Institute of Missiology and Communications
Pune – India
May – 2009
India: Why so many Goans embrace Priesthood
In 1657, the Propaganda Fide, a department of the Vatican entrusted with the onerous task of spreading Christianity, wrote about Goa, "that confessions had to be undertaken by means of an interpreter and by showing penitents a list of sins."
Given these impediments it became imperative for the Portuguese Church to cultivate a native clergy. To this end, the Jesuits set up The Salcete College, which later moved to Rachol. The success of this experiment would astonish both Goans and the Portuguese for by 1900, almost the entire clergy was Goan; comparable if not better educated than the clergy in Europe.
Why so many young men enthusiastically embraced the priesthood is a complex issue tied in with family honour of having one son devoted to God. Today, one of Goa's most valuable exports to the Diaspora is its priests, to the extent that dioceses in Western Europe and America cannot sustain themselves without their help.
Monsignor Nicholas Soares, the first Indian priest to be incardinated by the Archdiocese of New York, grew up in Valsad of Gujarat. His father Thome Angelo, from Aldona, Goa had migrated to Valsad to work at the railway maintenance workshop. There was a small community of Christians in Valsad, most of them Mangaloreans, Goans and some Anglo-Indians all working with the railways. His mother, Virginia, he recalls could recite the Sunday sermon verbatim. It was this early religious influence that shaped his world-views. When he was barely 14 years old, he joined the Salesians of Don Bosco and they sent him to the Sacred Hearts school in Tirupattur, Tamil Nadu to prepare for priesthood.
After doing a degree in Philosophy, followed by a Masters in Economics and another degree in Political Science, he embarked on a doctoral programme at Fordham University in New York. He arrived in America in 1973. He recalls the early days being somewhat lonely. There were hardly any Indians but he soon made friends with an Irish couple. In the seventies, America was far more technologically advanced than India and the Monsignor embraced his new environment with all the enthusiasm of a student embarking on a wondrous journey of learning. His first parish was in New Rochelle, New York, an affluent and well educated American neighbourhood. During mass, he found himself to be the only dark face amidst a sea of Caucasian parishioners. This did little to daunt his spirit. If anything, his parishioners found him to be a welcome breath of fresh air; educated, well spoken and conversant with the issues of the world (Selma Carvalho: email@example.com).
Rome: Indian Touch at Pope’s Via Crucis
Breaking away from the traditional 14 Stations of the Cross, Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil of Guwahati, India prepared a new set of 14 stations for the Via Crucis which Pope Benedict XVI presided on Good Friday night at the Colosseum. The Colosseum is one of the greatest works of Roman architecture where each Good Friday the Pope leads a torchlit “Way of the Cross” procession.
This year's meditation for Pope Benedict XVI's Good Friday Way of the Cross had a distinctly Asian perspective, referring to Hindu scriptures, an Indian poet and Mahatma Gandhi. It started off with Jesus agony in the garden of Olives recalling the words the Pope uttered in the wake of recent anti-Christian persecutions in India: “Church does not lack martyrs even today.” Besides a brief introduction, each of the station had a four page format. Opening with full page illustration of the stations in typical Indian art by Sr. Marie Claire Naidu, they had relevant scripture passage with a brief meditation and prayer.
Nine of the Stations of the Cross were totally new. They are: Agony in the garden (1), betrayed by Judas, and restrains Peter from violence (2), held guilty by the Sanhedrin (3), denied by Peter (4), Judged by Pilate (5), scourged and crowned with thorns (6), made an object of fun (7), promises his Kingdom to the Good Thief (11), Mother of Jesus and the Beloved Disciple at the foot of the Cross (12). They focus on the way Jesus deals with violence and adversity, finding parallels in Asian culture. Condemned to death before the Sanhedrin, for example, Jesus' reaction to this injustice is not to "rouse the collective anger of people against the opponent, so that they are led into forms of greater injustice," the archbishop wrote. Instead, he said, Jesus consistently confronts violence with serenity and strength, and seeks to prompt a change of heart through non-violent persuasion – A teaching Gandhi brought into public life in India with "amazing success."
He cited another Christian success story in India, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, when reflecting on how Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus carry his cross. Simon was like millions of Christians from humble backgrounds with a deep attachment to Christ – "no glamour, no sophistication, but profound faith," in whom we discover "the sacredness of the ordinary and the greatness of what looks small," the archbishop said. It was Jesus' plan to lift up the lowly and sustain society's poor and rejected, and Blessed Mother Teresa made that her vocation, he said. "Give me eyes that notice the needs of the poor and a heart that reaches out in love. Give me the strength to make my love fruitful in service," he said, borrowing a line from the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore.
Archbishop Menamparampil echoed one of Pope Benedict's favourite themes when he spoke about Jesus being mocked before his crucifixion. Today, he said, Jesus is humiliated in new ways: when the faith is trivialized, when the sense of the sacred erodes and when religious sentiment is considered one of the "unwelcome leftovers of antiquity." The archbishop said the challenge today is to remain attentive to God's "quiet presences" found in tabernacles and shrines, the laughter of children, the tiniest living cell and the distant galaxies. His text reflected the idea that Jesus' own life embodies Indian values, including an awareness of the sacred through contemplation. "May we never question or mock serious things in life like a cynic. Allow us not to drift into the desert of godlessness. Enable us to perceive you in the gentle breeze, see you in street corners, love you in the unborn child," he wrote.
Archbishop Menamparampil seemed equally comfortable drawing from the Western and Eastern Christian traditions. He illustrated the "mystic journey" of personal faith set in motion by Christ's death on the cross with a verse from a psalm and an eighth-century Irish hymn. He ended with a meditation on Jesus' entombment, borrowing insights from the Eastern spiritual distinction between reality and illusion. "Tragedies make us ponder. A tsunami tells us that life is serious. Hiroshima and Nagasaki remain pilgrim places. When death strikes near, another world draws close. We then shed our illusions and have a grasp of the deeper reality," he said.
He quoted a prayer from the Hindu holy writings, the Upanishads: "Lead me from the unreal to the real, from darkness to light, from death to immortality." He said this was the path taken by the early Christians, who were inspired by Jesus' life to carry his message to the ends of the earth. That message remains a simple one today, he said: "It says that the reality is Christ and that our ultimate destiny is to be with him" (donboscoindia.com; catholicnews.com).
1. “Hindutva, Projections and Reality”
Prof. Ram Puniyani says that RSS is an organization where succession of the top post, Sarsanghchalak, takes place by nomination by the outgoing Chief. Recently K.Sudarshan, outgoing one, nominated Mohan Bhagwat as the new Chief (March 2009). On taking over Bhagwat pronounced that Hindutva is emancipatory concept.
The last time the word Hindutva created the confusion was in the case of corrupt electoral practices by Manohar Joshi, who said that if Shiv Sena BJP comes to power they will turn Maharashtra into first Hindu state in the country. He had used the word Hindutva for his politics. The matter went up to the court, and due to the confusions around the word Hindutva, court ruled that Hindutva is a way of life! This came in handy for RSS combine to wriggle out and to assertively use the word in their political campaigns. Now we hear that Hindutva is an emancipatory concept!
What is emancipation? In Indian context emancipation stands for the process which leads to equality of dalits and women. It also stands for the dignified status of Adivasis and workers. Many of these processes started during the freedom movement as an accompaniment of the struggle against British rule. While we were witnessing these processes steered by the likes of Bhagat Singh, Ambedkar and Gandhi, the country also saw the politics by Muslim League, Hindu Mahasabha and RSS. This latter trio based their concept of politics around religious nationalism. For Muslim League it was Islamic Sate, Pakistan and for Hindu Mahasabha, RSS it was Hindu nation.
Muslim League derived its ideology from the name of Islam and Hindu Mahsabha and RSS developed the term Hindutva, as the guiding ideology for Hindu nation. There is lot of parallel between the pattern of ideology of Muslim League and Hindu Mahsabha, RSS. They all kept aloof from the freedom movement and the associated processes of social transformation of caste and gender.
Freedom movement was not only for freedom from the British rule it also symbolized the values of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, the values which are emancipatory for those oppressed by feudal rule of Rajas and Nawabs, and the associated clergy (Mullahs, Pastors and Brahmins). Talking of Hindutva in particular, the term was coined by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in his book ‘Who is a Hindu?’ in 1923. Hinduism is not a prophet based religion. Originally word Hindu began as a geographical category, for all those living on east of river Indus. Later all the religious traditions, from caste and gender hierarchy based Brahmanism to egalitarian streams like Nath, Tantra, Siddha and Bhakti all came to be covered under the umbrella of Hinduism. Brahmanism is the dominant tendency within this spectrum, and currently all things Brahminic are identified as Hinduism. Dr. Ambedkar pointed out that Hinduism is Brahminic theology.
Savarkar defined Hindu as one who regards this land from Sindhu to Seas as Fatherland and Holy-land. In this definition all are included barring Muslims and Christians. Savarkar further went on to coin and define the word Hindutva. Hindutva, for him is total Hindu ness, a combination of Aryan race, Culture and values. In essence it came to mean a politics based on Brahminic values of birth based inequality of caste and gender. It gives the status of slaves to dalits and women.
RSS picked up the concept of Hindutva from there. Hindu Mahasabha and RSS both stood for status quo in caste and gender relations. RSS politics did exhibit these values in practical form, over a period of time. Contrary to emancipation, RSS ideology wants not only status quo ante of feudal times, further it wants to push back whatever little process of transformation of Dalits and women has taken place over a period of time.
Beginning with gender, RSS is an exclusively male organization. Its women wing is subordinate to it, it is Rashtra Sevika Samiti. Here, Swayamsevak for men, Sevika for women. The word swayam, self, is missing in women’s organization. Lets be clear, according to all male dominated patriarchal organizations, Taliban , Fascists, Christian fundamentalists or RSS, women’s self is in the pocket of men. Women are subordinate, are property of men. So they are to be dictated, controlled. So one of RSS trained swayamsevak, Pramod Mutalik forms Shriram Sene and beats up women. They dictate that women should be doing or wearing, this that and the other.
As far dalits are concerned Dr. Ambedkar goes on to assert that dalits need to learn, organize and struggle for their rights, for equality. RSS has come up with Samajik Samrasta Manch, to co-opt the dalits at subordinate position within the present social structure where dalits remain subjugated in the social system. RSS also has the ideology of integral humanism. This essential part of Hindutva politics argues that as the human body has different organs doing their different functions, similarly our society has different groups doing their job. A change in their roles will create disequilibrium, which will be detrimental to the smooth functioning of society.
One does concede that the language of RSS is very subtle and clever, but its actions regularly show what it means. RSS is the Father of all other organizations working for Hindu nation. The politics it has unleashed through BJP, VHP, and Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram etc. does regularly show the real intent of RSS. Few samplers- BJP Vice-president Rajmata Scindia endorsing Sati tradition, VHP-leadership endorsing the killings of dalits in response to the killings of dalits in the aftermath of Gohana, on the issue of cow-slaughter. RSS repeatedly emphasizes the ‘ancient glory’ of the times when Manusmriti was the rule.
One is happy to know that the new RSS chief knows the word emancipation. So far so good, as he can’t go beyond parroting this word, as the meaning of the word is totally against the agenda of RSS. RSS agenda is opposed to emancipation and stands for suppressing the low caste, and women in perpetual subjugation (firstname.lastname@example.org).
2. “Christian Response to Communal Violence”
Fr. Xavier Manjooran SJ says that Christians in India and the Church personnel have not understood the modus operandi of the Sangh outfits, we have not cared to study and reflect deeply on what is happening around and we have not paid attention to the human rights issues and political game involved in Sangh outfits attack on Christians and Muslims. We are perhaps too naïve to see all these incidents as religious phenomena and are eager to respond to it with our religious mentality. But RSS and other Sangh outfit have quite different agenda and what they do is calculated and planned with clear intention of creating division and hatred between communities and systematically eliminating those whom Mr. Golwalker had mentioned in his “Bunch of thoughts”- Muslims, Christians and Communists, so that a Hindu nation is established and the Brahmins will have full power.
The Christian missionaries are educating and organizing the tribals, dalits and the marginalized – the so called lower castes who have been, according to Manu Smruti, born from the feet of Brahma. Bringing awareness to them to take up their rightful position in the society means the Brahmins will loose their control and power. So any amount of ‘dialogue’ or ‘forgiveness’ will not make the perpetrators of injustice, atrocity and terror to change their attitude and method. What they are doing is done with full understanding, wanting to destroy the “they” (of Golwalker’s bunch of thoughts) and to establish full control and power over India. We have to look at the agenda and ideology of the Sangh outfit as a political and human rights issue and join hands with all those who believe in human dignity, equality and secular values.
One good example of responding to Sangh outfit’s communal and anti- minority agenda is how we were able to contain the negative effect of Kumbh mela organized in Subir, Dangs district in 2006. This artificial Kumbh mela was organized to ‘to stop conversions to Christianity and to convert back Chrisitan Adivasis to Hinduism’. Though the conversion-religion plank was used by the RSS we refused to take that line. We realized it was not a religious issue but a ploy to destroy the adivasi culture and to convert the Subir area into a place for religious tourism and thus destroy the forest too. Once it was clear what the agenda of the RSS was, several secular groups and human rights organizations came together to resist this anti-tribal, anti-environmental programme. More than 45 organizations, several media persons came and other like minded people came together as one body and went round making people understand the implications of and the fraud behind the so called Kumbh Mela. People realized that the Sangh outfit supported by the BJP government was misleading people by misinterpreting the mythology of Shabari and Ram meeting at the shore of Pampa Sarovar. The truth was communicated to people that Pampa Sarovar was in South India and what Sangh outfit called as Pampa Sarovar was just a small river, known as Purna nadi. People also realized that it was to destroy adivasi culture. As a result very few adivasis from Dangs attended the mela and even those who attended did it out of curiosity.
In Kandhamal and Karnataka we needed to face the situation from a human rights perspective and join hands with like minded, secular groups. I am afraid we remained as a Christian ghetto and felt victimized by the fundamentalists group. The voices of our prelates were too weak and rendered ineffective. Our schools and colleges and institutions have served people irrespective of caste and creed. But when we were attacked saying that we were converting, even those who studied in our institutions, those who took advantage of our service, all those who knew by their personal experience that we never converted any one by force nor conversion was our motive came to our rescue. Where had the apparent influence of the Church gone at the time we needed most? After so many years of service it was really surprising that we could not find any one to protect us. All the energy we spent, all the resources we have used and all the time we utilized seem to have had no effect.
Christians and the Church at large need to rethink our approach to evangelization. What we actually stand for is to spread the values and message of Christ. For this we must concentrate on the Discipleship of Christ rather than membership in the church. Institutional religion is always a prey to the political powers and often it forgets the initial ideals, values and vision of the founder. What is often left is just power struggle leaving the real spirit to the winds. The present situation and scenario demand that we rethink deeply our way of going about and make necessary changes in our methodology, attitude and approach (email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org).
Rome: New Member of Pontifical Biblical Commission
Fr. Thomas Manjaly, professor of Oriens Theological College, Shillong, India is appointed a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission in Rome.
Orissa: Tragedy Continues says Prof. Ram Puniyany
The after-effects of the anti-Christian violence (2007) in Kandhamal district of Orissa are not over, so to say. Recently the Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of the state said that the elections in the Kandhamal district should be postponed as the refugees living in the camps are not able to return. The reason is that many of them who returned were threatened by the local Bajrang Dal workers and associates. They were told to renounce Christianity, convert to Hinduism pay the fine, withdraw the cases and vote for the candidate who they will be told to, obviously BJP candidate. Many of those who tried to return with such hostile conditions came back, some to the camps and others to unknown destinations.
Daughrity, Dyron B., Bishop Stephen Neill: From Edinburgh to South India, New York: Peter Lang, 2008. Available with the author at: email@example.com.
Bishop Stephen Neill (1900-1984) was one of the most gifted figures of world Christianity during the twentieth century. Once referred to as a "much-tempted, brilliant, enigmatic man" his voluminous writings reveal little about the scholar himself. This biographical work takes the reader deep into the life and times of one of the doyens of Christian missions.
Fernando, Peter and Yasas Frances, (eds.), Woman’s Image Making and Shaping, Pune: Ishvani, 1985, Rs. 100/-. Available now for half price at Ishvani Kendra.
“Even where women’s faces are no longer veiled and their heads covered, the image of woman remains in eclipse, and that is both effect and cause of the obscuring of the image of the human in women, in India, the third world, and the world in general.”
Bambawale, Usha, (ed.), Women in Court, Pune: Streevani/Ishvani, 1997. Rs. 100/-. Available now for half price at Ishvani Kendra.
In Indian Society women face greater stress than men. Patriarchy considers a woman to be a dependent and the man the bread-winner and the head of the family. The wear and tear of a marriage sometimes results in the couple seeking matrimonial remedies in courts. Whether justice is done or not ofter, depends on those who are dispensing the law.
Legrand, Lucien: Mission in the Bible, Pune: Ishvani, 1994. Rs. 60/-. Available now for half price at Ishvani Kendra.
It is a truly creative, synthetic, study of the Biblical Theology of Mission that brings into the multi-faceted nature of mission in the Bible. At the same time it shows how that variety is at the service of the Mysterious One who comes to us – empowering, reconciling, challenging and renewing.
Malipurathu, T., and Stanislaus, L., (eds.), A Vision of Mission in the New Millennium, Mumbai: St. Paul’s, 2001. Rs. 110/-. Available now for half price at Ishvani Kendra.
The onset of the new millennium stirred many a reflection on various subjects that touch our lives at various fields. This volume contains a collection of such reflections presented by some eminent Indian theologians at a research seminar.
Dr. Joy Thomas, SVD (Director)
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