30 November, 2012

Iron lady of India

The most under developed area of India is the north eastern part. The seven northeastern states are Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. The developmental projects are not at all reaching there as it is to the other parts of India. And naturally the people there are very much skeptical about the central governments developmental interests to them. During the course of time a number of insurgent groups have evolved in each of the states and they demand for independence also.
Christian population is also seemingly high in comparison to the other parts of India. My five colleagues are working there as missionary and they tell me the sad stories of the poor people there. My colleagues have no telephone access over the hills and no proper transport. They come down to the nearest city every month once to check the emails and for telephonic contacts.
The difference of approaches from the different governments from center towards the north eastern states and the attention they receive form the population from the other parts of India can be studies through the twelve year fast of Irom Sharmila and the response of government.
Fasting is not something new to Indians as we fought for freedom under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi through fasts and peaceful protests. The right to fast comes under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. Irom Sharmila follows the footsteps of what all our freedom fighters did. It deals with right to expression.
Who is Irom Sharmila? She has been on a fast unto death since 2000, demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act or AFSPA. She is a poet, civil activist and a political activist. So then why she is against AFSPA? Ms Sharmila's protest was spurred by the Malom massacre on November 2, 2000, in which 10 innocent people were shot dead by the personnel of Assam Rifles. They were waiting at the bus shed in Malom on the outskirts of Imphal.  (The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), was passed on September 11, 1958, by the Parliament of India. It entitles certain states as ‘disturbed states’ and so the armed forces are given extraordinary powers and legal immunity. Apart from the northeastern states, Jammu Kashmir also comes under the purview of this AFSPA.)
She started the fast in November 2, 2000 and recently completed 12 years of long fast making her the longest fasting person on this earth. She is frequently fed forcefully by the police as she remains in the judicial custody of police.  The tragedy is that she doesn’t get the due attention from the authorities and no one addresses the issue she raises. Thank Facebook and Twitter she is known to the world outside of Manipur. Recently India witnessed a number of fast where Anna Hazare, Baba Ramdev and some others received even global attention as I read the reports of it even in Swiss newspapers.
I find that Irom Sharmila is fighting for a fundamental human rights cause and it is a high time for a national and international intervention. She was given a lot of awards by different groups but now she declines all the awards demanding that it is not awards what she wants but she needs a solution for the problem. She is right in her thinking and needed respect.
I entend my support for the cause for which she fights. Let you be also one among those few who have a human heart.

22 November, 2012

Grim day

"Very grim day, most of all for women priests and supporters, need to surround all with prayer & love and co-operate with our healing God." This was the twitter reaction of the next bishop of Canterbury, the head of the Church of England.
Yes, for me also it was a disappointment. The synod witnessed more than 100 speeches and half of them by women before it went for the voting. 

On last Tuesday the church put to vote after a long 12 years of debate, deliberation and theological explanations, after almost 30 years of campaigning, the needed legislation to appoint women bishops in the Church of England. They already have women priests which mark a sign of equality of everyone among the whole humanity.

The surprise was that the motion got passed in the house of Bishops and house of Clergy with a two-third majority and more than that but in the house of Laity it failed to achieve the two third majority with the margin of a mere 6 votes. Tragic.

The votes were 44 for and three against with two abstentions in the House of Bishops, 148 for and 45 against in the House of Clergy, and 132 for and 74 against in the House of Laity. The vote was only lost by a handful of votes amongst lay members, which means the vast majority of Anglicans are in favour and will feel deeply disappointed. The catholic group in the synod, as expected, backed a ‘no’ vote, and is happy now. Very unfortunate.

Naturally the question would be, why should I be disappointed who is a catholic where the whole church’s top roles and the clergy roles are accessible only for men, or better to say half of the human kind is discriminated out? Time to introspect and get to know the pulse of the people. Is the church running behind the times? Are we still hanging on with the thinking that Eve, the so called first woman, is solely responsible to have brought sin to the world? What we need to get around a Eucharistic table to deliberate in favour of including everyone in the ‘Kingdom of Church’? Thank God, at least in Kingdom of God, there is no discrimination.

For me, in all areas of the church, in all offices, and in all activity of the Church, women need to find free access as children of God. If we followed the traditions and practices of the wider society in the early ages to form a church headed by men, it is time to see that the same society has changed itself to pave way for the eradication of all inequalities. After all, both men and women are created in the image of God.

I would be happy to celebrate a Eucharist with a galaxy of women priests concelebrating.

I just remember the bible story of Moses where he was asked to select elders so that they may be poured with the spirit of the Lord and they prophesy. As they started prophesying in the Tent, two others Eldad and Medad started prophesying outside the tent in the camp. Joshua asked Moses to stop them. Bit Moses replies, “Are you jealous?  I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lordwould put his Spirit on them!” so people outside the tent can also have the spirit of the Lord and not the only ones who are elected and given authority.

Let not the society one day feel that it is better off without the contribution of Catholic church.

10 November, 2012

why an expensive democratic extravaganza?

America elected Obama in a fair and transparent presidential election and at the same time in China, another country of importance, Xi Jinping is gearing up to be the next leader in a very secret and mysterious (18th Chinese Communist party congress) process without democratic ways. Two extreme ways of political institutionalism.  Total spending on the presidential and congressional election in the US crossed 5.8 billion US dollars and for sure the Chinese process cost very less compared to the American expenditure in election. Democracy seems to be a very expensive extravagance. For example in the 2009 the parliament elections in India cost a slightly more than 2 billion US dollars. The same day when the expenditure details of US elections were published I happened to read in Twitter a text from the World Bank. The study reveals that there are 2.47 billion people in the world who live below 2 US dollars a day. Interesting to note that the poverty rate in US jumped up from 11.3% in 2000 to 15.3% in 2010. The election expenses indicate the worth of the value system of the American politicians. What a paradox? At least in India there are some restrictions to the amount of money to be spent by every candidate in the elections. If the cross the limit of their permitted expense level, the candidates will be suspended of all their offices they have won and also debarred from contesting elections for the next six years. Why to promote such a very high expensive election process of democracy which denies food and shelter to the poor? A Facebook post that attracted my attentions runs as follows. “I don’t believe in democracy because it is the system that freed Barabbas and crucified Jesus”. More than that now an added reason. In world where one of every seven people go to bed hungry, it is very expensive to uphold the democratic system at a very high cost. Need to go for a new system ………