Tuesday, January 29, 2013

January 30th Martyrs Day..Day of Peace in INDIA "BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS:!!!

1 JANUARY 2013  
1. EACH NEW YEAR brings the expectation of a better world. In light of this, I ask God, the Father of humanity, to grant us concord and peace, so that the aspirations of all for a happy and prosperous life may be achieved.
Fifty years after the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, which helped to strengthen the Church’s mission in the world, it is heartening to realize that Christians, as the People of God in fellowship with him and sojourning among mankind, are committed within history to sharing humanity’s joys and hopes, grief and anguish, [1] as they proclaim the salvation of Christ and promote peace for all.
In effect, our times, marked by globalization with its positive and negative aspects, as well as the continuation of violent conflicts and threats of war, demand a new, shared commitment in pursuit of the common good and the development of all men, and of the whole man.
It is alarming to see hotbeds of tension and conflict caused by growing instances of inequality between rich and poor, by the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated financial capitalism. In addition to the varied forms of terrorism and international crime, peace is also endangered by those forms of fundamentalism and fanaticism which distort the true nature of religion, which is called to foster fellowship and reconciliation among people.
All the same, the many different efforts at peacemaking which abound in our world testify to mankind’s innate vocation to peace. In every person the desire for peace is an essential aspiration which coincides in a certain way with the desire for a full, happy and successful human life. In other words, the desire for peace corresponds to a fundamental moral principle, namely, the duty and right to an integral social and communitarian development, which is part of God’s plan for mankind. Man is made for the peace which is God’s gift.
All of this led me to draw inspiration for this Message from the words of Jesus Christ: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Mt 5:9).
Gospel beatitude
2. The beatitudes which Jesus proclaimed (cf. Mt 5:3-12 and Lk 6:20-23) are promises. In the biblical tradition, the beatitude is a literary genre which always involves some good news, a “gospel”, which culminates in a promise. Therefore, the beatitudes are not only moral exhortations whose observance foresees in due time – ordinarily in the next life – a reward or a situation of future happiness. Rather, the blessedness of which the beatitudes speak consists in the fulfilment of a promise made to all those who allow themselves to be guided by the requirements of truth, justice and love. In the eyes of the world, those who trust in God and his promises often appear naïve or far from reality. Yet Jesus tells them that not only in the next life, but already in this life, they will discover that they are children of God, and that God has always been, and ever will be, completely on their side. They will understand that they are not alone, because he is on the side of those committed to truth, justice and love. Jesus, the revelation of the Father’s love, does not hesitate to offer himself in self-sacrifice. Once we accept Jesus Christ, God and man, we have the joyful experience of an immense gift: the sharing of God’s own life, the life of grace, the pledge of a fully blessed existence. Jesus Christ, in particular, grants us true peace, which is born of the trusting encounter of man with God.
Jesus’ beatitude tells us that peace is both a messianic gift and the fruit of human effort. In effect, peace presupposes a humanism open to transcendence. It is the fruit of the reciprocal gift, of a mutual enrichment, thanks to the gift which has its source in God and enables us to live with others and for others. The ethics of peace is an ethics of fellowship and sharing. It is indispensable, then, that the various cultures in our day overcome forms of anthropology and ethics based on technical and practical suppositions which are merely subjectivistic and pragmatic, in virtue of which relationships of coexistence are inspired by criteria of power or profit, means become ends and vice versa, and culture and education are centred on instruments, technique and efficiency alone. The precondition for peace is the dismantling of the dictatorship of relativism and of the supposition of a completely autonomous morality which precludes acknowledgment of the ineluctable natural moral law inscribed by God upon the conscience of every man and woman. Peace is the building up of coexistence in rational and moral terms, based on a foundation whose measure is not created by man, but rather by God. As Psalm 29 puts it: “May the Lord give strength to his people; may the Lord bless his people with peace” (v. 11).
Peace: God’s gift and the fruit of human effort
3. Peace concerns the human person as a whole, and it involves complete commitment. It is peace with God through a life lived according to his will. It is interior peace with oneself, and exterior peace with our neighbours and all creation. Above all, as Blessed John XXIII wrote in his Encyclical Pacem in Terris, whose fiftieth anniversary will fall in a few months, it entails the building up of a coexistence based on truth, freedom, love and justice.[2] The denial of what makes up the true nature of human beings in its essential dimensions, its intrinsic capacity to know the true and the good and, ultimately, to know God himself, jeopardizes peacemaking. Without the truth about man inscribed by the Creator in the human heart, freedom and love become debased, and justice loses the ground of its exercise.
To become authentic peacemakers, it is fundamental to keep in mind our transcendent dimension and to enter into constant dialogue with God, the Father of mercy, whereby we implore the redemption achieved for us by his only-begotten Son. In this way mankind can overcome that progressive dimming and rejection of peace which is sin in all its forms: selfishness and violence, greed and the will to power and dominion, intolerance, hatred and unjust structures.
The attainment of peace depends above all on recognizing that we are, in God, one human family. This family is structured, as the Encyclical Pacem in Terris taught, by interpersonal relations and institutions supported and animated by a communitarian “we”, which entails an internal and external moral order in which, in accordance with truth and justice, reciprocal rights and mutual duties are sincerely recognized. Peace is an order enlivened and integrated by love, in such a way that we feel the needs of others as our own, share our goods with others and work throughout the world for greater communion in spiritual values. It is an order achieved in freedom, that is, in a way consistent with the dignity of persons who, by their very nature as rational beings, take responsibility for their own actions.[3]
Peace is not a dream or something utopian; it is possible. Our gaze needs to go deeper, beneath superficial appearances and phenomena, to discern a positive reality which exists in human hearts, since every man and woman has been created in the image of God and is called to grow and contribute to the building of a new world. God himself, through the incarnation of his Son and his work of redemption, has entered into history and has brought about a new creation and a new covenant between God and man (cf. Jer 31:31-34), thus enabling us to have a “new heart” and a “new spirit” (cf. Ez 36:26).
For this very reason the Church is convinced of the urgency of a new proclamation of Jesus Christ, the first and fundamental factor of the integral development of peoples and also of peace. Jesus is indeed our peace, our justice and our reconciliation (cf. Eph 2:14; 2 Cor 5:18). The peacemaker, according to Jesus’ beatitude, is the one who seeks the good of the other, the fullness of good in body and soul, today and tomorrow.
From this teaching one can infer that each person and every community, whether religious, civil, educational or cultural, is called to work for peace. Peace is principally the attainment of the common good in society at its different levels, primary and intermediary, national, international and global. Precisely for this reason it can be said that the paths which lead to the attainment of the common good are also the paths that must be followed in the pursuit of peace.
Peacemakers are those who love, defend and promote life in its fullness
4. The path to the attainment of the common good and to peace is above all that of respect for human life in all its many aspects, beginning with its conception, through its development and up to its natural end. True peacemakers, then, are those who love, defend and promote human life in all its dimensions, personal, communitarian and transcendent. Life in its fullness is the height of peace. Anyone who loves peace cannot tolerate attacks and crimes against life.
Those who insufficiently value human life and, in consequence, support among other things the liberalization of abortion, perhaps do not realize that in this way they are proposing the pursuit of a false peace. The flight from responsibility, which degrades human persons, and even more so the killing of a defenceless and innocent being, will never be able to produce happiness or peace. Indeed how could one claim to bring about peace, the integral development of peoples or even the protection of the environment without defending the life of those who are weakest, beginning with the unborn. Every offence against life, especially at its beginning, inevitably causes irreparable damage to development, peace and the environment. Neither is it just to introduce surreptitiously into legislation false rights or freedoms which, on the basis of a reductive and relativistic view of human beings and the clever use of ambiguous expressions aimed at promoting a supposed right to abortion and euthanasia, pose a threat to the fundamental right to life.
There is also a need to acknowledge and promote the natural structure of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the face of attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different types of union; such attempts actually harm and help to destabilize marriage, obscuring its specific nature and its indispensable role in society.
These principles are not truths of faith, nor are they simply a corollary of the right to religious freedom. They are inscribed in human nature itself, accessible to reason and thus common to all humanity. The Church’s efforts to promote them are not therefore confessional in character, but addressed to all people, whatever their religious affiliation. Efforts of this kind are all the more necessary the more these principles are denied or misunderstood, since this constitutes an offence against the truth of the human person, with serious harm to justice and peace.
Consequently, another important way of helping to build peace is for legal systems and the administration of justice to recognize the right to invoke the principle of conscientious objection in the face of laws or government measures that offend against human dignity, such as abortion and euthanasia.
One of the fundamental human rights, also with reference to international peace, is the right of individuals and communities to religious freedom. At this stage in history, it is becoming increasingly important to promote this right not only from the negative point of view, as freedom from – for example, obligations or limitations involving the freedom to choose one’s religion – but also from the positive point of view, in its various expressions, as freedom for – for example, bearing witness to one’s religion, making its teachings known, engaging in activities in the educational, benevolent and charitable fields which permit the practice of religious precepts, and existing and acting as social bodies structured in accordance with the proper doctrinal principles and institutional ends of each. Sadly, even in countries of long-standing Christian tradition, instances of religious intolerance are becoming more numerous, especially in relation to Christianity and those who simply wear identifying signs of their religion.
Peacemakers must also bear in mind that, in growing sectors of public opinion, the ideologies of radical liberalism and technocracy are spreading the conviction that economic growth should be pursued even to the detriment of the state’s social responsibilities and civil society’s networks of solidarity, together with social rights and duties. It should be remembered that these rights and duties are fundamental for the full realization of other rights and duties, starting with those which are civil and political.
One of the social rights and duties most under threat today is the right to work. The reason for this is that labour and the rightful recognition of workers’ juridical status are increasingly undervalued, since economic development is thought to depend principally on completely free markets. Labour is thus regarded as a variable dependent on economic and financial mechanisms. In this regard, I would reaffirm that human dignity and economic, social and political factors, demand that we continue “to prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone.”[4] If this ambitious goal is to be realized, one prior condition is a fresh outlook on work, based on ethical principles and spiritual values that reinforce the notion of work as a fundamental good for the individual, for the family and for society. Corresponding to this good are a duty and a right that demand courageous new policies of universal employment.
Building the good of peace through a new model of development and economics
5. In many quarters it is now recognized that a new model of development is needed, as well as a new approach to the economy. Both integral, sustainable development in solidarity and the common good require a correct scale of goods and values which can be structured with God as the ultimate point of reference. It is not enough to have many different means and choices at one’s disposal, however good these may be. Both the wide variety of goods fostering development and the presence of a wide range of choices must be employed against the horizon of a good life, an upright conduct that acknowledges the primacy of the spiritual and the call to work for the common good. Otherwise they lose their real value, and end up becoming new idols.
In order to emerge from the present financial and economic crisis – which has engendered ever greater inequalities – we need people, groups and institutions which will promote life by fostering human creativity, in order to draw from the crisis itself an opportunity for discernment and for a new economic model. The predominant model of recent decades called for seeking maximum profit and consumption, on the basis of an individualistic and selfish mindset, aimed at considering individuals solely in terms of their ability to meet the demands of competitiveness. Yet, from another standpoint, true and lasting success is attained through the gift of ourselves, our intellectual abilities and our entrepreneurial skills, since a “liveable” or truly human economic development requires the principle of gratuitousness as an expression of fraternity and the logic of gift.[5] Concretely, in economic activity, peacemakers are those who establish bonds of fairness and reciprocity with their colleagues, workers, clients and consumers. They engage in economic activity for the sake of the common good and they experience this commitment as something transcending their self-interest, for the benefit of present and future generations. Thus they work not only for themselves, but also to ensure for others a future and a dignified employment.
In the economic sector, states in particular need to articulate policies of industrial and agricultural development concerned with social progress and the growth everywhere of constitutional and democratic states. The creation of ethical structures for currency, financial and commercial markets is also fundamental and indispensable; these must be stabilized and better coordinated and controlled so as not to prove harmful to the very poor. With greater resolve than has hitherto been the case, the concern of peacemakers must also focus upon the food crisis, which is graver than the financial crisis. The issue of food security is once more central to the international political agenda, as a result of interrelated crises, including sudden shifts in the price of basic foodstuffs, irresponsible behaviour by some economic actors and insufficient control on the part of governments and the international community. To face this crisis, peacemakers are called to work together in a spirit of solidarity, from the local to the international level, with the aim of enabling farmers, especially in small rural holdings, to carry out their activity in a dignified and sustainable way from the social, environmental and economic points of view.
Education for a culture of peace: the role of the family and institutions
6. I wish to reaffirm forcefully that the various peacemakers are called to cultivate a passion for the common good of the family and for social justice, and a commitment to effective social education.
No one should ignore or underestimate the decisive role of the family, which is the basic cell of society from the demographic, ethical, pedagogical, economic and political standpoints. The family has a natural vocation to promote life: it accompanies individuals as they mature and it encourages mutual growth and enrichment through caring and sharing. The Christian family in particular serves as a seedbed for personal maturation according to the standards of divine love. The family is one of the indispensable social subjects for the achievement of a culture of peace. The rights of parents and their primary role in the education of their children in the area of morality and religion must be safeguarded. It is in the family that peacemakers, tomorrow’s promoters of a culture of life and love, are born and nurtured.[6]
Religious communities are involved in a special way in this immense task of education for peace. The Church believes that she shares in this great responsibility as part of the new evangelization, which is centred on conversion to the truth and love of Christ and, consequently, the spiritual and moral rebirth of individuals and societies. Encountering Jesus Christ shapes peacemakers, committing them to fellowship and to overcoming injustice.
Cultural institutions, schools and universities have a special mission of peace. They are called to make a notable contribution not only to the formation of new generations of leaders, but also to the renewal of public institutions, both national and international. They can also contribute to a scientific reflection which will ground economic and financial activities on a solid anthropological and ethical basis. Today’s world, especially the world of politics, needs to be sustained by fresh thinking and a new cultural synthesis so as to overcome purely technical approaches and to harmonize the various political currents with a view to the common good. The latter, seen as an ensemble of positive interpersonal and institutional relationships at the service of the integral growth of individuals and groups, is at the basis of all true education for peace.
A pedagogy for peacemakers
7. In the end, we see clearly the need to propose and promote a pedagogy of peace. This calls for a rich interior life, clear and valid moral points of reference, and appropriate attitudes and lifestyles. Acts of peacemaking converge for the achievement of the common good; they create interest in peace and cultivate peace. Thoughts, words and gestures of peace create a mentality and a culture of peace, and a respectful, honest and cordial atmosphere. There is a need, then, to teach people to love one another, to cultivate peace and to live with good will rather than mere tolerance. A fundamental encouragement to this is “to say no to revenge, to recognize injustices, to accept apologies without looking for them, and finally, to forgive”,[7] in such a way that mistakes and offences can be acknowledged in truth, so as to move forward together towards reconciliation. This requires the growth of a pedagogy of pardon. Evil is in fact overcome by good, and justice is to be sought in imitating God the Father who loves all his children (cf. Mt 5:21-48). This is a slow process, for it presupposes a spiritual evolution, an education in lofty values, a new vision of human history. There is a need to renounce that false peace promised by the idols of this world along with the dangers which accompany it, that false peace which dulls consciences, which leads to self-absorption, to a withered existence lived in indifference. The pedagogy of peace, on the other hand, implies activity, compassion, solidarity, courage and perseverance.
Jesus embodied all these attitudes in his own life, even to the complete gift of himself, even to “losing his life” (cf. Mt 10:39; Lk 17:33; Jn 12:25). He promises his disciples that sooner or later they will make the extraordinary discovery to which I originally alluded, namely that God is in the world, the God of Jesus, fully on the side of man. Here I would recall the prayer asking God to make us instruments of his peace, to be able to bring his love wherever there is hatred, his mercy wherever there is hurt, and true faith wherever there is doubt. For our part, let us join Blessed John XXIII in asking God to enlighten all leaders so that, besides caring for the proper material welfare of their peoples, they may secure for them the precious gift of peace, break down the walls which divide them, strengthen the bonds of mutual love, grow in understanding, and pardon those who have done them wrong; in this way, by his power and inspiration all the peoples of the earth will experience fraternity, and the peace for which they long will ever flourish and reign among them.[8]
With this prayer I express my hope that all will be true peacemakers, so that the city of man may grow in fraternal harmony, prosperity and peace.
From the Vatican, 8 December 2012

[1] Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, 1.
[2] Cf. Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris (11 April 1963): AAS 55 (1963), 265-266.
[3] Cf. ibid.: AAS 55 (1963), 266. 
[4] BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 32: AAS 101 (2009), 666-667.
[5] Cf. ibid, 34 and 36: AAS 101 (2009), 668-670 and 671-672.
[6] Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Message for the 1994 World Day of Peace (8 December 1993): AAS86 (1994), 156-162.
[8] Cf. Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris (11 April 1963): AAS 55 (1963), 304.    


Saturday, January 26, 2013

to ensure
JUSTICE, LIBERTY, EQUALITY and FRATERNITY for every single citizen of our country!!!!

Fr Cedric Prakash

-  A Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace
Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052, Gujarat, India

Phone : +91  79   27455913,  66522333
Fax : +91  79  27489018
Email: sjprashant@gmail.com

Friday, January 25, 2013

National Voters’ Day(January 25th 2013)

 Prashant       .A Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace
                                      Post Box  No.   4050,    Navrangpura,   Ahmedabad  380 009,    Gujarat,    India
                                                  Tel:    +91 (079)  66522333,   2745 5913 .    Fax :   +91 (079)  2748 9018
                                     Mobile: 9824034536 .e-mails: sjprashant@gmail.com  www.humanrightsindia.in

Dear Friends,

Today the country observes National Voters’ Day. A day dedicated to encourage more and more people - very particularly the young - to participate in the electoral process -which is key to a vibrant democracy. 

It is therefore significant that there were fairly large turnouts in the recently concluded State Elections, which does speak well for our democracy.

However, we are also aware there are large numbers of people who do not have their name on the Electoral Rolls.  Besides on the dates of elections, several of those who had their Election Photo Identity Card (EPIC), found to their dismay that their names were deleted from the rolls!!

We, therefore urge you:

·        to ensure that your name is on the electoral roll
·        to make sure that all details regarding your name, address, age are correct
·        to begin the process of entering your name / correcting discrepancies immediately
·        to visit the website of the Chief Electoral Officer of Gujarat which is www.ceo.gujarat.gov.in
·        to ensure your name is on the on-line electoral rolls
·        to be aware that ONLY if your name is on these rolls, then your EPIC is valid
·        to choose the appropriate application form, fill it online and submit it, for registrations / corrections etc
·        to print out a copy of the filled application form for yourself and to follow it up
·        to contact your District helpline no. if you have any problem

Should you need further clarifications or help, do contact us by email.

Finally, do ensure that you have your name on the Electoral Rolls by September 30th, 2013.

Warm wishes and prayers,

Fr. Cedric Prakash sj

25th January, 2013

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Fr Cedric Prakash and all
-  A Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace
Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052, Gujarat, India

Phone : +91  79   27455913,  66522333
Fax : +91  79  27489018
Email: sjprashant@gmail.com


Joint Public Statement on Hindutva Terror

Joint Public Statement on Hindutva Terror

24 January 2013

While one may or may not agree with the terminology employed by the Home Minister in his recent speech at Jaipur, we feel that for long prejudice has ruled investigations, obscuring the role of organizations and their multiple affiliates in planning and executing of attacks and bombings in the country. The veneer of 'nationalism' -- narrow, exclusionary and based on hatred for minorities as it is-- cannot hide the violence that Sangh and its affiliates beget and peddle. 

Civil rights groups have been arguing for long that the investigations into bomb blasts and terror attacks have degenerated into communal witch-hunts. Bomb blasts are followed predictably by mass arrests of Muslim youth, raids in Muslim-dominated localities, detentions, arrests and torture; media trials, charge sheets and prosecution based on custodial confessions and little real evidence. It has been assumed, and accepted widely, that no further proof of guilt need be offered than the fact that the accused belonged to a particular community. Leads which pointed to the hands of groups affiliated to Sangh organisations and their complicity in planning and executing acts of terror were ignored, never seriously pursued. The agencies, showing their abject bias, instead chose to pursue the beaten track of investigating Islamic terrorist organizations such—despite clear evidence pointing in the opposite direction. This was true of Nanded blasts in 2006, as well as of Mecca Masjid and Ajmer Sharif bombings.

The only exception was Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare, who had, as far back as 2008 conclusively brought into the public domain the nefarious designs of Abhinav Bharat and its foot soldiers of hate: (Sadhvi) Pragya Singh of the ABVP, serving army officer Col. Purohit, and Sunil Joshi, Indresh and Swami Aseemanand belonging to the RSS. Karkare had communicated to the Hyderabad Police the sensational claim by Col. Purohit that he had procured RDX from an army inventory when he was posted in Jammu and Kashmir in 2006. The Hyderabad Police however ignored his messages, having already detained close to 70 youth belonging to the Muslim community.
We demand that:
  • Although the Indian government has belatedly acknowledged the heinous terrorist acts of the Sangh groups we feel that a genuine probe must also perforce encompass a thorough enquiry into the terror nexus straddling Abhinav Bharat, RSS, VHP, BJP and Bajrang Dal leaders together with sections of the Indian intelligence and security agencies who deliberately subverted the probes as well as the due process of law.
  • It must also be investigated whether the network of Hindutva terrorists have been provided not just political but also financial and logistical support by various governments
  • There must be a thorough investigation into the foreign sources of funding of the Hindutva organizations.

We hope that the acknowledgement of Hindutva terror will not remain a statement only but that the investigations will be seriously and sincerely pursued. 

1. Manisha Sethi and Ahmed Sohaib, Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity       Association
2.Shabnam Hashmi, Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD)   
3.Mahtab Alam, People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL)
4.Mansi Sharma, Activist, Delhi   
5. Subhash Gatade, Activist and Author, Godse's Children: Hindutva Terror in India
6. Rajeev Yadav, Adv. Mohd. Shoaib and Shahnawaz Alam, Rihai Manch, UP
7.Amit sen Gupta, Senior Journalist, Delhi
8. Abu Zafar, Journalist, Delhi
9.Harsh Kapoor, South Asian Citizens Web
10.Seema Mustafa, Senior Journalist, Delhi
11.Ram Puniyani, Activist and Author, Mumbai
12.Sukumar Muralidharan, Senior Journalist
13.Syed Zafar Mehdi, Journalist
14.Dr. John Dayal, All India Christian Council
15.Prof. Kamal Mitra Chenoy, JNU
16. Navaid Hamid, Member, National Integration Council, GoI
17. Prof Anuradha Chenoy, JNU
18. Saba Naqvi, Senior Journalist, Delhi
19. Wilfred Dcosta, Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF)
20. Harsh Dobhal, Human Rights Law Network (HRLN)
21. Kaviata Krishnan, All India Progressive Women Association (AIPWA)


Pope's World Communication Day Message 2013 focuses on new media

Pope's World Communication Day Message 2013 focuses on new media

Pope's World Communication Day Message focuses on new media  | Message for the 47th World Communications Day

St Francis of Sales
Pope Benedict has issued his Message for the 47th World Communications Day today - the feast of St Francis of Sales, Patron Saint of journalists. This year's message focuses on new media, and is entitled: 'Social Networks: portals of truth and faith; new spaces for evangelization.'  

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As the 2013 World Communications Day draws near, I would like to offer you some reflections on an increasingly important reality regarding the way in which people today communicate among themselves. I wish to consider the development of digital social networks which are helping to create a new “agora”, an open public square in which people share ideas, information and opinions, and in which new relationships and forms of community can come into being.

These spaces, when engaged in a wise and balanced way, help to foster forms of dialogue and debate which, if conducted respectfully and with concern for privacy, responsibility and truthfulness, can reinforce the bonds of unity between individuals and effectively promote the harmony of the human family. The exchange of information can become true communication, links ripen into friendships, and connections facilitate communion. If the networks are called to realize this great potential, the people involved in them must make an effort to be authentic since, in these spaces, it is not only ideas and information that are shared, but ultimately our very selves.

The development of social networks calls for commitment: people are engaged in building relationships and making friends, in looking for answers to their questions and being entertained, but also in finding intellectual stimulation and sharing knowledge and know-how. The networks are increasingly becoming part of the very fabric of society, inasmuch as they bring people together on the basis of these fundamental              needs. Social networks are thus nourished by aspirations rooted in the human heart.

The culture of social networks and the changes in the means and styles of communication pose demanding challenges to those who want to speak about truth and values. Often, as is also the case with other means of social communication, the significance and effectiveness of the various forms of expression appear to be determined more by their popularity than by their intrinsic importance and value. Popularity, for its part, is often linked to celebrity or to strategies of persuasion rather than to the logic of argumentation. At times the gentle voice of reason can be overwhelmed by the din of excessive information and it fails to attract attention which is given instead to those who express themselves in a more persuasive manner. The social media thus need the commitment of all who are conscious of the value of dialogue, reasoned debate and logical argumentation; of people who strive to cultivate forms of discourse and expression which appeal to the noblest aspirations of those engaged in the communication process. Dialogue and debate can also flourish and grow when we converse with and take seriously people whose ideas are different from our own. “Given the reality of cultural diversity, people need not only to accept the existence of the culture of others, but also to aspire to be enriched by it and to offer to it whatever they possess that is good, true and beautiful” (Address at the Meeting with the World of Culture, Bélem, Lisbon, 12 May 2010).

The challenge facing social networks is how to be truly inclusive: thus they will benefit from the full participation of believers who desire to share the message of Jesus and the values of human dignity which his teaching promotes. Believers are increasingly aware that, unless the Good News is made known also in the digital world, it may be absent in the experience of many people for whom this existential space is important. The digital environment is not a parallel or purely virtual world, but is part of the daily experience of many people, especially the young. Social networks are the result of human interaction, but for their part they also reshape the dynamics of communication which builds relationships: a considered understanding of this environment is therefore the prerequisite for a significant presence there.

The ability to employ the new languages is required, not just to keep up with the times, but precisely in order to enable the infinite richness of the Gospel to find forms of expression capable of reaching the minds and hearts of all. In the digital environment the written word is often accompanied by images and sounds. Effective communication, as in the parables of Jesus, must involve the imagination and the affectivity of those we wish to invite to an encounter with the mystery of God’s love. Besides, we know that Christian tradition has always been rich in signs and symbols: I think for example of the Cross, icons, images of the Virgin Mary, Christmas cribs, stained-glass windows and pictures in our churches. A significant part of mankind’s artistic heritage has been created by artists and musicians who sought to express the truths of the faith.

In social networks, believers show their authenticity by sharing the profound source of their hope and joy: faith in the merciful and loving God revealed in Christ Jesus. This sharing consists not only in the explicit expression of their faith, but also in their witness, in the way in which they communicate “choices, preferences and judgements that are fully consistent with the Gospel, even when it is not spoken of specifically” (Message for the 2011 World Communications Day). A particularly significant way of offering such witness will be through a willingness to give oneself to others by patiently and respectfully engaging their questions and their doubts as they advance in their search for the truth and the meaning of human existence. The growing dialogue in social networks about faith and belief confirms the importance and relevance of religion in public debate and in the life of society.

For those who have accepted the gift of faith with an open heart, the most radical response to mankind’s questions about love, truth and the meaning of life – questions certainly not absent from social networks – are found in the person of Jesus Christ. It is natural for those who have faith to desire to share it, respectfully and tactfully, with those they meet in the digital forum. Ultimately, however, if our efforts to share the Gospel bring forth good fruit, it is always because of the power of the word of God itself to touch hearts, prior to any of our own efforts. Trust in the power of God’s work must always be greater than any confidence we place in human means. In the digital environment, too, where it is easy for heated and divisive voices to be raised and where sensationalism can at times prevail, we are called to attentive discernment. Let us recall in this regard that Elijah recognized the voice of God not in the great and strong wind, not in the earthquake or the fire, but in “a still, small voice” (1 Kg 19:11-12). We need to trust in the fact that the basic human desire to love and to be loved, and to find meaning and truth – a desire              which God himself has placed in the heart of every man and woman – keeps our contemporaries ever open to what Blessed Cardinal Newman called the “kindly light” of faith.

Social networks, as well as being a means of evangelization, can also be a factor in human development. As an example, in some geographical and cultural contexts where Christians feel isolated, social networks can reinforce their sense of real unity with the worldwide community of believers. The networks facilitate the sharing of spiritual and liturgical resources, helping people to pray with a greater sense of closeness to those who share the same faith. An authentic and interactive engagement with the questions and the doubts of those who are distant from the faith should make us feel the need to nourish, by prayer and reflection, our faith in the presence of God as well as our practical charity: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor 13:1).

In the digital world there are social networks which offer our contemporaries opportunities for prayer, meditation and sharing the word of God. But these networks can also open the door to other dimensions of faith. Many people are actually discovering, precisely thanks to a contact initially made online, the importance of direct encounters, experiences of community and even pilgrimage, elements which are always important in the journey of faith. In our effort to make the Gospel present in the digital world, we can invite people to come together for prayer or liturgical celebrations in specific places such as churches and chapels. There should be no lack of coherence or unity in the expression of our faith and witness to the Gospel in whatever reality we are called to live, whether physical or digital. When we are present to others, in any way at all, we are called to make known the love of God to the furthest ends of the earth.

I pray that God’s Spirit will accompany you and enlighten you always, and I cordially impart my blessing to all of you, that you may be true heralds and witnesses of the Gospel. “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15).

From the Vatican, 24 January 2013, Feast of Saint Francis de Sales.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pastoral Letter from the Bishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka (18th January, 2013)

Diocese of Colombo

Rt. Revd. Dhiloraj R. Canagasabey
Bishop of Colombo

  Our Ref:
Your Ref:

Pastoral Letter 01/2013

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I write this pastoral letter to you as your Bishop as we approach the 65th anniversary of our national independence.  It is with a heavy heart that I write it, the reason being that in the past few days we have seen the complete collapse of the rule of law in our nation.  We no longer appear to be a constitutional democracy.

The rule of law means that we as a nation are governed by a system of laws to which the lawmakers themselves are subject.  This is a way of ensuring that power is not concentrated in the hands of one person (or group of persons) and exercised arbitrarily.  The breakdown of such accountability is a process that has been building up for the past several years.  It has now climaxed in the recent events that have seen both the Executive and the Legislature disregarding the provisions of the very Constitution which they swore to uphold and defend, giving the appearance of a country ruled on the principle that “Might is Right”.

The numerous warnings that the Church, other religious organizations and civil society bodies repeatedly issued have been ignored. There is currently a climate of fear and helplessness, where people remain silent rather than speak out against rampant injustice, intimidation, violence and falsehoods.

We as a Christian Church cannot remain silent in this situation. Such silence will be dishonouring to our Lord and a betrayal of our identity as His people.  I wish to remind you that right from the day of Pentecost, the Church has learnt to say that ‘Jesus is Lord and not Caesar’.  Often this has led to suffering and persecution.  The Church must always be prepared for this eventuality.

There are many examples in the Bible and Christian history of persons who have refused to follow orders when they have contradicted God’s moral law.  Even in the Old Testament, Kings were expected to rule under a law which they themselves did not make and to which they were accountable (Deuteronomy 18: Psalms 72, etc.).  Where rulers violated the law, God challenged them through prophetic men and women chosen and sent by him.  The Church is called to be such a prophetic presence and voice in our local communities, our places of work, our schools and in the wider society.

This is a time for us as a Church to take an honest look at ourselves, where we have shamelessly compromised our loyalty to God.  We need to repent of ways in which we, as individuals as well as collectively, have;

  • been silent when we should have spoken

  • allowed ourselves (thoughtlessly or out of fear) to be used by those in authority to speak lies or commit wrong and unjust acts

  • consciously received benefits for ourselves through acts of injustice committed against others

I as your Bishop, call the Church to a period of lament together for the terrible state of our nation today, and repentance for our failing as a Church to “love mercy, to seek justice and to walk humbly with the Lord” (Micah 6:8).

I therefore propose that

(a)    Sunday 3rd February 2013 be observed in all parishes within our Diocese as a Day of Lament.  All services have an extended time of silence, prayers and intercession, to grieve over the state of our country today.  Please encourage all parishioners to wear white and to fast wherever possible.

(b)   We as a diocese will congregate on 4th February 2013 at 9 am, dressed in white, for a service to continue our Time of Lament.  Those who are unable to be present at the Cathedral for this service are encouraged to gather in their own churches at this time.

(c)    I further propose that all parishes in our Diocese have a series of Bible studies, reflections and discussions during Lent, which is traditionally a period of self-examination and penitence, to reflect on what it means to live as a faithful disciple-community of Jesus in the context of our nation today.

I thank God for the calling he has given us to be faithful to Him.  When others may be controlled by fear and helplessness, we must remember that our Lord who was crucified and suffered death was raised to new life offering hope to all.

In the words of St. Paul, “Therefore my brethren stand firm and immovable, and work for the Lord always; work without limit since you know that in the Lord, your labour cannot be in vain”.

(1 Corinthians 15:58)

With Prayers and Christian Greetings!

+ (sd)
The Rt. Revd Dhiloraj Canagasabey
Bishop of Colombo

18th January 2013

Bishop’s Office, 368/3A, Bauddhalokla Mawatha, Colombo – 07, 00700, Sri Lanka
Tel; Office: 2696208, 2692985, 2693997, Fax: 2684811 E-Mail: Anglican@sltnet.lk