Issues Vol. 168‎ > ‎

Vol. 168 No. 32 - August 12 - August 18, 2017

01 Cover

posted Aug 10, 2017, 9:45 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 10, 2017, 11:32 PM ]

03 Index

posted Aug 10, 2017, 9:45 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 10, 2017, 9:45 AM ]

04 Official & Engagements

posted Aug 10, 2017, 9:44 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 10, 2017, 9:44 AM ]

04 Editorial - Prison Ministry Sunday 2017

posted Aug 10, 2017, 9:37 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 10, 2017, 11:33 PM ]

A Pastoral Letter

Forgiveness cannot undo the past, but it can enlarge the future." This statement is chosen as the theme of this year's Prison Ministry Sunday. Thoughts of the Year of Mercy are still fresh in our minds. God made Himself known to us as "a God of tenderness, compassion, slow to anger, abounding in mercy." (Ex 34:6) He is a liberating, saving and forgiving God. When God became man in Jesus, He became God's Face of Mercy. Mercy and Forgiveness go hand in hand.

Prison Ministry is entirely a service of Mercy and Forgiveness. The loneliness, powerlessness and hopelessness experienced by those in prison are well known to those engaged in the Ministry for the past many years. Through the celebration of Prison Ministry Sunday, the Church declares to all held in 1,401 prisons in India that they are not alone, and their situation is not hopeless.

The criminal justice system is overburdened; the methods in dealing with criminals are mostly punitive. Yet, the more people are punished, the more crime is committed; society remains in fear. Imprisonment is supposed to offer correction, reform and rehabilitation. But this does not happen in reality; instead, it makes things worse. We know that our prisons and the system have failed to bring down the crime rate. The methods used produce negative results.

The Church offers an alternative by inviting us to turn to JESUS, to imitate His approach and His ways with offenders and sinners, outcasts, untouchables, and all those condemned by the society of His time. The parables of the shepherd and his lost sheep, the woman and her lost coin present powerful points for reflection. God our Father values every lost son or daughter, feels for them, waits for them to "come to their senses"; He waits for their return. God's love is unconditional. God is looking for us. Sometimes, it's a long journey. Prisoners need our support to help them move away from a life of crime and towards the light of God's healing rays. They need the strength of our Faith, Hope and Love. A new approach with understanding and compassion can, in surprising ways, disarm even the most hardened offender. Based on Jesus' values of mercy and forgiveness, we should commit ourselves for the reform of these suffering people. Three proposals are put forward:

First, we work to make the prisons Communities of Hope:

This means we work to change the oppressive sense of hopelessness that pervades the atmosphere of any prison—the result of guilt, silence, solitude etc. Ministers, men and women of Faith, must act as agents and Angels of Hope, making ourselves 'Channels of hope and peace'. Then we can sing with St Francis: "where there is despair, let me bring Hope."

Secondly, we work to make the prisons Communities of Faith:

Human beings are basically spiritual. Healthy spiritual orientation is a pre-requisite for any holistic Reform, which is a must for a lasting result. Faith helps one to listen, to reflect, to forgive. Only faith can give answers to family members who ask a volunteer of Prison Ministry, "Can you give back the mother who was killed by our father?" Faith helps us to cross the borders on the seemingly inaccessible shores.

Thirdly, we work to make the prisons Communities of Restorative Justice:

Restorative justice is a way of responding to a person who has been harmed, a person who has caused harm and the community affected by the harm done. Restorative justice repairs damaged relationships between the offender and his/her family and the community. Remembering the beatification of Sr Rani Maria, let us not forget the hard work and prayers that brought the killer to tears at the feet of her father, mother and family members. This incident is the best example of restorative justice, of building a relationship with the offender, the victim and the community.

We pray for Prison Officers and Staff, for the prisoners who live shattered lives burdened by their own sins, and for all the dedicated volunteers in Prison Ministry. May our patron St Maximilian Kolbe guide us.

Bishop Peter Remigius is the Patron of Prison Ministry India

06 Freedom or Farce? - Eddy D’sa

posted Aug 10, 2017, 9:35 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 10, 2017, 9:36 AM ]

As India approaches its 70th year of independence, have we done enough to realise the promises made in the Constitution? As we celebrate India’s independence, the role that beasts have played in Indian history since 1857 is yet to be clearly understood. Some 160 years on, we may have resolved most of our differences with our former colonial masters. But differences over the cow and the pig, harboured amongst ourselves, remain mysteriously resistant to resolution. The politics associated with these mute animals is exemplified in the killing of Muhammad Akhlaq in Dadri last September, followed by similar incidents in north and central India. The recent Una agitation saw beleaguered and beaten Dalits refusing to clear the carcasses of cows, to protest the violence they suffer at the hands of gaurakshaks. These incidents are a translation of the difficulties we face in figuring out the limits of our freedom. India’s increasing Hindu supremacist rhetoric and rising intolerance betrays a dangerous kinship.

This hardening of attitude has increasingly been visible in the display of violence in Kashmir, in Darjeeling and in the rampant rise of ‘cow protectors’ across India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently made some noises against cow vigilantism, but the silence of the state so far has legitimised a form of hooliganism which swears by Hindutva ideals. It’s only now that the Hindutva ruling classes are realising that Hindu supremacist tendencies will end up generating a polarisation– Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis, and other underprivileged classes on the one hand, and upper caste Hindus on the other. And this could be detrimental to their own (electoral) well-being. The story of the Dalits being stripped and beaten was prominently carried by the New York Times, which also wrote a stinging editorial on the subject, may have had some influence in breaking Modi’s silence.


07 Freedom Brings Changes and Challenges! - Irwin Almeida

posted Aug 10, 2017, 9:34 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 10, 2017, 9:34 AM ]

August 15, 1947 was the day India became Independent. August is a month of many celebrations. August 15 is also the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady taken up body and soul into heavenly glory. On August 28 is the Feast of St Augustine of Hippo who, by his own admission, was a sinner, became an agent of liberation and wrote his famous book City of God.

Freedom brings to mind the sacrifices of scores of bravehearts on whose tombs our freedom is built. These dedicated freedom fighters, guided by the Gandhian ideology, pursued peaceful demonstrations without any bloodshed.

Among these illustrious patriots was the renowned Barrister Joseph Baptista, whose loyalty endeared him to the people and earned him the sobriquet Kaka. As a staunch proponent of Home Rule, he was closely associated with Veer Savarkar, Lokmanya Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai and others. On the other hand, Mahatma Gandhi first lit the flame of the freedom movement at various landmarks to begin India's long journey to its midnight tryst with destiny.

Cautiously supporting this struggle for freedom, Baptista advocated orderly progress. He therefore warned, "Sagacious statesmen will perceive the wisdom of conciliating Congressmen who pin their faith in the creed of non-violence. Suspicion and distrust must be ended. An absolutely straightforward policy has become absolutely indispensable. It also promises the maximum measure of peace, goodwill and orderly progress."

At midnight of August 14-15, 1947, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister, made the most striking speech ever by an Indian. His historic words stirred the nation, and shall always be remembered by those of that time who were witness to the momentous change. His words are relevant even more today, as the country is faced with several challenges.

He declared, and I quote for posterity: "Long years ago, we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.

"A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation long suppressed finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment, we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people, and to the still larger cause of humanity.


09 Healing Addiction by healing the Earth - Fr. Joe H Pereira

posted Aug 10, 2017, 9:33 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 10, 2017, 9:33 AM ]

Kripa Foundation—the largest NGO in India looking after people afflicted with chemical dependency and HIV infection—completes 36 years this month.

In May 2016, Pope Francis’ encyclical on saving the world—Laudato Si'—was presented to great acclaim, and not a minute too soon. In a world torn by man’s greed, he declared for Mother Earth, urging responsible consumption, accompanied at every step by corresponding methods of preserving and nurturing the blue planet.

At Kripa Foundation, where we have been fighting forms of addiction for the past three decades, we are gearing up to celebrate 36 years of existence this month. And how better to celebrate, we thought, that within the framework of the vision of His Holiness. Thus, Kripa Foundation visualised a pro-life project for the Earth for those suffering from addictions. As the addicts were loving their most abused and misused bodies, minds and souls back to life, simultaneously, they could twin their efforts with the Pope’s teaching on the Environment.

Barely a year ago, we met Rosie Harding and Peter Fernandes in Asaagao, Goa, co-founders of an initiative that turned degraded lands into lush food-producing. We enlisted their support to design and implement the new Kripa Foundation Kitchen Garden and Food Forest. And already, on 2,400 sq metres of dry, uncultivated, unproductive dirt in Anjuna, the Kripa Foundation’s Kitchen Garden and Food Forest is producing thrice-weekly harvests for our centre, as well as for the local community.

Already featuring a great diversity of species, including leafy greens and vegetables, culinary and medicinal herbs, fruit trees and support plants for pollinators and other beneficial insects, the garden will soon include poultry (chickens and ducks), seasonal aquaculture and bees; the potential yield is limited only by our own knowledge and imagination.

What is central to the garden project is recovery and occupational therapy, wherein clients in recovery can benefit from food, as well as a relaxing environment.

This is accompanied by the Skill Development and Educational Program. Based on ability and willingness to learn, the garden becomes a multi-disciplinary environment where many skills may be gained. Today, there is a great need for experienced food and ecosystem artisans.

Not just for clients, however, the garden offers a comprehensive educational programme in active development for clients, trainees/interns and members of the community. The curriculum includes both theoretical knowledge and hands-on experience via talks, workshops, internships and structured volunteering opportunities for short, mid and long-term. And if you like what you see, replicating the initiative becomes easy. 


10 Prison Ministry - Custodial torture and death - Maritta Pereira

posted Aug 10, 2017, 9:32 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 10, 2017, 9:32 AM ]

The horror stories coming out of Mumbai's Byculla Jail of the alleged murder of a woman prisoner and subsequent rioting by enraged female inmates, brings the focus back to the gory truth of custodial torture and death. It is a wake-up call on the state of affairs inside our prisons, and highlights the need for prison reforms and review of the existing safeguards to prevent prisoner abuse. The reports told of how a convicted prisoner was allegedly stripped and brutally assaulted by six prison officials in the prison on June 23, 2017, because the woman complained that prisoners were not receiving sufficient food. Witnesses described hearing the woman's screams, as she was brutalised in the jailor's office, and again in the barracks. Initial police reports alleged that female guards forcefully opened her legs, and inserted a police lathi into her private parts. She was then left bleeding in the barracks. By evening, Shetye lost consciousness and was taken to JJ Hospital, where she was declared dead before admission.

It brought back memories of the shocking 'Nirbhaya' case where a medical student was brutally assaulted with similar acts on a bus, and died in Delhi in December 2012, which shook the nation and triggered massive protests all over the country. However, this is worse, because here, law enforcement officers were doing it within the walls of the prison, where the victim was completely helpless. Torture in custody at the hands of the protectors of the law is considered to be the cruelest form of human rights violation, and an affront to human dignity. It is one of the worst crimes in a civilised society. A former Supreme Court Judge, V. R. Iyer, has said that, "Custodial torture is worse than terrorism, because the authority of the State is behind it."

Custody means guardianship or protective care. When the state takes away a person's liberty by way of police detention/imprisonment, it assumes full responsibility for protecting their human rights. The most fundamental of these is the right to life.


12 Timelessness of the Assumption - Marcellus D’Souza

posted Aug 10, 2017, 9:31 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 10, 2017, 9:31 AM ]

On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII defined the Assumption of Mary to be a dogma of faith in Munificentissimus Deus: "We pronounce, declare and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma that the immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul to heavenly glory."

What the Pope solemnly declared was already a common belief in the Church, although Pope Pius XII, in the text explaining his definition of the dogma of the Assumption, refers repeatedly to the Blessed Virgin's death before her Assumption.

Records indicate that the festival was celebrated in the third century. The feast was celebrated under various names – The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary; The Assumption of Mary Into Heaven; The Dormition of the Theotokos or The Falling Asleep of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Finally, by the 13th century, there was universal agreement on the solemnity.

Scripture does not give an account of Mary's Assumption into heaven. Though Revelation 12 speaks of a woman who is caught up in the battle between good and evil, and in 1 Corinthians 15:20, Saint Paul speaks of Christ's Resurrection as the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

St Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, at the Council of Chalcedon (451), made known to Emperor Marcian and Pulcheria, who wished to possess the body of the Mother of God, that Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles, but that her tomb, when opened, upon the request of St Thomas, was found empty, whereby the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven. Thus, the Assumption was the last major Mariological step that was established.

The earliest known literary reference to the Assumption is found in the Greek work De Obitu S. Dominae, which bears the name of St John, to whom Christ on the Cross had entrusted the care of His mother. In the document, St John recounts the death, laying in the tomb and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. The Assumption finds mention in the book De Transitu Virginis, which was falsely ascribed to St Melito of Sardis, and a spurious letter attributed to St Denis the Areopagite.


13 Book Review

posted Aug 10, 2017, 9:28 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 10, 2017, 9:29 AM ]

The Merry Tongue

by Milly Pereira & Noella Menon
Published by Noella Menon, 2017.
Available with Milly Pereira Tel. 2642 3949/98335 95859

Reading ‘The Merry Tongue’ has had a great impact on me. It is, in my humble opinion, a masterpiece of spirituality, containing many nuggets of gold that one needs to discover for oneself.

The book is unusually produced – the combined work of a mother, Milly Pereira, and her daughter, Noella Menon. Noella was the recipient of her mother’s narrations and a witness to her experiences over the years, and has committed all this content to writing so beautifully. The book is a tribute as much to Noella, as it is to Milly.

I came to know Milly when I was closely involved with both our ecclesiastical movements for widows: The Fraternity of Our Lady of the Resurrection (F.O.L.O.R.) and the Hope and Life. Over the years, our acquaintanceship has grown. Milly joined both these movements, and for a while, even coordinated the F.O.L.O.R, having being elected to its leadership.

The strength of the book is that it tells a very simple, homely love story. I am sure most people would easily relate to the events narrated. As Milly faces the inevitable ups-and-downs of daily life, she slowly, but surely, develops a tremendous closeness to God. If she could cultivate such a communion with Him, so can all of us; but how is this to be done?

I found the answer in Chapter 13, ‘The Embrace of Grace’ - the day that Milly lost her husband. They were both young, in their early forties, with three young children. She was distraught and shattered, feeling she was going insane. At this precise moment, she heard the Lord say: “You said you trusted Me. Can you surrender?” And Milly did surrender!

It is after she surrendered to the Lord that her friendship with Him started rapidly to deepen through the trials and sufferings, and paradoxically, through the immense joys she experienced in her widowhood as well.


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