Journalists’ Challenges in Our Times

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

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

The people of good will are frightened with news paper reports like criminals not only being protected but also honored and promoted by self serving politicians. In the name of cow protection such criminals have cruelly murdered innocent people. Thanks to the fear of the terrorists of cow vigilante type, the sale and transport of cows have come to a standstill even without law. Consequently poor people and small farmers with one or two cows have now no income. Consequently we see the increasing number of deaths by hunger and farmers’ suicide.  I am ashamed to take note here that India’s position is 100th out of 119 countries on global Hunger Index 2017! Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are in much better position than India. These realistic situations are great challenges for journalists.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The journalists need to be able to express and communicate well in the language in which they work. Similarly the journalists should also know the medium which they work and also the target audience for whom they work. Rational intelligence also called for a fair knowledge of laws concerning the profession and the general public. Finally, journalists have a great challenge to be professional and reliable in all their works.

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Changed On: 16-11-2017

Next Change: 01-12-2017

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017

 

 

 

 

Rebirth or New Life after Death?

After a long time my artist friend Vinod Ravel came to meet me. He spoke to me about his mother who is 100 years old. I spoke to him then about the 98th birthday celebration of my mother in Kerala. I shared with him my experience of going to Kerala for the 98th birthday celebration. Our conversation then turned to the topic of rebirth and new life. We conversed for about two hours and a half about rebirth and new life. Like all my Hindu brethren Vinodbhai too is a strong believer in rebirth. He said, he learned about the rebirth from his mother.

But Vinodbhai was surprised to learn from me that the Christians do not believe in rebirth but they strongly believe in new life after death. Vinodbhai as he learned from his mother a person gets rebirth according to his present life. Those who lead a good life will get good life in rebirth. People who lead good life many times will finally attain salvation. On the contrary, people who lead bad life will get inferior life in rebirth. For ordinary people the cycle of birth and rebirth will continues.

Christians’ believe in new life after death is based on the Bible. For the rationalists and few other atheist people death is the final end of life. Such people break down at the death of their dear and near ones and experience terrible hopelessness of life. But the Christians find consolation and hope because of their belief in new life after death. The faith and hope of new life is a foundation of Christians’ deep faith in Jesus. The Christians in creed proclaim “We believe in the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting”. Hence in burying the dead bodies or disposing the bodies in other ways Christians do it with great respect. Lord Jesus has overcome death through his own death on the Cross and resurrection and thus prepared the way of new life for all people.

So in the burial ritual the Christian priest prays, “Loving and merciful God, The old order has passed away: welcome him (her) now into paradise where there will be no more sorrow, nor more weeping or pain, but only peace and joy with Jesus”

Death is a sure fact for every person born on the face of the earth. For, Bible in the first book of Genesis says, the first parents broke the law of God and consequently became the victim of death. (see Gen 3:1-21). The same thing is repeated in the New Testament in the letter of St. Paul to the Romans, “Sin came to the world through one man, and his sin brought death with it. As a result, death has spread to the whole human race because everyone has sinned.” (Rom 5:12)

In other words men and women broke the commandments of God and sinned and invited death.  On the other hand Lord Jesus submitting himself completely to his God, the Father and embraced death on the Cross and overcame death through the resurrection. So death is not an end. But only the entrance door to eternal new life.

Now people compare death to sleep. Lord Jesus at the request of the chief of the synagogue reaches the house of Jairus. Jesus saw in Jairus’ house the confusion and heard loud crying and wailing.  He went in and said to them, “Why all this confusion? Why are you crying? The child is not dead – she is only sleeping!”

“They laughed at him, so he put them all out, took the child’s father and mother and his three disciples, and went into the room where the child was lying.  He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha   koum’, which means ‘Little girl, I tell you to get up!’” (Mk 5: 39-40)

Similarly when Jesus received the news of the death of Lazarus he told his disciple “our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I will go and wake him up” (Jn 11: 11). In the same occasion Lazarus sister Martha acknowledged her faith in Jesus saying, “I know that my brother will rise to life on the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies: and whoever lives and believes in me will never die, do you believe this?” (Jn 11: 24-25).   On the 4th day of Lazarus death Jesus and his followers reached in front of the cave in which Lazarus was buried. Jesus ordered the stone covering the cave to be moved away. Then praying to God the Father, Jesus called out in a loud voice ‘Lazarus, Come Out’ and the dead man came out with new life. (see Jn 11: 33-43)

The Christians believe that when a person dies there is a just judgment. In the judgment person who has died with God’s grace receives God’s merciful forgiveness and is received into God’s presence in the company of all the saints. And those who refuse God’s grace and has committed deadly sins receives eternal punishment. And there may be person at the time of death has not received complete forgiveness and has not committed any deadly sins. Such person is purified in the purgatory, a state of spiritual cleansing in purifying fire.

As a proof of last judgment at death we have Jesus, while hanging on the Cross between two criminals, says to the repentant criminal, “I promise you that today you will be in Paradise with me”. (Lk 23: 43) On the other hand Jesus has spoken about eternal damnation for those who die in deadly sin (see Mt 25: 41).  Again Jesus has spoken about the poor Lazarus with Abraham and the rich man suffering in eternal fire (see Lk 16: 23)

But a Christian who trusts in the unconditional mercy of God, believes in the Just God. So the Christians do not condemn anybody being punished with eternal damnation.  On the other hand the Christian religions after due process and of studying and making sure that a person who has lived and died in the state of grace of God may be declared a Saint. For instance, Mother Teresa died in 1997 and 18 years of examining her life in all their aspects was declared a Saint on Sept. 4, 2016. The Christians believe such saints are with God. So Christian prays to God, through the intersession of such saints and asks their help. Besides Christians strongly believe that they can help through prayers, sacrifices and good works those souls in the purgatory.

A person after death changes the living abode receiving new form of life. But the eternal new life begins while a person is living here on earth. So with the hope of new life a person should not neglect the present life; on the contrary, the person is called to lead a full life here on earth living happily and joyfully. St Paul who was in the fore front of proclaiming of Jesus’ message says in his letter to the Philippines, “May you always be joyful in your union with the Lord. I say it again: rejoice! Show a gentle attitude towards everyone.” (Phi 4: 4-5).

In our life in this world and also in the life to come there is a way to live happily. That way is a total renunciation of selfishness and positively living for others. If we live loving those who cross our paths more than we love ourselves and serving them selflessly, we can assure happy life here and now, and eternal happiness in resurrected new life after death.

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Changed On: 01-11-2017

Next Change: 16-11-2017

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017

 

Environment Friendly Divali Celebration

Divali means the feast of light. Many people celebrate Divali by lighting rows of earthen lamps with oil. Many people illuminate their houses with electricity. Public buildings are decorated with chains lighted small bulbs. Many people keep bulbs lighted not only during Divali but also other times. Most people would not know that electric light produces carbon dioxide which warms up the air causing environmental pollution.

Electricity has become part and parcel of our daily lives. We need lifts to go up and down in multi-storey buildings. We need fridge to keep safe perishable goods like food and medicine. Similarly to run different types of machines and instruments we need electricity. Hence the demand for electricity is constantly growing in the whole country. People who use electricity without any care and concern, do not know that there are hidden dangers in it. For instance, to produce electricity using coals, mines are dug and thousands of tribal people are dislocated. They become homeless in their own land! Electricity is produced in India mainly from atomic power and with coals. Some countries like Germany and Japan, considering the dangers of coals and of atomic power, are looking for alternative ways for electric power.

In this context on the auspicious occasion like Divali, we need to think about the use of various types of electricity. Usually for light we use either big or small electric bulbs or tube lights. Much electricity is used through them and consequently pollution increases.

Let me give you an example: “Your bulbs are powered by the blood of tribal people.” You may be shocked with such statement made by a high school girl, Sweta Marandi. She took part in an International Conference of United Nations in Brazil. In her talk in the conference she said, “Your bulbs are powered with the blood of tribal people.”

Sweta Marandi’s story was reported in THE TELEGRAPH dated June 10, 2012; and Sweta Marandi was identified as a 12 standard student of St. Joseph’s Convent School at Patna. The delegates of the UNO world conference were shocked with Sweta Marandi’s frightening statement. Innumerable adivasi people who possessed homes and own lands were made homeless by the authorities mining the Adivasi land for coals. The dust from the mines as well as from the transporting of coal has affected the lives of the tribal people living close to the mining areas causing them sickness and untimely death.

In the United Nation’s Environmental Programme (UNEP) has published a brochure called ‘Environmental Development’. The story of Sweta Marandi is published in it. Sweta from her teenage years became an environmental protection worker through the inspiration of her school and a non-governmental organization (NGO) ‘Taru Mitra’ (friend of trees). After learning about carbon dioxide pollution and its harmful effects from ‘Taru Mitra’ Sweta learnt that the use of electricity can be reduced using LED (Light Emitting Diodes) and CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lamp) instead of electric bulbs and tube lights. So Sweta with the help of her parents replaced all electric bulbs and tube lights in her home with CFL lights. Then taking the help of her friends Sweta got all the houses in their housing society to use CFL lights replacing all electric bulbs and tubes. They also got the authorities to replace the street lights with the CFL lights. This story of reducing the use of electricity and protecting the environmental pollution by Sweta and her little band became the talk of the town. The news reached in their school and in their Church. The local newspapers too took note of them. Then they started a movement against use of electricity for illumination in public institutes, temples and churches. They told the people that one electric bulb cause more pollution to the environment than a hundred small lighted earthen pots!

Sweta and her friends met Archbishop William D’Souza of Patna and requested his help to reduce the use of electricity and conserve the environment. Archbishop William D’Souza joining the children’s movements addressed a circular letter to the people of his archdiocese, entitled “Environmental Problems and Our Response”. In his letter he called the people to reduce the use of electricity and preserve the environment from pollution as much as possible. In his circular letter of about 1500 words he wrote: “There is no devotion in illuminating churches and other institutions on special occasions like Christmas, New Year and Divali.”

Reading the Archbishop D’Souza’s circular letter I came to know that Pope Benedict XVI has been honoured as “The Green Pope” by the famous international American news weekly “News Week”. Pope Benedict XVI set up 3000 solar panels in Vatican that all the buildings of Vatican City are illuminated with solar lights. Vatican is a small city state. There are not enough trees to produce oxygen to counter the pollution caused by the electricity. So Pope Benedict XVI adopted a big jungle area of Burke national park in Hungary. The jungle trees produce enough and more oxygen to counter the carbon dioxide of Vatican City.

We have to realize that human life on earth is in danger. The human made pollution threatens the existence not only human being but also others species in the whole world. Man made pollution has already caused the extinctions of many living species from the face of the earth. In such situations every person is called to take small and big steps to save the environment and reduce the pollution.

Our aims and efforts should be to save the environment from all types of pollution. So that every living and non-living beings on earth are protected from the environmental pollution.

Finally in our mad rush for development we should be alert to care for the environment and save our earth instead of destroying the environment with all sorts of pollutions. We need to take concrete steps. Let us pay attention to the call of save the earth from poet and environmentalist Natwar Hedau in his anthology entitled “Vanviharini Vanvandana”.

“Let us come together, taking care of the earth,

Look, changes are coming in the water and air.”

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Changed On: 16-10-2017

Next Change: 01-11-2017

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017

 

DOES TELEVISION RULE YOUR LIFE?

You will agree with me that most of us spend a lot time before the television and we are not happy about. In front of the captivating television programmes, children lose their study time and miss much needed games or other forms of physical exercises.

Glued to the television after their office hours the elders have no time to look after the education and character building of their children or for socializing or for doing community activities and services.

We have no doubt that television has changed our life-style and culture. It has tremendously affected our lives, especially our family lives. Our values and attitudes have been affected. Our opinions and the patterns of life-style have changed.

In may ways television has done tremendous good to people. The entertainments have become cheaper and easily available at home through television and video programmes. Television is the primary source for news and information.

People have become aware of the world beyond their neighbourhood, beyond their state and the country. Television has widened our horizons that we can claim to be world citizens.

On the other hand, television has also done much harm to many people and their homes. So the question is not should we or should we not watch television but the question is how to get the best out of the television while avoiding its harmful effects?

It is a question of media education for all of us: children and elders alike. You may ask: After watching television for umpteen years, do I still need to be educated about watching television? My clear cut answer is ‘yes sir or ‘yes madam’ as the case may be.

The first thing to understand about television is that it does not present real and authentic life. With television we are often in a make-believe world.

Recently I read in EDUCOMMUNICATION NEWS (January 1994) that a teacher showed several video programmes to his city students on animals. After viewing programmes, he took his students to a zoo to show them the real animals. He was taken aback with the comments and remarks of his students.

In the television all the animals were ‘beautiful’ and ‘nice’ for the students. But in the real life situation the students found some animals were smaller or some bigger than that they have seen on the small screen. Some animals were muddy and dirty. Others were ugly. Some animals were smelling foully and were repugnant.

After the tour it was easy for the teacher to explain that there is a world of difference between the make-believe world of television and the real life of every day experience.

Television is often misleading. A child who sees mosquitoes or lizards or cockroaches filmed from close quarters may think of them as very big and dangerous animals. The adults, who know these insects from real life experience, are aware of the real size of these insects and can easily make the adjustment on seeing them in their magnified size on the screen.

All the same, we must not under-estimate the critical eye of children. Researchers have proved that children have an over-whelming sense of judgment.

Media researchers have also shown that television programmes can enrich the lives of the children only if they have meaning for them. So in order to profit from television programmes it is important that they watch well prepared and meaningful programmes on the television instead of any trash or cheap entertainment programmes or gimmicks.

It is recognizing the power of television and other audio-visual electronic media that Pope John Paul II has chosen “Television and the Family: Guidelines for Good Viewing” as the theme for the 28th world Communication Day 1994.

Announcing this theme chosen by the Pope, Archbishop John P Foley, President of Pontifical Council for Social Communications said that ‘Parents have special responsibility to help their children to from good viewing habits….. Television can enrich family life, can contribute to the education of children and can stimulate fruitful family discussions or it can be used as an escape or as a parental surrogate. And unsupervised viewing by children can sometimes undermine sound moral values”.

Researchers around the world on television viewers have proved that of all people it is children who are the most influenced by television. So there is a great need to educate children on how, when and what to watch on television.

The parents are the primary educators of their children on watching the television. This function cannot be delegated to anybody else, not even the school teachers. For one thing, the children watch television in the family more than anywhere else.

Researchers in some foreign countries show that children spend more hours before television than they spend in class room lectures by the time they pass out from high schools. This study or the finding may not be completely true of India. We do not yet have country wide multi-channels broadcasting with a variety of programmes for twenty-four hours a day.

But the situation would not be different in India by the time cables and multi-channel satellite television programmes catch the entire country within a few years.

In educating ourselves and our children about television we have to understand that there are three groups at work in television.  First, the viewers and consumers, second, producers and broadcasters and third, the regulatory bodies like Censor Board, television policy makers, etc.

These three groups are supposed to work together harmoniously for the benefit of all especially the consumers and viewers. But the fact is that the three groups do not work together. Many a time they ignore each other and even clash with each other, often at the cost of the consumers and viewers.

Hence there is great need to be watchful. For instance, in Sweden and Norway there are regulations and rules about advertising before, during and after programmes specially meant for children. Besides, the national television channels in the two countries are also directed that there should be no advertisement aimed at children below 12 years of age.

But most countries including India have no such rules and regulations. So it is left to the parents to watch and monitor what all programmes are seen by their children on the television and guide them to see what is beneficial and avoid what is harmful.

The parents can educate themselves in this by reading reviews of children’s programmes, watching previews and above all discussing such matters with knowledgeable people.

In educating the children to watch television meaningfully it is also important that the parents also watch children’s programmes. Them they will be able to discuss with their children what they – the children – watch. In discussing the television programmes the parents can help their children to catch the meaning and the message of the programme while guiding them to avoid the harmful effects and messages.

But often what happens in our families is that we leave the children to themselves to choose and watch whatever programmes they want to watch without any direction or guidelines. In some homes the television are the surrogate parents of the children. For, the parents have no hesitation often to make use of television as their baby sitter.

Parents fool only themselves if they perceive the children as adults and expect them not to be influenced by the harmful and misleading effects of television. Such parents leave their children to watch any and every kind of television programmes without any guidelines or proper media education.

Such a situation only goes to prove that not only the children but also the parents themselves as media illiterate needing media education.

[The article was first published in MACAF 10th Anniversary Souvenir 1983-1993]

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Changed On: 01-10-2017

Next Change: 16-10-2017

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017

 

 

 

 

LET US LIVE SHARING

This title ‘Let Us Live Sharing’ is taken from my friend, poet Natvar Hedao. He has an anthology called “Van-Vandana” in Gujarati. In it he has a poem called “Song of Shared Forest System”. The first stanza of the poem goes

“You are my support, I am your support

Let us live sharing and supporting each other.” (p.139)

The whole poem is a call to people and animals, birds and forests, rivers and trees, mines and hills to live supporting each other. This call is extended to every living and existing being.

In the call to shared living I see a noble idea. Shared life has the idea of partnership and mutual support. There is also the feeling of equality and friendship as well as mutual respect and honour. If every person, that is, all of us, keep this feeling not only towards each other but towards the entire creation then this noble feeling will be soon in our thoughts and in our behavior.

All these feelings have personified in a saint, St. Francis of Assisi. This 12th century saint is known much for his love and oneness with the whole creation. He considered as his brothers and sisters not only all men and women but also everything in the entire creation! He respected and loved everything as everything was for him equal to his brothers and sisters. He has written a famous poem entitled Brother Sun and Sister Moon. Here it is:

“Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,
Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
And fair and stormy, all weather’s moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.

Praised be You my Lord through our Sister,
Mother Earth who sustains and governs us,
producing varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.
Praise be You my 
Lord through those who grant pardon

for love of You and bear sickness and trial.
Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will.

St. Francis Assisi says that earlier he had hardly noticed the things like the sun and the moon. But after experiencing the infinite love of the Creator every created thing came to his attention. He began to understand that he himself is the creation of the most loving God. Similarly every animate and inaminate being is also the loving creation of the infinite loving God. One and only Creator God has created everything. Hence everything becomes his own brother or sister. From this viewpoint St. Francis calls the sun and the wind his own brothers as well as the moon and the air his own sisters. This way he experiences intimacy with every animate and inanimate being.

In shared living we people get to know a lot about everything around us both living non-living creation. We may say that man is God’s supreme creation. We may say also that man is the only intellectual being. Still we can learn much from other animals and all living beings. Even from inanimate beings we can learn precious lessons. Examine the trees and other small and big plants growing up in our garden or in the jungle. They do not think in terms of ‘mine’ and ‘thine’. The trees and all sorts of plants grow up wherever they want to grow and develop. There is no competition or obstruction to one another.

But we see much distinction and discrimination among people. Differences are kept between the rich and the poor. Differences are made between the followers of different religions. We also keep differences in the name of caste and creed. We distinguish in the name of high and low castes, castes and outcastes; birth and race! With all these distinctions we need to become complementary to each other to live a shared life. We need to seek unity in diversity. Let us find oneness in diversity.

Man’s selfishness has created a lot of discrimination. We need to establish equality of all people as human beings. Establishing true humanity is possible only through bringing peace where there is war and mutual understanding where there are quarrels. In all these things man can learn a lot from the nature from the entire creation. Sun gives light to all without making any discrimination. We all share equally the moon light. The rain comes down on all without any discrimination. We can all enjoy the beauty of nature. The rose spreads its fragrances for all around it without making any sort of discrimination.

When there are peace, unity and mutual understanding between different persons then shared living is possible. They can also cultivate mutual feelings and appreciation among all living beings and even inanimate objects. This feeling of equality among the entire creation is possible. Man’s nobility is manifested in shared living; and everyone’s needs are taken care of. In such shared living we see humanness and human dignity. In such situation there is happiness, peace and nobility.

There is no need to think that such goals and ideals are beyond our reach; and get discouraged. In this context Teihard de Chardin’s words are worth recalling. He says, “As men and women it is our duty to go ahead thinking that there is no limit to our abilities and possibilities; because we are co-creators and sharers of the creation.”

(This is a chapter translated from my latest book on Environment.)

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Changed On: 16-09-2017

Next Change: 01-10-2017

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017

 

ANTS AMONG ELEPHANTS

“Ants among Elephants” is not my own title. It is the title of a much talked about book. Sujatha Gidla has authored the English book with a telling title “Ants among Elephants.”  A well-known publisher Farrar, Straus and Ginour, an Imprint of Macmillian Publishers have published the book in July 2017 which has 306 pages.

The book “Ants among Elephants” is all about the memorable experiences of a girl Sujatha who grew up as an untouchable person. She has studied in the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras. In the book Sujatha has described in great details her degrading and demeaning experiences as an untouchable girl in the school and in the society.

The narrative style of concrete experiences and personal sufferings of being an untouchable make the book interesting. I read several news reports and other write-ups on
“Ants among Elephants” in the internet. Many write-ups in several newspapers and Magazines have given substantial quotations from the book.

Usually those who criticize the caste system of India or raise objections to it are labeled as anti-nationals who hate the Indian culture and art! For, everyone knows that even in the 21st century the grip of caste mentality is strong among many Indians. The untouchable (Dalit) people are chained at the bottom of the caste ladder. They are bound to serve all others in the caste-hierarchy. On the one side there are people who want strict adherence to the caste system and on the other hand the Dalit people want to break away from the caste system.

Sujatha writes that the untouchable are “Not allowed to come near sources of drinking water used by other castes. Not allowed to eat sitting next to a caste Hindu or to use the same utensils. There are thousands of other such restrictions and indignities that vary from place to place. Every day in an Indian newspaper you can read of an untouchable beaten or killed for wearing sandals, for riding a bicycle.”

Before I share further about “Ants among Elephants,” let me describe to you my own demeaning experience of the caste system. I had reached at Bhubaneswar, Orissa for a national meeting of Jesuits in social communication.  There taking advantage of a half a day break, I went to Puri to visit the famous Jagannath Temple together with an American friend. Earlier, a few years back I had visit Puri and was very much impressed by the Jagannath Temple there. So I wanted my American friend to see the imposing temple structure and the exquisite carving of gods and goddesses which are all indicative of Indian art and culture. And so we reached the Jagannath Temple at Puri.

A priest of Jagannath Temple met us at the entrance. Taking for granted that my white-skinned friend as an English citizen, the Priest showered us with a series of bad words and accusation. Fortunately my visiting American friend did not know a word of Hindi. After standing there a little while I told my friend, “Let us go back. The priest does not want us to go in.”

Meanwhile I had told the priest that I am from Gujarat and my friend was a foreigner. As we turned away the priest followed us on the one side continuing his tirade against the English people and on the other side, he was telling me: “Saheb, you please come and perform the offering; I will help you in the worship of god Jagannath.” But I told the priest repeatedly that “through the hands of a priest who is prejudiced against caste and color of person’s skin, I do not want to offer worship to Jagannath!” But the priest was trying to make me to understand that the English dogs have looted Bharat and destroyed the nation. “But you, Saheb, do not go back without taking the blessings of god Jagannath.”

Today I see caste system as a ruining factor of our country. It is true that many educated and enlightened people of our country do not follow the rigid caste system. But the Hindutva politicians coming from the majority Hindu population who follow the degrading caste system do keep aloof from the Dalits, the tribals, Muslims and Christians, who are all in the minorities. And the people wielding power, instead of pursuing the declared policy of development, are destroying the nations being with the hate-mongers!

The author Sujatha writes in ‘Ants among Elephants’ about her experiences of untouchability in her childhood, and during her education. She has also narrated the experiences of untouchability of her family and of poverty. Sujatha was brought up in an economically middle class family as her educated parents were teaching in a college. Still at every step Sujatha suffered the degrading ill-effects of the caste system. She has described many instances of being the victim of the caste system.

The book “Ants among Elephants” is written with the American readership in mind. Hence the author explains that the caste system and its consequences are totally different from the American class-system of the distinction or distinguishing between the black and white. She says the Indian caste system is worse than the American race difference between the black and white. In India the difference is much that different caste people live in distinct separate areas. The people outside the caste system, the Dalits have to live outside the village. Between the caste people and the Dalits there is no giving or taking of daughters in marriage or sharing meals in one-another’s home. The Dalits do not have the right to draw water from the village well.

Today most city people do not believe in caste system or in the degrading social order of Brahman, Kshatrya, Vaishya and Shutra. They do not differentiate in the name of caste. Though the so called high caste people do not eat or marry with the untouchable Dalit people, they respect each other from a safe distance.

The book “Ants among Elephants” is not yet available in India. But we can hope that sooner or later its international publishers will make the book available in India. By reading it many people can free themselves from the caste-inspired but dehumanizing attitude. All people are brothers and sisters of one another. I dream of a world where people will be free from degrading and dehumanizing attitude and begin to accept universal brotherhood/sisterhood of all people.

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Changed On: 01-09-2017

Next Change: 16-09-2017

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017

COME! SHARE IN THE LIGHT OF CHRIST

Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – President, ACECI

(Published in RUBY JUBILEE 1977-2017 Souvenir, CEC, Bangalore)

“Do you need salvation?  Seek Jesus. Jesus is superior than any of your imaginable Gods”

  • Swami Vivekananda in Gnana Deepam: Sudar 7, p. 270

 

 

 

 

 

“As far as my knowledge, there is only one person deserving to be called “GURU”. He is none other than Jesus of Nazareth”

  • S. Radhakrishnan

 

 

 

“A sinless man sacrificed himself not only for others but also for the welfare of his enemies. He became the Tool for the Redemption of the world, He alone is JESUS”

  • Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

 

 

My library in Catholic Information Service Society (CISS) Office has many volumes about these three eminent persons and world leaders. But I did not research and found out the three quotes given above. I received them by e-mail from a friend in South India M.V. Mathew of NOCER INDIA fame. The three quotes prove a point of my message for you.

I do not remember the exact words of a fellow Jesuit, Fr. Samuel Rayan. But his message was very clear to me. In his keynote address during a national meeting of the Association of Catholic Enquiry Centres India (ACECI) at Indore he said, “In evangelization we speak of giving Jesus Christ to the people of other faiths. But you do not have to give Jesus to anyone. For Jesus is there for sure in everyone. People may not be aware of his presence. People may not be conscious of Jesus’ presence in their lives. So our job may be to help people to discover Jesus in their lives. One can help people to be aware of the working of Jesus in their lives.”

The three quotes in the beginning of this message are not from Christians. But for sure the quotes are from the three people who have experienced Jesus. Their experiences or close encounters with Jesus prompted them to share their understanding of Jesus with others. Hence we have those well known quotes from them.

I see the three quotes as an invitation telling me of the theme of our Ruby Celebrations: “Come! Share in the Light of Christ.” How do we do it concretely? Here, a biblical story can certainly help us.

All the Synoptic Gospels have narrated the story of Jesus healing a demoniac – a man with evil spirits. Biblical scholars have done much research and written volumes to interpret the story. Still many details of the story remain unanswered for us.

St. Mark narrates the story: “Jesus and his disciples arrived on the other side of Lake Galilee, in the territory of Gerasa.  As soon as Jesus got out of the boat, he was met by a man who came out of the burial caves there. This man had an evil spirit in him and lived among the tombs. Nobody could keep him chained up anymore; many times his feet and hands had been chained, but every time he broke the chains and smashed the irons on his feet. He was too strong for anyone to control him”. (You may read the whole story in St Mark’s Gospel chapter five verses one to twenty. See also Mt 8: 2834, & Lk 8: 26-39).

In the whole story Mark leaves us with a number of unanswered questions. For instance the man says his name is ‘Legions’; or “mob” in one translation. Is the word ‘Legions’ a reference to Roman Legions stationed in Palestine?  Mob means a crowd of many. But how many? Let us leave these types of questions to the biblical scholars to break their heads.

What interests us here is just one thing: Jesus’ answer to the healed man’s request. The man begged Jesus, “Let me go with you!”           When the man realized how well he has been cured and how grateful he is to Jesus for the healing, he wanted to join Jesus as a disciple. He wanted to join the select group of Jesus 12 disciples!

Mark continues the narration: “But Jesus would not let him. Instead, he told him. ‘Go back home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how kind he has been to you.”  (Mk 5: 18-19)

Jesus has healed the demoniac from Gerasa of his madness. Gerasa is not a Jewish city but a Hellenistic city. The people there have the rare distinction of asking Jesus to leave their territory. They feared Jesus after the exorcism of the demoniac, which led to the destruction of their 2000 pigs!

Jesus understands the situation. He with his disciples leaves the place. But Jesus dose not abandoned the place and the people. He gives them a missionary, one of their own – the cured demoniac with a great mission. “Go back home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how kind he has been to you.”

The cured demoniac has received the same mission like our mission today “Come! Share in the Light of Christ.” This is a mission for every baptized Christian. Every one is not called to travel far and wide to proclaim Jesus and his message like a St. Paul or a Mother Teresa or a Pope Francis. No. But every one of us can heed to the mission call like the healed demoniac received from Jesus. Without being a missionary in a far away land among strange people with very different languages and cultures than our own. But in our concrete situation we can proclaim Jesus sharing our lives with people around us how the Lord has done great things for us. Mother Mary has given us an example in “Magnificat”.

Recently I saw the incredible performances of the handicapped people in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Jenero, Brazil. People without legs dance, swim, cycle, jump, play games! Similarly people without both hands beat drums and play musical instruments with their legs! The accompanying music says “we can” and “we are super humans.” If the handicapped people can perform such unbelievable feats, how much more we are able to perform with all our faculties, skills, talents and abilities.

I am sure, if you deeply think about it, each one of us can say what my mother said at the silver Jubilee celebrations of her wedding. During thanks-giving Mass celebrated at home by her brother priest (my uncle) she said, “God has blessed our family more than we can ask for!” Today I can sincerely say with a grateful heart that God has blessed me more than I ever asked for. All my siblings can also say the same thing with conviction in their grateful hearts.

Everyone will realize that, as a song says, one life is not enough to sing and thank God for all the great things the Lord has done for each one.

Sharing our life with grateful hearts and recalling the innumerable blessings each one of us received, we can respond to the call: “Come! Share in the Light of Christ.”

When we speak of sharing we often think and say, I don’t have enough for myself. Then how can I share with others? The problem here is often not a question of not having enough for oneself but of one’s mentality, one’s attitude. In our selfish mentality we consider only our own needs, not the needs of others!

Let me end my message recalling a story – a historical story – which I read sometimes back. During the war with Spain in 1586 the Commander-in-Chief of British Army Philip Sidney was grievously wounded. He pleaded for water with great thirst. A soldier for want of any water container got water in his mental cap. When Sidney was about to drink the water he saw another wounded soldier at the point of death looking at the water with eager eyes.

Sidney ordered the soldier who brought the water for him to give the water to that soldier at the point of death. Sidney’s parched lips uttered these last words: “Thy need is greater than mine.”

Do I need to say anything more?

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Changed On: 16-08-2017

Next Change: 01-09-2017

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017

 

Ego and Self Knowledge at Loggerheads

Both the words in the title are very significant. Ego means the proud self. Similarly self knowledge means knowledge about oneself. Sometimes back I made a statement about an absent member in a circle of friends. A friend in the group of my listeners felt that my statement is negative about the absent member. Then he also accused me that I have the ‘habit’ of making negative statements about others!

Listening to the friend about my statement and about his accusation of my ‘habit’, an old scene flashed into my mind. Some twenty five years back I was called to a meeting of a few people who had complaints against my writing and my policy as the editor of DOOT. An elderly wise counselor in the meeting advised me, “Fr. Varghese, let the person who accuses you continue to speak. You do not need to answer him on every point.”

After the advice of the elderly wise person I remained silent because I respected the counselor. But inside me, I did not like his advice. For, in the presence of a few people the speaker was making false accusations against me. There were no truth in his useless accusations and I had adequate explanation to his accusation. So in that meeting I was on fire inside me. But this time when a friend said that I have the habit of making negative statements about others, the situation was the same. But I was the least perturbed by the friend’s negative statement about me.

Both the time the ego in me was challenged. But when my ego was challenged the second time, my self knowledge or my understanding about myself was better equipped. I was conscious about my self knowledge which so to say told me that I need not enter into conflict challenging my accuser. I knew myself better that I felt there is no need neither to protect my ego nor to nourish my ego. When another person’s ego challenges my ego, instead of challenging the ego of the others, I now try to understand his ego in a positive way. For, I belief   in myself and I know who I am. My being what I am does not depend on another person. My ego does not need the approval of another. So against the accusation of myself by another person’s ego I need not enter into conflict with his ego by accusing him and proving him wrong.

Now I am enlightened and self possessed to know that I do not need to dance to the tune of everyone else. I need not mould myself on the basis of what others think and say about me. My thoughts and actions need not depend on others and their opinions about me. My thoughts and actions are propelled by myself, by my inner self. My self knowledge is my guide. I do not need other’s certificate for being what I am. I am led by my self knowledge. My self knowledge is my inspiration, my guiding force. In other words I am a free person.

My freedom does not mean that I am a lonely person, a lonely island. No, I am a social being like everyone else. In my social life also there is an ideal, a power a model which leads me. That model, that power says, “If anyone wants to come after me, he must forget self, carry his cross, and to follow me.” (Mt 16, 24)

It is Jesus Christ who has called me to be his follower, to be his disciple. He calls me constantly to sacrifice my selfish ego. I interpret his call “to deny oneself” as a call to sacrifice my prideful, selfish ego. This sacrificing of ego comes from my self knowledge. I am not sacrificing my selfish ego just for the sake of sacrificing; but I sacrifice my selfish ego so that I can better follow on the footsteps of Jesus as his disciple. This is my faith in my thoughts and actions. This faith gives me inner happiness and peace.

But I know that not all people have faith in Jesus like my faith. For instance, take the case of rationalists, agnostics and atheists. They are not led by faith like me. They are led by a power which I call the power of love for others. With love they help others even at the cost of themselves. As rationalists, non believers and agnostics, they may not know that God is present in them in their genuine love for others. For, God is love. God lives in everyone even those who deny him/her. This Divine power of love inspires them in their good deeds irrespective of their beliefs. But the indwelling ego of a believer or unbeliever can come on the way of good things in their thoughts and deeds. So every person need to get rid of selfish ego and replace it with enlightened self knowledge.

I believe that it is a life-long process of getting rid of selfish ego and cultivating enlightened self knowledge. A person is usually led to nourish ego and neglect to cultivate self knowledge. The ego makes a person self centred. So self worth of a person is not in himself/ herself but in his/her possessions, power, fame and in one’s own talents and skills. Ego-centred person wants everyone else appreciate and acclaim himself/herself. This is an unquenchable thirst of ego-centred person. So s/he is always engrossed in accumulating more and more wealth and possessions for him/her. They are never fully satisfied, never interiorly happy. Such people want ever more fame and power. They want to become the acclaimed envy of others.

On the contrary the persons with growing enlightened self knowledge are happy and content in what they are in themselves and not in their possession and prestige. So they are liberated with self knowledge that they can face any situation in confronting the self-seeking ego of others. For they are interiorly peaceful, happy and content.

The enlightened person with self knowledge can distinguish between the selfish ego and the enlightened self knowledge like milk is different from water. But a person with self knowledge is humble as s/he knows that water and milk cannot be easily separated when they are mixed. For a person is ever prone to make mistakes. So such person need to be constantly on guard himself/herself against one’s own selfish ego with one’s own interior strength or spiritual power.

We say, “The house of the proud is empty.” Pride is a form of selfish ego. Pride is such a thing that if you throw it out through the door it may come back to you through the window! There is no need to nourish selfish ego. It grows by itself. But the enlightened self knowledge needs to be continuously nourished. I have heard that butterflies need to spread their wings in the early morning sun. For, their scales are solar cells and they are charged with the rays of mourning sun. So   only after receiving power from the sun light they are able to fly. Similarly enlightened self knowledge needs to be nourished by divine light, celestial understanding. (લેખક સાથે સંપર્ક: cissahd@gmail.com મો.09428826518)

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Changed On: 01-08-2017

Next Change: 16-08-2017

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017

 

Communalism and Love at Loggerheads

“Fr. Varghese, have you written anything about communalism?” a well known writer and critic Dr. Kanubhai Jani asked me. Then he added, “Communalism is the curse of our country.” Communalism as I understand is a kind of religious fanaticism, say terrorism inspired by blind religious faith. In other words, communalism is the absence of true faith expressed in its cruelest form. So I told my friend Kanubhai, “I have not written anything on communalism but I have written much about love. I still continue to write about love. For, where there is true love, there is no possibility of communalism to exist.”

As I see it, there are three reasons for communalism or rather there are three forces at work behind communalism. First, ignorance of one’s own religion and of the religions of others. Second, prejudices, ignorance and misunderstanding and third, absence of genuine love, absence of real love-experience.

First, ignorance of one’s own and others’ religions. I see that often deeply religious persons are also ignorant about their own religion and of other people’s religions. This ignorance is seen also in educated and well placed persons.

Recently I read two articles holding mutually opposing and contradictory views about religion. One view says that there is only one religion and that religion is the eternal Hindu religion. All others are religious sects or cults. Opposing this view another writer says that Hinduism is no religion in its true sense but a social way of life; it is a culture; it is a way of life. We see that those upholding Hinduism believe in God. Still even those who deny the existence of God and do not follow any religion are also considered Hindus or followers of Hindu religion!

All people know in the heart of hearts that there is a power beyond oneself. People may call this power God, Allah or Bhagavan. Most people accept that there is one creator of all who made us all. So we say in Hindi “Sabka Malik Ek” meaning “the Lord of all is One.”

We can say only one thing for certain about the Divine Power or Bhagavan. That is to say, we do not know anything definitely about God. Bible says that no one has seen God. So St. Paul says, Jesus Christ is the true image of God (Col, 1, 15). All our talks about God are expressed in our limited human language. They are the expression of human ideas and human beliefs. All our talks about God are just signs pointing to God.

The people who understand this much about God and religions will have only one response: loving respect both for one’s own religion and for the other religions and their followers. When we truly love and respect one’s own religion and the religion of other people there will be no sign of communalism and religious terrorism in our midst.

But unfortunately religious fanatic do not understand this. So they hate other religion and their followers and see them as enemies! We see deep rooted prejudices and ignorance in these types of people.

Second, to understand this attitude of ignorance and prejudices of people let me quote an author-journalist from Mumbai. He writes, “The Christian missionaries do not wish to mingle with the local (Indian) culture while they use words about adoring Jesus Christ in the place Ma Amba in traditional Navratri garbha dances and build church structures with (Hindu) temple-like domes”.

The well known (prabudh) writer of such things displays both his ignorance of Christian religion and also his communal mind set. Christianity is a world religion. But there is so to say no culture of its own. There is no monopoly of church architecture. Rig-Veda says, let all good and beneficial ideas and thoughts come from all directions. The Christian religions follow     this saying of Rig-Veda and accept and lives local culture as its own culture and way of living. So in India Christians accepts the temple architecture and builds churches which may look like temples. But in Japan the Christians there build their churches like pagodas, god’s abode of the Japanese people.  There is nothing new or exceptional in it.

I have been privileged to be elected a council member of the International Catholic Union of Press (UCIP) for twenty four years and to participate council meetings, World Congresses and seminars visiting 37 countries covering all continents. Everywhere I have seen that the Christian culture is indeed the culture and the language of the country in which the Christians live their faith. So as the Mumbai writer says, there is no question of abandoning or robbing any one culture.

Recently a man asked me, “Fr. Varghese, to accept Christian religion do I have to eat meat?” I told him, “Here in Ahmedabad Bishop Thomas Macwan is strictly vegetarian. Eating meat and Christian religion are not directly related.”

Third, one main reason for communalism is the absence of love. The people who have love, selfless love in their hearts are able to love all people. But those who are unable to love others genuinely and selflessly have no genuine experience of love. They experience emptiness in their hearts.

Such hearts are fertile ground for various ‘ism’s like nationalism, fanaticism and communalism. When these ‘ism’s take fanatical forms the concern persons are led to fanaticism and they become dangerous to the society and nation. For, they are completely in the grip of their ‘ism’. They are the slaves of their ‘ism’. Such fanatical people are ever ready to give their lives to their fanatical beliefs. They are the martyrs or saints to the people who are fanatic in their ‘ism’. But for the rest of the people the so called martyrs or saints are terrorists, criminals and fanatics!

Take the example of Swami Aseemanand. Swami Aseemanand was once a promising young man by name Jiten Chaterji. The writer from Mumbai who keeps away from truth and morality writes, “The made-in-Italy Government of Sonia Gandhi implicated Swami Aseemanand and in a bomb explosion case and arrested him. The crime against Swami Aseemanand is not proved yet. From 19, November 2010 he is in jail till today”.

Swami Aseemanand established “Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram” in Dangs and was running it for many years. Many tribal people in Dangs know him as a hard core Hindutva fanatic. But the writer portrays a different picture of the Swami in his article. “After the missionaries have converted the tribal people of Dangs Swami Aseemanand started a movement to bring the tribals back to Hindu Religion. He was successful in bring back 30,000 people in Hinduism”.

Is it possible that the writer who wrote these things about Swami Aseemanand does not know the true facts about the Swami? According to reports in newspapers and magazines five crimes of terrorist attacks are registered against Swami Aseemanand. In these five terrorist attacks 119 people have died. A journalist Leena Geeta Raghunath wrote in “The Caravan” dated February 1, 2014: “Today Aseemanand is perhaps the most prominent face of Hindu extremist terrorism”.

According to the information which Leena Geeta Raghunath got by meeting personally Swami Aseemanand twice in December 2010 and in January 2011 and Swami Aseemanand voluntarily acknowledged his crimes in Ambala and Delhi courts. In the court confession Swami Aseemanand denied any force and torture by the police. When CBI took over the case Swami Aseemanand decided that it was the appropriate time to own up all crimes. So Swami Aseemanand clearly told Leena Geeta Raghunath: “I know that for this (confession of crimes) it is possible that I get capital punishment. But come what may, I am an old man”.

Swami Aseemanand had refused to take the help of any advocate before owning up his crimes in the court. According to new reports, Swami was moved to make the confession seeing the suffering of an innocent young Muslim youth accused and punished for the terrorist attack for which the Swami Aseemanand himself was responsible.

But after his confessional statement was known world-wide on 28 March 2014 he took help of advocate of Sangh Praivar and on the next day he made it known that under torture and force he acknowledged his crimes!

Leena Geeta Raghunath has written that during her interview with Swami Aseemanand there were no signs of any force or torture on him. But the Swami Aseemanand had acknowledged before journalist for his terrorist activities he had the approval of top office-bearers of Sangh Parivar!

This is only the story of Hindutva exemism. But I believe that, when any ‘ism’ or ideas has recourse to extremism, man is led to terrorism. Any extreme form of ideas or ‘ism’ results in terrorism. History has witnessed such terrorism also in Islam and Christian religions. But terrorism has no real religion. No humanity. No true spirituality. No genuine love. There is only terrorism. This terrorism is the enemy of man. The enemy of humanity.

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Changed On: 16-07-2017

Next Change: 01-08-2017

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017

ATTITUDE OF UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD NEEDED

Our Prime Minister Narendrabhai Modi celebrated the first anniversary of his winning the 2014 election with the Indian citizens at Shanghai, China on May 16, 2015. I heard Modi’s speech on the occasion through a television channel. In his speech more than once Modi said, “The idea and attitude of Universal Brotherhood is a unique contribution of India to the whole world.”

The universal brotherhood is a noble idea, a blessed attitude. The idea is that the whole world is one family. It means that, without discrimination or destinction of caste, creed and race, every human being is my brother or my sister. This attitude helps us to live in peace, harmony, cooperation and mutual respect and support. With this idea of universal brotherhood Modi also said that today tourism especially international travelling is popular. So every Indian citizen should invite and bring five Chinese men or women to visit India.

I believe that Indian citizens going abroad for one thing or other do keep the attitude of universal brotherhood. Living among foreign people and dealing with them the Indians abroad wish that foreign people deal with them with this attitude of universal brotherhood. But I feel that this idea and attitude of universal brotherhood is needed more among the people in India more than the Indians abroad. It is especially needed among the people of Sangh Parivar who have elected Modi with a great majority first time in last 30 years.

Unfortunately some ministers of Modi government and even the parliamentarians who helped Modi to win the election are showing a totally different attitude from the universal brotherhood. They speak a totally different tone. Now the non-Sangh Parivar people are fed up with their unscientific and immoral talks. For instance, Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) parliamentarian Sakshi Maharaj said according to newspaper reports that, the earthquake in Nepal happened on account of the pilgrimage of Kedarnath by the meat-eating Rahul Gandhi! Sakshi Maharaj has become notorious early by asking each Hindu woman to produce 10 children and praising the murderer of Mahatma Gandhi.

Modi may well speak about universal brotherhood in foreign countries; but he will not dare to speak about universal brotherhood in his own country. For his attitude and the attitude of his government are totally different from the attitude called for universal brotherhood. They say, action speaks louder than words. The action of Modi and of his government is very different from that of universal brotherhood. For instance, take the Modi government action against non-government organizations and welfare associations doing eminent social services to the poor and needy people.

I believe that most of the NGOs and social activists are doing selfless service to the needy people. Their services cover such areas like education to the poor children, welfare services to the poor and needy people, looking after disabled children and older helpless people, helping people to be self-sufficient, empowering youth to be self employed, medical help to needy people. Providing basic necessities like these among these the NGOs, there may be by way exception a few self serving people.

But if any NGO misuses it’s fund instead of serving the avowed purpose, then they can be taken to task through existing laws and regulations. If any NGO is diverting found away from the goals and aims of the organization then they should be punished severely according to the laws of the country. But the government’s steps against Priya Pillai of Green Peace and Teesta Setalvad, the fighter for civil rights and social justice and peace, are obviously prompted by animosity and vengeance. It is witch-hunting under the cover of law. Those who accuse people misusing foreign funds should know well that the funding agencies abroad make 100% sure that the fund provided by them are used exclusively for the purpose for which they are given.

Keeping track of PM Modi’s speeches and concrete, actions I feel that Modi’s call to people to have the attitude of universal brotherhood is meant for the Indian citizens abroad and for the people in foreign countries. Neither in action nor in words PM Modi does not call the citizens in India to live the idea and the attitude of universal brotherhood. The actions and speeches of the leaders of Sangh Parivar are totally against the idea and attitude of universal brotherhood.

PM Modi himself has not given in practice the idea and attitude of universal brotherhood to the Indians. Hence, in spite of the clarion call “with everyone and for the progress of everyone” the poor and the Dalits and the tribals are remaining where they were! For they are still socially boycotted. Health services and primary education have not reached them! Then the persecution of Dalits, Muslims and Christians are going on unabated under the nose of Modi. These happenings proclaim from rooftops the attitude of Sangh Parivar and Modi government are against universal brotherhood in India.

A concrete example is reported today (18 May 2015) by UCAN agency. A convent of nuns and three Churches have been attacked in Madhya Pradesh under the Sangh Parivar government; and as usual the Sangh Parivar have accused the Christians there about attacking the Sangh Parivar people!

With everyone and for the progress of everyone (With all & for the development of all) and the universal brotherhood – these are catchy and inspirational sayings. But concrete steps are needed to fellow these ideas and attitudes. Without any discrimination of race, caste and creed concrete steps are needed to promote the ideas and attitude of “With all and for the development of all” and the universal brotherhood. When these high ideals are proclaimed from the podiums abroad, the actions and speeches of the concerned people in the country are total against! So people see the hollowness of the proclaimed high ideals and noble attitude. They recognize and see through the pretensions.

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Changed On: 01-07-2017

Next Change: 16-07-2017

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017