Globalization and digitalization are two realities of our times. They pose tremendous challenges to all people especially the men and women in the mass media. In this context our World Congress need to answer two fundamental questions. First, what are our responsibilities as Christian professionals in the media? Second, how our International Catholic Organization of the Media (ICOM) can help its members to carry out these responsibilities?
Before we come to answer these questions let us examine the two realities of globalization and digitalization. We also need to study the challenges posted by these two realities. Globalization and digitalization of the whole world has made people dependable on one another. All areas our life and work are affected by these two realities.
TWO REALITIES: GLOBALIZATION AND DIGITALIZATION
We need to question the globalization of capitalism, ownership patterns and consumerism in the light of human (individual & family) needs and human rights. I believe that it is a crime against humanity amassing wealth while a large part of humanity goes hungry and deprived of basic needs of food, clothing and shelter.
Yet in our globalized and digitalized world we see precisely the concentration of wealth in a few hands and the mass media applauding it! This is 100% true of India where I come from.
For instance, India has not only the largest number of people living Below Poverty Line (BPL) but India has also, I think, the most number of millionaires including 61 billionaires in the Asian continent! The richest people in India like the Ambanis, Birlas, Hindujas, Azim Premjis are on par with the richest people in Europe and America. But there is a notable difference between the richest people in India and abroad. Let us compare the richest person in India – the Chief of Reliance Industries, Mukesh Ambani and one of the richest person in USA – the owner of world’s largest private jet company, Warren Buffett.
A MONSTROUS EXAMPLE – ANTILIA
How and where does Ambani spend his fortune? Does he spend a substantial sum of his net income in alleviating the suffering of the poor by contributing to their basic needs like food, clothes and shelter? No! His wealth is indeed filthy as he spends it for the things like buying a Boeing plane as a birthday gift to his wife Nita and building the costliest residential mansion, Antilia which was designed by Perkins and Will of USA and constructed by Leighton Holdings of Australia!
The monstrous Antilia mansion has 27 floors with such high ceilings that with standard-high ceilings, more than 50 floors can be built within Antilia height! Among other things, I have read, that Antilia has two helipads and a swimming pool and the like! Today the market value for the obnoxious structure is anywhere between $1-2 billion! Antilia has 600 people employed to serve the Ambani family of five: Mukesh, wife, mother and their two children!
This is a reality and not a fictional story in a country with the most number of poor in the world! The truth is in India millions go hungry and go to bed, sorry, they have no bed, but they sleep on the lap of mother earth. There are many Ambanis in India who spent money on their own luxurious living while millions are starving in India! I have read that the India-born businessman in England Laxmi Mittal has the costliest residence in that country!
AN IDEAL EXAMPLE : WARREN BUFFETT
In our globalized and digitalized world let us go to the opposite side of the globe, USA. Like Mukesh Ambani in India, the richest American is Warren Buffett, the owner of more than three score companies. He has been ‘numero uno’ for several years the Forbes’ list of richest person in the world. Buffet lives with his family in a single story building with three bed rooms, which he bought some 50 years back! A journalist-friend, A J Philip has noted that Buffett’s house is hidden by surrounding trees without any fence or walls. Buffett drives his own car. He hardly uses private jet travels even though he owns the biggest private Jet Company.
When the globalized world took note of the infamous Antilia on one side, it took note also on the other side Buffett’s generous donation of $31 billion to charity by sharing his wealth with those in dire needs like the marginalized people, the refugees, victims of wars and conflicts. When Buffet visited India last year he called the rich people in India to share their wealth with the poor.
It may be by way of exception, but there are a few people who may not be rich like Ambanis and Buffetts but they do have care and concern for the poor and the needy. My senior bachelor friend and a well known Gujarati poet, Niranjan Bhagat of my city, Ahmedabad has recently has transferred the ownership of his luxury flat in a posh Ashram Road area not to any of his relatives but to his servant of umpteen years, Rajesh and his family. We in India has also the example of Narayana Murthy of Infosys fame who has spent a substantial sum of his income in welfare programs of the needy people.
When a good many rich people in India learn to care and share their wealth with the BPL people and contribute to the basic need of education and health-care, as shown by Buffett, Murthy and Bhagat, then, and only then, India can get rid of the scourge of poverty. But will that happen in our globalized world where money is often pursued as the only goal of one’s life!
As the followers of one who preached liberation to the poor how do we contribute to the liberation of the people deprived of the basic necessities of life? As Christian media men and women what are our responsibilities? How do we handle the present situation of capitalism, consumerism on one side and dire poverty and hunger of millions of people on the other side?
POPE FRANCIS SHOWS THE WAY
When the Church made no news Pope John XXIII opened the windows to the world in the 1960s. From the times of John Paul II, the Church has become one of the major sources of news stories. Thanks to globalization and digitalization the unusual step of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of the new Pope, Pope Francis was covered by the local, regional, national, international press and other mass media as never before.
Pope Francis in a speech to ambassadors at Vatican in May 2013 said, “Our human family is presently experiencing something of a turning point in its own history, if we consider the advances made in various areas. We can only praise the positive achievements which contribute to the authentic welfare of mankind, in fields such as those of health, education and communication.”
“At the same time,” Pope Francis continued, “we must also acknowledge that the majority of the men and women of our times continue to live daily in situations of insecurity, with dire consequences. Certain pathologies are increasing, with their psychological consequences; fear and deportation grip the hearts of many people, even in the so called rich counties; the joy of life is diminishing; indecency and violence are on the rise; poverty is becoming more and more evident.”
In this speech to Ambassadors of Kyrgyzstan, Antigua and Barbuda, Lumenbourg and Botswana Pope Francis has hit the nail on the head in analyzing the financial crisis of globalization in our digitalized world.
In our globalized world on the one side communism, socialism, fascism and a host of ‘isms’ have failed. On the other side, capitalism, monopolism and ‘might is right’ism have prevailed. They rule the world.
Science and technology have made tremendous progresses which were unimaginable a few decades back. But today they are realities. Men can fly like birds reaching even to other heavenly bodies. The whole earth and what is underneath the earth have been explored and exploited. We can swim like fish in the ocean. We have explored the depth of the seas and exploited the wealth of the waters. But the sad fact is that we have not reached out to our neighbours – the poor, the needy, the displaced, the refugees, in short the ‘anabim’ (the poor people of God) in the world.
AN ATTROCIOUS EXAMPLE
I can give an example of the Gujarat state where I come from. The state government and people have terribly failed the Tribals, the Dalits, the minorities and the small farmers. Gujarat State in North-Western India is known in the whole world for the genocide of Muslims under the Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) Government in 2002.
Now Modi, since then a winner of three consecutive elections in Gujarat, and to a certain extend, his BJP party are trying their level best for Modi to become the Prime Minister of India by winning the 2014 general election. Will he succeed?
Modi is making an all out effort leaving no stone unturned to capture the Prime Minister’s chair projecting himself as a man of development and Gujarat as a model of a developed state! Modi does not want to compare the development of Gujarat to any other Indian state but with China! What is the ground reality in the state of Gujarat?
Modi does not want the development of Gujarat compared to any to other Indian states because in many criteria of Human Development Gujarat is far behind other states! According to India Human Development Report 2011, Planning Commission of India, Gujarat lags behind many other Indian states in development!
Gujarat is on the 18th position in the percentage in Human Development Index (HDI) of 2007-08 out of 28 Indian states! With 2.6 percentage of women suffering from chronic anemia Gujarat ranks 26th position! The child mortality rate according to 2009 position Gujarat is almost at the bottom, at 24th position! Basic human development index of health, primary education and nutritious food Gujarat model of development is deplorable and intolerable. If we leave out the Tribal area and the interior village areas, then Gujarat has good roads and excellent transport services. But a conscientious person cannot forget the left out areas which are important like the rest as they have considerable human population even though they are voiceless and powerless.
CM MODI THROUGH THE EYES OF EMINENT PEOPLE
Most of Modi claims for development is hollow that an IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officer told me simply,
“Modi plus advertisements is Hero
Modi minus advertisements is Zero!”
This is proved by the planning commission’s latest report which says, as quoted by the Editor Mr. Indukumar Jani in ‘Naya Marg’ fortnightly of August 1, 2013 Gujarat regarding poverty is on the 18th position (of 28 states) in India. That means 16.63% of the state population – 1.02 crores people – live Below Poverty Line (BPL)! Yet Modi’s hugely paid advertisements in India and abroad project Gujarat at the top of the developed world! This is biggest lie about Gujarat.
Writing about “Narendra Modi’s Gujarat Model” in ‘Naya Marg’ of 1 August 2013, a Social Activist and a famous advocate Mr. Girish Patel says, “Instead of being first among equals the Chief Minister modified Gujarat to make it one-man government. Modi has become more powerful than the American President who has to face US Congress whereas Modi has demolished his opponents in his own party and the opposition.”
No wonder even Novel Laureate Amartya Sen has voiced his concern against Modi and Gujarat model of development.
Political observers guess that, Modi is in a hurry to become the PM of India because only in that way he can escape from the crimes and cases which are pursuing him after 2002 genocide of the Muslims in Gujarat. Well known Activists like Tista Setalwad say the genocide was encouraged and supported by Modi and his government machinery as revealed by Haren Pandya, a former Home Minister in BJP Government. He was subsequently murdered!
Modi is just one example, which goes to prove the old English adage: “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Under Modi regime there have been so many encounter killings which have been published as alert corps’s timely action against Muslim terrorists, who were out to kill Modi, the defender and protector of ‘Hinduism’. But many of such encounter cases have been proved, and in some cases, Modi government has already acknowledged they fake encounters. Those who fight the cases claim that they were preplanned killing of innocent people!
No encounter killings have taken place after the kingpins of fake encounters and other IPS (Indian Police Service) officials and police personnel involved in a few encounter cases have been put behind bars! The charge sheets some filed against the accused fake encounter cases include a Minister in Modi Government shows one thing clearly. The accused have used or rather misused the latest gadgets and techniques of information technology in our age of globalization and digitalization.
PERSECUTION OF MINORITIES
Gujarat is said to be ‘an experiment’ or ‘a laboratory’ of politicized Hinduism. Political power and money power are used to trash the minorities especially the Christians (who were targeted and their churches and other institutions were burnt down or otherwise destroyed in Dangs district by Sangh Parivar affiliates in 1998-’99. In Kandhmal district in Orissa in 2007 and 2008 and in Karnataka state in 2008 and 2009) and the Muslims (the victims of genocide in 2002) and the powerless and voiceless people like Dalits.
The Christians and their institutions were attacked. More than 100 Christians were murdered for their faith and several 100 Churches and other Christian Institutions and houses were burned down.
Similar kind of persecutions perhaps in a lesser degree have been attempted in some other Indian states by Sangh Parivar and in other Asian countries by autocratic rulers, where political power and money power are used not for the welfare of the people and of the country but to suppress the minorities and amass wealth and use them for selfish purposes through fair and foul means.
TWO BASIC QUESTIONS
This reality of our globalized and digitalized world brings us back to our basic, fundamental questions:
– First, what are our responsibilities as Christian professionals in the media?
– Second, how our International Christian Organization of the Media (ICOM) can help its members to carry out these responsibilities?
SEVEN PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS FOR US
In answering the two vital questions I humbly submit here seven practical suggestions for the consideration this World Congress. They are,
- Develop a Sense of Fraternal Responsibility
- Highlight development issues not only in the media but also in other fora
- Highlight the flight of the poor, the marginalized and the aboriginals
- Be defenders and protectors of the voiceless in society and country
- Fight the evil of corruption in the Church or in our family, or politics
- Protect the environment advocating clean water, pure air and renewable energy
- Be an agent of peace and harmony
Let us consider these seven points briefly.
1) Develop a Sense of Fraternal Responsibility
They say that in our globalized and digitalized world the information technology has made us the citizens of a globalized village. It means that through technology, through the touch of a button, we can contact people or display on screens things happening anywhere in the world. And yet we have become strangers to our neighbours! We have not learnt to relate to our neighbours.
We assume an attitude of Cain “Am I supposed to take care of my brother?” (Gen. 4, 9). Cain asked the rhetorical question to hide his monstrous crime of deceit and murder of his brother, Abel. The question also shows the callous indifference of Cain against his brother Abel!
From this attitude of callousness and neglect, we need to develop our sense of responsibility. Jesus told us the parable of Good Samaritan so that in our concrete situation (Lk. 10, 25-37) we do not behave like the priest and the Levite in the parable but like the Samaritan, who nursed and cared for the victim found abandoned on the roadside. Anyone in need is our neighbour. We need to take care of him/her to the extent possible for us. We in India say, vasudhaiva kutumbkam meaning the whole world is my family.
On July 8, 2013 Pope Francis visiting the tiny island of Lampedusa known for the immigrants from North Africa, gave the world – each one of us – a powerful message. After referring to the parable of Good Samaritan, he said, I quote, “We look upon the brother half dead by roadside, perhaps we think ‘poor guy’, and we continue on our way, its none of our business and we feel fine with this. We feel at peace with this, we feel fine! The culture of well being, that makes us think of ourselves, that makes us insensitive to the cries of others, that makes us live in soap bubbles, that are beautiful but are nothing, are illusions of futility, of the transient, that brings indifference to others, that brings even the globalization of indifference. We are accustomed to the suffering of others, it does not concern us, it’s none of our business”.
It is an awaken call from Pope Francis inviting us to develop our sense of responsibility and be the care-giver to our neighbours.
2) Highlight Developmental Issues
As writers and journalists working in mass media we can be trend setters. Today we see that a child born to a film star or to a royal couple is front page news or prime-time news. Instead of filling the page with such news and crime reports we need to find out and file news and write about developmental issues especially where the poor are cared for and poverty-alleviating programs are taking place.
Develop a nose for news about the progress of the aboriginals, tribals and the depressed class of people (Dalits) and for their problems and difficulties. And voice these concerns in the media and in our lives. Give wide publicity to the success stories of the people as examples and inspiration for others especially in their own communities.
As media personnel we are called to look at the concrete situations of developing regions or country. Then see how the situation can be modified and improved. Study the situations of poverty and after due research suggest ways and means to develop leading to a decent standard of living.
3) Highlight the flight of the Poor
In the Papal Election Conclave when Cardinal George Bergoglio got the highest number of votes and before he took a new name as Pope one of the Cardinal in congratulatory embrace told him in his ear “Don’t forget the poor’. Pope Francis recalled the incident later as an inspiration to choose the name of Francis after the patron saint of the poor, St. Francis Assisi. This way Pope Francis has given us and the entire world to be not only aware of the flight of the poor but also do whatever possible for us to alleviate the suffering of the poor.
We know that Jesus Christ has totally identified himself with the poor. In the parable of the last judgement we are judged not on the basis of our wealth, achievements and possessions but on to basis of what we have done for the poor, the neglected, the prisoner and the like. Jesus says, “I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did it for me!” (Mt 25, 40)
A Hindu gentleman once quoting the Bible asked me, “Fr. Varghese, Jesus tells us, ‘Store up riches for yourselves in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy and robbers cannot break in and steel’ (Mt. 6, 20). We Christians know that loving and caring for the poor is precisely storing up wealth in heaven.”
4) Be Defenders & Protectors of the Voiceless
As journalists, writer and broadcaster we have a voice. We have the power and one or forum to express our opinions, our concerns, our ideas for a better world. But be aware, first of all, that the vast majority of the people do not have this power. They are voiceless. They are a neglected and ignored lot. There are no one to give voice to their grievances, their concerns and their ideas. Let us use our skills and talents to give voice to the voiceless people and let us be their defenders and protectors.
We see so much evil perpetuated against the voiceless people like the homeless poor, the orphans, displaced people the farm labourers unorganized daily wage-earners, the child labourers, the beggars on the street. For instance, in the name of development like building a dam the Tribals are evicted from their ancestor land and property without adequate compensation. Through the power of pen and the mass media let us do whatever we can to defend and protect all these voiceless people.
Here we may recall and hold dear to our hearts the UN Declaration of Human Rights 1948 which says “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
5) Fight the Evil of Corruption
Someone has said that corruption is a world phenomenon! We certainly know that corruption is wide spread. Unfortunately India and some Asian courtiers are steeped in corruption and find places at the bottom of most corrupt nations.
In my state Gujarat in the Northwest India usually nothing moves unless the hands of the officials are creased. The CM Modi has publically said referring to corruption that, “I don’t eat and I don’t allow others to eat”. But he is mortally afraid of many corruption cases catching up with him and his government. During the last 10 years of his governance he has not allowed a “Lokayukta” (a public authority to investigate cases of corruption in the government – An Ombudsman) to function in the state.
Against his delaying tactic of the appointment of a Lokayukta the State Governor Dr. Kamla Beniwal with the recommendation of the Chief Justice of Gujarat appointed Retired Justice R A Mehta as Lokayukta. But instead of officially inviting Justice Mehta and providing him office and necessary personnel to function, Modi fought tooth and nail against Mehta’s appointment!
His government spent Rs.45 Crores of people’s money in litigations going to all courts even to Supreme Court repeatedly with ‘Special Leave Petition’, ‘Review Petition’ and again ‘Curative Petition’! After all, these cases the Supreme Court gave the final verdict upholding the appointment of Mehta as Lokayukta proving the validity of the 45 year-old Lokayukta Law.
So Modi was forced to invite Justice Mehta to take up the post of Lokayukta. But Justice Mehta’s response put Modi on the bind. Modi has been floored. Declining Modi’s invitation Justice Mehta wrote:
“I am averse to any controversy and try to keep away. The present controversy has denigrated the office of the Lokaykta and adversely affected its credibility. The appointment has lost all the grace and dignity. The objection alleging anti-government bias (though negatived by the courts), really hurts. Some think that if a person is not pro-government, he is necessarily anti-government. They cannot accept that there is a third category, neither pro nor anti, but independent and neutral. Their mind set is clear – their way or no other way…” (“The Times of India”, Ahmedabad edition, August 8, 2013)
Gujarat is just one example of wide spread corruption in India. However wide spread corruption is in the world, we cannot just deplore and leave at that. We need to fight corruption wherever it is found. Let us begin with ourselves. Let us begin fighting all sorts of corruption from our personal lives, from our families, work place, social circles and wherever we can. Remember that in our globalized and digitalized world we can reach far and wide through our writings and broadcasting.
6) Protection of our Environment
Perhaps the worst consequence of our progress in many areas is the destruction of our environment. The globalization and digitalization have made everything big and far reaching. Take, for instance, the production and use of various means of road transportation air travel. They pollute the air depriving us of clear air and cause many illness. Similarly many modern chemical factories not only cause air pollution but they also pollute ground water and destroy vegetation. Cutting trees and clearing forests also adversely affect air, water and soil.
We are aware of this critical condition of our mother earth and the environmental crisis, but not all! So we need to join hands through the mass media with those working to create environmental awareness and protection. They speak of Eco-education, Eco-conservation and Eco-spirituality. For instance, through Eco-education we need to create wide-spread awareness about the dangers of environmental pollution. We can enlighten our people the ways and means to fight them. We need to protect and conserve our natural environment.
How can we contribute concretely to environmental protection? We can harness solar energy and use biogas for our daily needs of cooking, heating and lighting and slowly reduce our dependence on oil and coal. We should learn to use sun-power instead of solely depending on electricity produced from depleting source of coal oil and water. We can plant trees instead of cutting them and clearing forests. We make organic manure from kitchen waste and use it for our garden. We can promote organic farming instead of chemical manures and factory-made pest control materials. Using the mass media we can and should promote and highlight the efforts of those who work for the protection of our environment.
7) Be an Agent of Peace and Harmony
We, all without exemption, want peace and harmony in our lives. But the fact is that peace and harmony often elude us. Pope Paul VI once said, “If you want peace, work for justice”. Peace and harmony go together. Then, our question is how we can work for peace and harmony.
Pope Paul VI called for working for justice because peace and harmony is not possible without justice. Gujarat is an example of lack justice and consequently lack of peace and harmony. Gujarat witnessed pogrom against the Muslims in 2002. Thousands of Muslim men, women and children were mercilessly killed and millions of rupees worth of houses, business establishments and other properties of Muslims were burnt down or other wise destroyed. The survivors are still fighting cases for justice.
I as a Jesuit priest is called for to work for Justice with faith. As a flower needs sun-light to blossom, so Justice with faith is needed for peace and harmony to flourish in our midst. Let me say how I promote peace and harmony in my work as a writer and Director of Catholic Information Service Society (CISS). CISS is fully committing to promote peace and harmony among all people. I conduct various correspondence courses on Jesus Christ and the Bible for interested people of different religions. I write articles in many different magazines and publish books on human and religious values with the aim of contributing to peace, harmony and justice. My target readership is all people of good will irrespective of their faith or no faith. For me a person in whatever situation is worthy of my love and respect.
Being in Gujarat, a communally very sensitive state, I am aware that there are a lot of ignorance, prejudices and misunderstandings among the people against those who are different from one’s own religion. So whenever I get an opportunity I tell people especially the youth to make friends from the people of other religions and enrich themselves with inter-religious friendship.
Most people not only in Gujarat but in the rest of North India believe that the Christians, especially the Missionaries, convert simple folk like the Tribals through allurements, deception, false incentives and even by force! I am sure that those of us working with the people of other faiths face similar problems. Diffusing true knowledge of one’s religion as well as respecting others’ religions and appreciating and accepting whatever good in other religions will certainly contribute to peace and harmony.
Thanks to our globalized and digitalized world, as agents of peace and harmony, our little efforts through the mass media can reach far and wide. For instance, a sermon I preach in a Church may reach a few hundred people; but an article I write in a popular Gujarati magazine is read by thousands of people. I am happy to mention here that thousands of people visit my two web sites: www.vpaulsj.org & www.biblegujarat.org. And about all, we as agents of peace and harmony have the special blessings of Jesus Christ who said, “Happy are those who work for peace; God will call them his children” (Mt. 5, 9).
Changed on: 01-09-2019
Next Change: 16-09-2019
Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2019