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Published on: 9:41 pm, January 14, 2016 Story By: mattersindia.com
New Delhi: A visiting US official has urged India to protect its citizens’ right to freedom of worship.
“We have concerns about some of the recent incidents here in India,” said Sarah Sewall, U.S. under secretary for civilian security, democracy and human rights. She cited the killing of a Muslim man rumored to have eaten beef and a series of attacks on churches last year.
Sewall Thursday visited a mosque, church and Hindu temple in the Indian capital city. “Much of the challenge is for political leaders, as well as religious leaders, to be setting a strong and firm example about the need to uphold constitutional protections,” she told Reuters.
Sewall’s visit to New Delhi and Dharamsala, where she is due to meet Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, is part of a warming in U.S.-India ties since tension between the allies spiked over the arrest of an Indian diplomat in the United States in 2013.
Ties have improved since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, though some sticking points remain over U.S. visas issued to Indian citizens who have been trafficked in the United States, besides India’s criminalization of homosexuality.
U.S. officials have said Indian citizens who have been issued U.S. “T visas” have been subject to restrictions, including long delays in renewing passports at Indian consulates in the United States.
The United States still has some outstanding concerns about how those visas are being handled, Sewall said, but added that she was “encouraged by the direction the practice was evolving.”
“I will say from the U.S. side, we feel like the relationship is very much on track,” Sewall told Reuters.
She is scheduled to meet Indian officials to discuss areas of mutual concern, including violent extremism, migration, and the protection of citizens from trafficking and slavery.
US raises issue of Kalburgi murder and protests by literary community
A day earlierSewell praised India for its tolerance and resilience amid rising incidents of terrorism, while raising the issue of the murder of Kannada writer MM Kalburgi and the protests by the local literary community in what could be viewed as an indirect dig at the administration.
“Many could benefit from India’s example tolerance and resilience in the face of terror. They would benefit from hearing about the countless leaders outside government confronting violent extremism in communities across India,” Sarah B Sewall, US under secretary for civilian security, democracy and human rights, said in a lecture, titled ‘Democratic Values and Violent Extremism’, here.
“When extremists murdered Malleshappa Kalburgi last August to silence his critical views — the third such murder in as many years — the Indian literary and artistic community was among the first to condemn the act,” she said at the event organized by the Vivekananda International Foundation.
Sewall suggested, without any direct reference to India, that governments could help by ending stifling regulations on civil society and allowing citizen groups to peacefully speak and organise around sensitive topics. “Learning from the past, we must avoid the trap of invoking security to justify bigotry, profiling, and discrimination against any religious or ethnic group — including our Muslim brothers and sisters.”
The spiritual animation process recently held at Dhyan Ashram – Kolkata from the 3-6 Dec, was and is, part of a process of renewal initiated by Fr General Adolfo Nicholas, through his letter to all major superiors, on 27th Sep, 2011, titled, “The Renewal of Province Structures in the Service of Universal Mission” (2011/16). By this letter Fr General fulfilled one of the mandates given him by GC 35, aimed at “better serving our universal mission” (cf. Decree 5, N. 26).
In the above mentioned letter Fr General says, “Keeping the apostolic purpose of this document clearly in mind, I ask that all Major Superiors use this document to begin a spiritual process in their respective Conferences, Provinces and Regions, a process that ends in concrete steps towards implementation. Each Region or Province should begin with an honest review of itself in the light of the criteria in Section One, and then proceed to ask before the Lord what changes in structures, what new forms of apostolic governance and partnership may be necessary. Common discernment in existing inter-provincial working groups, Zones, Assistancies, and Conferences should follow.”
Much water has flowed under the bridge after that letter (2011/16), we are now at the stage of common discernment. In more recent times, the Phesama Statement (Oct 2014), followed by the JCSA Guiding Document on the Restructuring Process in South Asia (Dec 2015), have given a fresh impetus to this process.
Restructuring at the Conference level:
The Spiritual Animation Process (SAP) is the first stage in the process of common discernment for Renewal or Restructuring of the provinces and conference, towards greater apostolic effectiveness. The underlying understanding of the SAP, is that, any worthwhile renewal, it will have to begin with what motivates us at the depths of our being as Jesuits, which is our Ignatian spirituality. One of the key characteristics of our spirituality is the value of ‘universality’.
Universality is evident in our founding documents and in the way the first companions conducted themselves. However, we have got mired in pressing, legitimate local concerns, forgetting that as a Society, we are ‘A Universal Body for A Universal Mission’. What it implies is that we must be solicitous for the apostolic concerns of the Society of Jesus, worldwide, and contribute to it by means of personnel, finance and our prayers, as and when needed.
SAP Kolkata brought together a group of carefully picked Jesuits, two from every province / region, to enter deeply into an Ignatian process of discernment. They were guided by a core team of experts, who had undergone a similar experience. Through the SAP the group of 40 at Kolkata were being prepared to animate their province/region/zone, in the days ahead.
The surprising part of the process was that at the beginning the participants were unsure of their abilities to animate others, skeptical of the process of restructuring, and unclear about the nature of universality. By the end of the two and half days, of focused inputs, prolonged periods of individual silent prayer and reflection, sharing in groups (spiritual conversation), careful listening to one another, all of this done under the guidance of the Spirit, they came to see the value and need for universality. The process provided for deeper introspection, allowing ones inner fears, anxieties, prejudices, and unfreedoms to surface and be challenged by the Lord. It was also an experience of Jesuit companionship. Ethnically diverse, representing a cross section of apostolates, and age groups, yet there was a common thread linking each of us, as brothers – friends in the Lord. The awareness that we belong to the same Society was evident in the camaraderie among us.
Did not our hearts burn when we delved into our roots? Must we keep the experience for ourselves? In answer to these questions we spent the final day planning to conduct similar experiences, through a three day spiritual process or a guided retreat in small inter-province groups, for as many as possible. Each zone has planned for its needs, and will implement the process, spreading out between now and the end of 2016.
The Spiritual Animation Process for all Jesuits in the conference will ground us in our spirituality and provide us with the spiritual freedom that is a pre-requisite for any meaningful discernment on restructuring.
Note by:Fr Keith Abranches, S.J. Socius to Posa 10th Dec, 2015