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13 December 2014  - Catholics: "We call on the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, to look on Hindu extremist groups and to stop the incitement to violence among communities". This is what is said in a note from the "Catholic Secular Forum" (CSF), one of the organizations of Indian civil society. "Hindu fundamentalists seem to be encouraged by the new government, which is giving a bad image of India abroad", said the statement sent to Fides.

The NGO noted with concern the campaign promoted by the Hindu extremist group RSS that has promised to "reconvert" - according to a program called "Back home" - more than 4,000 Christian dalit families (untouchables) to Hinduism. To carry out this ceremony on Christmas Day, note the Catholics, is a strong provocation. "We accept conversions from one religion to another, but we ask you not to do this through economic incentives", says the note sent to Fides. Such "forced conversions" are those that Hindu activists condemn strongly, attributing them to Christian missionaries.

"At Christmas we will pray so that all Indian citizens can enjoy full freedom of religion. The danger is that the activities promoted by militant groups fuel polarization and intolerance in Indian society", said the CSF. This is why a strong stance and an intervention of the central government is required, in the commitment to "protect human rights and minorities". (PA) (Agenzia Fides)

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28 November 2014 - Discrimination related to caste, child labor, early marriage of girls and chronic malnutrition are some of the most serious problems affecting the Indian population. Castes and subcastes are many, even if the main ones are four, three superior and one inferior. Then there are the untouchables, the Dalits, who are not in any caste and are completely marginalized, despite being 165 million. They are considered carriers of impurities and to avoid "infecting" other people they are forced to not to use glasses to drink but use their hands. They are not deemed worthy of eating in plates or leaves and must do so directly from the ground or on a stone.

Thirteen million children are socially excluded, forced to work to survive. Many are sold by their own families for less than 1,000 rupees (13.15 euro), in particular girls, who are exploited as domestic servants, often suffering abuse. 60 million children live below the poverty line. 47% of girls are forced to marry before the age of 18. In the country, which has the highest infant mortality rate, chronic malnutrition affects 62 million children. (AP) (Agenzia Fides 28/11/2014)

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Friday, 17 October 2014 20:36

INDIA Modi government slams western schools

16 October 2014 - The "western" school model introduced  by the British during the colonial era, "has dealt a severe blow to the values and culture of India" according to Rajnath Singh, Minister of the Interior.  He was speaking yesterday at the celebrations for the centenary of Chopsani School in Jodhpur. He blames the former "rulers", for the Indian education system's failure in achieving its main goal: the "full development of the person". In contrast, "only the unmatched Indian culture and its rich and holistic model of values" is able to achieve this goal.

The statements by the Minister echo one of the election promises of the prime minister Narendra Modi. The leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), currently in government, has vowed to apply the "Gujarat model" nationwide. Many have interpreted this statement as refering exclusively to the economy, to make it more dynamic and open for business.

However, this model also covers other aspects including that of education. In the state that Modi led for over 10 years, government schools were forced to include a number of textbooks on the curricula written by Dinanath Batra, an intellectual who has devoted his life to revising Indian history through the prism of Hindutva, and radical Hindu nationalist ideology. In his works, for example, he instructs students to draw a map of "Akhand Bharat", the great India, the boundaries of which include Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Tibet, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Batra is also, among other things, the one who lobbied ofr and succeeded in getting a book by Wendy Doniger, off the market. The US scholar of Indian history is deemed "offensive" to Hinduism.

Contacted by AsiaNews, Mgr. Percival Fernandez, former secretary general of the Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), warns of the "dangers of distorting history in the impressionable minds of the young." First of all, he explains, "History is about facts, and facts must never be distorted, because they can no longer be changed. No 'partisan' text  should ever enter educational institutions, which are intended to help the development of minds, not to distort them" (Asianews).

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Friday, 26 September 2014 20:41

INDIA Caritas India : the joy of service

26 September 2014 – The "joy of the Gospel" corresponds to the "joy of service": with this spirit and with this slogan the National Assembly of Caritas India was held in Bangalore in past days, which saw the participation of 167 diocesan organizations of Caritas. The event was an important test and programming for the organization, which deals with humanitarian aid but also of cooperation projects and development. In particular, the more than 200 delegates listened to the stories of 16 speeches on behalf of Caritas that in past years gave valuable results. These cases relate to health, natural resource management, respect for human rights, mitigation of natural disasters. 

In a note sent to Fides Fr. Paul Moonjely, deputy director of Caritas India highlights that "the joy of service, means "putting the person at the center of attention" as "the very definition of human development" also says.Fr. Moonjely points out that "the concept of human development implies fairness and justice". 

In the assembly the Executive Director, Fr. Frederick D'Souza, urged those present not to be "administrators", but "animators", on the model of Pope Francis, who is "one of the greatest animators of our time". "To animate", he said, means "to awaken, guide a process of social transformation that starts with the people and communities in order to bring about a change". 

Caritas India is the official agency of the Bishops' Conference of India for works of charity and social development. It was founded in 1962 to help the Church in India in the fight against poverty and marginalization. It is committed to serving people without any distinction of caste, creed, ethnic group. (PA) (Agenzia Fides) 

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Saturday, 20 September 2014 21:30

LEBANON Christians and Muslims mourn Hani Fahs

20 Semptember 2014 - Hani Fahs : an iconic figure for interreligious dialogue. Lebanese political and religious leaders react with emotion and grief at the sheikh's death. Fr Fadi Daou, founder of Adyan and one of the last people to visit him in hospital, remembers his friend. He was a "true Muslim" who knew how to live his faith to the fullest. His last project was a spiritual retreat for Christians and Muslims.

At a time when spiritual darkness is spreading over parts of the Middle East, the death of Sheikh Hani Fahs, 68, has elicited an emotional response among political and religious leaders that is far greater than one might expect from his media exposure. It is as if in death, one of Lebanon's truest voices for interfaith dialogue, a man of great openness, finally found his true stature, one that he embodied by virtue of his own character as well as his knowledge and faith.

Fr Fadi Daou, founder of the Adyan Foundation, was one of the last friends to visit the great thinker in the intensive care unit where he was hospitalised. Standing by the bed, next to intubated body of the dying scholar, F Daou prayed "that God may never deprive Lebanon and the Arab world of fatherly figures of his clarity, i.e. people who live in accordance with their faith and practice what they say."

This year, the Adyan Foundation had awarded the great scholar its Spiritual Solidarity Prize but had to bestow it posthumously. In announcing the award, Fr Fadi Daou said that what he particularly liked in Hani Fahs was "his distrust of religious men using their authority as an argument, and his closeness to those who humbly, courageously and freely sought God, whatever their religion."

"You told me: I am a beggar, I beg the love of God and man," said Father Daou, quoting the great man. "This inner freedom led you to feel responsible for your fellow men, take on their causes, without hesitating or counting your efforts to defend them".

"You loved young people; you the scientist, the scholar, the teacher," added Adyan's founder. "In the impetus of youth, despite possible distractions," Hani Fahs saw "at least a movement toward the future, at a time in which so many statements and positions take us back. "

Fr Daou hailed Hani Fahs as "a real Muslim who lived his faith to the fullest, as a Shia [. . .] at a time when many claim to be Sunni or Shia and fight accordingly without being real Muslims".

One of the last projects Sheikh Hani Fahs has in mind was a retreat for Christians and Muslims, at the Convent of Christ the Redeemer in Zahle (Bekaa).

Across the country, especially among Christians, many are paying tribute to his memory, mourning the loss of a man who will remain "a bright light in the history of Lebanon" (according to former Prime Minister Nagib Mikati).

Hani Fahs will be buried today in his native village of Jibchit (southern Lebanon).

Like many of his peers, he studied in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq. Now, he leaves behind a large opus of writings, but he will be especially remembered as a true friend of Truth. (Asianews)

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Monday, 04 August 2014 17:56

INDIA Very poor sanitary conditions

4 August 2014 - Children who live in unhealthy areas, with very poor sanitary conditions, in particular in places where there is a high rate of population, use outdoor spaces for their physiological needs, get sick easily. Surprisingly, a child who grows in India is much more likely to be malnourished compared to one of the poorest Countries on the planet such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe and Somalia. Rickets affects 65 million Indian children under 5 years of age, including one-third of children who belong to the richest families in the Country.

According to RICE Institute, most people do not use latrines, particularly in India. The limited availability of toilets in the Country also involves huge risks for girls to be raped because they are forced to use open-air bathrooms. However, according to another survey carried out on approximately 23 thousand Indians who live in the north showed that even among those who have bathrooms, over 40% said that at least one family member prefers open spaces.

Public campaigns are necessary, in schools and in the media, to explain the health benefits and the economic costs arising from the use of toilets and better sanitation. Researchers found that only a quarter of rural households have realized that washing hands helps prevent diarrhea. (AP) (Agenzia Fides)

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Saturday, 08 March 2014 23:41

To be born female "a disaster"

8 March 2014 - Women living in India suffer abuse eight times higher than any other place in the world. Physical abuse in the country is seen as a "right of the husband" and almost half of the violence affect girls between 5and 10 years of age. Because of the dowry, between 25 and 100 thousand women are killed each year. On the occasion of International Women's Day, the Foundation Vicente Ferrer, born in India in 1969 with the aim of finding solutions to the serious problems of the rural community of Anantapur, highlights the serious situation that these women live in the country.

According to information gathered by Fides Agency, to offer cash and jewelery to the groom's family is one of many "traditions" that promote violence in a male-dominated patriarchal Country, where man does not want to lose power. When the bride's family has no money, men harass the bride, often little more than a child, or even kill them, says the President of the foundation. Life for single women, divorced or orphan is even worse. In addition, when families are very numerous, girls are forced into prostitution and have to abort if they get pregnant. In recent decades 12 million selective abortions on the basis of sex have been recorded. (AP) (Agenzia Fides 07/03/2014

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Monday, 24 February 2014 20:09

CHINA March for press freedom

24 February 2014 - Protestors took to Hong Kong streets yesterday to march for press freedom, in a demonstration organised by journalists. Organizers estimated 6,000 participated in the march, though police gave far lower numbers, which culminated at the city’s government headquarters, amid growing fears that free expression is being compromised by Chinese authorities despite a deal between London and Beijing leading to the city’s handover in 1997, establishing that freedom of the press, among other rights, should be preserved for at least 50 years. The small territory should benefit from wide autonomy until 2047, but civil rights have been gradually supressed directly by Beijing and through the local parliament it controls.

Protesters chanted slogans such as “Free the people. Free Hong Kong. No censorship”, as they marched through the streets. These mounting concerns come after just this months both the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Paris-based Reporters Without Borders sounded an alarm over China’s stifling critical coverage in the media and internet. The increasing clampdown and censorship also affects international media because of Hong Kong’s strong tradition of free speech and it being seen as a window into the People’s Republic of China. 

Martin Lee, former Democratic Party chairman and among the top civil rights activists, yesterday stated that “when the freedom of the press is gone, no other freedom can be saved”. While in response to the growing concerns, the city’s government, led by pro-Beijing leader Leung Chun-ying, denied any attempts by the authorities to suppress the media. [CO/BO] © 2014 MISNA

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30 November 2013 - A great ecumenical and simultaneous prayer, in over 6,000 Christian churches across India: the initiative is scheduled for November 30 by the Union. As reported in a note sent to Fides by the Church of Delhi, "the focus of the prayer is justice, national reconciliation, economic justice. We will pray for all people and communities in India, for stability, peace and prosperity of the nation". "We call on all Christians in the nation to join in this effort of prayer to bless the nation", explains to Fides His Exc. Mgr. Anil Couto, Archbishop of Delhi, president of the organizing committee of prayer.
"Our nation is going through a period of uncertainty, especially with regards to the difficulties related to the social, economic and religious conditions of the population. All this requires an explicit contribution of Christian churches, committed to building the nation", says Rev. Richard Howell, Protestant Pastor, in the Executive Committee of the "United Christian prayer for India" (UCPI), an ecumenical organization that takes care of the initiative.
In Delhi a big event is scheduled: thousands of church members in Delhi will pray for India. "We have invited the leaders of our nation: the President, the Prime Minister, the President of the Supreme Court of India, the leaders of the armed forces. It is an occasion of grace for them, too" says Rev. Howell.
The Indian Church wishes to reiterate that it is at the forefront in giving a contribution to the nation. India today finds itself in a critical phase of its history. "The political, economic crisis and social morality, calls everyone to work hard and persevere in prayer, so that the country can continue on the path of progress, peace and justice", says the note sent to Fides.
The idea of a national ecumenical prayer was founded in 2012 by a meeting between different Indian Christians leaders. 
The initiative was immediately supported by the Christian leaders of different denominations belonging to 130 organizations, dioceses and parishes in many states like Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala.
(SD- PA) (Agenzia Fides 21/11/2013)

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7 September - Fasting and prayer for peace in Syria sees Christians and Hindus in India united. This is what was said by His Exc. Mgr. Felix Machado, Bishop of Vasai and President of the Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue of the "Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences" (FABC). 
"The Pope's appeal for a special Day for peace in Syria - says the Bishop to Fides – was welcomed with joy and enthusiasm by Christians in India, and now has spread to the leaders and the Hindu communities. Some Hindu leaders called me to express solidarity and to ensure fasting and prayer in the Hindu temples".
The Bishops' Conference of India has invited all dioceses to organize prayer vigils. "In India - explains the Bishop - the fact that the appeal is also addressed to the faithful of other religions and all people of good will was very much appreciated. These gestures are very important for us".
"The initiative - continues Bishop Machado - comes at a very favorable moment because it is the eve of the Feast of the Nativity of Mary, deeply felt by Indian Christians. The churches are already full. Tomorrow we will add the special intention for peace in Syria during the liturgies. The Hindu faithful are very sensitive to this Marian feast. In particular, the weapon of fasting is universal, it is very dear to Hindus and is capable of uniting the faithful of all religions in a deep spiritual communion".
"The faithful Indians and Hindus also thank Pope Francis, who is very much loved in our country, and hope to see him soon in India", the Bishop concluded. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 07/09/2013)

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