“I have always said that building walls is not a solution: we have already seen one come down, during the last century. Walls solve nothing. We must build bridges. But bridges are built intelligently, through dialogue and integration”, said Pope Francis. The Pope was answering a question asked by a journalist Hellena Pinardi in a press conference abroad Papal flight from Lebos (Greece) to Rome on 16, April 2016.
Pope has never heard about Catholic Information Service Society (CISS). But his counsel of not building walls but building bridges applies 100% to CISS. For, the service of CISS is not to build walls but build bridges between different religions, faiths and cultures. CISS strives to establish inter-religious harmony and unity. CISS believes in the understanding of “Vasudaivakudumbakam”, that is, the whole world is one family.
Thanks to the modern achievements and facilities like electronic media, communication tools and international travel facilities the world has become one global village. Still the open secret and the naked truth is that there are much prejudice and misunderstanding about various different religions, cultures and races.
When CISS was established in 1984 we offered our services advertising them in the news papers. During the initial years there was much appreciation of our services. With letters of praises for our services there were also a few letters of hatred and enmity. A few times we have also received letters of threat and enmity. Such letters were received often from anonymous sources without senders’ addresses. But I was alert to reply all letters with sender’s address.
Once in 1996 CISS office received four letters from Bhavnagar region. The four post cards coming from four different addresses have one common request. The writers wanted to receive our advertised free literature on Jesus Christ and the Bible. The letter writers also wanted to receive baptism and to know if on receiving baptism the person will get educated Christian girl to marry along with a car and bungalow to live a new life.
Even if they are exception, I used to get such letters. I made it my practice to reply every such letter. I tell the person that we send only the requested literature free of cost. Baptism is not something to be taken lightly. A decision to receive baptism is usually taken after much prayers, meditation and study. In the final stage it is a matter between God and the man/woman concerned. I also tell such person clearly that we have nothing to do with providing for the person educated Christian life-partner, bungalow and a car.
After sending my such love letters, my Assistant Sr. Devkripa who has been the principal of a big school and who also kept track of our correspondence courses, called my attention to the four post cards, “Father, look at all these four post cards, the addresses of the senders are different. But see: not only the content but the handwritings are one and the same, there are no differences but similarities”.
We in CISS believe in Jesus’ words, “Whatever is hidden away will be brought out into the open, and whatever is covered up will be uncovered” (Mk 4: 22). I believe that my letters are private and confidential, still I know even if my letters are read from the village market or town square, there will be nothing objectionable or offensive. I do not know the four post card writers did receive satisfactory answer to their quarries. But between us there were no further correspondences.
In such situation I always instructed my co-workers in CISS office that, when they received offensive letters, phone calls with thread and hatred, respond to them with as much love as you are able to communicate taking their threat and hatred as a pleading to tell the truth, to clarify their ignorance and prejudices. We know our true situation. So we respond anger and hatred with love and forgiveness.
The sum and substance of our advertisements in newspapers and bill boards, is “Believe or do not believe, but know Jesus Christ”. Our services have no string attached. Our advertisements have always our postal address and phone number.
During last 34 years we have registered more than 44,000 Enquirers/students for our different free correspondence courses from whole Gujarat. Usually people see our advertisements in newspapers or hear from our ‘old’ students or directly from me and then ask for our free correspondence courses. Those who are curious or inquisitive to know about Jesus Christ and the Bible contact us and we send them our free correspondence courses.
We always send our literature, the beautifully printed “Meet Christ” (Isune Malo) booklets to all who ask for them. We used to send our students 10 booklets plus Fr. Valles’ booklet on Christian Religion (“Khrist Dharma”) originally published by Satvichar Parivar.
Now we have revised our 10 booklets and reprinted them in 5 booklets. In 2017 we reprinted 2000 copies of the 5 booklets. The five booklets have question-answer papers in each of them. Students can study and then fill the question-answer sheet stitched in the middle, which can be detached and send to us. When we receive them we correct and issue each successful student with certificate and a gift of a biblical book or a copy of New Testament.
Some of our students write to us sharing their inner spiritual experiences in studying our literature. When our students tell us about their transforming experiences we are energized and encouraged in this service. For instance, I am happy to share with you a few such experiences of few students.
Prathumanbhai from Tapi: (Regd. No. 27373) wrote to me on July 28, 2010: “Through your “Meet Christ” booklets I experienced the fulfillment of my need to know about my Lord Jesus; so to say, you have given the companionship of Lord Jesus to me.”
Rajubhai from Bhavnagar (Regd. No. 788) wrote to me on 29 November 2011: “I believe that I have received the gift of inspiration to cultivate virtues like love, service and forgiveness in my life through studying Lord Jesus.”
Kanubhai from Surat (Regd. No. 29900) wrote on 27 December. 2011: “From reading your booklets I have received inspiration to live a good life. In a true spirit I will observe all the advices which I have received from the booklets.”
Prakashbhai from Vadodara Central Jail (Regd.No.785) wrote to us on 31 December, 2011: “A great change has come upon inside me after studying correspondence course booklets. I used to get angry very quickly. Now I am able to control my anger.”
Rasibhai from Ahmedabad (Regd. No. 791) wrote to us on February 1, 2012: “I liked very much the study of St. Luke’s Gospel. I got very good message of mercy and service to humanity from it. I came to know that we should forgive those who do evil to us”.
A pen friend Dr. Sudhakarbhai Hathy wrote to me on October 15, 2011 from Jamnagar: “Your thoughts as well as your writings are of superb quality. As you describe, the celebration of Divali is very beautiful. All in my family welcomes your thoughts and reflection. Everyone in my family read your two leaflets.”
Another pen friend and journalist-poet Pritamlal Kavi from Nadiad wrote on December 20, 2011: “I received your two thought-provoking phamlets: “Vision of Jesus at Christmas” and “One day with my Mother”. You have described very well the importance of the vision of Jesus’ incarnation. Much thought for life is there in your article on Mother. This article will serve as a guide to those who insult and misbehave with their parents.”
Jayeshbhai from Bhavnagar (Regd. No. 28339) wrote to me on July 7, 2010: “Reading your books I got to know the true way of living life. You have caused to raise a new sun in my life!”
Rajeshbhai from Bhavnagar (Regd. No. 535) wrote to me on February 7, 2006: “After reading your small book ‘What Does Jesus Means to You & Me’ I have to say this much in verse,
‘Jesus came to the door of my heart
The darkness in my heart flew away
I have joy of good works to offer at his feet’.”
An eminent senior writer friend Yogendra Vyas from Ahmedabad wrote to me on October 20, 2010: “I did not know the Sikh tradition of celebration of the freeing of Guru Govind at Divali is narrated in your article on “Religious Feast Divali” in verse I liked your essay on ‘Let us Enjoy Peace in the New Year 2067”. In it you have described 7 interior steps to be taken. They are very important and necessary.”
A pen friend Govardhan Soratiya from Amreli wrote to me: “I am impressed by your loving letter and the article on ‘Good Friday’. In it I see heartfelt devotion towards Lord Jesus. I appreciate /admire your courage to refer to Modi and Yeyrrudappa in writing about Godhara carnage and other communal terrorists.”
As on March 31, 2018 CISS has registered a total of 45962 Enquirers/students and sent them our free literature. Some of our beneficiaries have acknowledged that they have received much wisdom and knowledge from our free correspondence courses. I have quoted a few chosen randomly samples. They speak about their experiences like change of values, conversion of heart, receiving spiritual wisdom etc. In the Bible a disciple of Jesus, St. Paul says, “For the benefit of knowing my Lord Jesus I count everything else useless.” (Philipp 3: 8).
The letters from our enquirers proclaims from roof tops that they have received much from the Bible, Jesus Christ and the Christian Religion. Then, much ignorance and prejudices against Christian religion and the Christians have been cleared. Their lives have been influenced by the values, messages and the life of Jesus Christ. In other words, instead of building walls and remain distant from the people CISS has succeeded to establish inter-religious harmony and inter-religious dialogue. In deed CISS is doing successfully in building bridges between different religions, races and cultures. (Words1681)
Changed On: 16-05-2018
Next Change: 01-06-2018
Copyright: Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018