Fr. Joseph Manipadam SDB
THE CHRISTIAN CULTURE OF “LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR” IS THE ANTIDOTE FOR THE PRESENT DAY UNCERTAINTY
13th Aug, 2018
Fr. Joseph Manipadam SDB
 
The Catholic Church through its Education and Culture Office along with the Pilar Fathers (Delhi Province) created a platform to put forward the Public the Selfless Service of the Christian community to the Nation promoting the Christian Culture of “Love your Neighbour” at a time when a climate of uncertainty prevails among the poor, the marginalized, the Dalits, the Tribals and other differentiated communities. “Love your neighbour Conclave” organized in the afternoon of 31st July 2018, at the Constitution Club in New Delhi was meant to be a programme to spread the message of the universal Christian culture of love. Who else can show case it best but the Education and Culture Office of the CBCI in collaboration with the Pilar Fathers and other likeminded people? The neighbour is anyone who is in need due to poverty, sickness, any form of deprivation or discrimination on the basis of religion or language or ethnicity or disability. Anyone who is in need of our help is our neighbour who needs our compassion, love and service as told to us by Jesus through the most vivid parable of the Good Samaritan. And such culture of love was so dear to the heart of our own father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi and other stalwarts like Swami Vivekananda and Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. It is part and parcel of our Indian ethos which is gradually getting faded out raising serious concern to most people who know it but don’t know how to say it since today even if you shout it out at the top of your voice, you will not be heard or you will be ignored or silenced. So the next option is to find a platform and a channel of communication through people who will necessarily be heard and who cannot be so easily ignored or silenced and who are willing to communicate. That should give you a clear answer to the two obvious queries: why Education and Culture and why Didi.


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After the initial prayer by Fr. Jervis, the Deputy Secretary General, CBCI, and the a note of welcome by Fr. John Fernandes, the Provincial Superior of the Pilar Fathers, the programme started off with the Panel discussion anchored by Sunetra Choudhury of the NDTV. The Panel comprised of Most Rev. Thomas D’Souza, Chairman, CBCI Office for Education and Culture and Archbishop of Calcutta, Dr. Michael Williams, Dean- Mount Carmel School, Mr. Franklin Caesar Thomas- Advocate Supreme Court, Dr. A. Benjamin Bara-Professor XLRI, Dr. Vijayesh Lal- Evangelical Fellowship of India and Mr. Julio Ribeiro, Ex. D.G. Police- Punjab, who joined through video conference.

Salient features that emerged from the Panel discussion anchored by Sunetra Choudhury:

  • The Christian community needs to raise their voice against injustice as Jesus did, and be heard. The idea of turning the other cheek may not work in the present situation. Christ’s example of love and compassionate service what we are involved in, must continue. We are involved in such services through our institutions and NGOs of various types - that is very tangible way of loving our neighbour.

  • Even in the context of the NRC issue that is rocking the Parliament and in the context of the way the voice was raised to suppress the letters of the Archbishops, and the exhortation to speak up by Julio Ribeiro, it is necessary to speak out our fears and anxieties and make the message of “Love your neighbour” heard as it has much relevance in today’s context. So in spite of this present atmosphere of uncertainty and fear we need to proclaim the message of love – love that is inclusive and reaching out to others in service.

  • The concept of conversions is imaginary as it is not showing in numbers or percentage. If at all any conversion is there it is the conversion of the heart making people into better people and not conversion from one religion to another.

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  • The letters from the Bishops were merely invitations to pray. We pray for the country and our leaders all the time regularly. We continue to emphasise on love and compassion. We must understand and love others in spite of wrong perceptions in others. Mother Teresa had the guts to love and serve even in the face of hatred. She raised her voice whenever things were wrong. We will continue to love even when fear and hatred are sown by others due to wrong perceptions.

  • The wrong perception that was created regarding conversion was the reason behind the stopping of Christmas carol singers or the attacks on sanctuaries and institutions. But where are the numbers or the percentage that show conversion? The Constitution of this country allows personal choice. Conversion never happens through coercion or pouring of some magic juice... it is the result of a deep-rooted personal choice resulting from personal belief and conviction.

  • We teach Constitutional values in schools to teach children to be loyal citizens and to stand up for their rights and fulfil their duties as citizens. Regarding the reference to “turning the other cheek”, Jesus also asked. “If I have said or done anything wrong, tell me, if not why do you strike me?”

  • Our struggle is also to get scheduled caste status also for our catholic Dalits. Regarding the rising crimes against the Dalits and Tribals, we are fighting for justice to realize the vision of Dr. Ambedkar – reclamation of human dignity. For that Dr. Ambedkar said, “educate, agitate, organize.” Articles 14,15,16,17,25, 26, 29 of the Constitution are not followed. Concept of “Love your Neighbour” has been put into the Constitution through these articles. As Christians belonging to the Scheduled caste we are facing untouchability in the civil society and in the wider society. We are prevented in sharing the Scheduled Caste status on a par with the scheduled caste Hindus, Sikhs, etc.

  • The conversion blame is absurd. If there is conversion why are we 2.3%? Ten years ago we were 2.7%. In fact five million scheduled caste Christians have reverted back to the majority community to avail the scheduled caste status. So the scheduled caste Christian population is going down.

  • The definition of conversion is not about change of religion but change in orientation or perception. If someone is sick and I offer him a glass of water or medicine, he sees me as a neighbour who loves – his perception towards me has changed. This is what Jesus said, ”Do unto others what you would want them to do to you”. If this is conversion this is what Jesus did and this is what we do. It is the change in a person towards a better perception to becoming a better person. It is not necessarily change of religion.

  • Talking about so many people who have studied in Christian institutions, they still live the values they have learned and they recognise it vocally and they are good to us although they may have some fears or hesitation to acknowledge it openly for reasons best known to them, may be social pressures etc.

  • The theme of “Love your Neighbour” is very pertinent. What is required today is a narrative of love, of inclusion. If that happens the incidents of lynching or hatred will reduce. The present problem is that hatred has been sown into people’s heart that love is forgotten. It is very dangerous for all.

  • Prevention of foreign funding will not affect the life of the Church but it will affect the service of the Church for the poor. So it will be the poor and the needy who will be affected by that. And the idea of stopping is actually against society and against the poor as it is meant to reduce the influence of the Church as the Church is seen as an influencer for the good. In fact most major attacks against the Church are in the rural areas.


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  • We are fulfilling 25% of the educational needs of the country and we have been empowering mostly the people of other communities. The Education office of the Catholic Church brought out the Education Policy of the Catholic Church which states very clearly that our preference is to educate and empower the poor and the marginalized; that we teach moral values; that we teach the Constitutional values; that we uphold family values; that we respect human rights and the rights of women and children; that we give holistic education that we safeguard the environment etc. promoting inclusive outlook and freedom. The Church has done yeomen service to others in this regard and we hope such service is directed more for the Dalits and Tribals and they will be grateful.

  • We must not look back and run forward. We must take 1947 as our ground zero. No point in going back to the very ancient times... In the 1965 war the first air force pilot to be shot down was a Christian. Similarly in all other fields the contribution by the Christian community in nation building has been significant. So we need to work for not only a swacch Bharat but for swacch Bharatiya as well, contributing to clean the inside as well and promote the message of peace and love.

  • What our people especially the Dalits and the Tribals need is a “smile”. When we do something well what we need is a positive feedback, appreciation. People need to know whether they have succeeded or not. That is what the Missionaries did through education, protecting the rights of the people, working to eradicate poverty, they put a smile on the faces of people and they smiled back in appreciation.

Highlights from the Speech of Most Rev. Theodore Mascarenhas, Secretary General, CBCI:

  • Narrating the parable of the Good Samaritan, he reminded in the outset that everyone in need of our service, is our neighbour and brother and sister. The Missionaries have worked for the people of this country, some of them have died of malaria and other diseases in their thirties. “I salute all those who have rendered selfless service for the people of this country con”, he said.


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  • Recalling the affectionate embrace of Madam Sushma Swaraj and Miss Mamata Banerjee, at Dubai airport on the way to Rome for the canonization of Mother Teresa in Rome, he said that it was difficult to make out whether they really belonged to different political parties with different ideologies... perhaps they both belonged to the party with a heart, the party of love.

  • If people say we are converting, yes we are here to convert you to love the poor and serve the under privileged and the needy. In 1939 Mahatma Gandhi said, “Jesus lived and died in vain, if we do not know how to regulate the whole of our lives by the eternal law of love.”

  • As Mother Teresa and her sisters shower their love and compassion from Kolkata to the rest of India, Mamata Didi coming to participate in this “Love your Neighbour Conclave”, is also participating in that expression of love and compassion taking a cue from Mother Teresa and her mission of love. People have been touched by the love and compassionate service they have received from the Christian Missionaries and we salute all those who have spent their lives for the cause of love and compassionate service to people no matter who they are and to which religion they belong.

  • We express our love and gratitude to every government past and present for their cooperation in carrying out our mission of love. Ministers like Shri Rajnath Singh, Shrimati Sushma Swaraj, Shri Nadda our Health Minister have been very helpful to us. We are very grateful to them as their doors are always open and they have always been helpful. Mamata Didi is very special to us as she is very helpful to us in Kolkata and W. Bengal. Our Mission of love and service towards everyone irrespective of religion or caste or language or culture will always continue no matter what.


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  • Few years ago when we had the celebration to mark the canonisation of Mother Teresa in Delhi, Mr. Rajnath Singh was our chief guest and he said, “ Mother Teresa was always referred to as “Mother”, because of the love given by her as Mother. Further he continued to say, “Two people came from Macedonia and conquered – Alexander the Great and Mother Teresa and it was Mother Teresa who conquered the hearts of people”.

  • Finally leaving a message for the young the Secretary General said, “This country is a land of peace and harmony and preserving that peace and harmony is a responsibility we all hold in our own hands. Let us be motivated to love our neighbour as we love and pray for our country. Christians are a peace loving Community and we will continue to be so and love our neighbour, whatever the cost.

Highlights from the Speech of the Chief Guest, Miss Mamata Banerjee: I am happy to participate in this conclave “Love your Neighbour” as I am proud to say we all love our neighbour- that is the beauty of the subject. I am impressed by the work done by the Christian Missionaries- their social work, their educational work. They have 54,937 educational institutions imparting education to 6 crore students, with 30 lakh staff. They have 1000 health centres. I am thankful to all nuns, Bishops and friends working for the poor, the downtrodden and underprivileged people. This is beautiful work.

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I have seen their work in Kolkata and from the North Bengal tea gardens to South Bengal and when I see and witness their work I feel proud of them and I wonder why I was not born a Christian. Every Christmas I attend their prayer, I am also an alumnus of St. Xavier’s, I keep good relation with all. I knew Mother Teresa very well. Once Mother phoned me in the middle of the night and said”, “Mamata can you help me because somebody wants to capture our ashram”, so I helped to restore their house. I remember once after Babri Masjid demolition, in Kolkata I saw Mother on the road near Sealdah Loreto house, helping people, so I asked Mother why she was on the road and Mother told me you are also on the road. I was happy to get the invitation from Vatican and to participate in the canonization of Mother Teresa with all Bishops and delegation from India. Jesus Christ always said, “Love you neighbour” that is why we love everybody. What is love your neighbour? It means we have to love all. Not divide and rule. Look at what happened in Jharkand. If a mistake is done by one individual, why raid all the institutions of the Missionaries of Charity? I don’t agree with that. It is discrimination. I love my neighbours who have lived in the country for 100 years, 200 years, 30 years, 20 years... how can you ask them to leave? 40 lakh people are affected by NRC – not only Bengalis but also Biharis, Rajasthanis, Hindus, Minorities... all are affected. The government has come into power because of their votes. How can they be suddenly told to get out? How do they suddenly become foreigners? We respect foreigners also. They are our guests. They are our brothers and sisters. Love your neighbour crosses all boundaries. It is love the world. It crosses all levels – local level, family level, district level, state level, country level and international level. It is a matter of concern and a matter of justice.

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Otherwise it is you missionaries who have to give protection because you love always. Imagine the Ex-President Fakurddin Ali Ahmed’s family members’ names are not in the list. Is it love your neighbour?  What is happening in Jharkhand, what is happening to the Christian Missionaries, to  the Dalits, Tribals, the lynching.... is not love your neighbour. We may tell them to behave yourselves but not lynch them. I don’t support this. I am always with the people, for the people and by the people. My first prerogative is to be with the people.

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How can I be isolated because I am a Christian or Dalit or Tribal? If it goes on like this there will be a civil war, bloodshed. I ask all of you to extend your cooperation fully to the helpless people. How can someone decide who will stay in Assam or Bengal or elsewhere? India is our Motherland. Any Indian can stay in any part of India. We are together an Indian family. I am a simple person. I am not a good speaker like the Bishop. I come from a middleclass family. I did not go to English school but studied in a simple school and I am proud to say that but as long as I am alive I will see that nobody is deprived. Underprivileged people should not cry. How can you say that only the people of the ruling party can live in the country? I want to see a united Motherland. What happened in Jharkhand may happen in Chhattisgarh, in U.P., in Assam...it may not happen in Bengal because we are there. It may not happen in Andhra or Karnataka... We have to protect the Constitution. Just within a few years’ time the country cannot be destroyed..... They may blame you for calling me. But if they don’t give me the convention hall, the road is enough for me to meet people. But you have appreciated Rajnathji and Sushmaji as good and helpful people. They are good people, yes because potato and potato chips cannot be equal. So what is going on and what can happen is alarming. People cannot be victimised. If these people are not allowed to vote and are isolated where will they go? Where will they study? Where will they go to office? No! We will not let them go. We will not say let them die. They should survive. There have been pacts during Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and during Indira Gandhi that need to be considered. I appeal to all communities and creeds and castes to love our neighbours worldwide, nationwide, in the states, in the districts, irrespective of caste or religion... We have place for all religions. I may be a Hindu but can’t I go to the Church? I love to go to the Church. Why should I be told what to eat, what to put on, what to speak, where to go...? India needs a change and that in 2019. Sorry it is my opinion. You have appreciated them so nobody should blame you. But I cannot share your opinion as the situation does not allow. Image may contain: 4 people, including Joseph Manipadam, people smiling, people standing

In the Vote of thanks that followed, Fr. Joseph Manipadam, National Secretary for the CBCI Office for Education and Culture, after the thanksgiving note, proposed a carry away from the conclave challenging the participants to rise above just the ordinary level of tolerating of differences, to a much higher level of seeking to accept, value and appreciate and reach the heroic level of celebrating the differences of peoples and cultures and religions and languages and make our country, India,  a paradise on earth.

 

Fr. Joseph Manipadam SDB is the Secretary of the CBCI Office for Education and Culture

 
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