Page 5, 12th September 2003

12th September 2003
Page 5
Page 5, 12th September 2003 — Asia

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Pope prays for violence victims

POPE JOHN Paul 11 has said he will dedicate his prayers throughout September to the victims of terrorism and violence, as well as for the Christian communities of Central Asia.

Every month, the Pope offers his prayers for a specific intention. The current intention is: "That the countries that are suffering because of war, terrorism and violence may find the way of reconciliation, concord and peace."

He will also pray "that the Christian communities of Central Asia, who live among people of other religious traditions, may be committed to spreading the Good News of the Kingdom through the active testimony of their faith".

Commenting on the intention Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Moscow, said: "For a society which has inherited from the atheist regime a whole lot of problems connected with indifferentism and difficult social situations, the example of Christian life is most important."

He added: "For those who have never heard the Good News, who have no belief or belong to non-Christian religions, Christians living according to the spirit of the Gospel become living pages and witnesses."

Indian Church seeks holiday

INDIA'S Catholic bishops have asked the country's prime minister to declare a national holiday on October 19, the date of the beatification of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Archbishop Vincent Concessao of New Delhi, vice-president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, met Prime Minister Alai Behan Vajpayee in late August to discuss various proposals in connection with the beatification. He said that the holiday was appropriate because "Mother Theresa was loved and respected by all Indians for her work among the poor".

Her beatification, he said, should be welcomed by India's Catholic minority as an opportunity to introduce others to Catholicism and to "the Gospel message of love and compassion" which motivated Mother Teresa's work.

Bishops call for end to disunity FILIPINO bishops have called for an end to political bickering in their country.

In a statement, the 10member permanent council of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines said: "We are especially concerned about the impression that our political leaders arc out to destroy one another and in the process bring down the entire Filipino family. All these must stop, for certainly the Lord is not pleased."

Days before the pastoral statement was issued and circulated, local media seized on an allegation by a senator that the Philippine president's husband amassed millions of pesos in campaign contributions and hid the money in secret bank accounts.

Four days earlier, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo accepted the resignation of her defence secretary, accused of corruption by junior officers and soldiers who mutinied on July 27.

Christians flee Bangladesh

HUMAN rights workers in Bangladesh have reported that Christians, Hindus and Buddhists, are being systematically driven out of their country by those who want Bangladesh to become a Taliban-style Islamic state.

Rosaline Costa, a former Sister of Charity and Sitangshu Guha, a Hindu Bangladeshi immigrant to the United States and member of the Bangladesh Hindu, Buddhist and Christian Unity Council USA, pointed to violence against non-Muslims that goes unpunished — including rapes of whole families or villages of women as evidence of a systematic campaign to squeeze minority religions out of the country.

Census figures show the population of minority religions has shrunk from about 30 per cent in the 1940s, at the end of British rule of the region that was then a part of Pakistan, to less than 10 per cent today. Hindus, especially, have dwindled as a proportion of the population, from 28 per cent in 1941 to 18.5 per cent in 1961 and eight per cent in 2001. Costa and Guha said an estimated 30 million nonMust ims have left Pakistan.

"The Hindus go to India; the Buddhists head for Japan

or Bangkok," Costa said. But even if she was willing to leave her homeland, Christians do not have a nearby country where they are welcomed, she said, adding: "I'm sorry to say my country is hell. The root cause of all this is growing Islamisation."

She described frustrations such as being called "Bush's people" for wearing a crucifix around her neck.

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