Was it a coincidence that Andrew met this specific boy among the crowd listening to Jesus?
Was it a coincidence that the boy had “five loaves of barley bread and two fish”?
And are we any different from Andrew in that he looked at the bigness of the problem
instead of looking at the bigness of Jesus?
Here’s one more God-story to help you focus today on the many ways God provides for you.
When I sold my home for a huge loss,
I knew what was left was “certainly not enough” to even rent a one-bedroom apartment.
Surely this was even too big for God.
And then God connected me with friends of friends.
David and Susan Moffitt had moved to a new home and not sold their old one.
They were letting someone live in the house, but that person would be leaving soon,
and Susan suggested I drive by to see if I’d be interested in living there.
She said, “It’s a little rough, but if any house has character, this one has it.”
So I drove through a neighborhood of older, upscale homes, down a street lined with trees,
creating the kind of entrance effect you might find as you enter the grounds to an old Southern college.
At the end of the road, I could see a white house with a white picket fence.
It looked as if it was sitting in the middle of the road, but, as I got closer,
I could see it was a visual effect because the road took a sharp turn to the right just in front of the house.
The Moffitt house was the last holdout from the parceled progress
that turned a plantation and some farms into just another neighborhood.
It was an old 1940s farmhouse sitting like a two-acre oasis in the middle of suburbia.
I pulled into the dirt driveway and drove up to the front, next to the white picket fence.
Just as I stopped the car, three deer walked out from behind a large hedge and stood a few feet away from me.
And — I kid you not — right on cue, Amy Grant’s version of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” started playing on the radio.
Later, I called Susan and told her I’d like to talk about moving into the house.
I hesitated and then asked, “How much are you planning to charge?”
She said, “Oh, we weren’t planning to charge anything.
We’re glad if we can bless you.”
- fwd: v c mathews
Gujarat, August 12, 2015: The government of Gujarat has withdrawn a book on BR Ambedkar, the father of the Indian Constitution, from all primary schools in the state because “anti-Hindu”. A “very unhappy,” move according to Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ – director of the Prashant Center for Human Rights, Justice and Peace – given that it was the same administration to decide to include the volume in the curriculum, as part of celebrations of the 125th anniversary of the man’s birth . In total, the authorities had had printed more than 400 thousand copies, most of which has already been distributed.
The government ordered the withdrawal of the book after discovering that the publisher included the “22 vows” that Ambedkar made during the mass conversion of 1956, in which thousands of his supporters left Hinduism to embrace Buddhism. According to the Department for Social Justice and Empowerment (which had decided to publish the text, ed), the original author did not include those passages.
Born into a family of Hindu Dalits (“untouchables”) all his life Ambedkar fought to assert political rights and social freedom of the “untouchables” like him. In his fight against the caste system dictated by Hinduism, he became interested in Buddhism, and decided to convert.
To do so, he organized a public ceremony in Nagpur October 15, 1956, which was also attended by 500 thousand supporters. In order to make the conversion, Ambedkar and his followers uttered the “22 vows”: with these, as well as giving up the worship of the Hindu gods, they established the equality of men and the commitment to create a society of equals.
“It is clear – Fr. Prakash tells AsiaNews – that, with this book, the government wanted to co-opt as many Dalits and Buddhists as possible. However, they realized that in highlight Ambedkar, they also had to address the honest but painful reality of what he thought of Hinduism “.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, the Hindu nationalist, the government), adds the Jesuit, “find it difficult to digest all that Ambedkar had to say. But the citizens of India can not be fooled so easily. It was Dr. Ambedkar to have played a crucial role in the drafting of the Constitution of India and he is rightly regarded as the father of our Constituent Assembly. “
“The slogan of Ambedkar -he recalls – was ‘to educate, agitate, organize’. Many in Gujarat and India will think of these words today. ”
Mumbai, August 14, 2015: Mgr Thomas Dabre, archbishop of Pune, is calling for a nuclear-free world on the eve of the anniversary of India’s independence on 15 August 1947. Praising the Japanese who, on the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, expressed opposition to the re-militarisation of their country, the prelate noted that although India has atomic weapons, as homeland of the Mahatma Gandhi, Indians must be “for peace and non-violence.” Here are his thoughts:
On the anniversary of India’s Independence (15 August) and the anniversaries of Hiroshima (6 August) and Nagasaki bombings (9 August) 1945, we ask for a nuclear-free world. About 300,000 innocent people were killed. What mindless cruelty!
Over the years, world leaders have been busy discussing the issue of nuclear weapons. The main argument in favour of such weapons is effective deterrence and no first strike, but only preventive and for national defence. That has led to nuclear proliferation.
Today several countries possess nuclear weapons, including India and Pakistan. However, taking into account the cost of human lives and collateral damage, it looks more and more difficult, impossible to defend the use of nuclear weapons.
No nation will emerge victorious in a nuclear war, whose harmful effects will be felt for many long years. Those who are knowledgeable about the vast scale devastation caused by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have heard the poignant accounts given by survivors. They cannot but come to the conclusion of no war again.
Therefore, during the observance of Hiroshima and Nagasaki people in Japan have been calling for a world without nuclear weapons. They are opposed to the revision of the Japanese national constitution, because some political leaders in Japan favour Japan’s militarisation and weaponisation.
You may know that following the two tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki tragedies, Japan resolved to be a pacifist nation. Japan since then does not have a military of its own.* I am also told that Japanese police do not carry arms.
Unfortunately, some political leaders are now asking for a change in the constitution favouring weaponisation. However, what is to be appreciated and welcomed whole-heartedly is the growing opposition to the government’s plans to militarise Japan.
In particular, young people are saying no to Japan’s militarisation and weaponisation. This indeed is a sign of a brighter future.
Let us all pray for a world without nuclear weapons. I think Christians in the world should be in the forefront of the opposition to nuclear proliferation.
Those who believe in God should promote the campaign for peace in a world without nuclear weapons.
India is the land of religions and of Mahatma Gandhi, who followed the principle of ahimsa, i.e. non-violence. We in India should also be for peace and non-violence in solving international and border disputes.
Bhopal, August 17, 2015: A parish church in India’s Madhya Pradesh state has been robbed, prompting Church leaders to accuse state authorities of allowing criminals to commit crimes against Christians with impunity.
Thieves used the cover of darkness to break into St. Joseph Church in Ganj Basoda in Sagar diocese Aug. 13 and steal an unspecified amount of cash from the collection box, parish officials said.
“This is the third theft or attempted theft from this church” in less than a year, parish priest Nitish Jacob told ucanews.com on Aug. 16.
The first was on Dec. 3 when thieves entered the presbytery and stole about 100,000 rupees (US$1,500).
A second attempt took place on Feb. 15, but was foiled when people inside presbytery woke up, he said.
Bishop Anthony Chirayath of Sagar bemoaned what he said was a complete lack of police action in trying to stop attacks on Christians in the state, which encourages criminals to commit further acts.
“They [the police] are inactive, and don’t take any action when churches are attacked. They don’t take seriously our complaints. What can we do? It is the duty of the police to investigate and take action against the culprits,” he told ucanews.com.
Christians have faced a series of attacks since the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in the state in December 2003, Church leaders say.
Local police chief R K Bansaldenied denied accusations that the police were doing nothing. He told ucanews.com that his men were investigating the latest case with the help of CCTV footage.
The footage shows the suspect stayed on the premises for almost one hour, he said.
Although the images are unclear, police believe “the robber is a local person who is aware of the workings of the Church,” the officer said.
Bishop Chirayath and other Christian leaders say there have been at least 100 attacks on Christians since the BJP came to power 12 years ago, with more than 20 occurring in the last six months.
Not one prosecution has taken place, they say.
“The Church has been continuously denied justice even after proper complaints to the authorities about assaults, attacks and other illegal cases leveled against it and its members, but to date there isn’t a single example in which the administration has acted properly to boost the trust and confidence of the people,” State Bishops’ Council spokesperson Father Maria Stephen said.
“Since we believe in the rule of law, we are going to meet the district collector [the highest government authority in the district]. We will also approach the courts for protection and safety, if need be,” he said.
Pakistan, August 18, 2015: Hashmat Barkat, a Christian lawyer and director of the Peace for Nation International (PNI) non-governmental organisation, spoke to AsiaNews about the decision taken by Faisalabad’s central prison (Punjab) to end Sunday Mass for Christian prisoners.
“Restricting the right of Christian prisoners to profess freely their own religious faith is a clear violation of Article 20 of the Constitution of Pakistan,” he said.
The latter states that “(a) every citizen shall have the right to profess, practise and propagate his religion; and (b) every religious denomination and every sect thereof shall have the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions.’”
He is not alone in his opposition to the prison’s decision. Indeed, some rights organisations filed a case with the Sessions Court of Faisalabad, demanding that prisons respect the principle of freedom of religion guaranteed by the country’s fundamental charter.
This prison’s decision comes as conditions in penitentiaries become more repressive after the end of a moratorium on the death penalty following a Taliban attack on a military school in Peshawar in December 2014.
The Faisalabad prison superintendent justified the decision citing security concerns and drug smuggling among prisoners. The Sessions judge however rejected his argument.
In view of the situation, prison authorities said they would allow the church service if it is officially authorised by the Inspector General (I.G.) of Prisons or the Home Secretary.
The judge thus directed the parties to approach the two offices for a decision in the matter. As of today, the case is still pending.
For Suneel Malik, an activist and director of the Peace and Human Development (PHD) Foundation, “Pakistan has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of the United Nations.* Therefore, it is under the obligation to protect the religious freedom of its citizens since Article 18 of the Covenant provides that’ Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.’”
Malik added that Pakistan is also a party to the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) since 2013, which guarantees tax exemptions in trade if the country respects its conventions and recommendations. These include the obligation to respect freedom of worship without restrictions or discrimination.
“The PHD Foundation sent a series of letters to Punjab authorities but we have not received any answer. This situation is distressing,” he said.
Fr Khalid Rashid Asi shares that view. “Religious freedom is frequently violated and discrimination based on faith prevents individuals from fully enjoying their human rights,” he explained.
“When the government denies freedom of worship, the most obvious consequence is more complaints from the groups that suffer limitations. The lack of religious freedom can also result in social, economic and residential conditions that contribute to higher levels of violence.”
“The government has to foster a climate of tolerance and respect for minorities and ensure the protection of minority rights through the law. The government must allow Christian prisoners to celebrate their Mass,” he said.
Lastly, “This example of freedom denied to Christian prisoners increases the sense of fear, deprivation, pessimism, and insecurity among minorities, particularly Christians,” said Hashmat Barkat. Hence, “I will fight for the rights of Christian prisoners in Faisalabad’s central prison until justice is done.”
Iraq, August 6, 2015: On 6 August last year, Islamic State militants launched an overnight offensive on Christian towns and villages in the Nineveh Plains of Iraq. By the morning of 7 August, around 200,000 Iraqi Christians had been forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan. One year on, the situation of these displaced Iraqi Christians is one of hardship and endurance, yet they are thankful for the Lord’s provision through their Christian brothers and sisters around the world.
The Christian presence in the Middle East is under acute threat. In 2003, the Christian population in Iraq stood at 1.56 million whereas today there are fewer than 300,000 Christians remaining in the country. In Syria, at the beginning of the conflict, there were around two million Christians, but over half a million of these have been forced to flee their homes with no hope of returning.
Christians in the city of Hama and its surrounding villages are fearful in the midst of recent attacks against this strongly Christian area. The city of Homs, too, is experiencing fierce fighting after Islamic State advanced across parts of the city in recent weeks. The conflict, now in its fifth year, is estimated to have taken the lives of 230,000 people, including many children.
In Aleppo, many Christians are determined to remain despite the persistent danger from the almost daily explosions and bombings. With such elevated insecurity, the city is often without electricity, water and internet connections. Some basic commodities are so expensive they are unaffordable to most people. Many people have lost their jobs and some have been forced to close their businesses; they now have no income at all. While some choose to remain, others simply do not have the means to flee.
Displaced Christians are provided with shelter, food and medication through the generous gifts of Barnabas supporters. These gifts enable local churches and Christian organisations to sustain brothers and sisters in need.
Vatican city, August 18, 2015: Pope Francis is looking for a few good “missionaries of mercy”, priests who are known for their preaching and their dedication to hearing confessions and granting absolution.
If they have their bishop’s or superior’s support, priests interested in being one of the special communicators of God’s mercy are invited to apply online.
The Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, the office Pope Francis charged with coordinating the Holy Year of Mercy, which begins Dec. 8, posted a list of desired qualities and the application form on the Year of Mercy website.
The missionaries will be commissioned formally by the pope and sent out Feb. 10, Ash Wednesday.
The council said the missionaries are to be “a living sign of the Father’s welcome to all those in search of his forgiveness”.
They should be “inspiring preachers of mercy; heralds of the joy of forgiveness; welcoming, loving and compassionate confessors, who are most especially attentive to the difficult situations of each person”.
With an invitation from a local bishop, the missionaries will preach and administer the sacrament of reconciliation during special Year of Mercy events, the council said.
When Pope Francis announced the Holy Year of Mercy, he said he would give the “missionaries of mercy” special authority or faculties “to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See”.
Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, said the reference to “reserved” sins refers to actions that can bring with them automatic excommunication, for example, abortion when the person is aware of the penalty and commits the sin anyway.
If the person is repentant, he said, the missionaries will be able to remove the excommunication and grant absolution in those cases, which normally require the intervention or permission of the local bishop or the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican court.
For most of the 2,000-year history of the Church, only priests got to personally read the Bible,
but now billions of us have access to it.
In spite of this, many believers are more faithful to reading their daily newspaper than their Bibles.
It’s no wonder why we don’t grow.
We can’t watch television for three hours, then read the Bible for three minutes and expect to grow.
Many who claim to believe the Bible “from cover to cover” have never read it from cover to cover.
But if you will read the Bible just fifteen minutes a day, you will read completely through it once a year.
This is why God instructed the kings of Israel to always keep a copy of his Word nearby:
“He should keep it with him all the time and read from it every day of his life” (Deuteronomy 17:19).
But don’t just keep it near you; read it regularly!
- fwd: vc mathews
New Delhi, August 11, 2015: The Church of North India (CNI) is urging its young people to consider entering civil service in order to bring a Christian presence to the country’s government and have a positive influence on public policy.
CNI General Secretary Alwan Masih made the call in a message to the members of the church, following the announcement of results of civil service examinations for 2014.
Noting that young people in civil service play an all-important role in framing policy for the nation, including social programs and development projects, he said: “They are the pillars who are responsible for any change that the country experiences.”
Masih announced that a CNI member had qualified in the 2014 group, raising hopes that more young people prepared by the CNI would write preliminary examinations in August.
However, the General Secretary said that in comparison to the overall percentage of Christians in India’s population, Christians were unrepresented in the number of those who had passed preliminary examinations held by the country’s Union Public Service Commission.
Given the Church’s track record of providing high-quality education, it and its organizations “need to do some soul searching and try to find answers” to find out why candidates from the Christian community were not playing a corresponding role in civil service, he declared.
The CNI Executive Committee had taken an important first step with a resolution to begin a civil services examination preparatory program for its youth but much more needed to be done, the General Secretary said.
He observed that one reason for the low level of representation was a basic lack of awareness about the significance of civil service. Many of the youth simply were not interested.
Masih stated that the all Christian denominations in India needed to encourage and motivate their youth to “take up the challenge” of writing the civil service examinations.
“The Church supporting such an effort financially and emotionally will be a great service to the community as well as to the nation.”
- anglican news
New Delhi, August 11, 2015: About 100 protesters gathered in New Delhi to demand special rights for dalit Christians and Muslims, including quotas for places in educational institutions and government jobs, as enjoyed by their Hindu counterparts.
Marking what they call “Black Day,” the demonstrators, including Catholic priests and nuns, waved black flags and shouted slogans outside the Sacred Heart Cathedral in the capital Aug. 10, demanding the government immediately resolve the issue.
Black Day is observed by dalit Christians across India every Aug. 10 because of a 1950 presidential decree that day denying special rights to non-Hindus.
The Indian constitution guarantees a reservation of government jobs and places in educational institutions for dalits (former “untouchables”) and other underprivileged classes.
However, Christian and Muslim dalits are denied these benefits on the grounds that their religions do not recognize the caste system.
“There is no untouchability in any religion but it exists in the soil of India. Indian Christians live in a society where people are discriminated against on this basis,” John Dayal*, a member of the National Integration Council, told ucanews.com.
The council consists of senior politicians and leading figures and looks at addressing problems resulting from castes and sectarianism.
“A dalit cannot admit he or she is a Christian. If they do, they will lose their job, scholarship or place in the university they gained for being a dalit,” Dayal said.
At present, 12 state governments and union territories have recommended that the federal government grant special rights to dalit Christians and Muslims. Most national and regional political parties also support the move.
However, the ruling pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, Indian people’s party) is opposed to granting special rights to dalit Christians and Muslims, saying it would encourage religious conversions.
Federal minister for social justice Thawar Chand Gehlot called the demand “unconstitutional” last October.
“They left the Hindu fold to escape the scourge of untouchability as it did not exist [in Islam and Christianity]. Their conversion solved the problems they faced as Hindus so they should not ask for caste status,” he said.
Protesters in Delhi said the government is sending out the wrong message by not agreeing to their demands.
“The government has ignored our demands. This is religion-based discrimination,” said Ali Anwar, a parliamentarian.
Fr Z. Devasagaya Raj, secretary of the office for dalits and lower classes of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India and one of the protest organizers, said the government is showing a lack of understanding about the needs of minority religions.
He added that the government is not presenting the right argument when it says only the Hindu religion has the caste system.
“They do not understand the social realities of dalit Christians. I hope that they will have some sense of justice,” he said.
He also pointed out that the government is wrong in thinking people will convert to Christianity and Islam if dalits from these communities are granted special rights.
“By saying this, they are undermining their own religion. People do not convert on a whim,” he said, adding that people don’t change religion unless they are convinced by the faith.
Christian leaders estimate that at least half of India’s 23 million Christians are of dalit origin.
* John Dayal is a member of ucanews.com’s board of directors and also an occasional op-ed contributor.