prudhwivim dyaamuthemam
Kasmai devaaya havisha vidhemam.”

This translates to:

“In the beginning, God and his supreme spirit alone existed. From the supreme Spirit of the God proceeded Hiranya Garbha, alias Prajapathy, the first born of the God in the form of light. As soon as he was born, he became the saviour of all the worlds.”

This is similar to John 1:1-14: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.”


Rig Veda X:90:2

“Purusha evedam sarvam
Yadbhutham yachabhavyam
Uthaamruthathwasya esaana
Ya daannenathirohathi”

This translates to:

“This man, the first-born of God is all that was, all that is and all that will be. And he comes to this world to give recompense to everybody as per his deeds.”

This compares favourably with:

"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty." (Revelation 1:8)
“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done.” (Revelation 22:12)


Rigveda X:90:7

“Tham yajnam barhishi proukshan
Purusham jaathamagratha
Thena deva ayajantha
Sadhya rushayaschaye”

This translates to:

“This man, the first born of the God, was tied to a wooden sacrificial post and the gods and the Kings along the Seers performed the sacrifice.”

All the four gospels say Jesus was crucified on a wooden cross by the rulers (Herod and Pilate) and the seers (Annas and Caiphas).


Rig Veda X:90:16

“Thamevam Vidwanamruthaiha bhavathy
Nanya pandha ayanaya vidyathe”

This translates to:

“This (sacrifice) is the only way of redemption and liberation of mankind. Those who meditate and attain this man, believe in heart and chant with the lips, get liberated in this world itself and there is no other way of salvation.”

This is similar to:

“If you declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)


No coincidence

The uncanny similarities between Prajapathy in the Vedas and Jesus seem more than coincidental to me. It seems that Prajapthy refers to the person of Jesus. How this is so is a bit of a mystery to me, but a Brahmin guru whom Aravindaksha Menon consulted gave this explanation:

"Every ancient scripture was one and the same. Hindus, Christians and Islam were all categorized later, all man made. The word of God was one, because God is only one."

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Flowers from my garden

Here are photos of flowers from my garden. They bloomed at different periods during the year. Most of them I chose and planted myself.

It gives me much joy to see these flowers as they are so colourful and beautiful. I like them all but I am particularly proud of my dahlias.


Tulip (April)


Rose (June)


Lily (June - July)



Dahlia (July - September)




The dahlias always look spectacular because of their vigrant colours and distinctive petals.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Destabilization of Syria based on Libya Model



The mainstream media are describing the events in Syria as a "revolution", but it is more like an armed insurrection than a genuine revolution. Definitely there are reasons for social unrest in Syria including an increase in unemployment in recent years, but the majority of Syria's population (including the opponents of the Al Assad government) do not support the "protest movement". The protests are of a sectarian nature and do not address broader issues of social inequality, civil rights and unemployment. There have been giant pro-government rallies in Syria, yet they have received little coverage in the mainstream media or falsely reported as anti-government protests.

What's happening in Syria is a process of destabliziation along the same lines as Libya, supported by the West, Turkey and the Saudis. There is evidence that trained gunmen and snipers have targeted the police, the armed forces as well as unarmed civilians. Yet the mainstream media narrative is that the government forces are violently cracking down on "peaceful protesters".

Syria represents the last remaining secular state in the Arab world. It has a composite culture in which Muslims, Christians and Druze has co-existed for centuries. Its populist, anti-Imperialist and secular base is derived from the dominant Baath party. It supports the struggle of the Palestinian people. The main objective of the US-Turkey-Israel-Saudi alliance is to destroy the Syrian secular state and replace it with an Arab sheikdom or a compliant pro-US "democracy".

It seems a NATO-led intervention in Syria is on the drawing board. According to Israeli intelligence sources:
"NATO headquarters in Brussels and the Turkish high command are meanwhile drawing up plans for their first military step in Syria, which is to arm the rebels with weapons for combating the tanks and helicopters spearheading the Assad regime's crackdown on dissent. Instead of repeating the Libyan model of air strikes, NATO strategists are thinking more in terms of pouring large quantities of anti-tank and anti-air rockets, mortars and heavy machine guns into the protest centers for beating back the government armored forces." (DEBKAfile, NATO to give rebels anti-tank weapons, August 14, 2011)
Turkey's military has undergone something of a major shift in recent months with General Necdet Ozel taking over as the Army and head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The shift favours the Muslim Brotherhood and greater support for the armed rebels in Syria. Military sources confirm Syrian rebels "have been training in the use of the new weapons with Turkish military officers at makeshift installations in Turkish bases near the Syrian border." This raises the possibility of direct involvement of Turkish troops in the future.

The use of Islamist proxies to fight in wars for NATO should be no surprise to anyone by now. They have a long history of working together from the heyday of the Soviet-Afghan war to the recent conflict in Libya. The commander of the Libyan rebels is none other Abdel Hakim Belhadj, an Al Qaeda asset, who fought with the mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

BRIC countries such as Russia and China have so far resisted moves by NATO countries to get militarily involved in Syria. A lot depends how they will continue to support Syria as external pressures continue to grow. Syria is strategically important because of its location and its alliance with Iran. An attack on Syria could potentially plunge the country into a sectarian civil war and pave the way for an attack on Iran.

Papal Infallibility

When Catholics say the Pope is infallible, what do they mean? To many non-Catholics this may seem a pompous and conceited claim. Surely popes are human beings and are thus capable of sinning like the rest of us? Indeed, there have been some popes who have behaved in less than exemplary manner. However, one must not confuse “infallibility” with “impeccability”.

Papal infallibility does not mean that a pope is sinless or he can never be wrong on matters of discipline. What it means is that when he is speaking ex cathedra in his capacity as successor of St Peter on matters of faith and morals, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, his teachings are without error.

Papal infallibility was debated at the First Vatican Council, summoned by Pius XI in 1869. At the time, when people were demanding greater democracy and freedom, few Catholics rejected out of hand the notion that the Pope might speak infallibly. The question was how, if at all, that should be defined. The text agreed by the cardinals, known as ‘The Roman Pontiff’ read:
“...when he speaks ex cathedra (Latin for ‘from his throne’), that is, when, exercising the office of pastor and teacher of all Christians, he defines...a doctrine concerning faith and morals to be held by the whole Church, through the divine assistance promised to him in Saint Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer wished his Church to be endowed...and therefore such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church.”
This is a doctrine which was implicit in the early Church, but the Church's understanding of it developed and became more clearly understood over time. The doctrine is implicit in these Petrine texts: John 21:15–17 ("Feed my sheep . . . "), Luke 22:32 ("I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail"), and Matthew 16:18 ("You are Peter . . . ").

According to the text, there are limits imposed around papal infallibility. Routine papal teaching is not infallible. The pope has to be speaking in a particular and solemn form. No mention is made, however, as to how such a definition should be arrived at. These restrictions have meant that since 1870 only one papal statement has been deemed infallible – the definition of the Virgin Mary’s assumption, body and soul into heaven, made in 1950.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

War propaganda about Libya

If you haven't noticed, there's a very sophisticated media campaign against Gadhafi and Libya at the moment. The likes of BBC, CNN, Reuters, Associated Press, Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera are all spreading lies. Pictures and videos are being carefully constructed to give as much bias in favour of NATO and its 'rebel' allies.

The scenes of jubilation in Tripoli's Green Square shown on tv channels yesterday, which allegedly took place after the 'fall' of Tripoli, did not come from Tripoli. They came from a set of Green Square constructed near Doha, Qatar, which is where Al Jazeera is based. Take a look at the picture below.



If you look closely, there are some slight differences between Al Jazeera's set on the top left and the actual square on the top right. Further evidence to support skulduggery can be seen in the picture below showing an Al Jazeera correspondent reporting from Green Square.



The lifting cranes that you see in the background do not exist in the real Green Square. The cranes were used for construction work at the false Tripoli complex near Doha.

Initial social media messages on twitter about Gadhafi attacking his own people have also proven to be false, yet they played a critical role in influencing public opinion and the UN Security Council at the start of this campaign.

It's not the first time such deceit has been used in wars. In all cases, the aim of course is to dupe the gullible public into giving their support for those waging war.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

'Devil worshippers' attack church in Pune

Suspected devil worshippers attacked St Mary’s Malankara Catholic Church in Pune’s Warje Malwadi neighbourhood on Monday. Father Varghese Valikodath, who is in charge of the church, said several people “broke into our church in Warje Malwadi in the small hours on Independence Day, vandalized the altar, burnt the tabernacle, as well as tearing up the bible and prayer books.”

Paintings of Jesus, Mary and other saints were defaced, and the words “Satan is God” were written on walls. Robbery is not thought to be a motive as collection money and valuables were not stolen.

According to Father Valikodath, it could be the work of “some devil-worshipping group”. This would not be the first time suspected devil worshippers have attacked a church in India. In 2006 they entered a church in Mizoram and burned bibles, urinated on the pulpit and tore up pictures of Jesus and Mary. They also sacrificed an animal and splattered its blood on the altar.

Such incidences are fuelling suspicion of a rise in Satan worship in some parts of India. According to faculty members of Theological College in Aizawl, Mizoram, youth who are influenced by drugs and inspired by films about the paranormal and the occult practice bizarre rituals.

This is, however, the first incident of its kind involving Pune’s Syro-Malankara community. The local Catholic community have condemned the act. They have also appealed to the state authorities to bring the culprits to justice.

According to AsiaNews, “more than 3,000 attacks have been recorded against Indian churches in the past few years. Last Saturday, the glass protecting an image of Christ in St Anthony’s Catholic Church in Vashicherry, Alapuzha, in Kerala, was also smashed, the second attack this month.”

Thursday, 11 August 2011

UK riots: a sign of social decay


The riots that we have seen in Britain over the last few days expose the decay of communities in many big cities across the country. Shocking as they are, they have had a long and steady gestation. All they needed was a spark, combined with a little coordination via social networking media, and they spread like wildfire across the country.

It is rather simplistic to blame the police; they deal with the problems of society, not solve them. Years of dysfunctional families in which the father is often absent, poor educational achievement, emotional and economic insecurity, as well as the constant drip feed of a crass materialistic and hedonistic culture have all had their destructive effects.

Although sanity has returned to the streets, we ignore the deep social problems that have manifested themselves at our peril. Do we really want to live in hermetically sealed communities, relying on an overstretched police force to protect us from the mob, or do we want a fairer and more peaceful society in which there is respect for one another? This is not a time for political point scoring, but to really reflect on what needs to be done to address the underlying problems. Otherwise we may well see a repeat of the wanton destruction and looting we have witnessed recently.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Our Lady of Siluva

During the Reformation, a painting of the Virgin and Child, placed in the first chapel to be built in the Lithuanian town of Siluva in 1457, came under threat when local Calvinist authorities ordered the confiscation of all church property.

The parish priest had other ideas! He believed that Calvinism would be short-lived, so in 1532, he decided to protect their church’s possession and to wait things out. Helped by a parishioner, he hid the title deeds to the chapel site, the vestments, sacred vessels and painting of Our Lady within an iron-bound wooden box, which they buried near a large rock, planning to recover the precious items as soon as it was safe. Calvinism, however, proved to be of longer duration than the priest had anticipated. He died without having a chance to retrieve the precious articles. Eventually only his helper, blind and almost one hundred years old, remembered the little church’s existence.

Apparitions

One day in 1608, in the fields close to Siluva, small children played as their sheep grazed. Suddenly they heard crying. Looking towards a large rock, they saw a strange light surrounding a beautiful young woman and her baby. She sobbed brokenheartedly. As the puzzled children stared, the pair disappeared. The youngsters rushed home to tell the town’s Calvinist pastor and their families what had happened. The pastor accused them of lying, but the children’s parents and neighbours were unsure. They needed to investigate further.

Next morning, the townsfolk gathered around the rock where the children had seen the young woman. There was nothing there...except for one angry pastor. Accusing them of “Romish superstition” and of “following Satanic influences,” he scolded his parishioners – and then stopped in amazement. There, on the rock, just as the children had described, was the young woman with the baby.

The pastor spoke first. “Why are you crying?” he asked. “There was a time when my beloved son was worshipped by my people on this very spot. But now they have given this sacred soil over to the ploughman and the tiller and to the animals for grazing,” she replied, and vanished.

The townspeople decided that the woman and child were Mary and the infant Jesus, coming to recall them to their earlier faith. The site of the apparitions soon became a place of pilgrimage from across Eastern Europe, eventually requiring successively larger churches to accommodate the pilgrims. It is recorded that on the feast of Our Lady’s Birthday, 8 September 1618, more than 11,000 people received Holy Communion.

Rumours of the apparitions eventually reached the blind old man, who asked to be taken to the site. Immediately when he reached the rock his sight returned. He told his story to the amazed townsfolk. No longer blind, he pointed to where he and the priest had buried the wooden chest. The villagers dug and there it was, unharmed, with its contents intact, including the large paining of Our Lady and the Child.

Suppression and revival

In 1795, Russian forces occupied Lithuania and suppressed both religious freedom and the Lithuanian language. Restrictions were relaxed only after an uprising in 1904. Pilgrimages to Siluva resumed in 1905, and during that first year of freedom more than 30,000 people visited the shrine.

During the Communist era, pilgrimages were suppressed and the press forbidden to mention Siluva. Armed police blocked and patrolled the approach roads, banning cars within a radius of four miles of the shrine. The KGB followed vehicles travelling towards the town, fining or arresting their drivers and passengers. Pilgrims risked severe penalties. A Soviet monument replaced the statue of Our Lady in the town centre...and still the people kept coming.

On 8 September 1991, Lithuania was entrusted to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Act of Entrustment is preserved at the shrine of Our Lady of Siluva, where on 7 September 1993, during his own pilgrimage, Pope John Paul II prayed.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Russia: government bans abortion ads that don't inform women of the risks

Concerned by the continuing population decline that afflicts the world's largest country, the Duma (the lower house of parliament) has approved a bill according to which, all advertisements relating to practices of abortion must contain warnings about possible risks to the health of women. The draft has passed its third reading last July 1 and now awaits the green light from the Federation Council (Senate) and then its signing - virtually taken for granted – by President Dmitry Medvedev, who has always championed the values of life and family.

According to Russian press reports, it is an amendment to the law on advertising, which states that 10% of the space used to advertise abortion should also inform women about the possible negative consequences such as infertility. "The advertising for abortion should not contain statements on the safety of these health services," reads the text of the bill, released by news agencies. "These ads - said Viktor Zvagelsky, deputy of the ruling party United Russia – lead the young people to believe they will have no problems interrupting a pregnancy”, and he motivates the proposal of the new law with the "depressing" situation of abortions in Russia.

The Federation has one of the highest abortion rates in the world and for time now, experts have been speaking of "a demographic coma". According to figures published by the Duma website, in 2007, there were 1.5 million abortions. The Soviet Union was the first country to legalize abortion in 1920, banned again by Stalin (from 1936 until his death in 1954) interested in encouraging births. For the same purpose, the Communist Party also bestowed awards and money on the most prolific couples, but immediately after the collapse of the USSR the demographic decline has become unstoppable: from 1992 to 2008 the population fell by more than 12 million people to about 143 million. The United Nations estimates that by 2050, Russia will lose a fifth of its population, reaching 116 million. The phenomenon is due to a poor diet that causes heart problems, high rates of alcoholism among men, the spread of HIV / AIDS and the high number of violent deaths.

To combat what Moscow sees as a real war for survival, the government also supports the Orthodox Church which for years has asked for more stringent measures to reduce the number of abortions. According to data from the Russian Social University, the annual abortion rate is far higher than official figures, and in reality is around three to four million.

Source: AsiaNews

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Libya: “Humanitarian war” is creating a humanitarian crisis

The irony of this supposedly “humanitarian war” in Libya is that it is creating a humanitarian crisis. This is a farce which is happening with the servile complicity of the mainstream Western media. I am actually quite shocked at how our media and politicians can repeatedly lie to us about what is really happening. Do they expect us to believe that dropping hundreds of bombs will not kill any civilians? That defies logic no matter how accurate or sophisticated these NATO missiles are. Also, do they expect us to believe that Gadhafi has no support in his own country?

A sanitised version of events is clearly being presented by the Western media, as well as Qatar’s Al Jazeera, to keep this war going and justify its goals. NATO has already strayed well beyond its stated objectives of protecting the civilian population of Libya in accordance with UN resolution 1973. France recently admitted it has been secretly arming the Libyan rebels – clearly taking sides and supporting regime change when UN resolution 1973 forbids that. Stories of Gadhafi’s men using Viagra to gang rape women have been denied by Amnesty International.

What is going on is the complete plunder of Libya, a resource rich country that had higher living standards than some European countries before this conflict began. Billions of dollars of Libyan assets have already been seized illegally by the US and the European Union. NATO bombs have not only hit military targets, they have increasingly hit economic ones too like the Libyan Mint which prints dinars; and there has been collateral damage. According to the Libyan Ministry of Health, after the first 100 days of NATO bombing, 6,121 people were either killed or injured. The conflict is also creating a refugee crisis.

If NATO thought they will be seen as liberators by the Libyan people, nothing could be further from the truth. On Friday 17 June one million Libyans marched in Tripoli in support of Gadhafi. That’s a substantial number of people in a country of only 6 million people. Why wasn’t this news covered by the mainstream Western press? There is no national uprising against Gadhafi. Tripolitania - Western Libya - has rallied behind Gadhafi.

Who are the Libyan “rebels”?

So this begs the question, who are the Libyan “rebels” NATO is supporting? They are a motley crew of Al-Qaeda infested mercenaries who have long resented Gadhafi’s control over Cyrenaica (Eastern Libya). African American US congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, who recently visited Libya, was shocked to discover that these "racist" rebels were mercilessly killing and driving out black African migrants. Already gruesome videos of black Africans being lynched by the rebels are circulating on the internet, and yet there’s a silence in the mainstream media about these atrocities.

According to an Eritrean priest, Don Mussie Zerai, President of the Habeshia Agency for the Development Cooperation, 800 Africans were massacred in Misrata alone. He said black Libyans risk an ethnic cleansing action because of the determination against them by Libyans of Arab origin that sympathise with the rebels, who attack them as though they were Gaddafi's mercenaries. He decried the ongoing indifference to this carnage despite previous reports and warned that "hundreds of thousands of Darfur Sudanese," also trapped in Libya, risk "being crushed by this intolerance that is spreading in the territories occupied by the rebels."

Does the West really think the rebels can govern Libya? That would mean the subjugation of Tripolitania and a great deal of bloodshed. The best way out is a ceasefire and a demilitarisation of the conflict. That is what the African Union (AU) want. The AU has already said Gaddafi "can no longer lead Libya", but that does not mean that the AU - unlike NATO – wants regime change straight away. The BRICS prefer the AU approach of a negotiated settlement. NATO just seems to want to keep bombing.

Al Qaeda

As reported in the Telegraph in March, Al Qaeda then issued a call then to its supporters to back the Libyan rebellion. Now that NATO is supporting the Libyan rebels, the United States is allying itself with Al Qaeda linked elements despite spending over $1 trillion dollars trying to fight Al Qaeda over the last ten years – a case of our enemy’s enemy is our best friend. The danger of course is that in the long run such tactics are likely to backfire. I’m inclined to agree with Magdi Allam, a high profile Italian politician and convert to Catholicism, who says:
“The only real certainty is that the Islamists will win and that consequently, the populations of the eastern and southern shores of the Mediterranean will be increasingly submitted to shariah…an outcome exactly the opposite of the official proclamations of Sarkozy and Obama and their excessive use of catchphrases such as ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy.’”

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Happy Ruby Anniversary


Congratulations to Mum and Dad! They celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary today – an historic milestone. They have always shown a strong loving commitment to one another, which has endured the test of time and helped them face the many trials that came their way. They have been good parents to me and my brother.




Over the weekend we had a small celebration to mark this occasion. Nithya, Anya and I presented Mum and Dad a special bottle of champagne with a personalised message, as well as a photo cake. My brother, his family, and two of my cousins were also there. Mum made my favourite dish – chicken biryani.




Mum and Dad are very different personalities: Dad is thoughtful, kind and gentle, while Mum is more practical, valiant and bubbly. The important thing is they complement each other well. Marriage is, after all, a partnership, which requires a lot of commitment, understanding, forgiveness and patience. The key elements are love and trust.

We would like to wish them many more years of happy married life together. We are proud of them.


"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." 1 Cor. 13:4-8

Friday, 17 June 2011

St Faustina's visions of hell, purgatory and heaven

The following passages are taken from the Diary of St. Faustina and they refer to her visions of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven.

"I saw two roads. One was broad, covered with sand and flowers, full of joy, music and all sorts of pleasures. People walked along it, dancing and enjoying themselves. They reached the end without realizing it. And at the end of the road there was a horrible precipice; that is, the abyss of hell. The souls fell blindly into it; as they walked, so they fell. And their number was so great that it was impossible to count them. And I saw the other road, or rather, a path, for it was narrow and strewn with thorns and rocks; and the people who walked along it had tears in their eyes, and all kinds of suffering befell them. Some fell down upon the rocks, but stood up immediately and went on. At the end of the road there was a magnificent garden filled with all sorts of happiness and all these souls entered there. At the very first instant they forgot all their sufferings" (Diary 153).

Hell

"Today, I was led by an Angel to the chasms of hell. It is a place of great torture; how awesomely large and extensive it is! The kinds of tortures I saw: the first torture that constitutes hell is the loss of God; the second is perpetual remorse of conscience; the third is that one’s condition will never change; the fourth is the fire that will penetrate the soul without destroying it, a terrible suffering, since it is a purely spiritual fire, lit by God’s anger; the fifth torture is conditional darkness and a terrible suffocating smell, and despite the darkness, the devils and the souls of the damned see each other and all the evil, both of others and their own; the sixth torture is the constant company of satan, the seventh torture is horrible despair, hatred of God, vile words, curses and blasphemies. These are the tortures suffered by all the damned together, but that is not the end of the sufferings. There are special tortures destined for particular souls. These are the torments of the senses. Each soul undergoes terrible and indescribable sufferings, related to the manner in which it has sinned. There are caverns and pits of torture where one form of agony differs from another. I would have died at the very sight of these tortures if the omnipotence of God had not supported me. Let the sinner know that he will be tortured throughout all eternity, in those senses which he made use of to sin. I am writing this at the command of God, so that no soul may find an excuse by saying there is no hell, or that nobody has ever been there, and so no one can say what it is like. I, sister Faustina, by the order of God, have visited the abysses of hell so that I might tell souls about it and testify to its existence. I cannot speak about it now; but I have received a command from God to leave it in writing. The devils were full of hatred for me, but they had to obey me at the command of God. What I have written is but a pale shadow of the things I saw. But I noticed one thing: that most of the souls there are those who disbelieved that there is a hell. When I came to, I could hardly recover from the fright. How terribly souls suffer there! Consequently, I pray even more fervently for the conversion of sinners. I incessantly plead God’s mercy upon them. O my Jesus, I would rather be in agony until the end of the world, amidst the greatest sufferings, then offend You by the least sin." (Diary 741).

Purgatory

"I saw my Guardian Angel, who ordered me to follow him. In a moment I was in a misty place full of fire in which there was a great crowd of suffering souls. They were praying fervently, but to no avail, for themselves; only we can come to their aid. The flames, which were burning them, did not touch me at all. My Guardian Angel did not leave me for an instant. I asked these souls what their greatest suffering was. They answered me in one voice that their greatest torment was longing for God. I saw Our Lady visiting the souls in Purgatory. The souls call Her “The Star of the Sea”. She brings them refreshment. I wanted to talk with them some more, but my Guardian Angel beckoned me to leave. We went out of that prison of suffering. [I heard an interior voice which said] ‘My mercy does not want this, but justice demands it. Since that time, I am in closer communion with the suffering souls.’” (Diary, 20)

Heaven

November 27, 1936 - "Today I was in heaven, in spirit, and I saw its inconceivable beauties and the happiness that awaits us after death. I saw how all creatures give ceaseless praise and glory to God. I saw how great is happiness in God, which spreads to all creatures, making them happy; and then all the glory and praise which springs from this happiness returns to its source; and they enter into the depths of God, contemplating the inner life of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, whom they will never comprehend or fathom. This source of happiness is unchanging in its essence, but it is always new, gushing forth happiness for all creatures. Now I understand Saint Paul, who said, “Eye has not seen, nor has ear heard, not has it entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for those who love him.” And God has given me to understand that there is but one thing that is of infinite value in His eyes, and that is love of God; love, love and once again, love; and nothing can compare with a single act of pure love of God. Oh, with what inconceivable favors God gifts a soul that loves Him sincerely! Oh, how happy is the soul who already here on earth enjoys His special favors! And of such are the little and humble souls. The sight of this great majesty of God, which I came to understand more profoundly and which is worshipped by the heavenly spirits according to their degree of grace and the hierarchies into which they are divided, did not cause my soul to be stricken with terror or fear; no, no, not at all! My soul was filled with peace and love, and the more I come to know the greatness of God, the more joyful I become that He is as He is. And I rejoice immensely in His greatness and am delighted that I am so little because, since I am little, He carries me in His arms and holds me close to His Heart. O my God, how I pity those people who do not believe in eternal life; how I pray for them that a ray of mercy would envelop them too, and that God would clasp them to His fatherly bosom." (Diary 777).

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Syrian bishop says government must crush the uprising

By John Pontifex

The Syrian government must resist the uprising – and has the people's backing in quelling forces seeking "destabilisation and Islamisation" – according to one of the country's most respected Catholic bishops.

In a strongly worded defence of President Bashar al-Assad's response to the protests and instability, Bishop Antoine Audo accused the media including the BBC and Al Jazeera of "unobjective" reporting, unfairly criticising the Syrian regime.

The Jesuit, who is the Chaldean Catholic Bishop of Aleppo, went on to warn that if Assad's government was overthrown, it would cause widespread instability, a breakdown of basic services such as electricity, increased poverty and a drive towards Islamisation.

Speaking from Aleppo in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Audo said: "The fanatics speak about freedom and democracy for Syria but this is not their goal.

"They want to divide the Arab countries, control them, seize petrol and sell arms. They seek destabilisation and Islamisation."

"Syria must resist – will resist. 80 percent of the people are behind the government, as are all the Christians."

Bishop Audo warned that if President Assad was ousted, Syria would suffer the problems of Iraq post Saddam Hussein with a widespread breakdown of law and order.

"We do not want to become like Iraq. We don't want insecurity and Islamisation and have the threat of Islamists coming to power."

"Syria has a secular orientation. There is freedom. We have a lot of positive things in our country."

The bishop was speaking after reports today (Monday, 13th June) of a third refugee camp being set up on the border between Turkey and Syria amid no sign of an end to the violence and instability dating back to the end of January.

The Syrian government has been strongly criticised for a hard-line military response to the uprising amid reports that the security forces have killed hundreds of protestors and injured many more.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned Syria's armed retaliation against protestors as "unacceptable".

But the bishop stressed the scale of violence against Assad's regime, saying how more than 100 police were killed within a few days and added that the government had a right to defend itself.

He said: "In some media organisations, such as the BBC and Al Jazeera, there is an orchestration to deform the face of Syria to say the government does not respect human rights and so on."

"The government respects people who respect law and order. Syria has a lot of enemies and the government has to defend itself and the country."

"There is a war of information against Syria. The media reporting is unobjective. We have to defend the truth as Syrians and as Chaldeans."

Stressing how the violence was centred on the country's borders, especially in the north overlooking Turkey, he said that for most people in the Aleppo area, there was relative calm.

But he did warn of increasing poverty, transport and other communications problems and described growing unemployment.

He said: "Generally, life in Aleppo is very normal. Everything is continuing but there is less work and transportation is poor."

In a reference to the country's 1.5 million Christians, he said: "Our situation as Christian faithful is not really any different from other communities. We want peace and security."

"We do not want war and violence and we very much hope that in the next few weeks the situation will be better."

Aid to the Church in Need has worked with Bishop Audo to provide long-standing emergency aid for thousands of Christian refugees arriving in Syria from Iraq.

Source: Aid to the Church in Need

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Syria's religious pluralism at stake

Syria is in turmoil. Inspired by uprisings in other Arab countries, Syrian protestors have taken to the streets and denounced the autocratic rule of President Bashar al-Assad. Protests have spread to several cities, and it is estimated by the UN that at least 1,100 people have been killed by the security forces.

What is particularly sad about this is that Syria has for long been a beacon of religious pluralism and freedom in a largely intolerant region. Syria has many minorities. Arab Sunnis are the majority but other Muslim sects form a sizeable portion of the population. A further 8-10% of the people are Christian. In recent years many Iraqi Christian refugees have fled to Syria in the wake of bloody persecution in their homeland.

The government and security forces are dominated by the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam. This is largely a legacy of French colonial rule. In order to keep Sunni nationalism in check the French co-opted the services of the Alawite community, promoting them to high positions in government and the military. The Alawites went from being a despised downtrodden minority to rulers of their country – a fact deeply despised by the Sunni majority.

Although the Assad regime is authoritarian it has been good for the Christians and other minorities. The regime has kept in check the influence of militant Islamists. Christians are able to worship and practice their faith without much interference, although evangelisation among Muslims is strongly discouraged. A return to Sunni majority rule could lead to their violent suppression and, in the worst case, a sectarian bloodbath similar to that in Iraq. This is why many Christians in Syria have largely stayed away from protests. They are afraid of what may replace the secular Baathist regime.

In a letter to Western leaders, the Syria-based head of the Melkite Greek-Catholic Church, Patriarch Gregorios III, appealed for them to "ask the heads of state of Arab countries to work for real development... But don't encourage revolutions". He said:
“The situation has deteriorated into organised crime, robbery, fear, terror being spread, rumours of threats to churches... Fundamentalist groups are threatening citizens and wanting to create ‘Islamic Emirates'... Christians especially are very fragile in the face of crises and bloody revolutions! Christians will be the first victims of these revolutions, especially in Syria. A new wave of emigration will follow immediately.”
Thus far external powers have not called for regime change like they have in Libya. This is because by and large the main players – Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia and America – prefer to see Assad remain in power than face the more destabilising consequences of regime change in a highly sensitive area. It is true that Syria has provided some support for terrorist groups such as Hizbullah and Hamas but, as Reva Bhalla of STRATFOR says, regime change could potentially lead to greater support for such groups:
“It is not a coincidence that Israel, with which Syria shares a strong and mutual antipathy, has been largely silent over the Syrian unrest. Already unnerved by what may be in store for Egypt’s political future, Israel has a deep fear of the unknown regarding the Syrians. How, for example, would a conservative Sunni government in Damascus conduct its foreign policy? The real virtue of the Syrian regime lies in its predictability: The al Assad government, highly conscious of its military inferiority to Israel, is far more interested in maintaining its hegemony in Lebanon than in picking fights with Israel. While the al Assad government is a significant patron to Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, among other groups it manages within its Islamist militant supply chain, its support for such groups is also to some extent negotiable, as illustrated most recently by the fruits of Turkey’s negotiations with Damascus in containing Palestinian militant activity and in Syria’s ongoing, albeit strained, negotiations with Saudi Arabia over keeping Hezbollah in check. Israel’s view of Syria is a classic example of the benefits of dealing with the devil you do know rather than the devil you don’t.”
The Assad regime is certainly coming under increasing strain, but for the time being it is holding together. Considering that Alawites were once second-class citizens less than a century ago, there is a deep-seated fear of a reversal of Alawite power. For that reason the Alawites are sticking together.

Only time will tell of course what will happen in Syria. My wife’s best friend is a Christian lady from Syria. She never fails to impress us with her strong religious faith and good Christian values. She is understandably worried about the safety of her family members and the fate of her homeland. Syria is a beautiful country steeped in history where the ruins of Crusader castles and citadels still dot the landscape. It would be a tragedy if the religious pluralism that has existed there for many years descends into sectarian violence. Please pray that this doesn’t happen and that all communities in Syria continue to live peacefully together.

Friday, 3 June 2011

India's unwanted girls

India’s 2011 census shows a worrying trend in the number of girls under the age of 6. There are now 914 girls under the age of 6 to every 1,000 boys. This is worse than the figure ten years ago when the ratio was 927 to 1,000. The picture is varied across the country but the siutation in the north generally worse than in the south. Haryana is at the bottom with a ratio of 830 to 1,0000 followed by Punjab with 846 to 1000.

There are many reasons to explain this trend including female infanticide, abuse and neglect of girl children, but the main reason is sex selective abortions. A study in the British medical journal, The Lancet, estimates that up to 12.1 million girls were aborted in India over the last three decades. This happened despite a 1996 law banning the use of ultrasound screening or other testing for the sex of the unborn child.

Researchers found that wealthier or more educated women were more likely to abort girls because they could afford to pay for sex tests and abortions. They also found that families who already had one girl were more likely to abort a second child if they knew the unborn child was female. Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre for Social Research, said the findings were “worrisome and threatening” because “we always believed when people are rich and educated they will be more socially aware but that is not the case.”

Cultural prejudice

The problem is not confined to Indians in India. Journalist and author Lady Kishwar Desai last year pointed to statistics from the University of Oxford that showed almost 100 baby girls were “disappearing” from British Indian families every year.

The statistics clearly point to a significant cultural preference among Indians for baby boys. Why is this the case? The main reason is dowry. Although outlawed by the Indian government in 1961 the practice remains rampant, affecting all religious communities, rich and poor alike. There are other reasons for having boys too: they are bread winners; they are expected to look after their parents in old age; they often inherit their parents’ property; they carry forward their parents’ family name; and in the case of Hindus, they are allowed to light their parents’ funeral pyres.

Lady Desai, who was born in Amabala in Northern India, said: “Jewellery, cash, cars, even houses – the value of the dowry an Indian girl’s family must pay to the family of her future husband can run to tens of thousands of pounds.”

“Marrying off one daughter can be expensive, but two, three… that can be ruinous”, she said.

She said that estimates varied as to how many Indian women are now ‘missing’ but “Female foeticide, gendercide – call it what you will – it’s a terrible and chilling statistic”. It is certainly is.

Worsening trend

Unless the deep cultural prejudice against having baby girls is dealt with I do not think the situation is likely to improve. We will inevitably see more and more female foetuses being aborted each year in India. Not only is this the wilful execution of unborn children but it is an affront to the value of a girl’s life. I have to agree with the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who called this a “national shame”. Government laws by themselves will not solve the problem as they have thus far proved ineffective in dealing with the issue. What really needs to happen is social transformation, but the question is: is that really possible?

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Bible study meeting: Matthew 25

I belong to a bible study group connected with a local Catholic church. We meet every fortnight to discuss a particular chapter in the bible. We are currently making our way through the Gospel of Matthew. Yesterday evening we met to discuss Matthew 25.

In this chapter Jesus explains what God expects from us and the final judgement using simple parables. Jesus is such a master storyteller. I love the way He explains difficult, obscure concepts in a simple way so that the lay people around Him understand.

The first parable in Matthew 25 involves ten bridesmaids, five of whom are wise and five of whom are foolish. The wise bridesmaids took oil for their lamps while the foolish ones did not. It was a custom in ancient Israel for the groom to come to get his bride at a time of his choosing. All the bridesmaids fell asleep because the groom was delayed, but when he did turn up the foolish bridesmaids were forced to go away and buy oil, only to return and find they had been locked out of the marriage feast. The lesson here is that we should never be complacent in our spiritual life; we must be vigilant and strive to grow in faith always, so that when the final judgement comes we prove worthy of being admitted to the heavenly banquet.

The second parable is about talents. A businessman leaves town and entrusts his money with his three workers. To each worker he gives different amounts depending on their ability. There are no strings attached, but this is clearly a test to see how well the workers use their master's money. Two of the workers, by industrious trading, doubled the amounts they each received. The third, a man who was very prudent, carefully hid his money and made no gain. When the master returns he rewards the first two for their enterprise, but the third is condemned for doing nothing. In a similar fashion, God gives us different talents and abilities that He expects us to make use of. Some people are obviously more gifted than others, but that is not important. We have all been given sufficient talents from God by which we can work together for our common good. The emphasis here is clearly on community.

Finally, the third parable is about helping others and the final judgement. When the time comes, the goat (the bad) will be separated from the sheep (the good). The good will be are richly rewarded while the bad will be punished for their misdeeds. God will judge us not only for the wrong we have done but also for what we have failed to do. It is important that we help others who are not so fortunate as us because that demonstrates real compassion.

We had a good discussion ably aided by Fr John who is a priest from Nigeria. It was my turn to moderate this time, which meant I had to select the opening hymn, the prayers and control the flow of the meeting. I finished with a closing prayer, which drew upon Matthew 25 as well as my own personal experiences. Here is my prayer:

Dear Lord,

Thank you for giving us this opportunity to meet today and reflect on the Word of God. Let your Word always be the guiding light in our lives. Help us to grow in faith, using the trials and tribulations that come our way to turn to God instead of turning away from Him. Thank you for the many talents you have given us Lord; let us make use of them wisely. Help us to lead holy lives, always striving to do good and helping others.

Amen.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Arab spring or Christian autumn?

The dominant reaction in the West to the spread of revolution was one of enthusiasm; some commentators even spoke of an “Arab spring” in North Africa and the Middle East. It was widely believed that the resulting political changes would be for the better, leading to the establishment of real freedom for the region’s peoples – including its Christian minorities – and of Western-style democracy. An important reason for this optimism was the apparently secular character of the revolts: they appeared to have little or no religious dimension, and certainly not to be Islamic revolutions on the Iranian model.

If this were so, the uprisings would indeed be good news for the Christians of these nations. For years they have suffered discrimination in many areas of life, restrictions on their freedoms by the authorities, and outright violence from the Muslim majorities. If the twilight of the old regimes really did herald the dawn of freedom, Christians could hope at last to take their place as equal members of society and to practise and share their faith in peace and safety.

Sadly, however, the widespread positive response to recent events in misplaced, even naïve. North African and Middle Eastern concepts of freedom and democracy, shaped by centuries of Islamic domination, are simply not the same as Western ones. So, for example, when political leaders commit themselves to “support freedom,” they do not intend to include religious freedom in this, and their Muslim audiences do not understand them to do so.

Nor can religion be separated from politics in any Muslim context, where the two are inseparably connected. For most of the people involved in them, the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings are not “secular” revolutions; they are profoundly religious events, waiting to be led by the strongest religious players.

The best organised and funded groups among the rebels in Tunisia and Egypt are the Islamist movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, who are aiming to play a leading role in the future government of their countries. There is already significant evidence of their growing influence in the post-revolutionary fervour:

  • The return of Islamist leaders Rashid al-Ghannoushi and Yusuf al-Qaradawi to Tunisia and Egypt respectively, amidst great public enthusiasm; the latter led a million people in prayer in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

  • The appointment of an Islamist judge to head the committee drawing up Egypt’s new constitution.

  • The sudden and sharp upsurge in anti-Christian violence in Egypt, involving not only Islamist militants but also the Egyptian authorities.


  • The outcome of recent events in North Africa and the Middle East is impossible to predict with confidence at this stage. But the essentially religious character of political events in Tunisia and Egypt, and the presence there of powerful Islamist groups, raises grave concerns for the future of Christian communities in those countries. If Islamism does seize control of the various revolutions, whether slowly or suddenly, it will impose a much stricter Islamic character on politics and society, threatening the very survival of Christianity across the region.

    Please pray that the Arab spring does not become a Christian autumn.

    Source: Barnabus Fund