Justice in Daily Christian Life

Justice in Daily Christian Life

By: Neilan Dsouza

As we begin the month of November, continuing the theme of justice in the world for the second time, it is crucial for us to understand the term Justice more deeply and in connection with our daily christian lives. 

The Church received three very important teachings from Jesus Christ himself: 1) The mission of preaching the Gospel message, 2) Universal kinship and 3) A consequent demand for justice in the world. Out of which the Church tirelessly practices only the mission of preaching the Gospel, while the latter two are usually neglected. We as Lay faithful, often only follow the duties of attending Sunday mass regularly, joining in prayer services, participating in charitable and voluntary works lead by the church but never practice our faith beyond these matters mainly because we are not aware that it is our Christian responsibility to do so.

Paragraph 38 of ‘Justice in the World’ informs us that “The members of the Church, as members of society, have the same right and duty to promote the common good as do other citizens. Christians ought to fulfill their temporal obligations with fidelity and competence. They should act as a leaven in the world, in their family, professional, social, cultural and political life. They must accept their responsibilities in this entire area under the influence of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church. In this way they testify to the power of the Holy Spirit through their action in the service of people in those things which are decisive for the existence and the future of humanity.”

Therefore we cannot simply neglect Jesus’ teachings of Universal Kinship and A consequent demand for justice in the world because, it altogether forms the core identity of being a true follower of Christ. As mentioned in the paragraph above we must act as a leaven (transforming influence) in our own little ways, accepting that achieving Universal Kinship (being inclusive and finding relation with one another as one family) and striving for justice through action inspired by love and right is our Christian responsibility.

ALL Forum Online Course Updates

ALL Forum Online Course Updates

Asian Lay Leaders Forum was able to complete another session of its online course on the major documents of Pope Francis – Gaudete Et Exsultate in October, exclusively for Vietnamese Participants. The Participants during this session enjoyed a fruitful Input Session followed by an interesting Question and Answer session for about 45 minutes which brought about a broader understanding of various concepts such as ‘Holiness’, ‘Mysticism’, ‘Practical Mysticism’and so on.


The final session for Pakistani participants could not take place that same evening due to an internet outage in Paksitan and awaits being rescheduled. Meanwhile Subscribe to our Youtube Channel and browse there to view all our recorded sessions.

This month IMCS AP’s CLAP program will be based on the theme Religion.
It will take place between 12th to 29th November. Kindly join their session by registering at the link below.
Last date to apply – 9 November 2021.

Empowerment Of Women In The Church And Society

By Sr Mariola B.S.

Empowerment Of Women In The Church And Society

Status of women in our society

God created man and woman alike, in his own image. But discrimination of women has become naturally accepted phenomena almost all over the globe. The status of women in Asia is all the

more pathetic.

An Analysis of the Causes

The culture of domination, marginalization and exclusion which embodies ideas, beliefs, values, traditions, rules, norms, perspectives (ideologies) that prefer males/sons has been styled the culture of patriarchy. Through dominating social structures men own, control and manage financial, intellectual and ideological resources as well as the labor, fertility and sexuality of women, and thus perpetuate gender discrimination. Such a culture produces stereotyped notions of how a woman or man should behave (in words and actions), whereby they themselves become transmitters of the above value system. Consequently women also become both victims and victimizers.

The process of globalization which is marketcentered and profit driven, leads to further exploitation of women as cheap labour resulting in the increasing pauperization of women. Fundamentalism and communalism reinforce the subjugation of women to men, suppress women’s movements by dividing women along religious lines and intensify violence against women.

Situation of Women in the Church and Society

The socio-cultural situation of women should not be understood in the same way among all social classes and ethnic groups especially among the marginalised and the oppressed. It has its lights and its shadows. Though we have examples of empowered women in leadership positions and role-models like Blessed Mother Theresa and Saint Alphonsa, nevertheless the reality of women of all sections reveals instances of domestic and societal violence on young girls and women. Depending on the regions, female feticide, infanticide, rape, molestation, kidnapping, abduction, battering, dowry deaths, murdering, trafficking for sex and slavery exist even today.

Women of the marginalized groups such as dalits, tribals, indigenous people, migrants, victims of HIV AIDS, backward castes and minorities suffer much due to poverty, illhealth, lack of access to literacy and appropriate knowledge and lack of hygiene and potable water. In addition, they are being displaced from their lands and livelihoods. They suffer systemic and structural violence that enslave them and dehumanize them economically, socio-politically and religio-culturally.

Gender discrimination has negative effects on boys and men as well. It damages their psyche and increases the incidence of morbidity and crime among them. Relations of distrust, conflict, competition and many forms of subtle abuse emerge instead of those rooted in values of caring, sharing, compassion, mutual respect, collaboration and partnership. Such discrimination thus has negative consequences on human relations.

It is noticed that the structures which facilitate collaborative partnership between women and men as well as clergy and laity needs improvement. In 1992, the CBCI General Assembly stated, “with a sense of sorrow we must admit that the women feel discriminated against, even in the Church”. In the decisionmaking and the consultative structures like the Parish Pastoral Council, Diocesan Pastoral Council, Diocesan Finance Committee which are canonically advocated structures in the Church, the presence of women is inadequate.

In spite of the great contribution of lay women in spheres of education, health care, etc., their potentials are yet to be sufficiently tapped in the administrative and executive roles, as well as theological, liturgical, pastoral and missionary apostolates of the Church.

Signs of Hope

In the midst of this distressing situation there are signs of hope. The Church has been spearheading several initiatives to bring about positive changes in the life situation of women and girls. From the time of the early Christian missionaries who placed emphasis on the education of both girls and boys, through its multiple interventions in the fields of welfare, education, health and the empowerment process to organize women, the Catholic Church has played a prominent role to improve the status of women.

Besides the Church and ecumenical bodies, government and non governmental organizations, trade unions and social movements have played a significant role in facilitating change. Through its policies, for example, the National Policy on the Empowerment of Women, and legislative measures, the Government has contributed to the cause of women. By signing international declarations and conventions such as Human Rights, Convention on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and Violence against Women, the Government of India has taken a stand in favour of gender justice.

As a result, many women leaders both lay and religious are emerging in the public sphere such as local governance and political leadership. The process of generation of counter-cultural literature and media material, and the revival of subjugated memories of resistance by women against oppression and exploitation are influencing change in mindsets of people to a greater or lesser extent across space and culture. The promotion of appropriate ecclesiastical ministries among

women in the Church is another sign of their participation in the mission of the Church.

The Vision of Christ

Situating the teachings and actions of Christ in the context of Palestinian Judaism, we see how the evangelists not only highlight Jesus’ concern for women, but also his radical redefining of their place and role in their society. In a culture where women were seen only in relation to men, Christ not only liberated them from their oppressive traditions but upheld their dignity e.g. the Samaritan woman (Jn.4:7-42) and Mary and Martha (Jn.11:20-40). He used the life-experiences of women as a paradigm of God’s love and Christian discipleship for all: woman and lost coin, woman and the dough and woman at birth pangs. Even at his death and burial, women were

among those who bore testimony. Jesus entrusted to the women that they announce the Good News of Resurrection to his disciples.

St. Paul reiterates the equality of men and women (Gal.3:28) and continues to refer to many exemplary women. The early Christian Community was sustained by the deep faith of women who shared in the apostolic ministry e.g. Priscilla, Lydia, Phoebe, etc.

In her teaching, the Church continues to uphold the dignity of women, uniqueness of motherhood (Letter to Women, 2), and the complementarity and reciprocity between men and women.

IMCS Pax Romana Asia Pacific is organising a workshop on “Caste, Untouchability and Discrimination”

IMCS Pax Romana Asia Pacific is organising a workshop on “Caste, Untouchability and Discrimination”

IMCS Pax Romana Asia Pacific will be organising a “Continued Learning and Action Program(CLAP)” workshop on “Caste, Untouchability and Discrimination”.

The Workshop will take place on 4 consecutive Fridays in October (October 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th) at 7. 30 PM, Manila/KL/HK time. 

The medium of instruction during the workshop will be English and will be held online using the Zoom platform. If you are interested to join, kindly register soon by 6th of October 2021. Click the button to fill the registration form.

The Emerging Worldview of the 21st Century and its Impact on Ecclesiology

The Emerging Worldview of the 21st Century and its Impact on Ecclesiology

By Diamuid O’Murchu

The coming to be of a world Church precisely as such does not mean just a quantitative increase in the previous Church , but rather contains a theological break in Church history that still lacks conceptual clarity and can scarcely be compared with anything except the transition from Jewish to Gentile Christianity— Rahner 1979, 726-727

What is the New Cosmology?

The new cosmology is so named to counteract the more mechanistic world view that prevailed from the 16 till the 19t century CE. The new departure is marked by Einstein’s theories of relativity and the development of quantum physics in the opening decades of the 20% century. However, it is not entirely new, as it reclaims several features of the cosmology that prevailed in the high Middle Ages (influencing St. Thomas Aquinas, among many others), traces of which can be found in several ancient oriental traditions of China and India.

The following are considered to be the key features of the New Cosmology, sometimes named the New Story (especially by one of its best know proponents, the late Fr. Tomas Berry CP [Berry 1999:2006; 20097)

1. Aliveness: Organicity characterises everything in creation. Aliveness did not begin with organic creatures nor does it manifest in a superior expression in any one strand of life, human or otherwise. Aliveness belongs first and foremost to the evolving universe, bestowed on all creatures we know through the mediation of our earthiness. Humans are alive because the earth to which we belong is alive, and the earth has inherited its aliveness from the living evolving universe.(More in Barrow 2011;’ Davies 2006)

Challenge to the Church: All the major religions, including Christianity, attribute liveness primarily to God, and secondarily to God’s primary creatures on earth, namely humans. Humans are deemed to be superior to all other life forms. Moreover, Christianity, for much of its history, encouraged humans to remain as separate as possible from the earth and the wider creation, on the understanding that too close a connection with the material creation could prove to be a serious barrier to obtaining salvation in a world beyond. The dualistic split between the sacred and secular is at the root of Christianity’s one-sided understanding of what it means to be alive.

2. Symbiogenesis is a concept developed by the micro-biologist, Lynn Margulis (1998) to denote the relational, cooperative interaction through which everything in the universe comes into being, grows and flourishes. Contrary to the atomistic view of classical science, and the separation through which modern humans self-define themselves, nothing in the universe makes sense in isolation. Everything needs everything else to thrive and flourish.

Challenge for the Church: Despite belief in a Trinitarian God, understood today as a nexus of deep relational meaning, Christianity has always favoured differentiation and distinction. atomism and dualism, over against relational, interactive ways of perceiving and understanding. Consistently, the emphasis has been on how Christianity differs from everything else, rather than seeking out and celebrating the commonalities that can Inspire and empower.

3. Interdependence follows logically. No one species has dominion over all others. Our human becoming is dependent on all the other creatures with whom we share the living earth, but also dependent on the creative energies we have inherited from eons long past. Judy Cannato (2006, 65) provides a vivid description of this interdependence:

The water in your body contains primordial hydrogen formed in the first seconds of the Big Bang. The carbon atoms that formed you came together after the explosion of a supernova. The concentration of salt in your body matches the concentration of salt in the ancient seas. Your cells are direct descendants of unicellular organisms that developed billions of years ago. You see because chlorophyll molecules mutated, so that like plant leaves, your eyes can capture the light from the sun. And in your mother’s womb your tiny body repeated the whole process of multi-cellular life on earth, beginning with a single cell, and then developing greater and greater complexity.

Challenge to the Church: Heavily aligned with patriarchal top down order and structure, the Church tends to emphasise the independent uniqueness of those who hold the power, to be clearly distinguished from those who don’t. For much of Christian history the people of God were treated as passive recipients of a wisdom which belonged in its fullness to those at the top. Instead of striving for mutuality and interdependence, something closer to the parent-child relationship defined the Church’s way of operating in the world.

4. Paradox is the word we use to captivate the integration of cosmic polarities – life and death, creativity and destruction, light and darkness — observable throughout the entire universe. While our inherited consciousness tends to split these polarities into binary dualistic opposites, the New Cosmology seeks to reclaim the more fundamental unity of the bothrand rather than the either- or. This material is foundational to our cosmic understanding of the dark and destructive forces at work in creation, all of which are essential to the creative potential of cosmos and Earth planet alike. Human suffering needs to be understood afresh within this paradoxical context, a challenge largely unknown to the human species at this time.

Challenge to the Church: All meaningless suffering is understood to be derived from a foundational flawed condition, known as Original Sin. The flaw begins with humans and adversely affects everything else throughout the entire spectrum of cosmic creation. This set of perceptions is quite primitive, narrowly anthropocentric, and tends to exacerbate rather than reduce the meaningless suffering in the world. There is gross confusion between the flaw and the paradox, resulting in a range of redemptive theories, the shortcomings of which have been extensively documented in recent times. (cf. Brock & Parker 2008; Heim 2006).

5. Revelation – in inherited Christian thought – describes God’s manifestation of divine meaning exclusively through the Christian scriptures. On the other hand, the New Cosmology acknowledges that God has been fully at work in creation for billions of years — before scriptures or religions ever evolved; it proposes that revelation needs to be predicated on universal life embracing its entire trajectory of 13.7 billion years. God reveals the God-self primarily through the universal creation as an evolving unfolding emergence. Each religion, therefore, may be viewed as a particular cultural and time conditioned articulation of the foundational revelation which belongs primarily to creation itself.

Challenge to the Church: The Church’s official theological horizons are far too narrow, with revelation applying almost exclusively to the human realm, and in the Christian context to a narrow historical time frame, culminating with the death of the last apostle. All elegance of God at work in the larger creation is either ignored or subverted, a stance that is likely to alienate many believers in an age where millions are more consciously aware of the larger context, and of the urgent ecological and environmental issues confronting humanity today.

6. Story. The creation we know is not merely an accumulation of scientific facts, but rather a story that is being told spanning infinite spacetime, a universe which in all probability has neither beginning nor end. Scientific fact certainly illuminates the mystery, and in recent times particularly it has enhanced human awareness and our understanding of the vast and complex “multiverse” to which we belong, and without which our lives have no meaning. We, humans, belong to the story. We did not invent it, although today its materialisation into greater consciousness is happening at a more accelerated pace thanks to human reflexive thought. We have a unique gift to bring to the universe (as do all other creatures) but we do so indebted to the universal source from which we have received everything we cherish as earthlings. Contemporary renditions of this story include Dowd (2009), Primack & Abrams (2006), Swimme & Berry (1992).

Challenge to the Church: How does the Church reclaim the power of story? In the Gospels, Jesus unravels and illuminates deep truth in the power of story (parables – and the miracle narratives as parables-in-action — more in O’Murchu 2011, 74-93). In the history of the Church doctrine and dogma subverted the power of story, with its potential for dialogue, discovery, process, and emergent sense of truth, congruent with the evolutionary nature of life itself.

Church and Labour

Church and Labour

By Neilan D’souza

Dear Readers, during this month of September as we are making preparations for the feast of Nativity of Mother Mary, Asian Lay Leaders Forum wishes you a very happy feast!

In this months’ issue of the E-Newsletter we dive in once again into the teachings of
Quadragesimo Anno and focus particularly on issues pertaining labour. The Church for a long time has encouraged and supported the idea that labourers and workers must must be taken care and compensated well by the Employers; but the Industrial Era resulted in less freedom at the individual and communal levels, because numerous free social entities got absorbed by larger ones, which we continue to see even today. And in order to strengthen the voice of the labourers the Church supported the idea of Labour Unions as it created space for labourers to demand fair wages from their employers and come to mutual agreements on numerous work related problems.

Pope Pius XI in his encyclical developed a mandate stating three elements which determine a fair wage for the labourers: 1)The worker’s family responsibilities, 2) The economic condition of the enterprise and 3) The economy as a whole. He emphasised that “The family has an innate right to development, but this is only possible within the framework of a functioning economy and sound enterprises.” Looking at the growing wage gap, class divide, oppression and violent uprisings  Pope Pius XI concluded that “Solidarity, not conflict, is a necessary condition given the mutual interdependence of the parties involved.”

Witnessing the drastic political developments and problematic ideological dilemmas of the time Pope Pius XI condemned Capitalism, Communism and Socialism; and firmly stats that “Dignity and human freedom are ethical considerations, which cannot be solved by a hostile class confrontation. Ethics are based on religion and this is the realm where the Church meets industrial society.”

On this note we invite you, Our Readers to reflect on how Ethical Implications can bring about drastic change in this world, although keeping in mind the multifacetedness of Culture, Religion, Gender, Value and Belief systems.


A Discourse on Laity and Participatory Church

A Discourse on Laity and Participatory Church

by Hamid Henry

The Church Teachings on the Laity

Paul Lakeland in his The lay theologian in the Church observes that since the end of the Vatican Council there have been many changes in the church, whether in the spirit of the Council or in reaction to it. He adds: ‘since Vatican II , the laity have been understood to be as integral to the Church as the clergy. Anticipated in Pius XII’s remark that ‘the lay faithful… ought to have an ever-clearer consciousness not only of belonging to the Church but of being the Church, Lumen Gentium went to considerable lengths to rehabilitate the laity as full members of the Church, sharing a true equality with regard to the dignity and to the activity common to all the faithful for the building up of the Body of Christ. (LG 32)

The active role of the laity in the mission of the Church is the subject of the Council’s Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, Apostolicam Actuositatem. The genuine apostolate they exercise is one of bringing the gospel and holiness to men… penetrating and perfecting the temporal sphere of things through the spirit of the gospel (AA2). In this apostolate the Holy Spirit distributes charismata to the laity, from which arise for each believer the right and duty to use them in the Church and in the world for the good of mankind and for the up building of the Church’ (AA 3). To focus our overriding concern in the language of Vatican, we might ask whether theological learning is an appropriate charisma of the lay apostolate. Indeed, the question of whether theology is an ecclesial charisma or an official function in the church is itself highly germane. The identification of the lay apostolate with ‘witness in the world’ has usually gone along with a commitment to what Gustavo Gutierrez calls the ‘separation of planes ‘, that is, he relegation of the laity to teaching by example what they have learned from the clergy. Too frequently this simply mirrors and disguises clericalism.

There are, for example, one or two passages in recent documents where it seems that the Church might recognize a lay role even in theology. Discussing the lay apostolate, Lumen Gentium adds that ‘the laity can also be called in various ways to a more direct form of cooperation in the apostolate of the hierarchy’, and even that lay people ‘have the capacity to be deputed by the hierarchy to exercise certain church functions for spiritual purpose’ (LG 33).

Apostolicam Actuositatem sees the laity in the parish ‘bringing to the Church community their own and the world’s problems as well as questions concerning human salvation, all of which should be examined and resolved by common deliberation’ (AA 10). It is difficult to imagine this being done effectively without some theological reflection, it should be reassuring that the bishops go on in the same document to call for theological training where appropriate. Those laypeople whose apostolate ‘is one of making the gospel known and men holy’ must ‘learn doctrine more carefully’ (AA 30). And to that end there should be more ‘centers of documentation and study… for the better development of natural capacities of laymen and laywomen’.

The Participatory Church

What exactly is meant when a term such as ‘participatory church’ is used? We need to be clear that organizationally speaking, this is in fact, something new. It is much more than simply doing what we are already doing now; but doing it more effectively. New hockey sticks will not make for a better football team! Moreover, it is not just one more new project like a school or a dispensary, where one searches for the funding, completes the job and then carries on as before. Building participatory church is a process: it is the very process of creating participative structures that brings about a participatory church. Because of deeply embedded non participatory habits, fostered by both cultural and ecclesial practice, it is not something that will come about quickly or easily.

Inevitably, it is a project that will meet with resistance and rationalization. This will be especially the case among those who mistakenly fear that they have much to lose by facilitating more participative structures. There will be a tendency to borrow the terminology but not change the reality. Some may well wish to make of it a participatory church in the sense of many of the lay faithful busily involved in carrying out what the priest tells them to do. For others, what seems to be on offer is a kind of participatory church ‘by decree.’ A meeting decides it is a desirable goal and this goal is decreed and a participative church is then deemed to have come into existence, though in reality, nothing has changed. Yet again, for others it means developing the life of the church even more around festivals, prayer conventions, visits of holy shrines, as if a participatory church were to be equated with fanfare. Sometimes it seems as if it is a kind of subterfuge: we repaint the shop front, re work the advertising, invest a new logo but continue to trade in exactly the same product and with the same management structure.

By contrast, a truly participatory church is a spelling out of the theological truth-reemphasized in Lumen Gentium, that the mystical reality of church is made visibly firstly in the People of God. It seems to tease out the full implications of the vocation to communion, drawing deeply on the Pauline theology of the variety of the gifts and the unity of the body.
To this way of thinking, Christ calls each of the baptized to be a friend and not just a servant and, as a friend, brings them into his confidence and shares his project and the means of its accomplishment. It is a theology that sees the full active and conscious participation in the sacred liturgy called for in Sacrosanctum Concilium, as something pertaining not only to the laity’s participation in the priestly office of Christ, but also in his office of prophet and king and thus calling for free, active and conscious participation in the process of evangelizing cultures, and the decision-making processes at the service of this evangelization. In short, its point of departure is the re-discovery of the baptismal vocation as the foundation for active and responsible participation in the life and organization of the church.

Conclusion

The different ministries which are being practiced in the Church must be community centered. They must be used for the betterment of the people without discrimination. Through them, the Church should move along with the people especially with the poor. Through them she is called to live in communion as human family in order to help strengthen and support each other. Unless the Church inserts herself in the day to day existing realities, it cannot claim to be a “participatory church.” Therefore in order to be the true Church of the poor, she must stand with the poor, downtrodden, oppressed and homeless. She has to play a prophetic role in the Asian context.

Reflection on ALL Forum Course 2: Basic Understanding of Church Teaching

Reflection on ALL Forum Course 2: Basic Understanding of Church Teaching

by Rashali Pieris, Catholic Students’ Movement, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka

Firstly, I would like to thank Dr. Paul Hwang for this very enlightening session on few of the most fundamental and primary teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. I am a bioscience undergraduate reading in my final year, and though it has been a very keen desire of mine to study in depth about my religion (Christianity), did not have the opportunity to do so thus far, therefore these sessions were very informative, useful and interesting to me personally. A lot of the points made in the session were relatively new and eye opening for me, as this is my first time studying theology (I used to do bible studies). Few concepts were quite difficult for me to grasp, but the simple explanations, the organization of slides and the style the contents were mentioned, the group discussions were really helpful for me to understand the concepts.

From course 2, firstly I was introduced to what religion was, and that faith and tradition are parts of religion and that it’s development is evolutionary and meant to reunite the relationship broken by sin. Also I was introduced to terms such as fetishism, Animism, polytheism and monotheism. Then God’s nature, relying on the old testament as identified by scholars such as Rudolf Otto and Mercia Eliade were taught to us, such as God’s HOLINESS, that he transcends everything and anything, Numinous experience by man in the presence of God, SACRED and PROFANE nature of God, Supernormal powers of God. Then the difference in faith and belief, and the cosmotheandric nature of God, as by Raimon Panikkar (one of my most favourite ideas delivered in this course) was discussed broadly and in depth. Then on the next session, Faith seeking understanding that is theology was introduced to the class, as explained by many saints and scholars such as: St. Augustine, St. Anslem Of Canterbury, and St. Thomas Aquinas.

In the next few sessions, the most important and complex doctrines in the Catholic church were discussed in the class. A few of my favourite topics and concepts are as follows. The explanatory session done on the Holy Trinity: In this session I learned that the Holy Trinity is incomprehensible, and that it is one of the most fundamental and important doctrine in the church. The Holy Trinity in the bible and the concept of the Holy Trinity explained by St. Bonaventure and Jacques Dupuis, on pluralism deeply intrigued me.

Another important topic I’d like to reflect on is the Paschal mystery and its relationship to the Christian Faith. It is one of the central concepts in the church, also celebrated by other churches such as the Orthodox Church. In this session, the relationship between the Baptism and the Passion- it was pointed out that though in the Gospels there were confessions on who Jesus was, St. Peter confessed him as saviour, but no one really understood who he was or his nature. Jesus mentioned to the disciples in the Gospel about this relationship between baptism and passion. Also the relationship between the baptism and death was discussed in the session broadly.

Topics such as adult faith, and what it is to be a Christian and become a Christian was taught in the course. Overall, I am extremely pleased and grateful to Asian Lay Leaders Forum (ALL Forum) for organizing such enlightening sessions which helped me to improve my understanding on church teaching and to solidify and root more in my faith.