Sunday, March 31, 2013

Pope Francis' "Urbi et Orbi" Blessing(March 31st 2013)

Pope Francis' "Urbi et Orbi" Blessing
VATICAN CITY, March 31, 2013  - Here is the translation of Pope Francis’ “Urbi et Orbi” (to the City and to the World) Blessing given to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square this morning.
* * *
Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, Happy Easter! Happy Easter! What a joy it is for me to announce this message: Christ is risen! I would like it to go out to every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest, in hospitals, in prisons…
Most of all, I would like it to enter every heart, for it is there that God wants to sow this Good News: Jesus is risen, there is hope for you, you are no longer in the power of sin, of evil!
Love has triumphed, mercy has been victorious! The mercy of God always triumphs! We too, like the women who were Jesus’ disciples, who went to the tomb and found it empty, may wonder what this event means (cf. Lk 24:4). What does it mean that Jesus is risen?
It means that the love of God is stronger than evil and death itself; it means that the love of God can transform our lives and let those desert places in our hearts bloom. The love God can do this!
This same love for which the Son of God became man and followed the way of humility and self-giving to the very end, down to hell - to the abyss of separation from God - this same merciful love has flooded with light the dead body of Jesus, has transfigured it, has made it pass into eternal life. Jesus did not return to his former life, to earthly life, but entered into the glorious life of God and he entered there with our humanity, opening us to a future of hope.
This is what Easter is: it is the exodus, the passage of human beings from slavery to sin and evil to the freedom of love and goodness. Because God is life, life alone, and we are his glory: the living man (cf. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, 4,20,5-7).
Dear brothers and sisters, Christ died and rose once for all, and for everyone, but the power of the Resurrection, this passover from slavery to evil to the freedom of goodness, must be accomplished in every age, in our concrete existence, in our everyday lives. How many deserts, even today, do human beings need to cross! Above all, the desert within, when we have no love for God or neighbour, when we fail to realize that we are guardians of all that the Creator has given us and continues to give us. God’s mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore life to dry bones (cf. Ez 37:1-14).
So this is the invitation which I address to everyone: Let us accept the grace of Christ’s Resurrection! Let us be renewed by God’s mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish. And so we ask the risen Jesus, who turns death into life, to change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace. Yes, Christ is our peace, and through him we implore peace for all the world.
Peace for the Middle East, and particularly between Israelis and Palestinians, who struggle to find the road of agreement, that they may willingly and courageously resume negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted all too long. Peace in Iraq, that every act of violence may end, and above all for dear Syria, for its people torn by conflict and for the many refugees who await help and comfort. How much blood has been shed! And how much suffering must there still be before a political solution to the crisis will be found?
Peace for Africa, still the scene of violent conflicts. In Mali, may unity and stability be restored; in Nigeria, where attacks sadly continue, gravely threatening the lives of many innocent people, and where great numbers of persons, including children, are held hostage by terrorist groups. Peace in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in the Central African Republic, where many have been forced to leave their homes and continue to live in fear.
Peace in Asia, above all on the Korean peninsula: may disagreements be overcome and a renewed spirit of reconciliation grow.
Peace in the whole world, still divided by greed looking for easy gain, wounded by the selfishness which threatens human life and the family, selfishness that continues in human trafficking, the most extensive form of slavery in this twenty-first century; human trafficking is the most extensive form of slavery in this twenty-first century! Peace to the whole world, torn apart by violence linked to drug trafficking and by the iniquitous exploitation of natural resources! Peace to this our Earth! Made the risen Jesus bring comfort to the victims of natural disasters and make us responsible guardians of creation.
Dear brothers and sisters, to all of you who are listening to me, from Rome and from all over of the world, I address the invitation of the Psalm: “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; for his steadfast love endures for ever. Let Israel say: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever’” (Ps 117:1-2).
Dear Brothers and Sisters, to you who have come from all over the world to this Square at the heart of Christianity, and to you linked by modern technology, I repeat my greeting: Happy Easter!
Bear in your families and in your countries the message of joy, hope and peace which every year, on this day, is powerfully renewed.
May the risen Lord, the conqueror of sin and death, be a support to you all, especially to the weakest and neediest. Thank you for your presence and for the witness of your faith. A thought and a special thank-you for the beautiful flowers, which come from the Netherlands. To all of you I affectionately say again: may the risen Christ guide all of you and the whole of humanity on the paths of justice, love and peace.\
[Original text: Italian]

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Greetings!!!!

LIFE over death
GOOD over evil
LIGHT over darkness
TRUTH over falsehood
also  have the COURAGE
to experience this triumph
in being
whom you encounter
Be yours TODAY and ALWAYS!

Fr. Cedric Prakash sj
& ALL at PRASHANT                                             Easter 2013

-----------------    ---------------   -----------------  -------------------  ---------------   ---------------  --------------   ----------------
PRASHANT   (A Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)
Street Address : Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052, GujaratIndia
Phone : 91  79   27455913,  66522333  Fax : 91  79  27489018


Friday, March 29, 2013

A Reflection on GOOD FRIDAY!!!


Do not let our hope be stolen!
How many wounds are inflicted upon humanity by evil!
Wars, violence, economic conflicts that hit the weakest, greed for money,
Love of power, corruption, divisions,
crimes against human life and against creation!
Our personal sins: our failures in love and respect towards God,
towards our neighbour and towards the whole of creation.
Jesus on the Cross feels the whole weight of the evil,
and with the force of God's love he conquers it,
he defeats it with his resurrection.
Dear friends, we can all conquer the evil that is in us and in the world,
with Christ, with the force of good!
Do we feel weak, inadequate, powerless?
But God is not looking for powerful means,
it is through the Cross that he has conquered evil!
We must not believe the Evil One when he tells us,
you can do nothing to counter violence, corruption, injustice, your sins!
We must never grow accustomed to evil!
With Christ we can transform ourselves and the world.
We must bear the victory of Christ's Cross to everyone everywhere,
we must bear this great love of God.
And this requires all of us not to be afraid to step outside ourselves,
to reach out to others.

Pope Francis

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Pope Francis washes women's feet

Pope Francis washes women's feet in break with church law
Associated Press | Updated: March 29, 2013 08:21 IST
Rome: In his most significant break with tradition yet, Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of two young women at a juvenile detention centre - a surprising departure from church rules that restrict the Holy Thursday ritual to men.

No pope has ever washed the feet of a woman before, and Francis' gesture sparked a debate among some conservatives and liturgical purists, who lamented he had set a "questionable example." Liberals welcomed the move as a sign of greater inclusiveness in the church.

Speaking to the young offenders, including Muslims and Orthodox Christians, Francis said that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion in a gesture of love and service.
"This is a symbol, it is a sign. Washing your feet means I am at your service," Francis told the group, aged 14 to 21, at the Casal del Marmo detention facility in Rome.

"Help one another. This is what Jesus teaches us," the pope said. "This is what I do. And I do it with my heart. I do this with my heart because it is my duty. As a priest and bishop, I must be at your service."

In a video released by the Vatican, the 76-year-old Francis was shown kneeling on the stone floor as he poured water from a silver chalice over the feet of a dozen youths: black, white, male, female, even feet with tattoos. Then, after drying each one with a cotton towel, he bent over and kissed it.

Previous popes carried out the Holy Thursday rite in Rome's grand St. John Lateran basilica, choosing 12 priests to represent the 12 apostles whose feet Christ washed during the Last Supper before his crucifixion.

Before he became pope, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio celebrated the ritual foot-washing in jails, hospitals or hospices - part of his ministry to the poorest and most marginalized of society. He often involved women. Photographs show him washing the feet of a woman holding her newborn child in her arms.

That Francis would include women in his inaugural Holy Thursday Mass as pope was remarkable, however, given that current liturgical rules exclude women.

Canon lawyer Edward Peters, who is an adviser to the Holy See's top court, noted in a blog that the Congregation for Divine Worship sent a letter to bishops in 1988 making clear that "the washing of the feet of chosen men ... represents the service and charity of Christ, who came 'not to be served, but to serve.'"

While bishops have successfully petitioned Rome over the years for an exemption to allow women to participate, the rules on the issue are clear, Peters said.

"By disregarding his own law in this matter, Francis violates, of course, no divine directive," Peters wrote. "What he does do, I fear, is set a questionable example."

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said he didn't want to wade into a canonical dispute over the matter. However, he noted that in a "grand solemn celebration" of the rite, only men are included because Christ washed the feet of his 12 apostles, all of whom were male.

"Here, the rite was for a small, unique community made up also of women," Lombardi wrote in an email. "Excluding the girls would have been inopportune in light of the simple aim of communicating a message of love to all, in a group that certainly didn't include experts on liturgical rules."

Others on the more liberal side of the debate welcomed the example Francis set.

"The pope's washing the feet of women is hugely significant because including women in this part of the Holy Thursday Mass has been frowned on - and even banned - in some dioceses," said the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author of "The Jesuit Guide."

"It shows the all-embracing love of Christ, who ministered to all he met: man or woman, slave or free, Jew or Gentile."

For some, restricting the rite to men is in line with the church's restriction on ordaining women priests. Church teaching holds that only men should be ordained because Christ's apostles were male.

"This is about the ordination of women, not about their feet," wrote the Rev. John Zuhlsdorf, a traditionalist blogger. Liberals "only care about the washing of the feet of women, because ultimately they want women to do the washing."

Still, Francis has made clear he doesn't favour ordaining women. In his 2011 book, "On Heaven and Earth," then-Cardinal Bergoglio said there were solid theological reasons why the priesthood was reserved to men: "Because Jesus was a man."

On this Holy Thursday, however, Francis had a simple message for the young inmates, whom he greeted one-by-one after the Mass, giving each an Easter egg.

"Don't lose hope," Francis said. "Understand? With hope you can always go on."

One young man then asked why he had come to visit them.

Francis responded that it was to "help me to be humble, as a bishop should be."

The gesture, he said, came "from my heart. Things from the heart don't have an explanation."

The Challenges of ‘Maundy Thursday’ (A Reflection for today) -Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*

The Challenges of ‘Maundy Thursday’
(A Reflection for today)
-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*

The world today is agog with the news that Pope Francis will celebrate the Maundy Thursday Eucharist with the juvenile detainees of the Casal del Marmo prison on the outskirts of Rome.  He will wash the feet of twelve of the inmates, kiss them and bless them in a true imitation of Jesus at the Last Supper.

However, for Pope Francis, this ‘very special gesture’ is nothing new!  As an Archbishop and Cardinal, he always celebrated Maundy Thursday washing the feet of inmates in a jail, in a hospital, in a home for the elderly or just of poor people. One year, he washed the feet of new born children and of pregnant women.

Washing another’s feet as Jesus did, symbolises for a Christian the greatest form of service.  It exemplifies the mandamus (mandate) that Jesus gives to each of his disciples during the Last Supper.  ‘A new commandment I give you that you love one another as I have loved you’ (John 13:34) and in this special act, Jesus exhorts his disciples ‘to do unto others as I have done to you’. 

Therefore, in washing the feet of the juvenile prisoners today, Pope Francis sets a new tone and gives a definite direction for Christians all over.  In his inaugural homily, he emphasized that the role of the Pope is to open his arms and to protect all humanity but “especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those who Mathew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison’.

By reaching out in very human and tangible ways, Pope Francis necessitates that Sacrament of love in service must be the outward sign of inward grace for all followers of Jesus – transcending, in fact, narrow, exclusive, parochial and patriarchal attitudes that characterise so many of us.

Catholic priesthood today has come in for much bashing and ridicule, thanks to the many cases of child-abuse and other scandals that have come to light all over!  On the day that Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Priesthood, Pope Francis reminds all priests that the primary duty of the priesthood is to reach out to all just as Jesus himself did. Priesthood is not about short-cuts and compromises, privileges, power and position but about a high degree of commitment meant to serve others in unselfish and unconditional love.

Maundy Thursday, above all, is the celebration of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the bread which is taken from what people have, which is blessed, broken and shared and in the words of Jesus, ‘take and eat, this is my Body which is given for you, do this in remembrance of me’ and later ‘this cup is the new covenant, in my blood which is poured out for you’. Jesus making a clear connection that giving of oneself in service to others is paramount to living the Eucharist in our daily lives.

The triple feast of Maundy Thursday, therefore poses a serious challenge: the challenge of ensuring a servant-priesthood and of sharing oneself in a genuine service of love, to those who need us the most in today’s world.

28th March, 2013
(Maundy Thursday)

(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)

Address: PRASHANT, Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052
Phone: 79 27455913, 66522333 Fax:  79 27489018

Tuesday, March 26, 2013



Did you know ?

• Wages 
The wage rates of casual and regular workers of both men and women workers in rural and urban areas are very low compared to other States. As per the latest National Sample Survey Office statistics, the daily wage rates of casual men and women workers in rural areas are lower than the corresponding rates in India, with the State ranking 14th (Rs.69) and ninth (Rs.56) in men’s and women’s wage rates respectively among the major 20 States. In the case of urban casual workers’ daily wages, the State ranked seventh (Rs.109) and 14th (Rs.56) for male and female wage rates. In the case of regular rural workers also the State ranked 17th (Rs.152) and ninth (Rs.108) in the male and female wage rates respectively. The corresponding ranks for urban areas are 18th (Rs.205) and 13th (Rs.182) respectively among the major 20 States in India. According to NSSO 2011 figures about 98 per cent of the women workers and about 89 per cent of the male workers in the State are engaged in informal work .

• Nutrition
The NFHS-3 tells us that 47 per cent of children below the age of three in the State were underweight. That figure was 45 per cent in NFHS-2. That’s about twice the average for sub-Saharan Africa. It is also marginally higher than the nationwide average of 46 per cent. The percentage of Gujarat’s children who are ‘wasted’ also went up from 16 to 17 per cent between the two NFHS surveys
According to statistics from a report of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, “Children in India, 2012—A Statistical Appraisal”, between 40 and 50 per cent of children in Gujarat are underweight, which bursts one more myth in Gujarat’s story of growth. Other States in this low weight category are Meghalaya, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha. Human Development Report 2011 said around half of Gujarat’s children were malnourished.

• Gujarat is the 7th worst state in adult men having a body mass index of less than 18.5.

• Infant mortality :
Infant mortality is high in Gujarat, which ranks 11th countrywide in the rate of decline of infant mortality. According to “Children in India, 2012”, the infant mortality rate in Gujarat was still high, with 44 fatalities of infants per 1,000 live births.
In its 2012 State-wise report, the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said, “Almost every second child in Gujarat under the age of five years is undernourished and three out of four are anaemic. Infant and maternal mortality rates have reduced very slowly in the last decade…. One mother in three in Gujarat struggles with acute under-nutrition….”

• child marriage :
Gujarat ranks fourth in reported cases of child marriage.

• School dropout rate : United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) statistics show that Gujarat ranks 18th when it comes to success in keeping children in schools. 59% school drop out

• The school life expectancy of children in Kerala (which ranks first) is 11.33 years, while that of children in Gujarat is 8.79 years.

• percentage of reduction of poverty :
Statistics of the NSSO show that the percentage of reduction of poverty between 2004 and 2010 was the lowest in Gujarat, at 8.6 per cent.

• Water:
According to Census 2011, 43 per cent of the rural households in Gujarat get water supply on their premises and 16.7 per cent get treated water from a common tap

• Toilets:
The data show that 67 per cent of rural households in the State have no access to toilets and members of more than 65 per cent of the households defecate in the open, very often polluting common water sources. Waste collection and disposal are matters practically unheard of. The State ranks 10th in the use of latrines

• Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI):
Anything over 70 on this index is considered to have crossed critical levels, that is, the pollution exceeds the capacity of the environment to handle it and it becomes a dangerous health hazard. According to statistics from the Central Pollution Control Board, Ankleshwar and Vapi in Gujarat top the list of 88 severely polluted industrial areas in India. Ankleshwar has a CEPI rating of 88.50 while Vapi’s is 88.09. Of the 88 areas, eight are in Gujarat

• Employment growth:
NSSO data show that in Gujarat , growth in employment has dropped to almost zero in the past 12 years

• Human Development Index :
Gujarat (0.519) stands 11th in Human Development Index among the states in India. Where Kerala(0.790) stands first.

• Sex ratio :
Gujarat (918) stands 24th . where kerala(1084) stands first.

• Vaccination coverage :
In Gujarat percentage of children between 12-23 months of age who received all recommended vaccines is 45 % . that is in 19th among the states in India.

• Gujarat stands 12th in literacy among the states in india

• In Gujarat 28.2% man and 32.3 % women are underweight .

• In Gujarat percentage of children delivered in hospital is only 55%


-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*

March 26th 2013!  It is the tenth anniversary of two infamous incidents in Gujarat.

Early morning (on March 26th, 2003), Haren Pandya, a former Minister of the Gujarat Government was found assassinated under very mysterious circumstances in the heart of the western side of Ahmedabad.  Till today the whole details of this dastardly act has not yet come to light.

His late father, Vitthalbhai Pandya was quite convinced of who was behind the killing and he went from pillar to post hoping that the full truth of his son’s murder would be revealed. Nothing has happened so far!  It is common knowledge though that Haren Pandya testified before the Citizen’s Tribunal and clearly named those responsible for the Gujarat genocide of 2002.

On that very day (March 26th 2003), the Gujarat Government unanimously passed the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Bill 2003. The Opposition had staged a walk-out opposing the contents of the bill.  This Act is one of the most draconian law in post-independent India.  In violation of Article 25 of the Constitution of India, it necessitates (among other anti-people provisions) that anyone wishing to convert to another religion must first seek the permission of the civil authority in the State.

Both the murder of Haren Pandya and the passing of the Freedom of Religion Act are clear indicators of how terror has seized the State and how the fundamental rights of an ordinary citizen, are denied.

26th March, 2013

(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)

Address: PRASHANT, Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052
Phone: 79 27455913, 66522333
Fax:  79 27489018

Monday, March 25, 2013

Celebrate Emancipation! Today is the international Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery

Let us work together to ABOLISH all kinds of Slavery everywhere!
Celebrate Emancipation! 


is the 

International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery

This day serves as an opportunity to honour and remember those who suffered and died at the hands of the brutal slavery system, and to raise awareness about the dangers of racism and prejudice today. More:

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Reflection for PALM SUNDAY from The AMERICA Magazine

Remembering OSCAR ROMERO-the GREAT PROPHET of our Times on this UN DAY in his memory!


International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims
24 March

"The rights to truth and justice are central to ending impunity for gross violations of human rights. [...] In all instances, honouring this right puts others on notice that violations cannot stay hidden for long."
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero
Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero
Photo: © Carlos Reyes Manzo/APA
On 21 December 2010, the United Nations General Assemblyproclaimed 24 March as the International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims.
The purpose of the Day is to:
  • Honour the memory of victims of gross and systematic human rights violations and promote the importance of the right to truth and justice;
  • Pay tribute to those who have devoted their lives to, and lost their lives in, the struggle to promote and protect human rights for all;
  • Recognize, in particular, the important work and values of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, of El Salvador, who was assasinated on 24 March 1980, after denouncing violations of the human rights of the most vulnerable populations and defending the principles of protecting lives, promoting human dignity and opposition to all forms of violence.
The UN General Assembly, in its resolution, invites all Member States, international organizations and civil society organizations and individuals, to observe the International Day in an appropriate manner.
UN Web Services Section, Department of Public Information, © United Nations

Saturday, March 23, 2013

CJP calls for Regional Mechanism to address human rights violations and conflicts!

Saturday  March 23, 2013


The Citizens for Justice and Peace Mumbai expresses concern at the communal clashes between Buddhists and Muslims in central Myanmar especially in the village of Meikhtila were still burning early on Friday. The death toll is supposed to have reached 10, including a Buddhist monk, stoking memories of last June -July (2012) 's brutal attacks in Rakhine State in western Myanmar, which officially killed 110 people and left 120,000 people homeless, most of them stateless Rohingya Muslims.Hundreds of Muslims have fled their homes to shelter at a sports stadium, said local officials over the past few days.  There was no transparency and accountability in seeking reparation and justice for the attacks i Myanmaar facing these challenges as the newest democracy in the region.

The CJP expresses concerns at the continued attacked on different sections of persons in neighbouring countries of South Asia and while condemning these attacks and appealing for peace reiterates for a regional response to these conflicts.  It is long overdue that the demands of human rights activists from all countries in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal. Afganistan, Srilanka, Burma and Bhutan are met and a South Asian Commisison/Authority for Human Rights  Protection is established that looks into all instances of cross border human rights  violations, atrocities against women and children and traffking, caste atroctries and attacks on identities, ethnicities and religious minorities. CJP has been part of efforts to set  up this kind of mechanism for over a decade.

Teesta Setalvad
Secretary & trustee

Other trustees: IM Kadri (Vice President), Raghunandan Maluste (Vice-President), Arvind Krishnaswamy (Treasurer), Alyque Padamsee, Cyrus Guzder, Javed Akhtar, Anil Dharkar, Rahul Bose, Javed Anand, Ghulam Pesh-Imam, Cedric Prakash

Myanmar riots stoke fears of widening sectarian violence

A man stands in front of a mosque as it burns in Meikhtila March 21, 2013. REUTERS-Soe Zeya Tun
Smoke rises as people look on in Meikhtila, March 21, 2013. REUTERS-Soe Zeya Tun

Reuters saw some Meikhtila residents arming themselves with knives and sticks in an eerie echo of the Rakhine violence in 2012, when pitched battles between the two communities later morphed into orchestrated attacks on Muslim communities by organised gangs of ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.
MEIKHTILA, Myanmar | Fri Mar 22, 2013 12:09pm IST

Reuters) - Unrest between Buddhists and Muslims in central Myanmar has reduced neighbourhoods to ashes and stoked fears that last year's sectarian bloodshed is spreading into the country's heartland in a test of Asia's newest democracy.Buildings in Meikhtila were still burning early on Friday and agitated Buddhist crowds roamed the otherwise near-deserted streets after three days of turbulence, said Reuters reporters in the city 540 km (336 miles) north of the commercial capital Yangon.Five people, including a Buddhist monk, have been killed and dozens wounded since Wednesday, state media reported. Other authorities put the death toll at 10 or higher.The unleashing of ethnic hatred, suppressed during 49 years of military rule that ended in March 2011, is challenging the reformist government of one of Asia's most ethnically diverse countries.
Jailed dissidents have been released, a free election held and censorship lifted in Myanmar's historic democratic transition. But the government has faced mounting criticism over its failure to stop the bloodshed between Buddhists and Muslims."I am really sad over what happened here because this is not just happening to one person. It's affecting all of us," said Maung Maung, a Buddhist ward leader in Meikhtila.Hundreds of Muslims have fled their homes to shelter at a sports stadium, said local officials. The unrest is a bloody reprise of last year's violence in Rakhine State in western Myanmar, which officially killed 110 people and left 120,000 people homeless, most of them stateless Rohingya Muslims.
Locals complained there were too few police in this city of about 180,000 people to subdue the unrest. It erupted after an argument between a Buddhist couple and the Muslim owners of a gold shop spiralled into a riot involving hundreds of people, said police.
The United Nations warned the sectarian unrest could endanger a fragile reform programme launched after Myanmar's quasi-civilian government replaced a decades-old military dictatorship in 2011.
"Religious leaders and other community leaders must also publicly call on their followers to abjure violence, respect the law and promote peace," Vijay Nambiar, U.N. special adviser of the secretary-general, said in a statement.
Myanmar is a predominantly Buddhist country, but about 5 percent of its 60 million people are Muslims. There are large and long-established communities in Yangon and Mandalay, Myanmar's two largest cities, where tensions are simmering.
"Everyone is in shock here. We never expected this to happen," said a Muslim teacher in Mandalay, requesting anonymity.
Rumours that violent agitators were heading for the city had set its Muslim community on edge, he said. Buddhist monks known for their anti-Islamic views last year staged several street protests in Mandalay.
In Meikhtila, at least one mosque, an Islamic religious school, several shops and a government office were set alight, said a fire service official, who declined to be named. Reuters saw both Buddhist and Muslim homes burned.
Sectarian unrest is common in central Myanmar, although reports were stifled under the military dictatorship.
Three people died in Sinbyukyun in 2006 when Buddhists attacked homes and shops belonging to Muslims and ethnic Indians, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable.
"The incident reveals underlying tense inter-ethnic relations in the heartland," said the cable, which also referenced similar communal riots in Kyaukse, a town near Meikhtila, in 2003. (Writing by Andrew R.C. Marshall; Editing by Jason Szep)

Sunday, March 10, 2013


The Citizens for Justice and Peace Mumbai condemns the attack on innocent Hindus in Bangladesh over the past week and Christians in Pakistan yesterday by a angry mob of 7,000 and more. We appeal to all Indians and the wider human rights community to join us  in condemning these dastardly attacks.

While condemning the targeted and  violent attacks against Bangladesh's minority Hindu community, the CJPcalls upon the Indian government and international organisation to ensure that the Bangladeshi authorities provide them with better protection. There have been disturbing reports that individuals taking part in the protests called by supremacist Islamic parties (including reportedly led by Jamaat-e-Islaami, Bangladesh) have vandalised more than 40 Hindu temples across Bangladesh, scores of Hindu homes and shops have also been burned down, leaving hundreds homeless. The attacks have come in the wake of protests to implement the findings of the country's ongoing war crimes tribunal, the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT). The role of the Jamaat-e-Islaami-Bangladesh has been pointed to in the recent anti-minority attacks. In Pakistan, regarding the targeted attack against a group of Christians in Lahore, the CJP urges the Indian government an dinternational organisations to lend voice to their demand that the   the Punjab government should have given the Christian community more protection in Lahore following the false allegations of blasphemy.

All of us undersigned condemn these dastardly attacks and call for the immediate punishment of those guilty. It is long overdue that the demands of human rights activists from all countries in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal. Afganistan, Srilanka, Burma and Bhutan are met and a South Asian Commisison/Authority for Human Rights  Protection is established that looks into all instances of cross border human rights  violations, atrocities against women and children and traffking, caste atroctries and attacks on identities, ethnicities and religious minorities. CJP has been part of efforts to set  up this kind of mechanism for over a decade.

Teesta Setalvad
Secretary & trustee

Other trustees: IM Kadri (Vice President), Raghunandan Maluste (Vice-President), Arvind Krishnaswamy (Treasurer), Alyque Padamsee, Cyrus Guzder, Javed Akhtar, Anil Dharkar, Rahul Bose, Javed Anand, Ghulam Pesh-Imam, Cedric Prakash

Background articles:-

Protect Bangladeshi Hindus, says Amnesty

Amnesty International has made an urgent appeal to the Bangladesh government to provide its minority better protection.
“The Hindu community in Bangladesh is at extreme risk, in particular at such a tense time in the country. It is shocking that they appear to be targeted simply for their religion. The authorities must ensure that they receive the protection they need,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty’s Researcher.
Survivors told Amnesty that the attackers were from the Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir.
In the report, ‘Bangladesh: Wave of Violent Attacks Against Hindu Minority’, Amnesty gave the country’s war crimes trial as the context to the violence against the minority.
The report said attacks on Hindus and other minorities were often reported from Bangladesh, especially from the far-flung areas. The latest attack took place on March 6 at Daudkandi in Comilla, where a Hindu temple was vandalised and burnt down. It said on Feb 28 a minority village of Rajganj Bazar in Noakhali was set on fire by the Jamaat supporters. According to Amnesty, Bangladesh’s Hindu minority constitutes only eight per cent of the population and has historically been at risk of violence. They suffered heavily during the 1971 liberation war and again after the 2001 parliamentary elections, when BNP-Jamaat coalition came to power.

Bangladesh: Jamaat continues attacking Hindus

Jamaat-Shibir attacks on Hindu community and their temples continued in different parts of the country yesterday creating widespread fear among general people living unprotected in rural areas. Reports of arson, vandalism and physical assaults on members of Hindu community and also on Awami League activists have been rampant since Thursday, when the International Crimes Tribunal-1 had awarded death penalty to Jamaat leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee. Yesterday in Khulna, more than 300 Jamaat-Shibir and BNP acitivists brought out a procession from Chad Ali Bridge in Amadi Bazar area of Koyra upazila around 10:30am, during the BNP-called hartal. Locals said the focus of the procession suddenly turned to Dhopapara, an extremely poor locality with predominantly Hindu population traditionally making a living on washing clothes. Within minutes, eight houses belonging to Hindus were set ablaze. While the Hindu men, women and children ran for safety, the attackers looted whatever they could put their hands on.

The attackers soon swooped on to nearby Amadi Bazar. They broke into eight to 10 shops belonging to local Hindus and looted them before being dispersed by Border Guard Bangladesh and police personnel around noon. Meanwhile, the attack left a woman and a young man injured. They were admitted to the local health complex. Amiya and Apurbo Das, who lost their home in the attack, said neighbours had tried to douse the fire but their thatched house stood no chance. Others who lost their houses to the arson include Subodh Das, Kartik Das and Sona Das. Each of the victim families had more than one thatched house. The attackers also torched a prayer room set up inside a house. “We do not know what to do and are living in fear of further attacks,” said Apurbo Das. Locals said the attackers also unleashed violent assaults on several residents.

Officer-in-Charge (OC) Khairul Kabir of Koyra Police Station said they had arrested two Shibir activists from the area. “Two to three houses were torched and looted and about eight shops were looted during the attack,” said the OC. Superintendent Golum Rouf Khan of Khulna police said BNP and Jamaat-Shibir men had set fire to thatched houses and a semi-concrete structure, and vandalised shops belonging to local Hindus. The ploy in which attacks on Hindu temples and idols were executed, bear striking similarity in most cases throughout the country. At Rotherpar village in Aditmari upazila of Lalmonirhat, religious fanatics entered the Sree Sree Shoshan Kali Mandir [temple] some time early hours yesterday and vandalised the temple smashing the idol of goddess Kali. President of the temple committee Subhas Chandra Roy said they had lodged a written complaint with the police and it was now up to the law enforcers to take action.

At Lakhirpar village under Kotalipara upazila in Gopalganj, zealots set fire to a temple of goddess Kali on Monday around 7:45pm. The fire partially gutted the temple and destroyed four idols of the goddess. The arson instantly drew protests in the area. Kotalipara police detained five suspects in this connection. In Natore, Jamaat-Shibir men are strengthening themselves in the border areas of Lalpur upazila where Awami League activists and members of the Hindu community are living in fear. On Monday evening, Jamaat-Shibir men in a bid to spread further panic set fire to a temple of Shoair village under Singra upazila and destroyed the Hori Protima [the idol of god Hori]. Isahaq Ali, secretary of Lalpur upazila unit Awami League, said Jamaat-Shibir men were capitalising on the innocence of the villagers through anti-minority propaganda.

“The situation is such that we cannot even go to the border areas of Char Jazira, Horir Char and Gorgoria where on the one hand, gangs of Jaamat-Shibir rule and on the other, outlaws roam around at large,” said Isahaq Ali. In Chittagong, Hindu temple Sarbajaneen Magadeshwari Mandir at East Rupkania of Satkania upazila was torched early yesterday. Sukumar Nath, a local resident, said the arson took place around 2:30am. “We woke up by the sound bamboos cracking in fire and witnessed our holy temple burn to ashes,” said Nath, adding, “We do not know who did it.” Sub-Inspector Nazmul Alam of Satkania Police Station said the pattern of all the arson attacks leads police to suspect that Jamaat-Shibir fanatics had been involved in the act. Since Thursday, Jamaat-Shibir men had wrecked havoc in the area, mainly targeting the Hindu community.

The fanatics have changed their tactics for attacks on the state mechanisms. In Jhenidah, Lalmonirhat, Satkhira and elsewhere they shielded their attack force by luring rural women and children in the front line of the processions with religious propaganda. In Uzirpur upazila of Barisal district, miscreants tried to set fire to Guthia Sarbajaneen Kali Mandir [temple] under Guthia union early yesterday. President of the temple committee Sudhir Malakar said some miscreants had thrown burning torches of straw and tree branches inside the temple and fled the scene. The fire died automatically as the branches and straw were not so dry but yet it partially damaged the fences said Sudhir, adding that they had informed the local upazila parishad chairman of the incident. Officer-in-Charge Anwar Hossain of Uzirpur Police Station said a general diary had been lodged with them and that they had visited the spot and started investigating the arson attempt.

25 Christian houses burnt over blasphemy

From the Newspaper |  | 12 hours ago
Pakistani police officials examine the burnt out houses of members of the Christian community attacked by Muslim demonstrators during a protest over alleged blasphemous remarks by a Christian in a Christian neighborhood in Badami Bagh area of Lahore on March 9, 2013. - Photo by AFPPakistani police officials examine the burnt out houses of members of the Christian community attacked by Muslim demonstrators during a protest over alleged blasphemous remarks by a Christian in a Christian neighborhood in Badami Bagh area of Lahore on March 9, 2013. – Photo by AFP
LAHORE: A mob enraged over alleged blasphemy set on fire a number of houses belonging to Christians in Badami Bagh on Saturday.
There was no casualty as members of the Christian community, including women and children, had left the neighbourhood on Friday night after police advised them to do so.
A church and several shops were also torched by the mob. Police put the number of burnt houses at 125. Around 25 were arrested.
The blasphemy suspect was identified as 26-year-old Sawan Masih. Police took him into custody in the small hours of Saturday. Later a magistrate sent him on judicial remand.
Thousands of protesters armed with sticks, clubs and stones ransacked Joseph Colony, which is surrounded by iron warehouses, and then set over 100 residential properties as well as some motorcycles and rickshaws on fire.
A clash between the police and the arsonists left a number of people injured from both sides.
Fire-fighters succeeded in dousing the flames after battling for several hours.
A heavy police contingent cordoned off the area for rescue work.
As soon as businessmen saw the mob, they shuttered their shops and warehouses.
Witnesses and police said an angry crowd ransacked and burnt the entire locality comprising 175 small houses, a day after all Christian families left the area because police had alerted them to the possibility of an attack.
They said a majority of attackers who had lodged a protest a couple of days ago assembled on Noor Road, facing Joseph Colony, and started setting houses and shops on fire.
The affected people accused police of doing nothing to pre-empt the plunder.
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif issued orders for suspension of two police officers and for making two others OSD.
City SP (Operations) Multan Khan, who was made OSD, said the arson attacks began at around 11:30am and up to 7,000 people took part in it.
He said the accused and the complainant had quarrelled under the influence of liquor on March 7, but the latter painted it as a case of blasphemy.
The case was registered on March 8 under Section 295-C of the Blasphemy Act.“I returned after dropping my children at their school around 8am and saw people gathering at the roundabout. They later started throwing furniture and crockery from houses and burning them,” said Muhammad Safdar, a local resident.He said most of the attackers belonged to the Pakhtun community.
According to him, tension gripped the locality after Imran Shahid, a barber, and blasphemy accused Sawan exchanged hot words on Thursday.Safdar said most Christian families had left the area after Sawan’s house was attacked on Friday evening.
A group of protesters visited the police station on Saturday morning and asked police to identify the accused. Later people gathered outside the colony and ransacked houses, he added.Imran Shahid accused Sawan of making blasphemous remarks about Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) after the latter came to his shop.However, Dilawar Masih, who lost his house and shop in the attack, said: “Both Imran and Sawan are close friends and the former has made the allegation only to settle a personal score because they had quarrelled over some petty matter.”
Dilawar wondered why the attackers burned their houses after the accused was handed over to police by the mob.He said a few policemen deployed on Friday evening fled the next day after the angry crowd attacked the houses.A local woman, who identified herself as midwife Riaz, claimed Imran and Sawan dealt in liquor business and the former got the latter implicated in a fake blasphemy case. She said Sawan was handed over to police by local people, including Christians, on the demand of Muslims.
Raja Asif, standing outside his burnt house, said around 165 houses were destroyed.Religious scholars, led by the prayer leader of Badshahi Masjid, visited the place on Saturday and persuaded the mob to disperse.The Badami Bagh attack is the second such incident during the tenure of the PML-N-led Punjab government.A few years ago, people burnt a Christian colony in Gojra (Toba Tek Singh) over alleged blasphemy.
INQUIRY: President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf have ordered an immediate inquiry into the attacks.
“President Zardari called for a report into this unfortunate incident and said such acts of vandalism against minorities tarnish the image of the country,” his spokesman Farhatullah Babar said in a statement.Prime Minister Ashraf also ordered an “expeditious inquiry and measures to stop recurrence of such incidents”, his office said in a  statement.
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said that the government would not spare those involved in the attack.“These people committed a serious crime… there was no moral, legal or religious ground to indulge in such an act,” he told a TV channelThe exact number of houses in Joseph Colony was not immediately known but police and rescue officials said they belonged to low to middle-class families from the minority community.“At least 160 houses, 18 shops and two small churches were burnt by protesters,” Dr Raza, who was busy in rescue operations in the area, said.
Zohra Yusuf, chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, put the number of houses burnt at over 100. She criticised the provincial government in a statement and said “it totally failed in providing protection to a minority community under siege”.Shamaun Alfred Gill, a spokesman for the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, also condemned the incident and called upon the government to ensure safety of life and limb to Christians.

Pakistan Christians rally over Lahore attacks

Protests in Karachi after mobs ransack and torch homes in Christian area of Lahore over alleged insult against prophet.
Last Modified: 10 Mar 2013 06:03
Angry protesters threw bricks at Christian houses after setting them on fire in Lahore [AP]
Dozens of Pakistani Christians have protested in Karachi, hours after mobs ransacked a Christian neighbourhood in Lahore and torched dozens of homes.
Mobs on Saturday caused widespread damage in the eastern Pakistani city after hearing reports that a Christian man had committed blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad, according to a police officer.
The group of Christians in Karachi said the Punjab government should have given the Christian community more protection in Lahore following the allegations of blasphemy.
"It's very very sad and that's why I want to appeal to the government; please look into the matter and see also that the people who are affected, their properties are burnt," Father Peter John, from the Saint Patrick Church in Karachi, said.
"They should also get some sort of compensation."
Blasphemy is a serious crime in Pakistan that can carry the death penalty, but sometimes outraged residents exact their own retribution for perceived insults of the prophet.
Homes ransacked
On Friday night, a large crowd from a nearby mosque went to the home of the Christian man in Lahore accused of insulting the prophet, and police took the man into custody to try to pacify the crowd.
Fearing for their safety, hundreds of Christian families fled the area overnight.
Police said the mob returned on Saturday and began ransacking Christian homes and setting them ablaze.
The police spokesperson said no one in the Christian community was hurt, but several policemen were injured when they were hit with stones as they tried to keep the crowd from storming the area.
Pakistan is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim, with Christians making up around two percent of the population.


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