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

 

Msgr. George Velliparambil A Pioneer & A Veteran

I have known Fr. George Velliparambil for the last 40 years since I joined the Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA) in 1977. A fellow Jesuit Fr. Francis MacFarland then the Secretary of CBCI Commission for Social Communications took me into confidence with a few letters marked ‘for your own eyes only.’ He did not want to be in the lime light but as a visionary he saw the need of revitalizing the ICPA which was then inactive.

ICPA was started with the initiative of another fellow Jesuit of Patna Province Fr. John Barett in 1963 with its first meeting held at Delhi in August 1964. Fr. Barett called the very first meeting of 8 editors like Fr. E. D’Souza of New Leader, Fr. Benny Agiar of The Examiner, Fr. George Velliparambil Managing Editor of Kerala Times, Fr. Horace Rozario, SJ of The Calcutta Herald, Fr. Mark Valdar of Racknno, Mangalore, Fr. E. D’Souza was the first ICPA President and Fr. John Barret was its Secretary for many years. While the ICPA Presidents changed from time to time, Fr. Barett as the Secretary continued to be the soul or the backbone of ICPA. While ICPA saw much ups and downs Fr. George Valliparambil was one who continued with it through thick and thin.

When Barret left India the ICPA fell into disrupt. But when ICPA was revived the 4 veterans who lent a hand, so to say, were Fr. Horace Rozario, SJ of The Calcutta Herald, Fr. Benny Agiar of the Examiner, Mumbai and Fr. George Valliparambil of Kerala Times daily.   When ICPA was revived the Catholic Editors extended its membership to writers and journalists in 1978. Fr. Horace Rozario was elected as the President and Mr. Dominic Azavedo as the Secretary. Subsequently Fr. John Vallamattom and Fr. George Valliparambil also led ICPA as its elected Presidents. ICPA was registered as a Charitable Trust while Fr. George Velliparambil was its President and he lent his Kerala Times, Banerjee Road, Kochi office address as the official registered address of ICPA.

George was born as the 3rd child of Perio and Mary couple in Velliparambil family at Cheranellur in Ernakulum. After graduating from Madras University George joined the Mangalapuzha Pontifical Seminary for his priestly studies. He was ordained a priest of Verapoly Diocese in 1961. Fr. George started his priestly ministry as Assistant Vicar in St. Francis Assisi Cathedral. He also taught for a short while in St. Joseph’s Pontifical Seminary.

Then, recognizing his literary talents and journalistic skills the then Bishop of Verapoly Diocese appointed him to work in Kerala Times daily in 1962. Within a short time of 3 years George was appointed as the Managing Editor of Kerala Times on March 31st 1965.

According to reports and obituary write ups on the death of Fr. George Velliparambil who died on May 15, he was on the forefront of modernization of Malayalam language and journalism style of reporting and writing.  While editing Kerala Times as its Managing Editor, Fr. George revived ‘Satya Nadam’ one of the oldest periodicals in Malayalam.

As an Editor with social conscience Fr. George voiced the problems of the poor fisher folks living on the sea costs and championed their cause. While being Managing Editor of Kerala Times for three decades Fr. George studied and researched on various topics of interest to him. He shared his finding through speaking in public forums and in his writings “Professionalize or perish” was Fr. George call to the print media.

As a frequent visitor to his office I am enriched by his sharing and his books. He has written books on the History of Kerala News Paper (Kerala Patracharitram), History of Satya Nadam, and Christian Heritage of Kerala. His news paper columns published on Sunday supplements of Kerala Times have been collected and published. I treasure his signed gift of his collected articles entitled “Aadarsha Chintakal” (Ideal Thoughts).

Fr. George Velliparambil was also active and rendered his services in various press media organization in Kerala, in India and in International level. At all India  level he was elected first as the General Secretary of ICPA in 1983 and then he was the  President of ICPA from 1992-95. At International level he was a member of the South Asian Catholic Press Association (SACPA) and of the International Catholic Union of the Press (UCIP) and participated in their meetings and the world Congress.

Fr. George’s popularity was manifested in the huge number of people who flocked to his family home at Cheranellur to pay homage to him as well as in the crowed gathered in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church at Cheranellur, where the Holy Mass and funeral rites were held. Archbishop Joseph Kalathilparambil led the concelebrated Holy Mass together with Bishop Dr. Joseph Karikasery of Kotapuram Diocese, Bishop Dr. Peter Parappulil of Jhansi and Mar Jose Putanveettil the Auxiliary Bishop of Ernakulum. There were also nearly a 100 priests with Mass vestment and a few like me only in cassocks. Sisters and his well wishers filled the church and the church compound.

ICPA paid homage to its former President by lying wreathe by the Vice President Mr. Ignatius Gonsalves and the Secretary Mr. Jose Vincent. The Treasure Jayan Nagapuzha and Executive Body Member Sebastian Kallarackal attended the funeral service together with this writer.

In the current socio-religio-political situation a question Msgr. George Velliparambil asked is very relevant. In his message published in ICPA Golden Jubilee Souvenir the former President of ICPA Fr. George posed the question. Today every journalist in India should ask the same question to himself/herself: where does the very profession of journalists stand?  Fr. George a pioneer and veteran of the print media have left an indelible mark in the Catholic Press in India as a whole and the news paper world in Kerala in particular.

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Changed On: 16-06-2017

Next Change: 01-07-2017

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017

 

 

 

WITH MAORI – THE ABORIGINAL PEOPLE OF NEW ZEALAND

“Kia Ora.” Speak up, “Kia Ora”, the guide said. None of us understood what the guide was saying! Still we all repeated after the guide: “Kia Ora”. Then the guide explained the meaning of “Kia Ora”. It means in English “Hallo.” We the Maori people welcome our guests with the words “Kia Ora”, explained guide while calling a beautiful Maori young lady closer to him.

Then the two guides in turn explained to us the 3 hours to spend together like music and dance, social life, sight-seeing in the village, etc. Then they said together: “Thank you”. We thank you all because our village is financially strong, thanks to the tourists like you. We have all taken tickets. But there was no check or verification.

Of the 11 days I spent in New Zealand 2 days were spent at Whakarewarewa. When I landed at Auckland airport my nephew Shaju and his daughter Rosmi had come to welcome me. When I was taking tea and snacks with them in their new bungalow, Shaju explained to me the 11 days’ programme he and his wife Mini had prepared for me with minute details.

“Uncle, you had told us that you are coming to meet us and rest and do not arrange any long trips. Still we have arranged just one overnight trip for you to see something unique in the world. We are going to the village and town of the Maori aboriginal people. We will visit their wonderful thermal village. You will remember for life the visit to Whakarewarewa thermal village.

 

New Zealanders believe that about 1000 years before they migrated from Europe the aboriginal people had reached and settled there on the sea costs and jungles. Today 14% of the populations like the Maoris are aboriginals. But the effect of the Maori aboriginal culture is experienced in the whole of New Zealand. At Auckland I used to go for Mass in the close by Christ the King Church. On a Sunday the Church was full with about 600 worshippers. The Mass began in Maori language “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…..”

I was surprised because Shaju had told me that the Mass would be in English. But the Priest greeted the people and welcomed the congregation in Maori language expressing solidarity with the aboriginal people. He then continued the rest of the Mass in English. But the greeting and good bye were again in Maori at the end of the Holy Mass. The congregation like in the beginning responded perfectly in Maori.

The influence of Maori people and their culture is felt in the whole of New Zealand. I did not interact with any Maori person. Still I know that there is no difference whatever between the aboriginal people and the European migrant people. But New Zealand history records a lot of fights and enmity in the past between the two populations. When Europeans came to New Zealand they forcefully occupied the Maori people’s settlements. Then, there were many agreements or contracts between the aboriginal people and the European migrants. Today there are constitutional provisions protecting the Maori people and their culture. Both the Maori aboriginals and European migrants live in peace and harmony.

During my short stay I had the opportunity to experience the life and culture and also read a lot about the Maori people and their way of life especially during my two day long trip to Rotorua town and the thermal village of Whakarewarewa with the geysers, hot springs and mud pools.

One day very early morning Shaju drove me and Mini to Maori town Rotorua. After 3 hours drive we reached Rotorua. Shaju had already booked 2 rooms there in Silver Oak Heritage Hotel. After refreshing in the hotel rooms and taking breakfast we set out to see the Maori cultural programme at 11 AM for which Shaju had purchased 3 tickets in advance. We reached near the entrance of the Maori village Whakarewarewa. We found there a well build young man and a beautiful young lady waiting for the group to gather.

After waiting 5 minutes the young robust guide called the people standing around him near the board Whakarewarewa and said “Kia Ora”… Then he called our attention to the name written in English alphabets and said in “Whakarewarewa” is the name of our Maori village.

“About 3 centuries back an aboriginal war leader gathered around him fighters from his tribe. His name was Wahiao from his name the people here called the name of the village Whakarewarewa. Its shorter form is “Whakarewarewa” the guide explained.

Then the guide introduced himself and the co-guide the young lady. “Now my companion will tell you about the interesting things as well as the culture programmes we have prepared for you for the next 3 hours”, he said.

The young lady spoke to us about the Maori aboriginals, their language and culture, and a number of unique things about Whakarewarewa village. Then, she asked, “Do you have any question? Do you need any clarification or explanation about the things I said?” we were all eager to cross a small bridge near by and enter the Whakarewarewa village. So no one asked any question.

All of us tourists were divided into two groups. One group followed the young lady guide while the second group with me included followed the robust guide and entered the Whakarewarewa village passing through the archway built in the shape of a bow in memory of the Second World War heroes. As we entered the village we saw the geysers-the strange sight of rather foul smelling smoke coming out the earth at different places.

Close to the entrance is a dilapidated hunt- the house of Tuhourangi-Nagati-Wahiao tribes built by Maori tribes much before the arrival of the Europeans. The roof of the hurt is covered with tree-leaves. The aboriginals lived the place to take advantage of the warm atmosphere. At some places in the village there is warm hot springs. The local people use the hot water for cooking as well as for bath. In one place an young man was lowering maize in a steel net into the hot water pond and distributing thus cooked maize to tourists.

There is a hundred year old Catholic Church built in 1905. There are houses around the Church of Catholic Christians of Nagati Wahiao tribes. The guide told us that there is also an Anglican Church in another part of the village. In 1886 Tarawera volcano erupted destroying many villages around the Tarawera Mountain region. The people escaped from the place and took refuge in Whakarewarewa. All those people were Anglican Christians.

In a big house in the village we saw many small children. The guide explained to us as the play school or kindergarten of Maori tribes. Children are taught Maori language and culture as their heritage.

A special attraction of the Maori village was the cultural programme of dances and with music and songs. The local Te Pakira cultural artists enthralled the tourists like me with their traditional dances and songs as well as with modern music. There was also a frightening war dance by name ‘Haka’. The tourists like me enjoyed also their action song.

New Zealand is a welfare state. There is 100% literacy in the country. But the aboriginal people are behind in pursuing higher studies. Consequently the unemployment is higher among them than the non tribals. But all unemployed people get unemployment allowances enough to live well without luxury. As my nephew said, among the aboriginals there is lack of motivation to pursue higher studies and secure well paid jobs. Then according to Shaju due to drinking and drug problems some among the tribal people are starving at the end of the month.

But the good news is that the number of aboriginals pursing higher education is steadily increasing. I can also say after visiting their Whakarewarewa village that the aboriginals are a very hospital people.  (લેખક સાથેનો સંપર્ક: cissahd@gmail.com; Mo. 09428826518)

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Last change : 01-06-2017

Next change on : 16-.06-2017

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul 2017

 

 

Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ – Praise be to You On Care for Our Common Home

LAUDATO SI’ is a most comprehensive document on ecology and environment. Pope Francis authoritatively treats the subject not only from a Christian perspective but also from a scientific and technological point of view covering practically everything connected with the topic.

I would like to describe LAUDATO SI’ as an epoch-making document. The Encyclical is a landmark document of the 21st century.

LAUDATO SI’ also establishes Pope Francis as an eminent environmentalist, who thinks about the whole natural and human creation. LAUDATO SI’ may be compared with two other Classical documents:

The two other classical documents are:  (1) Pope Leo XIII’s Encyclical   “Rerum  Novarum” (New Things, 1891)  is the landmark document of the 19th century. It is about labour and capital especially on the workers’ right during industrial revolution.

(2) Pope St Pope John XXIII’s Encyclical “Pacem  in Terris” (Peace on Earth, 1963) is the landmark document of the 20th century. This enduring Encyclical is a world-class document warning about the dangers of Nuclear War during the height of Cold War.

Similarly, Pope Francis’ Encyclical LAUDATO SI’ is a unique and significant document of the 21st century. It addresses every man and woman on earth on the environmental issues. “I wish to address every person living on this earth”, he says.

Perhaps, I need to explain that usually an Encyclical letter is considered the official teaching of the Pope addressed to the Bishops of the Catholic Church. But as you will see, LAUDATO SI’ is much more than that.

The name LAUDATO SI’ – “Praise be to You” is unique and significant in many ways.  It is a very Franciscan Encyclical. The Italian title instead of usual Latin title is from a poem or hymn of St Francis Assisi (1181-1226).

Francis Assisi is a world-renowned saint beyond the confine of the Catholic Church. With awe and wonder Francis loved and respected God’s whole creation.

St. Francis Assisi’s hymn “Canticle of Creatures” is considered the first Italian classical poem. Pope Francis’ predecessor, St Pope John Paul II has proclaimed Francis Assisi as the Patron of Environment.

Pope Francis took his name from St Francis Assisi. He has also taken the title LAUDATO SI’ from the opening line of the Saint’s Canticle of the Creatures and has quoted The whole Canticle.(#86)

In tune with Francis Assisi Pope Francis says: “If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to owe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, then our attitude will be that of masters, consumers and ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs.”

Perhaps, a very important thing to note about LAUDATO SI’ is that the voice of religion has now decisively entered the climate change debate.

Pope Francis has portrayed an ambitious vision for protecting the environment and safe-guarding of life in all its forms. He has warned against reckless pursuit of development for profit of a few people.

I have no doubt that LAUDATO SI’ will have an inalienable impact on the forthcoming international meet on environment and ecology at Paris in December 2015.

We also need to note that LAUDATO SI’ has already created much opposition, controversy and polarization. The Encyclical has also received much acclamation and appreciation from around the world.

LAUDATO SI’ is very critical of global capitalist system and the Encyclical also challenges the absolutist notion of private property. Pope Francis holds that the whole creation belongs to God for the good of the whole people.

LAUDATO SI’ is emphatic on the fact that God’s whole creation is in the urgent need of common care and protection by everyone – by individuals, Churches and governments.

You have a sort of summary of LAUDATO SI’ in my article on the Encyclical in WEC, September 2015 issue. So instead of repeating what I have written in it, here I would like to highlight the practical aspects of the document, which concerns all of us.

Having read and studied the Encyclical in depth, I see LAUDATIO SI’ as Pope Francis’ greatest contribution to environmental dialogue as it presents to us an overview of the crisis facing the whole creation, our sister/mother earth. (#62)

The focus on the poor is one of the central themes of LAUDATO SI’ and every section of the encyclical refers to the poor in one way or other. Pope Francis repeatedly calls for an appreciation of the immense dignity of the poor. (#158)

We need to heed to Pope Francis’ critique of our reliance on the market forces without considering how they will affect the environment and their potential negative impact on human beings. (#109 & 110) Pope Francis says that with extreme consumerism “the earth is despoiled, and billions are left impoverished.” (#203)

There is no doubt that LAUDATO SI’ is very much in tune with the social teachings of the Catholic Church. The Church’s theology of common good is combined with the findings of experts in a variety of fields to reflect on modern problems.

But LAUDATO SI’ is not just a document of social teachings. Its position on ecology is very much grounded in the Bible and Church Traditions. Pope Francis’ references to Bible and Tradition are such that nonbelievers too can understand and be inspired to care for nature and environment.

Pope Francis’ teaching that everything is connected is a revelation for me. Pope Francis links everyone to the whole creation. “We are part of nature, included in it, and thus in constant interaction with it,” he says. (#139)

LAUDATO SI’ appeals to the learned as well as to the simple because much researched scientific truths on environment are presented in simple lucid style of Pope Francis. The Encyclical combines well the Church’s social teaching and the contemporary findings of various fields.

LAUDATO SI’ condemns unambiguously widespread indifference and selfishness about environmental problems. “Many of those who possess more resources seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms”, says Pope Francis.

Pope Francis calls for global dialogue and international solidarity to face the environmental problems. LAUDATO SI’ calls for debate among all people about the care of our common home; because the solution which works for one region may not work in another region.

LAUDATO SI’ calls for personal conversion leading to bold Cultural Revolution. As Pope Francis says, we need to listen to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor (#49). This is possible only with individual and collective ecological conversion.

The beauty of LAUDATO SI’ addressed to every person on planet earth is that there are dozens of practical suggestions for you and me to do in the care of our sister/mother earth. Let me highlight a few of them from the Encyclical.

1st Suggestion of LAUDATO SI’ is get involved in the care of mother earth. Quoting South African bishops Pope Francis says: “Everyone’s talent and involvement are needed to redress the damage caused by human abuse of God’s creation.” (#14)

2nd Suggestion of LAUDATO SI’ is to reduce, reuse and recycle, as many environmental problems are connected with throw away culture (#14). Pope Francis says that sensible and profitable ways of reusing, revamping and recycling could improve the energy efficiency of cities (#192).

3rd, LAUDATO SI’ calls everyone to reduce and replace use of highly polluting fossil fuels specially coal, oil and gas and replace them with renewable energy sources without delay (#26, 165)

4th, LAUDATO SI’ wants everyone to protect clean, safe drinking water and ensure universal access to drinking water. “Access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival.” (#27-29, 164)

5th, LAUDATO SI’ warns us against the destruction of ecosystem leading to the extinction of mammals, birds, fungi, algae, worms, insects, reptiles and a variety of microorganisms due to the use of synthetic pesticide, herbicides, etc. (#34)

6th, LAUDATO SI’ wants us to promote smart growth creating livable communities with plenty of green spaces. The Encyclical also calls to tackle noise and “visual pollution” and create space for people to connect and trust each other. (#44-45, 113, 143, 147)

7th, LAUDATO SI’ warns us against mental pollution when the mass media and the digital world is omnipresent. So the Encyclical calls us “to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously” (#47)

8th, LAUDATO SI’ calls us to know personally the suffering of poor, the vast majority of the world. The aloofness of the rulers and decision makers from the poor led to the present reality. The Encyclical affirms that “true ecological approach always becomes a social approach”. (#49)

9th, LAUDATO SI’ calls for sharing with the poor instead of blaming the population growth.  Pope Francis says that food discarded and thrown away is like food stolen from the table of the poor. (#50)

10th, LAUDATO SI’ affirms that “we were made for love” (#58) and we need “to wonder about the purpose and meaning of everything” (#113) and our actions should be such as to create self-esteem and “enable us to live and feel that life on earth is worthwhile.” (#212)

11th, LAUDATO SI’ calls us repeatedly to get back to nature and experience “God’s love” and “a caress of God”. (#84)  The Lord is “in constant touch with the nature”. (#97) We need “to promote new way of thinking about life and our relationship with nature”. (#215)

12th, LAUDATO SI’ repeatedly tells us that everything is connected. Pope Francis says that love for human being is inconsistent with trafficking in endangered species and destroying human beings deemed unwanted including the unborn. (#91, 120)

13th, LAUDATO SI’ calls us “to wonder about the purpose and meaning of everything.” (#113) And the Encyclical says that “a capacity to wonder takes us to a deeper understanding of life.” (#225)

14th, LAUDATO SI’ says that any approach to an integral ecology needs to take account of the value of labour. (#124) For, “Work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfillment.” (#128)

15th, LAUDATO SI’ calls for protecting the land and the culture of indigenous peoples. Pope Francis says that the disappearance of a culture can be even more serious than the disappearance of species of plant or animal (#145)

16th, Speaking on the ecology of daily life LAUDATO SI’ stresses on the importance of proper environment. Pope Francis writes, “In our rooms, our homes, our workplaces and neighborhoods, we use our environment as a way of expressing our identity.” (#147)

17th, LAUDATO SI’ stresses “on the need to give priority to public transportation,” (#153) and providing essential services to rural population (#154)

18th, LAUDATO SI’ says that though the people were concerned with environmental problems from the middle of last century “recent World Summits on the environment have not lived up to expectations due to lack of political will.” (#164, 166)

19th, LAUDATO SI’ says, “There is a nobility in the duty to care for creation through little daily actions; and it is wonderful how education can bring about real changes in lifestyle.” Pope Francis’ suggestions are avoid use of plastic and paper, use public transport or car pooling, plant trees, etc. (#211)

20th, LAUDATO SI’ deplores “the behaviour of those who constantly consume and destroy, while others are not yet able to live in a way worthy of their human dignity.” (#193) Pope Francis says that Christian spirituality of “less is more” “lived freely and consciously is liberating.” (#222, 223)

21st, LAUDATO SI’ ends with two beautiful prayers of Pope Francis entitled “A prayer for our earth” and “A Christian prayer in union with creation”. They summarize, so to say, the whole Encyclical letter. (#246)

Finally, taking an over view of the Encyclical LAUDATO SI’ I would like to call your attention to two things: First, our origin and our final rest; second, the solid connection between Social Justice and Environment.

First, we should not forget from where we came. Pope Francis says: “We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth; our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.” (#2)

Second, LAUDATO SI’ establishes solid connection between Social Justice and Environment. Pope Francis says: “We realize that the world is a gift which we have freely received and must share with others.” (#159)

Who are the others? They are the poor, the needy, the displaced, the refugees, the victims of persecutions and wars. So our question is what is our personal response to this Encyclical? How you and I can care for our Sister/Mother Earth? (60 paragraphs & 2343 words)

Francis, PopeEncyclical Letter LAUDATO SI’: ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME. Bangalore: Claretian Publications, June 2015. Print.

 

  1. M.   D.  G.

 

DELIGHTFUL VISIT TO NEW ZEALAND

I have been privileged to visit 37 countries covering five continents during the last 41 years. But the purpose of visiting New Zealand was totally different from all other visits. My first visit to Europe and USA were for my higher studies. But most of my visits were to participate in international meetings, and world congresses of the press media. I have also visited neighboring countries to conduct seminars and workshops in journalism and creative writing. As a journalist I have been a member of the Governing Council of International Catholic Union of the Press (UCIP). But my last journey was to New Zealand honoring a long standing and persistent invitation for holidays with my nephew Shaju and family.

Usually it is impossible for me as a Jesuit to go for holidays abroad. I have told this to Shaju umpteen times. His argument was: Uncle, you travel a lot abroad to attend meetings. Then, why don’t you once come and spend a few days with me and my family and give us your company. While he was working in Ahmedabad he used to come to my office after his office work and help me a lot with my articles and correspondences in English.

But this time the situation was different. I had been invited as a resource person to the world congress of International Christian Organization of Media (ICOM) at Tagaytay, Philippines, almost half the way to New Zealand. Shaju immediately offered me to pay for my to and fro tickets via Manila to Auckland and back. Shaju claims that I am in his mentor in the very beginning of his works in cultivating in him the values of life like discipline, responsibility, loyalty, dependability and trust.

Once I remember heartily congratulating Shaju for his honesty and loyalty to his company. He has gone to a printing press to pay a big bill. The press manager asked Shaju “Sir, what amount should be written in the bill? “Why, Manager Sir? We have approved your quotation and you have done our job well!” Shaju could not understand the question of the press manager.

“The quotation is okay, sir. But in making the final bill, there is a give and take possible”. The manager said.

Shaju was confused as he did not still understand the manager.

Sensing the new PA of the company manager did not understand him the press manager said bluntly: “Sir, your predecessor used to take cash from us for giving us all your printing works and in our bill we charged the amount”.

Then, Shaju understood the press manager is speaking about giving and taking bribe! So he told the manager, “Sir, you have done our work well. Now make your bill in such a way that my company does not suffer any loss and you get the money worth your work”.

A big printing press manager and an official with good salary also give and take bribe money! This was beyond the experience and understanding of Shaju. When Shaju joined in his very first job, he showed me a letter which his mother (my sister-in-law) had written to him. In the letter his mother had very well instructed her son about attending the office on time, doing the work entrusted to him faithfully. So without any avarices of  making quick  money Shaju keeping the family culture and did very faithfully his job to the best of his abilities. I also encouraged Shaju giving telling examples of trustworthiness of my father and my grand-father. So there is some truth in Shaju’s saying that in the critical years of his formation I have been an inspiration and encouragement in his character formation and social behavior.

Last year I wrote to Shaju that there is a possibility that I might go to Philippines as the ICOM world congress is being held in that country. Shaju promptly replied me that Philippine is almost half the way to New Zealand and so he is sponsoring my air tickets via Manila to Auckland. “So Uncle, this time you have to come to New Zealand,” he concluded.

With the invitation from the organizers of the International Christian Organization of the Media (ICOM) to participate in the ICOM world congress as a Resource Person and Shaju’s offer of return tickets to New Zealand and back I approached my Provincial. I was prepared to receive a ‘no’ from my Provincial as I knew that he has denied permission in the past for fellow Jesuits to visit their relatives abroad. But after consulting his advisors Provincial Superior gave me permission both to participate in the World Congress and to visit my nephew and family in New Zealand. So after participating in ICOM World at Tagaytay, I landed at Auckland airport on October 16, 2016.

At the airport Shaju and my grand nice Rosmi were there to receive me with bunch of beautiful orchid flowers. I have never seen before such colorful orchid flowers! They drove me straight to their recently purchased bungalow in the city centre. I was the first guest from India to visit their new specious abode. The orchid flowers remained fresh on the dining table for many days.

I had reached Auckland on a Sunday. In the evening I went to the church with my nephew and his family. Shaju drove us to a church some 10 kilometer away because there was Syro Malabar liturgy in our mother tongue Malayalam. I joined the main celebrant Fr. Joy Thottamkara after politely declining to be the main celebrant. But on that day, October 16th being ‘Mission Sunday’ Fr. Joy asked me to give an appropriate message as a missionary from India. Since I am not confident so give a sermon in Malayalam I told Fr. Joy that I would give a message at the end of the Holy Mass in English which I did. So I had the opportunity to speak to some 400 people about the present day India, Gujarat and my works as a missionary. After the Mass Fr. Joy and some parishioners appreciated my 8 minute long sharing and a few asked for more information regarding what I said about Gujarat and my ministry of writing and other works.

Next day morning after breakfast Shaju drove me to One Tree Hill. We had an hour – long walk around and reached the hill top for a bird’s eye-view of Auckland city with bays and sea closely. The New Zealanders enjoy outing to the sea and the bays were full with hundreds of family boats.

In the evening I celebrated the Eucharist in Syro Malabar Rite and baptized two year old Irene, the grand-daughter of my cousin brother James. Irene’s parents Jomi and Riya in Auckland had arranged the Mass and baptism as soon as my visit to New Zealand was confirmed with Shaju. So I was prepared to celebrate the Mass and baptism in Malayalam. But my sermon on new life in Jesus was in English. The gist of my sermon was that it is a personal relationship with Jesus which makes Christian life meaningful. I had no experience of conducting baptismal ceremony in Malayalam. I was told that a Malayali priest would join me. But as the priest could reach only in time for the party after the ceremony I could joke that I did not make any mistake in the ceremony as there was no one to guide and correct me. The baptismal party was a wonderful occasion to meet a lot of friends of Jomi and Riya from two different cities where they worked earlier.

I had already told Shaju that I am not interested in touring much. Still Shaju had planned a two-day long tour to a unique place in New Zealand: the land of Maori tribals, the original inhabitants of the New Zealand. So one day very early in the morning with Shaju at wheel we set out to the tourist place Rotorua. Shaju’s wife Mini was with us. By experience I know that when there is a woman in the group every details of the tour are taken care off. Nothing will be lacking in the journey. With foresight all things needed in the journey like hot, snacks, sweets, paper napkins towels as well as emergency first aid materials are packed and stored in the car.

New Zealand is known as the Land of Long White Clouds. So while on the road I was not surprised long white clouds following us in the sky. There were also occasional light showers of rain which was playing hide and seek with the morning sun. After about three hours’ drive we reached Silver Oak Heritage Hotel at Rotorua where Shaju had already booked two rooms for us.

After refreshing ourselves and taking coffee and snacks we set out for Whakarewarewa –the thernal village next to Rotorua city. At the entrance of the village we joined a group of tourist people for a guided tour of the village. A well built tall young man and a beautiful young lady gave us a brief history of Whakarewarewa thernal village of the Maori tribe. The tourists entered the village in two groups crossing a narrow bridge over a riverlet. We joined the second group led by the well-built young man. He took us around the village explaining various specialties of the place. There at many places white smokes were coming out of the earth emitting strange smell. I saw sulfur gas (lava) and small hot water springs coming from the belly of the earth. There were a few small lakes of hot springs from continuing volcanic eruption. In one place hot water is channeled to flow into small bath tubes dug in the surface of the earth so that people can take bath in them. In one place a Maori youth was dipping bunches of corns in a hot water pond and then taking out and giving boiled corn to the tourists to taste. We could see a far away volcano vomiting lava and sky-high smoke in the air. Then we were treated about half an hour songs and dance by a group of Maori people in the hall.

We saw a century-old Christian church in the village. The guide told us that there are two Christian churches in the village. What surprised me was a cemetery next to the church. For, the dead are buried not digging pit but above ground with a mound of mud.

Rotorua is a city surrendered by three lakes. In Rotorua lake there was a plane which can land and take off from the water. On the road I also saw a small bus which could run on the road and in the water like a boat. Close to the lake were a big museum and a large garden in its front with a variety of colorful flowers and plants. In the evening we went to see a village buried under a volcanic eruption.

A volcano erupted from mount Taravera in June 1886. It is estimated that about 120 people buried alive under the lava and steam poured out from the sudden eruption. Some thatched roofs of buried houses can be seen in the valley of the mountain. Today grass, shrubs, bushes and trees have grown on the mount Taravara and its valley.

On the second day at Rotarua Shaju drove us about 10-15 kms away from the city to Agrodome for a unique farm experience. There was a farm tractor – trailer to take the tourists through all over the farm. There were grain fields, kiwi fruit and olive orchards as well as animal farms. There were also large green areas of pasture lands for grazing for animals like cows and sheep-goats, deer and donkeys. There were also variety of cultivation and greenery of the farm was feast to my eyes. We also saw two exhibitions. In one of them there were goats and sheeps from different countries and breeds. I saw first time a man on the stage sheering a sheep and throwing some wool for the tourists to handle and feel it. In the second show in large enclosure of green land a dog tented a group of sheeps grazing to sheep pen.

Of the 11 days in New Zealand I spend most of the days at Auckland and surrounding areas. The country as big as Great Briton is 1500 km long from North to South. As New Zealand is surrounded by sea a person can reach sea from anywhere in the country travelling just 120 kms. Auckland is the biggest city in New Zealand. It is on the East side on the bank of Tasman Sea. I admired specially two things in the city: the Sky Tower and Sea Life Aquarium. The wide spread Albert Park was also very attractive.

Sky Tower is a landmark with which New Zealand is often identified. It is a monument of 328 meter or 1076 feet high. Its view deck is at 220 meter or 722 feet height. Practically the whole city can be seen around the view deck. Up in the Sky Tower tourists can enjoy meals and coffee respectively in Orbit Dining Hall and sky coffee shop.

Then, rich sea-life can been viewed inside the Sea life Aquarium built inside the sea water. First time I saw at touching distance Penguins an artificially created sea water pont and ice parks. A vast variety of fishes of all sizes, colors and shapes are special attraction in the aquarium. The rich, colorful sea lives are indeed mesmerizing.

The Albert Park in the centre of Auckland city has a unique charm of its own. The park has flower gardens, lakes, ducks, cranes, and water-birds, birds of air on big and small trees and children Entertainment Park

What I carried back to India from New Zealand is the truthfulness or the trustworthiness of the New Zealand people. Let me give you a concrete example where people’s words are taken for truth. While I was in Auckland Shaju’s son Jovin met with an accident. On the way to Auckland University he stopped at a traffic red light. A car behind him in high speed hit hard on his car. Fortunately nothing happened for both the drivers. But there were noticeable damages both the vehicles but both were still in running condition.

Jovin came back after his classes in the university and reported the accident. Shaju told him: the car is insured, please call and inform the insurance company. On the next day as instructed by the insurance people Jovin took the car to a designated garage and left it there. In the afternoon in the same day after visiting   Sky Tower with Mini and Shaju on the way back we picked up Jovin from his University gate.

On the third day of the accident the insurance people called Shaju and told him that the car is not worth repairing and that the full insurance money will be transferred to his account on the following day.

Shaju then told me: “Uncle, people here don’t cheat in anything. They do not have recourse to lies. They trust fully in what we say and we too trust them fully for their trustworthiness. So there is no need for any negotiation or arguments and controversy in everything like in India!

My hosts Shaju and Mini were telling me that I need to spend at least 3 to 5 weeks to see and experience New Zealand fully. But seeing my interest in meeting people rather than visiting a lot of places they arranged almost every evening get together with their friends either at home or in the homes of their friends in the city. So I enjoyed very much meetings and sharing life in New Zealand with a lot of people. So my eleven days spent in New Zealand passed quickly like a dream.

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Changed On: 01-05-2017

Next Change: 16-05-2017

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017

 

 

DO AWAY WITH CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

Once a well known writer and friend Yeshwant Mehta and an eminent poet and friend Yoseph Macwan came together on short ride in my car. I was at the wheel. Yeshwantbhai abruptly asked me a question: “Father, do you believe in the capital punishment?”

Hearing my answer Yeshwantbhai turned to Yoseph sitting in the back seat: “Yosephbhai, Do you believe in the punishment of death?”

Both Yoseph and I answered Yeshwantbhai in the negative. The author of more than 450 books and booklets were happy with our responses. A strong advocate against capital punishment Yeshwantbhai explained to us that he has written a series of 9 articles in his column in “Gujarat Today” a daily published from Ahmedabad. He said that he has discussed in his column entitled “Thinking Together” in great details about different aspects of capital punishment.

A few days after this conversation during our car ride Yosephbhai and I reached one early morning Yeshwantbhai’s home. We took rose flowers – symbol of love and friendship – to give him a surprise on his 75th birthday. But Yeswantbhai presented to us his beautiful small book “Capital Punishment: A Discussion” in Gujarati. The gift of beautifully printed book published by Yagna Prakashan in their science series was a great surprise to both Yoseph and me.

The string with hook of capital punishment and the title “Capital Punishment: A Discussion” in colorful art work on the cover were attractive. In its eight chapters Yeshwantbhai has discussed practically all aspects of capital punishment by hanging or by electric chair.

In the first chapter entitled “Everyone Discusses Hanging” Yeshwantbhai has articulated everyone’s discussion in the country about capital punishment and hanging (in the context of Nirbhaya’s rape and murder). In it on one side there was Sangh Parivar (Kesaria Brigade) in a hurry putting pressure on the government for capital punishment of the criminals. On the other side were humanists, rationalist upholders of justice and other such people opposing the death by hanging or other forms of capital punishment. In it Yeshwantbhai upholds that there is no humanness in capital punishment. Then, there are also instances of innocent people punished with capital punishment in history.

“How Shuddering this Punishment?” is the title of the second chapter in which Yeshwantbhai says: “The punishment of death and in that the hanging is most cruel, calculated shuddering way of execution” (pg.10). The detailed description of the punishment by hanging is traumatizing. So the author pleads for forgiveness and says that, “the purpose of such description is precisely to create in our heart a great dislike for such punishments” (pg.12).

In the third chapter “No Capital Punishment in 140 Countries” the author says that among 58 countries where capital punishment exists, 30 countries have never given capital punishment for last 20 years. Capital punishments have been abolished from the vast majority of the nations. But Yeshwantbhai reminds us, “that it is sad that the country which prides in eternal religion and    ancient culture has not yet abolished the capital punishment!” (pg.16).

In the forth chapter “Capital Punishment for Rapists” the author says that the whole country is clamoring for capital punishment for the rapists of ‘Nirbhaya’ after she was cruelly raped and murdered in the capital city, New Delhi. But the author adds that there are also valid and humanist reasons to oppose capital punishment (pg. 20).

The fifth chapter of “Many Ways of Taking Human Life” Yeshwantbhai describes various methods of putting people to death in different countries. Finally the author says capital punishment is inhuman.

In the sixth chapter “The Country Which Cannot Give Life, Cannot also Take Away Life” (pg. 27). Yeshwantbhai agrees fully with clear reasoning and uncontestable arguments. In the same chapter Yeshwantbhai has presented humanist arguments against those who advocate for capital punishment.

As I see, those who cry out for capital punishment for rapists and terrorists should read the 7th chapter: “Do Two Murders Cancel Each Other?”  In the chapter Yeshwantbhai has quoted the opinions of eminent politicians like Gandhiji, Vinobha Bhave, Jayprakash Narayan, etc. and national thinkers like Ceasar Bekeria of Italy, Arthur Cobesare of France and well known jurists like Jedmalani, Yeshvantrao V. Chandrachud and V. R. Krushna Iyar. Finally the writer says that, instead of giving the criminal death penalty for their enormous crime, punish them to remain within the prison walls for long years till they repent due to harshness of the prison life (pg. 35). That is the most suitable punishment according to the writer.

In the last chapter entitled “The Pleasure of Seeing the Death Game” Yeshwantbhai has given a short story “The Question Asked by My Son” edified by the famous creative writer Alfred Hichkock. At the end of the story and of the book the author has given in one sentence the gist of his belief. “The urgent need of humanity is to disapprove the capital punishment”.

The simple and lucid styles of Yeshwantbhai as well as his inspiring presentation with concrete examples and clear arguments are bound to bring changes in the readers in favor of those who oppose capital punishment. Those who advocate capital punishment may be persuaded to rethink about their strongly held position supporting capital punishment. Those who believe in abolishing death penalty may become stronger in their belief and may even attract to their side the advocates of capital punishment. In short capital punishment is an uncouth punished by the people who claim to be a cultured race. I believe that the time has come to do away with capital punishment not only from India but from the whole world!

Today there is a great need for a social movement against capital punishment not only from the cultured people of India but from the whole world. Yeshwantbhai’s book “Capital Punishment – A Discussion” is a suitable booklet which can provide sufficient inspiration and encouragement to such a movement.

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Changed On: 16-04-2017

Next Change: 01-05-2017

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017

 

 

BEHIND THE MASK OF RETURNING HOME

‘Returning Home’ is an attractive phrase in Gujarati. It is an interesting concept. It is also deceptive. If we go behind and explain what is happening we will find real cheating in the name of ‘Returning Home’.

In ordinary sense ‘Returning Home’ implies a person going back to his/her own home. Who is not happy with such home coming? It is a very happy event. There is joy in ‘Returning Home’. It is just natural. A person living away from home for reason like being employed away from home or for studying. Those staying away from home returning to their own place from time to time. Such returning creates joy and happiness for all at home. People return to their own home on occasions like Diwali, Christmas, marriage or special occasion like death in a family, some anniversary celebrations etc. Everyone in a house welcomes such ‘returning home’. People at home welcome with joy and enthusiasm when their dear ones come home after long absence.

The parable of prodigal son is well known. In it Jesus gave the story of a father and his two sons. The younger of the two sons wanted his father to give him his share of the property. He sold his share of the property and went away to a far away country and lavishly spent his money in loose living. He was dying with hunger after spending his whole money. In his want he remembered his home. In my father’s house the servants get more food than they can eat! Here I am dying with hunger. He came into his sense and realized his great mistake. He regretted his leaving home. Prepared mentally to plead for his father’s forgiveness and to live as a servant, he returns to his father’s house.

His father saw his son while he was still far. He ran to meet his son and embraced him lovingly. Welcoming his son he ordered his servants to bring the best clothes for him and put a ring on his hand and chapels on his legs. Then, the father makes a great feast and make arrangement to celebrate the returning home of his prodigal son. (See Lk 15: 11-24)

But the upholders of ‘Manusmruti’ have totally different connotation for ‘Returning Home’. None of the above concept of ‘Returning Home’ is applicable for politicized Hindutva people. ‘Manusmruti’ and Vedic texts clearly state that Hindus clearly uphold four castes: Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Sudra. Tribals and Dalits do not belong to any of these Hindu caste categories. They are not allowed to enter Hindu temples. The so called high caste Hindus observe untouchability with tribals and Dalits.

History proves that during the last few centuries the people who accepted Christianity and Islam are mostly from these tribals and dalits. The number of those who converted to Christianity or Islam from the high caste Hindus is insignificant. If the high caste converts go back to Hinduism then it is real ‘Returning Home’.

Being a council member of International Catholic Union of Press (UCIP) for 24 years I have had the opportunity to travel to 35 countries in Europe, North & South Americas, Asia, Africa and New Zealand. So I have the opportunity to meet local people and discuss with them their perception about matters of concern for all. The people of foreign countries hold different views about Hindu religion and the caste system. Some hold that the so called Hindu religion is no religion at all but a social system, a cultural organization.

Here I would like to give Gandhiji’s definition of Hinduism as quoted by Valjibhai Patel in ‘Naya Marg’ January 16, 2015. Valjibhai writes, “There is no definition of Hindu religion. So I make a definition of Hindu religion……Gandhiji’s definition of Hindu religion is, “The Caste System (Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudra) which believes in rebirth, Atman – Paramatman and heaven-hell is considered a Hindu”. (Sudra means Other Backward Class the untouchable Dalits do not come in the category of the Sudra)”.

When I was the editor of DOOT for about 16 years I have had the opportunity to travel a lot in Gujarat visiting many villages. One thing I could not understand at the beginning. Why the Christians lived either at the end of a village or at the beginning of a village. Later I understood   that in many villages there are the people of the 4 castes. But the so called untouchable did not belong to any caste, their place was just outside the village.

But when the Christian Missionaries began to work among the OBC people started schools for them in their locality. Then the approach roads were for bullock carts, motor cycles and finally jeeps. So the roads were built straight to go to the OBC area were sometimes called the Christian streets or Dalit chawls.  Then, when pacca roads were built to the villages, they often used the roads built by missionaries and hence the village roads began or ended at OBC people’s place.

Thanks to missionary education, social works and medical services the OBC people progressed. The same with tribal (Adivasi) people. The grip of caste system and untouchability began   to lose its hold on OBC, and Tribals. Still OBC people’s homes can be seen close to the cow dung just outside the village. Then OBC and other Dalit people and the tribals living outside the village go to prove that they are in no way Hindus. So the Christians and Muslims among the OBCs and dalits cannot in no way describe as ‘Returning Home’ if they enticed or forced to embrace Hinduism.

Still during the last few decades there is a systematic and well organized effort to include the tribals and dalits in the (politicized) Hindutva or Hindu religion. The Adivasis (meaning the original dwellers) are not called any more Adivasis; but they are rechristened ‘Vanavasis’ (meaning forest dwellers. If the tribals are called Adivasis then there is the recognition of them as indigenous people and by implication the Hindu Aryans as migrant people. So the Hindutva people are not ready to accept Adivasis as the original dwellers of this land. Hence in school the tribal boys and girls are explicitly forced to register as Hindu tribals. The Hindutva people are building Hindu temples among the tribal people and distributing money lavishly to celebrate Hindu feasts. All these attempts show clearly that the tribals are not Hindus but they are really the indigenous people.

Many of these Dalits and Adivasis have embraced Christianity, Islam or Buddhist   religion. These Dalits and tribals have never been in the Hindu caste system to be considered Hindus. But false propaganda is broadcast that they have been Hindus before they embraced Christianity, Islam or Buddhism. In fact, there is no religious ceremony in Hinduism for conversion. But a sort of purification rite is held by some sadus or RSS leaders and such change of the religion is called ‘Returning Home’. But actually they forced the victims to become Hindus     even though they are not included in any caste category. In the name or ‘Returning Home’ what is happening is Dalits and Tribals are forced to declare themselves as Hindus with all sorts of allurements and incentives. So there is hypocrisy and cheating in so called ‘Returning Home’ to Hindu fold.

Actually the promoters and leaders of ‘Returning Home’ really know that there is no religion or Hinduism in ‘Returning Home’.  There is no Hindu spirituality in ‘Returning Home’. The so called reconverted tribals and Dalits have no place in any of the four castes or ‘Varna’. The ordinary Hindu people do not share meals with the converts nor engage in marriage relationships.

But we can see political and cultural reasons for ‘Returning Home’ movements. They say that the Dalits and Tribals, who have embraced Christianity or Islam, are accused of not respecting and honoring the Hindu teachers. (Gurus and Achariyahs). On the contrary, they are accused of upholding extra territorial loyalties towards Rome and Mecca. The ‘Returning Home’ people are enticed with prestige and economic benefits. For instance, the ‘Returning Home’ people get economic benefits and the benefits of reservation in jobs and in education. But the Indian constitutions explicitly prohibit any enticement or force in reconversion or conversion.

Simply put, “Returning Home” means keeping away from or totally neglecting the constitution of India. In other words “Returning Home” means it is the hidden and not so hidden efforts of the Hindutva people to make socialist and secular India a Hindu Rashtra, Hindu nation!

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Changed On: 01-04-2017

Next Change: 16-04-2017

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017

 

 

In the Depths of God’s Mind

I often read the magazine of rationalists entitled “Vivekpanthi” (meaning Rationalist). In it I get often inspiring articles about blind faith and about make believe things in the name of religion. When I read “Vivekpanthi “ I feel that only three types of rationalist people write in it: atheist, believing rationalists and  those rationalists who hold that they can not know anything about  God; let us call this type  agonistics.

With apologies to rationalists let me say that some of the articles in ‘Viekpanthi’ seem to me childish to say the least. A writer in the June 2013 issue of ‘Vivekpanthi’ says “A concrete truth is that even if there is a god, he does come to give sight to your blind daughter and even if God does not exist, your beautiful and intelligent daughter will have no difficulty to find a job or a life-partner”.

The ideas or the thought paten of the writer is very clear. “There is no god’’. But it is not full stop. There is doubt. So he says, “If there is god ……”.  Here the writer’s idea of god is clear. In the words of the writer, god is nothing more than the private property of man! A god is one who dances to his tune and if god does not dance to his tune, then, there is no god!

Let us put aside the challenges and the questions of the atheist rationalists. Even then we see that there are no cogent arguments, no logic in what the writer says. For, his knowledge or idea about god is illusory, nothing more than the thought or imagination of a man’s limited intelligence. When a basic premise is wrong then there is no possibility of faultless arguments or of right conclusion. Still this types of rationalists claim to have knowledge of everything. Let me clarify my point with a concrete example.

  1. Scott Peck is an American writer and psychologist. The name of his book is “People of My Lai”. In the book written after much research the author has narrated the story of merciless massacre in a small Vietnam village called My Lai.

During the Vietnam War there was an attack on a group of American soldiers. The Americans suffered heavy losses. According to the information which the American commander got, the attack on American military personal came from My Lai village and the ordinary folk of the village have fled away. American military personal entered the village and mercilessly butchered anyone and everyone they met in the village and finally they burnt down the whole village!

During the investigation Scott Peck learnt that the Americans had actually observed the My Lai Village for the attack and according to the information gathered, the guerrilla combatants of Viet Cong were in the village and others have fled from the village. But later investigation proved that the earlier findings were wrong. Most villagers have not gone away from the village. So in destroying the village, the American army has butchered many innocent people in the village.

Scott Peck meeting the American soldiers who have returned from Vietnam War learnt that the Americans destroyed the entire village so that there may not be any reprisal from the village. The Americans believed that even the children in the village could be soldiers with bomb attached to their waists.

Scott Peck’s investigation conclusively proved that based on the information later received, the American Army’s observation and the information received were totally false. All the same, commands were executed and innocent people including children and women were massacred and the village burned down.

Now, let us come to our point.  The real situation of the My Lai is one thing that ordinary people of the village were leading fearlessly normal life. But the secret information received by the American Army Commander was totally different information and hence his decision to totally destroy the village. A decision taken on false information proved to be wrong and consequently the mass killing of innocent people took place!

Now those like the atheists and me who speak about god have specific knowledge or understanding of god. The American commander believed that the secret information received by him to be true and took his decision to massacre the people of My Lai. Similarly the atheists on the basis of their understanding of god as true make statements about god. I also deny the existence of the god about whom the atheists speak and write about.  God cannot be limited within the walls of the atheists’ intelligence. God is beyond all talks of man.  God is beyond not only of atheists’ words but beyond even his/her wildest imagination. We can speak about god only one thing for certain that, we cannot know God with 100% accuracy and truth.

Whatever we speak about God with our intelligence is limited to our human language. Bible says through prophet Isaiah: “My thoughts”, says the Lord, “are not like yours, and my ways are different from yours. As high as the haven are above the earth, so high are my ways and thoughts above yours”. (Is 55: 8-9).

The rationalist atheists are not prepared to accept what the Bible says that, human words and thinking are totally different from God’s ways and action. For, as stoic philosopher Epitetus has said, “It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows”. A rationalist atheist cannot accept the fact that beyond the horizon of rationalism there is an existence, a power, a Being. The rationalist atheist is not ready to accept a reality of a divine being called God or Bhagvan. Hence the rationalists believe in themselves as being as all knowing god!

All who believe in one or other religion hold that God is LOVE. When we   say, “God is love”, it means first of all, as Bible says, God loved us first. Accepting God as love leads us to our love for God and for one-another.  In other words, our love is born from God’s love for us. We human beings cannot add to or detract from God’s love. For God’s love is infinite, unlimited, unconditional, and eternal.

A child may go away from the love of his/her parents. Similarly a human person in the name of rationalism can with the god-given freedom may wander away from the unconditional love of God. A rationalist may think that he/she is not within God’s love; but is far away from God’s love. But his/her love and good will for others keep him/her pulling towards God.

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Changed On: 16-03-2017

Next Change: 01-04-2017

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017