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Newsletter. Issue 2009-13. June 20, 2009

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Church is here to serve the poor: Rev. Thomas Dabre – New Bishop of Pune

One of the most important contributions of the Church in India was practice of equality and creation of a caste-free society.

Indian Catholic

PUNE: Bishop Thomas Dabre, who was installed as the new bishop of Pune Diocese on Sunday, says the church does not believe in caste or any kind of division. "The church is privileged to serve the poor, those who are suffering and the marginalised,” he said.

He said inter-religious dialogue and cultural exchange would be his top priorities. Lamenting the rise of fanaticism and extremism in society, the new bishop said that unfortunately these trends were either based on or were associated with religions. He therefore called upon members of the Christian community and also others to reveal the true nature of religion. Bishop Dabre said Pune diocese will take the initiative to encourage inter-faith dialogue in collaboration with the clergy and the youths.

Dabre said that diversity was an important characteristic of Pune diocese as its faithful belonged to multi-cultural and multi-lingual backgrounds. The faithful in the diocese spoke Marathi, Konkani, Tamil, English, Hindi and other languages and yet there was unity in the diocese, he said. Referring to the national scene, Dabre said that one of the most important contributions of the Church in India was practice of equality and creation of a caste-free society.

Emphasising that the church did not believe in caste or any kind of division, the bishop said that ”the church is privileged to serve the poor, those who are suffering and the marginalised.” Dabre said that the Church has to be open to other religions and appreciate the good things in other religious. “The Church can never be totally exclusive and closed,” he said.


Bigotry alive for Christian Dalits
By Sunil Raman | BBC News, Eraiyur

Centuries ago, as their forefathers faced social and economic deprivation, many low-caste Hindus embraced Christianity. But in one corner of southern India, their hopes for equality remain unfulfilled hundreds of years on. Called "pariahs", hundreds of Dalit Christians continue to face discrimination - not from Hindus but fellow Christians. More than 200km (124 miles) from Chennai, the capital of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, is the village of Eraiyur. Home to about 3,000 Dalit Christians, mostly farm labourers and migrant workers, the area witnessed violence last year when Dalits demanded equal treatment.

 The village is dominated by Vanniyar Christians numbering 15,000, who own most of the land and businesses. They imposed restrictions on Dalits even though they had also converted to Christianity. A 17th Century church building, Lady of the Rosary Parish, stands tall above the Eraiyur settlement. The village came up around the parish church, with Vanniyar houses closest to it. The Dalits were forced to build their small huts on the fringe of the village.

It did not take long for the divisions within the Hindu social system to be reflected among the new Christians. The dominant Vanniyars created rules which restricted the movement of the Dalits. When they visited the parish church they were not allowed to walk on the main street leading to the building. Instead they had to use a side street that led to the church gate. When Dalits died they were not allowed to be buried in the cemetery. Their burial ground is beyond the village and can only be accessed through a broken path. In addition, the funeral cart parked inside the church building can be used only by Vanniyars. "We were told not to touch any upper caste person, not to get too close to them, not to talk to them," says Mrs Peraiyamaka, 60, a farm labourer who has been visiting the parish church since childhood. "It is no different now." Mr Thomas, a 60-year-old labourer says there is also a fear of violence as young Dalits refuse to be submitted to such humiliation.

He says this fear prompted the Dalits to build an alternative church. A single-room, white-washed brick structure with an iron grill for the entrance is set in a small open ground. Called Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the Dalit church has a coloured icon of Virgin Mary with Baby Jesus in her arms. She is flanked by plastic flowers and incense sticks burn on the sides. The Dalits' demands of recognition for their church were rejected by local Catholic priests on the ground that a village can have only one parish church. “ There is no big change after we came to Christianity. We have very good Christian names, we read Bible and got to Church instead of temples. ”

Mr Mathew is a Dalit activist who graduated from Madras University. Having faced prejudice as a schoolboy, he has now decided to fight for the rights of Dalits. His efforts to seek justice have created tension in his village, forcing him to move to elsewhere. He is angry that although the constitution has banned "untouchability" it continues to be practised in different ways. "My family may get some minimum help or guidance from Christianity. That's all. There is no big change after we came to Christianity," says Mr Mathew. As we walked out of the Dalit quarters towards the well laid-out area where Vanniyar Christians live under the shadow of the whitewashed parish church, we were greeted by a few angry women. They did not want us to take pictures and asked us to leave.

A few angry residents of Vanniyar quarters gathered around us. They agreed to answer our questions. Emily, 25, was eager to give their version of the story. "We have allowed them to use the road. They are creating trouble," she says. We asked her how in a free country one group could dictate to others on the use of a public road. "I don't know. It's been like this… but we have now allowed them," Emily replied. Similar responses came from other Vanniyars we spoke to. Mr Arukadas, a retired government teacher lives next to the parish church and he shared his unhappiness with the Dalit Christians. Asked about using a common funeral van and a graveyard where all Christians irrespective of their past Hindu caste identity can be buried, he retorted: "It will take a long time for a common graveyard." 

Story from BBC NEWS: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/south_asia/8090009.stm


Silicon Valley mourns Rajeev Motwani's death
2009-06-08 12:50:00

Washington: 'Today, whenever you use a piece of technology, there is a good chance a little bit of Rajeev Motwani is behind it,' wrote Google co-founder Sergey Brin on his mentor's death. 'Officially, Rajeev was not my advisor, and yet he played just as big a role in my research, education, and professional development,' he wrote in his blog Friday hours after Motwani, 47, a Stanford University Indian-American computer science professor, was found dead in his swimming pool at his California home.

'In addition to being a brilliant computer scientist, Rajeev was a very kind and amicable person and his door was always open. No matter what was going on with my life or work, I could always stop by his office for an interesting conversation and a friendly smile,' Brin wrote. Motwani, who was best known for mentoring numerous Stanford graduate students, including Google co-founders Larry Page and Brin, was also a special adviser to Sequoia Capital and invested in companies including PayPal and Google.

Silicon Valley angel investor Ron Conway said in a video tribute: 'He shared my attitude that the more entrepreneurs you can help, even if you only give them five minutes, go do it. He never refused a meeting with an entrepreneur that I suggested he meet just to give them some quick advice.' His success, however, 'never came in the way of Rajeev's quest for knowledge and innate desire to help others,' wrote his friend, blogger Om Malik. 'There wasn't a start-up he didn't love.'

Condolences poured out over the Internet as news spread about the sudden demise of Motwani, a Kanpur IIT graduate who received his Ph.D. in computer science from University of California, Berkeley in 1988. The mood of a TechFellow event in San Francisco Saturday night turned from cheerful cocktail-sipping banter to stunned silence as the news of Motwani's death spread quickly throughout the couple of hundred attendees, wrote Michael Arrington of TechCrunch.com.

'Most everyone who was there is his friend. And most everyone there had a story to tell about how Motwani had helped them at one time or another, asking nothing in return. I have a couple of those stories myself,' he said. Motwani's research spanned a diverse set of areas in computer science, including databases, data mining, and data privacy; Web search and information retrieval; robotics; computational drug design; and theoretical computer science.

He authored two books, 'Randomized Algorithms' and an undergraduate textbook published by in 2001. Among other honours, he won the prestigious 2001 Godel Prize, which is awarded for excellence in the field of theoretical computer science. Motwani sat on the boards or advisory boards of Google, Mimosa Systems, Neopath Networks, Revenue Science, Stanford Student Enterprises Ventures, and Vuclipa, among others. He was also active in the Business Association of Stanford Engineering Students.


How choir led Sikh to vocation in Catholic Church
By Beth Griffin  | Catholic News Service

MARYKNOLL, N.Y. (CNS) -- Imagine that the youngest child in a religiously observant family comes home from high school and announces to his prominent father that he is converting to a minority religion he heard about from his principal. Predictably, the reaction is shock, disbelief and resistance.

But Stephen Taluja, who was raised a Sikh in Punjab state, India, converted to Catholicism anyway. Now 27, he had his father's blessing when he was ordained as a Maryknoll priest May 30. His ordination Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York at the Queen of Apostles Chapel at Maryknoll Mission Center. Punjab, in northwest India, is overwhelmingly Sikh and Hindu. Seventy-five 75 percent of the world's 26 million Sikhs live there. Catholics make up less than 1 percent of the population.

Father Taluja was introduced to Catholicism at a private high school whose Anglo-Indian principal is Catholic. "The place has a Catholic aura and the principal is a devout Catholic whose faith and practice are very connected," he said in an interview with Catholic News Service. As a student, he volunteered with the school to work at a leprosarium run by the Missionaries of Charity. He called it "pretty significant" to confront societal taboos associated with people who have Hansen's disease.

Father Taluja credited music with being the specific doorway to his interest in Catholicism. As a member of the school choir, he was invited to sing at midnight Mass at a local church. He had never been into a Catholic church and it was unusual for him to be out at that hour of the night. "When I first walked in, I vividly remember being struck by the crucifix on the wall. People were kneeling and praying to the crucifix. I couldn't understand why they were praying to a so-called God who was a frail and dying man," he said.

Father Taluja said he was curious, but had no intention of converting to Catholicism. He also was dealing with larger questions about the meaning of life after the untimely death of his mother when he was 15. When he decided to convert, the news was not well-received by his father. He described "divisive opposition" in his family, contrasted with the support of people at the parish. "I felt like Peter, denying Jesus three times. I come from an influential, rich family in a small town. Sometimes people would tell me they heard I was attending Catholic Mass and I would deny it," he said.

But he persisted, drawn by a desire to know God, and was received into the church while he was still in high school. When he came to suburban New York to study computer science, Father Taluja worked the night shift at a gas station convenience store and attended the early morning Mass at St. Elizabeth Seton Church in Shrub Oak. He also sang in the choir. Father Taluja felt called to the missionary priesthood and was introduced to Maryknoll by both his pastor and the Maryknoll music director whom he met at his second job.

Father Taluja, who is fluent in Hindi, English and Punjabi, learned Spanish during a five-month stint in Cochabamba, Bolivia and then spent two years in the Peruvian Andes, with Maryknoll's overseas training program. He served the indigenous Aymara people, ministering and working with youths and preparing parishioners for fiestas and eucharistic celebrations. "My experience in Peru cinched things for me. I knew I was called to be a missionary and a priest and I want to do it for the rest of my life," he said.

Father Taluja described working in a parish of 90,000 people served by one priest and a group of Argentine Dominican sisters. "Every day is like a sacramental carnival," he said. "Somebody dies, people get married, there are baptisms." He said preaching in Spanish was an "animating of my faith." Father Taluja honed his Spanish on the soccer field, where, he said, "formalities fade and you get to know people on a more personal level." It probably helped that his soccer skills were good enough to land him a spot on India's junior national team.

Father Taluja earned his bachelor's degree in religious studies from St. Xavier University in Chicago and a master's in divinity from Catholic Theological Union there. He will continue to pursue a master's in sacred Scripture at the union after his ordination. His three older sisters came from New York, England and India to attend his ordination; and a niece and nephew were the gift bearers at the offertory. His father was expected to attend if his visa were granted, but in the end it was not.

"He's very proud. He has mixed feelings, but he wants to come and give me his blessing and support me," Father Taluja told CNS in an interview before his ordination. Father Taluja said his Sikh background will serve his priesthood.

"My Catholic seeds were sown in a non-Catholic home. Sikhism has explicit respect for different paths to God, which I think I bring with me. Who knows how Christ might be working through people of other cultures and religions? We don't," he said.


New Model of Toyota Land Cruiser launched in India
Source: http://www.daijiworld.com/news/news_disp.asp?n_id=61043&n_tit=Toyota

Toyota Kirloskar Motors vice president Vikram Kirloskar along with its managing director Hiroshi Nakagawa, on Tuesday June 9 launched the globally acclaimed leader in the premium SUV segment, the Toyota Land Cruiser in India

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