Issues Vol. 168‎ > ‎

Vol. 168 No. 25 - June 24 - June 30, 2017

01 Cover

posted Jun 21, 2017, 9:54 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jun 22, 2017, 6:23 PM ]


03 Index

posted Jun 21, 2017, 9:53 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jun 21, 2017, 9:53 AM ]


04 Official

posted Jun 21, 2017, 9:51 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jun 21, 2017, 9:51 AM ]


05 Indian Church loses ‘Martyr for mission’

posted Jun 21, 2017, 9:46 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jun 21, 2017, 9:46 AM ]


06 Engagements

posted Jun 21, 2017, 9:43 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jun 21, 2017, 9:43 AM ]


07 Editorial - Charisms of Mercy of the Laity

posted Jun 21, 2017, 9:40 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jun 21, 2017, 9:41 AM ]

Pope Francis encourages us to promote a culture of mercy even beyond the Year of Mercy. He said this culture needed to be one where "no one looks to the other with indifference or runs away when he sees the suffering of brothers." " Through your initiatives, your plans and your actions, he added, you render a poor Church visible, one that empathises with those who are suffering, marginalised and excluded. In its message for Laity Sunday this year, the CCBI has proposed a reflection of the life of St Thomas More, whose witness bears testimony to the courage and fearlessness which God bestows on lay persons.

One of the proposed corporal works of Mercy is 'visit the prisoners'.
We have two familiar examples. Samandar Singh (the man who killed Sr Rani Maria) stated that he experienced a rebirth when Sr Selmy (the sister of slain Sr Rani Maria) visited him in prison, and offered words of forgiveness, tying a rakhi, accepting him as her brother. Gladys Staines, widow of the Australian missionary Graham Staines (who was burnt to death along with their two minor sons in Orissa) says she holds no bitterness towards the killers. "Forgiveness and mercy is needed to break the cycle of hatred and violence" even while the rule of law prevails.

The Prison Ministry of our diocese has regularly visited various jails, even prior to the Year of Mercy. The compassion, respect and kindness shown to the inmates through words and actions go a long way towards helping them maintain their dignity. Organising a mass on special occasions, listening to the inmates' woes, organising special events for women/children or medical camps for all prisoners, providing legal aid to undertrials, does not just bring relief from physical ailments, but also manifests that the community does care, giving them hope.

'Hope' and 'Mercy' are the ingredients that bring about transformation in the lives of prisoners. Pope Francis himself showed the way to be merciful by visiting the prison, and making a choice to wash the feet of prisoners on Maundy Thursday.

Another challenge needing the attention of the laity is to work to prevent and stop trafficking of women and children. Traffickers are those who coerce people to perform work or sex acts against their will. While the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) has enabled punishment of offenders, the implementation is still lagging behind. Being aware of the modus operandi of traffickers can aid prevention or halt trafficking. Some NGOs and individuals have shown us the way. The laity can choose to support their work in different ways.

International Justice Mission (IJM) is an organisation that works with government and grassroots organisations on two forms of human trafficking - bonded labour and sex trafficking of minors - and rescues and rehabilitates victims, prosecutes offenders, and trains public/officials to prevent trafficking. Justice and Care - Mumbai rescues and supports victims of trafficking, slavery and other abuse. They work internationally through local governments and law enforcement agencies focusing on prevention, protection of trafficked victims and prosecution of traffickers. Prerana, an NGO, works to end intergenerational prostitution and to protect women and children from the threats of human trafficking by defending their rights and dignity, providing a safe environment, supporting their education and health, and leading major advocacy efforts in Mumbai since 1986.

Fifty-year-old Anson Thomas works as an officer with Mumbai Customs. When not on duty, Thomas visits the red-light areas in Mumbai to spread the message against trafficking. While some give him brickbats for his guts, others applaud him. The Customs hockey player has made it his mission to fight human trafficking, roping in several sports stars, utilising their iconic status to reach out to all stakeholders, fighting against prostitution, and bringing hope to the victims. Let the laity make greater efforts to reflect on how they can be a part of these issues actively.

Bishop Allwyn D'Silva, Auxiliary Bishop of Bombay

08 My Experience with Undertrials - Sr Sagayamary m, SCSA

posted Jun 21, 2017, 9:39 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jun 21, 2017, 9:39 AM ]

St Alberto Hurtado would say, "Charity begins where justice ends." In other words, we cannot even talk of love unless we have been just. We read in the scriptures that in the beginning "God created humankind in His image; in the image of God, He created them." (Gen 1: 27) Unfortunately, this image of God is distorted in uncountable ways. In today's world, Human Rights are increasingly violated in all spheres of life. In a world torn by division, power struggles, selfishness and narrow mindedness, the Judiciary is the last resort. Behind every case filed in a court, there is a human person in flesh and blood. We may label them as 'criminal', 'innocent', 'victim' or 'aggressor', but we need to remember that all of them are broken images of God.

In our country, the prisons are overcrowded. Many of the prisoners are under-trials, and their cases are pending in the court for many years. Moreover, the pre-trial detention (when the trial has not even begun) is grave because the accused, who is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, is subjected to inexplicable psychological pain and physical deprivation in a jail.

Justice Krishnaiyar in one of his judgments (1978 AIR 1594) stated: "The bail system causes discrimination against the poor, because the poor are not able to furnish bail on account of their poverty, while the wealthier (similarly situated) are able to secure their release, because they can afford the money to furnish bail. The discrimination arises even if the amount of the bail fixed by the Magistrate is not high, for a large majority of those who are brought before the courts in criminal cases are so poor that they would find it difficult to furnish bail, even if it is a small amount."

Once, a poor young man approached me with a case. His sister was in the prison. He tried every possible way he could find in order to secure bail for her. He ran from one lawyer to another, exhausted all his money, and yet could not release her. When he met me, he was heart-broken. I was his last straw. Within a short duration, he met me a number of times. One evening, he came to me and shared his plight, the inhuman treatment he faced as the advocates did not listen to him because he had no money, his utter helplessness to release his sister. I was moved and promised to do my best. I promised him that I would release his sister, and that too, without the usual fee. He could not believe his ears that an advocate was willing to release his sister, and that too without a charge. He seemed convinced and returned home. But, later that night, I was informed that he committed suicide. His frustration was so deep that it was too late to restore his hope. The news shook me. Here I was face to face with the raw reality of our judicial system. Here began my resolve to serve the under-trials.

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09 My Experience in Prison Ministry - Sr Dhanam, SCSC

posted Jun 21, 2017, 9:38 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jun 21, 2017, 9:38 AM ]

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to proclaim the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, and to set the oppressed free...” (Lk 4:18)

At the outset, I wish to share the conditions of the brothers and sisters behind bars who are suffering physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually, and who are in urgent need of support. Many are weighed down with anxiety and depression. In prison, they lose their names, and are called by numbers; they are treated inhumanly. But God is a loving God; He never looks at our sins and faults, but at our hearts. He gives them a new identity. And His mercy transforms them.

It is only the love and mercy of God that will help us to see them as individuals, beyond their actions. Only God's mercy reigning in our hearts will help us create an environment of openness and forgiveness, and help these unfortunate ones to re-establish themselves and stand up once again to face life.

These brothers and sisters behind bars lose their identity and human dignity from the time they are brought to the prison. They experience extreme loneliness. When I see their faces clouded with shame and guilt, I think of Jesus with His garments stripped. This gives me a new impetus and a fresh vigour to work for them.

To witness to God's love and mercy to our brothers and sisters behind bars is one of my missions – I want to bring the ray of hope and light back into their life. To this end, I work with the "3R" methodology – Release, Renewal and Rehabilitation.

Release from bondages which keep them in the darkness of sin, to a new life by listening to them, and helping them to forgive themselves and others, thereby enabling them to experience God's love, and come out of their guilt into the grace and fullness of life that God in His mercy has bestowed on us. (Reformation)

When I met Mrs Asha from Kolkata in the Kalyan prison, I was shocked to see her back fully scarred with cigarette burns. After listening to her, I learnt that she was cheated by her own husband and accused falsely. A case study was done, and it was found that all she had said was true; but there was need for a lot of inner healing. After a lot of counselling and prayer, we could release her from the prison. Her parents were called from Kolkata, and she was handed into their care. This incident moved me to work even more vigorously to bring justice to those who are most vulnerable.

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11 Lay collaborators: a Pillar of Hope - Sr Grace Rodrigues, FdCC

posted Jun 21, 2017, 9:36 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jun 21, 2017, 9:37 AM ]

In the fight against human trafficking, cross–sector collaboration is vital, as we see in today’s world. Human trafficking is a devastating crime that threatens society’s most vulnerable members, exploiting them for sex, labour, and servitude of all kinds. It destroys families, shatters lives, and undermines our most fundamental beliefs about the dignity of all people. AMRAT (Asian Movement of Women Religious Against Human Trafficking) along with lay collaborators as well as through the networks of different non-government organisations (NGOs) and the police force are deeply committed to combating the scourge of human trafficking. They support survivors with every tool and facility. The members of AMRAT (all over Asia) believe in a preventive approach, which is victim-centred, and trauma-informed to prosecute these crimes. Nothing is more important than helping victims to regain the sense of control that their assailants have tried to steal from them.

As Pope Francis says, “Human Trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ. It is a crime against humanity.” Such a big challenge is placed before us by Pope Francis to develop a multi-disciplinary approach in human trafficking which is a collaborative approach to combat all forms of human trafficking within our country. That is what we do; our lay collaborators are the pillars of hope, an extended hand in reaching out to the victims of human trafficking.

Recently, Sr Rita Mascarenhas FMA and I delivered a session on human trafficking for the children of St Michael’s parish, Mahim. We received a great response from the lay people (SCC groups) through this awareness programme. They supported the different NGOs, both financially and materially. The lay collaborators were ever ready to support us in our mission to reach out to these brothers and sisters who have been wounded by the inhumanity of selfish people.

“Rise, Brothers, rise! Extend your hand, dear Sisters!” is the call of the members of AMRAT. It’s a call to collaborate in this movement to help the victims of human trafficking and thus uphold human dignity. Many people across the globe have been the pillars of hope to these young and tender victims of trafficking.

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12 Making Human Trafficking a rarity, one life at a time

posted Jun 21, 2017, 9:35 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jun 21, 2017, 9:35 AM ]

According to the 2016 Global Slavery Index, an estimated 45.8 million people are affected by human trafficking worldwide. India is among the few countries with the highest absolute numbers of people in slavery, including domestic servitude, forced labour, sex trade, illegal adoption, forced marriages and other kinds of slavery. The country is also one of the few nations with the highest estimated prevalence of modern slavery by proportion of its population.

At Justice and Care (Mumbai), we are inspired to carry on the fight against this unspeakable injustice, working with the Government and law enforcement agencies to liberate and support victims of human trafficking and other unimaginable abuses. In the last eight years since our inception, we have grown to become one of the leading organisations that, in true partnership with the state, tackles this complex and largely invisible issue.

Since inception, we have worked with governments and law enforcement agencies to save more than 4500 trafficked women and children, ensured the arrest of 950+ accused and achieved close to 120 convictions.

Whilst making human trafficking a rarity is Justice and Care's core objective, we continue to care for every child and young person whom we save. Our Aftercare team ensures individual care plans are implemented for each survivor. At present, we are looking after 3133 women and children that are supported in our Care and Protection Programme.

One of them is Renuka*, whose family lived in a very deprived village in South Asia. Her parents were forcing Renuka to beg (as they did) in order to provide for the family. In 2014, when Renuka was barely sixteen, a job opportunity provided by Suresh*, a young man in her village, seemed to be a way out from a very desperate situation. Suresh had promised her employment in a beauty parlour. Little did she realise that accepting his offer meant that she was to travel thousands of miles, crossing international borders to finally find herself in a brothel.

Renuka was locked up in isolation and kept hungry. She was badly beaten, traumatised and raped repeatedly by Suresh and Pratap*, the man who managed the brothel. She was then forced to have sex with 10-12 men every single day. She was never paid any money and did not possess any documentation.

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