Monday, August 24, 2009

shantivanam- 1 week in

8-24

One week already in Shantivanam and I find that I have quickly become accustomed to a lifestyle of reading, prayer, walks, and cows. Course, it is not too different than my life in chicago, but for the cows and the indian context. Still, it hasn't been the retreat experience I had perhaps hoped for. In part, with an absence of spiritual direction (though if I asked, I might find that) and with too frequent engagement with texts that may be less than devotional (though all has opened up exciting horizons on familiar theological territory).

Still, what seems most lacking in the ashram experience is a face to face encounter with the other beyond me. The ashram instead seems more focused on a realization of the other interior to us.

Is this a danger in the mystical journey? can the mystical contemplative play a role in pushing us towards the other, when it is centrally focused on the encounter with god in the depths of the interior? Still, abishiktandas work has pushed me to a new appreciation for the other as a manifestation of God. Does this totalize the other, or does the realization of the ultimate other and the ultimate same (God who is abyss and who is at the core of our being... distant and incarnate) present not only in ourselves but in ever manifestation push me beyond the silence of my veranda? In this respect though, this is an encounter that ceases to be interfaith relations. It ceases to be a meeting of the other in the other and instead the other in the self.

As Sanyassis (hindu "monks" who renounce everything in pursuit of God), Monchanin and Le Saux must have had constant engagement with the hindu religious other both in their daily lives, in their study and in their studies. Bede also welcomed such an encounter in the interior of the ashram itself, inviting all, while also participating in local festivals and meeting with religious leaders. I still wonder what role the ashram now plays.



--
Michael Le Chevallier
MDiv candidate 2011
University of Chicago
email/skype: mike.lechevallier@gmail.com
Cell: (+91)9790889074

Shantivanam-- first impressions

8-19
In some respects, sitting here on my little veranda at the shantivanam ashram, with a full stomach, shade to cover me from the draining heat and cows mooing (though they really sound like their ommmin... maybe this is why cows are sacred?), I could feel like I'm in a mini paradise. Certainly, one couldn't tell the young calf prancing about freely that it is anything otherwise. Shantivanam was founded in 1950 by Fr. Jules Moncharin and Fr. Henri Le Saux (who later became Swami abishiktesveranda, which means "he whose joy is the Lord's anointed, Christ" later abridge to Swami Abishikananda, and always easily referenced for the linguistically challenged like me as Swamiji. After Jules Moncharin passed on, and Swamiji hoped to pursue the summit of christian and hindu mystical experiences to their full in a hermitage, the care for the ashram was passed on to Fr. Bede Griffiths. Today there are some 9 members of the community living were, with 2 more in bangalore studying theology for the priesthood, and one more who is a missionary in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. The Ashram was conceived of as a place for the interreligious encounter both between believers of different faiths, but also more intimately interior to the believer of any one tradition as he or she encounters both the christian sacred texts side by side in prayer. The cultivation of prayer and the search for truth was the initial goal of the ashram when it was founded here on the banks of the kervy river with the construction of two thatched huts by moncharin and le saux. Le Saux deeply interiorized the search for a connection point between hinduism and christianity on a mystical level, proclaiming that the three fold hindu advaitic godhead of saccianada is the trinity. While both Fr. Moncharin and Fr. Griffiths were less radical in their thought, they too sought to explore new dimensions of Christianity through the lens of hindu thought. I have already heard many strong critiques of this form of inculturation from different angles of the church who say that they are only seeking to inculturate into a single aspect of hinduism, brahaminic hinduism. While I still have much thought and reflection ahead of me, what I have read seems to indicate to me that at least Fr. Griffiths expressed in his writings a deep appreciation for every aspect of religious expression in India and further afield, even as he held up christ as the measure for an engagement with any of these. Perhaps I'm naive, but his focus on a contemplative theology goes beyond a mere contextualization of Christianity, that is to say, the incarnation of Christian truths into other cultural forms, and instead, seriously appreciating the mystical experience of other traditions, seeks to explore those truths. Furthermore, the example of Fr. Griffiths seems to indicate that a critical engagement is possible that allows for a mutual critique. While I cannot deign to even try to achieve the mystical experience of either Swami Abshiktananda or Fr. Griffiths, the fruit of much meditation, in addition to my study here, I do hope to more fully immerse myself in the experience of prayer. Having had the opportunity to be broadly exposed to the social agenda of the church, perhaps here my research can be cast in a more contemplative light.

I have only been here for 2 days now, but I'm quickly enjoying the rhythms of prayer. (still, I haven't managed to get up in time for the 5 am chant yet!)



--
Michael Le Chevallier
MDiv candidate 2011
University of Chicago
email/skype: mike.lechevallier@gmail.com
Cell: (+91)9790889074

Friday, August 21, 2009

no cell again

well, this time nothing was lost or stolen. Instead, the service provider decided to cancel my sim. No good, eh? I am, until further notice, under the radar. In case of emergencies, however, I can be reached at the two numbers below:
 
 
Shantivanam
04323-222260,

Jackie grimmit
94427-07229.

--
Michael Le Chevallier
MDiv candidate 2011
University of Chicago
email/skype: mike.lechevallier@gmail.com
Cell: (+91)9790889074


Friday, August 14, 2009

Orissa to Calcutta



Elsa and I have been trucking along since I last blogged. We are now spending our last day together, as mid-afternoon, we split and go our separate ways. For the past few days we have been staying in a dilapidated colonial era hotel in Chennai called the broad lands lodge. It is a great place apart from all the mosquitoes, the absence of curtains and the 4 am wake up call from the mosque next door. Still, my thoughts return to Orissa. I am working against the unconscious inclination to set these experiences behind me, even as I may continue to fight for justice in words. It's not easy. Simone Weil says that to pay attention to human affliction is almost impossible, and any occurrence of it is like a miracle. I don't think that she is too far off. We listened to many stories of human suffering, of people running for their lives from those who would murder them if they did not convert. We saw people in the camps, still living in tents, unable to return to their village. While we heard their stories, I wonder how much we were really able to listen to them. In part, I think it comes from the defense mechanism, hearing but hardening your heart so that the moment the plea for money comes you are able to withstand it. While I hate what money does to potential relations, even more so, I hate what money does to me. I hate how i feel I have to steel myself to such a demand, even though I already know that I legitimately cannot solve their problems.
While these people are in need of relief and charity, before charity, they are in need of justice. As the pope said in his latest encyclical on development, Justice is not extraneous or alternative to charity, rather, justice is the minimum measure of charity and development. These people of Orissa need justice, deserve justice, deserve what is rightfully theirs! They deserve security and peace. They deserve to have compensation for the negligence shown by the government. They deserve to have legal justice: to have the looters and in particular the murderers and the` organizers of the catastrophes be brought to justice.
Still, that does not forestall the demand that they be paid attention to, that we truly listen to them and feel their pain and suffering. Instead their stories came like a distant dream in an impossible world, rather than the hard reality of life. The father who was killed a year ago in the conflict is now forever gone. The camp of 50 christian families are living without land to till, still dependent on what meager resources they are receiving from relief organizations. One wonders how people live on in hope. Still, I must not paint a picture entirely of misery. Those sisters who we met working with them have spoken of a certain joy instilled in these people from these experiences. I can hope it to be true, and have seen them smile at our arrival and in our interactions. Some women we met spoke of how seeing us there, they were able to forget their worries, and that is why they were smiling. Representatives at a baptist camp spoke of how this strike against them has helped them turn away from material worry, recognizing that everything comes from God. The stories of the persecuted, modern day confessors (the name given to early Christians who survived torture and still refused to recant their beliefs) are emboldening. Still, I found disconcerting a certain fatalism, which said that this violence only came about because of God's will, and will only end by God's will. While on a fundamental level there can be some merit to what they say, I worry that it keeps people from expressing their own agency. More so, I worry that they will be less inclined to be channels of God's justice and peace through the legal and governmental systems here in the country.



Our journey in Orissa ended with a long bus ride followed by a long train ride. We landed in Calcutta the next morning, staying at a guest house that was set in the middle of a long stream of Missionaries of Charity homes for the sick, the dying, the destitute, for women, for orphans, etc. Just walking on the main road, I counted 5 of these Mother Theresa houses. Even if the signs were not there, the streams of foreign volunteers heading either to mass or to breakfast at the mother house every morning and the higher concentration of people begging on the street would alone be a sign of the sisters presence. We attended mass one morning at the mother house and ate breakfast with the volunteers following. With so many people from all over Europe and America, I can imagine that Calcutta would be an attractive place to come volunteer: a middle ground between the isolation found in being a border crosser, and an experience still wholly other. Mother Teresa's burial place, accessible from the first floor of the mother house, was a simple raised coffin in the middle of a concrete room. While nothing exotic, there was still a sense of sanctity about the place that made it easy to enter into deep prayer. The sisters themselves serve as an interesting phenomenon in the question of Inter-faith relations. I have become very interested in the question of the spaces that we create to facilitate in the encounter with the other. For the sisters, this space is need. Wherever there is human need and human suffering, it is their charism to be there. In speaking with a sister in Orissa, I learned that there is more than just humanism here. Not only do the sisters find Christ in this religious other, because they are thirsty, because they are hungry, because they are poor, but it was "mother's" philosophy that you need to encourage a Muslim or a Hindu to be good Muslims or Hindus so that they will encounter God there.
One could begin to think that christian discipleship pushes one out lovingly towards the other, and that it is christian discipleship which encourages the religious other to deeply pursue their own faith. My own reflections informed by my readings and experiences have led me to believe that christian discipleship constantly pushes one beyond the walls of the church in love towards the other. This is not a blind love, but as Benedict writes, it is love in truth. In this truth, we recognize that all people are God's children, particularly the orphan, the widow, the stranger, the hungry, the naked, the dispossessed, and the prisoner. Not only are we pushed towards the other, but we find Christ in this other. Love demands, however, that we respect the other as other, as a Muslim, as a Hindu, as an Indian, even as we seek and see God in them. How does one then begin to make sense of that in the other which disturbs us, which is strange and foreign to us?



Posted by Picasa

from calcutta


Victoria memorial palace


St. Paul's
Posted by Picasa

New Cell number

No, another cell phone hasn't dissapeared. I got a new number that is local to tamil nadu. It makes it easier to recharge, and receiving calls is free. Speaking of which, family and friends, feel free to give me a call by skype anytime (well, with a 11.5 hr time difference, mornings and evenings work best). It's only 2 c a minute from skype to an indian cell. Just plug in the number below, but without the +91 country code.
So, here it is: Cell: (+91)9790889074

I'll be in Pondicherry this coming weekend and in shantivanam near trichy for the 2 weeks following. Shantivanam is a christian ashram, that follows monastic rythymns of life but seeks to explore correlations between hinduism and christianity on a mystical level. If I reach enlightenment, i'll let you know.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

pour ma famille en france

Voici un extrait d'une email a ma tante en france. Il explique un peu mes experience ici en france.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Je suis très content de voir que tu as vu mon blog. Souvent j'ai l'impression que j'écris pour un trou noir! Je dois écrire qq chose en français pour ma famille la bas. Malheureusement je commence de perdre mon capacité écrit pour la français. (même maintenant, je ne sais pas utiliser des accents avec cette nouveau ordinateur donc, seulement des mots corriger par l'ordinateur ont des accents). Donc, lisez cette email gracieusement, comme je n'ai pas un de mes tantes ici a me corriger. =) L'Inde est vraiment incroyable. Je ne suis pas si pris que mon expérience en Afrique, mais je le considéré comme un don, comme ça me donne la possibilité de voir plus critiquement et c'est enrichisse mes pensées beaucoup plus. C'est très difficile de même comprendre la situation de l'église ici. Il y a des vieux et forts exemples de l'incultuation avec Henri Le Saux et le père Monnarchin. Ces mystiques ont essayer de trouver un liaison entre l'hindouisme et la foi chrétien dans les expérience du "profond." Ils ont commence un ashram que je vais visiter pour deux semaines au fin d'aout. Il y a plusieurs de theologue qui l'ont suivi dans leurs efforts a trouver des liaisons entre les deux foi. Il y des autres theologue qui critique cette effort parce que il dit que c'est seulement un effort a inculture une foi brahmanique. Ils disent que la foi chrétien doit être sur la cote du pauvre, "le Dalits." Souvent ils disent que le dialogue n'est pas possible a cause de cette système du castes qui est fondamental a l'hindouisme. Ce n'est pas facile. Surement la foi chrétien ne peux pas être incarne dans une culture, mais ça doit être incarne dans chaque culture. Au même moment, il porte une vision de justice qui transforme au même moment qu'il est informer par l'autre. J'ai trouve cette dernier encyclique du pape d'être très intéressant au niveau du dialogue. Il expresse bien que la fondation de l'amour, Caritas, est la justice. Il y a aussi un liaison essentiel a la vérité. Je vois que l'amour peux vraiment purifier la dialogue, laissant les gens a aimer l'autre comme l'autre et pas comme un extension de moi ou mes idées.
maintenant la demande pour une dialogue du base, entre des êtres humaines et très claire comme je suis en Orissa, une district Inde, ou les chrétiens était attaquer il y un an et aussi huit mois avant ça. pendant on prends courage des histoires des chrétiens firme en leur foi qui n'est pas convertie en face de la persécution et même mensonge contre leur vie, la situation qui a laisser un idéologie du haine a fleurir est découragement. Encore plus, a entendre comment même aujourd'hui la gouvernement n'écoute pas la plainte des peuple chrétienne qui ne sent pas qu'ils peuvent vivre en sécurité chez eux, particulièrement comme des criminels marche encore dans la rue en pleine liberté. Comment on peut tourner la cœur de la gouvernement, je ne sais pas. Il y a comme même des petites ténèbres de l'espoir. Ici a la "kuidina for Peace and Justice" organisation, il y a des gens de tout religion, lies par leur culture qui combatte pour les droits humaines. Il y a des sœurs et de prêtres qui ont retourner a leur paroisse et leurs institutions avec plus de courage. Il y a des avocats qui combattes des mensonges et des situations difficile pour la justice. Même, il y a des éléphantes, qui commence de détruire des maison en orissa. des hindous dits que c'est  le dieu chrétien, venue comme un éléphantes a venger des chrétiens. Heureusement, les plus partes de chrétien ne veut pas se venger, mais vivre en communauté avec des hindous. C'est important a moi a clarifier que ceci n'est pas une combatte entre des hindous et des chrétiens, mais c'est une conflit instiguer par un groupe des hindous fondamentaliste, les même qui ont tuer ghandi il y a 60 ans. L'organisation RSS et ces enfants le BJP, etc, a infiltre tout les aspects de la société, et il avance leur idéologie fasciste de l'hindutwa qu'il y a un nation (inde), un religion (hindou), une langue (hindi) et une culture (brahmanique). Donc, des autre religions et leurs pratiquants, comme la christianisme (qui est dans la sud depuis le 1ere siècle) et l'islam qui a bien influencer la culture du nord, sont considéré comme des étrangères. Au même moment, des autres cultures et religions indigène sont considéré soit pas vrais, soit des subsidiaire de cette père hégémonique.

Bref, j'ai commence d'écrire une email, et je crois maintenant je suis en train d'écrire une thèse ou une novella. Comme même, c'est seulement que je suis si heureuse a recevoir ton email que j'ecris une si longue lettre. Il y a même encore pleine d'autres expérience a partager. J'ai vu des temples anciens et le tombeau de St Thomas, j'ai gouter la nourriture délicieuse, j'ai rencontre une vrai « Charles de foucauld » dans la sœur manju qui a vécu 9 ans seule parmi des mousleman, restant présent a eux, j'ai partager des chansons avec des kui, j'ai prier avec des mousleman, des hindous chrétiens une service inter-religieuse, j'ai vu le travail d'une artiste chrétienne qui laisse sont imagination être toucher par tous des contextes ici, etc. Mais, je dois laisser ces histoires pour un autre fois, peut-être quand je reviens en France. Ma vie la bas avec toute ma famille me manque beaucoup et je pense souvent a toi et la famille. Mémé si qq fois je me sent déraciné avec tous mes voyages, un peu comme le christ « SDF », je sais bien que je trouve toujours un « chez moi » avec ma famille au USA et en France.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Michael Le Chevallier
MDiv candidate 2011
University of Chicago
email/skype: mike.lechevallier@gmail.com
Cell: (+91)9537158645


Monday, August 10, 2009

mass in the camps


Joining the sisters at mass at a road side camp



The largest hanuman (monkey god) I've ever seen


A throw back from the palace at hyderabad. It just seemed to go on and on.
Posted by Picasa

From the camps


"They said we can't go back unless we convert... we won't do that"


Kuidina forum for justice and peace


Kuidina forum for justice and peace


mass in the camps
Posted by Picasa

out of orissa

8-8
Our journey through Orissa has taken us now to Udiguri, a town who has been severely hit by the violence of last year. Here at the kuidina peace and justice organization, we heard the stories of victims who were chased from the homes, threatened with death if they returned as a christian. We heard of efforts by people to get protection from the government, even recieving written authorization for security from the human rights commission, receiving nothing and instead being chased into the jungle and forced to hide for 3 days without food or water. We also heard how people are now being forcibly relocated from the camps, set in a field, but with no provisions, no shelter, nothing. The government wants to put on a good face by formally ending the camps and saying the problem is over, but meanwhile they are doing nothing to ensure the security of the people. This is what we are being reported. people have lost faith in the government. Meanwhile, some of these same victims are reporting that they have not recieved any moral or spiritual support from church leaders. Up till now, not one priest or pastor has visited the village where this man was chased away from.

listening to the stories of these men and women, one can't help but feel helpless. This is not a situation which money can solve or relief can solve, even though that is even still desperatley needed. What is needed is for the government to take its proper role of ensuring the security of all its citizens. The sad thing is that this violence has a history dating back to the 1980's and has not been confined by its worst manifestation one year ago. We heard just yesterday that another activist has been attacked. Even now the lawyers fighting the cases are being threatened. 



8-9
It seems strange, just two days before the festival celebrating the birth of ram krishna and ten days before the one year anniversary of Swami Lakshamanda to be leaving orissa. There is an air of fear and apprehension in the air as to whether the attacks will happen again. Just last night we have heard of some isolated incidents against certain christians. While I should feel justified in leaving for my safety sake (in fact we booked our trip and tickets without these dates even in our mind and we are in no danger where we are staying), but instead I feel like so many of the church leaders from across denominations who had the money to move out of Kandamal while their people were left behind to face the fate of persecution. Yesterday we had a chance to visit a few camps and to hear the stories of those who are still living in fear and in squalor. Some of these christian communities are living only yards from their village, but still do not have the resources to rebuild or the confidence to return. We have heard from church organizations like caritas that they are in the planning stages of rebuilding, but those people we met with didn't mention that. One community of 53 families that we met said they cannot return. They were told by the RSS leaders of their village that they could only return if they converted, which they are unwilling to do. The peoples faith here is rather admirably, even if at times i find it to be fatalistic. These people do not need charity or mercy. They need and deserve and are owed Justice and Justice only. The christians here have a right to live in security and have a right for fiscal retribution from the government who neglected to protect them during the conflict despite direct commands from the human rigths commission to do so.

Staying with at the kuidina for Justice and peace organization, I have begun to get a completely differnt picture of the conflict. It was easy in Brahampur to see this as a question of Dalit christians versus tribal hindus who had been influenced by the hindutwa ideology. On the ground, however, I began to realize how much these categories of Dalit and tribal are constructions of a post independence india. Instead, we see how the kui peoples cultural tradition is being systematically trodden upon both by westernization and sanskritization. Instead, particularly with the brahminic hinduization of the people, we see how a caste system foreign to their society has been imposed. Furthermore, one can see the injustice of government categorization which does not recognize indigenous animisitic religion as something unique or set apart and instead places it under the category of Hindu, just as Jain, Sikh, and buddhism are as well. One sees how an "inclusive pluralistic" religion becomes used as a hegemonic cultural force. I hope that this blog is not being read in any way as anti-hindu, for that is neither my sentiment nor my intention. Instead it is trying to recognize and affirm the deeply particular identities of people and culture wherever they may be found. Any effort to call the kui historically as hindus (I say historically,  since the coming of the railroads has brought "evangelization" efforts by hindu groups to bring "backwards" people into the fold) simply because of a govt distinction is pure intellectual laziness. 


Michael Le Chevallier
MDiv candidate 2011
University of Chicago
email/skype: mike.lechevallier@gmail.com
Cell: (+91)9537158645


Friday, August 07, 2009

the seminary


The seminarians from this cappuchin seminary were fleeing through the jungle for 5 days without food and water. Even now they are still afraid to come back and have moved the seminary. This chapel was set to the torch. Only after a lay man from kerala moved here did members from the local community stop looting what was left behind. Not a stick of wood can be found inside.
Posted by Picasa

more destruction


left over from the mob




Mary Statue at the Carmelit convent


bug
Posted by Picasa

beauty and violence


sunset while on the run


The pastoral center in Orissa


Burned car at the Social Service center


Torched guest room
Posted by Picasa

hyderabad on the road


apparently the fresh prince of bel air moved to hyderabad


HMI



Traffic jam
Posted by Picasa

largest pieta i've ever seen


Henry Martin Institute Prayer Center


Mike, Cate and Katrell get vicious in a took took



The view from my porch in orissa
Posted by Picasa

Bombay





Indian Washing Machine: 5000 men
Posted by Picasa

Orissa flash


Visiting kandhamal and hearing about the violence committed against the Christians there has echoed back to so much of what I heard in Rwanda. Though much smaller in scale, the atrocities is just as terrible. We arrived in K. Nuagon on Tuesday  night. Under the cover of night we could only catch a glimpse of the left over violence, now almost exactly one year later. Jana Vikas, a Catholic social service center held 2 immobile burned 4x4s and a number of 2 wheelers which had been set to torch. The cement walls which were covered and petrol and burned in august of 2008 still are covered in soot. On entering, we also learned that it was here, in the same sequence of events, that sr. Meena was gang raped, and paraded naked with a priest by a crowd of drunk, angry and violent hindus. The attack itself was sparked by the killing of Swami Lakshmanda, an 80 year old religious leader who had been spreading his hateful message in Kandamal for the past 20 years. An RSS man (RSS is the original Hindutwa movement), Swami Lakshmanda stood for the assimilating Hindutwa message that stands for 1 religion (Hinduism), 1 language (Hindi), 1 culture (brahaminic caste system) in India. It was his wish that Christians would be purged from Orissa, and when he was assassinated by Maoists on Aug 23th, 2008, his followers decided to make that dream a reality.

At Jana Vikas, we met a Father , who came from a village where 7 Christians were killed and where his own father was forced to convert to Hinduism at knife point. This priest is helping run the social center, which has over 150 social workers out in the field doing relief work and restarting the centers prior activities. We also met 2 bold young JMJ sisters who are living in a burned out room and providing whatever assistance they can. Still, it is clear that more help is needed.

That night we slept at the pastoral center, which too still carried the marks of last years devastation, with a burned jeep out front and half the building covered in soot. 


The current (unofficial) count is that roughly 90 Christians have been killed, though the govt, trying to soften the state of the situation. This count is also not including those who have since subcumb to their wounds and passed on, or those who may have died in the forest while fleeing. Over 5000 houses were damaged and a number of churches, convents, seminaries, and church institutions across denominations were attacked, damaged, looted and destroyed. Many priests and sisters fled into the forest to save their lives. While I have read about the violence, going to see the burned vehicles and destroyed houses has brought this whole situation to reality for me.

We have spent this week in Orissa, with the first half in idyllic Golpalpur by the sea attending a workshop put on by the Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace on the conflict in Orissa. My room was on the third floor, and from the balcony you could see the sea over the tops of palm trees and papaya trees. This whole journey through Orissa, we have wondered how such atrocities could occur in such a beautiful place. The highlight of the workshop was Dr. Ram Puniyani, an activist who elsa and I already had a chance to meet in Mumbai. He led the group through some of the basic myths of communalism (defined as the misuse of religious identity for political mobilization), helping them to eventually identify the root issues of the violence. While the official party line is that it is aggressive christian conversions which are sparking this violence, that is only a facade that is used to hide a systematic agenda to maintain power for the BJP and for maintaining the status quo of the caste system. It is ironic that RSS officials will happily have their children educated at catholic institutions in the cities, but cry foul when Christians start schools in the village. Education brings the ability for tribals and Dalits (literally, the broken people) to recognize their own capacity and their own rights and to fight for them.

Here in the Kandamal district, we also met with a Carmelite Sister who courageously faced the prior violence 8 months earlier on Christmas day, and who, coming from Kerala on August 23rd, traveled through roadblocks set up by the mob, disguised as a sick person, in order to reach her convent. In the absence of so much christian leadership, who saved their own skins, the sisters presence was comforting and reassuring for the people. While I pose the question to myself of what I would do in such a situation, her own story is inspiring.

It has been equally discouraging to hear about the legal front. A small team 7 of lawyers comprising of those from the diocese and those from the Human rights law network are fighting to bring culprits to task here in Phulbani. Unfortunately, however, the RSS had their legal defense in place long before the violence began. With over 100 case here in phulbani, the resources of the accusers is certainly strained and many cases are already ending in acquittal.

Meanwhile, many church leaders from across the denominations have been surprisingly silent, only focusing on relief efforts. The one stalwart voice has been the catholic archbishop of Kandamal, who took the issue to the central gov in Delhi and who instructed priests and nuns to return a few months after the violence.

While this violence is terrible, everything I have heard about the RSS's infiltration into the media, the police, bureaucracy convinces me that the church needs to take a systematic approach to disseminating secularism (here in india meaning the respect and tolerance for all religion). This is not a fight between hindus and christians, but as Dr. Puniyani says, a fight for and against democratic and secular values.


Michael Le Chevallier
MDiv candidate 2011
University of Chicago
email/skype: mike.lechevallier@gmail.com
Cell: (+91)9537158645


Saturday, August 01, 2009

new cell

Cell: (+91)9537158645