Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Quotation of the Week (September 29 - October 5, 2013)

A quotation of Pope Francis on 'wastage of food in developed countries,' compiled by Jerome D'Costa
Photo (A roadside grocery store in Doripara Village in Gazipur District, Bangladesh: January 10, 2012) © Jerome D'Costa

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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Brother Ronald Drahozal, C.S.C., Through the APON, Serves Drug Addicts in Bangladesh

Brother Ronald Drahozal, C.S.C., founder-director of the APON
Photo courtesy: The Protom Alo daily, Dhaka. All other photos below @ courtesy of the APON.

Brother Ronald Drahozal, C.S.C. – a U.S. member of the Congregation of Holy Cross involved in Bangladesh as missionary for the last 50 years – founded the Ashokti Punorbashon Nibash (APON) or the Addiction Rehabilitation Residence in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on October 1, 1994, with only one recovering drug addict. Under his direction and perseverance, the APON has grown from a tiny organization to an influential one known all over Bangladesh as well as some countries abroad. Presently, it is serving more than 230 drug addicts, aged five years to 55 years. 

 The APON, under the jurisdiction of the Brothers of Holy Cross in Bangladesh, strongly believes that “all addicts have a basic right to good health including treatment and rehabilitation for drug addiction. Therefore, our program is open to all drug addicts” – adult males and females as well as boys and girls – “without distinction of social, economic, religious, gender and age.” The APON also came to learn from its experience that “An addict is sick, not bad, not mad. An addict needs help to become well, not to become good or sane.”

The APON is a local non-government organization (NGO), registered with the Government of Bangladesh. It is the second effort, on behalf of the Catholic Church of Bangladesh, to treat and rehabilitate drug addicts. The First effort of this Church was that the Bangladesh Rehabilitation and Assistance Centre for the Addicts (BARACA), founded in 1988 and directed by Brother Ronald Drahozal until 1994. The BARACA later became a project of Caritas Bangladesh.  

First headquartered in Mohammadpur of Dhaka and later moved to APONGAON at Singair in Manikganj District, 63 kilometers north-west of Dhaka City, the APON developed and has been using an innovative and special rehabilitation programme by adopting the 12-step principles of the Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous, therapeutic community (TC) approach, APON family environment approach, and other related activities. Drug addicts and alcoholics of any religious persuasion and socio-economic status are accepted in its centre. 

It is noteworthy that the APON was the first organization to reach out to help female drug addicts and collect data on their pervasive problems. In addition, the APON was the first and still is the only organization with a special drug rehabilitation programme for children, especially street children.

Residential buildings in Apongaon (at Singair, Manikganj District)
With money inherited from his family in the U.S.A., Brother Drahozal purchased a three-acre land at Singair to make a permanent treatment and rehabilitation centre, called APONGAON (APON village) for a comprehensive support to the drug users. The Dutch-Bangla Bank, BRAC, Grameen Bank and Summit Group of Industries came forward in funding the construction of two residential buildings there. The Prothom Alo, a Bengali daily, has been assisting Brother Drahozal in his awareness building programme among the street children. In 2007, the headquarters of APON in Dhaka moved to this APON village permanently. APONGAON is a residential facility for both male and female adult and child drug addicts. 

Brother Drahozal speaks on drug addiction and the role of the APON in a Diganta TV programme in Dhaka
 In last several years, the APON and APONGAON have received wider media coverage in the Bangladeshi newspapers, magazines, radio and television as well as some news media abroad the UCANews of Hong Kong, and ABC Radio, and BBC radio and TV. 

The APON gets a coverage in The Independent daily of  Dhaka (Oct. 7, 2012)

Activities of the APON

  • The APON provides drug dependency treatment and rehabilitation.
  • It disseminates information on drug addiction treatment and rehabilitation, sexually transmitted infections (STI), human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency (HIV/AIDS), hepatitis B and C, and other related harms with Information Education and Communication (IEC) materials and awareness programme and outreach activities and peer-led intervention. 
  • It gives basic education, skill training and relevant knowledge for employment of recovering addicts.
  • Recovering drug users also receive aftercare and follow-up services. 
  • It advocates in the national level to establish the legal rights of the drug addicts for treatment services as mentioned in the Control Act of 1990.

Brother Drahozal and his activities with the APON gets a publicity in the Prothom Alo daily of Dhaka
Outreach Drop-In Centre/Safe Night Shelter (ODIC/SNS) for Street Children

From 2012, the APON started an Outreach Drop-In Centre/Safe Night Shelter in Mirpur 1, Dhaka, with assistance from the Colombo Plan Secretariat. This programme serves drug addicts aged 4 to 14 years. Brother Drahozal writes in a report that, in Dhaka city alone, the number of street children ranges from 300,000 to 500,000. About 49.2% of these children are under the age of 10. Most of these children are using drugs. As long as they continue to live on streets, they “continue to be involved in obsessive activities and use addictive drugs. 

Most street kids start with watching video games and smoking cigarettes. Gradually they fall for sniffing dandy/glue, smoking ganja (cannabis), taking sleeping pills and alcohol, and, eventually, some injecting drugs, smoking heroin and yaba/baba, and getting involved in illicit sex. “In order to find funds many do some basic work, stealing at times, others rent their body for sex, selling and/or trafficking drugs or in some way ‘manage’ funds.” This vicious circle continues. 

In this drop-in centre, children, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. receive care, such as medical attention, basic education, skills training, bath, food (tiffin and lunch), awareness orientation on addiction and AIDS, and recreation (TV and indoor games). They also increasingly become aware of the harms that drugs bring and receive motivation for being drug free. Those, who are ready to stop using drugs or are willing to do so, are sent to APONGAON Centre for their undergoing rehabilitation. So far, more than 10 serious drug user street children have been sent there. 

The Brother has a plan to have a safe night shelter for these children in future. He is also advocating for Bangladesh Government attention to and assistance for under-18 “Most At Risk Adolescents” (MARA), who are drug addicts but will be adults soon and most likely to acquire HIV/AIDS. If these street children are not taken care of, they will be causing more harms to the society at large in future. 

The Staff

Most of the staff at APONGAON are former drug addicts, who underwent rehabilitation from the APON. Some of these staff have been trained at the Self Enhancement for Life Foundation (SELF), a drug rehabilitation programme in the Philippines using a dual approach therapeutic community programme. 

The General Council and Executive Committee of the APON

The APON has a General Council and an Executive Committee whose members – both male and female – come from different professions. They assist Brother Drahozal in the management of the APON. 

Participation in International Events

Brother Drahozal participated in a number of international events. Some of these are: The Sixth Asian Recovery Symposium in New Delhi, India; Outreach Drop-In Centre training by the Colombo Plan in Davao, the Philippines; SELF Rehabilitation Centre near Manila, the Philippines; and the World Congress of Therapeutic Community in Bali, Indonesia. In some of these events, a few APON staff also participated.

Raju Cruze, a recovering addict and a participant from APON, Father Somar of Indonesia, and Brother Ronald Drahozal, CSC, at the World Conference of the World Federation of Therapeutic Community in Bali, Indonesia. Brother was one of the guest speakers in the conference.

Receipt of Awards

The APON received certificates and commendations for participating in local drug prevention awareness programmes and fundraising. 

Former St. Gregory's High School students of 1967 along with the APON organized the First Annual Run/Walk 2012 on December 28, 2012 as part of a drug free society and drug awareness programme in Dhaka
The APON also received the first Best Drug Rehabilitation Centre Programme recognition in Bangladesh. 

Bangladesh Home Minister Mohiudding Khan Alamgir presents a crest to Brother Drahozal (left) on the International Day Against Drug Abuse in Dhaka on June 27, 2013

In 1987, some Brothers of Holy Cross and others noted an increasing number of drug addicts in Mohammadpur and Tejgaon areas of Dhaka. They were thinking aloud as what they could do to address this problem among the youth. 

Although he had no previous knowledge about drug addiction and rehabilitation, Brother Ronald Drahozal, C.S.C. expressed his willingness to work in this field. As a result, in 1988, he became the founder-director of the BangladeshRehabilitation and Assistance Centre for the Addicts (BARACA), the first such effort on behalf of the Catholic Church in Bangladesh. He directed the BARACA from 1988 to 1994. When Caritas Bangladesh took over this project fully, Brother Drahozal left the BARACA and founded the APON on October 1, 1994. As work went on, he had exposure to several drug rehab centres with the country and abroad, attended seminars and conferences on drug treatment and rehabilitation. 

Brother Ronald Drahozal was born in Cedar Rapids of Iowa, U.S.A. in 1937. He took his profession of vows as a Brother of Holy Cross in 1958. He studied at St. Edward’s University in Austin of Texas, U.S.A.

He arrived in East Pakistan (that later became Bangladesh) in 1962. He taught at St. Gregory’s High School in Dhaka and St. Nicholas’ High School at Nagori of Gazipur District. He directed a special spiritual and human development course for six months each year for eight years for diocesan seminarians at Jalchatra of Tangail District. He also served as the director of the programme for candidates who wanted to join the Brothers of Holy Cross in Bangladesh. Some of the present-day Bangladeshi Brothers who are in leadership positions are his former students. 

Besides running the APON and APONGAON, Brother Drahozal also gives talks on drug addiction and rehabilitation to different groups, speaks in seminars and conferences – both within Bangladesh and abroad, presents papers, writes articles, and appears in talk shows in both local and foreign radio and TV in Dhaka. 

Once a tall, lithe, and sprightly gentleman, Brother Drahozal is now a bit gaunt and slow, yet has enough stamina for working long hours. 

According to Brother Drahozal, a childhood experience of his might have been behind his dedicated service to the drug addicts in Bangladesh. His parents were always helping the needy in their neighborhood. Once during a Christmas season, his mother took young Ronald Drahozal to the house of a man, who was both impoverished and drug-addicted. When the man opened his door, she presented him with a new set of clothes as a Christmas gift. The man was extremely grateful and happy. Brother still remembers this incident vividly. 

For more information on the APON, you may access to:  Ashokti Punorbashon Nibash (APON)

Also see in Youtube's video the Diganta TV's Feature on APON.

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Monday, September 23, 2013

A Cartoon on the Recent Interview of Pope Francis

Cartoon courtesy: National Post (Toronto, Canada: Sept. 20, 2013)

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Quotation of the Week (September 22 - 28, 2013)

A quotation of Diana Nyad on 'perseverance,' compiled by Jerome D'Costa
Photo (An overhead water tank in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada: May 19, 2013) © Jerome D'Costa

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

In His Interview, Pope Francis Gives a New Direction for the Catholic Church

Pope Francis

Pope Francis in an exclusive 12,000-word interview with Father Antonio Spadaro, S.J., editor-in-chief of the La Civilta Cattolica (The Catholic Civilization) – the Italian Jesuit bi-weekly magazine from Rome – spells out a new direction to the Catholic Church’s emphasis. Besides this magazine, the interview has been published in 15 other Jesuit publications worldwide, including that of the America, the national Jesuit magazine in the USA. The editorial teams of these Jesuit publications prepared questions for the Pope and submitted them to Father Spadaro for conducting the interview. 

This pope’s interview, given to non-papal media, broke the past tradition of being first published in the official Vatican news sources, and took the world, especially the Catholic Church officials and members worldwide, by surprise. 

 The long interview, given at the papal apartments in Casa Santa Maria in Rome, took three days to complete and it deals with the following topics: 

--Pope Francis as a person
--His life as a Jesuit and Jesuit Provincial in Argentina
--What it means to be a Jesuit pope
--Serving the Church in the light of the Ignatian (of St. Ignatius of Loyola) spirituality
--Service of the Jesuits to the Church of today and facing new challenges
--“Thinking with the Church”
--Reforms in the Catholic Church
--Christian living in difficult situations (divorced and remarried, same-sex couples, abortion, gay marriage and use of contraceptives, etc.)
--Specific place of Religious men and women in the Church today,
--Dicasteries (various departments) of the Roman Curia in the Vatican,
--Petrine (of St. Peter) primacy and collegiality,
--The role of women in the Church
--Accomplishments of the Second Vatican Council
--Seeking and finding God in all things and making mistakes in doing so
--Signs of hope in today’s world
--Pope’s preference for today’s artists, writers, musicians, movies etc.
--Teaching literature to his secondary schools students in Argentina
--A need for creativity in life
--Priorities of Jesuit publications (magazines and journals)
--Enormous changes in society and their reinterpretation by people, and
--Pope Francis’ preferred way of prayer.

About himself, Pope Francis in his interview says: “I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”

About the Catholic Church he says: “I see clearly that the thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the Church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…. And you have to start from the ground up.”

“The Church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is ministers must be merciful, take responsibility for the people and accompany them like the Good Samaritan, who washes, cleanses and raises up his neighbor. This is the pure Gospel. God is greater than sin. The structural and organizational reforms are secondary – that is, they come afterword. The first reform must be the attitude….The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials. The bishops, particularly, must be able to support the movements of God among their people with patience, so that no one is left behind. But they must also be able to accompany the flock that has a flair for finding new paths.”

On homosexuality, he says: “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay [homosexual] person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.”

On abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptives, he says: “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible…. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in context. The teaching of the Church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the Church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

On finding a balance between the dogmatic and moral teachings of the Church, he says: “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the Church are not all equivalent. The Church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Procalamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even moral edifice of the Church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.”

On Petrine primacy and collegiality [cooperative relationship of colleagues], Pope Francis says: “We must walk together: the people, the bishops and the Pope. Synodality [being in the ecclesiastical council of the

Bishops] should be lived at various levels. May be it is time to change the methods of the Synod of Bishops, because it seems to me that the current method is not dynamic. This will also have ecumenical value, especially with our Orthodox brethren. From them we can learn more about the meaning of Episcopal collegiality and the tradition of synodality.”

On the role of women in the Church, he says: “…Women are asking deep questions that must be addressed. The Church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. The woman is essential for the Church. Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops. I say this because we must not confuse the function with the dignity. We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the Church. We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman. Only by making this step will it be possible to better reflect on their function within the Church. The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions. The challenge today is this: to think about the specific place of women also in those places where the authority of the Church is exercised for various areas of the Church.”

About being restorationalist and legalist, he says: “If the Christian is a restorationalist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing. Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open us new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists – they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies. I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life. God is in everyone’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else – God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life. Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.”

Many other gems like the above are in the interview that want us to change our attitude towards others. They clearly tell us to replace our self-righteousness, authoritarian way of doing things, and judgmental and condemning attitude with the attitude of mercy, service, forgiveness, cooperation, and the like. Only then will the Catholic Church be the true Church of Christ, the Church of the Gospel.

To read the detailed interview of Pope Francis and related comments on it by others, please click on the following: 

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Quotation of the Week (September 15-21, 2013)

A quotation of Coco Chanel on 'shoes,' compiled by Jerome D'Costa
Photo (Ladies' shoes at a Hudson Bay store in Toronto: February 10, 2013) © Jerome D'Costa

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Monday, September 9, 2013

The Practice of 'Girls' Marriage to the Quran' Is Still Prevalent in Pakistan

The provinces of Sind and the Punjab have certain areas where this type of marriage is still continuing

According to several websites, a traditional practice of giving one’s daughter or close female relatives in marriage to the Quran is still persistent in parts of the Sindh and Punjab provinces of Pakistan.

The Syeds (also written as Saiids or Sayyids) – a high-caste Muslims – who claim descent from Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam in Saudi Arabia and consider themselves superior to other Muslims, still continue this un-Islamic practice without impunity. These Muslims are rich and own large tracts of land in those two provinces of Pakistan. 

This exploitative custom is also known locally as haq bakhish, haq-baksh-wai or haq bakhashwain. In English, this is termed as ‘Quran brides’ or ‘brides of the Quran.’
When suitable husbands are not found according to the liking of the fathers or male guardians, they force the girls to commit the Quran, the holy book of Islam, to memory and hang parts of the Quranic verses around their waist with a cord before they are given in marriage to the holy book. 

This is done not because of the males’ love for religion but for their selfish ends: that is, preventing their lands to be subdivided by way of giving dowry to the outsider husbands of their girls. The undivided lands continue to give them profits.

These ‘Quran brides’ then serve as life-long slaves in their own families working as waitresses and child minders as well as doing all kinds of household chores.

This practice not only goes against the teaching of Islam but also is criminal in nature under Pakistan’s laws. If convicted, the perpetrators are liable to get a seven-year imprisonment. Those who commit this crime is so influential and powerful that none dares complain against them or punish them.

According to the Asharq Al Awsat, an international Arabic newspaper, there were about 10,000 Quran brides in Pakistan in 2007.

The honour killing of girls is another form of exploitation of and violence against women in Pakistan.

For further information, you may read the following:

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Quotation of the Week (September 8-14, 2013)

A quotation of Richard Branson on 'business opportunity,' compiled by Jerome D'Costa
Photo (Decorations in front of Scarborough Town Centre Mall in Toronto: February 18, 2013) © Jerome D'Costa

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Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Quotation of the Week (September 1 - 7, 2013)

A quotation of Nelson Mandela on the 'enemy,' compiled by Jerome D'Costa
Photo (A wintry day in Toronto: February 16, 2013) © Jerome D'Costa

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