LET US UNDERSTAND FAKE NEWS

Our times may be described as time of fake news. For, leaders like Ronald Trump and Narendra Modi are internationally known leaders who indulge in spreading and promoting fake news! What is fake news? Let us understand fake news with the help of a concrete example. Pope Francis points out an incident in the Bible as an example for fake news.

The first book of the Bible, Genesis in Chapter 3 narrates a conversation between snake the woman Eve. In the conversation between them the snake says to the woman, “Did God really tell you not to eat the fruit from any tree in the garden?”

“We may eat the fruit of any tree in the garden,” the woman answered. Except the the tree in the middle of it. God told us not to eat the fruit of that tree or even touch it; if we do, we will die.”

The snake replied, “That is not true; you will not die. God said that, because he knows that when you eat it you will be like God and know what is good and wht is bad.” (Gen. 3: 1b – 5)

The woman felt that the snake was telling her the truth. She saw that the fruit looked beautiful and it was very attractive as it would make her wise. So she took and ate the fruit and gave it to her husband who also ate it. Eating the forbidden fruit brought her and her husband very bad result. They were driven away from the paradise.
This is just a simple story but with a strong message. Men and women can be easily  cheated or misled by a mixture of truth and half truth. Facts and cooked up stories can mislead people. A mixed data of truth and falsehood can create fake news which can change people’s views and opinions. So fake news is often a concoction of truth and falsehood. Fake news leads unsuspecting person on the wrong path of false belief.

Education has increased among people. People have began to think for themselves. Behind the thinking of the people there are their experiences, concrete facts and their personal belief and opinion as well as naked truth. Selfish leaders and self-seeking politicians create fake news mixing true things and falsehood making people believe that they have the whole truth in their favour!

It is essential to know fake news and be cautious about them. But many people are unable to distinguish from truth from falsehood as it is difficult to separate one from the other in a mixture of milk and water. So uncritical people believe anything printed or broadcast or even gossips. There are self-seeking politians and leaders who take advantage of such situation. They create fake news without any ethics and morality.

News is usually based on truth and concrete facts. When journalists cover a public function their reports based on truth and reality will be more or less similar. But selfish leaders and polititians do not want the people to know the whole truth and draw their own conclusions. They want the ordinary people to believe and support their point of view. So they mix truth and half truth and even falsehood and knowingly deceive the unsuspecting people!
So these days we need to  check every news printed in newspapers or broadcast in social and mass media like televison and radio. For, we know that practically all mass media have been penetrated by politicians and others who have no morality and gloriously mislead people.

The 2002 pogrom against Muslims in Gujarat is well known in the whole world. For, Indian and foreign journalists and writers have written  in depth news reports, research papers, and even published  books. I refer here just one book: HARVEST OF HATE – GUJARAT UNDER SEIZE. The book is published by Rupa Pyblishers, New Delhi. It is written by two eminant personaliaties: Swami Agnivesh and Valson Thambu. Both are also well known social workers. They are upholders of truth, nothing but the whole truth. So we can accept and believe their finding written after much research and investigation.

But here in the context of fake news our attention is drawn to another two similar books. Like the communal clash against the Muslims in Gujarat there was an organized, systematic communal attack on the Christians in Kandhamal District, Odisha in 2008. In the attack about a 100 Christians were mercilessly killed. Like in Gujarat where Muslims were falsely accused of killing ‘karasevaks’     the communal attacks in Kandhamal were launched falsely accusing the Christians murdering Swami Laxmanananda. Even though the Maoists publically took responsibility for murdering the ut Swami, the communal attackers went after Christians raping, murdering them and destroying their houses, Churches, hostels and other Christian institutions.

After the communal attacks on the Christians in Kandhamal District a book came out similar to the book mentioned above. The title of the new book is similar: HARVEST OF HATE – KANDHAMAL IN CROSSFIRE. According to the claim of the publishers, India Foundation, New Delhi the book has been brought out by an American research scholar and a seeker of truth, one Michael Parkar. The same book is published again with minor changes and modications with a new title: ORRISA IN CROSSFIRE – KANDHAMAL BURING by another author named Brenon Parkar.

But a real research scholar and an internationally known journalist Anto Akkara has proved beyond doubt that both the authers and their books are FAKE!

Beginning with eminent journalist Kuldeep Nair many Indian and foreign journalists and authors have appreciated and welcomed Anto Akkara’s research and his conclusions. Journalists Anto Akkara has made no less than 27  trips to Kandhamal after the murder of Swami Laxmanananda and published 5 books of his research about Kandhamal communal attacks against the Christians. I have written and published a review of the 5 books in English.
In short we need to be cautious about believing and following many things written or broadcast in mass media. In the Bible story the snake used tricks and deceptions to get the woman to follow his path. Similarly self-seekers use many tricks and deceptions to mislead the public. In such situation to cull out truth from falsehood we may use the triple filter of Sacrates.

Socretes was visiting a friend. The friend was very happy to welcome Socretes and was eager to share with him something. But Socretes told his friend that before he shares with him his story it has to pass through his thriple filters!
Socretes told his friend,  “Truth is the first filter. So are you very sure that the thing, which you are going to share with me, is true beyond doubt?”

“I am not very sure about the veracity of  the story. I have heard it from a firiend”, Socretes’ friend said.
“So you are not very sure if your story is true or not. So let us use the second filter. Is your story good for me or for someone? Is it about the good behaviour of someone?”

Socretes’ friend has to acknowledge that his story is not about the good behaviour of someone nor does it say something good. On the contrary the story may be harmful to someone.
Before his friend say anything further, Socretes said, “You are not sure if your story is true or not. Then you say that your story instead of doing good may be harmful to someone. So let us examine your story with the third filter. Is your story needed for me? Will it be useful to me?”

Socretes’ friend had to acknowledge before him that his story has nothing good or useful for Socretes.
“Then,” Socretes said, “There is absolutely no need to tell your story to me.” That was the end of the story of Socretes’ friend.

So without blindly believing any news or story let us use our intelligence and common sense. Let us save ourselves and others from sharing and spreading fake news .#
Changed On: 01-11-2019
Next Change: 16-11-2019
Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2019

CHALLENGES OF SECULARISM & RELIGIOUS

There is a saying in English “Proof of pudding is in its eating.”  Hindutva forces are let loose without any obstructions against Muslims and Christians after Modi government came to power first in Gujarat and later in the Centre. In the name of ‘Home Coming’ the Parivar people are reconverting poor and Dalit Muslims and Christians from their religions using all types of forces and incentive including bribes. Reconversion programmes are sometimes publically announced and there are news reports that gullible people are reconverted to Hinduism according to Arya Samaj rites!

I have heard about advertisement that Christians are offered certain sum for reconversion and double the sum is offered for a Muslim to get reconverted to Hinduism! Within two months of Modi government coming to power in the Centre five churches and one school were attacked in the capital city of New Delhi!

From the time of preparation of the election for Loksabha we have been hearing and reading about “Love Jigad” especially in states like Uttar Pradesh and other BJP rules states. After Modi government came to power at New Delhi the forces against Secularism and Religious Freedom have become active in many parts of the country. But the Prime Minister has not uttered a word against these anti-social elements raising the question. “Is Modi still sleeping like Kumbhakarna?”

Modi’s silence is taken as permission by certain Sadhus, Satvinis and even some politicians and Hindutva leaders to speak hatred and intolerance against the minorities especially against the Muslims and Christians. These so called religious and political leaders and their followers are in the field to harass and persecute the Muslims and Christians. The Modi government has taken the stand like the three monkeys of Gandhiji of ‘not hearing’, or ‘not speaking’ or ‘not doing anything’ about hate-mongering and persecution of the minorities.

Learning about such news of the persecution of the minorities in the friendly country India, the American President Barrack Obama in his address at New Delhi Siri Fort Auditorium on 27th January 2015 spoke about it. There were news reports about Obama’s address by the world wide mass media. Obama said that every person has the right to be free from tyranny, fear or to practice on religion without any discrimination. And India will continue to succeed when India is not divided on the basis of religions… Unity in diversity is the strength which unites India and America. Both the countries have to be alert constantly against the attempt to divide on the basis of races. This is the thing which makes us world leaders. It is not the size of our economy or our armament. (Naya Marg, Feb. 1, 2015)

After enjoying the hospitality of Prime Minister Modi on the Republic Day 2015 Obama returned to America and once again referring to the religious intolerance in India and the persecutions against Christians and Muslims. Obama said that Gandhiji would have been shocked about the attacks against the minorities. The whole world reacted to Obama’s two comments within 9 days. The echoes of his comments were heard everywhere. Shocked by the comments of Obama the Prime Minister finally broke his silence. He publically spoke on February 27 in English at New Delhi in a meeting of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India that his government will not tolerate any kind of religious violence. Strong actions will be taken against such violence. According to newspaper reports Modi also said, “My government will give equal respect to all religions. Respect for all religions should be the DNA of every citizen. Let us hope that the words of Modi will be headed by the Sangh Parivar. For, the taste of putting is proved only by eating it.

Some Sangh Parivar people reacted saying that Obama, instead of interfering in the internal matter of India, should pay attention to the intolerance between the White and the Black people in his own country. Our politicians’ words and their actions are different like the elephant’s teeth, which are different for showing and eating. In Obama’s America there are no distinctions in the name of religions and races. There is not only the white and black people but also the citizens migrated from different countries also enjoy equal rights and respect without any distinction. Of course, there by way of exception crimes are committed against equal opportunity and rights.

An English periodical by name ‘The Asian Era’ is published from America. My article entitled Challenges to Journalism in Digitalized World appeared in the periodical in its October-November 2013 issue. The editor Ajay Ghosh sends me its copies by e-mail. I am impressed the achievements of people in USA who are migrated from India and other Asian countries.

Some people here call Sonia Gandhi ‘The daughter of Italy’ because she has married Rajiv Gandhi and has become his wife and a citizen of India. Such people will not be able to understand how Indian-origin Richard Rahul Verma has become the new ambassador of USA to India! Then, two original Indians Boby Jindal and Nicky Hailey become the governors of Louisiana and South Carolina respectively! I believe that there three Indians who have been born and brought up in Hindu religion and culture must have become impressed by the Christians of America and with deep faith in Jesus Christ became Christians there. But the Americans have accepted them as one of them without any discrimination of colour or race.

Like Boby Jindal and Richard Rahul Verma, there are many Indian-origin, the so called upper caste Hindus, who have converted to Christianity and live happily in USA. As they have embraced American culture and Christian Religion as their own and so also the Americans have not only accepted them as their own citizens without any discrimination but have also voted them to high politically powerful posts! Can you imagine such things happening in India?

In this context we may note that in a public advertisement on the Republic Day 2015 put out by Modi Government two significant words Secularism and Socialism have been omitted from the Preamble! When such important words of Secularism and Socialism of Indian Constitution are taken out in official Government advertisement it is but natural many Indian citizens feel worried and threatened!

It is true that these two words are not there in the very original text of the Constitution. But the ideas of Secularism and Socialism are there in the whole Constitution. Still those two words are officially included in the Constitution later. Thus articulating the two words Secularism and Socialism our commitment to them is publically declared in the Constitution. It is also showing ‘red-light’ to those forces who challenge the enshrined ideas and values of the Constitution. Everyone knows that the different religions, variety of cultures and the protection of the rights of the minorities in India are not acceptable to Sangh Parivar. So against these ideas and values the Sangh parivar wants to make India a ‘Hindu Rashtra’! And the Sangh parivar is working very hard at it!

Now those who want to make India a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ have tried to omit the two significant words of Secularism and Socialism. But there were all India protest against such omission and Government understood its blunder and crime. So Minister Arun Jetley of Modi Government has assured the protesting people that the Preamble of the Constitution will be used with those two significant words of Secularism and Socialism. All the same the citizens need to be ever watchful to protect such noble ideas and values of the Constitution. The English saying goes to say, “The price of freedom is the eternal vigilance”. #

K V DOMINIC AS A HUMANE POET

  1. V. Dominic is born and brought up in a traditional Christian family. Many of his poems do reflect Jesus’ values and Gospel messages. The qualities of the Kingdom of God, preached by Jesus, are expressed in many of Dominic’s poems. Hence Dominic may be identified as a Christian Poet. But as Dr Ramesh Chadra Mukhopadhyaya writes in the FOREWORD to the 6th collection of Dominic’s poems entitled ‘Cataracts of Compassion’, “He has not composed hymns in praise of God or in praise of love. He has not ventured in hymnal rapture or triumphal chant”. So I prefer to call Dominic a humanist poet.

All the same, here we shall look at Dominic’s poems both from humanistic and Christian perspectives. Besides, I believe that what is genuinely humanist is very much Christian and vice versa.  As a prolific writer Dominic has published six anthologies of poems. They are 1) Winged Reason, 2) Write Son, Write, 3) Multicultural Symphony, 4) Contemporary Concerns and Beyond, 5) K V Dominic: Essential Readings and Study Guide and 6) Cataracts of Compassion.  

As Dominic has said, he started late at the age of 48 years to write poems. But his poems reveal that his past life was a sort of preparation for his writing poems and for his writing career. Jesus had about 30 years of his hidden life behind him when he started his public ministry as an itinerant preacher. Similarly I believe that Dominic as a student of English literature and later as a learned professor and scholar has spent much time in studying, reflecting, observing and reasoning about his own experiences and about the life around him. So we see that his values of life around him and his poetical sensitivities were formed over long years of his past life as well as the current happenings.

Jesus began his public mission telling the people, his fellow Jews, that “The Kingdom of God is near “(Mark 1: 15). Revealing his Mission Jesus quoted from the book of Prophet Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has chosen me to bring

good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives

and recovery of the sight to the blind’

to set free the oppressed

and announce that the time has come

when the Lord will save his people” (Luke 4: 18-19).

 

We know that Jesus first lived as the son of a carpenter and then as a carpenter  in Nazareth village. Then he started his three-year long public life telling people that God is our Father and that he loves and cares for all his children. His life and message of good news were expressed in both in words and in concrete actions.

Jesus gave the sum and substance of his life and message in two commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like it: “Love your neighbour as you love yourself.” (Mathew 22: 37-39).

Evangelist Mathew has summarized Jesus’ life and mission saying, “Jesus went all over Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, preaching the Good News about the Kingdom, and healing people who had all kinds of disease and sicknesses” (Mathew 4: 23). Jesus’ life and message cover anything and everything on earth. Similarly going through the anthologies of Dominic we see that Dominic’s poems cover a wide variety of topics and subjects. His poetic sensibilities embrace both the animate and inanimate world. But his poems mostly revolve around human beings and their concerns.

In the PREFACE of his first collection of poems Dominic has acknowledged that, “The major theme of my poetry is the eternal relationship between Man, Nature and God. In the same PREFACE he further says that his views of life are shaped by “Christ, Vivekanand, Marx, Darwin, Shree Narayana,  Said, Fanon, Gandhi, Nehru, Mother Teresa, Baba Amte, Salim Ali, Steve Irwin”. We know that most of these eminent personalities are greatly influenced by the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. And as the French would say, Christ has been a Humanist par excellence.

As Christian and humanistic poet Dominic says that he feels responsible to his own conscience as well as to all human and non-human beings. This is clearly seen in all the six anthologies of Dominic. For instance, his love for fellow human beings is revealed in the first two obituary poems entitled ‘In Memoriam: George Joson’ and ‘Long Live E. K. Nayanar’.

The two poems respectively proclaim the poets’ love and admiration for his neighbour Joson and for the thrice (Communist) Chief Minister of Kerala, E. K. Nayanar. In the first obituary Dominic feels terribly at the death of his friend and yet with Christian faith bows to the inevitability of death:

“Your absence, everywhere is haunting

we find it hard

to console and reconcile

with the inevitable!

We are all

Bound by His will

to be here

or to be away.”

In a similar vein the poet expresses his love and appreciation for the dearest CM Nayanar:

                “You were a true Communist;

                a comrade to the core of your being,

                a rare species,

compassion and love

an epitome of Socialism.

Yet did give due respect and valued

those even who differed with you.”

 

Dominic is deadly against terrorism and war as they are against love and concern. When President Bush sent USA army to Iraq, thousands died in the war in that country. The poet’s imagination and sense of justice soar high in the poem ‘A Blissful Voyage’ in ‘Winged Reason’:

“I wish I had the claws of a vulture

to fetch the skeletons from Iraq

and build a bone-palace

to imprison Bush in it.”

 

Dominic has many poems expressing his Christian faith and Jesus’ Kingdom values of love and service, justice and equality, compassion and kindness. The poem entitled ‘For the Glory of God’ in his anthology ‘Write Son, Write’ is a beautiful example of love and service. The poem based on the true story of two women: An old abandoned woman Chellamma Antharjanam and a Muslim woman Resiya Beebi with her husband and 4 kids.

Resiya sees the old woman on a railway track waiting for a few minutes to end her life under a speeding train. At the nick of time Resiya drags the elderly woman and takes her home. Chellamma being a vegetarian Brahmin Resiya takes her to an old age home and cares for her there. Then, respecting the old woman’s wish to die in her own land, Resiya buys a small plot of land and builds a hut for Chellamma and provides provisions for her regularly. Let me quote from the poem:

“Resiya spends for the food

which Chellamma cooks and eats.

Ten long years have passed

since heaven thus exhibits here

an exquisite model of

communal harmony.”

Here we can recognize in the Muslim woman Resiya the personification of genuine Christian (and humanistic) values of love and service. May her tribe increase.

 

The poem ‘Sister Mercy’ in the same Anthology is a beautiful example of living kingdom values of justice and equality. Dominic portrays the life of Dayabai alias Sr Mercy dedicated to the values of equality and justice.

                “Devoted life for the tribal;

                a lone fighter for their rights;

                fought against slavery;

                fought against girls’ trade.

                Hunted by the police;

torture in barracks;

took LLB for self pleading.

 “Dayabai shows by life

that path of Karma is

nobler than other paths;

serving God in human form

is more rewarding than

serving Him in the abstract terms.”

 

While fighting for justice and equality in the homes and in the society Dayabai’s own devoted life as a social activist is a lived example of compassion and kindness. I am happy to see that Dayabai’s service to humanity has been acknowledge and appreciated. So the poet says:

“Awards and honours

Embraced her.”

 

A characteristic virtue of Jesus is his compassion for the poor and the suffering people.  This virtue of compassion is present and is eloquently expressed  in many poems by Dominic. His compassion and kindness is not limited to fellow human beings; but his compassion embraces both the animate and inanimate world of the entire creation.

 

Dominic’s compassion and kindness finds poetical expression not only about the poor and the suffering people in India but also his lyrics of compassion go beyond India to wherever there are injustice, hunger, famine and calamities of war. For instance, the poem ‘Hunger’s Call’ in ‘Write Son, Write’ portrays  the poet’s compassion for the suffering and famished people of Zimbabwe;

                “A startling news with

                photos from Zimbabwe.

                 Carcass of a wild elephant

                consumed in ninety minutes!

                Not by countless vultures

                but by avid, famished

                men and women and children.

                Even the Skelton was axed

                To support sinking life with soup.”

 

Dominic’s compassionate heart grieves even thinking of the future calamities. While the President, Defense Minister, High Officials and other VIPs proudly watch the demonstrations and rejoice in  the ‘Fire Power’ of the Indian Air Force with great admiration at Pokhran, the poet looks ahead and foresees the tragic consequences:

But for me a horrible sight.

The dropping of each missile,

an explosion in my heart.

My mind can’t conciliate

though only a parade.

These aircrafts have been built,

these missiles have been made

not for just a display.

One day or the other

my sisters and brothers

in Pakistan and China

will be burnt with missiles.”

 

We can also see the Dominic’s compassion and sympathetic sensibilities expressed at the end of the same poem praying for the rulers for love and concern for the famished dying millions of poor people:

“God, kindle love

in the minds of all rulers.

Had they spent those billions

to feed millions’ hungry mouths,

could save several millions

dying famish year after year.”

 

The Christian vision of life embraces anything and everything in the universe because the Christians believe that God created everything in love. Many people do not understand it. So they like a frog in a well say, for instance, that the Pope who is the Spiritual head of the Catholic Church should limit himself to religious matters and not speak about ‘worldly’ matters. But Pope Francis’ words and deeds go much beyond the Christian and religious matters. The whole world  welcomes his messages in life and words!

Often Pope Francis’ leadership and messages are specifically addressed to all the people of good will. Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter “Laudato Si’” on caring for our mother earth is a telling example. All people of good will have welcomed it as a comprehensive and timely document on environmental problems facing the earth. The boundaries of religions, races and cultures have not come on the way of people studying and appreciating “Laudato Si’” as a landmark document concerning all people.

 

We can see this Christian world vision in all the six anthologies of K.V. Dominic. There are no topics or subjects which are ‘untouchable’ or foreign to Dominic. As a rationalist Christian he has not refrained even from criticizing fellow Christians and Church authorities. He is fearless in expressing his personal views, which others may not agree with him. In the PREFACE of his first anthology ‘Winged Reason’ he says, “As a poet, I am responsible to my own conscience and I want to convey an emotion or a message often through social criticism.”

 

Let me conclude this essay with final two quotes from Dominic. The first quote from his poem ‘A Blissful Voyage’ in ‘Winged Reason’ expresses Dominic’s advocacy of humanism:

“If I could fly like an angel,

would plead all prophets

to inspire and instill humanism

in millions’ communal minds.”

 

The second quotation from his poem ‘Lal Salaam to Labour’ is also taken from ‘Winged Reason’. The poem speaks about the Christian virtue of justice in remunerating fair wages to labourers:

“Let us not be unjust

when for we can’t do what they do.

Give them at least their due;

the more we give, the more we get;

Put charity in humanity

A spiritual bliss that never dies.”

 

  1. V. Dominic’s verses like these prove what Voltaire said: “One merit of poetry few persons will deny; it says more and in few words”.

 

Works Cited:

Dominic, K. V.  Winged Reason, Delhi: Authorspress, 2010.

—————– . Write Son, Write, Delhi: GNOSIS, 2011.

Good News Bible, Bible Societies, Harper Collins, 1976.

Mukhopadhyaya, Ramesh Chandra. Foreward. Cataracts of Compassion. By K V Dominic, Authorspress, 2017, pp.7-8.

Paul, Fr Varghese, SJ. What Does Jesus Means to You and Me? Catholic Information Service Society, Ahmedabad, 2013

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Changed on: 01-10-2019

Next Change: 16-10-2019

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2019

 

GITANJALI SINGS CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY

I have read and reread Rabindranath’s ‘Gitanjali’ both in English and Gujarati. Every time I am deeply impressed by Tagore’s, what I may call, Christian Spirituality expressed in his poems. That spirituality, apart from the literary quality, may be one reason for me to consider Gitanjali as one of my most favourite books.

Whenever I read Gitanjali, I ask myself a question: From where does come Christian Spirituality in Rabindranath’s poems? I thought first that Rabindranath may have gotten Christian Spirituality through his ascetic father Devendranath, who was a leader of Brahmo Samaj, which was highly influenced by Jesus Christ’s message and Christian religion.

We cannot deny the influence of his father Devendranath and of Brahmo Samaj on Rabindranath’s life and thinking. But I see another source, a sure fountain of influence, for Rabindranath’s Christian Spirituality.

When Rabindranath was a 14-year-old-teenager, two things happened which profoundly influence his life and vision. He received basic education at home under his father’s guidance. Then, at an impressionable age he was admitted to St. Xavier;s School, Kolkata for formal schooling. The second thing which deeply affected the teenager is his mother’s death in the same year in 1875.

We can imagine a teenager’s plight and the effect on his tender mind at the death of his mother. I imagine that his mother’s death profoundly affected him and he found solace and sympathy in his school teachers, especially the Jesuit fathers, with their counseling and love for him. In the counseling the Christian vision and the spirituality of death and life after death must have helped Rabindranath to face the terrible tragedy of his mother’s death. Rabindranath might have been impressed by Christ’s message that life does not end in death but is transformed for a superior life with God.

I have not yet fully read the autobiography ‘Jeevansmruti’ of Rabindranath. But from what I have read in Jeevansmruti I know St. Xavier’s School left a lasting impression on the Rabindranath.

The orderly teaching and disciplined life of St. Xavier’s School might not have been to the liking of Rabindranath that he left the school after a short while. Since he has done basic education at home he might have been uncomfortable with formal schooling.

Rabindranath has acknowledged in his autobiography that a Spanish Jesuit missionary, Fr. Alfonso de Penaranda, had the greatest impact on young Tagore. He has acknowledged this saying “I cannot speak for other boys, but I felt in him the presence of a great soul, and even today the recollection of it seems to give me a passport to enter into silent seclusion of the temple of God.”

In his autobiography, written at his age of 50 and 36 years after leaving St. Xavier’s School Rabindranath wrote, “a sacred memory of St. Xavier’s remain unfaded in my mind – the memory of its teachers.”

On my visit some years back I have seen that St. Xavier’s College as well as St. Xavier’s School are on one campus on Park Street at Kolkata. The Principal of St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata, Fr. Felix Raj in a press note has said, “As a mark of respect to Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, an alumnus, St. Xavier’s College will start a Honour’s course in Bangla from July 2012.”

Recalling the past, Fr. Felix Raj added, “In 1927, when Tagore was 66, he agreed to a request to serve as patron and vice-president of the St. Xavier’s Alumni Association. He also presented to St. Xavier’s College a white marble bust of Jesus Christ which is still preserved in the Principal’s office.” In this precious gift we can see Tagore’s love for Jesus Christ and his appreciation for his Alma Mater.

At Ahmedabad, friends and acquaintances come to me for recommendation to admit their son or daughter in St. Xavier’s School or St. Xavier’s College. Unfailingly I ask one question to all of them, “Why do you want to admit your child to St. Xavier’s?” Among many varied reasons two common reasons stand out; first, children get regular and orderly teaching in Christian schools; second, children usually get the disciplined and all round training only in Christian schools.

At Ahmedabad, Kolkata or elsewhere the good Christian schools provides regular teaching. Their education and formation of children are based on the eternal values like love and service as proclaimed by Jesus Christ. So the Christian schools provide classes on religion and moral science even if such subjects are not required academically. Then, there are priests as spiritual directors and counselors to guide and counsel students in their problems and difficulties.

I am sure that young Rabindranath must have availed himself the facilities of spiritual guides and student counseling during his short schooling at St. Xavier’s, Kolkata. Topics like God, love of God, spiritual life, death, life after death, nature, beauty of creation, etc. are beautifully expressed in his poems and in them we can see the influence of Jesus Christ and Christian religion on Tagore.

In Indian culture and devotion God is often propitiated usually through routine sacrifices and offerings. But in Christian religion God’s unconditional love is preached for all without any deserving merit of a person. Then, there is the Christian understanding of God coming in search of the lost men and women. These types of ideas and values are found in Rabindranath’s poems. His song number 152 in Gitanjali resonate the idea of God coming in search of his people :

If I call not thee in my prayers,

If I keep not thee in my heart,

Thy love for me

Still waits for my love.

The readiness to welcome death as God’s will and acceptance of death as the crown of life are typical Christian concepts. These values are very much in Tagore’s poems. In song number 116 of ‘Gitanjali’ we read,

“O thou the last fulfillment of life, death,

my death,

Come and whisper to me!

Day after day

have I kept watch for thee;

for thee, have I borne the joys and pangs of life.”

Rabindranath is not a Christian in the conventional sense; but I have no difficulty to accept him as a disciple of Jesus Christ. The vision and the values in his poems proclaim him hundred per cent a Christian. The Christian west very much influenced by the values and ideals of Jesus Christ readily welcomed Rabindranath’s poems of Gitanjali. The English poets gave him name and fame.

The English poet Yeats himself selected 103 poems from the manuscript of Tagore’s translation of his own poems and published Gitanjali in English with Yeats own preface. Many editions were published in a short time as they acclaimed by the English poetry lovers. Then, a fellow of Royal Society of Literature, England, Thomas Sturge Moore, recommended the name of Tagore for the Nobel Prize for literature. Tagore was awarded the Nobel Prize on 13 November 1913.

The Principal of St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata in his press note wrote: “It is believed that Tagore’s faith in God, his understanding and relation to God as Father and his deep respect for Jesus Christ were all influenced by what he imbibed at St. Xavier’s.”

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Changed on: 16-09-2019

Next Change: 01-10-2019

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2019

 

CHALLENGES OF GLOBALIZED WORLD TO JOURNALISTS

INTRODUCTION

Globalization and digitalization are two realities of our times. They pose tremendous challenges to all people especially the men and women in the mass media. In this context our World Congress need to answer two fundamental questions. First, what are our responsibilities as Christian professionals in the media? Second, how our International Catholic Organization of the Media (ICOM) can help its members to carry out these responsibilities?

Before we come to answer these questions let us examine the two realities of globalization and digitalization. We also need to study the challenges posted by these two realities. Globalization and digitalization of the whole world has made people dependable on one another. All areas our life and work are affected by these two realities.

TWO REALITIES: GLOBALIZATION AND DIGITALIZATION

We need to question the globalization of capitalism, ownership patterns and consumerism in the light of human (individual & family) needs and human rights. I believe that it is a crime against humanity amassing wealth while a large part of humanity goes hungry and deprived of basic needs of food, clothing and shelter.

Yet in our globalized and digitalized world we see precisely the concentration of wealth in a few hands and the mass media applauding it! This is 100% true of India where I come from.

For instance, India has not only the largest number of people living Below Poverty Line (BPL) but India has also, I think, the most number of millionaires including 61 billionaires in the Asian continent! The richest people in India like the Ambanis, Birlas, Hindujas, Azim Premjis are on par with the richest people in Europe and America.  But there is a notable difference between the richest people in India and abroad. Let us compare the richest person in India – the Chief of Reliance Industries, Mukesh Ambani and one of the richest person in USA – the owner of world’s largest private jet company, Warren Buffett.

A MONSTROUS EXAMPLE – ANTILIA

How and where does Ambani spend his fortune? Does he spend a substantial sum of his net income in alleviating the suffering of the poor by contributing to their basic needs like food, clothes and shelter? No! His wealth is indeed filthy as he spends it for the things like buying a Boeing plane as a birthday gift to his wife Nita and building the costliest residential mansion, Antilia which was designed by Perkins and Will of USA and constructed by Leighton Holdings of Australia!

The monstrous Antilia mansion has 27 floors with such high ceilings that with standard-high ceilings, more than 50 floors can be built within Antilia height! Among other things, I have read, that Antilia has two helipads and a swimming pool and the like! Today the market value for the obnoxious structure is anywhere between $1-2 billion! Antilia has 600 people employed to serve the Ambani family of five: Mukesh, wife, mother and their two children!

This is a reality and not a fictional story in a country with the most number of poor in the world! The truth is in India millions go hungry and go to bed, sorry, they have no bed, but they sleep on the lap of mother earth. There are many Ambanis in India who spent money on their own luxurious living while millions are starving in India! I have read that the India-born businessman in England Laxmi Mittal has the costliest residence in that country!

AN IDEAL EXAMPLE : WARREN BUFFETT

In our globalized and digitalized world let us go to the opposite side of the globe, USA. Like Mukesh Ambani in India, the richest American is Warren Buffett, the owner of more than three score companies. He has been ‘numero uno’ for several years the Forbes’ list of richest person in the world. Buffet lives with his family in a single story building with three bed rooms, which he bought some 50 years back! A journalist-friend, A J Philip has noted that Buffett’s house is hidden by surrounding trees without any fence or walls. Buffett drives his own car. He hardly uses private jet travels even though he owns the biggest private Jet Company.

When the globalized world took note of the infamous Antilia on one side, it took note also on the other side Buffett’s generous donation of $31 billion to charity by sharing his wealth with those in dire needs like the marginalized people, the refugees, victims of wars and conflicts. When Buffet visited India last year he called the rich people in India to share their wealth with the poor.

It may be by way of exception, but there are a few people who may not be rich like Ambanis and Buffetts but they do have care and concern for the poor and the needy. My senior bachelor friend and a well known Gujarati poet, Niranjan Bhagat of my city, Ahmedabad has recently has transferred the ownership of his luxury flat in a posh Ashram Road area not to any of his relatives but to his servant of umpteen years, Rajesh and his family. We in India has also the example of Narayana Murthy of Infosys fame who has spent a substantial sum of his income in welfare programs of the needy people.

When a good many rich people in India learn to care and share their wealth with the BPL people and contribute to the basic need of education and health-care, as shown by Buffett, Murthy and Bhagat, then, and only then, India can get rid of the scourge of poverty. But will that happen in our globalized world where money is often pursued as the only goal of one’s life!

As the followers of one who preached liberation to the poor how do we contribute to the liberation of the people deprived of the basic necessities of life? As Christian media men and women what are our responsibilities? How do we handle the present situation of capitalism, consumerism on one side and dire poverty and hunger of millions of people on the other side?

POPE FRANCIS SHOWS THE WAY

When the Church made no news Pope John XXIII opened the windows to the world in the 1960s. From the times of John Paul II, the Church has become one of the major sources of news stories. Thanks to globalization and digitalization the unusual step of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of the new Pope, Pope Francis was covered by the local, regional, national, international press and other mass media as never before.

Pope Francis in a speech to ambassadors at Vatican in May 2013 said, “Our human family is presently experiencing something of a turning point in its own history, if we consider the advances made in various areas. We can only praise the positive achievements which contribute to the authentic welfare of mankind, in fields such as those of health, education and communication.”

“At the same time,” Pope Francis continued, “we must also acknowledge that the majority of the men and women of our times continue to live daily in situations of insecurity, with dire consequences. Certain pathologies are increasing, with their psychological consequences; fear and deportation grip the hearts of many people, even in the so called rich counties; the joy of life is diminishing; indecency and violence are on the rise; poverty is becoming more and more evident.”

In this speech to Ambassadors of Kyrgyzstan, Antigua and Barbuda, Lumenbourg and Botswana Pope Francis has hit the nail on the head in analyzing the financial crisis of globalization in our digitalized world.

In our globalized world on the one side communism, socialism, fascism and a host of ‘isms’ have failed. On the other side, capitalism, monopolism and ‘might is right’ism have prevailed. They rule the world.

Science and technology have made tremendous progresses which were unimaginable a few decades back. But today they are realities. Men can fly like birds reaching even to other heavenly bodies. The whole earth and what is underneath the earth have been explored and exploited. We can swim like fish in the ocean. We have explored the depth of the seas and exploited the wealth of the waters. But the sad fact is that we have not reached out to our neighbours – the poor, the needy, the displaced, the refugees, in short the ‘anabim’ (the poor people of God) in the world.

AN ATTROCIOUS EXAMPLE

I can give an example of the Gujarat state where I come from. The state government and people have terribly failed the Tribals, the Dalits, the minorities and the small farmers. Gujarat State in North-Western India is known in the whole world for the genocide of Muslims under the Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) Government in 2002.

Now Modi, since then a winner of three consecutive elections in Gujarat, and to a certain extend, his BJP party are trying their level best for Modi to become the Prime Minister of India by winning the 2014 general election. Will he succeed?

Modi is making an all out effort leaving no stone unturned to capture the Prime Minister’s chair projecting himself as a man of development and Gujarat as a model of a developed state! Modi does not want to compare the development of Gujarat to any other Indian state but with China! What is the ground reality in the state of Gujarat?

Modi does not want the development of Gujarat compared to any to other Indian states because in many criteria of Human Development Gujarat is far behind other states! According to India Human Development Report 2011, Planning Commission of India, Gujarat lags behind many other Indian states in development!

Gujarat is on the 18th position in the percentage in Human Development Index (HDI) of 2007-08 out of 28 Indian states! With 2.6 percentage of women suffering from chronic anemia Gujarat ranks 26th position! The child mortality rate according to 2009 position Gujarat is almost at the bottom, at 24th position! Basic human development index of health, primary education and nutritious food Gujarat model of development is deplorable and intolerable. If we leave out the Tribal area and the interior village areas, then Gujarat has good roads and excellent transport services. But a conscientious person cannot forget the left out areas which are important like the rest as they have considerable human population even though they are voiceless and powerless.

CM MODI THROUGH THE EYES OF EMINENT PEOPLE

Most of Modi claims for development is hollow that an IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officer told me simply,

“Modi plus advertisements is Hero

Modi minus advertisements is Zero!”

This is proved by the planning commission’s latest report which says, as quoted by the Editor Mr. Indukumar Jani in ‘Naya Marg’ fortnightly of August 1, 2013 Gujarat regarding poverty is on the 18th position (of 28 states) in India. That means 16.63% of the state population – 1.02 crores people – live Below Poverty Line (BPL)! Yet Modi’s hugely paid advertisements in India and abroad project Gujarat at the top of the developed world! This is biggest lie about Gujarat.

Writing about “Narendra Modi’s Gujarat Model” in ‘Naya Marg’ of 1 August 2013, a Social Activist and a famous advocate Mr. Girish Patel says, “Instead of being first among equals the Chief Minister modified Gujarat to make it one-man government. Modi has become more powerful than the American President who has to face US Congress whereas Modi has demolished his opponents in his own party and the opposition.”

No wonder even Novel Laureate Amartya Sen has voiced his concern against Modi and Gujarat model of development.

Political observers guess that, Modi is in a hurry to become the PM of India because only in that way he can escape from the crimes and cases which are pursuing him after 2002 genocide of the Muslims in Gujarat. Well known Activists like Tista Setalwad say the genocide was encouraged and supported by Modi and his government machinery as revealed by Haren Pandya, a former Home Minister in BJP Government. He was subsequently murdered!

Modi is just one example, which goes to prove the old English adage: “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Under Modi regime there have been so many encounter killings which have been published as alert corps’s timely action against Muslim terrorists, who were out to kill Modi, the defender and protector of ‘Hinduism’. But many of such encounter cases have been proved, and in some cases, Modi government has already acknowledged they fake encounters. Those who fight the cases claim that they were preplanned killing of innocent people!

No encounter killings have taken place after the kingpins of fake encounters and other IPS (Indian Police Service) officials and police personnel involved in a few encounter cases have been put behind bars! The charge sheets some filed against the accused fake encounter cases include a Minister in Modi Government shows one thing clearly. The accused have used or rather misused the latest gadgets and techniques of information technology in our age of globalization and digitalization.

PERSECUTION OF MINORITIES

Gujarat is said to be ‘an experiment’ or ‘a laboratory’ of politicized Hinduism. Political power and money power are used to trash the minorities especially the Christians (who were targeted and their churches and other institutions were burnt down or otherwise destroyed in Dangs district by Sangh Parivar affiliates in 1998-’99. In Kandhmal district in Orissa in 2007 and 2008 and in Karnataka state in 2008 and 2009) and the Muslims (the victims of genocide in 2002) and the powerless and voiceless people like Dalits.

The Christians and their institutions were attacked. More than 100 Christians were murdered for their faith and several 100 Churches and other Christian Institutions and houses were burned down.

Similar kind of persecutions perhaps in a lesser degree have been attempted in some other Indian states by Sangh Parivar and in other Asian countries by autocratic rulers, where political power and money power are used not for the welfare of the people and of the country but to suppress the minorities and amass wealth and use them for selfish purposes through fair and foul means.

TWO BASIC QUESTIONS

This reality of our globalized and digitalized world brings us back to our basic, fundamental questions:

– First, what are our responsibilities as Christian professionals in the media?

– Second, how our International Christian Organization of the Media (ICOM) can help its members to carry out these responsibilities?

 

SEVEN PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS FOR US

In answering the two vital questions I humbly submit here seven practical suggestions for the consideration this World Congress. They are,

  1. Develop a Sense of Fraternal Responsibility
  2. Highlight development issues not only in the media but also in other fora
  3. Highlight the flight of the poor, the marginalized and the aboriginals
  4. Be defenders and protectors of the voiceless in society and country
  5. Fight the evil of corruption in the Church or in our family, or politics
  6. Protect the environment advocating clean water, pure air and renewable energy
  7. Be an agent of peace and harmony

Let us consider these seven points briefly.

 

1) Develop a Sense of Fraternal Responsibility

They say that in our globalized and digitalized world the information technology has made us the citizens of a globalized village. It means that through technology, through the touch of a button, we can contact people or display on screens things happening anywhere in the world. And yet we have become strangers to our neighbours! We have not learnt to relate to our neighbours.

We assume an attitude of Cain “Am I supposed to take care of my brother?” (Gen. 4, 9). Cain asked the rhetorical question to hide his monstrous crime of deceit and murder of his brother, Abel. The question also shows the callous indifference of Cain against his brother Abel!

From this attitude of callousness and neglect, we need to develop our sense of responsibility. Jesus told us the parable of Good Samaritan so that in our concrete situation (Lk. 10, 25-37) we do not behave like the priest and the Levite in the parable but like the Samaritan, who nursed and cared for the victim found abandoned on the roadside. Anyone in need is our neighbour. We need to take care of him/her to the extent possible for us. We in India say, vasudhaiva kutumbkam meaning the whole world is my family.

On July 8, 2013 Pope Francis visiting the tiny island of Lampedusa known for the immigrants from North Africa, gave the world – each one of us – a powerful message. After referring to the parable of Good Samaritan, he said, I quote, “We look upon the brother half dead by roadside, perhaps we think ‘poor guy’, and we continue on our way, its none of our business and we feel fine with this. We feel at peace with this, we feel fine! The culture of well being, that makes us think of ourselves, that makes us insensitive to the cries of others, that makes us live in soap bubbles, that are beautiful but are nothing, are illusions of futility, of the transient, that brings indifference to others, that brings even the globalization of indifference. We are accustomed to the suffering of others, it does not concern us, it’s none of our business”.

It is an awaken call from Pope Francis inviting us to develop our sense of responsibility and be the care-giver to our neighbours.

 

2) Highlight Developmental Issues 

As writers and journalists working in mass media we can be trend setters. Today we see that a child born to a film star or to a royal couple is front page news or prime-time news. Instead of filling the page with such news and crime reports we need to find out and file news and write about developmental issues especially where the poor are cared for and poverty-alleviating programs are taking place.

Develop a nose for news about the progress of the aboriginals, tribals and the depressed class of people (Dalits) and for their problems and difficulties. And voice these concerns in the media and in our lives. Give wide publicity to the success stories of the people as examples and inspiration for others especially in their own communities.

As media personnel we are called to look at the concrete situations of developing regions or country. Then see how the situation can be modified and improved. Study the situations of poverty and after due research suggest ways and means to develop leading to a decent standard of living.

3) Highlight the flight of the Poor

In the Papal Election Conclave when Cardinal George Bergoglio got the highest number of votes and before he took a new name as Pope one of the Cardinal in congratulatory embrace told him in his ear “Don’t forget the poor’. Pope Francis recalled the incident later as an inspiration to choose the name of Francis after the patron saint of the poor, St. Francis Assisi. This way Pope Francis has given us and the entire world to be not only aware of the flight of the poor but also do whatever possible for us to alleviate the suffering of the poor.

We know that Jesus Christ has totally identified himself with the poor. In the parable of the last judgement we are judged not on the basis of our wealth, achievements and possessions but on to basis of what we have done for the poor, the neglected, the prisoner and the like. Jesus says, “I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did it for me!” (Mt 25, 40)

A Hindu gentleman once quoting the Bible asked me, “Fr. Varghese, Jesus tells us, ‘Store up riches for yourselves in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy and robbers cannot break in and steel’ (Mt. 6, 20). We Christians know that loving and caring for the poor is precisely storing up wealth in heaven.”

 

4) Be Defenders & Protectors of the Voiceless

As journalists, writer and broadcaster we have a voice. We have the power and one or forum to express our opinions, our concerns, our ideas for a better world. But be aware, first of all, that the vast majority of the people do not have this power. They are voiceless. They are a neglected and ignored lot. There are no one to give voice to their grievances, their concerns and their ideas. Let us use our skills and talents to give voice to the voiceless people and let us be their defenders and protectors.

We see so much evil perpetuated against the voiceless people like the homeless poor, the orphans, displaced people the farm labourers unorganized daily wage-earners, the child labourers, the beggars on the street. For instance, in the name of development like building a dam the Tribals are evicted from their ancestor land and property without adequate compensation. Through the power of pen and the mass media let us do whatever we can to defend and protect all these voiceless people.

Here we may recall and hold dear to our hearts the UN Declaration of Human Rights 1948 which says “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

5)  Fight the Evil of Corruption

Someone has said that corruption is a world phenomenon!  We certainly know that corruption is wide spread. Unfortunately India and some Asian courtiers are steeped in corruption and find places at the bottom of most corrupt nations.

In my state Gujarat in the Northwest India usually nothing moves unless the hands of the officials are creased. The CM Modi has publically said referring to corruption that, “I don’t eat and I don’t allow others to eat”. But he is mortally afraid of many corruption cases catching up with him and his government. During the last 10 years of his governance he has not allowed a “Lokayukta” (a public authority to investigate cases of corruption in the government – An Ombudsman) to function in the state.

Against his delaying tactic of the appointment of a Lokayukta the State Governor Dr. Kamla Beniwal with the recommendation of the Chief Justice of Gujarat appointed Retired Justice R A Mehta as Lokayukta. But instead of officially inviting Justice Mehta and providing him office and necessary personnel to function, Modi fought tooth and nail against Mehta’s appointment!

His government spent Rs.45 Crores of people’s money in litigations going to all courts even to Supreme Court repeatedly with ‘Special Leave Petition’, ‘Review Petition’ and again ‘Curative Petition’! After all, these cases the Supreme Court gave the final verdict upholding the appointment of Mehta as Lokayukta proving the validity of the 45 year-old Lokayukta Law.

So Modi was forced to invite Justice Mehta to take up the post of Lokayukta. But Justice Mehta’s response put Modi on the bind. Modi has been floored. Declining Modi’s invitation Justice Mehta wrote: 

“I am averse to any controversy and try to keep away. The present controversy has denigrated the office of the Lokaykta and adversely affected its credibility. The appointment has lost all the grace and dignity. The objection alleging anti-government bias (though negatived by the courts), really hurts. Some think that if a person is not pro-government, he is necessarily anti-government. They cannot accept that there is a third category, neither pro nor anti, but independent and neutral. Their mind set is clear – their way or no other way…” (“The Times of India”, Ahmedabad edition, August 8, 2013)

Gujarat is just one example of wide spread corruption in India. However wide spread corruption is in the world, we cannot just deplore and leave at that. We need to fight corruption wherever it is found. Let us begin with ourselves. Let us begin fighting all sorts of corruption from our personal lives, from our families, work place, social circles and wherever we can. Remember that in our globalized and digitalized world we can reach far and wide through our writings and broadcasting.

6) Protection of our Environment

Perhaps the worst consequence of our progress in many areas is the destruction of our environment. The globalization and digitalization have made everything big and far reaching. Take, for instance, the production and use of various means of road transportation air travel. They pollute the air depriving us of clear air and cause many illness. Similarly many modern chemical factories not only cause air pollution but they also pollute ground water and destroy vegetation. Cutting trees and clearing forests also adversely affect air, water and soil.

We are aware of this critical condition of our mother earth and the environmental crisis, but not all! So we need to join hands through the mass media with those working to create environmental awareness and protection. They speak of Eco-education, Eco-conservation and Eco-spirituality. For instance, through Eco-education we need to create wide-spread awareness about the dangers of environmental pollution. We can enlighten our people the ways and means to fight them. We need to protect and conserve our natural environment.

How can we contribute concretely to environmental protection? We can harness solar energy and use biogas for our daily needs of cooking, heating and lighting and slowly reduce our dependence on oil and coal. We should learn to use sun-power instead of solely depending on electricity produced from depleting source of coal oil and water. We can plant trees instead of cutting them and clearing forests. We make organic manure from kitchen waste and use it for our garden. We can promote organic farming instead of chemical manures and factory-made pest control materials. Using the mass media we can and should promote and highlight the efforts of those who work for the protection of our environment.  

7) Be an Agent of Peace and Harmony

We, all without exemption, want peace and harmony in our lives. But the fact is that peace and harmony often elude us. Pope Paul VI once said, “If you want peace, work for justice”. Peace and harmony go together. Then, our question is how we can work for peace and harmony.

Pope Paul VI called for working for justice because peace and harmony is not possible without justice. Gujarat is an example of lack justice and consequently lack of peace and harmony. Gujarat witnessed pogrom against the Muslims in 2002. Thousands of Muslim men, women and children were mercilessly killed and millions of rupees worth of houses, business establishments and other properties of Muslims were burnt down or other wise destroyed. The survivors are still fighting cases for justice.

I as a Jesuit priest is called for to work for Justice with faith. As a flower needs sun-light to blossom, so Justice with faith is needed for peace and harmony to flourish in our midst. Let me say how I promote peace and harmony in my work as a writer and Director of Catholic Information Service Society (CISS). CISS is fully committing to promote peace and harmony among all people.  I conduct various correspondence courses on Jesus Christ and the Bible for interested people of different religions. I write articles in many different magazines and publish books on human and religious values with the aim of contributing to peace, harmony and justice. My target readership is all people of good will irrespective of their faith or no faith. For me a person in whatever situation is worthy of my love and respect.

Being in Gujarat, a communally very sensitive state, I am aware that there are a lot of ignorance, prejudices and misunderstandings among the people against those who are different from one’s own religion. So whenever I get an opportunity I tell people especially the youth to make friends from the people of other religions and enrich themselves with inter-religious friendship.

Most people not only in Gujarat but in the rest of North India believe that the Christians, especially the Missionaries, convert simple folk like the Tribals through allurements, deception, false incentives and even by force!  I am sure that those of us working with the people of other faiths face similar problems. Diffusing true knowledge of one’s religion as well as respecting others’ religions and appreciating and accepting whatever good in other religions will certainly contribute to peace and harmony.

Thanks to our globalized and digitalized world, as agents of peace and harmony, our little efforts through the mass media can reach far and wide. For instance, a sermon I preach in a Church may reach a few hundred people; but an article I write in a popular Gujarati magazine is read by thousands of people. I am happy to mention here that thousands of people visit my two web sites: www.vpaulsj.org & www.biblegujarat.org. And about all, we as agents of peace and harmony have the special blessings of Jesus Christ who said, “Happy are those who work for peace; God will call them his children” (Mt. 5, 9).

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Changed on: 01-09-2019

Next Change: 16-09-2019

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2019

ETHICS OF PEACE AMIDST ETHNIC AND RELIGIOUS CONFLICTS

  • LAND OF SCENIC BEAUTY

I bring you greetings from India. I am very happy to be in this beautiful country –with coconut palms, rubber estates, tea gardens and the scenic beauty of this Island unparalleled in the world. I have thoroughly enjoyed it from the sky as my plane glided on to the Colombo airstrip.

I am delighted to be here – the country of the greatest Sri Lankan Cricketer Muthiah Muralitharan who broke Courtney Walsh’s record haul of 519 Test Wickets at Harare in Zimbabwe and went on to become the highest wicket-taker in Tests with 709 wickets in his kitty in the Test against England in Kandy on December 3, 2007.

This is my 5th visit to this Democratic Socialist Republic Island. My first visit was in September 1980 to promote South Asian Religious News (SAR News) and train reporters in the field for the news service.

My second visit was in May 1987 to meet my fellow Jesuits, the members of the Society of Jesus in Sri Lanka especially those in the mass media. I was then the Secretary of JESCOM – Jesuits in Social Communication in South Asia.

I visited Sri Lanka a 3rd time in Feb. 1988 to attend a meeting of the print media persons in my capacity then as the President of South Asian Catholic Press (SACPA) and a UCIP Council Member.

My last visit was to participate in the UCIP Sri Lanka meet in December 2001 and also to explore the possibilities of direct evangelization through correspondence courses on Jesus Christ and the Bible.

I am most happy to be back for the fifth time here among such loving and very hospitable people that you Sri Lankans are.

  • ETHICS OF PEACE

Today I would like to share with you my reflections and thoughts about our topic “Ethics of Peace Amidst Ethnic and Religious Conflicts”.

Shakespeare says, “The web of our life is a mingled yarn, good and evil together”. We can also truly say that ethnic and religious conflicts are a reality in some countries like India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in our South Asian subcontinent. So it is appropriate that we reflect on the ethics of peace in this UCIP Refresher Programme.

There are religious conflicts among the Muslims between Shias and Sunnis in Pakistan and elsewhere. There are ethnic conflicts between the Muslims and Hindus as well as between Muslims and Christians in Pakistan. There are religious conflicts as well as ethnic clashes between Hindus and Muslim as well as Hindus and Christians in India.

  • ROOT OF VIOLENCE

The Father of India Mahatma Gandhi said that, the roots of violence are:

Wealth without work,

Pleasure without conscience,

Knowledge without character,

Commerce without morality,

Science without humanity,

Worship without sacrifice,

Politics without principles.”

  • CONCRETE REALITIES

To come to concrete realities, the communal conflicts between the politicized Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 as well as between Hindus and Christians in Orissa and Karnataka in 2008 are well-known in the whole world. Then, who can forget the over a decade long ethnic conflicts between the Singhalese people and the Tamils in Sri Lanka!

I need not elaborate on ethnic and religious conflicts as we all experience them in most parts of South Asia. Our challenge is to go to the root cause of these conflicts and reflect on how we as journalists and other mass media personnel can contribute towards establishing an ethics of peace.

  • WORK FOR PEACE

I think that it is Pope John Paul II who said that, “if you want peace work for peace”. How can we then work for establishing peace in our midst?

If we delve deep into the root causes of ethnic and religious conflicts, we will discover that genuine religions or ethnical differences are not the cause of these conflicts. There are certainly many different religions and innumerable ethnic groups or races in our South Asia. But the differences among the followers of different religions and races do not lead the people to conflict, to communal or ethnic clashes.

The followers of different religions and the members of different ethnic groups have lived side by side for centuries in India and elsewhere in South Asia. But the ethnic and religious conflicts in South Asia are a recent phenomenon – less than a century.

I believe that at the root of all so called religious and ethnic conflicts are some people’s thirst for power, greedy people’s hunger for money and unhappy people’s quest for name.

  • POGROM AGAINST MUSLIMS

Let us take the example of the pogrom against Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. Gujarat state has about a 14% Muslim population. Not many are employed in government or private sectors for two reasons. First, there is a strong caste-mentality against Muslims or strong anti-Muslim feelings in Gujarat and second, Muslims are educationally and socially backward and they keep to themselves.

Then, they are not welcome to live in flats and bungalows with people of other faiths. But the Muslims are hard-working and enterprising. So they find gainful self-employment like selling fruits and vegetable in push-carts in the streets and societies. There are also small merchants and business people running way-side hotels, restaurants and managing small shops, especially in the old city, selling all sorts of things.

Rich and poor alike flock to the Muslim shops and restaurants as the Muslims sell things at reasonable price without making exorbitant profits which are against the tenets of their religion – Islam. At the height of pogrom and curfew in Ahmedabad city in 2002 I heard two elderly gentlemen who joined me for a peaceful walk on the grounds of St. Xavier’s College, that “we cannot do without the Muslims in the (old) city as the merchants in our posh West area of the city fleece us with their exorbitant prices”.

Hence the perpetrators of the pogrom went after the big and small business establishments of the Muslims and they did succeed to a great extent to break the economic backbone of Muslims by burning down and otherwise destroying hundreds of shops, restaurants and other business establishments in Ahmedabad city and elsewhere in the state and also called on the Hindus to boycott Muslim shops and services!

  • THE GREATEST TRAGEDY

The greatest tragedy was that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government and the law enforcing authority – the police – either tacitly approved the doings of the rioters and arsonists by turning a blind eye to their nefarious deeds or by positively supporting these trouble makers first in the crimes and then by not registering proper cases or filing inadequate First nformation Reports (FIR) to help the criminals to get away, as many did later.

There was a hue and cry against the police and state government apathy so much so, that after several years, the Supreme Court appointed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to bring out the truth and give justice to the victims. As people have lost their faith in the state administration and judiciary a famous case, known as Best Bakery Case, was shifted from Gujarat to the neighbouring Maharashtra State and there in the trial, for the first time, the victims got justice and the criminals were punished.

The anti-Muslim pogrom had the desired effect in Gujarat as the Chief Minister Narendra Modi was hailed as a Messiah (Saviour) of the Hindus or rather the Hindutva votaries and his party had a massive win in the subsequent state elections.

Then, according to many people Modi became an autocrat with absolute powers. But absolute power corrupts absolutely. Modi appointed his cronies in all positions of power and influence and surrounded himself with sycophants like IGP Vanzara who now cools his heels in Sabarmati Central Prison for murdering people in cold blood in several so called encounter-killings.

  • ENCOUNTER KILLING

The predecessor of Vanzara IGP, Mr. Sreedharan, IGP was superseded and dismissed by the Modi Government. But an upright officer IGP Sreedharan went to court and got himself reinstated with full honours at the orders of the Supreme Court. Mr. Shreedharan stated in a public meeting that there was no police encounter killings before or after IGP Vanjara term of office.

According to the Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) “between October 2002 and April 2006 there have been at least 21 fake encounters in Gujarat”. The police-encounter killings have done away with about three dozen victims, mostly defenseless Muslims as criminals and terrorists (so called by them) “who were out to kill the Chief Minister, Narendra Modi!”.

Modi’s party BJP proclaimed Gujarat as a laboratory of Hindutva (politicized Hinduism) and threatened the minorities like the Christians and the Muslims with a repeat of the Gujarat experiment in states like Orissa and M.P. in India.

In a way, the organized attack on Christians in Kandhmal district in Orissa while a BJP was the Home Minister, was very similar to the Gujarat type of experiment. In the Kandhmal district of Orissa 86 Christians lost their lives and thousands of houses and places of worship, hostels and other Christian institutions were destroyed. Lakhs of Christians had to flee to the forests to save their lives and then live in camps without adequate amenities.

The fact that many Christians were not able to return and live in peace in their villages even after a year, speaks volumes of the intolerable situation in Kandhmal! The Muslims who fled from their villages in 2002 have had the similar experiences in Gujarat.

  • CONFLICTS IN SRI LANKA

In Sri Lanka the Singhalese dominated government has finally put an end to the two and a half decade long ethnic conflicts between the Singhalese and the Tamils which nurtured terrorism and caused the death of millions of its citizens. Many mass media persons along with thousands of innocent civilians were the victims of ethnic conflicts in Sri Lanka.

We have the case of Tissanayagam or Tissa to his friends, who was a columnist in the Sunday Times entitled “Telescope”. He was arrested on March 9, 2008 and then tried under the Prevention of Terrorism Acts (PTA) and convicted for 20 years after being 17 months in Jail!

I read about Tissa in an article on the internet. The author of the article says, “A Sri Lankan journalist who also happens to be Tissa’s personal friend said to me on condition of anonymity ‘The verdict was a huge blow to Tissa. It confirms what we, his close friends, had long suspected it was a political trial…’ Many other journalists have been tortured and have fled the country.”

The same internet article has also quoted a journalist editor whom I met at Kathmandu during a UCIP Refresher Programme there in November 2007. The quotation from Kanak Mani Dixit, Editor of HIMAL SOUTHASIAN says,

“Sri Lanka is evolving as a regressive country when journalists are killed and imprisoned with impunity. When journalists are treated with extreme injustice, it does not take long for demagoguery to bring down the rest of society… South Asian journalists must come together to speak up for a free media in Sri Lanka.”

  • HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN INDIA

In India too there are a number of recent cases where journalists have been detained, questioned and even jailed for their reporting on human rights violations or for questioning government policies as well as for exposing corruption of the higher ups in different state governments and in the executive wing.

While we are concerned about these human rights violations of journalists and others in our South Asian countries, let us come back to our basic theme and the question ourselves: How can we as journalists contribute towards an “Ethics of Peace amidst Ethnic and Religious Conflicts”?

  • SEVEN CONCRETE SUGGESTIONS

I have seven concrete suggestions here to make.

  • ACCEPT RELIGIOUS AND ETHNIC DIVERSITY AS A REALITY

FIRST, accept intellectually and emotionally the reality of religious and ethnic diversity in our midst. We see the reality that the people are different from us in a myriad ways such as religion, race, language, region of origin, culture, family upbringing, education, travel, colour of the skin etc.

When we accept these differences as facts of life and part of our human existence we are on the way to tolerance and welcoming the differences. We say, well begun is half done. But for many people these diversities are a threat and they prefer to remain in their own familiar and secure environment without venturing out of their mental or physical ghetto. But without being afraid of the diversity we need to dare to come out of ourselves and make an effort to mix with people who are different from us.

It was difficult for me when I came first time to Gujarat as a young man to mix with people different from my language and culture. It was difficult for me when I went to London to study journalism to mix with non-Indian and non-Asians. It was difficult for me to mix with people of many races and of many nations when I went to study in the Gregorian University in Rome with students from no less than 100 nations.

But my training and the conducive atmosphere helped me everywhere and soon I found myself like a fish in the water mixing with people different from me, in colour, race, language, culture and religion, etc.

Today I can proudly claim that I feel at home in any part of the world with the people of all imaginable diversities. My studies in different countries and my long association with UCIP and my international travels have helped me immensely in this feeling at home with all sorts of people and cultures.

  • RELIGIOUS AND ETHNIC DIVERSITY NOT A THREAT

SECOND, we ought to learn that religious and ethnic diversity is not a threat but an enrichment. From personal experiences I have learned that diversity has been an enriching factor to my personal development and vision of life. When we go out of ourselves and mix with people of different religions and ethnicity, we mutually enrich each other. When we deal with people who are very different from us at a close level then we enrich others and others enrich us.

So through our writings and the use of other means of the mass media including the electronic media we need to promote breaking barriers of religious and ethnical differences. We need to promote dialogue with people different from us and foster dialogue with all sorts of people.

  • EXPLORE WAYS AND MEANS TO ESTABLISH PEACE

THIRD, we must explore ways and means to establish peace between the people of different religions and ethnicity. It is a reality that due to diverse reasons conflicts exist among the people of different religions and ethnicity.

There is suspicion and mistrust of people different from one’s own religion and ethnicity. As long as we remain away from the people of different religions and ethnicity our prejudices, mistrust and ignorance about others remain intact within us.

But these walls of prejudices, mistrust and ignorance of others can be removed by taking positive steps to intermingle with them. We need to take interest in the people of different religions and ethnicity by learning about their religions, culture, ethnicity, etc. In the process of learning about others we enrich ourselves with deeper understanding and a broad vision of life. We also enrich ourselves by cultivating friendship with the people different from us in religion, culture and ethnicity.

  • PROMOTE JUSTICE AND INTER-RELIGIOUS AND INTER-ETHNIC HARMONY

FOURTH, we ought to promote justice and inter-religious and inter-ethnic harmony. Often religious and ethnic conflicts come from the injustice meted out by one religion to another or one ethnic group to another. In such a situation we need to go to the root causes of the conflicts and do our best to remove or remedy them.

In Gujarat after the pogrom against the Muslims in 2002 there were efforts through the mass media and by other means calling people to forget and forgive and live in harmony. I was flabbergasted when a Christian writer joined the chorus of “forget and forgive” and wrote an article in a weekly newspaper without knowing the reality.

The Muslims who fled their villages were not allowed to return to their villages and rebuild the houses unless they withdrew the cases against the perpetrators of the heinous crimes against them!

  • GLADY’S FORGIVENESS

The call to forget and forgive is one thing and justice to the victims is a totally different thing. But they cannot be totally separated. There is no lasting peace between conflicting parties without justice. A person can forgive but he/she cannot forget personal traumatic experiences. Can Mrs. Gladys Staines ever forget the fact that her husband and her two sons were savagely murdered in their sleep in a station wagon!

The world press and other mass media have reported that Mrs. Gladys Staines and her daughter forgave the gruesome murders of her husband, Australian Missionary Rev. Graham Stewart Staines and his two sons. They were burned to death in their vehicle in which they were sleeping by fanatic Hindutvawadis led by Bajrang Dal activist Dara Singh. The criminal had earlier led more than one attacks against the Christians in different places!

Mrs. Gladys Staines forgave the criminals who killed her husband and two sons Philip (10) and Timothy (7) on January 22, 1999 night.  In the court case, which followed, I think that the criminal was condemned to life imprisonment.

It is to the credit of Mrs. Staines and her daughter that they continued for some years serving the lepers in the leper asylum which her husband has established and served the lepers for years. Later Ms. Staines went back to Australia for the sake of her daughter’s education. But she, who forgave the criminals unconditionally, continues to visit the Leper asylum and help the lepers there.

  • DEFEND HUMAN RIGHTS

FIFTH, defend human rights. Every human being has his/her human rights like the right to life, the right to food and shelter, the right to respect etc. These basic rights of a person are trampled upon by the powerful, and then the victimized person is bound to react and revolt against the persons in authority and the system.

It is the duty and responsibility of those in power that the persons under their domain get their basic rights. We cannot have peace and harmony without the people getting their basic human rights. No amount of suppression and punishment can put down a person or a race without granting them their basic rights.

People saw the Pakistani citizen Ajmal Amir Kasab shooting and killing innocent people in the Taj Hotel in Mumbai on November 26, 2008. We have the photographic evidence of his crime. Yet, respecting the criminal’s right for defense, the government of India arranged a criminal lawyer to fight for Kasab and defend him.

Here the Indian Government and the lawyers who volunteered to defend Kasab are examples of upholding the value of human rights. I am happy to note here that more than one lawyer came forward to defend the criminal Kasab though there were mob-protests against providing any defense to Kasab.

  • FOSTER DIALOGUE WITH THE PEOPLE

SIXTH, foster dialogue with the people of different religions and ethnic groups. The beginning is difficult. The icebreaking is hard. But, where there is a will there is a way.

The primary requirement for dialogue with people, who are different from us, is an open, unprejudiced mind and a loving heart. We may have our opinions about different people. One can write clearly and legibly on a clean slate. But if one is to over-write on a slate covered with writings, it will neither be clear nor legible.

Our openness like a clean slate prepares us for a fruitful dialogue with all sorts of people. The diversity of people does not become an obstacle or a threat but their diversity enriches us as we in turn enrich others. In dialogue the different partners grow together coming closer to one another. We learn a lot from each other.

  •  FORMATION IN ETHICAL VALUES

FINALLY, let us educate and form ourselves in ethical values and professional writing. We live in a world of globalization and electronic communications. Various cultures and different religions encounter each other more and more.

In the heart of this encounter there is an authentic desire for peace and at the same time there are also prejudices, misunderstanding and ignorance of each other. We see also misconceptions, intolerance and discriminations around us in the name of culture and religion. It is in such situations that we need to form our ethical and moral values to guide us.

Our ethical values should be so formed and so cultivated that they should help us to promote understanding where there is misconception and ignorance, to transform discrimination into tolerance and acceptance of all people. And finally let us cultivate open and generous hearts that welcome all and embrace all.

To be able to do all these we also need to be well qualified and thoroughly formed in our chosen field of mass media communications. Then, we will certainly be able to contribute more than our share to the ethics of peace amidst ethnic and religious conflicts. (3569 words)

(THE END)

Changed on: 16-08-2019

Next Change: 01-09-2019

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2019

 

DOES JESUS DISOWN HIS MOTHER?

There is a very interesting and at the same time puzzling passage in the Gospels. It is about Jesus’ Mother and brothers coming to meet him and his reaction. When his dear Mother Mary and his brothers come to meet him, Jesus does not seem to care for them! Instead Jesus in a way disowned them! For, he said pointing to his disciples sitting around him with rhetoric questions and a concrete answer:  “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers? …  Whoever does what my Father in heaven wants him to do, is my brother, my sister, and my mother”.

All the 3 Synoptic Evangelists narrate the event of Jesus’ Mother and brothers coming to meet him. (see Mt 12: 46-50; Mk 3: 31-35; & Lk 8: 19-21). The details of the narrations may differ from one to another. But one sentence specially appeals to me and it is expressed in the very same words by all the three Evangelists: Mathew, Mark & Luke. The sentence reads: “Whoever does what my Father in heaven wants him to do, is my brother and sister and mother”.

Here Jesus is telling us a very, very important thing. Family relationship is very important. Kinship is usually very strong between parents and children, between the brothers and sisters; between close relatives. But kinship is not everything. There could be equally strong or even stronger relationship beyond kinship and family relationship.

Jesus is calling our attention to a kinship or relationship beyond the family bond. People are ready to give their lives to save the life of a friend with whom he/she has no kinship. There have been instances in history that saintly people like Fr Macmillan in Nazi concentration camp gave his life in the place of a family man.

There is a story of two soldiers who were very good friends. In the war front one of them fell down mortally wounded. The captain decided to withdrew his troops from the war front for the safety of his soldiers saying that the mortally wounded soldier may be dead already. But the friend of the wounded soldier risking his own life went back and amidst firing of rockets crawled and dragged the wounded soldier to a safe bunker. The wounded soldier said to his friends, “I knew you would come to save me!” Indeed the two friends shared a bond, a relationship, much stronger than kinship! Jesus is speaking about such strong relationship.

Jesus is precisely telling about such deep bonds when he tells pointing to his disciples, crowded round him in a big circle: “Whoever does  what my Father in heaven wants him to do is my brother and sister and mother”. Here Jesus tells us what is real, true kinship, which is ever deeper than family bonds. Biblical scholar William Barclay commending on this passage of the Gospel points out 4 characteristics of deep relationship beyond kinship, family bond.

  • True kinship lies in common experience
  • True kinship lies in common interest
  • True kinship lies in common obedience and
  • True kinship lies in common goal

First, Common Experience: Young people in the same profession or enterprise struggle at the beginning to get to the top. They help each other, share both their joys and sufferings; their difficulties and problems and above all support each other. And then later years they recall such experiences with nostalgia as good friends do.

In para-Olympics games there was a race for the differently able children. On child practiced a lot to participate in the race. When the whistle blew the children started to run. A few meters on the race that particular child’s legs began to go different directions and he fell down. The other boys seeing their companion fallen all came back took the boy by hand and they all hand in hand reached the finishing line together! They all won the first prize! Christians have to common experience of being forgiven sinners through the sacrament of reconciliation.

Second, Common Interest: Religious Sister, Brothers & Priests all have the common interest of proclaiming Jesus in what they are and in what they do. In any one congregation, the members have particular interest according to the charisma of their congregation. So they have a deep bond among themselves than with those outside their congregation.

Third, Common Obedience:  Jesus chose 12 simple, ordinary people as his disciples. But they were an extra-ordinary mixture!  There was Mathew, a tax collector, who was serving the Romans in power in Palestine and hence he and all tax collectors were hated as sinners and enemies of the Jewish people. Then, there was Simon the Zealot, the freedom fighter. He belonged to the fourth group of Zealots after the Pharisees, Scribes and Essens. As freedom fighters Zealots were ready to kill the enemies and sacrifice their own lives.

If Simon and Mathew had met outside the circle of Jesus, Simon could have put a dragger into the side of Mathew! But now both have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Master and they have pledge their obedience to Jesus who has said, “You are my friends, if you do what I command you”. William Barclay says, “There is no way of showing the reality of love unless by the spirit of obedience”.

Fourth, Common Goal: The soldiers are trained to love their country and fight the enemy even at the cost of their lives. The soldiers may come from different background of castes, races, religions, cultures and languages. But their goal is concerned, the aim of their lives is concerned, they are a very united lot as if they have one mind and one heart! This is the secular world. But Jesus is speaking about the kingdom of God where “Whoever does what my Father in heaven wants him to do is my brother and sister and mother”.

Let us come back to the Gospel passage. Mother Mary has a deep kinship with Jesus. Their close and intimate relationship is as Mother and Son. But as we can see, their relationship is not limited to family kinship but goes much beyond it. So Mother Mary understands well when Jesus says, “Whoever does what my Father in heaven wants him to do is my brother and sister and mother”.  Mother Mary has shown herself far excellent in doing God, the Father’s will from the moment she said at the annunciation her “fiat”,  “I am the Lord’s servant, may it happen to me as you have said” (Lk 1: 38).

Mother Mary is doubly related to Jesus, first, as Jesus’ Mother and second, as a disciple sharing intimately in the mission of Jesus.

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Changed on: 01-08-2019

Next Change: 16-08-2019

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2019

 

 

HOLY SPIRIT

The spirit of God is all pervasive and yet unseen character in the New Testament and the whole Bible. Ronald Brownrigg says in ‘Who’s Who the New Testament’ that “The Holy Spirit is the life and activity of God at work in the world of nature and also in and through people” (p.257).

The Hebrew word ‘ruah’ used for spirit has actually no equivalent word in English and hence it is vicariously translated ‘breath’, ‘wind’ and spirit, life, etc. The equivalent Greek word in the New Testament is ‘pneuma’ which means ‘spirit’. The world spirit is used in the Bible both for good spirit and evil spirit. Here we are speaking only about the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God.

The Catholic Church believes that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Blessed Trinity or the Triune God. The Catholics believe that the Holy Spirit is a true God, equal to the other two Divine Persons, the Father and the Son. The Catholic creed says that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the mutual love and will of the Father and the Son. In the New Testament the Holy Spirit is first mentioned in the Gospel according to Mathew.

Joseph was engaged to Mary. But before their marriage Joseph learnt that Mary was pregnant with child. So Joseph being a just man made plans to break the engagement privately. Then, an angel of the Lord in a dream said to him, “Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary to be your wife. For, it is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived” (see Mt 1, 18-20).

The Holy Spirit appears again in the baptism of Jesus at River Jordan. John the Baptist says, “I baptize you with water to show that you have repented, but the one who will come after me will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Mt 3, 11). Then, at the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, Mathew tells us that the Spirit of God came down like a dove and alighted on Jesus. The baptism and the Temptation of Jesus are narrated by all the three synoptic evangelists and the Holy Spirit is a significant character in all the narrations. Luke says, “Jesus returned from the Jordan full of the Holy Spirit and led by the Spirit into the desert where he was tempted” (Lk 4, 1-2).

After Jesus’ baptism and temptation, the first three evangelists speak of the Holy Spirit on the occasion of Jesus’ preaching in the synagogue of his home town Nazareth. Jesus reads from the book of the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor” (Luke 4, 18).

Jesus speaking to his disciples about coming troubles and persecutions assures them that they need not worry about them. For, “When they bring you to trail, do not worry about what you are going to say or how you will say it; when the time comes, you will be given what you will say. For the words you will speak will not be yours; they will come from the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Mt 10, 19-20).

“And when you are arrested and taken to court, do not worry beforehand about what you are going to say; when time comes, say whatever is then given to you. For the words you speak will not be yours; they will come from the Holy Spirit” (Mk. 13, 11). Later, when Pharisees accuse Jesus of driving out demons by their leader Beelzebul, Jesus defends himself saying “No, it is not Beelzebul, but God’s Spirit, who gives me the power to drive out demons, which proves that the Kingdom of God had already come upon you” (Mt. 12, 28).

Once, teaching his disciples about prayer Jesus tells them to ask for the Holy Spirit: “How much more, then, will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Lk 11, 13). In the fourth Gospel the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of God is also referred to as the Advocate, the Helper.

In the conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, Jesus tells her that people will worship the Father by the power of God’s Spirit; and that God is Spirit. “God is Spirit, and only by the power of his Spirit can people worship him as he really is” (Jn. 4, 24).

In the Gospel according to John during the long discourse after the Last Supper Jesus often refers to the Spirit of God with different functions especially as an Advocate, a Helper. The Spirit reveals Jesus and guides his disciples. Jesus promises that, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, who will stay with you forever. He is the Spirit who reveals the truth about God” (Jn. 14, 16-17).

Jesus says again, “I have told you this while I am still with you. The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and make you remember all that I have told you” (Jn. 14, 25-26). Jesus assures his disciples again that, “The Helper will come – the Spirit, who reveals the truth about God and who comes from the Father. I will send him to you from the Father, and he will speak about me” (Jn. 15, 26).

The Holy Spirit is Jesus’ gift to his disciples when he appeared to them after his resurrection. “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you.’ Then he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn. 20, 21-22). In the first chapter of Acts just before his ascension Jesus tells his disciples that the Holy Spirit will come upon them with power, “But when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1, 8).

As promised by Jesus the Acts of the Apostles has described the coming of the Holy Spirit during the feast of Pentecost, the harvest festival of the Israelite-Jewish people. The Holy Spirit is described as tongues of fire touching the believers and consequently the believers speaking in many languages. “When the day of Pentecost came, all the believers were gathered together in one place. Suddenly there was a noise from the sky which sounded like a strong wind blowing, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire which spread out and touched each person there. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak” (Acts 2, 1-4).

This Pentecostal event is recognized as the birth of the Church as thousands of people were baptized and were added to the group of Jesus’ disciples on that day. The coming of the Holy Spirit has been a transforming experience for the Apostles. Filled with the Holy Spirit they began to speak boldly about Jesus and his message. Peter acknowledged the Holy Spirit and promised the crowd at Pentecost that “…You will receive God’s gift, the Holy Spirit”.

We see that Peter is full of the power of the Holy Spirit that he and John boldly proclaimed Jesus and rebutted the Jewish Council. Luke says in the Acts, “Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, answered them” (Acts 4, 8). After being freed from Jewish authorities Peter and John prayed with the believers and “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to proclaim God’s message with boldness” (Acts 4, 31).

In the Acts of the Apostles there are also several other references to the Holy Spirit. So we can say that the Acts of the Apostles in a special way is the Acts of the Holy Spirit who accompanied the Apostles in proclaiming Jesus and his message. In the narration of Paul’s conversion the Holy Spirit is very much present. Ananias tells Paul that Jesus himself has sent him, “He sent me so that you might see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9, 17).

After receiving the Holy Spirit Paul is a totally transformed man. It is the Holy Spirit who reveals to the Apostles that all the followers are equal irrespective their socio-religious background as the Holy Spirit came down on all people. “While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit came down on all those who were listening to his message” (Acts 10, 44).

It is the Holy Spirit who directs the Church at Antioch to set apart Paul and Barnabas for the special mission “While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said to them, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul, to do the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13, 2). The inspiring and guiding power of the Spirit is acknowledged often by Paul and other authors in the rest of the New Testament. As Ronald Brownrigg says The Holy Spirit occupies a central place in Paul’s theology. In his first letter to Corinthians Paul has described Jesus as life-giving Spirit as the Holy Spirit is carrying the work started by Jesus. “For the scripture says, ‘The first man Adam, was created a living being’ but the last Adam is a life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15, 45).

In his letter to Romans Paul says that it is the Spirit that set us free. “For the law of the Spirit, which brings us life in union with Christ Jesus, has set me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8, 2). Paul exhorts the Christians to let the Holy Spirit lead their lives. “What I say is this: let the Spirit direct your lives” (Gal. 5, 16). As Paul says, “The Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control” (Gal. 6, 22).

In conclusion I would like to quote Paul’s blessing in the second letter to the Corinthians, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

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Changed on: 16-07-2019

Next Change: 01-08-2019

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2019

A VETERAN JESUIT MISSIONARY GOES TO ETERNAL HOME AT 102

A veteran Jesuit Missionary Fr Jose Maria Lopez de Pariza went to his eternal reward on June 20, 2019 at the ripe old age of 102. People often referred to him as ‘Pavitra’ (holy priest) Fr Pariza. I consider myself privileged to be associated with the holy priest from December 1977.On my return to India after my journalism studies in London followed by theology studies in Gregorian University and priestly ordination in Rome I was appointed a full time the Editor of DOOT (messenger) a Catholic family magazine in 1977.  Fr Pariza was then the Parish Priest of an old mission parish at Amod. He invited me to help him out in the Sacramental ministries in Christmas 1977.

Amod is the sixth oldest mission parish in Gujarat started in 1912 and Fr Pariza was appointed Parish Priest of Amod a second time from 1969-83. In 1977 there were only bullock cart roads to Amod but I managed to reach there by my motor cycle. Fr Pariza entrusted to me the Holy Masses and other liturgical services like baptism while Fr Pariza sat at the confessional most of the time when people came to the church.

I enjoyed officiating the liturgical services and the company of the veteran missionary that I offered my services for every Christmas and the Holy Week at Amod Parish. While preparing to celebrate the centenary of Amod parish in 2012, the parish priest called me to enquire when I was the Parish Priest of Amod Parish! He told me that he saw my name signed in the baptism registers year after year for several years! Yes, Fr Pariza prepared families for their children’s baptism including a few adult baptisms every Christmas and Easter. He entrusted the baptism ceremonies to me while he sat patiently hearing the confessions of endless queue of people and guiding them in Christian living!

Apart from the Church services I enjoyed visiting the families of Catholics and of a few others with Fr Pariza, a patient listener and wise counsellor. He helped to restore many broken marriages and encouraged living-together couples to have sacramental marriage in the Church. He enquired the welfare of the people not only in the house but also their relatives in other places.

As a missionary Fr Pariza led a very simple, humble and frugal life. His life was very much people-centered with much prayers and sacrifices. His needs were the bare minimum. Like his see through personality the Amod mission house was also open for one and all. Even if a thief entered the house, there were not many things which he could carry away! He shared food from the kitchen of boarding school children.

Amod mission has a primary school with a boarding for boys. Fr Pariza also looked after a sub-mission station at Tarapur with a primary school. He celebrated the golden jubilee of Amod mission in 1962. With gifts and donations, which he received, he built a pacca building for the primary school at Amod. He also put up a building for the primary school at Kadana sub-mission station.

The importance of Amod mission started steadily decreasing when another sub-mission station at Petlad with a primary school from 1928 became a full pledged mission parish in 1955. Many people from Amod mission migrated to Petlad as Taluka headquarters with good road facilities and job opportunities in the cloth mills. Petlad mission Parish too developed with the starting of a high school in 1960 and a higher secondary school in 1987.

After the Golden Jubilee celebration of Amod mission Fr Pariza was transferred to Fatima Shrine mission parish at Gothada (Savli) in 1983. He was born on 13 May 1917, the day when Mother Mary appeared to three children – Francisco, Jacinta & Lucia – at Fatima, Portugal. It was a happy coincidence that Fr Pariza, a devotee of Mother Mary became the Parish Priest of the only Fatima Shrine in Gujarat.

Fr Pariza’s Golden Jubilee in the Society of Jesus in 1983 was celebrated by his beloved parishioners both at Amod and Gothada. As a pioneer missioner Fr Pariza founded Fatima Uttar Buniadi School at Gothada, which later became a regular general stream high school and higher secondary school.  He also built the Fatima Chatralaya (hostel) building giving as always importance to education of children. Fr Pariza was also able to start an aided high school at Gothada in 1987.

                Fr Pariza also bought 15 vigha (about 6 acre) land at Vejalpur in Vaghodia Taluka and started a new sub-mission station there. But more than buying land and putting up buildings, Fr Pariza was a builder of the Christian community with regular family visits and prayers with them often celebrating Holy Mass in village houses, where he regularly went on cycle.

On May 13, 1992 the Gothada parishioners celebrated his 75 years of life. In 1994 Fr Pariza was transferred as assistant parish priest to Anand St Xavier’s parish, where he was Parish Priest from 1963-69. Meanwhile Anand Parish saw tremendous growth with good many housing society of Catholics and other Christians came up in the Amul-fame milk city Anand. Fr Pariza every day visited the families riding on a cycle.

The Society of Jesus and St Xavier’s parishioners celebrated in a grand way his centenary of life on May 13, 2017 with a Souvenir. When he was not able to cycle any more, the Parish arranged for an auto rickshaw to take him for his regular morning and evening visits to Christian houses in the parish. At age of 101 when he was not able to manage himself he was transferred to Jeevan Darshan, a house for retired and sick Jesuits.

Though Fr Pariza died at Vadodara his body was brought to Anand for funeral service and burial. Hundreds of priests and nuns from three dioceses and thousands of faithful attended the funeral service led by Bishop Rathnasway, Achbishop Stanislaus Fernandes and Bishop Godfry de Rozario. The Holy Mass and services were conducted in an open air stage in the Church compound, which was filled with people. It was the biggest gathering of people which I have ever seen in a funeral during my 55 years in Gujarat.

Fr Pariza remains for me as a model missionary priest who communicated nothing but God’s love first through life and then through his selfless services. He reached out to all people especially the poor and the needy without any distinction of religion or caste, as he called everyone as God’s children. Today listening to people I see that Fr Pariza has become a legend!

Changed on: 01-07-2019

Next Change: 16-07-2019

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2019

HOLY SPIRIT IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

A BIBLICAL SCHOLAR Ronald Brownrigg in his book “Who’s Who” defines Holy Spirit saying “The Holy Spirit is the life and activity of God at work in the world of nature and also in and through people” (p. 257). Who is Holy Spirit for us? Here let us try to understand the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God. The angel Gabriel speaks about the Holy Spirit to Virgin Mary in the annunciation, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and God’s power will rest upon you”. (Lk 1: 35)

Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God which descended on Jesus at his baptism in river Jordan in “like a dove” (Mt 3: 16). As Jesus came out of the water, this Spirit led Jesus to go “into the desert” (Mk 1: 12). Jesus cast out devil with the help of this same Spirit (Mt 12: 28). Luke speaks about Holy Spirit as the power of God (Lk 11: 20).

John the Baptist said that, Jesus will baptize with “power and Holy Spirit” (Mt 3: 11). Jesus giving an idea of the Holy Spirit different from God the Father and the Son, gives his disciples the commandment: “Baptize … in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28: 19). Jesuit biblical scholar John L McKenzie says, “In whole New Testament this list of the three names gives personal identity of the Holy Spirit” (Dictionary of the Bible, p.842).

In the Old Testament the Spirit is not a person; the Spirit does not have individuality. McKenzie says that both in the Gospel according to Mathew and the Gospel according to Mark “The Spirit is generally the Old Testament Spirit applied to the person and the mission of Jesus” (p.843). Both in the Gospel of Mathew and of Mark the reference to the Spirit is rare. In the Gospel according to Luke the reference to the Spirit before the coming of the Holy Spirit applies to Jesus. “The Spirit of Lord is upon me. He has anointed me” (Lk 4: 18).

We get clear instruction on the Holy Spirit in the Gospel according to St John. During the Last Supper Jesus spoke to his disciples about sending an Advocate, the Holy Spirit which will always remain with the disciples (see Jn 14: 15-17).

Jesus says, “I have told you all this while I am still with you. From now on the Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of all that I have told you” (Jn 14: 25-26).

As John tells us, on the Resurrection Sunday Jesus appeared to the disciples behind closed doors. “He breathed on them and said to them: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (J20; 22). Ronald Brownrigg says that according to Evangelist John the Spirit-filled life begins not on the fest of the first coming down of the Holy Spirit but on the day of the Resurrection” (Who’s Who the New Testament, p.25).

Luke has told us in the Acts of the Apostles, the Apostles and other disciples had gathered together in one place and they received the Holy Spirit. “When the day of the Pentecost came, all the believers were gathered together in one place. Suddenly there was a noise from the sky which sounded like a strong wind blowing, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire which spread out and touched each person there. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak” (Acts 2: 1-4).

We see the influence or the presence of the Holy Spirit in all through the Acts of the Apostles. So in a way, we can say that the Acts of the Apostles is uniquely inspirited by the Holy Spirit. We may even call it the Acts of the Holy Spirit.

We see in the Acts of the Apostles and in his letters, St Paul’s life and mission is very much influenced and led by the Holy Spirit. About Paul’s call to mission Luke writes in the Acts, “While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said to them, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul (Paul), to do the work to which I have called them’” (Acts 13: 2).

Paul refers to the Holy Spirit often in his letters. He reminds the Christians more than once that the Holy Spirit dwells in each one. Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians, “Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God?” (1 Cor 6: 19).

In the whole world especially in the lives of the Apostles and disciples transforming changes take place under the influence of the Holy Spirit. They are able to speak about Jesus and his message boldly without any fear. With the coming of the Holy Spirit, with transforming changes in the lives of the Apostles and disciples the New Way is born.  Christianity was known at its birth as the New Way. The Spirit which was active in Jesus now become active in the Way, that is, in the lives of the followers of Jesus (see Acts 2: 1-6).

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Changed on: 16-06-2019

Next Change: 01-07-2019

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2019