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Stay on Ban on Women’s entry at night sessions of Asia’s biggest Christian meet in Kerala

The bar on women's entry to the night sessions of the Syrian Mar Thoma Church's famed Maramon convention began on Sunday

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Students are seen completing an exercise at a Girls Who Code class in San Jose, California, June 18, 2014. Girls Who Code, a national non-profit, aims to prepare young women for futures in computing-related fields. VOA

Kerala, 12 Feb, 2017: The bar on women’s entry to the night sessions of the Syrian Mar Thoma Church’s famed Maramon convention that began here on Sunday will stay due to security reasons, its supreme head said.

“There is a group here, who are trying to get media attention by raising non-issues. They want their names to be printed in newspapers and show their faces on TV. At this convention, there are four sessions where women can enter, but it’s not possible in the night sessions and that’s not going to be changed,” said Metropolitan, Joseph Mar Thoma, in his inaugural address at the week-long 122nd edition of what is billed as Asia’s biggest Christian convention.

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“It must not be forgotten that our Church has always taken the lead by giving due importance to women and we were the first to give voting rights to women. The non-entry to women in night sessions is on account of security and it’s not a ban,” he said.

This convention, held on the banks of river Pamba, has over the years become the flagship programme of the Thiruvalla-headquartered Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar, which claims to have a following of a million.

The convention is held under the aegis of the Mar Thoma Evangelistic Association.

Incidentally, for the past one month, a group of Mar Thoma Church members under the name and style of ‘Naveekerna Vedi’ (Reformists) — which has been in existence for over a quarter century but does not have the approval of the Church — raised the issue in the Church meeting, but the matter was not taken up for discussion.

After that they have been trying to gain public support to the idea of entry to women in the night sessions, but it has failed to get acceptance.

The Mar Thoma Church, which defines itself as apostolic in origin, universal in nature, biblical in faith, evangelical in principle, ecumenical in outlook, oriental in worship, democratic in function, and episcopal in character, has been able to make inroads in the education sector and runs numerous educational institutions.

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The origin and growth of this annual get-together for a week can be traced to the great revival movement which gathered momentum along with the reformation in the ancient Syrian Church of Malabar under the leadership of Abraham Malpan. (IANS)

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“Indians Ought to Take Pride in Their Buddhist Heritage” says Tibetan Legal Scholar and Politician Lobsang Sangay

Tibetan Buddhism across the Himalayas is intangible and therefore indestructible but so is the Indian Buddhism. It's about time we start taking pride in our Buddhist roots.

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Prayer Wheels in Buddhism
Buddhism in India. Pixabay

New Delhi, July 31, 2017: Tibet is the autonomous region of the Republic of China and due to the Sino-Indian standoff, Tibet is at the heart of political differences between these regions. However, the interview talked majorly about the cultural exchanges between India and Tibet. Upon being asked whether Momo is a Tibetian delicacy or not, Sikyong immediately certified with affirmation, as the term itself suggests meat filled dumpling in Tibet.

“Indeed, the origin of Buddhism and the provenance of the momo can be seen as two immutable truths that bind Tibet and India together forever. Others can claim them and offer seemingly convincing arguments but we know better. Buddhism, taken to Tibet from India from the 7th century onwards–most importantly by monks from the ancient Nalanda university–is now an inextricable part of the Tibetan people. And momos have become as intrinsic a part of India ever since Tibetans and their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled Chinese occupation to seek refuge, appropriately, in the land of Buddha’s birth.” Lobsang Sangay said.

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“It may be also germane to remember that at its peak from the 7th to the 9th centuries, the Tibetan Empire was bigger than the Chinese one and extended as far south as Bengal and north to Turkmenistan, Mongolia, and Siberia. Maybe momos traveled along with Tibetan Buddhism to those areas, both morphed into local variants and then journeyed beyond.” He further added.

It was a remarkable revelation that Buddhism culture is more widespread than one would think, fourteen countries being a Buddhist majority, while the total number of Buddhists around the world account for a total of 500 million people who are spread across 52 countries in total. Buddhism is said to have its roots in India, while it’s celebrated around the world and enjoys immense popularity we Indians are yet to embrace the fact that Buddhism, in fact, is an integral part of our culture and to protect the culture is our responsibility.

Indians should take pride in their Buddhist culture Click To Tweet

Not only Tibetian but ancient Buddhist scriptures and commentaries by Indian scholars constitute an inconvertible link between India and Buddhists across Asia. Tibetian scholarly works are majorly based on and influenced by the references in the Indian scriptures, hundreds of books are written and preserved in Tibetian monasteries.

According to Sikyong, Buddhism in Indian origin is not emphasized enough and the links are blinded by the strong Asian narratives compounded by their inexplicable official resistance.

What could be more indicative of this indifference than the lament of a former Sri Lankan envoy to India that precious relics of the Buddha languish in closed quarters at the Indian Museum in Calcutta. We Indians must take pride in our Buddhist heritage too and build on the myriad cultural and emotional links with other nations that it offers, as the benefits are obvious.

Based on the blog Silk Stalkings in Economic Times.

Prepared by Nivedita Motwani. Twitter @Mind_Makeup


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Can Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

The truth about IS and Afghanistan is definitely no picnic

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Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016.
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016. The rise of IS in Afghanistan has become such a priority that U.S. and Afghan forces sometimes support the Taliban while battling IS, VOA
  • Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
  • Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
  • In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS

June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.

Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.

Confusion leads to mistakes

All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.

Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”

Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.

Confusing scenarios

Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.

“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.

In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.

IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.

Families displaced

IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.

Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.

“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.

ALSO READ: Flashback to Terror: 1993 Mumbai Blasts Judgement to Hail on June 27 After 24 Years

Recruiting unemployed youths

IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.

Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.

IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.

Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.

Darzab district

Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.

IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.

Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.

“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.

Hit-and-hide strategy

IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.

Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.

“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)

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India’s Textile and Fashion Heritage now part of Google project

Google's project 'We Wear Culture' is collaborating with 183 renowned cultural institutions from all around the world including India and its objective is to let people explore history of clothes dating as early as 3,000 years ago

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we wear culture
Google's new art project 'We wear Culture' digitizes fashion, Wikimedia
  • Google’s project ‘We Wear Culture’ is collaborating with 183 renowned cultural institutions from all around the world including India
  • It intends to trace the story and importance of Indian textiles from ancient sculptures
  • Its objective is to let people explore history of clothes dating as early as 3,000 years ago

June 15, 2017: To a certain extent, a culture is defined by what is worn by its people. In a country as diverse as India, vast and varied spectrum of cultures and clothes is one of the specialties. Google’s latest virtual exhibition project now provides us the opportunity to explore and know more about it.

Google’s project ‘We Wear Culture’ is collaborating with 183 renowned cultural institutions from all around the world including India and its objective is to let people explore history of clothes dating as early as 3,000 years ago, from the ancient Silk Road to the unmatched elegance of the Indian Saree,  from the courtly fashion of Versailles, to the Victorian ballgowns with intricate thread work.

According to Amit Sood, director of Google Arts and Culture,”We invite everyone to browse the exhibition on their phones or laptops and learn about the stories behind what you wear. You might be surprised to find out that your Saree, jeans or the black dress in your wardrobe have a centuries-old story. What you wear is true culture and more often than not a piece of art.”

Culture is defined by what is worn by its people. Click To Tweet

The company also mentioned that noteworthy collections from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) and varied weaves from across India, from Gharchola to Patola to Temple to Ikat sarees will be included in the online project, as it intends to trace the story and importance of Indian textiles from ancient sculptures.

ALSO READ: New Google Project Digitizes World’s Top Fashion Archives.

According to PTI reports, the world fashion exhibit also includes designs from north-eastern India including the weaves of tribes such as the Nagas, Meitis. it will showcase the traditional attire from Meghalaya called ‘Dhara’ or ‘Nara’ worn by the Khasi women as well.

As a part of the exhibit, Sewa Hansiba Museum has brought the unique colorful and rich embroidery arts, applique and mirror work from different communities such as the Ahir, Rabari, Chaudhury Patel and many others from the western part of India online.

The exhibition conducted by Salar Jung Museum brings to light the Sherwani and its journey of becoming the royal fashion statement of the Nizams from 19th century Hyderabad. Fashion and textiles enthusiasts can revisit Colonial Indian attires with Dr Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum. Over 400 online exhibitions and stories sharing a total of 50,000 photos, videos and other documents on world fashion are open to exploration as well.

The ‘We wear Culture’ initiative highlights significant events in the growth of the world fashion industry; the icons, the movements, the game changers and the trendsetters like Alexander McQueen, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Gianni Versace, Audrey Hepburn and many more.

– prepared by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter: @dubumerang