JOURNALISM IN INDIA TODAY

Journalism in India today is a great challenge because the socio-religious and political ambience in the country is worse than ever. Mob lynching has been wide spread in India since 2014. Organized mob target someone mostly Muslims and kill him in public view spreading terror among the minorities and Dalit people who are outside the caste category. For instance, 24 year old Tabrez Ansari was mob lynched in June 2019 just a day after his marriage. The police took the much wounded Tabrez to the police station as a rober refusing his young wife and his uncle permission to take him to a hospital. He was tied to pole and the attackers mercilessly beat him with sticks and rods for a long time forcing him to say, “Jai Shree Ram”. He died in police custody on the 4th day without getting any medical treatment!

A website news says that “According to a Reuters report, a total of 63 cow vigilante attacks had occurred in India between 2010 and mid 2017, mostly since the Modi government came to power in 2014”. Quint web site news says that from 2015 to the end of 2019 a total of 113 persons were killed in mob lynching in different parts of (North) India.

Social and human right activists and anyone else standing for human rights like advocates, writers, professors and students are labeled as Maoists and terrorists and are put into jail on false charges or cooked up cases against them. Those IAS and IPS officers like Kannan Gopinathan, Sanjiv Bhatt and R B Sreekumar who protested or refused to carry out illegal orders by government Ministers and other senior officers are harassed to the maximum with false cases and imprisonment.

In spite of these frightening situations some of those who dare to express themselves in public are murdered. Rationalist Narendra Dabolkar, Educationist Prof. M M Kulburgi, activist Comrade Govint Pansare and journalist-editor Gauri Lankesh are few who were killed for their public stand. These examples show that the murderers are trying to put fear into journalists, writers and intellectuals. What makes the situation worse is that the murderers are hardly caught and punished! There has been news that some of the persons involved in mob lynching have been publically honoured!

The new Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has resulted in country-wide protests mostly led by university students and ordinary people. Some politicians have also criticized the Act as well as the earlier National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Citizens (NRC). The front page report in The Indian Express (Ahmedabad edition) dated January 13, 2020 says: “Stating that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) cannot be ‘segregated’ from one another or viewed in ‘isolation’, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath said on Sunday that his government would not ‘execute’ anything which ‘divides society or has the potential to divide’.”

The same news report further says, “The Left Government in Kerala and the Trinamool Congress Government in West Bengal have already decided not to carry out the NPR exercise in their states.” In this kind of conflicting situations, for instances, between the Centre and State Governments journalists have to do a tight-robe walking as s/he need to research the background of the available information and facts and be well informed.

In this socio-political and communal situation in India today what are the challenges facing journalists and writers? Here I would like to list four outstanding challenges. First, ability to recognize and stand by truth; second, fearlessness and courage to work with professional competence,  third, discernment to distinguish good from evil and the moral fortitude to stand by the truth and fourth, constant watchfulness against fake news.

First, ability to recognize and stand by the truth. There are self-seeking and interested people manipulating the truth and misleading journalists. Such situation calls for thorough professionalism in reporting and writing. Here I am reminded of a case which I studied. There was front-page news in The Indian Express (Ahmedabad Edition) dated October 18 and 19, 2017. According to the reports an 11 year old girl Santoshi by name died due to hunger.

The report said that the girl died in the previous month as there was nothing in her house to eat or drink. Her mother Koyali Devi and her elder sister used to go to the forest and collect firewood and sell it for Rs.40/= or Rs.50/= a bundle or they worked as daily wage labourers whenever there were work for them. But for more than a week no one in her house got enough to eat. As Koyali Devi said, before Santoshi died she was crying for rice-water but there was nothing in the house to quench her thirst and hunger. This news was brought out by an activist news reporter of The Indian Express, Prasant Pande.

When Prasant Pande got the news published, the government authorities and medical personnel were saying that Santoshi died of Maleria and not of hanger! But her mother Koyali Devi told Prasant Pande that no government officials or medical persons visited her hut or even the village. After Prasant Pande’s report the Chief Minister of Jharkhand Mr Ragubar Das ordered to give Santoshi’s family Rs.50,000/= as an immediate relief and also ordered an enquiry. Through Prasant Pande the words of Jesus proved true: “Whatever is hidden away will be brought out into the open, and whatever is covered up will be uncovered” (Mk 4: 22).

When politicians and government officials fail in their duties they look for excuses and even outright lies. A journalist has to be alert to know the truth and report the truth, even unpleasant truth fearlessly. As happens often, when poor people die in India due to hunger or exposed to severe winter cold or unbearable summer heat, it is mostly due to the negligence of concerned government authorities and officials.

Second, fearlessness and fortitude to work as professional journalists and writers. It is important that a journalist should be thoroughly professional in his/her chosen field of journalism. When a journalist is expert in his/her field then s/he is not easily manipulated. S/he can do a professional work without succumbing to outside pressures like bribe and other allurement and even threat to life.

The Managing Editor of NDTV (Hindi) Ravis Kumar is an outstanding example of fearless journalism. He has proved that he can withstand any and every type of allurements and threats. He has received many threats to his life from extremists belonging to certain political party. Ravis Kumar has won many national and international awards including Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2019 for his fearless and professional works in journalism. There are also journalists who paid with their life for their courageous reporting. For instance, the journalist, who exposed Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, was murdered in Sirsa in Haryana after he published a story about the alleged sexual exploitation of women by the chief.

Third, the power of discernment to distinguish the good from evil, the truth from untruth. In reporting and writing a journalist is called to discern constantly. S/he has to decide what to write, how to write and what not to write. Even in writing a report s/he has to discern and chose facts and information for taking in and leaving out. This is very important when a journalist is writing on communal issues.

In the beginning of anti-Muslim communal clashes in Gujarat in 2002 I wrote in my column in daily “Samabhav” that there was an attempted pogrom against the Muslims. The editor cancelled the paragraph referring to pogrom from my article. But I repeated the same thing in a seminar talk in a youth camp and I was challenged by some of the youth. I told them that in my article I had mentioned “an attempted pogrom against the Muslims in Gujarat. But subsequent developments go to prove that there was real pogrom against the Muslims. For, pogrom is organized violence and massacre against a group of people, Religion or race.”

Once a woman reader of my weekly newspaper column asked me, “Father Varghese, are you not afraid of writing such and such things? Don’t you read about the murder of RTI activists and police encounter killing?” I told her that I am not afraid of death; I am prepared to embrace death when it comes. I am not afraid of anyone except offending God. “But Father, please take care”, was her response.

In all writings, discernment is called for. In the beginning of my writing profession I have decided that I will write about persons only if I have love and concern for the concerned persons. I do not allow hatred and vengeance in my writings. I believe what St Augustine of Hippo said: “Love, and do what you will.” When there is love in the heart that person will not write anything harmful and hateful for others.

Fourth, constant watchfulness against fake news. Fake news is not genuine news but cooked up stories like a mixture truth and untruth or even outright lies. Pope Francis has given the example of Satan deceiving the woman in Eden Garden.  Eve was tempted by the devil to eat the prohibited fruit as something very desirable.

Today fake news are wide spread in all media like print, broadcast and social communication calling journalists to be constant vigilance against them. In fake news self-seeking persons or interested parties want to influence people to their side mixing facts with falsehood or even outright lies. Fake news is like ravenous wolf in sheep’s clothing. We know that fake news is never genuine news. Our efforts should be to distinguish between genuine news from fake news and alert media users and others against fake news.

A telling example of fake news is two books: (1) Harvest of Hate by Michael Parker and (2) A Fact File Report by Fact Finding Teams by Branon Parker. As journalist-author Anto Akkara has written about them that both the books are by ghost writers and both have almost the same content. He proves conclusively that like the two ghost authors and their two books are fake.  In a way, the two books are imitation of an earlier book Harvest of Hate by two well known personalities Swami Agnivesh and Valson Thambu. It is well studied book about the 2002 Gujarat pogrom against the Muslims.

Finally, let me say that journalism today in India and in the world has become a very dangerous profession.  “Journalism – one of the world’s most dangerous professions” was the headline of a report by UNO in 2012. According to a list published in Wikipedia 20 journalists have been murdered from 2014 to 2018 in India. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_journalists_killed_in_India).  An international news agency NBC News writes that around the world at least 63 journalists were murdered in 2018; and India is included among the five deadliest countries in the world for journalists!

These facts and figures should not frighten us as we have Jesus Christ as our model, who never deviated from the mission which his Father has entrusted to him. So let us face our challenges in the field of journalism in India today with prudence and courage as Jesus did in his mission to the end.

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Changed on: 16-02-2020

Next Change: 01-03-2020

© Fr Varghese Paul, SJ – 2020

 

RELIGION AND ECOLOGY

International Conference and Poetry Festival

Post Graduate Department of English, Berhampur University, Odisha

In Collaboration with the

Indian English Writers, Editors and Critics (GIEWEC) on

Environment and Culture in the Anthropocene

Dec. 1 & 2, 2019

This paper on Religion and Ecology is very much related to the conference Theme: ‘Environment and Culture in the Anthropocene’. The Bible says that God created human beings in his likeness and resemblance and entrusted them the stewardship of the creation. Anthropologists claim that human beings first inhabited Africa and then, through migration, populated all continents over thousands of years in pre-history. This paper on Religion and Ecology, however, deals with the contemporary times.

As defined in Oxford Dictionary & Thesaurus, religion means a “belief in super human controlling power especially in personal God or gods”. Similarly, ecology means “study of relations of organisms to one another and their surroundings.” Likewise, Anthropocene, as noted in the concept paper, indicates a “new geological epoch human on earth find themselves [in]” and that today it has become “an umbrella term for human induced climate crisis involving nature and culture.”

   Human beings created in God’s own image are the stewards of the entire creation. Hence comes the importance of Anthropocene.  Google Dictionary defines Anthropocene as, “the current geological age, viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment”. Some scientists say that human activity has been the dominant influence on environment and climate from the beginning of the industrial revolution.

Human beings and creation are composed of five basic elements of earth, water, fire, air, and space. The right proportion of the five elements in a human body makes the person healthy and robust. Such a person is considered hale and hearty. The same is also true of the environment. For instance, the German Zoologist Ernst Haeckel says, “The balance of the whole creation is maintained by right combination of all its components.”

Some 300 years ago, the environment was also “hale and hearty” in its own way. However, human beings began to interfere with the environment on a big scale from the beginning of industrial revolution that began in England and spread around the whole world. Consequently, human interference with the environment increased to the detriment of Mother Earth. More specifically, India also increasingly became industrialized after the independence thereby unbalancing its atmosphere.

Nature protects the earth with the cover of what is called “ozone air”. Ozone protects the earth as a shield against the ultraviolet and infrared rays of the sun. Ozone’s protection of the earth is like a greenhouse effect.

Dr Jose Mathew Vayalil, S.J. expertly discusses the greenhouse effect in his book THE GREEN MODEL OF THE CHURCH. Vayalil notes that “The Greenhouse effect was discovered by Joseph Fourier, a French Physicist in 1824. He theorized in 1927 that the earth’s atmosphere acts like the glass of a plant breeder’s hot house. In a greenhouse the incoming UV radiation easily passes through the glass walls of the greenhouse and is absorbed by the plants and hard surfaces inside. Weaker infrared (IR) radiation inside the green house has difficulty passing through the glass walls and is trapped inside thus warming the green house.”(1)

Scientists, like ecologists and environmentalists, have been warning the dangers of affecting the ozone cover. During the last few decades, many world leaders have also raised a serious concern over the depletion of the ozone cover and have searched for solutions. Today the whole world has become aware of the environmental problems because everyone experiences climate change, tsunamis, earth quakes, droughts, floods, and other natural disasters.

Religion has played, and continues to play, a significant role in human lives. The Homo sapiens must have started worshipping Nature or certain powers of nature long ago. Acknowledged or not, the Creator God has been leading human beings to, what Paleontologist, Philosopher-Theologian Pierre Teilhard Chardin (1881-1955) calls, “Omega Point”. The Jesuit priest Chardin coined the term ‘Omega Point’ to assert that everything in the universe is destined to reach its final point, the divine destiny, Jesus Christ. “The Omega Point is a spiritual belief that everything is fated to spiral towards a final point of divine unification”. (2) The Bible also says that everything was created through Jesus Christ.

Further, Chardin argued that Omega Point resembles the Christian ‘Logos’, namely, Christ who draws all people and things to himself. Whether we agree with Teilhard Chardin’s theory or not, it helps us to look at the Creation with respect and love. Respecting and loving the creation can lead us to refrain from misusing and polluting the earth. All the same, the rampant environmental destruction proves that the human beings have failed to love and respect Mother Earth in the Anthropocene.

In a message to the World Day of Peace on January 1, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI said, “If you want cultivate Peace, protect the Creation”. Today the world has become aware that, instead of protecting the creation, selfish human beings are destroying the environment and creation out of greed.

Pope Francis in his Encyclical letter LAUDATO SI’, published in 2015, reminds us that the destruction of environment is an extremely serious matter. Pope Francis writes, “The destruction of the human environment is extremely serious, not only because God has entrusted the world to us men and women, but because human life itself is a gift, which must be defended from various terms of debasement. Every effort to protect and improve our world entails profound changes in life styles, models of production and consumption, and the established structures of power which today govern the society.”(3)

In a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the creation story in the Bible (see Genesis, chapters 1 & 2), human beings were considered the master of the whole creation. For, the Bible says, “They will have power over the fish, the birds, and all animals, domestic and wild” (Genesis 1: 26). But now the biblical scholars interpret human beings’ power over creation as stewardship over the creation.  So the Ecologist Theologian Dr. Vayalil Jose Mathew, SJ says, “The status of the Homo sapiens is brought down from the pinnacle of creation to an ordinary member of the earth community.”(4) In his book The Green Model of the Church, Vayalil quotes the American professor in biology Barry Commoner, who proposed Four Laws of Ecology. One of Commoner’s lasting legacies is his four laws of ecology. They are the following:

  1. “Everything is connected to everything else. There is one ecosphere for all living organisms and what effects one, affects all.
  2. “Everything must go somewhere. There is no “waste” in nature and there is no “away” to which things can be thrown.
  3. “Nature knows best. Humankind has fashioned technology to improve upon nature, but such change in natural system is, says Commoner, ‘likely to be detrimental to that system.’
  4. “There is no such thing as a free lunch. Everything comes from something. There’s no such thing as spontaneous existence.

“His philosophy influenced many to use ecology as a political agenda.”(5)

Dr Commoner, also a professor in George Washington University, St Louis, USA, was a prominent figure on environmental issues in the 1960s-1990s. TIME magazine featured him on its cover in February 2, 1970 describing him as both an environmental ecologist and an activist. In an online article written by Simon Butler, entitled ‘Barry Commoner: Scientist, activist radical ecologist’, the writer describes Dr Commoner as “the greatest environmentalist of the 20th century”.

Dr Commoner’s contribution in creating awareness about ecological and environmental destruction is outstanding to say the least. Let me quote again from Butler’s article, dated October 4, 2012. A week after Commoner’s death, Butler writes:

Over several decades, he also took part in many grassroots environmental campaigns. His research into the health impacts of atmospheric nuclear testing is credited with leading to the 1963 international treaty that banned it. He repeatedly spoke out for the most common victims of industrial pollution: poor, Black and working class communities.

But he combined this activity with a radical argument about the root cause of ecological crisis, which he said was a system of production based on private profit instead of ecological and human need. Commoner said in his 1971 book The Closing Circle: ‘We are in an environmental crisis because the means by which we use the ecosphere to produce wealth are destructive of the ecosphere itself. The present system of production is self-destructive; the present course of human civilization is suicidal.(6)

I am sure most ecological scientists and concerned religious leaders will agree with Barry Commoner’s view that “the present system of production is self-destructive; the present course of human civilization is suicidal.”

This same view is upheld in an important document which Thomson Gale has quoted in his research paper on “Ecology and Religion: An Overview” published in Encyclopedia of Religion. Gale writes that the document “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” was produced by the union of concerned scientists in 1992 and was signed by more 2000 scientists, including over 200 Nobel laureates. The document says,

Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course.… Human activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment and on critical resources. If not checked, many of our current practices put at risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know. Fundamental changes are urgent if we are to avoid the collision our present course will bring about.(7)

 

The echoes of this view are also heard in a very recent document on environment and ecology in Pope Francis’ encyclical letter LAUDATO SI’ On Care For Our Common Home. This official document of Pope Francis published on 24 May 2015 is, according to me, his most comprehensive teaching on environment and ecology from humanistic/religious point of view. In the encyclical, Pope Francis challenges every person to get involved in the care of mother earth and change one’s lifestyle to protect and preserve the environment for the coming generations. Urging that “We require a new and universal solidarity”, Pope Francis declares that the destruction of environment is a moral issue, which concerns everyone”.(8)

Pope Francis says that universal solidarity is called for because “everything in the world is connected”. We are connected with all creation in the ecological web of life. Christians beyond the Christian Religion believe in the biblical expression of “the Kingdom of God”, where everyone shares in human nature as brothers and sisters of the one human family of God – the Father of all. Are we aware of the biblical concept of three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with neighbour and with the earth. As LAUDATO SI’ points out, we need to recognize that “Each creature has its own purpose. None is superfluous. The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us.”(9)

As mentioned in my review article on LAUDATO SI’ in WRITERS EDITORS CRITICS, “Pope Francis decries an excessive anthropocentrism as it stands ‘in the way of shared understanding and of any effort to strengthen social bonds’. So he says, ‘When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities – to offer just a few examples – becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected’.”(10)

Over the years, many international meetings and seminars have been held on the dangers of ecology and environment as well as decision and resolutions have been taken, but the latter’s implementation has lacked force and political will. In this context again, Pope Francis’ words in LAUDATO SI’ are significant: “Enforceable international agreements are needed since local authorities are not always capable of effective intervention.”(11) Will the world community pay heed to Pope Francis?

Thomson Gale in his article “Ecology And Religion: An Overview” writes about an Islamic scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr’s contribution to Islamic community in creating awareness of environmental crisis. Gale writes, “Nasr has been the leading spokesperson in the Islamic community for drawing attention to the seriousness of the environmental crisis as well as the need for a revival of the cosmological basis of religions where humans are seen as a microcosm of the macrocosm of the universe”(12). In the same paper, Gale also refers to “The Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences (IFEES), based in England, that has from its beginnings in 1984 established itself as a leader in environmental conservation and activism in Islamic settings.”(13)

Gale’s certain other observations remain crucial even in our context. For instance, he writes:

The responses of religions to the global environmental crisis were slow at first but they have been steadily growing since the latter part of the twentieth century. Several years after the first United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, in Stockholm in 1972, some of the Christian churches began to address the growing environmental and social challenges. At the fifth Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Nairobi in 1975, there was a call to establish the conditions for a ‘just, participatory, and sustainable [global] society.’ In 1979 a follow-up WCC conference was held at Massachusetts Institute of Technology on ‘Faith, Science, and the Future.’ This conference issued a call for a new biblical interpretation of nature and of human dominion. Moreover, there was recognition of the critical need to create the conditions for ecologically sustainable societies for a viable planetary future. The 1983 Vancouver Assembly of the WCC revised the theme of the Nairobi conference to include ‘Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation.’ The 1991 WCC Canberra conference expanded on these ideas with the theme of the ‘Holy Spirit Renewing the Whole of Creation.’ After Canberra, the WCC theme for mission in society became ‘Theology of Life.’ This has brought theological reflection to bear on environmental destruction and social inequities resulting from economic globalization. In 1992, at the time of the UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the WCC facilitated a gathering of Christian leaders that issued a ‘Letter to the Churches,’ calling for attention to pressing eco-justice concerns facing the planet. Principles of eco-justice that have had growing support in the last decade include: solidarity with other people and all creatures, ecological sustainability, sufficiency as a standard of distributive justice, and socially just participation in decisions for the common good.(14)

Some years ago, I attended the Annual Day function at Mount Carmel High School in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The girls put up a variety of programmes about environmental crisis and the means to protect the environment. However, the most impressive feature of the event for me was an oath taken by all students at the end of the programme. It said, “We take an oath today that we will always take care and protect our continent. We will not do harm in any way in words or deeds nor we put environment in danger.  We will altogether care for our mother earth. Thus we will enjoy here a healthy long life of prosperity.”(15)

Finally, I conclude with a quotation from the message of Pope Francis on the 5th World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation 1 September 2019.

In effect, we have forgotten who we are: creatures made in the image of God (cf. Gen 1:27) and called to dwell as brothers and sisters in a common home. We were created not to be tyrants, but to be at the heart of a network of life made up of millions of species lovingly joined together for us by our Creator. Now is the time to rediscover our vocation as children of God, brothers and sisters, and stewards of creation. Now is the time to repent, to be converted and to return to our roots. We are beloved creatures of God, who in his goodness calls us to love life and live it in communion with the rest of creation….

“This too is a season for undertaking prophetic actions. Many young people all over the world are making their voices heard and calling for courageous decisions. They feel let down by too many unfulfilled promises, by commitments made and then ignored for selfish interests or out of expediency. The young remind us that the earth is not a possession to be squandered, but an inheritance to be handed down. They remind us that hope for tomorrow is not a noble sentiment, but a task calling for concrete actions here and now. We owe them real answers, not empty words, actions not illusions.(16)

 

Pope Francis’ words succinctly express the gist of my paper and encourage us to prepare for decisive action to protect the Mother Earth for a better tomorrow.

 

FOOTNOTES

 

 

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Changed on: 01-02-2020

Next Change: 16-02-2020

© Fr Varghese Paul, SJ – 2020

 

ANTO AKKARA ON KANDHAMAL PERSECUTION

Some years back, after Swami Laxmanananda  Saraswati was killed on August 23, 2008, I got a letter from one of my readers from Gandhinagar. The reader apparently read my articles in newspapers and other periodicals. She asked me a question: “Fr Varghese, You have written a number of times about the persecution and crimes against Christians and other minorities. Now why are you silent when Swami Laxmanananda is killed?

I appreciate my readers’ feedback. Here the reader’s statement and the question were both atrue and valid. So I did to write about the Swami’s killing I did a little bit of investigation. In fact, I had read my friend Anto Akkara’s first book “KANDHAMAL a blot on INDIAN SECULARISM” gifted to me by the author. I was shocked with my finding about a few things which culminated to the killing of Swami Laxmanananda!

First, innocent Christians have been accused of killing of the Swami; second, like the very first Radhyatra of L K Advani in Gujarat, which raised anti-Muslim passion and caused much violence, rioting and even killing on the way, Swami Laxmanananda’s body was taken in zigzag way to cover practically the whole Kandhamal district. This procession and inflammatory speeches against Christians and conversion raised the passion of people, which led the much violence, killing of Christians, destruction of Christian houses and Church institutions.

Third, I saw a well planned plot behind Swami’s killing and subsequent developments as there where similarities between the events in Odisha (Orissa) and the 2002 pogrom against the Muslims in Gujarat!

I felt the case of Swami Laxmanananda like a hot potato in my mouth. So instead of answering the question of my reader-friend, I asked her to find out a few things about the case about the murder of Swami Laxmanananda. Why the guards of the Ashram ran away when the ‘enemies’ of the Swami came? Why Swami’s personal security officer was not there? Who informed the killers that the Swami was without his personal security and the protective police force?  Who was the Home Minister in charge of the police force and who sent the police force on other engagements?

I did not answer my reader’s question wishing not to get involved in a controversy beyond my capacity to get involved and face its consequences. But I did write an article on my findings in Gujarati and send a copy to the reader. I agree with my reader that the murders of Swami Laxmanananda and “his four disciples including Swaminis” are heinous crimes.

In fact, I am totally against any killing including capital punishment. I believe that even the hard core criminals can be reformed. There are innumerable cases of hard hearted criminals repenting their crimes and getting converted to useful and responsible citizens of their country.

Swami Laxmanananda’s case never left me alone. If I ever forget the case, there was my journalist-author friend Anto Akkara, who has been passionately following Swami’s case to inform me and remind me time and again through e-mails and his reports published in different periodicals. We may note here that not only Christians but others too got killed in the anti-Christian persecution in Kandhamal.

For instance, Akkara has mentioned a few cases of Hindus getting killed in Kandhamal! In the “Dedicaton” of his first book “KANDHAMAL a blot on INDIAN SECULARISM” Akkara has written “Hindus (got) killed for supporting hounded Christians as well as policeman shot dead in arson attack on Gochhapada police station”.

The latest book of Anto Akkara, which I got, is entitled “Who Killed Swami Laxmanananda?” I have also read Akkara’s second book entitled “SHINING FAITH IN KANDHAMAL”. A few concrete cases are repeated in all three books of Akkara with adding new finding and details.

Akkara is much experienced investigative journalist and much appreciated author for his thorough in-depth and lucid reporting from the hot spots of India and the whole of South Asia. His three books on Kandhamal are proof for his professionalism as an investigative journalist and author.

Kuldip Nayyar, a Patriarch of Indian journalism, appreciating Akkara’s first book “KANDHAMAL a blot on INDIAN SECULARISM” wrote: “This is one of the well written books. It is very objective and describes the situation vividly. It has not let any side unexposed. It is one of the must-read books”.

Veteran Journalist and Author Nayyar has also written the FOREWORD to Akkara’s third book “Who Killed Swami Laxmanananda?” Nayyar writes: “The atrocities and the fraud committed in Kandhamal in 2008, now brought to the fore, may irk the conscience of people even belatedly. … The perpetrators of death, rape and arson during riots have escaped with no or very little punishment The entire episode of Kandhamal requires another relook even though it is late. The gravity of such incidents should never be diminished or hidden.”

Dr Nirmala Sitharaman, then Director of India Foundation, now a Minister in Modi’s BJP Government wrote: “Kandhamal occupies tones of news print last year, not just in India but globally.” Unfortunately, this truth was written in her as PUBLSHER’S NOTE to the book “Harvest of Hate” by Michael Parker. Michael Parker has also authored another book titled Kandhamal : A Fact File Report by Fact Finding Teams”. Anto Akkara has written in his third book: “Except for this chapter title (‘Defeated Truth’), both the books have almost the same content.” Michael Parker’s book “Harvest of Hate” has also appeared as authored by Brannon Parker.

Akkara in a chapter entitled “India Foundation – saffron truth factory” proves beyond doubt that there is no author named either “Michael Parker” or “Brannon Parker”! He writes: “These are ghost names used by the Sangh Parivar in their bid to cover-up its role in the Kandhamal fraud.” Akkara proves conclusively that like the ghost authors the “ghost books” too are the product of “Saffron truth factory”.

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Changed on: 16-01-2020

Next Change: 01-02-2020

© Fr Varghese Paul, SJ – 2020

 

 

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR – BE HAPPY, BE CONTENTED

 

In the New Year we greet everyone wishing Happy New Year. But what do we mean actually with our greetings and wishes? Wishing others Happy New Year we desire that his/her new year be filled with happiness and contentment. We wish that the whole year be for them happy and enjoyable. Be they on the path of true joy and peace.

There is an ancient story which says that Brahma created all persons with ‘eternal bliss’, everlasting happiness. But the human beings began to misuse their ‘eternal bliss’. So Brahma took away their ‘eternal bliss’ and decided to hide it where a person would not easily reach. Brahma called a meeting of gods and asked their advice about the hiding place. Some suggested to hide ‘eternal bliss’ on the top of Himalayan Mountains; others gave their opinion that the bottom of the deep sea as the place to hide ‘eternal bliss’ from all human beings. But Brahma said that sooner or later people will explore the Himalayan tops and the bottom of the deep sea. None of the places suggested by gods were satisfactory for Brahma.

Finally Brahma decided to hide the ‘eternal bliss’ in the depth of human hearts. For, Brahma thought that for a person to discover the ‘eternal bliss’ s/he has to give up his ego; s/he has to deny himself/herself. A person has to sacrifice himself/herself!  Obviously in such situation a person would not misuse his/her ‘eternal bliss’. A person needs to cultivate right attitude, appropriate approach to life to reach the depth of his/her heart. Men and women need disciplined, self-sacrificing life to discover ‘eternal bliss’. But not many will be ready to live disciplined and self-sacrificing life.

During this New Year let us cultivate right attitude, disciplined and self-sacrificing life on the path of ‘eternal bliss’.  Most flowers have five petals.  Like the five petals of flowers I would like to suggest five ways or practical steps to walk always on the path of ‘eternal bliss’.

First step – Feeling of gratitude. We are often worried that we do not have this or that with us. John Steward Mills says that, “Happiness consists in limiting our desires and not in trying to satisfy all our desires”. I think that it is Shree Buddha who says that our desires are the cause of our unhappiness.  So without worrying uselessly about things we do not possess, let us think of what we have with us and give thanks for them to concerned people and eventually to God with feelings of gratitude. Our lives in our present stage reached with the contributions from beginning with our parents and innumerable people who worked for us with much good will.

We know that our whole life would not be enough if we begin giving thanks to each and every person and everything of our lives for the innumerable services and good things they have done for us! But the minimum we can begin to thank every person in our homes and in our offices or those who cross our path of life in our daily living. Let us remember each and every such person with love and gratitude and whenever there are opportunities, let them know that we are grateful to them. And above all we thank God for giving us such persons and things which make our life possible. After all God is the One who sustain us every moment our lives with unconditional love. If we keep such positive attitude and we walk on this path of ‘eternal bliss’, then there is no time to hate or speak ill of people around us.

Second step – Feeling of Appreciation. In our lives and around us there are many people and innumerable things call for our appreciation and love. There is always something to be appreciated in the people who cross the path of our daily living. When you are busy and in a hurry, what is your response to a poor person who comes for help? We do not even care to look at the person in need of our help! We may even hate them and drive them away from our presence! But think about it. If you give a few rupees or some needed thing with love, we have nothing to lose when we share something of the abundances of God’s gift to us.

God gives us innumerable opportunities to share the blessings with which God has been generous with us. In the first place let us be grateful to God for all his boundless blessings. Let us see God’s face in the morning sun shining on all the animate and inanimate beings in creation. Let us express our gratitude for them to God and to all the concerned people. Our feeling love and gratitude will lead us to ‘eternal bliss’.

Third step – An Attitude of Happiness. French novelist Marcel Proost says, “Happiness is good for the body; but it suffering and pain which help to develop the power of our mind.” Lives and the creative writings of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky  are proof of this statement of novelist Proost.  For, most people go on thinking and worrying about their suffering and hardly any appreciation for the happiness experienced in their lives. Even when people have more thing to be happy and few things of suffering, they ignore their happiness and think more about their sufferings!

In the New Year if there is some sufferings in our lives, then think about solutions to the suffering. But let us cultivate the attitude of happiness and appreciation for the things which gives us happiness. Let us think of our relatives, friends, acquaintances and all others who bring happiness to us and enjoy the happiness. Let us create a habit of being happy. Let us enjoy happiness even in the midst of things which bring us sufferings and pain. Let us understand that both happiness and sufferings are part and parcel of our life. So let us accept them joyfully.

Forth Step – Celebrating Relationships. English Poet John Done (1573-16310) has a very famous quotation in one of his poems: “A person is not an island but a piece of a continent; is a part of the whole.”  A person cannot live alone. So we say that human being is a social being. A person is formed and grows and develops in relationship with others.

From the birth of a child God has put it in relationship with other people. There is the relationship with parents; relationship with brothers and sisters; relationship with all other family members. Then, there is the relationship with friends and acquaintances as well as with neighbours. Thus innumerable relationship forms a person. Later we also get opportunities to build relationship in our place work and other activities. So our efforts must always be to maintain old relationship while building new relationships. In English they say, “Count your life-span with the number of friends, you have made; and not with years of life”.

Fifth Step – Positive Attitude. Positive and creative attitude helps a person to maintain his/her equilibrium amidst difficulties, calamities, unpleasant events and keep him/her a wise person. Positive attitude helps a person to be happy always.

There is a unique character by name Paul in the New Testament of the Bible. He was a fanatic persecutor of the followers of Jesus! But with an encounter with Jesus he turned from a persecutor of Christians to tireless preacher of Jesus’ life and message to many races and nations in Asia and Europe. Being in the forefront of proclaiming Jesus and his message he faced many obstacles and much sufferings.

The Jews caught him and three times lashed him 39 times each for proclaiming Jesus and his message! Once he suffered as victim of stone throwing and people thought that he was dead! But he survived the ordeal. More than once his ship was broken in mid sea and once he suffered a day and night in the sea water! (see 2 Corinth 11: 23-26). In spite of these sufferings and pain Paul maintained a positive attitude to life. So he could write a letter to the Church at Philippines, “I want you to know, my brothers, that the things that have happened to me have really helped the progress of the Gospel” (Phil. 1: 12).

Paul kept his equilibrium in most difficult situations maintaining always a positive attitude of life. The example of Paul shows that in most trying situations keeping a positive attitude is possible for us. So keeping always a positive attitude and maintaining a right vision of life let us train our lives to be happy during the whole New Year.

Finally let me conclude my article with a story of a fisher man who enjoys the happiness of life with a positive attitude and right vision of life.

Some years back my cousin brother Mathew Vellankal of happy memory sent me this story when internet communication began to be common. It is the story of a big business man and an ordinary fisher man. The business man was loitering on the sea shore when he came across fisherman who was resting near his boat. Seeing the fisher man carelessly relaxing the business man said, “This is the time to put out your net in the sea for fishing; and why are you resting instead of fishing?”

Answering the simple question of the business man the fisher man said, “Now I am not fishing putting out my net in the sea because I have already caught enough fish for today”.

“But why don’t you catch more fish?” the Business man asked.

The fisher man was surprised with the question of the business man! So instead of answering the business man he asked a question: “What shall I do catching more fish?”

“Catching more fish you can earn more money; you can buy a motor for your boat and you can also buy a new net. Then, going into deep sea you can catch more fish. Afterwards you can buy a new motorized fishing boat. Then working systematically you can catch a lot fish and selling them you can become a rich man like me.”

The fisherman was not much impressed by the rich business man proposal. So the fisherman asked the rich business man again: “What then after getting new motorized boat and new fishing net and catching a lot of fish and making much money?”

The rich business man was a bit puzzled by the question of the fisherman. Still, keeping his cool, the business man said: “Then you can peacefully relax and find rest in your life.”

Then responding to the rich business man the fisherman simple said: “But am I not peacefully relaxing and finding my rest already now?”

The rich business man had no answer to the fisher man! The fisher man was not a lazy person. He has already worked and got enough fish for looking after his family and live happily in the society. He worked enough to lead a happy life for him and for his family. He was not in the rat race to earn more and more money without ever being satisfied.  He had already the positive attitude to life and was enjoying happiness with right vision of life.

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Changed on: 01-01-2020

Next Change: 16-01-2020

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2020

 

WHAT IS RELIGION? DOES GOD EXIST?

Words like Religion, Love and Peace look very simple in our lives. All people know about them. But what looks simple may not be easy to define. I realized it when a school girl asked me about Religion.

Once after my speech in Shri Pramodbhai Kanailal Desai School at Kim, near Surat to the students and their teachers a teenage girl asked me a simple question during our question-answer session: “What is religion?”  Then I realized that it was not easy to answer the question. All the same, I told the students who were listening to me very attentively: “To me religion means our relationship with God and with our fellow human beings. This relationship helps a person to walk in the path of love, peace, justice, forgiveness and service according to his/her conscience.”

Perhaps no one may object to this my simple definition of religion. My listeners, the boys and girls did not raise any objection. But I was not fully satisfied with my definition of religion. But the ideas and the understanding of the boys and girls sitting in front of me were certainly different from mine. For instance, when I use the word ‘Bhagavan’ for God my understanding of the word means Jesus Christ who lived on this earth some 2000 years ago as love-personified, as Son of God the Father. But for the boys and girls ‘Bhagavan’ word could mean ‘Rama’, ‘Krushna’ or any other god of their choice and understanding of God.

Then, I told them that Religion means relationship of men and women with God and with other fellow human beings.  But people have different types of relationship with God and other human beings. So the understanding of relationship could be different from person to person. Hence there could be question about what type of relationship which I spoke about.

Personally speaking God means to me God the Father – Creator of human beings and of the entire universe. So human beings are all equal as children of one and the same God the Father. In my relation with God, I consider God as a loving friend who takes care of me and sustain the entire creation. So my relationship with God is one of friendship. But I know from my experience that many people have a very different relationship with God. People keep a variety of relationship with God like that of father and son, giver and seeker, Guru (teacher) and disciples, Judge and criminal, autocrat and subject, master and slave, lord and servant, Police and thief.

A person’s behaviour is according to his/her relationship with God. Children in forming their relationship with God usually follow their parent’s model.

Parents, teachers and elders keep their personal relationship with God according to their idea of God. Some people like me keep very friendly relationship with God as a very loving and merciful Father. Those who keep relationship of friendship with God are not afraid of God. But those who consider God as a cruel judge, fear God like thieves and criminals. They can never put their trust in a loving and merciful God.

When I spoke these things a teenager got up and asked me a question about the existence of God. He said that sometime back in his school Shri Ramanbhai Pathak gave them a lecture. Pathak Sahib is a rationalist atheist. So Pathak sahib told the children that there was no God. Temples and priests in the name of God and religion are cheating people for their selfishness. God does not exist. The teenager who asked me the question wanted to know what I say about Pathak Saheb’s denial of God.

I know Patak Saheb as we have exchanged our books. In fact I met him in his home a few weeks before his death. He was in a hopeless state of mind in his sick bed. But I did not expect any question from the school children about the very existence of God. Some years back I had studied philosophy when logical arguments were put forth for the existence of God. But I did not want to present such logical arguments to the school boys and girls. So I simply told that I believe in God and follow my Christian religion. Most people in the world believe in the existence of God and follow one or other religion according to their faith in God.

Where do people get the idea of God’s existence? Human history shows that from the beginning people believed in a power beyond them. From the first human being the modern men or women experience a power at work beyond their comprehension and understanding. People call that power, God.

The rationalists and the atheists have their understanding of good and bad.  A person’s conscious or inner voice inspires him/her to do good and protests against his/her evil deeds. A person experiences happiness in doing good while s/he experiences prick of conscious for having done evil deeds. I told the children listening to me intently that my inner voice and my understanding of good and bad make me feel the existence of God.

In the past many mysterious-things which were considered beyond human understanding have been explained and revealed for all people through modern science and technology. Humanity has achieved many things through science and technology. Still it is a true fact till today that we have not been able to create not even a grain of sand out of nothing. Men and women cannot give life to a dead thing. Men and women could not stop a person from death. Men and women achieved much by using existing things. Till this day men and women cannot create anything from nothingness.

Something is there hidden in every person. They call it Divine Existence or Divine power/which proclaims the existence of God. In the words of Swami Vivekananda, “Divinity remains hidden in every person. The aim of life is to express the hidden Divinity.”

When we speak about divinity or divine life I remember a beautiful epic story. The ancient story says that in the epic time all people were like gods. But people began to misuse the divine power in them. So Brahma took away the divinity from people and decided to hide somewhere. Then Brahma called a meeting of all gods to find out the most secret place to hid the divinity. Gods suggested to Brahma hidden places like the top of Himalayan Mountain or at the bottom of the deep sea. But Brahma felt that sooner or later human being will reach such places and discover the Divinity.

Brahma finally decided to hide the Divinity in the heart of every human being! For human beings explore the whole university, but not in themselves. Today human beings are searching for the lost Divinity in the entire universe but do not go deep into themselves. So Brahma hid the Divine Power in the heart of every person. Today men search the lost divinity everywhere in the whole universe!

Abandoning their faith in God and hating religion some people may be leading a luxurious life and enjoy all things provided by modern life, but in their heart of heart they experience an inner void, and an emptiness, a lack something unknown. I believe that, that emptiness, that void, that unsatisfied desire is a longing for God.

The ancient story, the feeling of inner emptiness – everything proclaim that God exists and that human being need a religion.

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Changed on: 16-12-2019

Next Change: 01-01-2020

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2019

 

 

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