Bengaluru: Leaders of three major political parties with varying status converged at a spot on the occasion of Sanyasa Sangama 2018. Over 2000 Priests, Brothers and Sisters (nuns) gathered at Christ University auditorium on Sunday (February 25) to deliberate on the theme – “Response of the Consecrated to the Changing Scenario of India.” The special programme was organized by Conference of Religious, India (CRI). Fr Edward Thomas, president, CRI, Bangalore chapter, welcome all. About 20 zones participated in the massive programme.
Lighting the traditional lamp by various leaders of social status marked the meticulously planned and executed Sanyasa Sangama. The leaders included Metild D’Souza, Member, Minority Commission, Karnataka, Pericho Prabhu, Harry D’Souza, Bro Jerome and Philip Raj Kumar among others. The leaders were also honoured with a shawl and a bouquet each.
Congress Working president, Dinesh Gundu Rao was the first to address the gathering. Felicitating the Fathers and Sisters he said they have contributed to the different aspects of growth of Karnataka, mainly, developmental, social, educational, political and religious. Only India has variety of castes, cultures and languages. So many people, who have settled in India and in Bangalore, merged with the people and places. This was due to tolerance and acceptance. Acceptance is more important than anything else. So many languages are spoken even in Karnataka. Rao posed a question as to how do we define what is right or wrong. The problem starts when people start defining. We follow the Constitution.
Quoting Fr Edward, Gundu Rao said mixing politics with religion is the most dangerous. Religion is to imbibe in people with better values and to support good life for a just society. Enmity and division are created if one says my religion is better. Riots and violence follow. Recently someone was attacked and hanged due to the food habit of that person. Forces, if inhuman, it is dangerous. Christianity itself is a religion for service and to build nation. They work among the poorest of the poor. Rao said he had seen how the Fathers deal with children at Bosco (and Bosco Mane). Christianity brings goodness to society, making the society stronger. He encouraged them to go on doing good and not to bother about those who criticize. Dinesh Rao, a senior Congress leader pointed out that the Christian population has come down as per 2011 census. A section of people spread myths and wrong ideas about Christianity. He said, “We are with you to support.” Our party believes India to be a progressive country and to grow with times.
Gundu Rao admitted that Congress party made up of humans has made some mistakes in the past. At present, the core value of this country itself is under threat. Society itself has to awake, to be resolute and fight for rights guaranteed. Quoting a newspaper of the day, he said censorship is imposed on fundamental rights. Rao urged a packed congregation of religious men and women to be fearless and to do what is right. He also called for suggestions to include in the manifesto which will be out shortly. What the Christians like to add and specific programmes for the poor among others. Dinesh Gundu Rao announced Rs 250 crore has been allotted for Christian programmes.
The Congress working president was presented with a special memento. Among other leaders who received a shawl and a bouquet included Amruth Narayan, Nathen Daniel, B S Raghunath, A C Charles, Cherian P K, Elisa and Jaijo Joseph.
Fr Willian, executive member of CRI introduced Brother Jerome Ellens fsp, the speaker of the day. Br Jerome began his talk on the theme quoting the first prime minister of independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru in his “Tryst with Destiny” the speech in parliament on the eve of India’s independence. Br further said, quoting again from the same book, “All of us, to whatever religion we may belong, are equally the children of India with equal rights, privileges and obligations. We cannot encourage communalism or narrow mindedness, for no nation can be great whose people are narrow in thought or in action.”
Br Jerome also mentioned in detail the bloodshed and agony because of the Hindu-Muslim riots that followed the partition of the sub-continent which displaced 15 million people and killed more a million……. Three years later on January 26, 1950, 284 members of the Constituent Assembly adopted the Constitution of India, the longest written constitution of any sovereign country in the world……… Let us also not forget that India is the birthplace of four major religions: Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism……. And India has always been considered to be a country where tolerance was practiced from ancient times. Is this now changing? Is violence and bloodshed in the name of religion becoming the order of the day?, Bro. Jerome wondered. He also quoted some of the recent headlines that appeared in various newspapers. He quoted some leaders in responsible positions making provocative and communally insensitive comments and polarizing remarks. Bro also presented video clips of some of the speeches and incidents that occurred in some States.
Bro also used the words of former US President Obama, in his address at the Siri Fort Auditorium in New Delhi on January 27, 2015, which said, “Our nations are strongest when we see that we are all God’s children…… In the words of Archbishop Thomas Macwan of Gandhinagar, Gujarat, Bro said “Human rights are being violated. The Constitutional rights are being trampled……………
Response of the Consecrated to the Changing Scenario of India
The scenario in India is changing dramatically both physically and socially. We are witnessing more and more intolerant actions from fringe elements……. Bro quoted M S Golwalker, the second leader of RSS in his book ‘We Our Nationhood Define’, published in 1939. The words are communally charged, provocative and degrading. Should Christian communities unite to safeguard the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution? Or is this situation an opportunity therefore to re-look at our own attitudes and the way we have projected ourselves?, Bro Jerome posed it to ponder. …………..
How can Christianity integrate more with Indian Culture?
Why does a religion of peace and love such as Christianity find it difficult to assimilate itself into a philosophy of life founded on ahimsa (non-violence), tolerance, truth, soul, asceticism, devotion and salvation as that of Hinduism, can be puzzling question. Is it because the message of Christ got lost ……………… What Jesus preached was a way of life, not an organized religion. Respecting other religions and their practices with as much reverence as we do our own should be the first step if one follows the New Way Jesus taught. Bro made some practical suggestions to integrate ourselves more with Indian Culture. Interreligious dialogue is a high priority for Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal. He mingles with both Hindus and Muslims in their respective festivities. Bro Jerome quoted so many other examples of dialogue and participating the festivals of other religions by Christians.
Bro Jerome who was also a provincial in his Congregation, dwelt at length the elaborative, educative and enlightening talk in detail touching different topics and aspects of the theme concluded with the words of Pope Francis, “Diversity is no longer seen as a threat, but as a source of enrichment.”
In between the programmes, Fr Cyriac of KJC, introduced the book on Fr Tom’s captivity in Yemen. Anto Akkara, writer and a journalist presented a brief narration of the struggles the Christians of Khandhaman had to undergo. He has also authored two books – Who Killed Swami Laxmanananda? And ‘Early Christians of 21st Century.’ He presented a number of video and paper clippings to support his stand and findings. He said among other things that he met the real Christians at Khandhaman. About nine innocent Christians are still kept behind the bars. He has composed a prayer and distributed it to all to help their release.
Archbishop Bernard Moras of Bengaluru Archdiocese who was the chief celebrant at the concelebrated Eucharist during the Sanyasa Sangamma, by way of introduction posed a point – What is the voice we hear in our communities, societies or groups? Someone asked the mother of George Washington, why her son became so popular. And the mother replied that she had taught her son to obey God, to remain faithful to God and to be faithful to whatever you are entrusted with. He has kept my advice well. He has kept his responsibilities to the people the best way possible. Archbishop narrated the life of Abraham from the first reading. God had promised Abraham that a son would be born and his descendants would be like the sand in the seashore and stars in the sky. He had no children and when he got a son, he was asked to sacrifice his only son. Abraham obeyed God and listened to His voice. When he was about to sacrifice, God intervened. God would fulfill His promise in his own way. God praised Abraham for his willingness to sacrifice his only son. God appreciated his unshakable faith. Archbishop exhorted all present to obey the command and voice of God.
Most Rev Moras narrated the story of transfiguration as read in the gospel. Jesus chose three disciples. We all need to listen to Jesus, God’s beloved son and our savior. As religious, consecrated persons, listen to him. Pope Francis urged all to obey him (Jesus). We should respond to the signs of time – towards the poor, downtrodden, refugees, environment and other relevant aspects of life situations. Archbishop asked what are the signs before us. We are answerable to God. This is why bishops of India during their Plenary Assembly in the beginning of this month took up the theme – Unity in Diversity - for a Mission of Mercy and Witness’. Churches’ mission of mercy should reach the wounded hearts. The Word can heal. Every Christian is drawn towards the authentic witness of mercy. St. Teresa of Kolkata and Rani Maria of Indoor are examples of witnesses.
The CBCI chocked out several points to follow. Among them 20 are most important. We are called to live in unity in the midst of diversity, leading an active and apostolic life. One needs to strengthen the bond between the religious and the laity which means communion with each other. We should accept families in the evangelical mission and to care for families in distress. There is a need to encourage and foster lay people and youth in politics, civil, defence and other areas of life. Imbibe in the youth to lead a Christian life and to equip them with the knowledge of Word of God. Teach them to have respect for women and prepare seminarians and religious to be authentic in their calling. Priests, religious and laity should know Constitution of India, freedom of expression and other details. The need of time is to encourage and motivate the laity in nation building. Our institutions should make education to be affordable and available. It is felt to ensure transparency in all our administration. These are some of the salient features to be followed, the Archbishop reminded. This year the Archdiocese has declared as Year of the laity and youth. They cannot be separated. Holy Father said – look at the signs of time. Lay people are in their own world. Involve them in all activities. We are on fire. We are self-centered, leading a cosy life. Church is a movement. We are Church and it is an establishment and he repeated that we should be on fire. Archbishop Moras exhorted all to listen to Him, Lord and Master, Jesus.
Archbishop was also felicitated on his golden jubilee of priesthood. Sr Shobha presented a brief background and history of Archbishop – his birth, studies, priesthood and as bishop of Belgaum and Archbishop of Bangalore.
Some of the JD(S) leaders present on the occasion included PGR Sindhya, Vice president, JD(S), Wilson Reddy (Minority Christian Wing), James (Minority Christian Wing), George (Minority Christian Wing), Prithvik, Anthony Raj, Suresh, General Secretary and Ramesh Babu. Wilson, speaking on the occasion called for cooperation from the Christians as to find how to work together. He felicitated the CRI and thanked them for the opportunity given and said good days are ahead.
PGR Sindhya, former Home Minister, who spoke elaborately on various issues said, “It is a boon to me” – Christians as a whole and in particular Fathers and Sisters and other leaders. He said it was a co-incidence that he was present. As a student of R A College in 1960’s, he used to visit Christ College to meet his friend – Andrews, now a priest. Deve Gowda is a down to earth person, a farmer and a son of a farmer. He was prime minister and 85 year old, Gowda has 50 years of political life. He works 18 hours a day, walked 20 minutes to climb steps to reach Bahubali statue. He is aware that there is not one religion alone. Gowda visited Gujarat when attacks on Christians were going on and met Modi, the then chief minister, making request to protect Christians. He went to Orissa when Christians were attacked there and met the chief minister with the same request to stop such attacks forthwith.
Sindhya said ‘we are born fighters not only for position but for values as well. Indian democracy is a product of Constitution. We stand by the poor, persecuted and the oppressed. Mother of democracy is London, though they have no written constitution. Here equal rights are given to any community. We need co-existence. Sindhya said he was poor in English and could not get admission in Christ College but he was good at Maths and became an engineer and a professor.
Sanyasa means to give up all. We have to serve as a country and society. In fact, Jesus blesses all not only Christians. A nondescript village (Harabella) became a town now due to the developmental works of the Christian missionaries. He was scout leader for 30 years. A British soldier started the Scouts and Guides movement. The soldier wanted a spirit of sacrifice, dedication and spirituality. “Nobody can come near you. We respect each of you,” he said. Nobody knows the agenda behind some hypocrites. We can enter the hearts of people only through actions. Some parties encourage intolerance. “You work for all sections and many are relieved…..” Power is an instrument to bring changes and progress. Deve Gowda, a farmer from Hassan, has gone to Delhi to become prime minister. He had stayed one week with Mother Teresa. We are with your community and God will protect you.
Constitution is our baby and the importance of Constitution cannot be minimized. Christianity is a way of life. JD (S) does not discriminate. David Semeon was holding high position in the party. We will remove intolerance from Karnataka, from the third floor of Vidhana Soudha.
A host of BJP leaders also visited the Sanysa Sangama. Uday, BJP General Secretary and Lakshmi D’Souza, were among others present. Speaking on the occasion, Uday said “I am a Hindu and I have received education from Christians (in convent schools).” I owe them a lot, namely Fr Almeida and Fr Pinto. We are a vasudeiva kudumbam which believes in love, harmony and peace. There is always a fight between good and evil. Only good wins. Bible teaches us peace. Sisters in hospitals are very kind. They take care of us all. God has no form. Any route can be taken to reach Moksha (salvation). The goal is to transform our country. No apprehensions about what one hears. The same blood goes through all. A standard setting is important in politics. Modi, the best prime minister, is given to us today. Miscreants create some problem in all parties. Why should I hate you. People speak of conversion and various other matters. A coin has two sides. Even in human being there are two sides – good and bad. You (Christians) have guided our way and he urged them to continue this guidance.
Praveen Peter said politics is understood in different situations. He spoke of the importance of accountability. He presented statistics of average age of MPs below 40, 50, 60 etc. He urged the Christian leaders to educate people of the existing situation.
Lakshmi D’Souza, a social worker and an officer in minority affairs encouraged all to ask her for any help at any time. She also gave her mobile number and e-mail id for anybody to approach her with any requirement and help.
George Edayadiyil, CMI, Rector, Dharmaram College, as a concluding talk said at the end of this concluding session of the Sanyasa Samgamam, I have to congratulate all office bearers of Bangalore CRI and its various constituent units for organizing this event with hard work, commitment and sparing a lot of their time for it. The topic of reflection, “the Response of the consecrated to the changing scenario of India” is a very relevant, meaningful and contextual one. We are living in a very challenging time, both within our communities and outside. India is a land which is very much religious. The various Hindu Ashrams of India are living testimony to that. Since India as a nation is religious at her heart, religious presence is most appealing.
The Catholic Church is blessed with visionary and prophetic leadership of Pope Francis. He gives us a clarion call in his apostolic letter, Witness of Joy, proposing the three fold aims of Consecrated Life: To look into the past with gratitude; to live the present with passion, and to embrace the future with hope.
Of the past, Pope wrote: “Recounting our history is essential for preserving our identity, for strengthening our unity as a family and our common sense of belonging. More than an exercise in archaeology or the cultivation of mere nostalgia, it calls for following in the footsteps of past generations in order to grasp the high ideals, and the vision and values which inspired them, beginning with the founders…” This gives us a motivating and inspiring goal to be faithful to the vision of the pioneers and translating into our own context rather than keeping the founding charism and spirit as a holy relic.
Of the present, “to live the present with passion”, the Pope says that consecrated life has been born of the Spirit’s call to follow Jesus with Gospel as the absolute rule and Christ as the ideal. He asks the question: “Is Jesus really our first and only love, as we promised he would be when we professed our vows? This is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mk 12:29). Our mission shall be an overflow from our heart with one pointed love of God.
“Embracing the future with hope” the Pope writes: “In fraternal communion you will be enriched by their experiences and wisdom, while at the same time inspiring them, by your own energy and enthusiasm, to recapture their original idealism.”
Fr George, also chancellor, Christ University said, today’s world is in need of Mystics of interiority and Prophets of authenticity. Spiritual masters of our time underline the need of it to be relevant and meaningful in our time and space, in India Ronald Rolheiser writes, in the book, The Holy Longing, 32-35: “We are busier than bad, more distracted than non-spiritual, and more interested in easy talks, laziness, and double talk than we are in study, serious work and prayer. We need balance. Typical today is the person who wants faith but not silence, the questions but not the answers, the religions but not commitment and the truth but not obedience”.
We are called to be Fearless with the freedom of the children of God.
Fearlessness and Freedom are two things that the youth love most. How can that be so? If we have the courage to follow Him, with a one-pointed devotion, then it is possible. Suicide bombers are brain washed and they give themselves for a cause. Gandhi called this energy the Soul force. Deepak Chopra writes in his book: How to Know God. Quoting the noted scholar Gilbert Murray: ‘Persons in power should be very careful of how they deal with a man who cares nothing for sensual pleasure, nothing for riches, nothing for comfort or praise or promotion, but is simply determined to do what he believes to be right. He is a dangerous and uncomfortable enemy, because his body, which you can always conquer, gives you so little purchase upon his soul.’”
Are we religious, getting very shallow. Sorry, if I misunderstood the situation. Are we people without content? Again sorry, if I am wrong. Anyhow for people other than us, for vast majority it is so. I am reminded of the poem of T.S. Eliot, “The hollow men.” Is our vision getting blurred? Are we a confused lot, except for our personal interest? We need a lot of retrospection and refocusing.
Fr George said, we need to be more transparent and accountable and concluded his talk with the poem of Sufi Hafiz. God has his own ways to take us back to him – know his ways:
“Love wants to reach out and manhandle us
Break all our teacup talk of God.
If you had the courage and
Could give the Beloved His choice, some nights,
He would just drag you around the room
By your hair,
Ripping from your grip all those toys in the world
That brings you no joy.
Love sometimes gets tired of speaking sweetly
…………. But when we hear
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