Mamata Banerjee sets hearts on fire at the National Level Christian Conclave “love your Neighbour”
An unprecedented and exceptional Programme, a National Level Christian Conclave “love your Neighbour the Christian community poured forth its appreciation for the nation, its commitment to love and service and its determination to stand by the poorest of the poor, the deprived and the marginalized.
The conclave was organized by the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) Office for Education and Culture and the Pilar Fathers (Delhi Province) on Tuesday July 31, 2018 at the constitutional club. The Conclave was planned with the intention of giving expression to the Christian witness of the gospel message of love through its various activities of education, health care, social work and empowerment.
The Chief Guest Ms Mamata Banerjee, Honourable Chief Minister of Bengal was the chief Guest and Archbishop Thomas D’Souza, Archbishop of Calcutta and Chairman of the CBCI Office for Education and Culture and Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas the Secretary General of the Catholic bishops’ Conference were the guests of Honour.
A number of Members of Parliament, Members of the Diplomatic corps, priests, religious, people of different faiths, and youth attended the programme. The Constitution Club Hall was packed to its capacity of 700. So huge was the public response that many returned home disappointed, as they could not be accommodated due to lack of space.
Fr Jervis D’Souza, Deputy Secretary General, CBCI led the gathering in prayer. Fr John Fernandes, Provincial Superior, Delhi Province, Pilar Society delivered the welcome Address.
As Mr Julio Ribeiro retired Police Commissioner and civil servant, could not make it to Delhi due to his age, a video was played out of an interview conducted a few days ago on the theme of “Love your neighbor”. He was loud and clear, “We Christians must speak out against injustice”.
Ms Sunetra Choudhury, a journalist and anchor with the Indian news channel NDTV 24x7 conducted a lively discussion in which she interviewed a panel of eminent Christian Panelists: Most Rev. Thomas D’Souza, Archbishop of Calcutta, Dr Michael V Williams, Dean, Mount Carmel Schools, Mr Franklin Caesar Thomas, Advocate, Supreme Court, Dr A Benjamin Bara, Professor, XLRI, Jamshedpur and Dr Vijayesh Lal, Evangelical Fellowship of India.
The animated panel discussion brought to light very clearly and simply the true meaning of Christ’s command to Love one another. The panelists also shared how in spite of many difficulties, they carry on living and sharing the gospel values. The true Christian convictions of the all the panelists were brought to the fore, when they did not hesitate to quote Scripture so beautifully.
Bishop Theodore in his speech as the Guest of Honour traced the rich tradition Christianity has had in this country. He paid glowing tributes to missionaries of all faiths, who not counting the costs work selflessly for the needy and the underprivileged in society. He shared with the audience the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus was led to share this parable as a rich young man wanting to test Jesus, came up and asked him, “Who is my neighbor?”
In a Statesman like speech, Bishop Theodore praised the leaders of various governments in cluding the present one who have helped the Christian Community in time of need. He struck a very personal note by citing an incident at the Dubai airport, where Ms Mamata Banerjee met Ms Sushma Swaraj while on their way for Mother Teresa’s canonization, both women embraced each other and spoke warmly for some time. This was certainly a good sign and a classic example of loving your neighbor. He received a thunderous applause when he told the audience that the wanted to convert them to love, to kindness, to generosity and to tolerance. Our mission of building God’s Kingdom will continue- to care for the sick, poor and the marginalized and we will continue doing it no matter, what the costs, he said. His speech was well embellished with quotes by Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa.
Ms Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Guest paid rich tributes to the Christian community and even went to the extent of saying that she wished she was born a Christian. She highlighted the contribution of the Christian community in the field of education, by quoting figures which really ripples of joy in the gathering. Spelling out the recent developments in the country she asked very rhetorically the audience really loving your neighbor was remaining silent when you are lynched, beaten up, trolled, harassed and persecuted for no fault of yours. She challenged her hearers to stands up against isolation of minorities, dalits, tribals and the marginalized. She encouraged all to come together to work for a better tomorrow and a better country.
Fr Joseph Manipadam, Secretary, Office for Education and Culture proposed the Vote of Thanks. He won Didi’s heart by speaking a sentence in Bengali. The programme was ably compered by Mr Andrew Scolt. The programme concluded with the National Anthem.
Our special thanks to Fr Anthony Fernandes sfx, Minister, CBCI Centre, Fr. John Fernandes, Provincial, Pilar Fathers and Mr Shane Baptista and their teams who did all the ground work for this successful programme.
Fr Jervis D’Souza
Deputy Secretary General