THE VISION AND MISSION OF 'SHALOM'
In 1989, a small group of pious young men, under the leadership of a layman, Br. Benny Punnathara, started an informal prayer gathering in a remote village in Kozhikode district of Kerala in South India. They met regularly, prayed fervently and discussed in detail about their mission in life. They prayerfully vowed to bring peace in individuals, families, society and the world at large. They were aware that true and lasting peace comes only from God through His words.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the group took a bold initiative to spread the word of God to the whole world through all the modern media of communication including print, TV and internet.
As the first step, they started "SHALOM TIMES", a colourful magazine in Malayalam in 1991 to spread the word of God through spiritual messages related to the life and experiences of common man. They selected the Hebrew word, 'shalom' as it means perfect peace, contentment, well-being, harmony and tranquillity which comes only from God. They used a simple and clear language in the magazine with an attractive style, design and page layout.
With very limited financial resources and inadequate infrastructure, they toiled hard to print and spread the magazine. They had no electricity, printing press or computers. They worked at night by the light of a kerosene-lamp. They had deep faith in the loving Lord who provided the Israelites path through the sea, water from the rock, food from the sky, direction by a pillar of cloud and light by a pillar of fire.
But in the initial days the results were not encouraging. The number of copies they could spread was limited and the response from the readers was not clear. They were in a dilemma about the future of their mission. Quite unexpectedly, Br. Benny received a letter from a young lady thanking him for organizing the Shalom Times. She described how the magazine had saved her life.
She was in a helpless, hopeless and depressed state and decided to commit suicide. She visited a friend's home to say goodbye before ending her life. The friend was busy and took some time to meet her. As she was waiting in the friend's room, a magazine lying on the table caught her attention. It was the 'Shalom Times'. She went through the pages of the magazine carelessly. An article in the magazine caught her attention. She was so impressed by its message that she read it again and again. The message transformed her completely. She gave up the idea of suicide and vowed to lead a new life of hope. She reported with thanks that now she was in God's way, active in her profession and providing timely help and hope to many of her friends.
The letter was a source of inspiration to Benny and his friends. They were confident that they were moving in the correct direction and that God was leading them. With this vision they expanded their mission. The English edition of Shalom Times and the internet ministry were started in 1996 to spread the Good News globally. From 1998, short episodes were broadcast through a popular TV channel. In 1999 they started the "Sunday Shalom', a weekly Christian news paper.'Shalom Television' became a full-time TV channel in 2005, broadcasting excellent Christian programmes round the clock, world-wide. In 2010, 'Sunday Shalom' started publication from the USA in English and Malayalam. Retreats and conventions, Sophia books, Shalom Institute of Media Sciences, Shalom Messenger and Shalom Peace Fellowship were later additions to the Shalom Ministry. Many other programmes are on the anvil, including an English TV channel from the U.S.A. Br. Benny Punnathura was conferred the title of 'Chevalier' by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI in recognition of his vision and mission.
From its simple and humble beginnings, Shalom Ministries have grown and branched out to spread the Good News globally through the modern media of communication.
© By: Prof. Dr. Babu Philip, Professor, Cochin University of Science & Technology, Fine Arts Avenue, Kochi-682016, Kerala, India, Prof. Mrs. Rajamma Babu, Former Professor, St. Dominic's College, Kanjirappally, Leo. S. John, St. Antony's Public School, Anakkal, Kanjirappally and Neil John, Maniparambil, Ooriyakunnath, Kunnumbhagom, Kanjirappally, Kottayam-686507, Kerala, India.
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