Journalists’ Challenges in Our Times

Last few years socio-political the situations have changed nationally and internationally. According to the mass media I am sad to note India is in forefront in corruption and persecution of the minorities in the name of religion. Let us speak about the situation in India and specifically in Gujarat. The Amar-Akbar-Anthony situation of brotherhood and friendship exists no more. A teenager Junaid Khan who had gone to buy new clothes for Eid was brutally murdered with sharp weapons in a train amidst other passengers. The fearless journalist-editor Gouri Lenkesh was shot dead in front of her house by two burkha-clad motor cycle riders.

The situation of Gujarat is not much different from the rest of India. Author journalist Anuja Chauhan writes in a popular periodical THE WEEK dated October 15, 2017: “These days Amitabh Bachan is busy white-washing Gujarat into some kind of weird, Sanskritised Disneyland on national television.” But the people know the picture portrayed by Bhachan is quite different from the actual situation of Gujarat. According to news paper report a Dalit young man was beaten to death for watching Garba Dance from afar! A few days after that a Dalit youth was killed for the crime of keeping a mustache!

The people of good will are frightened with news paper reports like criminals not only being protected but also honored and promoted by self serving politicians. In the name of cow protection such criminals have cruelly murdered innocent people. Thanks to the fear of the terrorists of cow vigilante type, the sale and transport of cows have come to a standstill even without law. Consequently poor people and small farmers with one or two cows have now no income. Consequently we see the increasing number of deaths by hunger and farmers’ suicide.  I am ashamed to take note here that India’s position is 100th out of 119 countries on global Hunger Index! Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are in much better position than India. These realistic situations are great challenges for journalist.

Today in India journalists’ profession has become a very dangerous profession. For, as leaves fall from a tree in winter the fearless and committed journalists are falling death as the victims of people who take law in their own hands. Such victims include rationalist Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, social activist comrade Govind Panshar, educationalist Prof. M.M. Kulburgi and fearless journalist, Gouri Lenkesh. The fearless journalists with independent views and freely write, are pursued and persecuted. Such independent journalists who fearlessly practice their profession are also victims of witch-hunt.

It is in this situation that we have to examine the challenges of the journalists. As I see it journalists face mainly three types of challenges. First, A strong will to pursue the truth and stick to it; Second, The courage to live fearlessly and Third, The rationalist intelligence to recognize good and bad and differentiate between them. Let’s examine these three challenges.

First, a strong will to pursue the truth. While working this article the Ahmedabad Edition of the Indian Express dated October 18 and 19, 2017 has front news about a girl by name Santoshi Kumari in Jharkhand. The newspaper reports that the eleven year old Santoshi Kumari died last month due to hunger and thirst. According to the report Koyli Devi, mother of Santhoshi Kumari, and her eldest sister earn Rs. 40 or 50 selling fire woods which they collected from the forest. With that money and the wages they get, whenever there is works in the field, they run the house. But for eight days before the death of Santoshi Kumari there was nothing to eat or drink in their house. As Koyli Devi said before the death Santoshi Kumari was asking and crying for rice and rice-water. But there was nothing in the house to feed her.

The local activists and the journalist of the Indian Express Prashant Pandey have reported the story. But the civil officials and local medical personal of Jharkhand state are trying to cover up their own crimes saying that Santoshi Kumari died not of hunger but of Maleria! The journalist Prashant Pandey has quoted that the Chief Minister of Jharkhand Raguvar Das sanctioning to provide the family of Santoshi Kumari Rs. 50,000/- immediately. So it is clear that everything is not okay but the concerned official have something to hide.

Here I am reminded of Jesus’ words to his disciples. “Whatever is covered up will be uncovered, and every secret will be made known. So then, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in broad light, and whatever you have whispered in private in a closed room will be shouted from the housetops.” The politicians and civil authorities may fail to perform their duties; but, when they are caught they look for scapegoats to hide their crimes of criminal negligence and find excuses. In such situation Journalists with determination and strong will are challenged to find the truth and bring it to the light.

There is selfishness of the so called upper class people in persecuting and keeping under control the poor, the Tribals and the Dalits with contempt and hatred. Selfish people keep the poor, the Tribals and the Dalits away from their basic human rights. They are prevented from coming up socially, educationally and economically. But we do hear ‘Sabka sath sabka vikas’ meaning development of all together with all, but nothing more! Consequently the majority of the poor, the Tribal and the Dalits are deprived of their basic needs like food, clothes and shelter even 70 years after our Independence. This reality is a great challenge to journalists through the wisdom and the courage to present to the truth as it.

Second, fearless courage to live and performs duty as a journalist. The news reporter of Santoshi Kumari, Prashant Pandey has shown the example of a fearless and committed journalist. When health officials defend themselves claim visiting the village and treating Santoshi Kumari and mother, Prashant Pande quoting the Koyli Devi says, that the health personal and government officials never came to the village. Here the journalist Prashant Pande, in the words of Bernard Shaw “has learned to honor   the truth.”

We need two things to cultivate courageous and fearless journalism. One, journalists need to be professionally competent in their field. Only professionally competent journalists can withstand and keep away from bribes, corruption and threats. In the words of Benjamin Franklin only those who are courageous can get what they decided to have. Two, to practice fearlessly journalism journalists should be ready to face the consequences even death. After reading some of my writing my sister Celine once asked me, “Brother, are you not afraid to write what you write when you read the murder of activists and police encounter deaths?” I told her that I am not afraid of death. I am prepared to face death anytime. I do not fear anyone except God who takes care of me every moment. “But please take care” she said.

Today one of the most dangerous professions is that of journalist.  People to achieve their selfish ends sitting at high position misuse their authority and money. The so called God-men in the name of religion and devotion mislead innocent people promising heaven and salvation. In such situation fearless journalists are called to reveal true facts in public interest about the sinful behavior of such people and warn the public. The journalists need to be always on their guard that they do not misuse their profession for selfish purposes. It is a challenge for journalists to be faithful to their profession and fearlessly portrait the truth even in tempting situation.

Third, the rational intelligence to know and differentiate between the good and the bad.  Journalists need to have a deep understanding and comprehensive power to differentiate the evil from the good. So journalists’ proficient in his/her own fields, needs to be sufficiently well acquainted about many other fields. A journalist is not an all knowing person but journalist need to have wisdom and the ability to know things she/he needs to know.

The journalists need to be able to express and communicate well the language in which she/he works. Similarly the journalists should also know the medium which she/he works and also the target audience for whom she/he works. Rational intelligence also called for a fair knowledge of laws concerning the profession and the general public.

 

Finally, a journalist has a great challenge to be professional and reliable in all his/her works.

#

 

Changed On: 01-09-2018

Next Change: 16-09-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018

 

 

 

Is it God’s Miracle?

Kandhamal is a backward district of Orissa State. But today due to the persecution of Christians the Kandhamal has become a well known name in the whole world! Swami Lakshmananada Saraswati created a great controversy by his ‘Ghar Vapsi’ (Return Home) programme of reconverting tribal Christians back to Hindu fold. Then, the Swami has been caught up in many court cases against him. The people in Kandhamal say that Swami Lakshmanananda was killed when the Swami became a liability as the court verdicts were expected to come against him!

My journalist friend Anto Akkara has visited Kandhamal 25 times. He has written and published news reports and research articles in many newspapers and other periodicals in India and abroad. Then, as an in-depth reporter he has also authored much acclaimed 3 books on Kandhamal. I have with me all three books. His third book is entitled “Who Killed Swami Laxmanananda?” the book published first in May 2016 has since saw 4 editions by December 2017!

Here I do not wish to write about the 3 book but I want to describe one concrete instance of the persecution of Christians in Kandhamal. A journalist- writer friend of mine Fr. Cassian Parichha hails from Raikia in Kandhamal. He has written an article named “Kandhamal, Ten Years after the Persecution” in a weekly newspaper “The Herald” published from Kolkata on July 6, 2018. Fr. Cassian Parichha went for holidays to his native place Raikia in May 2018. Raikia is the nerve centre of the Catholic Church in the District. There in the massively built Church Fr. Parichha was ordained a priest in April 1964. The specious Church with two wings built in 1957 was attacked by anti-Christian forces. Let me quote the story in the words of Fr. Parichha as he has described it in his article.

“The church had been desecrated and vandalized on the 6th August, 2004 by the anti social and anti-Christian young men of Raikia and around recruited and instigated by the controversial Swami. Over hundred untruly young men, led by two police constables, opened the gate and at first smashed the statue of Lady’s Lourdes grotto, then pushing into the church, ransacked whatsoever they could and set fire the sacred books, musical instruments and some furniture, having piled them up together. They toppled the two statues of angles at both edges of the altar.

“Then two boys, having climbed the altar, put down the tabernacle, spat upon and urinated on it. Meanwhile one of the boys pelted a stone aiming the head of a Lord Jesus of a large painting kept reclined against the wall, at the side of the altar. The stone, hitting on the wall bounced back and hit the boy’s head who fell down bleeding. Others collected him and all rushed out panicked.”

Meanwhile, two boys who had spat and urinated on the tabernacle, felt strange scratching and burning sensation in their genitals. Doctors expressed inability to do the needful and referred them to the nearest Medical College Hospital at Berhampur, at a distance of 145 km. There too doctors said the same thing. On their way back to their village Luhuringia, about 10 km from Raikia, the boys died. These are not myths of stories, but hard facts! Several such startling incidents did take place. All Compassionate God and Merciful Saviour is also Supreme Lord, Master and Irrevocable Judge of everything and everybody, all need to know!”

Today big and small, hidden and not so hidden attacks against Christians and Church institutions are going on all over India! A Christian organization listed more than 500 cases of anti-Christian persecutions in India during the six month from January to June 2018! Records show that the persecutions against Christians have steadily gone up during the last few years!

In this context I am reminded of the then USA President Barak Obama’s call to all Indians in his address from Siri Fort, New Delhi on 27 January 2017. Obama without referring to the persecution of Christians or of any minorities called all Indians to appreciate the religious, cultural, linguistic, regional differences of the people and challenged us to go forward with mutual tolerance on the path of progress and development.

Quoting appropriate articles from Indian and American constitutions Obama gave us a clarion call to make progress on the path of democracy celebrating unity in diversity without quarrel and strife. Obama said that we are all the children of one God… We are a variety of colorful flowers in a garden… We are different branches of one tree… We are all the brothers and sisters of one another.

Ignoring our sacred Constitution the people who persecute the Christians should know two things. First, the Christians are much concerned and worried about the ongoing persecution because they are the victims of the persecution. But they are not frightened about the persecution. They do not run away from the persecution. For, they know that the Truth is in their side. God will help them in the long run. So being firm in their faith they are even ready to sacrifice their lives. The victim of the persecution can say with St. Paul, “I shall bring honour to Christ, whether I live or die. For what is life? To me it is Christ. Death, then, will bring more” (Philippians 1: 20-21).

Second, a converted Christ Tertullian (160-220) who has written much in the defense of Christians and their faith wrote “Whenever you cut us down then as often our number increases”. The same thing has been said by a church scholar Jerome: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”. This has been proved in the case of Kandhmal.

People know that after the murder of Swami Lakshmanand Saraswati his body was carried in a zigzag way to cover the entire district of  Kandhamal which was followed by murderous attack on Christians as well as looting and burning down Christian houses, Churches and other Christian institutions. About 100 Christians became martyrs of faith in the persecution apart from houses and other properties worth cores of rupees destroyed.

Fr. Cassian Parichha says that the persecution have made the Christians strong in faith and even better off in socially and economically as many people migrated to cities and studied and are earning a living better than before. Even in some cases the persecutors of Christians have recognized their folly and a few even got converted to Christian faith!

Finally, I end this essay recalling once more St. Paul’s words. Concerned with the deteriorating situation of the Corinthians Paul wrote; “We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed. At all times we carry in our mortal bodies the death of Jesus, so that his life also may be seen in our bodies.” (2 Cor. 4: 8-10).

#

Changed On: 16-08-2018

Next Change: 01-09-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018

 

 

 

Gandhism Vs Modism

A Gujarati dictionary has given the definition or meaning of the word Gandhism. Gandhism means “the vision or philosophy shown by Gandhiji of human life and of whole social system based on the foundation of Truth and Non-violence.”

The word ‘Modi’ is there in the Gujarati dictionary meaning “a merchant of grains, ghee, species etc.” The surname ‘Modi’ may have come from such occupations. But there is no such word like ‘Modism’ in the dictionary. So how can one find a definition for Modism in the dictionary!

Modism word is in circulation in internet. But there is no definition. A famous bilingual writer and scholar Vidyut Joshi has written thought provoking article on Modism, which I read in the net. Here I am trying to make a definition of Modism based on the article. Modism means Acquiring absolute power through mesmerizing speeches on development as the king of Hindu hearts, the messiah of the poor and on Hindu nationalism. It is the art of escaping even serious crimes through self promoting advertisements in the style of Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and Pol Pot.

Only in one thing Gandhi and Modi are similar. Both hail from Gujarat. There is no similarity between the two in anything else. Gandhism has specific philosophy while Modism has no specific philosophy or vision. For, Modi has only one goal. That is power. In the words of Vidyut Joshi, “Modi has only one consideration power, power and more power.”

Modi may try to follow Gandhism; but it is easy to see Modism is far from Gandhism. Gandhiji through his life has shown that the dignity or importance of a person consists in reducing the difference between one’s words and actual life style.

But Modi’s life proclaims that the differences between what he says and what he does are ever growing. For instance, Modi speaks persuasively every now and then about his readiness to sacrifice himself for the poor, the Dalits, and the Tribals. But his life shows that I don’t care for the poor, the Dalits, and the Tribals. I don’t do anything for them. So under his rule and authority basic things like basic health care, under nourishment, child mortality and deaths due to hunger get neglected. In other words, Modi is against the whole round development of the nation, even though one can hear often his clarion call “Sab ka Sath Sab ka Vikas”.

Modi wears suits worth several lakhs. He changes clothes every now and then costing crores of rupees for the tax payers. Modi’s vestments are an affront to the poor people who do have enough clothes to cover their nakedness. Compare Modi with Gandhi who was satisfied with his waist clothes till the crores of Indian poor people got sufficient clothes to wear.

Gandhi has specific purpose in developing khadi and hand-woven cloths. For Gandhi khadi was a means in promoting self sufficiency among ordinary people. For, from the cultivation of cotton to producing cloths innumerable people are employed. From cotton to making cotton-rolls for spinning, then from spinning to cloths and then stitching dresses people are gainfully employed; and they earn to be self sufficient. This was Gandhiji’s vision in using and promoting khadi. Gandhiji found much success in it as on one side ordinary people found earning and food through Khadi enterprises and on the other side cloth mills in England began to be closed down.

Without understanding this effort of Gandhiji to make people self sufficient, the power hungry people make laughable attempt to put their own photos replacing Gandhiji in his famed symbolic picture of Gandhiji spinning on a Charka! In the original picture Gandhiji is spinning Charka squatting on the ground with wrapped in khadi cloth on his waist. In the new picture dressed in most expensive cloths Modi makes a show of spinning on a specially made so called Charka for the photo-opportunity! This is not only debasing the value of Charka but it is also an insult to Gandhi and all his followers in khadi cloths.

Obviously Modi’s ways are far from the ways of thinking and doings of Gandhiji. In fact, there is nothing common between the two. When we see a person dressed in most expensive cloths spinning Charka and gets photographers to take photos we see the picture of person’s hunger for power and publicity. Gandhiji never cared for publicity and power. So we see no similarity but one versus the other.

Gandhi had a passion. He always did what he thought to be true. But there was no pride in it. For, whenever Gandhiji realized that what he sincerely did was proved to be wrong, he not only apologized saying, “That was my mistake,” but he also did voluntary penance to correct himself and took steps to improve. In his autobiography “Experiments with Truth” there are many instances of Gandhiji repenting and making amendments for his mistakes.

These types of Gandhiji’s experiments are totally different from the thoughts and actions of our Prime Minister Modi. Under Modi’s Chief Ministership thousands of people were mercilessly butchered in Godhara train burning crime and Post-godhara pogrom against the Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. Like a crystal glass one thing is very clear. The state government used both the police force and executive officers in favor of the ruling party. Besides, strong punitive steps were taken against the police officials and the excusive officials who prevented the 2002 murderous communal riots   in their area against the Muslims.

It was in such context IPS officers like Kuldeep Sharma and Shree Kumar fought cases against the government and got justice for them through the Supreme Court. So there is no trace of seeking forgiveness and doing penance in Modism. On the contrary Modism goes all out to trash and destroy anyone coming on the way.

If one examines like this, we see many instances of Gandhism versus Modism. God has not created any two persons equal or alike. So Modi can never become (another) Gandhi. For Modism is running away from Gandhism in life style, in being transparent. Gandhi gave a lot of importance to be responsible and accountable. Modism will be welcomed and acceptable only when he becomes transparent and responsibly answerable and help others to be such, a man of true development.

I do not desire that Modiji become another Gandhi. But as the elected Prime Mister of India, I pray daily for Modi that the great gap between his talk of development and the actual practice of development    may ever decrease and that Modiji really become a true nation builder and leader of this country through hard work especially for the welfare of the 40 percent poor people of India.

 

Finally I recall a verse from a famous Gujarati poet Umasankar Joshi:

 

“I am tired of seeing the smallness of the great people

But I live seeing the greatness of the small people.”

 

#

Changed On: 01-08-2018

Next Change: 16-08-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018

 

 

 

MY CELIBACY

Some years back a young friend Meghul used to come to meet me. With him I have discussed many things. But recently when he came to meet me unexpectedly I did not recognize him and I was very busy.  He greeted me very enthusiastically and gifted me a costly ball pen.

Usually when someone comes to meet me I leave all my works aside and respond to the person with much warmth and love. But god knows why, I was able to do so on that day!

Perhaps the question, he asked me, put me off. Imagine a stranger asking you a personal question as he did. “Father, what do you think? Can a person live without sex?”

“Sex is a very natural thing in human beings. A man or a woman with his/her appropriate partner enjoy sex at suitable time and place and thus make their lives enjoyable and fruitful. This is the usual natural way of sex. But with god’s grace a man or a woman can stay away from sex for a noble cause which he/she has embraced”, I said.

Then I explained   to Meghul about the celibacy embraced by a religious person like me after long training. I explained him that during the training or even later a person feels strongly that he/she cannot live a celibate life. Then he/she leaves such a life and choose a life-partner and lead a family life.

I guess that Meghul was not very happy with my short explation of sexual life and  celibate life. I was not happy myself with my brief presentation of sex. For, Hindus and Christians have very different ideas of celibate life and married life and totally different views of life. But that day I did not have the time and leisure to discuss all aspects of celibate and married life.

Both the celibate life and the married life are inspired and prompted by love. Love the most powerful force in   human life.  None can live without love. Both celibate life and married life are led by love. But life with love is very different from in married life and in celibate life. Love is lived in different ways. In Christian vision of life in both kind of love life one is not superior to another. Both kinds of love life are dignified life. In both the kind of life there is God’s love, sharing God’s love.

In the love-life with God men/women expressed sexual union with one’s life-partner. But in loving and experiencing God’s love in celibate life no other human person comes on the way. In celibate love-life God is everything. A celibate life is God centred life.  Married life and celibate life are complementary. They are not superior or inferior to one another.

But people often compare both kind of married love-life and celibate love-life and people hold celibate life superior to married life! How do you feel if you compare your right hand with your left hand? Both your hands are equal in everything. With training and practice each hand may have different facilities or capacities. For instance I can write letter with my right hand; but by nature both hands are equal. They are not superior or inferior to one another. Celibate love-life and married love-life are something similar. A person leading a married love-life is more involved worldly matters while a celibate person is more concerned with godly spiritual matters. But there is no need to compare them and consider superior or inferior to one another.

Personally speaking while I was in primary school, that is, from the time I began to think I have felt special attraction to celibate life. I consider it today as divine inspiration. I faced  many obstacles and difficulties on the way of this attraction. As the eldest son of the family my parents did not want me to be a missionary priest going away from home. While I was in school final year, with my insistence my parents were prepared to grand me permission to go for priesthood but only in the local diocese in Kerala. They wanted me to become a diocesan priest like my maternal uncle, who was an efficient and ideal priest besides being a great friend and counselor of my parents.

In my childhood my grandfather was my ‘great friend’. One day my grandfather came to my house and told my parents, “If Varghese wants to become a missionary priest in North India, let him go. If he does not like there let him come back”. My parents loved and respected my grandfather. So willy nilly my loving parents gave me permission. In the process I lost one year and I come to Gujarat in 1963. Then, after long training I received ordination to priesthood in Rome, Italy on 21 June 1947.

From the time I put my first steps in Gujarat I have felt that I have reached my destination on earth. For the last 54 years I have been living a very happy and contented life as a celibate missionary priest. In this, I believe that it is not my power or achievement but a divine power and inspiration is continually leading me in celibate love-life.

On that day when Meghul asked me about sex life, that is if a person can live or not live without sex, I did not think it proper to share with him as then I did not have the leisure time. Besides, I know well if I am able to live a celibate love-life, it is not my merit but God’s power and mercy working through me.

Perhaps we can understand better this from a biblical perspective. The creation story of the Bible says, “It is not good for a man to live alone.” (Genesis 2:18). Early in the creation story “God said, ‘And now we will make human beings, they will be like us and resemble us. … so God created them male and female”. (Genesis 1:26-27). God has created human beings with sexual instinct/power. So life without sex or free from sexual union is a step against God given natural instinct. It is like swimming against the strong current. So by mere human effort sex-free life is not possible.

Here we need to understand well what the Bible says. Jesus speaking about celibacy, that is, a life free from sexual union says, “This teaching (life free from sex) does not apply to everyone, but only to those to whom God has given it… and others do not marry for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. Let him who can accept this teaching do so” (Mathew 19: 11-12). Jesus has identified three kinds of people. (First) “Some, because they were born that way; (Second), a few others, because men made them that way: and (Third) some others do not marry for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven” (Mathew 19: 12).

Like myself all Christian celibate (religious) men and women who are living free from sexual union know sex free unmarried life is a gift of God.  That is to say, men and women living without sexual union know that their celibate life is a special gift of God. They are able to live such life only with divine power. To those who are leading such committed life Jesus says, “You did not choose me; I choose you; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures” (John 15:16).

In the Old Testament God has chosen the Prophets in variety of ways. Similarly a celibate religious person like me knows that God has chosen him in a unique way.  So a religious person – a Sanyasi or a Sanyasini – with great humility dedicate himself/herself completely at the feet of the Lord. And God becomes everything for him/her. Usually a Religious person commits himself/herself publically on a particular day. That lifelong commitment is to be lived daily through taking recourse to daily prayers, meditation and other spiritual practices. In Religious life a person lives a life of sacrifice and seeks and gets spiritual counsel from experienced elders.

In married life husband and wife use their sexual urge to submit to each other and make happy and create new life. A Religious person in a very different way surrender himself/herself completely to God and dedicate himself/herself to the chosen path of service with total commitment. In this a religiously committed person knows very well that it is not his/her power and strength but divine power is at work in his/her life. So a Religious person’s life is completely dependent in the hands of God. He/She is totally dependent on God.

A person who has embraced Religious life in Christianity has an idea, a model, and a goal that is Jesus Christ. Jesus during his earthly life was totally dedicated to the will of his Father-God. Those who read the New Testament of the Bible know well that the only desire of Jesus was to do his Father’s will.  So surrendering himself completely to his Father-God Jesus embraced the ignonimous death on the Cross. The enemies of Jesus believed that with the death in the Cross the end has come of Jesus life and his message. But Jesus rose from death on the third day. During his life as well as through his post Resurrection appearances Jesus gave the message that there is a life beyond death. A Religious person not only accepts this life after death but also prefigures that life and tries to live that life.

Here the words of St. Paul are very appropriate regarding my celibate life. He writes to the Church at Corinth, “An unmarried man (& woman) concerns himself with the Lord’s work because he is trying to please the Lord. But a married man concerns himself with worldly matters, because he wants to please his wife; and so he is pulled in two directions” (1Cor 7:32-33).

Finally my answer to Maghul’s question is that, a person cannot live without sex, that is, love. But when sex that is love is God centred then a Christian Religious person can live without surrendering his or her sexual urge. For his/her sexual life is lived in complete surrender to his/her Lord God.

#

Changed On: 16-07-2018

Next Change: 01-08-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018

 

 

 

My Experience as a Teacher

Beginning with my eldest sister and a brother one of my uncles and two aunties as well as a few of my close relatives have made name as teachers, headmasters and headmistress In their foot steps there was possibility for me to become a teacher. But I choose to become a Missionary priest. I came to Gujarat in 1963 and joined the Jesuit Religious Order. Then, led by circumstances I became a journalist and writer. Still I have engaged myself as a teacher sharing my knowledge and experiences with interested students and others in seminars and workshops.

I did journalism studies in London in 1975 and returned to India in 1977 after some work experience in a magazine office in Cincinatti: USA. Then, there were not many people in India with professional training in journalism. So at the request of Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA) I conducted a month-long workshop in journalism and creative writing for 36 editors of Catholic periodicals in Xavier’ Institute of Communication (XIC) at Mumbai. I gave professional training to people who were fully involved in the print media. As I trained them news reporting, writing and editing my name because famous as a professional journalist in India. With that beginning I was called to conduct two-three journalism and creative writing workshops of two weeks duration every year in different parts of India.

Then from 1980s being elected as a Council Member of the International Catholic Union of the Press (UCIP) I was called to conduct seminars and workshops in journalism and creative writing in our neighbouring countries of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

Then, I was appointed as the Founder Director and Chief Editor of South Asian Religious (SAR) News service for four years from 1980 to 1983 inclusive. While I was Editor of SAR News I took every year two young person interested in journalism and trained them as professional journalists with both theory and practice. I am happy that my in service training in journalism produced a few journalists who have made name and fame in the field.

After my first year teaching one of the two journalist trainees Tony Joseph went to Secunderabad for an interview to work in an English daily newspaper there. After the interview Tony wrote to me, “Father Varghese thanks to your training I performed well in the interview and I got selected for the job in preference to journalism graduates from Poona University. Thanks”.  Today I read Tony’s name in some newspapers and national periodicals as a journalist author of in depth articles. I am happy that people in India take note of Tony’s writing. With Tony the second in service trainee Mr. Jose Kavi is also became a well known journalist as the India Bureau Chief of an Asian News Service UCAN.

After returning from New Delhi I was appointed again as the Chief Editor of DOOT family magazine in 1980. In DOOT office I used to take three to five in-service trainees in journalism and office management. As a teacher of journalism I insisted on two things. Choosing in-service trainees I selected young people who are interested in journalism and are ready for hard work. Second, with my teaching of journalism theory I insisted that my students do a lot of practical work. I used to tell them that with knowledge the ability to perform in writing is most important. I made very clear to them that your skills and ability to put down in black and white is more important than your degree, certificate or a diploma.

I remember that when Bhaskar group newspaper chain started its Ahmedabad edition one of my in-service trainee Mr. Vinod Parmar went for an interview and got an appointment letter with a salary double of what mass circulated ‘Sandesh’ and ‘Gujarat Samachar’ were then paying to their reporters.

Then, St. Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad got permission from UGC to start journalism course as a Career Oriented Programme, I was called to prepare a syllabus and the college principal asked me to conduct the programme for interested college boys and girls. In the first few years I enjoyed teaching journalism to the students as only interested students signed for the journalism and they attended lectures did home work regularly.

Later one or other Career Oriented Programme became compulsory for Arts Faculty students and many without any interest signed up for journalism. I lost interest in teaching such students, who did not attend lectures regularly. I was happy then that by then a dynamic Jesuit Fr. Vinayak Jadav came and took over the responsibility for conducting the journalism programme. After continuing to give lectures in a few more years I gave up teaching journalism in the college spending more time in my reading and writing hobbies. But I continued conducting journalism and creative writing workshops and seminars for short duration to interested youth in Gujarat and other parts of India.

Apart from teaching journalism in the college and conducting workshops and seminar I was also writing articles and essays on different topics of journalism and creative writing. As a result in 2008 I submitted a collection of such articles to a well known publisher, Rannade Prakashan who published my book entitled “Writing and Journalism” in Gujarati. Reviewing my book an eminent writer-critic and poet Mr. Yoseph Macwan wrote critical essay, which the literary magazine ‘Parab’ published it. In the review Mr. Yoseph Macwan wrote, “Without any doubt Fr. Varghese’s book ‘Writers and Journalists’ may be considered the bible of those who wishes to become journalists.”

As a teacher I am delighted to share my knowledge and wisdom with interested students. For me education is not mere sharing my knowledge and experiences. My greatest joy in teaching is my contribution to the shaping and moulding the character of my students. I wish that my values, my ideas help my students to lead a value-based and cultured life. For instances, my joy is to live for others. The success of my life is in living for others. Hence the goal of my teaching is that my students make their lives happy and fruitful by living for others. (Words1024)

#

Changed On: 01-07-2018

Next Change: 16-07-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018

 

 

Simon F. Parmar: My Friend

I was on my home visit in Kerala when I got the disconcerting news of Simon’s unexpected death on June 1, 2018. Then, I recalled an article which I have written on my friend Simon with the following actual story.

Some years back Fr. Paddy Magh of happy memory told me about his home visit and meeting his widowed father in Australia.  Both the son and dad were enjoying a quiet evening at home.

Fr. Paddy then told his aged father, “Dad, after some years, you will be no more. Your children, children’s children and many relatives and friends gather around your dead body. Some of us will say, what you are, what you have been to many people. They will recall your achievements, your living for your family; and the many fantastic things which you have done and achieved.”

“Yes, son. Those things usually happen. But why do you tell me now what will happen then?”

“Dad, when people say many good things about you, you will be lying in the coffin. You will not hear them! So I want to say some of those things now when you are alive.”

Then Fr. Paddy told his dad what an inspiring and encouraging person he has been to Paddy himself and for his siblings and to his wife and family, to his relatives and neighbours. Fr. Paddy recalled many concrete things about his dad as a loving and caring father, as an ideal husband to his wife, as a great friend to his neighbours and as a model Christian for everyone. There were tears of joy in his dad’s eyes as well as in Fr. Paddy’s own eyes.

Fr. Paddy’s story moved me. It inspired and made me think a lot. While reflecting on the story, Simon Francis Parmar came to my mind. I loved, respected and admired Simon but I felt that I never communicated to him all that he is and what he means to me. Of course, we have been good friends and we have mutual respect and appreciation. We supported each other.  He has said publically more than once that I am his mentor in writing and journalism. I am happy to recall here that Simon wrote a very encouraging and appreciative Preface to my first book in Gujarati: “Jivan Patolama Dharmani Bhat”.

While I was DOOT Editor, Simon, as Assistant Editor, has given voluntary free service in helping me to edit DOOT for ten long years. So I was happy to suggest his name to succeed me as the Editor of DOOT. From the beginning of DOOT history, competent lay persons have helped the priest-editors in carrying out their editorial responsibilities. But Simon Parmar has the distinction of being the first Editor as a lay person. What he did as a lay person editor was remarkable. So after Fr. Paddy’s story I wrote an article about my friend Simon.

Over the years not only our mutual support and collaboration in running DOOT increased but also our personnel friendship deepened. I was able to take him not only to a number of national meetings, seminars and conventions of Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA) but also to a World Congress of the International Union of the Catholic Press (UCIP) in Ruhpolding,Germany in September 1989. On the occasion we also visited the eternal city Rome. If I remember well he was also a member of a group 12 writers whom I took to attend the UCIP World Congress at Bangkok, Thailand in October 2004 and an international seminar at Colombo, Sri Lanka later. In my article I also listed many of Simon’s human and religious qualities like strong faith, hard work, loyalty, dependability, generosity and availability. As a model family man and ideal teacher in St. Xavier’s Loyola School, I often looked up to him for guidance especially on family matters.

Describing all these things I was happy with my ‘master piece’ and Simon too liked it; but he did not want to publish it in DOOT as he told me, “Father, you can publish it after my death.” I do not know what happened to that article after I left DOOT as Managing Editor and Publisher in 1996. In my time DOOT filing cabinet had a file called ‘Morgue’ where good things written about living persons are kept. I learned such practice while working in St. Anthony Messenger (magazine) office for three months in Cincinatti, USA.

While Simon became the Editor as my successor he used to publish every month my article in DOOT. Later he was irregular in publishing my articles. Then, my friend Navin Macwan came to my help taking me to his friend Mr. Jashwant Raval who edited ‘Madhyandar’ daily published from Anand. Mr. Raval requested me to write a weekly column in the Sunday supplement of ‘Madhyandar’. So Simonbhai indirectly helped me to become a regular columnist and writer in secular press and I have been deeply grateful to Simon for it; and our friendship continued to grow.

While I was DOOT Editor and even later Simon and the secretary in DOOT office Ms. Agnes Macwan were the first critics of my articles. When Simon or Agnes objected or strongly disagreed with my writings I always gave in and rewrote the objected matter as I perceived them better judges of people’s perception as I am a non-Gujarati writer writing in Gujarati.

As a family friend of Simonbhai and Kusumben, I enjoyed visiting them and some time sharing a meal cooked by Kusumben. Simon grew up at Bandra, Mumbai and started teaching in St. Stanislaus School, his alma mater. Then, after his marriage he came to Ahmedabad. When I first met him he and Kusumben were staying in a lonely rented farm house not too far from St. Xavier’s Loyola School, where he was teaching. Later, he moved into his own ground floor flat in Memnagar. When builder-developers took over the building Simon bought a first floor flat in a multistorey housing society where his son Joseph too got an adjoining flat. As a sign of the father and son getting on well, the two flats were redesigned into one big beautiful home. It is here Simon lived all his retired life with Kusumben of happy memory and his youngest son Joseph and family.

From time to time Simon used to visit me in my CISS office just for a chat and sometimes to give me a donation for CISS. I always made it a point to invite him to my birthday celebrations in Gurjarvani Residence every year.

When ICPA was announced its annual meeting and convention at Indore in March 2018, Simon requested me to book his rail ticket together with mine. I got Simon’s and my tickets booked both ways. But Simon could not make it. A day before starting the journey I called him to join me in CISS office to go together to the railway station. But then he said he was not feeling well to travel. There was no time for me to get his both way tickets cancelled. Returning from Indore I went to meet Simon in his house. He was okay and spoke to me about his plan to go for a Holy Land tour. But Joseph told me that about his loosing memory. Once Papa went to visit a friend. On the way back he could not find his way back home nor give his home address to the auto driver. Joseph and party searched for him and brought him home. “Father, now we accompany him even to go to Church,” Joseph told me.

Simon was a healthy person. He maintained very good relationship with all people, family, friends, neighbours, students, etc. he was a rare personality with no enemies. He was also a very accommodative person. When Simon was the Editor, the then publisher and the Director of Gujarat Sahitya Prakashan, Anand shifted DOOT office from Ahmedabad to Anand. Simon went along going to Anand as often as needed even staying and sharing meals with the Jesuit community there.

Even after leaving DOOT editorship after two terms Simon kept up his interest in literature by writing articles and translating from English into Gujarati. His last literary enterprise was writing the Church history. More than once he complained   to me that the typist was not responding his repeated phone calls. His typist who had worked with me had resigned from CISS office and I did not have much contact with him. I could not help Simon as I was busy preparing to hand over CISS to my successor and go for my home visit. I was at home in Kerala when a friend called me and gave me the sad news of Simon’s death on June 1, 2018. I called Joseph to confirm the news and convey my condolences to him and the whole bereaved family: three sons and two daughters, their spouses and children. May his soul rest in peace.

As a close friend I am sorry that I missed attending his funeral service and subsequent condolence meeting. But I am happy to hear that many people paid glowing tribute to his memory. Here I quote our mutual friend, former President of Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA) Fr. George Plathottam, SDB: “May God grant eternal rest to our dear Simon. He has been a wonderful person, a great human being, an inspiration to all of us as a Catholic journalist. We miss his calm presence in ICPA. My sincere condolences to his dear family members.” .

 

#

 

Changed On: 16-06-2018

Next Change: 01-07-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018

 

 

The First School of Love

I have more than 4500 friends in my Face Book friendship circle. The vast majority of them are young men and women. So I get often good news from my F B friends. In response to the good news from young couple I congratulate them heartily saying, “Welcome to the new arrival and hearty congratulations to the proud patents.”

But I feel that my words of appreciation for the couple, who have become parents, are lukewarm. For, they have become partners in the creative enterprise of the Creator. With my lukewarm words adding my love and warm feelings I pray for all the three persons that the good Lord bless them abundantly and keep them healthy.

Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation “The Joy of Love” (Amoris Laetitia) says that the family is the first school of education for a child. The child’s upbringing starts from the very first moment of its existence, that is, its conception in the mother’s womb. Pope Francis has devoted one whole chapter out of 9 chapters to deal with the upbringing of children and their education. Pope gives uppermost importance to the formation given to children at home.

Family is the school for every child born in this world. The child’s father and mother are the first teachers and molders of a child. A child’s mind is like a blank black board. A child is not conscious of the good and the bad. A child inherits very many things from its family.

A child learns about its family, society and the country from its parents, elders   and other relatives with whom s/he comes into contact. So Pope Francis says that the caring, guidance and supervision of a child by his/her parents in the family and outside is very important.

In bringing up a child its parents have to take a hundred and one steps; that is to say, they have to do innumerable things. What does a child do in the whole day? Whom does s/he meet? What does s/he do during free time? Who are the people, who entertain him/her? Who are the boys/girls with whom he/she plays? Who are his/her partners in games? What type of programmes he/she watches in the electronic media? The parents should watch over all these types of all things discreetly without interfering his/her freedom and creativity.

The parents are to oversee all things that concern their children with much love and understanding. For this, the parents should spend time with their children. But the parents should not be obsessed with always knowing where their children are and controlling all their movements. The children should not be over protected. Their freedom and right to develop and grow themselves should be respected.

Pope Francis says, “What is most important is the ability to lovingly  help them grow in freedom, maturity, overall discipline and real autonomy. The real question, then, is not where our children are physically or whom they are with at any given time, but rather where they are existentially, where they stand in terms of their convictions, goals, desires and dreams” (No.261).

I know a parent who to protect his teenage child, has resigned from his job. Now he engages himself in odd jobs in his spare time after taking his daughter to school and bringing her back home after school hours. Pope Francis says, “It is neither necessary nor important that the parents follow every step of their children. But, parents are responsible for shaping the will of their children, fostering good habits and natural inclination to goodness” (264).

Pope Francis says that the children, who enjoy love and freedom, will surprise us with their behavior and thoughts. Their unexpected thoughts and ideas are challenges to us. They compel us to rethink our own values and ideals. This is a very good thing. For, the people with understanding will encourage true education to use wisely the intellectual freedom.

Moral and ethical formation of children is very important. It is the responsibility of the parents to cultivate good habits and well being of everyone. Pope Francis says, “A good ethical education includes showing a person that it is his own interest to do what is right.” (265). Children should be able to understand distinguish between what is good and what is evil. A child should know that it is his/her own interest to stay away from bad things. Children should develop good habits so that she/he makes his/her own good values and behave accordingly. In the moral and ethical formation of children the good examples and behaviors of their parents and other elders are paramount importance.

Pope Francis says that, when children make mistakes, they should be helped to understand their mistakes and the way to correct and improve or restore the original situation. The children should learn to ask pardon when they offend someone or do something wrong. For this the children need to experience the patience and trust of their parents.

The discipline imposed on the children should never make them discouraged but see the discipline as for their own good and development. The family is the first school for children to learn human values and freedom. Authority of parents should never be autocratic. For children the parents should always be a source of love and trust.

Pope Francis puts great importance for children’s sexual education in the family. He says that our educational institutions have not taken up the challenges of children’s sexual education. First we have to consider that it is not an easy job. Sexual education should be given in the context of education of love and self offering.  Children and young boys and girls are not yet mature in sexual matters. The information about sex should be in keeping with the age of the children. The young boys and girls should not make the mistake of considering the attraction of the opposite sex as love.

The young boys and girls should understand the forces of sexual attraction for one another are something that leads them to true love and mutual self offering. In Popes’ own words, “Sexual education should also include respect and appreciation for differences, as a way of helping the young to overcome their self-absorption and to be open and accepting of others” (285).

While understanding the bodily differences of man and woman they should appreciate the differences as precious gift of the creator. Then, everybody should know that apart from the differences of persons as man and woman there are also many differences depending on family history, different cultural experiences, education, friends, relatives and the upbringing are also important as they affect the personality of individuals.

Finally in the education of upbringing of a child the inheritance of the religions are also included. Here without pointing to any ideal family Pope says to cultivate the love relationship in the family and develop each one’s talents and capacities.

#

Changed On: 01-06-2018

Next Change: 16-06-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018

 

 

THE SPIRITUAL CONTRIBUTION OF CISS

 “I have always said that building walls is not a solution: we have already seen one come down, during the last century. Walls solve nothing. We must build bridges. But bridges are built intelligently, through dialogue and integration”, said Pope Francis. The Pope was answering a question asked by a journalist Hellena Pinardi in a press conference abroad Papal flight from Lebos (Greece) to Rome on 16, April 2016.

Pope has never heard about Catholic Information Service Society (CISS). But his counsel of not building walls but building bridges applies 100% to CISS. For, the service of CISS is not to build walls but build bridges between different religions, faiths and cultures. CISS strives to establish inter-religious harmony and unity. CISS believes in the understanding of “Vasudaivakudumbakam”, that is, the whole world is one family.

Thanks to the modern achievements and facilities like electronic media, communication tools and international travel facilities the world has become one global village. Still the open secret and the naked truth is that there are much prejudice and misunderstanding about various different religions, cultures and races.

When CISS was established in 1984 we offered our services advertising them in the news papers. During the initial years there was much appreciation of our services.  With letters of praises for our services there were also a few letters of hatred and enmity. A few times we have also received letters of threat and enmity. Such letters were received often from anonymous sources without senders’ addresses. But I was alert to reply all letters with sender’s address.

Once in 1996 CISS office received four letters from Bhavnagar region. The four post cards coming from four different addresses have one common request. The writers wanted to receive our advertised free literature on Jesus Christ and the Bible. The letter writers also wanted to receive baptism and to know if on receiving baptism the person will get educated Christian girl to marry along with a car and bungalow to live a new life.

Even if they are exception, I used to get such letters. I made it my practice to reply every such letter. I tell the person that we send only the requested literature free of cost. Baptism is not something to be taken lightly. A decision to receive baptism is usually taken after much prayers, meditation and study. In the final stage it is a matter between God and the man/woman concerned. I also tell such person clearly that we have nothing to do with providing for the person educated Christian life-partner, bungalow and a car.

After sending my such love letters, my Assistant Sr. Devkripa who has been the principal of a big school and who also kept track of our correspondence courses, called my attention to the four post cards, “Father, look at all these four post cards, the addresses of the senders are different. But see: not only the content but the handwritings are one and the same, there are no differences but similarities”.

We in CISS believe in Jesus’ words, “Whatever is hidden away will be brought out into the open, and whatever is covered up will be uncovered” (Mk 4: 22). I believe that my letters are private and confidential, still I know even if my letters are read from the village market or town square, there will be nothing objectionable or offensive. I do not know the four post card writers did receive satisfactory answer to their quarries. But between us there were no further correspondences.

In such situation I always instructed my co-workers in CISS office that, when they received offensive letters, phone calls with thread and hatred, respond to them with as much love as you are able to communicate taking their threat and hatred as a pleading to tell the truth, to clarify their ignorance and prejudices. We know our true situation. So we respond anger and hatred with love and forgiveness.

The sum and substance of our advertisements in newspapers and bill boards, is “Believe or do not believe, but know Jesus Christ”. Our services have no string attached. Our advertisements have always our postal address and phone number.

During last 34 years we have registered more than 44,000 Enquirers/students for our different free correspondence courses from whole Gujarat. Usually people see our advertisements in newspapers or hear from our ‘old’ students or directly from me and then ask for our free correspondence courses. Those who are curious or inquisitive to know about Jesus Christ and the Bible contact us and we send them our free correspondence courses.

We always send our literature, the beautifully printed “Meet Christ” (Isune Malo) booklets to all who ask for them. We used to send our students 10 booklets plus Fr. Valles’ booklet on Christian Religion (“Khrist Dharma”) originally published by Satvichar Parivar.

Now we have revised our 10 booklets and reprinted them in 5 booklets. In 2017 we reprinted 2000 copies of the 5 booklets. The five booklets have question-answer papers in each of them. Students can study and then fill the question-answer sheet stitched in the middle, which can be detached and send to us. When we receive them we correct and issue each successful student with certificate and a gift of a biblical book or a copy of New Testament.

Some of our students write to us sharing their inner spiritual experiences in studying our literature. When our students tell us about their transforming experiences we are energized and encouraged in this service. For instance, I am happy to share with you a few such  experiences of few students.

Prathumanbhai from Tapi: (Regd. No. 27373) wrote to me on July 28, 2010: “Through your “Meet Christ” booklets I experienced the fulfillment of my need to know about my Lord Jesus; so to say, you have given the companionship of Lord Jesus to me.”

Rajubhai from Bhavnagar (Regd. No. 788) wrote to me on 29 November 2011: “I believe that I have received the gift of inspiration to cultivate virtues like love, service and forgiveness in my life through studying Lord Jesus.”

Kanubhai from Surat (Regd. No. 29900) wrote on 27 December. 2011: “From reading your booklets I have received inspiration to live a good life. In a true spirit I will observe all the advices which I have received from the booklets.”

Prakashbhai from Vadodara Central Jail (Regd.No.785) wrote to us on 31 December, 2011: “A great change has come upon inside me after studying correspondence course booklets. I used to get angry very quickly. Now I am able to control my anger.”

Rasibhai from Ahmedabad (Regd. No. 791) wrote to us on February 1, 2012: “I liked very much the study of St. Luke’s Gospel. I got very good message of mercy and service to humanity from it. I came to know that we should forgive those who do evil to us”.

A pen friend Dr. Sudhakarbhai Hathy wrote to me on October 15, 2011 from Jamnagar: “Your thoughts as well as your writings are of superb quality. As you describe, the celebration of Divali is very beautiful. All in my family welcomes your thoughts and reflection. Everyone in my family read your two leaflets.”

Another pen friend and journalist-poet Pritamlal Kavi from Nadiad wrote on December 20, 2011: “I received your two thought-provoking phamlets: “Vision of Jesus at Christmas” and “One day with my Mother”. You have described very well the importance of the vision of Jesus’ incarnation. Much thought for life is there in your article on Mother. This article will serve as a guide to those who insult and misbehave with their parents.”

Jayeshbhai from Bhavnagar (Regd. No. 28339) wrote to me on July 7, 2010: “Reading your books I got to know the true way of living life. You have caused to raise a new sun in my life!”

Rajeshbhai from Bhavnagar (Regd. No. 535) wrote to me on February 7, 2006: “After reading your small book ‘What Does Jesus Means to You & Me’ I have to say this much in verse,

‘Jesus came to the door of my heart

The darkness in my heart flew away

I have joy of good works to offer at his feet’.”

 

An eminent senior writer friend Yogendra Vyas from Ahmedabad wrote to me on October 20, 2010: “I did not know the Sikh tradition of celebration of the freeing of Guru Govind at Divali is narrated in your article on “Religious Feast Divali” in verse I liked your essay on ‘Let us Enjoy Peace in the New Year 2067”. In it you have described 7 interior steps to be taken. They are very important and necessary.”

 

A pen friend Govardhan Soratiya from Amreli wrote to me: “I am impressed by your loving letter and the article on ‘Good Friday’. In it I see heartfelt devotion towards Lord Jesus. I appreciate /admire your courage to refer to Modi and Yeyrrudappa in writing about Godhara carnage and other communal terrorists.”

 

As on March 31, 2018 CISS has registered a total of 45962 Enquirers/students and sent them our free literature. Some of our beneficiaries have acknowledged that they have received much wisdom and knowledge from our free correspondence courses. I have quoted a few chosen randomly samples. They speak about their experiences like change of values, conversion of heart, receiving spiritual wisdom etc. In the Bible a disciple of Jesus, St. Paul says, “For the benefit of knowing my Lord Jesus I count everything else useless.” (Philipp 3: 8).

 

The letters from our enquirers proclaims from roof tops that they have received much from the Bible, Jesus Christ and the Christian Religion. Then, much ignorance and prejudices against Christian religion and the Christians have been cleared. Their lives have been influenced by the values, messages and the life of Jesus Christ. In other words, instead of building walls and remain distant from the people CISS has succeeded to establish inter-religious harmony and inter-religious dialogue. In deed CISS is doing successfully in building bridges between different religions, races and cultures. (Words1681)

 

#

Changed On: 16-05-2018

Next Change: 01-06-2018

Copyright: Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MISSIONARY HERITAGE IN GUJARAT’S DEVELOPMENT

There is a telling picture about the contribution of missionaries not only in Gujarat but in the whole of India.  The colorful picture appeared on the cover page of a monthly ‘Sadhana’, March 1999. The artist has drawn Bharatmata in the grip of a large python. The picture is drawn in such a way that Bharatmata is wailing to be liberated from the grip of the huge monstrous python. In order to drive his message crystal clear for everyone the artist has identified the devilish python in large letters “Missionary” and the python’s tongue is drawn as cross. The sari-clad Bharatmata needs no identification. The picture reveals two things for me. On the one side, there is the acknowledgement of the contributions of missionaries in the development of India and on the other side, there is hatred of a section of people for Christian missionaries. There is also the envy of the missionary influence on Indian people and antipathy for the missionaries!

Obviously the artist is well informed and impressed by the missionary contributions in the developments of Gujarat and India. Unfortunately the artist who seems to despise missionaries does not understand the deep meaning behind the missionary contributions. As a disciple of Jesus Christ a missionary is bound to selflessly serve others especially the poor and Dalit people. For, a missionary follows in the footsteps of the one who told him/her to love others including the enemies and also offered himself on the Cross for others.

But the artist and like-minded people are not able to accept the missionaries, who walk on the path shown by Jesus. All the same it is our good luck that most Indian people without distinction of caste and creed do accept and appreciate the missionary heritage of selfless love and service. Moreover, impressed by the missionary spirit there are people who imitating the missionaries do engage themselves in the service of others with much love. Here I would like to speak specially about the missionary inheritance in Gujarat.

The missionary inheritance is experienced mainly in five areas or fields. In the overall development of Gujarat the contributions of the missionaries are outstanding in the fields of education, medical services, social works, literature and socio religious awakening. The vast majority of the people may not know but people living in interior villages in north and south Gujarat know well that the first kacha roads in their area have been built by missionaries with their limited sources like food for work projects. Most of these roads have been later converted to pacca (tarred) roads by panchayats and other   government authorities.

I have edited with my journalist friend Mr. Navin Macwan a bulky volume in 2011 in Gujarati “Vikasna Hamsafar: Gujaratna Vikasma Missionarino Pradan” meaning the contributions of Missionaries to the Development of Gujarat. A reader of the volume will find a short description of the missionary contribution in different fields to the development of Gujarat.

According to the traditions and the historical written evidences are available from the 3rd century that in the first century, that is in AD 52 one of the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ, St. Thomas came to India and spread the teachings of Jesus Christ in South India. But according to available information the missionaries’ arrival and spread of Jesus’ teaching begins only in 14th century in Gujarat.

Gujarati people by nature are adventurous in travelling and doing business in India and abroad. Foreigners came to the west coast of India and made Khambath and Bharuch important ports for trading in cinnamon, pepper, clove, cardamom, ginger and other such spices.Then, using the travel facilities missionaries too came to Gujarat and Christianity took root. Dr. Ishanand Vempeny quoting the Christian Encyclopedia wrote in “Vikana Hamsafar” a historical article entitled Planting of Cross in Gujarat. He quotes, “Landing in Thana in 1321, the French Dominican Jourdin Cathala de Serversae found a small community of Christians were told that there were several Christian communities further north and concretely in Bharuch.”  An British traveler Willkim Hedges has written about the priests of different Christian denominations in his diary in 1666.

Some people think that the encounter of Gujaratis with the Christian religion is as old as Christianity itself. For instance, a scholar like Dr. Gamang Jani says in his newspaper column in Sandesh dated 21 Dec 2007: “The contact of Gujarat with the Christian Religion is as old as Christianity itself.”

The Christian Religion has mainly two branches Roman Catholics and Protestants.  The Protestants made their beginning when a Catholic Priest reformer Martin Luther (1483-1540) revolted against the evil practices that had crept into Christianity of the time symbolized by Rome and became the founder of Protestant Christians.

These Protestant Christian missionaries were the first to spread Christian Religion in Gujarat. As recorded in ‘Vikasna Hamsafar’ a Protestant missionary William Faivi started the first printing press at Surat.  It was the beginning of printing in Gujarat. William Faivi published the first book in Gujarati language in 1820. Then, from Vrajalal Kalidas Sastri of Surat, Joseph Van Somaran Taylor learnt Gujarati in the 1860s and Taylor published the first Gujarati grammar in English alphabets in 1862.Later in 1870 the Gujarati grammar was published in Gujarati alphabets.

In the development of Gujarati literature the Christian missionaries as well as the local Christian writers and poets have made noteworthy contributions. In the literary section of ‘Vikasana Hamsafar’ the articles of eminent writers like Rajvin Chandhari, Kesubhai Desai.Yeshwant Mehta Chimmanlal Trivedi, Yeshwant Trivedi, M. Dalal etc. give a fair idea of the contribution of Christian missionaries and other Christian writers. Then there is Fr. Raymund Chauhan who has written bulky volume of “The grammar of Gamit Language” and “The grammar of Dangi Language.”  His article in ‘Vikasana Hamsafar’ entitled ‘The culmination of tribal culture’ has highlighted the contributions of missionaries in promoting the tribal language and culture. Then the names of Novelist Joseph Macwan, Poet Yoseph Macwan, Essayists Frs. Carlos Valles, SJ and Varghese Paul, SJ are well known names in Gujarati literature. All have been honored with many literary award and honors.

Many people may not know the contribution of Christia missionaries and other writers to Gujarati literature. But all know well or have heard about the contribution of missionaries in the field of education. When missionaries came to Gujarat the Dalits and the poor people were kept out of education. Missionaries from the beginning took trouble to educate those opening schools for them wherever they went. Once an old missionary Fr. Basil Lala Parmar told me, “Fr. Varghese, in Kheda A Gilla (Present Nadiad and Anand Districts) alone we had more than 100 primary schools. Missionaries opened primary schools in interior villages and educated all children without making any distinction of caste or creed. Dalit people in large number got educated. Many of them embraced Christianity because the missionaries accepted them as their own irrespective of their castes or socio-economic background.

I have heard from Fr. Herbert D’ Souza the first Principal of St. Xavier’s college which started in 1955 that in the beginning St. Xavier’s college was one  in which no one wanted to join and study. But in no time it became the best college not only in Ahmedabad city but in the whole of Gujarat.

Two things stand out about the missionary education. First, the standard of the missionary schools started in the cities like Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Rajkot, Surat, Jamnagar, Bhavnagar etc. stood out as the best schools for others as challenges and inspiration; and second, missionaries contribution to spread education in the villages and interior places like Dediapada, Ahwa, Subir, Jhankvav are without equal. The missionaries opened schools and hostels for boys and girls and educated specially the Dalits, the Tribals and other poor people.

True, there were a few government schools in tribal area. But till the missionaries opened their schools no tribal boys or girls had passed the SSC! For, teachers and government officials were saying that the tribal children are not interested in education as they wanted only to roam about in the jungles.

But what is the situation now?  According to newspaper reports Vidhya Kiran High at Unai school in Navsari District has been named as the best school both boys and girls.  Most of the teachers in the school now are the products from missionary schools in their own villages. With the declaration of the award the school also received 5 lakhs rupees in awards and prizes. I am happy that I was invited twice by the school principal Sr. Suhasini Parmar and I addressed school children on two different occasions about the importance of “Forming Reading Habits in Education.”

I remember some decades back the same missionary sisters, who run the Vidhya Kiran School at Unai, started a School in Sanand. The sisters visited the villages around Sanand and brought boys and girls and put them in their school and hostels. The missionaries often paid the bus fare to the parents to bring their children to their School and boardings. The village people did not want their girls to be educated then! But now! Now there is rush to get admission. I know the situation well because when the school started my two sisters Celine and Lissy were there serving one after another. They offered medical services to the children and the villagers.

Like in education in the field of medical services too the contribution of missionaries are outstanding. There was a time in Gujarat when 99 percent of the nursing care was given by Christian nurses. A well known writer and novelist Dr. Kesubhai Desai has written about the missionaries in the book Vikasana Hamsafar. He writes, “The concepts of nursing and midwifery were given exclusively by Christians.”

My sister Celine stood first in Gujarat state in her nursing studies. Some years back she worked in the interior tribal villages under Bardiapada and Subir missions. With the Dispensary at the two mission centers she also managed a mobile dispensary driving it herself to interior tribal villages. Once I joined her in her mobile van which she drove through bullock cart roads. In a particular village through her health workers she called all mothers with children two years or younger. Some 30 plus tribal women came with their babies. Celine declared a competition to decide by the mothers themselves which one was the most healthy baby boy or girl. “All children are to be  evaluated one by one with the same standard. The hair, nails and the whole body of the child should be clean. The cleanliness of the clothes also will be considered. Torn clothes have no problem provided they are clean”, she said. After congratulating the winners and giving them colorful toys, she declared, “all the children who participated in the competition are also winners”. Then she gave away toys and colorful children’s dresses to each child and congratulated the mother. She explained to them the importance of cleanliness of not only the children but also themselves, their whole house and surrounding. “We should take care to prevent disease than treating sickness.” Sr. Celine concluded.

On returning in her mobile jeep after she had examined and distributed medicine to some sick people, I told Celine at the wheel, “Celine, now I understand why the people call you ‘The Jungle Queen’, and also your popularity among the tribal people.”

Today the missionary sisters run a few hospitals in cities like Rajkot, Anand, Vadodara, Sanand with very good facilities for medicare. But in the field of medical care the missionaries’ contributions are in interior villages and Tribal areas. Hence writer Dr. Surendra Asthavadi wrote in ‘Vikasana Hamsafar’: “In inaccessible places in Gujarat where there are no roads and electricity the Christian missionaries somehow reached by foot with medicine and other services and guidance which others never even thought of. They also helped the poor in interior villages by   feeding and educating their children through hostels and schools.”

Some years back the missionary sisters were running leprosy hospitals and rehabilitation programmes at places like Ahmedabad (Narol), Bhavnagar, Jamnagar and Surat and serving the leprosy patients. Besides they were offering training to cured patients in stitching and tailoring, making them self-employed with tailoring machines, push carts for selling vegetables and fruits, carpentry equipments and like.

I would like to recall here that some years back Dr. Sister Anette Fernandes of Daya Sadan Hospital, Jhankhvav was awarded by the Health Care and Medical Education Department of Gujarat State for her outstanding services to tuberculosis patients. Similarly Sr. Lissy Paul was awarded by the State Health Care Department for her eminent services in treating sickle cell anemia patients and spreading awareness in tribal villages for treating and preventing the disease.

As I see, one of the biggest contributions of the missionaries in the development of Gujarat is in the area of concentising people about their unhealthy and unproductive customs and blind faiths which keep them backward. The missionaries empowered them to be self sufficient socially, religiously and economically for their own development. For instance, Daudbhai Ousephbhai Macwan wrote in ‘Vikasana Hamsafar’: “The missionaries have contributed a lion’s share in giving a true identity of the Gujarat”.

Fr. Joseph Idiakunnel gave for the first time in Gujarat the idea of ‘Free Legal Aid’ as an ideal.  Later through the Supreme Court Judge Bhagavati the idea of Free Legal Aid was accepted at national level for the whole of India. Fr. Joseph and his colleagues through Free Legal Aid got a few police officials punished for gang raping a tribal woman by name Gunthaben fighting her case up to the Supreme Court. The case made history for the first time police criminals were punished. The case helped as awakening of the tribal people that they are not helpless.

In the words of Navin Macwan, one of the two editors of ‘Vikasana Hamsafar’, “The missionaries have taken the initiative in the empowerment of 80 lakhs tribal people in Gujarat.” Today the new generation tribal youth have made a name for themselves in many fields such as educators, advocates, physicians, government officials, co-operative experts, etc.

Finally, one of the contributors of ‘Vikasana Hamsafar’, writer Dhanananth Oza in his article entitled “The Constructive Activities of the Missionaries” has taken note of the positive contributions of the missionaries. He concludes, “There should not be any opposition to the positive contribution of the missionaries. In Gujarat too the missionary activities have contributed positively to the love and enlightenment in many areas of life. The contributions of the missionaries in the renaissance of Gujarat certainly deserve honorable mention in the history of Gujarat.”

#

Changed On: 01-05-2018

Next Change: 16-05-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018

 

 

 

BE A LEADER NOT A PUPPET

 

Everyone world over knows that Blessed Mother Teresa was canonized as a saint on September 5, 2016. The news of Mother Theresa’s canonization was highlighted in the print and audio-visual media in the whole world.

Similar news, perhaps more important news was published in a governent press release in 2016. But that news was treated as insignificant news publishing it in an inside page of a few news papers! The news was that the BJP government has cancelled the permission of 13 orphanages out of 16 orphanages run by Mother Teresa’s Sisters, the Missionaries of Charity in India.

To understand the importance and the significance of this news three things are specially needed. First, you need to be a lover of fellow human beings. Second, your sensitive heart needs to feel the heartlessness of some people and the want of social equality so much that your heart prompts you to do something to change this criminal situation. Third, your merciful heart wants to do something for the poor and the needy.

These three qualities or virtues are seen in abundance in Mother Teresa and her Sisters. Hence they are able to serve selflessly the poorest of the poor. The people who are volunteers or are witnesses of the loving services Mother Teresa and her Sisters will agree with me hundred percent.

Mother Teresa was fully possessed by these three qualities or virtues. She loved of fellow human beings, with a burning desire to serve the poor selflessly with a loving and merciful heart. That is why Mother Teresa dared to leave of the prestigious Loreto Convent School as a much respected  the Principal and a much loved teacher. Still she ventured into the slums of Moti Jeel and started to serve the poorest of the poor people in 1948. She never looked back.

By the time of her death on September 5, 1997, that is 48 years after leaving the convent, her Sisters, the Missionaries of Charity numbered about 5000! They were serving in more than 600 institutions in 135 countries with great love and kindness. These institutions included orphanages, leprosy asylums and hospitals, old age homes and abandoned children’s homes like Shishu Bhavans.

Cancelling the permission to run the 13 orphanages out of thousands of them in the world may not matter much to the people without empathetic hearts. But for the people with sympathetic hearts the cancellation of permission to run 13 orphanages matters a great deal. For, think of the inmates of those orphanages.  For, hundreds of orphan boys and girls those orphanages are their only home, only place of refuge, the only place where they are taken care of with much love, food, shelter and other basic needs of existence. They are abandoned or separated from their unknown kinfolks. They may be sick and deformed. They are broken and helpless on their own. They have received love and selfless services from the Sisters of Mother Teresa and their kind volunteers. They help each other in the orphanage and find meaning for their existence.

Now by cancelling the permission, the heartless government has driven the orphan children to the streets! Those politicians and their executives who enjoy 5 star accommodations and services have nothing to lose in closing the 13 orphanages. They do not have the empathetic hearts like the Mother Teresa and her Sisters. Unlike the MC Sisters the government authorities and their Babus do not recognize the orphan boys and girls as their own brothers and sisters.

The decision to close the 13 orphanages run by the Sisters of Mother Teresa will add some more people to the poor number of people living on the edges of the society. But there will be no shortage of food on the table of the heartless people who orders the closer of the orphanages. On the contrary, they might celebrate that they have stopped the services of the ‘hated’ missionaries and have kept away the people who are impressed by the services of the missionaries.

Mother Teresa was very popular and was known as ‘the Saint of the Slums’, ‘the Personification of Mercy’, ‘the Mother of the Orphans’, ‘the Goddess of the Gutter’ and ‘the Refugee of the Poor’ etc. The long process before the canonization of Mother Teresa was over. There was a question. Where the official ceremony of the canonization should be held, at the eternal city Rome or in the city of Kolkata, which was very dear to Mother Teresa’s heart?

To hold the ceremony at Kolkata the BJP government of Narendra Modi needs to give an official invitation to Pope Francis as he is the head of Vatican, a small City State in Rome. This was a great puzzle for Prime Minister Modi as he has been speaking abroad about the ancient Indian culture and the very tolerant people of India.

PM Modi is the elected with massive majority as the head of the largest democracy in the world. With his innumerable trips abroad he has claimed to be a very efficient Prime Minister. This was a golden opportunity for PM Modi to prove himself that he was not a puppet Prime Minister of the Sangh Parivar as his detractors claim.

Then, by inviting Pope Francis to hold the canonization ceremony at Kolkata Modi could have achieved a number of things. First of all, Modi could prove among the foreign press and other media wrong that the Christians and other minorities are persecuted instead of just saying in defense that “the foreign media do not understand the Indian situation”. Secondly, Modi could have proved himself that he is capable of taking right decision at the right time. But his silence in this respect proved the opposite that Modi is a puppet in the hands of the Sangh Parivar and that he is not able to do what he wants. This was a great challenge for PM Modi but ,,,,

In spite of the strong opposition from the Sangh Parivar, the then PM Atal Behari Vajpai proved himself an eminent politician by inviting Pope (now saint) John Paul II in November 1999. John Paul II proclaimed an inspiring document entitled “Asian Church” on 06-11-1999 from Sacred Heart Cathedral, New Delhi.

The ceremony of canonization of Mother Teresa or for that matter any Saint is an international event. Long preparations go into declaring a person saint in the Catholic Church. Later the decision was taken to hold Mother Teresa’s canonization ceremony at Rome and Pope Francis was not in a situation to accept PM Modi’s invitation for the occasion.

Even at that stage PM Modi could have redeemed himself leading the Indian team going to attend the canonization ceremony. But nothing of the sort happened. The Foreign Minister Mrs. Sushma Swaraj led the Indian team and came back after their lack luster presence in the canonization ceremony at Rome.

According to recent newspaper reports the highest Church authorities in India had specially met PM Modi and requested him to invite Pope Francis this year. I hope that PM Modi will do that to make up for not inviting Pope Francis in the earlier occasions.

Finally our politicians should know that in a meaningful Gujarati verse a well known Poet Yacub Parmar has beautifully expressed the current situation of the country.

“Someone is shaking the foundation of democracy

Some people are hammering away at the dome

The democracy is not able to shout or cry

Some men are burning the facade of democracy.”

(Words 1258)