Monday, December 11, 2006

ComeDivine Messiah

The world in silence awaits the day

We are again in the season of Advent and are preoccupied with preparations to welcome Jesus on Christmas day.

Most of us prepare to celebrate His arrival with elaborate festivities – luxurious food and wine, new clothes, Christmas trees, decorations and fireworks. House to house caroling and merry-making have become the hallmark of Christmas. To especially the children, it may a time for Santa Clause, gifts and “ang pow”.

It is also a time for sending Christmas cards to those we remember just once a year and to exchange greetings with friend and relatives. These days SMS and E-mail greetings are slowly replacing traditional Christmas cards among the young.

Many others take a more spiritual attitude towards Christmas. They believe attending elaborate church services, lighting the Advent candles, offering special prayers, singing hymns and going for confession as ways to prepare themselves for the coming of Christ.

Some of us resort to charitable acts, to share the joy with the less fortunate. Visit to old folks, orphanages and handicapped children are common practices during this season.

Then there are also those who make pilgrimage to the Holy Land and birthplace of Jesus to commemorate his birth.

All these may be some of the ways to welcome the coming of the Saviour but is welcoming Jesus all about these external preparations and traditions? If we picture Christmas as the infant Jesus being born in a stable in Bethlehem and await a similar re-birth year after year, we are sadly mistaken.

God could have chosen his birth in a grandeur palace fitting for an earthly king, but he deliberately chose a humble stable among shepherds in the wilderness. This illustrates his humility which we too must emulate.

Jesus is not going to come to us literally as a new-born infant; he is already here in our midst. He is waiting for in our neighbours, those we meet everyday – the sick and dying, the hungry, the destitute, the oppressed, our elderly parents, our spouse, our rebellious children and even our enemies.

Jesus is waiting for us in disguise which we fail to recognize. He is waiting for us to prepare a humble stable in our hearts for these people in whom He dwells. This may be more difficult than organising all the elaborate rituals and celebrations but if we can do that Jesus would be born in our hearts day in and day out for the rest of our lives.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Do all religions lead to the one same God?

I read with interest the editorial entitled “Violence springing from religion?” in the Herald dated 3 December 2006.I was particularly impressed by the concluding statement which read “There is only One God and we all submit to that ONE GOD — no matter what language expression we may use for God! “

Yes,if only people of every religion understand this simple fact, then no one race or religion would fight to reign supreme and the world would be more peaceful.

In recent times, we, the non-Muslims have been under tremendous pressure. Our religious and cultural believes and practices are ill-tolerated by the ruling majority who are Muslims. Our rights of freedom of worship, as enshrined in the constitution, are increasing denied.

Our leaders advocate inter-faith dialogue at international level but locally our requests for such dialogue to solve our inter-faith problems are rejected as they refuse to accept as equal. Of late there has been even threat of mob rule as a means to solve inter-faith problems.

All these are due to the attitude that the ruling majority is superior to all others. We are told theirs is the only true God.

We are very disappointed and frustrated at the way the Muslim majority treats us, as being inferior to them. They refuse to dine with us; dress like us and even mingle with us, let alone accepting our rites and practices as legitimate, just because we are of a different religion.

We may profess different faiths, but aren’t we all children of the same God, whom we call by different names and perform different rituals to worship Him? Aren’t we all equal in His eyes? If we are all equal then why aren’t all religions equal?

All religions rightly teach us that we are equal in the eyes of God,but are we really equal in the eyes of man?The problems that plague our world today clearly demonstrate that we are not.Followers of individual religions consider themselves to be superior to others and that is the underlying cause of inter-religious conflicts and turmoil.

As Christians, what is our stand on the issue of equality of religions? Many among us may be also governed by the same misconceived egotistic attitude that we are superior to others.

By instituting stringent rules we set up a barrier around us, preventing free exchanges between ourselves and those from other faiths. We too are skeptical of the practices, rites and rituals of other religions and not willing not accept them as legitimate. We indoctrinate our children that our religion in the only way to God.

We refuse to allow others from different religion to participate in some of our rites of worshiping God because of our belief that only Catholics, regardless of whether they are good or bad, are entitled to that.

Don’t these constitute the belief that we are superior to others? Aren’t we guilty of the same misconceptions of those in power, whose actions we vehemently detest?

Yes, as you mentioned there is only One God and we all submit to that ONE GOD. In the eyes of that one God we are all equal, although in the eyes of man we are not.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Monday, December 04, 2006

Evangelism in the modern world - response

Dr. Chris Anthony:

First oif all I pray to God in order that He may Give you His Love and Peace.

I read on Internet your article regarding "Evangelism" and let me tell you this:

You can't mix oil and water, you can't mix light and darkness, you can't mix true and lie.
You article it's a mix of something that is true and something that is a lie.

You are right when you say that Christians must live as Christians, we have to be a living testimony on what we believe and, most of all, to love anyone, no matter if he/she is rich or poor, white or black, Catholic or non-catholic, american or hispanic, socialist or capitalis and so on. God loves us, we have to love as a command and a necessity, I'd like to say.

You are wrong about your opinion that in our modern world we don't have to say to nobody that our Religion (our beautiful and exceptional Catholic Religion) is the best or the only one, for there are a lot of religions and beliefs. Let mer ask you this. Which is the ONLY Religion whose Founder was God? You are right! Catholicism! Other religions , name any, had men as founders. That's the only reason (actually I have several other reasons) I do believe that our Religion is THE ONLY TRUE for God never makes mistakes.

You are wrong because there are a lkot of people (unfortunely catholic people among them) that NEED to be evangelized. O.K. Let's say that never with fear, slaverhood or death, for that is anything else but Christian.

I always have said it: american catholics are deepened in a Protestant Culture. That's the problem with a lot of catholics, here in the United States and - unfortunely - in some Latin American countries. Too bad and so sad.

I could keep telling you a lot of things regarding your wrong words but I believe that this is all, just for the momen.

God bless you and keep your Faith alive.

Manuel Morales.

Is the Church relevant to our lives?

Talk to any priest and his main complain will be the poor attendance at mass and poor participation of the parishioners in Church activities. In fact for every one who attends mass on Sunday, there are probably five others who do not. Why is this number of active participants dwindling over the years?

According to a new study commissioned by the Australian bishops, Catholics disconnected from Mass attendance and other parish life believe the Catholic Church is out of touch with the world today and is not relevant to their own lives.

This was according to the report “Catholics Who Have Stopped Going to Mass,” released by the the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference recently as reported in the Catholic Online dated 1st.December 2006.(

According to the report, the three most commonly mentioned factors that had the most powerful impact on Mass attendance, were:

1. Misuse of power and authority at all levels of the Catholic Church.

2. Irrelevance of the church to life today, as an institution “out of touch with Australian society.” “In their eyes the church had lost its ability to connect with the day-to-day lives of ordinary people and as a result they no longer regarded it as having the authority to guide them in living an authentic life.”

3. Lack of intellectual stimulation, with several noting that the sermons delivered in their parishes “were of poor quality, being ill-prepared, theologically unsound, badly delivered and irrelevant.”

It is encouraging that the Australian Bishops are taking the results of the study concerning “disconnected Catholics” rather seriously to further understand the very complex personal, spiritual and cultural factors which have seen a decline in church-going over recent decades.

I am sure if we conduct a similar study of our own “disconnected Catholics” the reasons given will not differ much from their Australian counterparts. I am sure most of our Catholics, “disconnected” and even a significant number of “connected” will agree that the Church is slowly but surely becoming irrelevant to their lives.

It is timely now for our own bishops and clergy to review the situation here in our own country and take proactive measures to make religion relevant to Catholics.

Today in Malaysia the ordinary man, especially the non-Muslims, is under tremendous pressures to cope with all the problems he is forced to encounter.

Managing the family is an arduous task these days. Firstly there are the marital problems to handle with the spouse and the in-laws. As a result divorce is increasing by the day even among Catholics.

Then there are the rebellious children under the influence a very materialistic and immoral culture. To them even their parents are becoming irrelevant because of out-dated moral values. Where does the Church stand in their lives?

In addition to these are the financial problems, increasing cost of education, health care, housing and lack of job opportunities. To make matters worse are the discriminating policies of the government.

How is an average wage earner going to manage all these? There is nobody to turn to for help and guidance. The government agencies are of no help. His Church which use to be the savior fails him miserably.

The priests make it even more difficult by imposing their own unrealistic conditions. They seem to be only interested in large crowds at the various celebrations to participate in the numerous rituals which are of no meaning to an already over burdened individual. Instead of reaching to these estranged Catholics, they in fact further isolate them.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Is the Church becoming irrelevant?

Catholics disconnecting from Mass see church out of touch, Australia bishops' study says

Catholic Online

SYDNEY, Australia (Catholic Online) – Catholics disconnected from Mass attendance and other parish life believe the Catholic Church is out of touch with the world today and is not relevant to their own lives, according to a new study commissioned by the Australian bishops.

Catholics’ alienation from the church in general, the study found, has been a “gradual process in which changing attitudes to church teaching have interacted with negative personal experiences of church personnel and regulation.”

The summary of the report, “Catholics Who Have Stopped Going to Mass,” was released Dec. 1 on the last of the five-day twice-yearly plenary meeting of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference here.

While acknowledging that the drift away from active parish involvement by many Catholics has been ongoing for a number of years and the percentages of the faith community attending Sunday Mass has fallen to 15.3 percent in 2001, the study authors stated that “the church does have the capacity to take actions which will reduce the likelihood of current attenders joining the ranks of those who have stopped attending and increase the chances of returning of some of those who have left.”

The research sought to respond to the desire of the Catholic bishops of Australia “to know more about the reasons why people are ceasing to attend Mass so that action can be taken to stem the flow or reach out to those who have gone,” the report summary said.

A total of 41 Catholics – 28 women and 13 men – between the ages of 29 and 74, of whom more than two-thirds were aged 50 to 69, were interviewed in seven Australian dioceses – Bunbury, Hobart, Melbourne, Parramatta, Perth, Rockhampton and Sydney. The research was carried out by the Pastoral Projects Office of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.

The researchers examined factors that participants perceived as having led to their disconnection from church life, whether they still see themselves as belonging in some ways to the church and whether they could foresee any changes which would encourage them to renew church involvement.

The Australian bishops said, after discussing the study report at the plenary meeting, the “disconnected Catholics” research project was a help in understanding the very complex personal, spiritual and cultural factors which have seen a decline in church-going over recent decades.

“The research project is part of our deep and ongoing desire to connect with people who have left the church and to listen to their experiences, so that we might identify ways to reach out to them and welcome them back,” they said.
“We welcome this study, which provides us with valuable insights into the reasons why some Catholics no longer attend Mass and take part in the sacramental life of the church,” the bishops said.
“Together with our own pastoral experience and in the context of the broader cultural situation, we will use this study to help chart a path forward,” they said.

The researchers found that there were both “church-centered and participant-centered” reasons for study participants identified as main reasons for stopping to attend Sunday Mass.

The three most commonly mentioned and “the factors that had the most powerful impact” on Mass attendance, according to the study summary report, were:

- Misuse of power and authority at all levels of the Catholic Church.

- Irrelevance of the church to life today, as an institution “out of touch with Australian society.” “In their eyes the church had lost its ability to connect with the day-to-day lives of ordinary people and as a result they no longer regarded it as having the authority to guide them in living an authentic life.”

- Lack of intellectual stimulation, with several noting that the sermons delivered in their parishes “were of poor quality, being ill-prepared, theologically unsound, badly delivered and irrelevant.”

Other institutional-related reasons noted included: problems with the parish priest; structural problems, including clergy changes affecting the parish, parish mergers and Communion services without a priest; poor parish community life; and the feeling of exclusion by church rules, such as affecting those who remarried without an annulment of a previous marriage and those who have a gay family member.

Among the personal issues included those surrounding a “crisis of faith,” family or other home-related issues and Mass attendance not viewed as a priority within a busy week schedule.

However, half the respondents said they still attend Mass occasionally and almost one third of participants said they might return to weekly Mass attendance in the future.

The study summary cautioned the bishops from judging those who do not attend Mass. “It would be possible to adopt a perspective which finds fault with every participant regarding their non-attendance at Mass – laziness, lack of faith, placing unreasonable expectations on priests, lack of respect for legitimate authority, getting priorities wrong,” it said, adding that “this attitude is most unlikely to attract them back to Mass or to prevent people who are still attending from leaving.”

The summary notes that “this research project will only be truly valuable if it leads to action being taken, at all levels of the church, to halt and then reverse this phenomenon.”

While noting final recommendations will be developed after the research has been discussed at diocesan and parish levels, the study report said that among action steps might include: further research; a pastoral letter from the bishops’ conference; diocesan efforts to develop parish programming focusing on outreach to those who have disconnected or are disconnecting from parish life; and the institution of parish reviews and evaluations into practices and policies, including those connected to the liturgy.

“When the bishops commissioned this research project two years ago,” the study summary said, “they were inviting Catholics who had stopped attending Mass to enter into a conversation with them.”

The release of the report, the summary added, expands “the conversation to include all those who care about the vitality of the Catholic Church in Australia” and furthers the effort to find “ways in which the church can be transformed so that more people choose to attend Mass and fewer choose to stop attending.”

“These experiences are varied and complex and provide lessons from which to learn as well as great challenges and opportunities for us,” the Australian bishops said.

“It is our hope that those who have stopped attending Mass and perhaps many who have never been to a Catholic Church will accept our sincere invitation to make contact with their local parish and experience the love of Jesus Christ through the life of his church,” the bishops added.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Evangelism in the modern world

What it means to be an evangelist today

I would like to continue my opinion on evangelism in the modern world as contained in my last letter “What it means to be an evangelist today” ( Herald,3 December 2006).

If we continue to evangelize as we used to like our early Christians, traveling around persuading people to leave their faiths and become Christians, we will end up creating a lot of turmoil and violence in the world. History has indeed proven these through the Crusades and holy wars of the past. It has also been undoubtedly shown that those who succumb to conversion are the sick, poor, downtrodden, marginalized and suppressed, not the rich and powerful. Sometimes we even resort to overzealous evangelism by over publicized spiritual healing which defy all modern scientific principles.

Isn't it morally wrong for us to take advantage of the impoverished state of these under-privileged sections of society who are most susceptible to conversion?

In the context of the modern world, as Christians, what should be our stand on this important role of evangelism? Is our religion the only true one and all others false? Why has God allowed so many religions to flourish in the world today if all of them do not lead their followers to Him?

We may succeed in converting others to our faith, but do we realize that causes so much rift and subsequent break up of a once united happy family? Will Christ approve our actions to destroy the peace and harmony in a family by converting one of their members to our faith against the wishes of his loved ones?

Our faith is not in the rituals that we perform but rather it is God’s love deeply rooted in our hearts and lives and it can never be taken away by persuasion or force unless we willingly surrender it ourselves. It would be therefore futile to try and persuade someone to convert to some other faith; he may adopt the new rituals but not change the true faith in his heart.

In the final outcome, a modern evangelist is one who displays the love of Christ in his daily life.By seeing Christ alive in us, others should be converted to become better humans in their own religions.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Serious obstacles remain between Catholics, Anglicans, pope, Anglican primate agree
Catholic Online

VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) – Serious obstacles remain to form closer ties between Catholic and Anglican churches, Pope Benedict XVI and Anglican leader Rowan Williams agreed, bluntly acknowledging disagreements on the ordination of gay bishops and women priests and the blessing of same-sex unions.

The meeting with the Anglican leader took place five days before Pope Benedict was to fly to Turkey to begin a pilgrimage on Nov. 28 that will include meetings with the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, in Istanbul, as well as with Muslim clerics.

After a Nov. 23 private morning meeting between the pope and the archbishop of Canterbury, the two religious leaders signed a common declaration that noted the historic meeting 40 years ago by their predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey, which undertook "to establish a dialogue in which matters which had been divisive in the past might be addressed from a fresh perspective with truth and love."

That 1966 meeting aimed at uniting the churches split apart in 1534 by English King Henry VIII's anger over the Vatican's refusal to annul his marriage.

Benedict XVII and Archbishop Ramsey in the joint statement, signed while sitting side-by-side at a table, expressed gratitude for the efforts at unity and pledged to pursue the path of continuing dialogue.

"True ecumenism," they wrote, "goes beyond theological dialogue; it touches our spiritual lives and our common witness. As our dialogue has developed, many Catholics and Anglicans have found in each other a love for Christ which invites us into practical cooperation and service."
But their frank assessment of where relations stand now underscored the challenges.

"At the same time, our long journey together makes it necessary to acknowledge publicly the challenge represented by new developments which, beside being divisive for Anglicans, present serious obstacles to our ecumenical progress," the pope and the archbishop said.

The world's 77-million Anglicans have risked splintering among themselves after the elevation in 2003 in the United States of the first openly gay Anglican bishop. In 2006, the election of a female Episcopalian bishop to lead Episcopalians in the United States has been seen as impacting relationships among Anglicans worldwide. As well, the blessings of unions between men or between women in the United States and Canada have bruised Anglican-Catholic relations.

Twenty-six of the world's 38 Anglican churches have opened up the priesthood to women. Churches in Canada, New Zealand and the United States have chosen women as bishops, and the Church of England is debating whether to have women bishops.

In his address, Pope Benedict recalled in his remarks in English, while acknowledged that “there is much in our relations over the past 40 years for which we must give thanks," pointed to “many negative influences and pressures which affect Christians and Christian communities.”
“Recent developments, especially concerning the ordained ministry and certain moral teachings, have affected not only internal relations within the Anglican Communion but also relations between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church,” he said.

"We believe," the pope added, "that these matters, which are presently under discussion within the Anglican Communion, are of vital importance to the preaching of the gospel in its integrity, and that your current discussions will shape the future of our relations. It is to be hoped that the work of the theological dialogue, which had registered no small degree of agreement on these and other important theological matters, will continue to be taken seriously."
"The world needs our witness and the strength which comes from an undivided proclamation of the gospel," Pope Benedict said.

"Precisely for this reason, and even amidst present difficulties, it is important that we continue our theological dialogue,” he added.

The joint declaration noted the work of the International Anglican–Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) “engaged in an exploration of the appropriate ways in which our shared mission to proclaim new life in Christ to the world can be advanced and nurtured.”
"In this fraternal visit, we celebrate the good which has come from these four decades of dialogue. We are grateful to God for the gifts of grace which have accompanied them,” Pope Benedict and Archbishop Williams said in the statement. .

“It is a matter of urgency, therefore, that in renewing our commitment to pursue the path towards full visible communion in the truth and love of Christ, we also commit ourselves in our continuing dialogue to address the important issues involved in the emerging ecclesiological and ethical factors making that journey more difficult and arduous,” the declaration said.

The pope and Anglican primate noted the "many areas of witness and service in which we can stand together, and which indeed call for closer cooperation between us.”

Among those areas, they agreed, included: “the pursuit of peace in the Holy Land and in other parts of the world marred by conflict and the threat of terrorism; promoting respect for life from conception until natural death; protecting the sanctity of marriage and the well-being of children in the context of healthy family life; outreach to the poor, oppressed and the most vulnerable, especially those who are persecuted for their faith; addressing the negative effects of materialism; and care for creation and for our environment; … interreligious dialogue through which we can jointly reach out to our non-Christian brothers and sisters."

Following the signing ceremony, the pope and the archbishop of Canterbury went to the Vatican's "Redemptoris Mater" Chapel where together they prayed in the presence of the Anglican and Catholic delegations, including Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of Westminster.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

UMNO General Assembly 2006

Illegitimate citizens in own Motherland

The recently concluded 57th Annual General Assembly opened the eyes of many of us, non-Muslims and non-Malays, to the hard political reality prevalent in our beloved nation, we call our motherland.

Instead of focusing on the numerous issues facing the country, the members of the dominant party, chose to preoccupy themselves with racial and religious ultra-extremism. The only reassuring statements for the non-Malay Malaysians were from the Umno president and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.Even his appeals for moderation appeared to have fallen on deaf ears, as throughout the assembly, speaker after speaker delivered fiery and emotional attacks on other races.

Regrettably this anti-non-Malay and non-Muslim stance was most obvious in the youth wing which makes us shudder at what is in store for us and our children in the future in our own motherland. Our fears are not unfounded as even the PM has acknowledged that we have reached a dangerous point in the history of the nation.

The Chinese and Indians have been staunch supporters of UMNO in all elections, so why this growing antagonism in UMNO towards them now?

All forms of threats and challenges are leveled at us to which we are becoming immuned.Our voices of dissent are in fact being suppressed by uncalled for threats and a newly emerging mob mentality like the violent disruption of the peaceful Article 11 forum in Penang and the false SMS fiasco in Ipoh where, groups of Muslims gather in force to surround a church on mere speculation and rumours. It saddens us to realize that the authorities seem to condone such behaviour as demonstrated by inaction against these unlawful perpetrators.

We are told not to question the special rights of Malays and the position of Islam. We are accused of damaging the sanctity if Islam. We are also told bluntly that there is no religion above Islam. Groups that promote inter-faith dialogue and harmony by stressing on universal human values, like the Inter-Faith Council,Penang Global Ethics Project, Pusat Komas and Sisters in Islam (SIS), are singled out to be condemned.

Several delegates have called for war against non-Malay agendas, claiming that they are ready to "bathe in blood" to protect their rights and that "the blood of Malay warriors will run in our veins". They warn the other races not to question the Malay rights and warn even their own BN counterparts not to interfere with their special privileges. Even senior non-Malay ministers are rudely criticized. Where is our professed Asian virtue of respect for elders?

In fact their attitude towards us is summed up by the MCA Youth leader’s statement that even the opposition has not been as poisonous with their words compared to the racist remarks spewed by the Umno delegates who are our friend and partners in the ruling coalition.

As the proceedings were televised live, these delegates have succeeded in painting a picture of a racially segregated and tensed Malaysia to foreigners. When foreigners watch this, what do you think will be their impression? In many countries, such rhetoric is considered bigotry and racist.

There have been accusations that we are questioning the special position of the Malays and Islam. In fact the majority of us have come to accept this as a fact of life. We are not against the NEP as it is only right and proper that any social imbalance among the races should be addressed to preserve national harmony.

The NEP and its target of 30% equity by bumiputras was never opposed by the non-Malays who understand the importance of uplifting the welfare of the bumiputras. In fact many of us in civil service before have worked hand in hand with our fellow bumiputras towards that endeavor.

Despite 30 over years of implementing polices to uplift the Malays we are still told that they have far behind the target at a mere 18.9%.On the contrary two other reports reveal that it had actually surpassed the target.

We are merely asking for are our rights as enshrined in the constitution. We have come to a situation where all our rights in education, economy, culture and religion are denied and our future appears bleak and hopeless. Our yearnings to serve the nation, in government service, police and armed forces are not appreciated and denied.

Is it wrong and a crime to demand our rights as citizens in our own country?

As the PM says Umno, and the Malays, as the dominant members of the ruling coalition, must always be fair and just to all Malaysians. The minority non-Malays have no one else to depend if their dominant partner turns against them.

Recent events in Malaysia, both in and out of the Umno AGM, have sent the message to every non-Malay that the leaders of this country will not protect you and your family. We are helpless against the power and might of the forces arrayed against us. We are not sure what to do next. Our calls for dialogue are rejected. Mob rule is becoming the norm on mere speculation and rumours.

Whether we like it or not we are Malaysians and are here to stay during good and bad times. This is a fact which must be accepted by all. Let us show fellow Malaysians and the rest of the world that we are and could be a civilized peace-loving nation, instead of one that indulges in mentally-created imaginary enemies.

God has bestowed us with a beautiful country, full of resources and devoid of natural disasters like earthquakes, drought, floods, forest fires, volcanoes, typhoons and hurricanes. He has also bestowed us with diverse cultures and faiths so as to allow us to develop the virtue of tolerance for others.

Let us appreciate and share these divine gifts fairly among us so that we can all live life to the fullest as one united nation, Malaysia, and not fight each other in His name.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The fourth commandment of the Lord

Honour thy father and thy mother

Life has become highly competitive these days and we have to spend a large part of our energy and time trying to earn enough to support our family. In the process we tend to overlook the plight of one important group of people who are responsible for what we are today – our aged parents.

When we were children we were taught the Ten Commandments. The fourth commandment “Honour your father and mother” was of special significance to us as our parents were everything to us at that time.

I still remember week after week we went for confession and the most common sin was disobeying our parents and being rude to them. Very often we were angry with them for not allowing us to do as we wished, forcing us to study and reprimanding us when we do something wrong. Despite all the punishment that they meted out on us for our various offences, there was no doubt in our minds of their love and concern for us under all circumstances.

We can recollect the sleepless nights they spent taking care of us when we were sick, the moments of anxiety they went through when we were involved in some accidents and the tears they shed during intense prayer for our recovery.

We remember the strenuous labour and the mental stress they endured to earn a meager income to provide us with some basic comforts in life and a decent education, which they themselves were denied. All they lived for was the well being of our future not theirs. They did all that without any ulterior motive that one day we will repay that gratitude.

Today many of us are parents ourselves and only now fully appreciate the extent of love parents have for their own children. We understand the pain and anxiety we have to endure when our children suffer from all forms of ailments and failures in their lives. We realize the severity of the heartache when our children refuse to heed our advice and meet disaster as a result.

Some of us may be unfortunate to have our children inflicted with terminal illness and we are aware of the tremendous pain it causes everyday. Some of our parents too would have undergone such great torment in their lives.

Today many of us may are successful and are better off in life than our parents. Many, even our friends and relatives, would be jealous of our achievements especially when we are better than them. The only people who feel proud when we overtake them will be our parents. The joy and happiness that accompanies the successes of our children are immense and insurmountable.

We may have grown older and become more successful but sin against the fourth commandment, honour your father and mother, is still our common weakness although we may not realize it. In our later life, disobedience to parents is expressed in the form of negligence and apathy towards them when they become incapacitated and of no use to us.

We become calculative among the siblings of who should take care and provide for them when they are no more in a position to earn. When they become ill or handicapped we conveniently pass the responsibility of caring for them to others. We give the excuse we are too busy and have no time and no money. I admit it is not easy to take care of elderly parents who are invalid, especially in a fast moving materialistic world, but we fail to realise it is our responsibility and ours alone. We cannot run away from it.

The greatest fear among elderly people is loneliness. This is particularly true for those who have lost their spouses and are all alone in this cruel world. For many of them, it is not money, gifts or food that they need. All they ask for is the love of fellow humans in particular their children and grandchildren, to spare some time for them.

The strange thing is that this fear is also a feature when we were children. As a child when we were fearful to be alone, our parents were there to console and reassure us. They did that willingly and with great love and passion.

But when they are in living in fear at the twilight of their lives, we as children are not there to comfort them. We are too busy with our jobs and families. We blame the fast moving and competitive society we live in.

It is shocking that even we as Christians sometimes shun away from this responsibility to our aged parents. We are too busy with church activities and pray hard that God will send somebody to take of them. We have the misguided notion that prayer alone without a heart and without lifting a finger would work miracles to provide the love longed for by our elderly parents.

As children do we recognize their needs and try our utmost to fulfill them or are we too preoccupied with our church rituals and pray that God will take care of them? One thing I am convinced; God does not come in person to do that. He works through His creations like you and me. If we just pray and wait for God’s miracle, we will be sadly disappointed.

Very often we, the children and priests are quick to anoint the sick and dying when in coma and subsequently give them a grand funeral service. We even offer masses and hold elaborate memorial services for the dead but lack the same enthusiasm in being supportive and being with them when they were alive.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Friday, November 10, 2006

Evangelism in the modern world

The Church is facing the greatest challenge in a world where many religions have attained a significant presence all over, even in countries once predominantly Christian. With all the developments in science and technology, man today has reached a state where he will not accept even if God returns to earth in whatever form.

As Christians we are asked to be active evangelists, so are Muslims and to a lesser degree by Hindus, Buddhists and others. The Cambridge dictionary defines an evangelist as a person who tries to persuade people to become Christians, often by traveling around and organizing religious meetings. This was exactly what our earlier Christians did. At that time propagating the Gospel was to people in lands who have never heard of Jesus and God, but today the scenario is totally different. All nations have well established religions of their own and there is a need to re-look at evangelism in the context of the modern world.

Man possesses the egotistic belief that his own religion is the best and is the only way to God and he has the obligation to convert others to his faith so that they too can be redeemed. Just imagine the chaos that will result if followers of all the world’s religions go round trying to convert others to their own faith. The recent false SMS rumors regarding Muslims being converted to Christianity should be enough to highlight the serious repercussions it can have even in a small multi-racial and multi-religious country like ours.

If we continue to evangelize as we used to like our early Christians, we will end up creating a lot of turmoil and violence in the world. History has shown that those who succumb to conversion are the poor, downtrodden, marginalized and suppressed, not the rich and powerful. It would be morally wrong for us to take advantage of the impoverished state of these under-privileged sections of society who are most susceptible to conversion.

In the context of the modern world, as Christians, what should be our stand on this important role of evangelism? Why has God allowed so many religions in the world today? Don’t they all lead their followers to Him? Is ours the only true one and all others false?

We go round to convert others to our faith, not realizing it causes so much rift and subsequent break up of a once united happy family. Will Christ approve our actions to destroy the peace and harmony in a family by converting one of their members to Christianity?

Our faith is not in the rituals that we perform but rather it is God’s love deeply rooted in our hearts and lives and it can never be taken away by persuasion or force unless we willingly give it up ourselves. Therefore it would be futile to try and persuade someone to convert to some other faith; he may adopt the new rituals but not change the true faith in his heart.

So what should evangelism mean to us today? As Christians we should first convert ourselves and align our lives in keeping with the teachings of Christ. We should reflect this love of Christ onto to others by our words and deeds. By seeing Christ in us, others should be converted to become better humans in their own religions.

In short, to be an evangelist in today’s modern world, one must become the agent of Christ in our daily living. It will not be easy but it is an obligation we must try to fulfill.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Dialoguing with world religions

By Diana Hayes
Herald,29 Oct 2006

Q: Why should we dialogue among world religions?

A: We are faced today with challenges the Church has not seen since the first century. The most significant challenge is the growing number of religions, many of which have attained a significant presence throughout the world, even in countries once predominantly Christian. The challenge for the Church in the early days was to bring the gospel to countries which had never heard the liberating message of Christ. Today, by contrast, we face the rapid growth of diverse religions, some new, others centuries old.

As Christians, how should we respond to these new challenges? On the one hand, it is crucial that we remain firm in our own faith and secure in the knowledge that Christianity is still a universal religion with faithful in almost every country in the world, most of them living in peace and harmony with persons of other faiths. On the other hand, it is important that we become more conversant with believers of other faiths. The immediate purpose of dialogue is not to convert them to Christianity but to begin to learn about them and the role that their faith plays in their lives, just as Christianity does in our own. The present time is the ideal moment to call on the Holy Spirit to help us all come together in a common dialogue that highlights the ways in which we are alike rather than those in which we differ.

There are many world religions. But the commonly recognised major ones are Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity. There are some striking commonalities among these world religions. Followers of Judaism, Islam and Christianity are often called “the people of the book” because they share a heritage which is handed down in a set of scriptures and trace their origins to the Patriarch Abraham. Buddhism, Islam and Christianity are also called historical religions, because each has a historical founder: Siddhartha, Mohammed, Jesus.
Unifying work of the Spirit

A discussion of the role and significance of the Holy Spirit within the world is critical. The challenge for all of us is to recognise the role the Holy Spirit plays, which is that of unity, the building up of a community of love. We believe, as Christians, that the Holy Spirit was sent by the Father in the name of the Son to enable all of humanity to share intimately in the life of God. That sharing carries with it a responsibility for humanity to help maintain that community in spirit and in truth, modeling it on the Holy Trinity itself.

As humans we may differ in many ways — skin colour, hair texture, language, gender, intellectual and physical abilities, and even religious beliefs — yet we are still one. For, as the late Pope John Paul II has noted, elements of sanctification and truth can be found outside the visible confines of the Church itself as presently constituted. The Spirit is the source of union with God and with one another in Christ, but is also the source of plurality. The Spirit unites without destroying or diminishing real differences. The Spirit shows us that the diversity of gifts within the Christian and broader human community is a blessing for us all.

Today, we still see evidence of the temptation to return to a time of supposed security where anyone not of our faith was seen as the enemy. We must recognise that a ghetto mentality of “us” against “them” is not viable. The teachings of the Church call for discussion and collaboration with members of other faiths. We are encouraged not to flee or condemn but, while witnessing to our own faith and way of life, to also acknowledge, preserve, and encourage the spiritual and moral truths found among people of other faiths as well as in their social lives and cultures.

The challenge for us today is to allow the Spirit to move as the Spirit will, rather than to attempt to capture and stifle it. We have today, as Christian faithful, the unique opportunity to engage our fellow human beings of different faiths in an open, honest and loving dialogue which can only enrich both our lives and our faith rather than threaten them. For an unquestioned faith is no faith at all and at the first challenge will shatter and crumble into dust.

A renewed earth

The Holy Spirit does not close doors, but opens them. The Holy Spirit enables us to speak in every tongue to those with whom we share a common humanity, even if not a common faith. The Holy Spirit enables us to see the kernels of truth present in other religions, as their believers see them, and allows us to build upon those shared understandings. The Holy Spirit shines forth in the most unlikely places, renewing the face of the earth and making it whole once again while preserving the diversity of plurality.

Our God remains with us in the breath of life God sent forth in the form of the Holy Spirit. That Spirit is present in all human beings, different though they may be in their expressions of it.

Diana Hayes is associate professor of theology at Georgetown University.

Are all religions are equal?

8 November 2006

They are in the eyes of God not in the eyes of man

Of late we, the non-Muslim minorities,have been subjected to a lot of unfavourable remarks and even actions that are discriminating.The latest of these was a call Muslims not to wish Hindus Happy Deepavali. They were also adviced to shun participating in celebrations of the festivities of other religions. These practices are according to them un-Islamic and shloud be banned.

Statements like these are the least required in a multi-racial and multi-religious society like ours.Nevertheless they are becoming more rampant these days,with total disrespect for our feelings.It is also causing a great deal of anxiety and fear among the non-Muslims in the country.

More and more we are being treated as second class citizens with erosion of our rights as enshrined in the federal constitution. There is total failure to understand that religious tolerance is a mutual process among the various religious communities and not a unilateral practice as it is now.

Since the seventies in the pretext of restructuring society new rules were introduced in the name of religion. All institutions in particular, the civil service and education system were tailored towards the creation of an Islamic State. Since then there was no turning back and slowly but surely the nation was heading in that direction. In the process the contributions of the non-Muslims were totally ignored.

The Muslims were segregated from non-Muslims by a new code of conduct which forbids them from freely mingling with those of other faiths. Some of these include separate dress code, issue of “halal” food, and unacceptability of the rites and practices of other religions, the forbiddance of participation in common goodwill celebrations like “kongsi-raya” and “deepa-raya”, attending marriage and funeral ceremonies in Churches and temples of even very close friends.

Non-Muslim places of worship are not allowed near the vicinity of mosques and suraus.Some of these temples and churches which were there for more than a century are demolished or re-sited to less prominent places to “hide” them from the sight of Muslims.

A non-Muslim on marrying a Muslim has no choice but to convert to Islam and the children too must be brought up as Muslims. The non-Muslim whose spouse converts to Islam loses all his rights of his previous marriage under the civil laws. Even custody over the children is not allowed.

Our religious and cultural believes and practices are ill-tolerated. Our requests for dialogue to solve our inter-faith problems are rejected as they refuse to sit down to discuss on equal standing. Of late there has been the threat of mob rule as a means to solve inter-faith problems.

All these are due to the attitude that the majority in power is superior to all others. As long as they do not accept us as equal partners, there can never be any useful inter-faith dialogue.

We are very disappointed and frustrated at the way the Muslim majority treats us, as being inferior to them. We are all Malaysians but we are not equal. Those in power refuse to sit with us for a dialogue. They refuse to dine with us; dress like us and even mingle with us, let alone accepting our rites and practices as legitimate, just because we are of a different religion.

We may profess different faiths but aren’t we all children of God? Aren’t we all equal in His eyes? Aren’t all religions equal? What did Jesus mean when he said, “Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? Give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you”. (Luke 11:40-41).

Yes, on the outside we, from various religions, are all different but on the inside we are all the same, the children of one God, whom we call by different names. As Jesus says the exterior does not matter, what is important is the inside, which we must give to those deserving around us.

All religions rightly teach us that we are equal in the eyes of God,but are we really equal in the eyes of man?The problems in the world today clearly demonstrate that we are not.Followers of individual religions consider themselves to be superior to others and that is the underlying cause of inter-religious conflicts and turmoil.

As Christians and especially Catholics, what is our stand on the issue of equality of religions? Many among us may be also governed by the same misconceived egotistic attitude that we are superior to others. In the eyes of God are we?

By instituting stringent rules we set up a barrier around us, preventing free exchanges between ourselves and those from other faiths. We too are skeptical of practices, rites and rituals of other religions and not willing not accept them as legitimate. We even forbid our members from attending their religious functions. We indoctrinate our children that our religion in the only way to God.

We refuse to allow others from different religion to participate in some of our rites of worshiping God because of our belief that only Catholics, regardless of they are good or bad, are entitled to that.

Don’t these constitute the belief that we are superior to others? By looking down on non-Catholics as lesser beings, aren’t we guilty of the same misconceptions of those in power, who do the same to us, which we vehemently detest? Is it justified to condemn others as being unfair to us when we ourselves are guilty of the same?

Let us ponder on these to see where we stand in inter-faith relationship and the concept that all religions are equal in the eyes of that one God.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Are we alone? – Science's search could profoundly impact religion

By Rich Heffern10/30/2006
National Catholic Reporter --

STARS CAPTURED BY HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE – Massive baby stars, nestled in a cloud of glowing gases about 200,000 light-years away and shining as bright as 300,000 suns, are at the center of a galactic "family portrait" from the Hubble Space Telescope released in 1998 by NASA. John Haught, director of the Center for the Study of Science and Religion at Georgetown University in Washington told National Catholic Reporter that “contact with intelligent worlds would be one more in a series of occasions modern astronomy has provided for theology to deepen its sense of nature and God.” (CNS/Reuters, NASA)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (National Catholic Reporter) – The question of whether we’re alone in the universe or not is such a beguiling one that science now actively seeks an answer. Though out on science’s
borderlands, this effort is a great human adventure, and the truth may soon be within reach. Italian monk Giordano Bruno was burned alive in the year 1600 for, among other things, proposing we’re not alone. A clear-cut answer would have a big impact on theology.

SETI, the acronym for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, is science’s effort to detect evidence of intelligent life beyond the Earth by looking for signatures of its technology. The usual approach is to survey the sky with a radio telescope to detect electromagnetic transmissions from a distant world.
Catholics have been involved in the SETI effort from the beginning.

This quest is now 46 years old. It’s a research field pursued by independent groups conducting projects in a few countries. About 30 scientists and engineers worldwide work in the field. The largest research group, roughly a dozen people, is at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., near San Jose.
“Either there is other intelligent life out there, or we are alone in the universe. Either possibility is staggering,” said Richard Barrans, astronomer at the University of Wyoming.

A SETI success, the detection of an unambiguous signal or message, would undoubtedly be one of the top news headlines in history, with undreamed of and far-ranging effects on religious views and theology.
Holy Cross Father Theodore Hesburgh, emeritus president of the University of Notre Dame, played an important role in emphasizing the compatibility of SETI and theology’s search for understanding.

In fact, Father Hesburgh paid a visit to SETI pioneer Frank Drake in the 1960s and he continued to promote SETI by serving on the editorial board of Cosmic Search, a publication of one of the first search agencies. In the preface to an early NASA feasibility report, Father Hesburgh wrote: “As a theologian, I would say that this proposed search … is also one of knowing and understanding God through his works. Finding others than ourselves would mean knowing him better.”

Staff at the Vatican Observatory Research Group at the University of Arizona in Tucson, a part of the Vatican Observatory headquartered at Castel Gandolfo in Italy, are involved indirectly. “It’s controversial among professional astronomers,” Jesuit Father William Stoeger, staff member, told National Catholic Reporter. “Many say it’s a long shot not worth taking; others say OK as long as we don’t spend much money.”
“We participate here in panels on intelligent life in the universe,” Father Stoeger said. “Also two of us work in a project funded by the Templeton Foundation at the university known as ‘Astrobiology and the Sacred,’ which includes discussion, lectures and producing educational materials involving astrobiology and its impact on religion and culture.”

Certain assumptions underlie the SETI effort.

The most basic is what’s called the principle of mediocrity, the idea that we’re not exotic or unusual in the universe but typically average when compared both with other locations and even other intelligences. Corollaries of this principle include the notion that communication would be mutually desirable and understandable.

If these assumptions are correct then contact of some kind seems inevitable given enough time, SETI scientists contend.

There are challenges involved since the direction, spectrum and method of possible communication, if any, are unknown. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is 100,000 light years (the distance light travels in a year at the speed of 186,000 miles per second) in diameter and contains 200 or 300 billion stars. It’s an ambitious task to survey this unimaginably vast area, and our galaxy is only one of another 300 billion or so.

As common as sand

In fact, sorting through billions on billions of stars is as formidable as looking for a needle among all the grains of sand on all the world’s beaches. Scientists estimate there are slightly more stars in the universe than there are sand grains on Earth. Yet the search can be narrowed by limiting it to stars that are like ours, which make up about 10 percent of the total – and even to stars that have planets like ours.

In 1991, radio astronomers detected the first extra-solar planets. More evidence has been coming in. It was reported this month that the Hubble Space Telescope discovered a trove of “candidate” planets in a narrow region near the Milky Way’s center, and astronomers say there must be billions more of them – including many like Earth that orbit their suns in so-called “habitable” zones. SETI Institute scientist Seth Shostak told National Catholic Reporter: “This discovery shows that planets are probably more common than cheap motels, that there are in fact more planets than stars.”

To find a transmission from one of these planets, science must sort through most of the useful radio spectrum. There’s no way of knowing what frequencies might be used; broadcasts would be transmitted on a relatively narrow band as it would be too impractical to use a wide range.
SETI researchers usually target the “water hole.”

That’s a 300 megahertz (MHz) wide section of the radio spectrum, from 1420 to 1720 MHz. These boundaries correspond to radio frequencies emitted by hydrogen (H) atoms and hydroxyl (OH) molecules. Since H and OH combine to form water, the basis of life as we know it, this region of the spectrum may be favored by water-based life for interstellar communication.

Listening is the primary technique, though there are proposals for optical telescopes to look for detectable light signals. “You’re not going to see them in person, I don’t think,” Shostak said. “To go from here to the nearest star requires a 100,000-year trip. And that’s longer than you’re going to want to sit there eating airline food.”

In 1960, Cornell University astronomer Frank Drake performed the first search, named “Project Ozma” after the Queen of Oz in L. Frank Baum’s children’s books.
A 75-foot-wide radiotelescope in West Virginia was used to monitor the stars Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani, at the 1420 frequency. Drake’s search drew a blank, but the effort was picked up by others and has never faltered since.

In 1963, Ohio State University inaugurated a search with the aid of funds from the National Science Foundation. This program achieved fame in 1977 when a project volunteer detected a strong signal received by the telescope that met the requirements for a possible intelligent source. He circled the telltale numbers on a printout and scribbled, “Wow!” in the margin. This signal, dubbed the “Wow! Signal,” is considered the most likely candidate discovered to date, but it has never been repeated and the source has never been confirmed.

In 1992, NASA’s participation in SETI, the Microwave Observing Program (MOP), was canceled shortly after its start, ridiculed by grandstanding politicians. Democrat Sen. William Proxmire called it a futile project because “there isn’t a scintilla of evidence that intelligent life exists beyond our solar system.” A scientist replied, “As late as 1491 there wasn’t a scintilla of evidence that America existed.”

Private funding, in part by writer Arthur C. Clarke, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Intel founder Gordon Moore, and Hewlett-Packard cofounders David Packard and William Hewlett has allowed the effort to continue as Project Phoenix, a systematic targeted search of nearby individual stars.

Another long-term project is SERENDIP operated by the University of California, Berkeley, at the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico. Another major project is conducted in Australia.

In a joint project with Berkeley scientists, the SETI Institute is building a dedicated array of telescopes that will equal a 100-meter radio telescope, the Allen Telescope Array. Activity on it will begin next spring. It is the forerunner of other larger radio astronomy arrays planned for later in the decade.

SETI is not only a long-term project but a grass-roots one as well.

Seti@home is a computing project launched in 1999 at Berkeley. Anyone can become involved by downloading then installing a software package, which then runs signal analysis on units of data recorded from radio telescopes. It actually runs on a home computer as a screensaver, doing its work during down time. The results are automatically returned to the university. More than 5 million computer users in more than 20 countries have signed up, contributing over 19 billion hours of processing time.

Early in the search, Frank Drake organized the first SETI conference and presented a key formulation in the endeavor, “an elegant tool for quantifying our ignorance,” what soon became known as the Drake Equation:
N = n* x fs x fp x ne x fi x fc x fl

This string of letter-symbols can be found on T-shirts and bumper stickers. It expresses the number N of “observable civilizations” that currently exist in our galaxy as a simple result of the multiplication of some more-or-less approachable unknowns.

The first term, n*, is the number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy, while fs is the fraction of sun-like stars, fp is the fraction of those stars with planets, ne is the average number of “Earthlike” planets that are potentially suitable for life in the typical solar system, fi is the fraction of those planets on which life actually forms, fc is the fraction of life-bearing planets where intelligence evolves, fl is the percentage of a lifetime of a planet that is marked by the presence of a communicative civilization.
Intelligent life may be rare

Take just one factor in the equation, fc. Many biologists point out that the evolution of self-aware life depends in a delicately balanced way both on aspects of the laws of physics and on Earth’s circumstances. For example, the fact we have a large moon circling us keeps the spin of the planet stable with respect to the sun, and a gas giant, Jupiter, further out from the sun sweeps the area, intercepting incoming comets and asteroids.

Finding evidence of primitive life on Mars would tell us that such life appears in many places, yet amoebas might not inevitably turn into opera singers. In fact, the lifeless surface of Mars today is a reminder that the building blocks may be there in abundance but things have to be just right for life to develop.
“It’s possible that life is common in the universe while intelligent life is extremely rare,” Father Stoeger said. “On the other hand, astrobiologists contend that evolutionary convergence makes intelligence likely, that once life is in place then it moves fairly quickly toward complexity.”

While the SETI program continues looking for signals, many scientists feel the continued silence is discouraging.

Physicist Enrico Fermi in the 1950s suggested that if the universe was giving birth to many civilizations then given the its age of 15 billion years “if they existed they would be here.” If we think of our technological advances over the last 10,000 years and project those over millions of years, we can understand Fermi’s concern.

While some argue for UFOs and alien abductions to be evidence, the majority of the science community is unconvinced. The fact that as yet we haven’t seen or heard anything is significant, they say. If hi-tech societies or their thinking machines were out there, they’d have colonized the galaxy by now.

Others have countered what is known as the “Fermi paradox” with explanations that include variations on the idea of the TV show “Star Trek” of the “prime directive”: Aliens study life on Earth from a distance but won’t interfere, ensuring we are unaware of their presence; or the aliens haven’t noticed us; we’re in a backwater of the galaxy; or because their technology is so advanced, we don’t recognize signs that they have been around.

A consideration of one factor in the Drake Equation is particularly troubling: Perhaps it’s a common occurrence that intelligent civilizations arise yet inevitably reach a certain stage, equivalent to ours at present, wherein nuclear war starts or a religious cult releases a deadly virus setting that planet back to the level of primitive bacteria. Or, much as we like to pretend we’re independent of nature, if the ecosystem collapses, we couldn’t survive, and this applies elsewhere. It’s difficult to assess the likelihood of such scenarios, yet it seems we may be headed toward a harsh filter that screens budding intelligent life.
SETI has shown up in the evolution-creationism debate. Intelligent design proponents have said that if science’s criteria are tightened to disqualify intelligent design then it should apply to SETI as well. “With SETI, what they’re looking for is in principle scientifically accessible,” said Father Stoeger. “Intelligent design proponents invoke something that is beyond natural processes; science can’t do anything with that.”
If one day – maybe on a home computer – evidence shows up, what would that mean for religion and Christian faith in particular?

Alien revelation

Father Stoeger believes “it would enrich Catholic theology immeasurably. Some might find it threatening, but I think it would make us realize that our theology can no longer be completely anthropocentric, or human-centered. If other entities are intelligent, then isn’t it likely they too would in some sense be made in the image and likeness of God? Do they have moral sense? Are they in a state of primeval innocence as C.S. Lewis speculated? How has God revealed God’s self to them? What do they see as salvation? What’s their experience of religion? And, of course, did Jesus redeem them too? These are completely unanswerable questions until we see the evidence.

“Our imagination is always going to be inadequate to divine reality. My own work in cosmology indicates there are possibly trillions of other universes besides ours. We’re finding hard evidence that God is far above and beyond anything we can image, in ways that go beyond what people of earlier centuries ever imagined God to be.”

John Haught, director of the Center for the Study of Science and Religion at Georgetown University in Washington told National Catholic Reporter: “Contact with intelligent worlds would be one more in a series of occasions modern astronomy has provided for theology to deepen its sense of nature and God; it would also enlarge our appreciation of God’s love for diversity.”

Jesuit Father George Coyne, former director of the Vatican Observatory, feels that such a discovery “of intelligent life elsewhere, independent of the origins of life on earth, would be truly momentous. Two independent origins would mean life is prolific,” he told National Catholic Reporter. “That would bring about a dramatic change in our view of ourselves and of God.”

Seth Shostak said detection of some evidence is likely sooner or later, especially with the advances in listening technology that are coming. “Of course, deciphering an intercepted message from a civilization that is hundreds of thousands of years ahead of us might be problematic unless they are concerned with elementary education. We’d be somewhat like the pre-Columban Incas finding a barrel of books from Europe washed ashore. What would they make of them? It would’ve taken them centuries to decipher what they’d found, with no context for the information.”

Another SETI pioneer, the late Carl Sagan, believed it’s possible that the future of human civilization depends on the receipt of interstellar messages.

“We’re a 100-year-old technology in a 10 billion-year-old galaxy,” said Jill Tarter, director of research at the SETI Institute. “Some benefits of contact might include finding out how to survive our own technology. Others might be able to define critical bottlenecks and elaborate various ways through them, or be able to tell us how to transition from our present-day my-God-versus-your-God conflicts to a more stable understanding of religion.”

Sir Martin Rees, England’s astronomer royal, said: “If SETI searches fail, that wouldn’t render life a sideshow. Indeed, it would be a boost to our cosmic self-esteem: Terrestrial life, and its fate, would become a matter of cosmic significance.”

Partly because of these implications for humanity’s future, many scientists feel Drake’s equation and the SETI effort stand as one of the most forward-looking of human endeavors. “Science’s attempts to find company in the vast emptiness of the universe is really a search for a wider, truer perspective on our place in space and time and on the meaning of life,” according to Alan McRobert, editor of Sky and Telescope magazine.

Just before he died, Carl Sagan described the universe he had discovered from a lifetime’s work in astronomy: “There is a place with four suns in the sky – red, white, blue and yellow; two of them are so close together they touch, and star-stuff flows between them. I know of a world with a million moons. I know of a sun the size of Earth – and made of diamond. … The universe is vast and awesome, and for the first time we are becoming part of it.”

Curiosity will keep the search going for years to come as a few scientists continue to look and listen for something like Princess Ozma’s realm: a place unimaginably exotic, distant and difficult to reach. Perhaps the real quest though is to increase to a critical mass our awareness of how precious is our collective human life as we figure out how to survive our tumultuous adolescence.
- - -
Rich Heffern is National Catholic Reporter assistant opinion editor.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Divine physician – Hospital Christ statue source of hope, consolation

By George P. Matysek Jr.8/25/2006

The Catholic Review (

BALTIMORE, Md. (The Catholic Review) She didn’t want to die alone. Knowing that the end of her painful battle with AIDS was coming fast, the 17-year-old girl asked that someone be by her side. But with none of her relatives able to make it to Johns Hopkins Hospital in East Baltimore on what would be the teen’s last day of life, it was left to Dr. Patricia Fosarelli to fulfill the young patient’s request.

HOSPITAL STATUE A SOURCE OF STRENGTH – Visitors and patients often touch the Christ statue at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md. Ever since it was erected in 1896, “Christus Consolator” has been a source of inspiration, hope and consolation for countless patients, doctors, students and visitors of all faiths. (Catholic Review)

Fosarelli stayed with the girl by her hospital bed for several hours until her chest rose and fell for the last time.

The pediatrician had known other children taken by sickness. But seeing another youngster’s promising life cut short in such a seemingly cruel way overwhelmed her with sadness. It was a heavy weight Fosarelli carried with her the rest of the afternoon as she treated other patients.
At the end of that hot and humid August day in Baltimore several years ago, Fosarelli was walking to her car when she stopped in her tracks at the sight of a familiar figure that somehow seemed different on that difficult day.

Standing in the lobby below the grand dome of the Hopkins’ Billings Administration Building, the 10-and-a-half-foot marble statue of Jesus shows a calm-looking man extending his arms.
The towering, robed Christ gently bows his head, casting a sympathetic gaze to mortals below even as his long wavy hair and curly beard serve as reminders of his shared humanity.

“I looked up at it, and my eyes just filled with tears,” remembered Fosarelli, who has served on the Hopkins faculty on a full-time or part-time basis since 1983. She is also the director of religious education at Corpus Christi in Baltimore and assistant dean of the Ecumenical Institute at St. Mary’s Seminary and University, Roland Park.

"I needed healing that night because it’s always dreadful when someone dies – especially a child,” Fosarelli said. “She had suffered so much. Standing there in wordless prayer gave me strength. It gave me a sense of peace.” The girl was not alone, and neither was Fosarelli.
'Christus Consolator'

osarelli isn’t the only one devoted to the Hopkins Christ statue. Ever since it was erected in 1896, “Christus Consolator” has been a source of inspiration, hope and consolation for countless patients, doctors, students and visitors of all faiths from around the world.

A replica of an 1820 work by the Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen, the statue was cut from a single block of Carrara marble and shipped to Fells Point, where it was pulled by a team of horses up Broadway to its permanent home at Hopkins.

Three brick columns beneath the marble floor in the building’s rotunda were erected to support the six-ton behemoth.

The statue was a long-awaited acknowledgement of God that had been conspicuously lacking when the university was dedicated in 1876. Johns Hopkins, a Quaker businessman who endowed the institution named after him, intended the hospital-university to be a non-sectarian center of scientific advancement.
But after many across the country were outraged that there was no reference to the Almighty at the university’s dedication, Daniel Coit Gilman, president of the university and hospital, asked for someone to donate a replica of the Thorvaldsen statue. William Wallace Spence, a Baltimore businessman, funded the artwork.

“People who come to Hopkins are expecting the best of the best,” explained Father Paul Sparklin, Catholic chaplain at the hospital.

“They are looking to this as a medical shrine,” he said. “But in a way it’s also a spiritual shrine. The people who come here are much like those going to Lourdes expecting a cure.” Father Sparklin said he was impressed that the rotunda area where the statue stands is instinctively treated as reverent space by almost everyone. People speak in hushed voices, leave flowers by the statue or just stand in silent prayer, he said.
Two journals are kept to the left and right of the statue for people to jot down thoughts and intentions. Once filled, the journals are stored in chronological order in Hopkins’ pastoral care department.

“Dear Lord, thank you for everything that you allow me to do,” read one August entry. “Because you only know what I have been through. Thank you for the breath of my baby. P.S. - Hope to see you again.” Another recent entry in flowing cursive was addressed to the “Great Physician” from a medical doctor: “Thank you for healing my wife,” it said. “Please use me to bring health of body, mind and spirit to others.” Still another entry, written in tight script, begged for mercy.

“Oh Sacred Heart of Jesus, forgive me for I am a sinner,” it said. “Keep me by your side.” Amanda Farr, a parishioner of the Shrine of the Little Flower in Bethesda, was at Hopkins in August while her mother, Sandee Farr, underwent three emergency surgeries within a week to treat an intestinal problem.
Her mother prayed for 10 minutes at the feet of the statue on the first day she arrived at the hospital, her daughter said.

“What my mom commented about was that most statues depict Jesus in a state of dying,” said Ms. Farr. “This one shows him strong and healthy, with powerful outstretched arms. She felt a great sense of comfort.” Before going into surgery, Ms. Farr’s mother told her daughter she was confident that she was “in God’s hands.” “That statue meant a lot,” said Ms. Farr, noting that her mother remains in critical condition. “If my mother was conscious right now, we’d be down there praying.”

Powerful symbol

It’s not just Christians or even believers who find inspiration in Hopkins’ figure of hope.
“The statue crosses the bounds of religion,” said Rev. Uwe Scharf, director of the pastoral care department at Hopkins. “I’ve seen Hindus and Muslims come in front of the statue. It’s a beautiful symbol that not only does science reign here, but God is present.” Rev. Scharf said he has never heard any complaints about a religious symbol receiving such prominence in a secular institution.

With the Christ figure designed to take an eternal step forward, it seems to invite people to touch Jesus’ wounded right foot that bears an imprint of the nails of crucifixion. Many people can’t resist, solemnly touching the foot as they walk by. So many have touched it that the marble has been worn smooth over the century.

An inscription written in capital letters on the pedestal reads: “Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” These days, Fosarelli said she still finds inspiration from the Christ statue. More people visit the statue than the chapel, she said.

“At the statue, I don’t remember those who survived,” said Fosarelli. “I think more of the ones who died. I pray for them.” Father Salvatore Livigni, the former Catholic chaplain at Hopkins for eight years, said the Christ image is a source of “refreshment.” “It shows you what great compassion Jesus had,” said Father Livigni, who was presented with a miniature two-foot-tall copy of the statue when he left Hopkins. He keeps it in his bedroom watching after him.

“To know that the Lord’s there,” he said, his voice trailing off. “It’s a powerful thing. It’s beautiful.”

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Christian Unity

‘Tragically divided’ churches must come together in hope, pope tells ecumenical leaders

From Catholic Online

Today’s world is in need of a new evangelization and “tragically divided” Christians must come together to offer a consistent message of hope, said Pope Benedict XVI at an ecumenical gathering here.

In an Oct. 27 address in English to the annual meeting of the Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions in Rome, the pope told leaders of 18 churches that ongoing ecumenical dialogue cannot lose sight to the importance of continuing to move toward unity.
“The theological dialogues in which many Christian World Communions have been engaged are characterized by a commitment to move beyond the things that divide, towards the unity in Christ which we seek,” Pope Benedict said.

“However daunting the journey,” he stressed, “we must not lose sight of the final goal: full visible communion in Christ and in the church.”

Pointing to Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Ut Unam Sint on the Catholic Church’s commitment to ecumenism moving forward and how “greater solidarity” serves humanity, Benedict acknowledged that “we may feel discouraged when progress is low is slow.”
“But,” he said, “there is too much at stake to turn back.”

It is clear, the pope said, “that today’s world is in need of a new evangelization, a fresh accounting on the part of Christians for the hope that is in them.”
“Yet,” he added, “those who profess that Jesus Christ is Lord are tragically divided and cannot always give a consistent common witness.”
“Herein lies an enormous responsibility for us all," he said.

“Visions of Christian Unity” was the theme of the meeting, which brought together international church organizations including: the Anglican Communion, the Baptist World Alliance, the Friends World Committee for Consultation representing Quakers, the Lutheran World Federation, Russian and Greek Orthodox churches, the Salvation Army, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the World Methodist Council. Since 1957, there have been annual informal gatherings of the organizations’ secretaries.

He noted that he was “glad to see” the meeting theme dealt with an issue foundational to the work of ecumenism.

“For decades the Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions has provided a forum for fruitful contacts between the various ecclesial communities,” the pope said. “This has enabled their representatives to build that reciprocal trust needed to engage seriously in bringing the richness of different Christian traditions to serve the common call to discipleship.”

Problems of BECs

BEC leaders not solely responsible for running BECs

Herald 29 October 2006

I refer to the open letter by Dr Chris to the Archbishop and Bishops on the blog: (Promoting and Developing BECs as Basic Functional Units in the Parish — September archive)

While I sympathise with Dr Chris on his passion to have well-run BECs, we have to consider why the problem exists in the first place. Let me list a few reasons why some of the BECs are ineffective.

First of all, BEC leaders can only do so much. Rhetoric gets one nowhere. We need people who can work and not just talk.

Secondly, when only four or five members turn up for a meeting (out of 20 families maybe) how much can be done? What can a leader do when members are not interested? Not everyone wants to shoulder responsibility. BEC leaders have to operate within great constraints. If this is misconstrued as doing things at the whims and fancies of the BEC leader, then it is an indication of the sad state of affairs of the Church today.

Thirdly, it may sound presumptuous, but I wonder how much Dr Chris has contributed to the growth of his own BEC. Being an educated man, I am sure he has many brilliant ideas that may prove to be beneficial to his own BEC. Ultimately, we can spread his ideas to other BECs to help them prosper. The idea is to confront the problem, not the personality.

Which brings me to human weakness. All of us have weaknesses. Helping out is better than pointing fingers. If Dr Chris can help troubleshoot the problems in BECs, perhaps we can achieve a higher level of greatness in our Christian faith.

Perhaps after all this, Dr Chris may consider taking over the leadership of his BEC and put it on a better footing. Action does speak louder than words.

St Paul in his letter to the Galatians 5:15 says, “if you go on snapping at each other and tearing each other to pieces, you had better watch or you will destroy the whole community.”

The decision to continue or to stop is then yours and mine.

Dr Cross,
via email

Herald, October 29, 2006

When minorities are marginalised

The Minister Mentor of Singapore accused the Malaysian government that it has systematically marginalised her citizens of Chinese origin. This was vehemently denied by the Malaysian government including its own Chinese Ministers in the cabinet. Since then there has been considerable debate on this issue of marginalisation.

What is marginalisation? Is it true that certain communities in the country are being marginalised as claimed? The Oxford Dictionary defines marginalisation as: (1). Relating to or a situation at or in a margin; (2) Of minor importance.

Therefore, when we say a community is marginalised it means it is pushed to the periphery and given minor importance. In accordance with this definition we can safely say marginalisation is a universal practice of the majority against the minority.

Is there marginalisation of the minority groups, in Malaysia?

A few simple facts may give us the answer.

Firstly, 40 per cent of the population is given less than 10 per cent of the jobs in civil service, police and armed forces.

Secondly, the majority of our children with maximum results in STPM examinations, even those from poor families, are denied places in public universities for critical courses.

Thirdly, the great difficulty we face in constructing places of worship, let alone getting state funds for the purpose.

If these do not indicate marginalisation, then what does?

Lee Kuan Yew said the Chinese are marginalised in Malaysia and in return the Malaysian government claims that the Malays in Singapore are marginalised. Both these may be true but what is also true is that the other minor groups, like the Orang Asli, Indians and indigenous people of Sabah and Sarawak, have been pushed out of the margins, a situation similar to elimination, which is more extreme than marginalisation.

Instead of picking a fight with Lee Kuan Yew, our leaders should look at what is happening within our country more rationally and admit that large segments of our own citizens, who have contributed so much to the development of the nation, are marginalised and living in the despair of an uncertain future for themselves and their children.

We claim that Malaysia is a multiracial and multireligious country, and truly it is. Our leaders claim we are a model nation for the world to emulate, as far as ethnic relations are concerned: sure enough it should be.

We have all the great religions in our country: Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism. All of them are unanimous in their teachings — to share what you have, however scanty it may be, with those who are less fortunate regardless of race or creed.

Malaysia is blessed with abundant natural resources and there is plenty of wealth sufficient for all its citizens. All we need is to be true followers of our respective religions and share what we have with fellow countrymen, regardless of colour or creed.

Until and unless we get rid of our selfish desires for the enrichment of our own communities only, in accordance with our religious teachings, and accept ALL as equal citizens, we will never become a model nation for the world .

Having said that, let us at the same time get rid of this evil of marginalisation of certain people, in our own lives — our families, offices, BECs and Church.

Dr Chris Anthony

Friday, October 27, 2006

Are all religions are equal?

A tribute to the late Most Ven Dr K Dhammananda

I was very impressed by the actions of our Arch/Bishops who took their invaluable time off from the PMPC III to pay their last respects to the late Most Venerable Dr K Dhammananda Nayaka Maha Thera J.S.M. who passed away on August 31, 2006 (Bishops pay last respects to Buddhist Chief of Malaysia, HERALD, September 10).

It was indeed a proud moment for us Catholics to see their enthusiasm in reaching out to the Buddhist community in the spirit of mutual cooperation and love which was reciprocated by a similar gesture by the members of the community present there. This is especially meaningful at a time when members of Buddhist, Christian and Hindu faiths are undergoing a real period of trial and tribulation in our country.

The demise of Ven Dhammananda, fondly called “The Chief”, is a great loss to us as he was one of the founding members and was the President of the Malaysian Consultative Council for Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikhism (MCCBCHS) at the time of his death.

His name means “one who experiences happiness through the Dhamma (teachings of the Buddha)”. In his tribute to this great man of God, journalist Azlan Ramli summed up by saying, “Ven Dhammananda was a great Buddhist but more importantly, a great human being”. He described him as a very humble person. He went on to say, “My brief encounter with him changed my perception and understanding of other peoples’ faith and drastically changed me for the better” (NST, September 4, 2006 ).

A statement like this about a Buddhist priest, coming from a Muslim today, is something extra-ordinary and it speaks a great deal for this great man. Ven Dhammananda had the humility and love, in dealing with those from other faiths. As Christians we too need to have that love and humility not to convert but change others for the better. These are the virtues we should pray to God to bestow on us.

At this critical time, unity with other religious groups is very important so that we are not alone in our struggle against injustice, racial and religious prejudice. We must be open to the concept of the Universality of God, where every faith leads to the same God along different paths. There is no one religion that is above the others, all are equal in the eyes of God.

As Christians we must follow the example shown by our arch/bishops to extend our hand of friendship and love to those of other faiths in our own communities at BEC and parish levels. We must become the catalysts for the promotion of inter-faith harmony and goodwill.

We should ponder over a number of issues before we can proceed on to promote true inter-faith harmony. Are we prepared to accept and recognise the practices of fellow Christians of other denominations? Do we accept that all religions are equal and will lead their respective followers to God? Do we accept that it is more important to be a good human than a Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or of some other faith?

Ven Dhammananda may have been a devout Buddhist but what was more relevant to the man was that he was a great human being.

He may have left us but the following thoughts of his should remain as a stimulus to the continual promotion of inter-faith goodwill and brotherhood among us:

“Happy is he who has lofty and noble aspirations.
Happy is he who enriches the lives of others.
Happy is he who allows others to live in peace.
Happy is he who makes this world a better place to live in.
Happy is he whose work, chores and daily tasks are labours of love.
Happy is he who loves love”
From the above words of Ven Sri Dhammananda, we notice that he emphasised that happiness comes with the little things we do out of love to others. This reinforces by firm belief that if we care for those around us, God will give us what we deserve.


Christianity reveals fullness of Truth

I refer to the letter by Dr Chris Anthony in the Oct 1 edition of the HERALD. In his letter under the title “A tribute to the late Most Ven Dr K Dhammananda”, he implies that all religions are the same when he writes that “there is no one religion that is above the others, all are equal in the eyes of God.”

That all religions are equal in God’s eyes, is merely Dr Anthony’s assumption as it’s not Catholic doctrine. If we believe that Jesus is God and he founded a religion (or way of life if you wish) on earth, which we believe is Christianity, it would mean that Jesus revealed as much truth as Buddha or Muhammad or any other person who founded religions. Then one can postulate that all religions are the same, hence the truth in all religions being equal. For Christians it would be blasphemous that Jesus (i.e. God) revealed an equal amount of truth as mere mortals.

I presume that Chris Anthony has confused the saying that “all are equal in God’s eyes”, that refers to people and expanded it to include religions as well. We Christians, have no choice but to accept the fact that Christianity is a religion that has revealed the fullness of Truth and not other religions, therefore we can’t accede that all religions are the same.

It doesn’t mean that because we believe that Christianity is based on the fullness of Truth, we should be arrogant and intolerant. The Truth possesses us and not vice versa and so there is no reason for our arrogance because God chose us to reveal himself to and not vice versa. In the same vein, the Holy Spirit is not confined to Christianity.

Believing that we are members of the religion founded by God doesn’t impede our dialogue with members of other religions as long as we do it lovingly as Christ did. Our aim to dialogue with other religious congregations should be to reveal the Truth that we know with the aim of making their members become better people and accepting that only the Holy Spirit can induce people to convert to Christianity and we can’t take credit for being the tool that witnesses to Christ’s teachings.

J T Pereira