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Bengal Health Foundation in association with Tata Steel, Apollo Hospitsl and powered by SXUK celebrates the life and works of Dr. BC Roy on July 1, Friday at 5.00 pm at Raas Mancha, Swabhumi.
Theme: 'Bidhan - Brilliance Beyond Brains'
We wish all our doctors a Happy Doctors' Day.Tribute to Dr. BC Roy - https://epaper.telegraphindia.com/imageview/400805/20380167/71.html
By Vatsal Chirimar
St. Xavier’s University Kolkata Alumni Association celebrated the World Environment Day in the University campus on Friday, 3rd June, 2022. On this occasion, 500 saplings were distributed to faculty members and the 6 neighbouring villages adopted by the University.
On the occasion, Fr. John Felix Raj, SJ, Vice-Chancellor, the University & President of St. Xavier’s University Kolkata Alumni Association declared the University’s commitment to become a plastic free campus. He handed over saplings to representatives of the six neighbouring villages adopted by the University and all the staff members. All the stakeholders of the University took an Environment Protection Pledge led by the Hony. Secretary of the Alumni Association, Mr. Vatsal Chirimar.
The Jesuits have framed the Universal Apostolic Preferences for 2019-2029, one of which is “To Collaborate in the Care for our Common Home.” A Sit & Draw Competition was also organised on the occasion with children from Kalthelberia, Kulberia, Boenta, Hathishaka, Jeerangancha and Dharamtalla-Panchuria villages on theme “Caring for our Common Home.” The program enede with a high tea.
Prof. Somak Sen
Jesuit Father John Felix Raj, S.J., Vice-Chancellor of the St. Xavier’s University, Kolkata was conferred the prestigious ‘Vivek Jyoti Samman’ award on Thursday, March 3, 2022 by the Swami Vivekananda University, West Bengal.
The award was conferred upon him for his lifelong contribution to the development of education andphilanthropic service to society at large.Dr. SubrataDey, Vice-Chancellor of Swami Vivekananda University, Barrackpore bequeathed this honour to Fr. Felix Raj, S.J. at the University campus.
Fr. Felix Raj, S.J.has been working in the field of higher education for the past 38 years. He has worked for the growth of society through the spread of education and educational facilities besides carrying out various social and development works.
Starting his academic contribution towards building a stronger nation through St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata as a Principal, Fr. Raj’sdreams of creating a bigger arena of academic excellence saw the light of the day with the setting up of St. Xavier’s University, Kolkata in 2017.
Right now, the St. Xavier’s University runs 19 courses with approximately 3000 students on its rolls. In near future, the University is expected to introduce many other courses with its vision and mission of ‘forming men and women for others.’
Fr. Felix Raj, SJ
On November 9, 2019, the Supreme Court of India declared its final verdict on the vexatious Ayodhya dispute. The Apex Court ordered the disputed land to be handed over to a trust to build the Ram Janmabhoomi temple.
One of the several authors whose travelogues were taken into account by the Supreme Court was a Jesuit missionary Fr. Joseph Tieffenthaler who lived and worked in India for 38 years (1743 – 1785 CE) and wrote numerous works about India. He visited Ayodhya in 1767. He eventually compiled his research into two volumes, Descripto Indiae and Cursus Gangae.
According to Tieffenthaler’s account, Aurangzeb had demolished the Ramkot fortress, including the house that was considered as the birthplace of Rama by Hindus and constructed a mosque with three domes at its place.
He specifically referred to Hindu places of worship, including 'Sita rasoi', 'swargdwar' and the 'bedi' or cradle symbolising the birth of Lord Ram and also mentioned religious festivals during which Hindu devotees would throng for worship.
The account notes that in spite of the alleged demolition of the structure on which the Babri mosque was built, there still existed some superstitious cult in some place or other that continues to worship at the site.
Fr. Joseph Tieffenthaler, a rather pathetic Jesuit, survived the dissolution of the Society of Jesus in 1773 by working under the British auspices. When Portugal Monarch’s minister of State, Marquis of Pombal ordered the expulsion of all Jesuits in 1759 from the Portuguese controlled territories, Tiffenthaler left and travelled around North India.
He followed the entire course of the Ganges down to Calcutta, which had been newly established as a city by Job Charnock as a commercial settlement of the English. On returning to Agra in 1778, he received the news that the Society of Jesus, the religious order to which he belonged, had been suppressed by Pope Clement XIV. He stayed in India till his death in 1785.
Born at Bolzana in the Austrian Tyrol, he joined the JESUIT Order in 1729, and left Germany for Spain in 1740. In 1742 he sailed from Lisbon for Goa by way of the Philippines. He reached Goa in 1743. He was apparently intended originally for the Jaipur Observatory, but Raja Jai Singh’s death in 1743 cut short these plans.
He was accordingly sent to Agra to work at the Jesuit College there. Shortly afterwards, he began his wanderings to Mathura, Delhi, Narwar, Goa, Surat, Jodhpur, Ajmer, Jaipur, Gwalior, and to innumerable other places. In 1747, he commenced service as a priest at the Bourbon Colony at Narwar, where he remained for about eighteen years.
Tieffenthaler found himself in such financial straits that in 1756 he boldly decided to appeal for financial help to the ‘famous English nation so well known for their humanity, liberality and charity to the poor’. He travelled to Calcutta keeping surveys of the way.
Apparently he found the help he needed in Calcutta and settled in Oudh for the rest of his life, making Lucknow his head-quarters. Till 1771 he was continually on the move making astronomical observations and surveys, employing also one or more local assistants ‘versed in geography’, whom he sent lo explore the sources of the Ganga and the Gogra.
Tieffenthaler was a tireless explorer. ‘Next to the salvation of souls, and their conquest for God, nothing has afforded me greater pleasure than the study of the geographical position of places, the variations of winds, the nature of the soil, and the character and manners of the regions through which I am travelling’. The publication of his works makes interesting reading.
In 1771 the French Orientalist Anquetil Duperron published the First European translation of Zend Avesta. In 1776, Duperron received from Tieffenthaler (then at Faizabad) a packet of maps (including a 15-ft long map of Ganga) and some loose papers. Duperron very promptly prepared a treatise on these maps and in 1776 published it in the. Journal des Savants making it a point to mention Tieffenthaler’s unattended Copenhagen works.
This publication spurred the German astronomer and mathematician Joseph Bernoulli, at the time professor at Berlin. He obtained Tieffenthaler’s geographical work Descriptio Indiae from Copenhagen, and collaborated with Duperron on its translation and publication along with that of an expanded version of Duperron’s treatise. The work was published in three volumes in German (1785-87) as well as in French (1786-89). Bernoulli’s publication reached Rennell in England in time for Tieffenthaler’s work to be incorporated into his map of 1788.
On his death in Lucknow in 1785, he was buried in the Christian cemetery in Agra. Besides his native tongue he understood Latin, Italian, Spanish, French, Hindustani, Arabic, Persian, and Sanskrit. Tieffenthaler was one of the earliest European geographers and astronomers to write about India. He has made India immensely richer through his maps and writings. However he has largely remained unknown and forgotten geographer of India. (Ref.: Teotonio R. de Souza (ed) Discoveries, Missionary Expansion and Asian Cultures, Xavier Centre of Historial Research, Goa 1994).
Fr. Felix Raj, SJ
Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu aged 90, a Nobel laureate and a South African anti-apartheid prophet died on December 26, 2021. He was a tireless activist for combating white minority rule in South Africa. He is described as SA’s moral compass who fought against injustices of all kinds.
Desmond Tutu was an Anglican bishop and theologian, known for his work as a human rights activist. He was Bishop of Johannesburg from 1985 to 1986 and then Archbishop of Cape Town from 1986 to 1996, in both cases being the first black African to hold the position.He was head of the Anglican Church of the Province of Southern Africa.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama, the country’s first black leader, hailed Tutu as “a universal spirit” who was grounded in the struggle of liberation and justice in his own country, but also concerned with injustice everywhere.
Apartheid was a system of legislation that upheld segregationist policies against non-white citizens of South Africa. After the National Party gained power in South Africa in 1948, its all-white government immediately began enforcing existing policies of racial segregation.Bishop Tutu publicly endorsed an economic boycott of South Africa and civil disobedience as a way to dismantle apartheid.
Throughout the 1980s — when South Africa was gripped by anti-apartheid violence and a state of emergency, giving police and the military sweeping powers, Tutu was one of the most prominent Blacks able to speak out against abuses.
The buoyant, blunt-spoken clergyman used his pulpit as the Black bishop of Johannesburg and later the Archbishop of Cape Town as well as frequent public demonstrations to galvanize public opinion against racial inequity both at home and globally.
Bishop Tutu’a courage came from God and the Scriptures. He firmely believed, “….you saw how the scriptures say it is because we are created in the image of God, that each one of us is a God-carrier. No matter what our physical circumstances may be, no matter how awful, no matter how deprived you could be, it doesn't take away from you this intrinsic worth.”
In no small part due to Tutu's eloquent advocacy and brave leadership, in 1993 South African apartheid finally came to an end, and in 1994 the South Africans elected Nelson Mandela as their first black president. The honour of introducing the new president to the nation fell to the archbishop.
After the country’s first multiracial elections in 1994, the most important domestic agency created during Mandela’s presidency was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). This commission played a crucial role in South Africa’s journey towards freedom and democracy. President Mandela appointed Archbishop Tutu to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, investigating the human rights violations of the previous 34 years, committed by both sides in the struggle over apartheid.
“From the pavements of resistance in South Africa to the pulpits of the world’s great cathedrals and places of worship, and the prestigious setting of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the Archbishop distinguished himself as a non-sectarian, inclusive champion of universal human rights.”
In his commitment to peaceful change, Tutu chose the strategy of nonviolence. He was both a theorist who wrote about its effectiveness and a practitioner who has successfully applied it.His efforts in mass mobilization for nonviolence among the blacks of South Africa meant persuading the powerless that noncooperation and civil disobedience are more effective for reform than fists, guns or bombs.
An uncompromising foe of apartheid — South Africa’s brutal regime of oppression against the Black majority — Tutu worked tirelessly for its downfall.The 2007 Gandhi Peace Prize was awarded to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in recognition of his invaluable contribution towards social and political transformation and forging equality in South Africa through the Gandhian values of dialogue and tolerance.
The Dalai Lama and the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu were two of the world’s best-known spiritual leaders, and dear friends as well. It was a friendship rooted in a shared sense of joy, and of purpose: to foster and spread that joy around the globe, in order to address and counter its despair.
In their book ‘The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World’, published in 2016 by Cornerstone Publishers, they discuss the challenges of living a joyful life and we get an inside look at this one-of-a-kind spiritual friendship.
Tutu coined the phrase 'Rainbow Nation' to promote harmony among all the people of South Africa. The term describes post-apartheid South Africa, after its first fully democratic election in 1994.The phrase was elaborated upon by President Nelson Mandela in his first month of office, when he proclaimed: "Each of us is as intimately attached to the soil of this beautiful country as are the famous jacaranda trees of Pretoria and the mimosa trees of the bushveld – a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world."
Archbishop Desmond Tutu entirely dedicated himself to the service of others for the greater common good. He was a true humanitarian and a committed advocate of human rights. His work for truth and reconciliation was an inspiration for others around the world. With his passing away, we have lost a great man, who lived a truly meaningful life.
Fr. Felix Raj, SJ
History is not a mere collection of some chronological events; it is a chronicle of the defining moments that go on to shape the future; and these defining moments are always unassuming in their contemporary perspectives. One such defining moment was the dream to take the St. Xavier’s to newer heights, and the wheels were set in motion for establishing St. Xavier's University, Kolkata.
Like Rome was not built in a day, so also, the University did not come into existence on one fine moment. It was the culmination of numerous momentous events that served as milestones in the path of the establishment of this Jesuit University.
St. Xavier's University was conceived in 2011, when Father Felix Raj, SJ, the then principal of St. Xavier's College, Kolkata, along with the members of the St. Xavier's College Alumni Association envisaged 'SXC Vision 2020', which encompassed the establishment of St. Xavier's University. It was established with a desire to deepen human understanding and create an excellent institution for teaching - learning, scholarship, research, innovation and outreach and thus form young men and women of competence, commitment, conscience and compassion who will be sensitive citizens and selfless leaders of the future.
In January 2012, when the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee graced the Convocation of St. Xavier's College, she proposed to Fr. Felix Raj that the Jesuits start a separate University. The Government of West Bengal extended its valuable support to this venture by granting 17 acres of land for the University Campus to be built in New Town, Rajarhat. And we heard the ancient voice of SXC history beckoning us.
Subsequently, Fr. Felix Raj appointed a committee to prepare a DPR (Detailed Project Report). The committee had several to and prepared the draft of the St. Xavier's University, Kolkata Bill 2016. The Bill was later submitted to the Department of Higher Education, Government of West Bengal.
With the support of the Alumni Association the 'Vision 2020' project began. The Alumni Association and some individual alumni participated whole-heartedly and actively in this 'Vision 2020'. It has been a hard task and the perseverance has borne fruit by the blessings of the Almighty.
Mamata Banerjee laid the Foundation Stone on December 27, 2013, blessed by His Grace, Most Rev. Archbishop Thomas D'Souza in the presence of Fr. Jeyaraj Veluswamy, S.J., Provincial, Fr. Dr. John Felix Raj, S.J., Principal, Rev. Dr. Dominic Savio, S.J., Rector and many other distinguished guests and alumni.
The St. Xavier's University, Kolkata Act 2016 was unanimously passed by the West Bengal Assembly on December 15, 2016. The Hon'ble Governor, Shri KeshariNathTripathi gave his consent to the Act on January 16, 2017 and the West Bengal Government notified February 8, 2017 (Foundation Day) as the date of effect for the provisions of the St. Xavier's University, Kolkata Act 2016 to come into force.
The Government of West Bengal, particularly the Department of Higher Education was extremely cooperative. Mr. Vivek Kumar, the Principal Secretary of the H.E. Dept deserves our gratitude for his generous advice and wholehearted support to our new venture.
Fr. Jeyaraj Veluswamy, ex-officio Chancellor of the University appointed Fr. Felix Raj, S.J. as the first Vice-Chancellor of the University on January 15, 2017 along with Prof. Ashis Mitra as the first Registrar of the University. He took over the mantle immediately and formed the first Governing Board which had its first meeting on April 27, 2017.
St. Xavier's University, Kolkata was inaugurated on July 7, 2017 by Mamata Banerjee, in the presence of Mr. Lakshmi Niwas Mittal, the Chairman and CEO of Arcelor Mittal, Fr. Jeyaraj Veluswamy, S.J., the Jesuit Provincial and several other dignitaries.
The Chief Minister expressed her firm belief that 'St. Xavier's University will soon be of global significance, like the Harvard and the Oxford. The Jesuit principles of faith and service would enable St. Xavier's University to become one of the foremost educational institutions in the country, promoting excellence in education and research”. Mr. Mittal observed, “Today is a great day for Xavier's Fr. Felix Raj and I have been dreaming of this day for some years now, since we met in London in 2017. The dream has now become a reality.'
The Academic Block was named, 'Lakshmi and Usha Mittal Foundation Building', as a token of gratitude for the generous support of Mr. L.N. Mittal and family towards the construction of the building.
The first Academic session began on July 10, 2017 with two undergraduate courses in B. Com and B.M.S. and four postgraduate Courses in M.A. English, M. Com, M.A. Mass Communication, and MSW with a total strength of 400 students selected from among 3,500 applicants.
Xavier Business School (XBS) was inaugurated with the AICTE-approved fully residential MBAcourse on August 7, 2018. With the approval of the Bar Council of India (BCI) SXUK started the Xavier Law School (XLS) on July 6, 2019.
The University offers eight undergraduate courses, seven postgraduate courses and five Ph.D. programmes. It plans to open a Faculty of Science with Computer Science and Statistics and a course in Philosophy from July 2022.
Infrastructure plays an important role in the education sector. Buildings, good classrooms, libraries, auditoriums, laboratories, green-clean campuses, ICT facilities, residential facilities on campus etc. are crucial for a learning environment and to improve the performance of students. We believe that high-quality infrastructure offers a satisfactory environment, facilitates better teaching-learning, and improves student outcomes among other benefits
Within four years of its operation, SXUK has 3,000 students on the rolls. It is widely recognized as an important centre and destination for the young citizens of India eager to learn and advance in wisdom, and for faculty and researchers committed to the values of scholarship and innovation. Our focus now is on 'SXUK Vision 2025.’
SXUK is a Jesuit institution with one history but many stories; one fire with many sparks that kindles other fires. It is built on a long-standing Jesuit heritage and timeless tradition. We attest our motto of 'Nihil Ultra' upholding our Jesuit legacy, leadership and high standards, and our commitment to the onerous task of providing quality opportunities.
NIHIL ULTRA means nothing beyond. It is an endless journey in search of knowledge and wisdom. The spirit of Nihil Ultra, meaning without limit, infinite, unending reflects the spirit of our lives, the rhythm of our universe, the vision of our minds, the depth of our hearts; Nihil Ultra also means development, advancement, betterment, because only these are without limit.
Fr. Felix Raj, SJ
Pope Francis will canonise Devasahayam (meaning God’s help), together with six others, during a canonization ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica on May 15, 2022.
Blessed Lazarus, known as Devasahayam, was born into an affluentHindu Nair-caste family at Nattalam in 1712 in the present-day Kanyakumari District of Tamil Nadu. Converted to Catholicism by a Jesuit priest in 1745, Devasahayam Pillai took the name Lazarus.
His father VasudevanNamboodiri was working as a priest at Sri AdiKesavaPerumal temple in Thiruvattar. Devasahayam Pillai raised by his maternal uncle, was inculcated with Hindu beliefs and traditions from childhood.
Devasahayam's family had much influence in the royal palace of Maharaja Marthanda Varma, King of Travancore, and Devasahayam went into the service of the royal palace as a young man. His capabilities and enthusiasm did not go unnoticed in the palace, as he was soon put in charge of state affairs as an official under RamayyanDalawa, the Dewan of Travancore.
In 1741, Captain Eustachius De Lannoy, a Dutch naval commander, was sent on command of a Dutch naval expedition by the Dutch East India Company to capture Colachel, a port under the control of Travancore, and establish a tradingcentre there. In the battle of Colachel, the Dutch forces were defeated and the men were either killed or captured by the Travancore forces.
De Lannoy and the Dutchmen were later pardoned by the King, on condition that they serve in the Travancore army. De Lannoy later earned the trust of the King and went on to become the commanderof Travancore’s army.
It was during their influential roles under the King of Travancore that Devasahayam Pillai and De Lannoy became well acquainted. De Lannoy's Christian faith interested Devasahayam and De Lannoy enlightened him on the faith, leading to his conversion in 1745.
Pillai was married by this time to BargaviAmmal and she was also converted to Christianity by her husband. His wife was given the baptismal name of GnanapooAmmaal(equivalent to Theresa in Tamiland Malayalam). Some of Devasahayam Pillai's immediate family members were also received baptised later.
Church chroniclers say that the Brahmin chief priest of the kingdom, the feudal lords, members of the royal household and the Nair community brought false chargesagainst Devasahayam to the Dewan, RamayyanDalawa. Pillai was divested of his portfolio in the administration and was later accused of treason, and of divulging state secrets to rivals and Europeans.
He was later arrested and tortured for three years. After his execution orders were passed, Devasahayam Pillai was marched from Padmanabhapuram Palace to Aralvaimozhy by soldiers, over the period of a few days. Pillai was treated like a criminal and, as was customary in those days for criminals, his body was painted with red and black spots, and was intentionally marched through the streets by making him sit backwardatop a water-buffalo (the mythical vehicle or vahana of Yama, the lord of death in Hinduism).
As a method of torture, he was beaten every day with eighty strikes, pepper rubbed in his wounds and nostrils, exposed to the sun, and given only stagnant water to drink.
While halting at Puliyoorkurichi, it is believed by Christians that God quenched his thirst by letting water gush through a small hole on a rock, the very place where he knelt to pray. The water hole is still found in the compound of a church at Puliyoorkurichi, about 15 km from Nagercoil.
It is also believed that the leaves of a neem (Margosa) tree in the village of Peruvilai, to which he had been tied while being marched to Aralvaimozhy, cured illnesses of sick people in the village and its vicinity.
He was let off in the forest hills near Aralvaimozhy where he is believed to have begun deep meditations, and the people from the adjacent villages began visiting the holy man. Christian sources allege that at this time, high caste Hindus plotted to do away with Devasahayam.
It was at Kattadimalai that Devasahayam Pillai was shot dead on 14 January 1752. The IzhasaNaaduPandiyan soldiers in PattazhamVilai sent Kamanayakkampatti traders to search the forest; they found Pillai's decomposed body and carried it to the Kottar Church. His mortal remains were interred near the altar inside St. Francis Xavier's Church, Kottar, Nagercoil, which is now the diocesan Cathedral.
Devasahyam Pillai's clothes and other belongings are kept in a church in the small town of Vadakkankulam. On 21 February 2020, Pope Francis recognised a miracle attributed to the intercession of Devasahayam, clearing his way to canonisation (sainthood). Blessed Lazarus is the first lay person, a non-ordained member of the Church from India to be canonised.
Father John Felix Raj, SJ, Hon’ble Vice-chancellor of St Xavier’s University, Kolkata (SXUK)delivered the first Annual Christmas Lecture at Parasmani,Santiniketan on December 16, 2021. Parasmani, theCentre for Research and Social Outreachruns as a unit of SXUK in Ratanpally, Bolpur. Fatherspoke on ‘Christ in the eyes of Tagore’ before the august gathering.Teachers, noted civil society members and other dignitaries from both Santiniketan and Kolkata attended this lecture.
“Jesus and Tagore have many things in common. They were great spiritual leaders and teachers ... they had similar vision, ideas and teachings”,he said. While referring to Gurudev Tagore and his activities for the social development, he also referred to the patron saint of the University, St. Francis Xavier, whose philosophies highly match with the works of Tagore.
Fr. Felix Raj, in his delightful lecture referred to the 10-month stint of Tagore as a student at the St Xavier’s School, Calcutta. “He studied there until April 1876. He was uncomfortable with formal schooling and left….. The person who had the greatest impact on young Tagore was Father Alfonso de Penaranda, a Spanish Jesuit,” he added.
Thirty–six years later, at the age of fifty, Tagore acknowledged Fr. Penaranda’s influence in his autobiography. “His countenance had for me a strange attraction. Whenever I looked on him, his spirit seemed to be in prayer, a deep peace seemed to pervade him within and without,” Fr. Felix Raj quoted.
Fr. Felix Raj also threw light on the beginnings of VisvaBharatiand how on the request of Tagore, BrahmabandhabUpadhyay and BrahmachariRewachandAnimandanda shifted their ‘Srasvata-Ayatana’ school from Swami Vivekananda’s birthplace in SimlaStreetin Kolkata to Santiniketan.
While focusing on Tagore’s writings on Jesus, Fr. Raj referred to his two poems namely ‘The Child’ and ‘The Death of the King’. ‘The Child’ is the only poem Tagore wrote in English in 1930. The poem is in ten sections and blends the cultural contexts of the East and the West with profound prophecies. Tagore later translated it into Bengali as ‘Sisutirtho’. Tagore wrote ‘The Death of the King’ in 1939 at the age of 78.
While concluding, Fr. Vice-Chancellor said that the universal vision and the spiritual depth of Jesus Christ, the first century Teacher and Master are seen echoing in the verses of Tagore, the greatest poet of the twentieth century. ‘Tagore’s writings deeply reflect Jesus’ teaching,’ he added.
This annual lecture at Parasmani aimed to promote the research and social outreach programmes of SXUK at Santiniketan. Amid the lush greeneries, there are ample opportunities left for the development of downtrodden society.
Faculty members from both SXUK and VisvaBharati have been invited to workcollaboratively for innovation and research in the related sectors. Active participation of students from both institutions to co-assist their teachers have also been sought. The core team led by Fr. Mourlin Fernando, SJ is planning for collaborative programmes between these two esteemed institutions of repute.
The Synod on Young People:
The Synod of 2021 – 2023 is preceded by the 2018 Synod on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment. The 2018 Assembly, besides 267 Synod Fathers, was attended by 34 young people from different cultures and geographical areas. Inaugurating the Synod, Pope Francis said,‘We feel the strength of our young people and their presence emanates a positivity and enthusiasm capable of filling and gladdening not only this hall, but the whole Church and the whole world. They have in so many ways made their voices heard. They have wagered that it is worth the effort to feel part of the Church…’
‘The path of preparation for the Synod has taught us that the universe of the young is so varied that it cannot be fully represented, but they are certainly important sign of it. Your participation fills us with joy and hope…..The meeting between generations can be extremely fruitful for giving rise to hope. The prophet Joel teaches us this and I consider it the prophecy of our time: “Your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions” (Joel: 2:28) and they will prophesy.’
The Young reawaken the Synodality of the Church. To prepare and organize a Synod without involving young people would be senseless. Pope Francis’ drive will be, as seen by critics, ‘either his biggest victory or the worst failure of his papacy. And its success will depend to a large extent on how young people react to it.’
As St. Paul VI had said, “There is an intimate connection between the faith and life of young people. It is in their dissatisfaction and criticism of society … we see a ray of light shining” (December 2, 1970).
Youth are not an object, they cannot be used for marketing purposes, and they must be involved in the Church and her activities. Yes, it is true, we fail and struggle to understand their hopes, fears, questions, but we all have to learn from their untamable restlessness, both inside and outside the Church.
Young people are called to be “companions on the road with the fragile, the poor, those injured by life.” They have a responsibility to work to restore to the Church that instinct of happiness and fullness that makes her open to breath of the Spirit.
The Church is a canoe, as a Samoan, one of the 36 young synodal auditors present in the Synod observed. ‘In a canoe,’ he explained, ‘the elderly help choose the direction by interpreting the stars, while the young talk with them and row with power.’ For Francis, the young person is a prophet, but can truly prophesize only by listening to the dreams of those who go before them on the path of life.
An Empathetic Church:
A method of an Empathetic Church emerged strongly: there is a need to listen, there is a need to recognize reality. The first great step of this Synod with young people was that of listening to the many voices that had reached Rome since January 2017 via the constant consultations, the international meetings and the encounters on the digital networks. You cannot listen to young people unless you walk with them.
Hand in hand, young people and pastors from five spoke of the great challenges of the world, of the present and of the future. The Synod faced the novelties of the digital environment, and also the crucial themes like migration and the abusive mentality that needs to be opposed by every means. It spoke of the family and of intergenerational relations, bringing to the fore the “desire for challenge” that animates the young (FD 39). It spoke of work, social difficulties, persecution, social participation, the place of women and homosexuality.
The Synodal process was a great antenna that intercepted the messages and desires of the young people; it did so not with the coldness of an analyst, but with the warm eye and restless heart of the disciple. The Synod Aula saw the emergence of the “Empathic Church,” as one bishop described it. And this is reflected in the final document.
The Church, then, has to be a place where “all the questions are gathered; where, in the light of the Gospel, personal quest is righty encouraged” (J.M. Bergoglio’s message to educational communities, Buenos Aires, April 21, 2004). Together with the young, the pastors want to proclaim the Gospel not as an institution that always provides “a ready-made answer” – as the pontiff stated in a tweet sent during the synod – but as the Word who asks questions and enflames hearts.
A Synod on the synodal form of the Church was not just a thematic synod looking at one topic, namely “the youth.” Rather, the intuition of Francis was to choose a theme that would put into movement new dynamics, calling together young bishops from all over the world. Obviously, many episcopal conferences elected young bishops, or those who work directly with young people.
And so, after a month of daily meetings, something became clear: this was a Synod on the Church, on its mission, on its style of accompanying and discerning (FD 91-113), directly connected with the lesson of the Second Vatican Council, from GaudiumetSpes to Lumen Gentium. The young people have reawakened the synodality of the Church (FD 121). They helped the Church rediscover it. Only they could do so
Reflecting with young people on “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment” helped bring to light the synodal form of the Church, which is “participative and co-responsible” (Final Document 123). The Synod defined the Church as a “space for dialogue and witness of fraternity” (FD 1). And synodality has to be incarnated in the reality of the dioceses, into local situations, as was often repeated in the Aula. The appeal for the role of women in this process was heard loudly (cf. FD 148).
The final document is a “map to set out the next steps that the Church is called to take” (FD 3). In summary, the Synod “with” the young people turned out to be a Synod on the Church, the faithful people of God on the path of history in the world. And it indicated a clear path for its reform (cf. FD 118).
The Synodal path began with a solemn opening with Pope Francis at the Vatican on October 9 and 10 with a time for encounter and reflection, followed by a moment of prayer and the celebration of the Eucharist.
The synodal journey will culminate in October 2023 with the celebration of the Assembly of Bishops in Rome, according to the renewed procedures established in 2018 by Pope Francis in the Constitution Episcopaliscommunio. The theme of this Synod is‘Communion, Participation, and Mission.’
With this convocation, Pope Francis invites the whole Church to question itself on synodality: a decisive theme for the life and mission of the Church. It is the two-year journey (2021-2023) of reflection and sharing of the whole Church.
As the preparatory Document for a Synodal Church explains, "By walking together, and together reflecting on the journey made, the Church will be able to learn from what it will experience which processes can help it to live communion, to achieve participation, to open itself to mission."
Pope Francis is pushing a much-needed reform drive, called “synodality,” that puts ordinary people at the core of the hierarchical Catholic Church. He is the champion of this reform. The drive will be, as seen by critics, ‘either his biggest victory or the worst failure of his papacy. And its success will depend to a large extent on how young people react to it.’
Pope Francis is reasonably fond of using the term “Synodality” which is for him ‘a process of consultations between clerics and lay people that leads to a consensus, devolution of decision making, a dialogue.’ But he insists it's not like a parliament with majority voting.
While a Council is a committee that leads or governs (e.g. city, institution), a Synod is an ecclesiastical assembly or meeting of Bishops and other Church leaders to consult and resolve important Church matters.
Synodality refers to the involvement and participation of the whole People of God in the life and mission of the Church. Synodality, in essence is about journeying together. This happens through ‘walking together’ and ‘listening to one another’ in order to hear what God is saying to all of us. It is at the heart of what the Church is all about, as the People of God on pilgrimage in the midst of the world.
As Christopher Lamb of The Tablet observes, “I’d define synodality as a new way of being the Church. It’s a church that puts ordinary people at the center. It’s a church in motion that stops looking inward and looks out. It’s less bound up with its bureaucracies and protocol.”
Pope Francis is increasingly pushing his bishops to adopt “synodality,” despite warnings from critics that it could break the Church in two. Synodality means ending the Church’s age-old tradition of top-down leadership and holding open discussions at all levels to decide the future. Autocratic clerics would have to be more cooperative, and lay people would assume more responsibility.
Probably no other world leader has appealed so often to young people to help bring about change — he literally invites them to “make a mess” — and the success of his reform could depend on how much they join in the process.
Pope Francis wants to ensure that synodality remains on the Church’s agenda for several years to come, even if he, now 84, is no longer around to promote it.
The Synodal journey consists of three phases, namely, 1. Diocesan phase: consultation and participation of the People of God; 2. Continental phase: dialogue and discernment; and 3. Universal phase: the bishops of the world meet in Rome in October 2023.
- Each diocese will imitate preparatory Consultation with the help of a Questionnaire and a Vademecum sent by the Secretariat. Vademecum is the Official Handbook for Listening and Discernment in Local Churches prepared by the Secretariat in Rome.
- A core team will be appointed within the diocese to coordinate and plan consultation and participation;
- Much of the richness of this listening phase will come from discussions among parishes, lay movements, schools and universities, religious congregations, neighborhood Christian communities, social action, ecumenical and inter-religious movements, and other groups.
- Report of activities to be sent to the diocesan team, to be collated and sent to CBCI and then to Rome by April 2022;
- These reports will help to draft the first Instrumentumlaboris to be shared with particular churches by September 2022;
Continental phase: dialogue and discernment
This will mark the beginning of the second phase, scheduled to take place from September 2022 to March 2023.
This initial InstrumentumLaboris will be the “working document” for the seven continental meetings: Africa (SECAM); Oceania (FCBCO); Asia (FABC); Middle East (CPCO); Latin America (CELAM); Europe (CCEE) and North America (USCCB and CCCB).
These seven international meetings will in turn produce seven Final Documents that will serve as the basis for the second InstrumentumLaboris, which will be used at the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October 2023.
The aim is to engage in a dialogue on the Instrumentumlaboris. The Secretariat will then draft a second Instrumentumlaboris, based on the responses. Publication is planned for June 2023.
Universal phase: “One listening to the others; and all listening to the Holy Spirit.”
Bishops and auditors will gather with the Holy Father Pope Francis in the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome in October 2023 to speak and listen to one another on the basis of the Synodal Process that began at the local level. The aim of the Synod of Bishops is not to overshadow the diocesan, episcopal conference/synod of Oriental Churches, and continental phases, but rather to discern at a universal level the voice of the Holy Spirit who has been speaking throughout the entire Church.
As the preparatory document puts it, “The fullness of the synodal process can only truly exist if the local churches are involved in that process,” the document states, “For a genuine participation of the local churches, there also must be the involvement of other ecclesial bodies in this process, such as the Synods of the Eastern Catholic Churches, the Councils and Assemblies of the Churches sui iuris, and Episcopal Conferences, with their own national, regional, and continental entities.”
To be continued
Pope Francis – PM Modi meeting on Saturday, October 30, is termed as a historic event. After the meeting Modi tweeted, with pictures of him embracing the Pope:“Had a very warm meeting with Pope Francis. I had the opportunity to discuss a wide range of issues with him and also invited him to visit India.”
It is said Pope has accepted Modi’s invitation and is looking forward to visiting India.
The last Pope’s visit to India was in 1999 when Pope John Paul visited the Country.
This was the 1st meeting between the Pope and an Indian Prime Minister in more than two decades. The last small meeting was in 2000 when the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited the Vatican and met Pope John Paul II.
In 2017, Pope Francis visited Myanmar and Bangladesh but could not visit India.
The Indian Prime Minister was attending G20 summit of major world economics held in Rome.
Modi’s invitation to the Pope is significant in the context of concerns about increase in discrimination and violence against religious minorities in India, including Christians.
Indian Christians and their leaders are very glad at Modi’s meeting with the Pope and hope this will pave the way for better understanding and treatment of minority communities.
St Xavier’s University, New Town, kolkata has decided to introduce courses in statistics and computer science from 2022 based on feedback from those working in industry, academics, parents and students.
The courses with specialisation in data analytics would be introduced at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
The university sought feedback over a month and a half starting from mid-July from the parents of current and former students as well, over digital platforms.
Vice-chancellor Father Felix Raj said the respondents gave their opinion on four areas: relevant to industry requirements; in demand with the students of the city and state; innovative with regard to curriculum design and pedagogy and relevant to current educational trends.
After analysing the data, the university has decided to start a faculty of science with courses in statistics and computer science, he said.
The university will also start a UG and PG course of philosophy as planned earlier, Fr. Vice- Chancellor said.
So far the university ran courses in commerce, management, law, mass communication and humanities.
The course that was high on demand among the respondents was statistics...,” he said.
“Courses such as sociology, BEd, Comparative Religion and foreign languages were also suggested,” added Vice/ Chancellor.
“Among the respondents 60 per cent were students, 13 per cent were industry professionals. The respondents included 16 per cent academicians and 10 per cent parents,” said an official official.
The university was inaugurated in 2017 and within four years, it had 3,300 students on its rolls.
India today has listed SXUK as one of the emerging universities in India with potential for high ranking.
Courtesy: The Telegraph
St. Xavier’s University Kolkata Alumni Association (SXUKAA) organised a COVID Vaccination Camp in collaboration with Siddhartha Shankar Ray Foundation at St. Xavier’s School, Gurap on Sunday, 29th August, 2021 for the benefit of the rural and tribal population of the area. A total of 248 people received their dose of Covishield Vaccine on the day.
The camp was blessed by Fr. John Felix Raj, SJ, Hon’ble Vice Chancellor, St. Xavier’s University, Kolkata and President, SXUKAA.
Fr. Vinay Kerketta, SJ, Headmaster, St. Xavier’s School, Gurap, Fr. Mourlin Franklin, SJ, Assistant Professor, Xavier Business School, Mr. Rajesh Chirimar, Secretary, Siddhartha Shankar Ray Foundation and Member, Board of Administrators, Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation and Mr. VatsalChirimar, Hony. Secretary, SXUKAA were also present on the occasion.
Fr. John Felix Raj commended the efforts of SXUKAA. He particularly appreciated the fact that an effort was made to reach out to the rural areas. Fr. Felix Raj also expressed his gratitude to Siddhartha Shankar Ray Foundation for sponsoring the camp and to AMRI Hospital for the medical arrangements. Mr. Rajesh Chirimar expressed his gratitude to Fr. John Felix Raj, SJ and the Jesuit Community of Gurap for the opportunity. He also assured his full support towards more such endeavours.
It is noteworthy to mention that in the last few months, St. Xavier’s University, Kolkata and St. Xavier’s University Kolkata Alumni Association have undertaken a number of initiatives in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 including setting up of a Safe-Home inside the University campus and various vaccination drives.
On May 20, Jesuits and their co-workers across the world commenced the Ignatian Year (May 20, 2021 – July 31, 2022) - the 500th anniversary of St. Ignatius’ conversion – that fateful day when Ignatius, a swaggering “caballero” and the soldier in the service of the Spanish king, Ferdinand, transformed into Ignatius the pilgrim for Christ.
A Cannonball Moment is when purpose meets a new path. It is the understanding of the ‘why’ that drives what we are, and what we do. In that moment, life takes on a new meaning and our purpose becomes clear. It is a moment that inspires fulfilment in all areas of life and changes the future by asking us to be fully human and fully alive.
While defending the citadel of Pamplona against the French, Ignatius was hit by a cannonball on May 20, 1521; his legs were shattered— a serious fracture on his right leg and a lot of damage to his left. Because they admired his courage, the French soldiers carried him back to recuperate at his home, the castle of Loyola, rather than to prison.
Seriously wounded, he was transported to his family's castle, where he was forced to lie in convalescence for many weeks. During this time, his brother’s wife gave him a book on the life of Jesus and another one on the lives of the saints to read.
This event brought to an end the first period of his life, during which he was, on his own admission, ‘a man given to the vanities of the world, whose chief delight consisted in martial exercises, with a great and vain desire to win renown’. He stood just under five feet two inches in height and had in his youth an abundance of hair of a reddish tint. He delighted in music, especially sacred hymns.
Ignatius, the youngest of 13 children of a noble and wealthy family, became a knight in the service of Antonio Manrique de Lara, Duke of Nájera and Viceroy of Navarre, who employed him in military undertakings and on a diplomatic mission.
He spent hours dreaming. He dreamt of exploits in his service to his king and in honour of the royal lady, whom he was in love with. But he would also dream about the exploits he could do to imitate St. Francis of Assisi and St. Dominic.
The cannonball event is celebrated in a special and meaningful way throughout the world. The event brings three ideas to mind: firstly, during his convalescence, Ignatius let his imagination wander. He imagined himself following the footsteps of the saints and finally became a pilgrim for Christ.
Secondly, Ignatius’ conversion did not occur in a magical instant. It wasn’t a ‘lightning strike on the Road to Damascus’ sort of moment. Ignatius’ conversion took plenty of time and required lots of discernment.
Finally, Ignatius’ ‘quarantine’ sparked a movement that’s still going strong today. It is a journey to create a new heaven and a new earth. God knows the ‘big picture’, a picture that is impossible for us to see from our limited perspectives. Isaiah (55:8–11) describes it beautifully:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are my ways higher than your ways
And my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain and snow come down from heaven,
And do not return there until they have watered the earth,
Making it bring forth and sprout,
Giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
It shall not return to me empty,
But it shall accomplish that, which I purpose,
And succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
And so it was with Ignatius. Ignatius suffered the hardship of the cannonball’s injury. The result?A life of gratitude.Eyes that saw God in all things. A life surrendered in trust to a God who has all good in store for us even when those cannonball moments hit.
Fr. J. Felix Raj, SJ
Fr. J. Felix Raj, SJ
It is with a deep sense of pain and anguish I write these lines at the unfortunate death of Fr. Stan Swamy in judicial custody on July 5. As if the world has not suffered enough in these trying times of the invisible enemy, we are beset by the heart-breaking news of the sudden demise of tribal rights activist, Jesuit Fr. Stanislaus Lourduswamy.
Fr. Stan is no more. His struggle is over. Ours begins now. God has bailed him out from the cruel world. His tragic death is rightly termed as a case of judicial murder. He organised and supported the Adivasis in their battle for their own lands. Fr. Stan Swamy was falsely branded as Maoist and condemned by vested interests.I remember my association with him and his prophetic voice. People of good-will across the world are disturbed and angry.
A small group of Jesuits including Fr. Frazer Mascarenhas and Fr. Joe Xavier conducted the solemn funeral Mass at St. Peter’s Church Bandra, Mumbai on July 6 and his mortal remains were cremated at Shivaji Park. His ashes will be repatriated to his home state of Jharkhand. The funeral service was streamed live on St Peter’s YouTube channel.
The entire country is in a state of disbelief at the unfortunate passing away of a Jesuit religious committed to the cause of tribal development. His bail petition was rejected a number of times, and this proves the inherent weakness of a section of the judiciary. His life and endurance has left a message for the world.
The Jesuit Order is devastated by the loss of its illustrious and exemplary member, and I express my deep condolences to all the Jesuit fraternity and Fr. Stan's family members. I am confident that the Jesuit Society and his friends will take forward the legacy of Fr. Stan's mission for justice and liberation, particularly among the underprivileged and the tribals.
A bench of Justices S SShinde and NJ Jamadar of Bombay High Court said, “We record with heavy heart that Dr Ian Dsouza, medical director of Holy Family Hospital informed us that Stan Swamy passed away at 1.24 pm today.” Dr Dsouza said the cause of the death was pulmonary infection, Parkinson's disease and post Covid-19 complications.
As Jawhar Sircar has tweeted, 'What terrible act did this ailing octogenarian Jesuit priest do to be led to die like this? Have Indian State and a section of the Judiciary become so inhuman? Who else will take responsibility but the State?’
‘A caged bird can still sing,’ Fr. Stan Swamy wrote from the jail some months ago. Fr. Swamy belonged to the Jesuit province of Jamshedpur. He had been working through various civil rights organisations for over 50 years and was based out of Ranchi.
‘Can neither walk, write nor eat. Taloja Jail has brought me to this Situation’, Fr Stan Swamy told the Court. Father Swamy was presented on Friday, May 21, before the Bombay High Court from Taloja Jail via video-conferencing.
Fr. Swamy told the Court, he would rather ‘suffer and possibly die’ than get treatment at a state-run hospital in Mumbai. ‘I have suffered much while in prison’.
‘I was brought here eight months ago. When I came to Taloja, my whole system, my body was still very functional. But during these eight months, I have gone through a steady regression of all bodily functions’, Fr. Swamy said.
There should be international uproar against such violation of human rights. The massive protests against police brutality of George Floyd across the world in May 2020 are still fresh in our minds. I remember what Floyd's daughter said, 'Daddy changed the world’. I wish and pray that Fr. Stan's death in custody inspires us to bury the draconian lawsand inhuman treatment of prisoners.
Fr. Stan Swamy had been in custody in Taloja prison for the past nine months in connection with the 2018 Bhima Koregaon case. The 84-year-old octogenarian’s health had deteriorated and the Jesuits had recently appealed to the Maharashtra government seeking medical attention for Fr. Swamy.
Fr. Swamy was arrested on October 8, 2020 by the National Investigation Agency from Ranchi, Jharkhand, and taken to Mumbai the next day. He suffered from multiple ailments and had fallen down in the jail several times.
For the past few months, Fr. Swamy was not keeping good health. He was being constantly shifted from the jail to the JJ Hospital and back. Some of the ailments reported include the imbalance of limbs, lumbosacral degeneration and some degree of hearing loss. Urgent surgical assistance was recommended for the hearing loss and physical assistance owing to his general weakness. Pursuant to the Court’s 19th May order, Fr. Swamy was shifted to the Holy Family Hospital where he breathed his last.
Fr. Swamy told the Court that while he had been examined by doctors at JJ Hospital, he had not been given a chance to explain his complaints. He emphasised that he was not able to perform daily activities such as walking, writing and bathing without assistance anymore. He mentioned that he had to be fed, and his appetite has greatly reduced. He stated that his hearing was greatly reduced, and he was not able to converse normally anymore.
“Father Stan Swamy spent a lifetime working for the marginalised and excluded. He defended the rights of adivasis being exploited in their homeland Jharkhand. He was one of the gentlest and kindest Jesuit activists. In spite of charges levelled against him, he displayed an indomitable strength with moral conviction and deep commitment to truth
May his soul rest in peace.
By: Amy B. Rosenfeld and Vincent R. Racaniello
"Worry About Human Behavior, Not Covid Variants."
News headlines and health experts on social media are sounding the alarm over another variant of the coronavirus, this time Delta, claiming it is much more contagious and perhaps more lethal than any other variant seen so far. It’s easy to understand why: New variants of the virus continue to emerge, and cases are rising in many countries. But whether new variants pose a unique or substantial risk is still unknown, and as virologists, we are concerned that misunderstanding variants and the risk they pose can cause confusion and panic.
As the coronavirus spread globally, its genome changed — mutated — as expected for any virus. These mutations may affect the virus’s “fitness,” its ability to reproduce and spread. Some mutations weaken a virus, some have no measurable effect, and some make it stronger.
As a virus becomes more fit, it will outcompete less fit viruses — and Delta is not the first variant that has beat its predecessors and competitors in certain areas. There’s the Alpha variant that first became dominant in Britain, and the Gamma variant that first became dominant in Brazil. Such changes are not unique to the coronavirus. Increased viral fitness happens during every flu season and is why some flu variants may circulate more widely than others.
Just because a variant displaces another does not necessarily mean it is more infectious or more deadly to the people who become infected with it. As has been true for the past year and a half, human behavior is far more important in shaping the course of the pandemic than any variant.
There are many ways that a virus can mutate to increase its fitness. While there’s been much focus on changes in the virus’s spike proteins, which allow the coronavirus to invade cells, a virus can also sustain changes in other proteins. Such changes can allow the virus to replicate more easily or evade the immune system, for example. They may even allow the virus to persist longer in nasal passages.
Determining what impact a given mutation has requires substantial laboratory research. Sometimes, early conclusions about a particular mutation can be incorrect. When the first variant of note, D614G, emerged last winter, some scientists believed changes to the virus’s spike protein made the virus more contagious. But subsequent research showed that was not the case. Even so, each time a new change in the spike protein is identified, many experts presume the variant is more virulent and “of concern.” But whether any variant is biologically more transmissible or causes more severe illness has not been rigorously tested.
Right now, conclusions about variant transmissibility are based largely on how widespread the variant is. A variant might be deemed more contagious because it makes up a higher proportion of new infections. Delta is now the most common variant in India and Britain, accounting for more than 90 percent of new cases, and over 20 percent of new infections in the United States. Not all virologists, including us, agree that measurements like this are sufficient to declare a variant more transmissible or more contagious. What’s clear is Delta may be the fitter and dominant variant for now.
To determine increased transmissibility, the ability of the virus to be passed on from one person to another, requires more than measuring infection rates. It may require experiments in people, which are unethical to conduct.
Changes in people’s activities contribute to the rise of infections — such as travel, failure to mask and to adhere to physical distancing policies, and most important right now, insufficient vaccination — and these are often not considered in public discussion of variants.
The huge infection numbers in India, Nigeria and other places are not necessarily because of a particular variant, but in large part because of breached containment measures and crowded populations with poor public health infrastructures. If people are in situations in which they can be infected with the coronavirus, it’s highly likely they will be infected with the fittest variant in the area. Right now, in many places, that’s Delta.
What’s important to understand is that people infected with the variants do not necessarily develop more severe disease or die more frequently from the coronavirus, and it is essential to get vaccinated.
The coronavirus vaccines that have been developed are very effective in preventing severe disease and death caused by all variants, including Delta. Vaccines might not always prevent infections, but they make a substantial impact in reducing virus spread and risk for serious health problems. People who are unvaccinated are at a great risk for infection and harm from any variant of the coronavirus.
During a pandemic, a time of unknowns, people want immediate answers to the question, what does this mutation mean? Providing the correct answers may require years of research. For now, there’s little evidence that the virus is on an endless trajectory of increased transmission and virulence. Today’s vaccines can still end this pandemic.
Authors: Amy B. Rosenfeld and Vincent R. Racaniello are virologists in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. Dr. Rosenfeld has studied viruses in the laboratory for two decades. Dr. Racaniello is a co-author of the textbook “Principles of Virology” and the host of the podcast “This Week in Virology” (“TWiV”).
Published in: The New York Times, Date: June 27, 2021
By Vatican News staff writer
Marking 109 years since the founding of the International LabourOrganisation, Pope Francis sent a video message in which he stressed the importance of the rights of the worker, each worker in each form of work, especially as we come out of this Covid-19 pandemic in hope of economic recovery.
Opening his video message on the occasion of the 109th meeting of the International Labour Organisation, Pope Francis noted that in recent months, the organization has done “a commendable job of dedicating particular attention to our most vulnerable brothers and sisters”.
Seeking economic solutions for all
During this persistent crisis, we should continue to exercise “special care” for the common good. The Pope noted that in the last year “we saw unprecedented loss of employment all over the world” making the crisis an economic one at a global level. As we look for solutions to returning to a greater post-pandemic economic activity, Pope Francis asked that we avoid any form of discrimination, including “consumerism” or “nationalism”. “We must look for solutions that will help us build a new future of work based on decent and dignified working conditions” always “promoting the common good”.
On this note, the Pope continued, we are called to prioritise our response to workers on the margins of the labour market who are still affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Migrants and vulnerable workers
Among these are migrants, notes the Pope, who arevicitms of “this philosophy of exclusion that we have become accustomed to imposing in our societies”. Migrants, in fact, along with other vulnerable workers and their families “usually remain excluded from access to national health promotion, disease prevention, treatment and care programmes, as well as financial protection plans and psychosocial services”. Pope Francis warned that this exclusion complicates dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, increasing the risk of outbreaks which pose an additional threat to public health.
Pope Francis then went on to express a few of his key concerns. Firstly, he began, “it is the fundamental mission of the Church to appeal to everyone to work together” to serve the common good “whose goal is, above all, to build and consolidate peace and trust among all”.
He added that the most vulnerable "cannot be set aside in the dialogue that should also bring together governments, businesses and workers".
The Church as builder of bridges
In this regard, he continued “it is essential that all denominations and religious communities engage together”. The Church has a long experience of participating in these dialogues… and offers herself to the world “as a builder of bridges to help create or facilitate them”, said the Pope. It cannot be that one who has fewer rights or more rights dialogues with one who does not. The same level of rights and obligations thus guarantees a serious dialogue.
Protection according to vulnerability
The Pope then noted that “it is also essential to the mission of the Church to ensure that all people receive the protection they need according to their vulnerability: illness, age, disability, displacement, marginalisation or dependency”. Social protection systems, which themselves are facing major risks, must be supported and expanded to ensure access to health services, food and basic human needs, said the Pope.
Respect of fundamental rights
He went on to add that “the protection of workers and the most vulnerable must be ensured through the respect of their fundamental rights”, including the right to organise in unions. That is, explained the Pope, “organising in unions is a right”. The most vulnerable “should not be negatively affected by measures to accelerate a recovery focused solely on economic indicators” said the Pope. He added that “here we also need a reform of the economic system, a deep reform of the economy. The way the economy is run must be different, it must also change”, he said.
As we seek to reshape our future…
“This virus spreads by thinking that life is better if it is better for me, and that everything is fine if it is fine for me, and so we begin and end by selecting one person over another, rejecting the poor, sacrificing those who have been left behind, on the so-called 'altar of progress'. It is a truly elitist dynamic, of building up new elites at the cost of discarding many people and many peoples”.
The Holy See and ILO
Looking to the future, it is fundamental that the Church, and therefore the action of the Holy See with the ILO, support measures that correct unjust or incorrect situations that condition labour relations and that completely subjugate them to the idea of “exclusion”, or that violate the fundamental rights of workers, said the Pope.
He noted that we have been reminded by the pandemic that there are “no differences or boundaries between those who suffer”. “We are all fragile and, at the same time, all of great value. We hope that what is happening around us will shake us to our core. The time has come to eliminate inequalities, to cure the injustice that is undermining the health of the entire human family”, said the Pope.
Regulation in work
It is the conviction of the Holy See that work, and therefore workers, can count on guarantees, support and empowerment if they are protected from the "game" of deregulation, said the Pope. Legal norms must be geared towards employment growth, decent work and the rights and duties of the human person, he added. Understanding work
In order to promote this common action, it is necessary to understand work correctly, noted the Pope. The first element of this understanding involves understanding work in all its forms, “including non-standard forms of employment”. The Pope noted that work goes beyond what is traditionally known as "formal employment". The lack of social protection for workers in the informal or hidden economy and their families makes them particularly vulnerable to clashes and they "cannot rely on the protection offered by social insurance or social assistance schemes aimed at tackling poverty".
The Pope then turned his thoughts to women. "Women in the hidden economy feel the impact of Covid-19 in many ways, from isolation to extreme exposure to health risks". He noted that a lack of accessible day-care centres leaves workers' children "exposed to an increased health risk because their mothers have to take them to the workplace or leave them unattended at home". "It must be ensured that social assistance reaches the hidden economy and pays special attention to the particular needs of women and girls", said the Pope.
A dimension of care
The second element for a correct understanding of work is that it must include the dimension of care. "Work that does not take care, that destroys Creation, that endangers the survival of future generations, does not respect the dignity of workers and cannot be considered decent", said the Pope. Whereas, "work that cares, that contributes to the restoration of full human dignity, will help to ensure a sustainable future for future generations".
Every people have their own culture, affirmed the Pope. "It is time to finally free ourselves of the legacy of the Enlightenment, which associated the word culture with a certain type of intellectual formation and social belonging. Every people has its own culture and we have to accept it as it is, said the Pope.
Seek inspiration in political charity
Addressing the participants, Pope Francis asked that political leaders and all those who work in governments "always seek inspiration in that form of love that is political charity".
He reminded businesspeople that their true vocation is "to produce wealth in the service of all", business abilities are a gift from God and "should always be clearly directed to the development of others and to eliminating poverty, especially through the creation of diversified work opportunities".
Sometimes, in speaking of private property we forget that it is a secondary right, which depends on this primary right, which is the universal destination of goods, said the Pope.
The Pope then called on trade unionists and leaders of workers’ associations "not to allow themselves to be 'straitjacketed', to focus on the real situations of the neighbourhoods and communities in which they operate, while addressing issues related to broader economic policies and 'macro-relationships'". Trade unions must also guard the walls of the city of work, like a guard who watches over and protects those inside the city of work, but who also watches over and protects those outside the walls, said the Pope.
Finally, Pope Francis reminded all participants that the Church supports them. "She walks beside you", he said.
After China's clampdown on Tiananmen vigils, an opportunity exists to speak the truth in the face of persecution or compromise
UCA News: Published: June 09, 2021 03:41 AM GMT
For the first time in 32 years, Hong Kong's Victoria Park was in darkness last Friday. Brave Hong Kongers lit candles in other parts of the city in memory of the Tiananmen Square massacre, but the traditional gathering ground for June 4 was forbidden territory this year, guarded by no fewer than 7,000 police officers instructed to prevent anyone from entering.
The city that until recently was the only place under Chinese sovereignty where June 4 could be commemorated has now gone the way of mainland China, where a state-enforced collective amnesia pervades over this anniversary. Public remembrance of the 1989 massacre of pro-democracy activists by the Chinese regime is now a crime in Hong Kong, punishable by up to five years in jail. The organizers of last year's Victoria Park rally are all in jail.
One of the few remaining bulwarks — or perhaps oases of truth — against this indoctrination is the Catholic Church. Or, to be more precise, seven Catholic parishes. In those seven churches, Mass was celebrated for the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre and their families at 8pm — the time the Victoria Park vigil usually began.
The decision by these seven churches to celebrate Mass was of vital importance, spiritually and symbolically. They could easily have gone the way of others in Hong Kong Diocese, erring on the side of fear and caution. But it is at moments of real darkness that the light of truth — and faith — shines most brightly, and quite rightly they recognized their moral responsibility to open their doors to that light.
A protest or a vigil may no longer be legal in Hong Kong but religious worship has not yet been banned. As Porson Chan, a project officer for the diocese's Justice and Peace Commission, said, "celebrating a Catholic Mass is a religious activity protected by our basic law," referring to Hong Kong's mini-constitution.
Not surprisingly, one of the celebrants of a memorial Mass was Hong Kong's courageous bishop emeritus, Cardinal Joseph Zen, a long-time outspoken critic of Beijing. In his homily, he said: "We dedicate this memorial Mass to remember the brothers and sisters who sacrificed their lives for our freedom and democracy in Tiananmen Square and the nearby alleys 32 years ago. What they demanded at that time was a clean government. What they longed for was a truly strong China. Their sacrifice was for us, and we embrace their unfulfilled hope: a just and peaceful society, a people respected by the regime, and a truly great China respected by the world."
Speaking not long after the Hong Kong government imposed a "patriotism" test on legislators and civil servants, which in effect means a test of loyalty not to China but to the Chinese Communist Party, Cardinal Zen highlighted a true patriotism, describing those killed in 1989 as "the patriotic martyrs" who deserve respect and love. Like them, he added, "we do love our country, our hopes never die." Despite dark times for Hong Kong and China today, he concluded: "We refuse pessimism. We will not lose hope."
Of course, despite that hope and the fact that the seven churches were merely exercising their right to celebrate Mass, Cardinal Zen warned that "we do not know how tomorrow's newspapers will label our get-together this evening", adding clearly: "For us, it is a memorial Mass."
The day before the anniversary, signs appeared in front of the churches warning them not to celebrate the memorial Mass. The signs, which included images of Cardinal Zen, warned against "evil cults" and "causing chaos in the name of paying tribute; splitting religion with hands full of blood" — language straight out of the Chinese Communist Party's playbook. The instigators of these warnings cited the draconian national security law, suggesting that public functions commemorating the anniversary of the 1989 massacre would violate this legislation.
Another memorial Mass was celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing, who reminded the congregation at St. Francis' Church in Kowloon that when Jesus' disciples wavered, Jesus told them that "the greatest difficulty in life is the challenge of faith."
Even Hong Kong's new bishop-elect, Jesuit provincial Father Stephen Chow Sau-yan, while taking a lower-key approach, said at his press conference three weeks ago that he would pray for the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
So what does this mean for the Church? Three things.
First, it means the Church has a vital role to play, as one of the few remaining "free" spaces in Hong Kong. It must be the guardian of truth, justice and freedom, and it must defend these values appropriately, with wisdom, and at every opportunity. It should never forget that so many Catholics — and Christians of other traditions — have been at the forefront of Hong Kong's human rights struggle, not least the "father" of the democracy movement Martin Lee, media entrepreneur Jimmy Lai, student activists Agnes Chow and Joshua Wong and law professor Benny Tai.
It should remember those, like Lai and Chow, in prison for their beliefs. And it should constantly prod the conscience — if one exists at all — of Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who calls herself a Catholic and yet has willingly been Beijing's number one enabler in dismantling Hong Kong's freedoms. The Church must be a prophetic voice in Hong Kong.
Second, however, it means that the Church is now in greater danger. The reality, however, is that would be the case whatever it did. As freedom itself is dismantled in Hong Kong, religious freedom will sooner or later be compromised. The question for the Church is whether it will take it lying down or stand up to defend freedom of religion and conscience. In facing the danger, the Church will need to weigh up the right balance of courage and wisdom. But it should never compromise on its freedom to speak the truth.
And third, the international community now has a greater responsibility to monitor religious freedom in Hong Kong. Pope Francis and the Vatican should re-evaluate their silence on human rights in China and Hong Kong. If it becomes more dangerous for the Church in Hong Kong to speak out, Rome should step in.
Tribal rights activist Jesuit Fr. Stan Lourduswamy, popularly known as Stan Swamy is in custody in Taloja prison for the past eight months in connection with the 2018 BhimaKoregaon case. The 84-year-old octogenarian’s health had deteriorated and the Jesuits had recently appealed to the Maharashtra government seeking medical attention for Fr. Swamy.
Jesuit Fr. Joseph Xavier said that Fr. Swamy was taken to JJ hospital on May 18th evening but brought back at night. “He was put through some preliminary tests, not for Covid, but for other conditions like Parkinson’s, fever, stomach upset.”
“Fr. Swamy was vaccinated for coronavirus in the jail despite being unwell and weak.“Father Stan told me that he was given antibiotics, but he was very weak,” Xavier said. “The situation inside Taloja prison is not good, with Covid-19 cases rising.”
Last week, families and friends of activists arrested in the BhimaKoregaon case had written to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, urging the immediate release of the undertrials in light of the threats to their life and health posted by the devastating second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
Swamy was arrested on October 8, 2020 by the National Investigation Agency from Ranchi, Jharkhand, and brought to Mumbai the next day. He suffers from multiple ailments and has fallen down in the jail several times.
‘A caged bird can still sing,’Fr. Stan Swamy wrote from the jail some time ago. Fr. Swamy belongs to the Jesuit province of Jamshedpur. He had been working through various civil rights organisations for over 50 years.
“Can neither walk, write nor eat. Talojia Jail has brought me to this Situation,” Fr Stan Swamy Told the Court. Father Swamy was presented on Friday, May 21, before the Bombay High Court from Taloja Jail via video-conferencing.
Senior advocate Mihir Desai appeared for Father Swamy, while ASG Anil Singh and PP JayeshYagnik appeared for the NIA and state government respectively.
The medical report, submitted pursuant to the Court’s 19th May order, mentioned that the petitioner’s poor health largely had to do with age. The committee did not find any neurological defect or psychopathology. Some of the ailments mentioned in the report include the imbalance of limbs, lumbosacral degeneration and some degree of hearing loss. It recommended urgent surgical assistance for the hearing loss and physical assistance owing to his general weakness.
Fr. Swamy told the Court that while he had been examined by doctors at JJ Hospital, he had not been given a chance to explain his complaints. He emphasisedthat he was not able to perform daily activities such as walking, writing and bathing without assistance anymore. He mentioned that he had to be fed, and his appetite has greatly reduced. He stated that his hearing is greatly reduced, and he is not able to converse as normal anymore.
When the Court asked whether he would like to be admitted to JJ Hospital for the general treatment of his health, he replied in the negative. He is of the opinion that no hospital will be able to improve his condition, and he would rather suffer in jail than be admitted to another hospital.
The Court clarified that it was willing to issue orders to transfer him to JJ Hospital or any other hospital of his choice for the general treatment of his health, which was largely deteriorating due to his advanced age. He replied in the negative again, stating that the only relief he sought was interim bail. He wished to be sent home to Ranchi, where he could be with people close to him.
Desai, appearing for Father Swamy, informed the court that he did not wish to return to JJ Hospital because he had already been there twice and did not think that those facilities could help him.
Father Swamy proceeded to tell the Court that his co-accused were worried about his health, and he believed that his condition would gradually worsen if he was kept back at Taloja Jail or any other hospital.
Desai further submitted that the Taloja Jail Hospital lacks MBBS doctors, nurses and compounders; it simply has three ayurvedic doctors, who are not equipped to treat the petitioner adequately.
Fr. Swamy told the Court, he would rather "suffer and possibly die" than getting treatment at a state-run hospital in Mumbai. “I have suffered much while in prison.”
Desai also submitted to the Court that being a priest, Father Swamy was likely to adopt an approach along the lines of “father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” However, he prayed that the Court grant him the liberty to file an application to be shifted to a hospital for immediate treatment as soon as Father Swamy agreed to the same.
"I was brought here eight months ago. When I came to Taloja, my whole system, my body was still very functional. But during these eight months, I have gone through a steady regression of all bodily functions," Fr. Swamy said.
The bench, however, said that the court was hearing arguments on the point of hospital admission only and not on interim bail.
It further said that Fr.Swamy's health problems seemed to be general in nature and were probably just "age-related."
The bench granted Fr. Swamy’s advocate the liberty to approach the High Court again if Fr. Swamy changed his mind about hospital admission.
The High Court directed the Taloja prison to follow all the recommendations made by JJ Hospital on providing health facilities and treatment to Fr. Swamy while in prison.
Agriculture is the mainstay of the Indian economy, contributing about 21% of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Around 60% of India’s population depends on agriculture, and about 41% of the total labour force is associated with it.
Agriculture ensures food security for the country and also provides raw materials to industries. India earns substantial foreign exchange by exporting agricultural products. Agricultural development is, therefore, a precondition for our national development. If schools and colleges are the temples of knowledge and wisdom, villages are the temples of prosperity.
Our Farmers, who are the backbone of our nation’s welfare, are facing various problems in their farming activities like Low income due to the absence of organised markets, inadequate transportation and storage facilities, scattered and small landholdings and so on. These problems have forced them into frequent protests and often resorting,suicides.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, the number of suicides committed by farmers and farm labourers stood around 12,000 per annum prior to 2015. Data on farmers’ suicide have not been published since 2015.Their suicide rate accounts for 10% of the total suicides committed in India.
As many as 248 Indian farmers have died during their recent protests in and around Delhi, according to the data collected by SanyukatKisanMorcha (SKM). The 2020–2021 farmers' protest is an ongoing protest against the three farm laws, which were passed by the Parliament of India in September 2020.
The laws are: The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act; The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act; and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act.
The three contentious laws that will change the way India's farmers conduct business have sparked one of India's biggest protests and a continuous standoff with the government.
How many farmers are there in India? This is an enduring question with no definite answer. There are multiple estimates, by the government and by private bodies, depending on policy implications and government schemes. In a speech in September 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi noted that 85% of India’s farmers own small tracts of land.
Modi was defending the new controversial farm laws and trying to make a larger point on why collective contract farming – which, one of the three laws seek to allow – would be beneficial for India’s farmers.
But, if one wereto ask the government about the number of farmers or the translation of 85% into numbers, one may not get an easy answer. This is because the Indian government itself does not quite know how many farmers are there in India, or indeed, who really is a farmer.
When a pertinent question was posed in the Rajya Sabha by BJP MP Ajay Pratap Singh in November 2019, the Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Minister, Narendra Singh Tomarresponded not by providing the number of farmers but by providing data for the number of operational landholdings in the country. The government’s ambiguity has serious implications for the design and beneficiaries of the schemes meant to help them, including its flagship PM-KISAN (Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi).
Since September 2020, tens of thousands of protesting farmers have been demanding the repeal of the laws. They have been camping out on highways in the outskirts of Delhi. Nearly a dozen rounds of talks between the 30-odd farmer unions and the government have yielded no results.
Pro-reform economists have largely welcomed the move, saying the new laws will help improve farm incomes, attract investment and technology, and increase productivity. But angry and worried farmer groups see the laws as unfair and exploitative.
They are worried about the Minimum Support Price (MSP) assurance. The MSP assurance has emerged as the main sticking point in their protest. There is an apprehension among them that allowing outside-Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC), trade of farm produces would lead to lesser buying by the government agencies in the approved mandis.
While the government says the farm laws open up new avenues for the farmers to increase their income, the protesting farmers say the new laws will make them vulnerable to private traders. The protesting farmers say the new laws would thus make the MSP system irrelevant and they would not have any assured income from their farming.
After a 16-month discernment process, the Society of Jesus (Jesuit Order) has announced its four Universal Apostolic Preferences for the next 10 years.
‘The Universal Apostolic Preferences are a call to conversion. They are an invitation to rethink how we live, how we work and how we relate to the people we serve.Theyinvite all Jesuits and their collaborators in mission to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and inspire them to take action.’
With those words, Fr. General Arturo Sosa took the floor at the Discernment and Leadership meeting in Rome, Italy. Before a group of 50 leaders of Jesuit ministries across the world, both Jesuits and lay colleagues, Fr. General explained his vision for the “Universal Apostolic Preferences” and how they will guide the Society of Jesus.
Father General is asking Jesuits and collaborators to focus on how our current and future ministries can integrate the Universal Apostolic Preferences to address the real-world issues that they embrace.
In a letter to the whole Society, Jesuit Superior General Fr Arturo Sosa said the Preferences are the result of a process that was guided by the Holy Spirit at each stage.
‘Our desire has been to find the best way to collaborate in the Lord’s mission, the best way to serve the Church at this time, the best contribution we can make with what we are and have, seeking to do what is for the greater divine service and the more universal good.’
The UAPs, a mission from Pope Francis released to the Society of Jesus almost two months ago, set forth a series of Preferences that Jesuits are supposed to use in their prayer and discernment on mission for the next 10 years. However, Fr. Sosa was adamant about not seeing the UAPs as a playbook or checklist of ministries and activities that are in fashion, but rather as an accent or tone that affects ALL Jesuits and Jesuit collaborators no matter in what ministry they may currently be involved.
The Universal Apostolic Preferences are the fruit of a process of discernment lasting almost two years. All Jesuits were invited to take part and in addition our mission partners. It concluded with a confirmation from Pope Francis in a special meeting with Fr General Arturo Sosa.
The Preferences give a horizon, a point of reference to the whole Society of Jesus. They capture our imaginations and awaken our desires. They unite us in our mission. The new Preferences are four areas vital for our world today. The Society of Jesus will pay special attention to them in the next ten years. We invite you to learn more and take action with us! We want to make a Gospel difference.
With these universal apostolic preferences, we resolve to concentrate and concretize our vital apostolic energies during the next ten years, 2019-2029. We accept them as a mission of the Church through Pope Francis, who has approved them by confirming the communal discernment that was undertaken by the apostolic body.
Each Jesuit, each community, each Jesuit institution, each province and conference of provincials will discern how to implement these preferences and take action based on that discernment.
1. SHOWING THE WAY TO GOD
The Jesuit mission is to show the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises and discernment. We are the instruments God uses to bring people to Him.
2. WALKING WITH THE EXCLUDED
We are called to walk with the poor, the outcasts of the world, those whose dignity has been violated, in a mission of reconciliation and justice.
3. JOURNEYING WITH YOUTH
We are called to accompany young people in the creation of a hope-filled future.
4. CARING FOR OUR COMMON HOME
We are called to work and collaborate, with Gospel depth, for the protection and renewal of God’s Creation. We are the ones to protect the environment and the universe.
What is our Response? Let us Reflect, Share, Discern and Respond.
We had a meeting of province alumni associations on UAPs at SXUK campus. Each association will make concrete plans for one year - oneprogramme for each UAP (Total of four activities) to be planned and executed by the associations during the year.
This year, all Jesuits and their co-workers across the world will celebrate the Ignatian Year on May 20, 2021: the 500th anniversary of Ignatius' "cannonball" moment. This can be a time for reflection and renewal, an opportunity to think about our calling and to focus our desires in order to become part of the movement to discern a better future, accompany young people in building a hope-filled future for our communities and our planet.
Celebrations will conclude on the Feast Day of St. Ignatius, July 31, 2022.
This Ignatian Year presents an opportunity for all Jesuits and their co-workers to stress the core mission of our higher educational institutions to form men and women for and with others. Let us invite our students to think not only about the profession they are preparing for, but the way that profession can be a vehicle for making the world a more just and humane place.
Let us use this year to help them move from their preoccupation with what they will do with their lives to why and how they might live for some larger purpose. How will their talents and the opportunities they are receiving in a Jesuit institution meet the needs of a world that is calling out for healing and reconciliation?
The Minneapolis City Council approved on March 12, 2021, Friday a $27 million civil settlement with the family of George Floyd over the Black man's death in police custody last year. The city council voted 13-0 to approve the settlement, which directs $500,000 to be used to benefit the George Floyd Memorial site at 38th Street and Chicago.
The intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in South Minneapolis is the site of George Floyd's death and has become a gathering place for people to pay their respects and remember him. It is an important space for racial healing and justice among many members of the community and visitors from all over. This area, also called George Floyd Square, pays tribute to his life and is a powerful way for the Minneapolis community to rally around the importance of Black lives.
Floyd family attorney Ben Crump called a news conference and ina a prepared statement, said it was the was the largest pretrial civil rights settlement ever, and sends a powerful message that Black lives do matter and police brutality against people of color must end.
Floyd was declared dead on May 25 after Derek Chauvin, a former officer who is white, pressed his knee against his neck for about nine minutes. Floyd's death sparked sometimes violent protests in Minneapolis and beyond and led to a national reckoning on racial justice.
Joe Biden has been closely monitoring the trial of the police officer charged with murdering George Floyd. He publicly condemned the “horrific killing” of George Floyd, which he says serves as a reminder to all Americans that racism still courses deeply through the country’s bloodstream.
“George Floyd’s life matters. It mattered as much as mine. It matters as much as anyone's in this country. At least it should have,” Biden said during a livestream.
Pope Francis has spoken of his “great concern” at “the disturbing social unrest” in the United States following “the tragic death of George Floyd,” which he attributed to “the sin of racism.”
“We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life,” – Pope Francis
Fr. J. Felix Raj, SJ
About 2,075 million Christians all over the world, belonging to all denominations, will celebrate Easter on 4 April, which marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his death by crucifixion and burial in Jerusalem about 2,020 years ago. Easter is victory over death, a celebration ofnew life. It symbolizes the ultimate victory of good over evil.
Easter is preceded by Lent, a forty-day period of fasting, prayer and penance, representing the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, withstanding the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his public ministry of teaching and preaching.
Easter marks the conclusion of the Holy Week; it is the last day of the Easter Triduum of Maundy Thursday (commemorating the Last Supper Jesus had with His apostles), Good Friday (the day of His crucifixion and death) and Easter Sunday (the day of His Resurrection).
Whyisthe day of Jesus’s death called Good Friday? It may seem counterintuitive to many people. His death was, in reality, a passage from life to eternity. His death symbolises His ultimate sacrifice for others and thus represents the cleansing of the Earth from wickedness, the deadness of despair and despondency.
This Easter, I remember as many as 248 farmers who have sacrificed their lives and all the other farmers who are protesting against the three Central Farm Laws. I remember my fellow Jesuit, octogenarian Fr. Stan Swamy, a tribal rights activist from Ranchi, in Jharkhand, who has been refused bail on March 22 by the special Court in Mumbai.
I remember the people of Myanmar who are protesting against the military coup. The civilian death toll in the security forces’ crackdown on protesters has gone up to 320. Crimes against humanity continue in Myanmar and in other parts of the world daily.
I remember Sister Ann Rose Nu Tawng, the brave Catholic nun in the city of Myityina, Myanmar, who knelt down and begged a group of heavily armed police officers to spare "the children" and take her life instead.
I remember the 2.8 million people in the world and 162 thousandin India diseased due to Covid 19. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) predicts thatthe ‘crisis is far from over’. Its second wave is here and the third is expected with grave consequences.
Easter is the manifestation of the banquet of life, of ordered festivity. The power of Resurrection makes human beings, and the entire universe, new. It makes people strong and transforms them into spiritual beings. With the spiritual power one is able to recognise God’s footsteps as, ‘He comes, comes, ever comes’.
Jesus preached, ‘There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for his friends’ and he lived according to his teachings. Easter promotes the sense of taking brave steps and laying down one life for a humanitarian cause. Are we ready?
I wish my fellow Kolkatansa joy-filled Easter. May this season usher in peace, justice and harmony in our lives and relationships.
We denounce bloodshed and deadly violence in Myanmar. We express solidarity with the Myanmar people’s aspirations for an end to military rule and the restoration of democracy.
Pope Francis 'kneels on Myanmar streets' begging for end to violence
Francis appeals for dialogue to end the bloodshed after the deaths of least 180 people since the coup in Myanmar.
As security forces in Myanmar have increased their crackdown on civilians, with disappearances, detentions and the killing of peaceful protesters, Pope Francis appealed for an end to violence and the start of dialogue.
"Once again, and with much sorrow, I feel compelled to mention the tragic situation in Myanmar, where so many people, especially young people, are losing their lives for offering hope to their country," the pope said at the end of his weekly general audience on March 17.
Without mentioning her name, the pope recalled the iconic gestures of Kachin nun Sister Ann Rosa Nu Tawng, who made headlines when photographs were published of her kneeling before police seeking to shield peaceful protesters and of her extending her arms begging police not to shoot or hurt anyone.
"I, too, kneel on the streets of Myanmar and say, 'Stop the violence,'" Pope Francis said. "I, too, spread wide my arms and say, 'Make way for dialogue.'"
Bloodshed "resolves nothing," he said, repeating his call for dialogue to begin.
The United Nations, human rights groups, bishops and Catholic organizations have condemned the actions of the Myanmar military, which has continued to crack down on protesters since its Feb. 1 coup.
Sister Nu Tawng’s brave act in confronting security forces went viral in late February when she was lauded worldwide as an icon of peace.
The military’s bloody crackdown has continued against pro-democracy protesters undeterred by arrests, torture and lethal force.
In a rare gesture, Myanmar’s most powerful Buddhist monks’ association has called on the junta to end violence against protesters and pursue dialogue.
I met Mamata Banerjee for the first time in 2010 when she was minister of railways. The bishop of Asansol had requested me to take him to her to get some advice on an issue related to a church in Asansol.
I made the appointment and we were there at her residence in Kalighat.
One of her officers told me that she had gone out for some urgent work and that she would be back soon. He laid out two chairs on the veranda and made us sit.
She returned after 15 minutes and seeing us on the veranda, scolded the officers for making us sit at the entrance. Then she took us to her office and enquired about the issue. The bishop narrated the problem and Mamata immediately called up the local officer in Asansol and asked him to look into the matter and resolve the problem at the earliest. While we returned from her house, the Bishop remarked, “Mamata is really a go-getter, vibrant and a leader of the people.”
St Xavier’s College has constructed twin hostels at Beck Bagan, central Kolkata — one for girls and the other for boys — with the generous support of the alumni in 2014. I was the principal of the college at that time.
One Sunday morning, the director of the hostels called me up to inform me that the Mother Dairy workers were digging up a place right in front of the girls’ hostel gate to open a booth.
When contacted, the supervisor said the work had been sanctioned by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation under the order of the mayor. I contacted the mayor, only to be told that the work had been approved by the ministry concerned and that it could not be stopped.
Finally, I contacted Mamata Banerjee, who was the chief minister of West Bengal.
She understood the issue and resolved it in 10 minutes.
The mayor later called up to inform me that the work had been suspended.
In January 2012, Mamata Banerjee was the chief guest for the SXC Convocation. While we were sitting on the stage, she asked me whether we could upgrade SXC to a university or start a St Xavier’s University.
I told her that a new university could be possible if her government could give us up to 25 acres of land. She immediately agreed and promised to look into it.
At the same convocation, on her humble request, and on behalf of the College Alumni Association, I conferred on her the Honourary Membership of SXCKAA. With the blessings of Mamata Banerjee, SXC was allotted 16.64 acres of land at Rajarhat for the establishment of SXUK. Mamata Banerjee is truly a Xaverian in spirit who has the rare quality of helping with utmost care.
Mamata Banerjee has been attending the Christmas gatherings organised by the Alumni at SXC since 2010 without fail to deliver her Christmas message.
The 2012 Christmas gathering was a special one for all Xaverians. Mamata came as a Santa, pulled out a document from her bag, handed it over to me and said with a broad smile to all who were assembled, “I have given a letter to Father and he will inform you what it contains.” It was the document for 16.64 acres of land in Rajarhat.
“We want St Xavier’s College to become a university. Your alumni are spread across the globe. We want it to grow bigger and bigger and become globally known,” she said.
I said: “There could be no better gift than this for our Vision 2020. Her wish will always go with us in our efforts to start the Jesuit University.”
Mamata did not go back empty-handed. I was honoured to hand over to her the Honorary Membership card of the Alumni Association.
“I am obliged, grateful and overwhelmed to have been granted Honorary Membership of the Alumni Association.
St Xavier’s remembered my request made almost one year ago in January. I will always remember this gesture and be a true Xaverian,” Mamata said with deep emotions.
Mamata is known to be a charismatic and prolific leader who has a “dashing and robust personality” and has been described as “astounding”, “decisive”, "vibrant”, “vivacious”, “practical”, and a “keen, ambitious” leader in India.
She would be described as a “people person”. She was instrumental in bringing about a change in Bengal. Despite being an influential and powerful leader, she lives and exhibits a humble and simple lifestyle. She is deeply caring for a peaceful and harmonious environment for the good of all.
- Fr. J. Felix Raj, SJ, is vice-chancellor of St Xavier’s University, Calcutta
By Cindy Wooden
To consolidate peace and ensure progress, the government and people of Iraq must never treat anyone as a second-class citizen and must work each day to promote harmony, Pope Francis said. “Fraternal coexistence calls for patient and honest dialogue, protected by justice and by respect for law,” he said March 5, addressing Iraqi President Barham Salih, other government leaders and diplomats serving in Iraq.
Pope Francis and Iraqi President Barham Salih arrive for a meeting with authorities, civil society leaders and members of the diplomatic corps in the hall of the presidential palace in Baghdad March 5, 2021.
The appointment with civic and cultural leaders at the presidential palace in Baghdad came shortly after the pope landed in Iraq for his first foreign trip in 15 months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although he, his entire entourage and the journalists traveling with him had all been vaccinated against the coronavirus, they all wore masks during the four-hour flight from Rome.
Lowering his mask briefly to address reporters, he said he felt a “duty” to visit the Middle Eastern country, which had experienced so much death and turmoil since the 2003 invasion by a U.S.-led coalition. He put his mask back on to make his way around the plane and personally greet each member of the media.
The pope held a brief meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi in a lounge at the Baghdad airport before heading into the city under tight security. Outside the airport, in five or six large groups along the highway, hundreds of Iraqis waved Vatican or Iraqi flags as the pope passed. Forced to use a bullet-proof car, the pope rode to the presidential palace in a black BMW 750i; the sedan was flanked most of the way by security officials on motorcycles, but as the motorcade neared the palace, it was accompanied by officers on horseback.
St. Xavier’s University’s Second convocation ceremony was held on the New Town university campus where only medal winners were awarded prizes and degree certificates.
St Xavier’s University, Kolkata aims to form men and women who will be “global agents of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam — the world is one family”, Vice-Chancellor Father Felix Raj said in his convocation address on Saturday, February 6.
The VC later said: “Since the world is one family, everybody has a right to comment on atrocities committed in any part of the world and that comment should be made in the right spirit and seen in the proper perspective and right spirit.”
“We must all be ready to introspect, we must all be ready to speak out, we must all be ready to listen to one another and we must all be humane,” he said.
In his convocation address, Father Felix Raj said: “In this temple of knowledge we aim to form men and women who will be global agents of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam — the world is one family”. Therefore, the Jesuit dictum ‘give us your child, we will return to you a man, a citizen of the country and a child of God’.”
Explaining why global agents of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakamwere needed, he later told the writer: “Today we are fragmented on the basis of caste, colour and religion. Then there are very many divisive forces and there is a lot of violence, inhuman behavior and expressions. The world is going through a period of turmoil. That is why we need to produce agents of social change who will go out as ambassadors of peace and harmony.”
As the world is one family, therefore anything inhuman or an atrocity in any part of the world affects everybody, Father Felix Raj said. “What happens in the United States influences everybody. What happens in India also influences many people across the world. It is economically true, socially true, and politically true. One is bound to have an opinion. You need to go beyond political division, fragmentation of colour and countries and see the comment in the proper perspective and right spirit. The opinion should be heard.”
“There used to be this spirit of oneness, beyond borders, beyond boundaries. We need to build human families and societies,” Father Felix Raj said.
He presented the annual report of the university on its academic, research and extra-curricular activities carried out in the last one year despite the pandemic.
Only 76 of 451 graduating students (the first three rank holders in each subject) were present at the ceremony and were awarded medals according to their ranks. The others will go to the campus in a staggered way later to collect their certificates.
The event was live-streamed on digital platforms.
Sanghamitra Bandyopadhyay, the director of the Indian Statistical Institute, was the guest of honour for the ceremony and delivered the convocation address on ‘the Role of University Students in India Today’.
Dr. Bandhyopadhyay said, “Students, you are product of St. Xavier’s. Xavier’s carries a deep history in its name, it commands great respect in academia and expectations are high. You are stepping out into the world with most portent weapons, weapons of knowledge and confidence instilled in you by your teachers and parents. Use these weapons wisely and for the benefit of the society...”
Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar was the chief guest. He congratulated the graduating students and said, Students, today’s event will be an unforgettable one for you, because you celebrate your success which you have earned through hard work and dedication. You are the torch-bearers of St. Xavier’s; your performance will be judged by your contribution to society at large… I appreciate the big positive change St. Xavier’s is bringing about in the lives of many by imparting quality education...”
Courtesy: The Telegraph, Kolkata
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons enters into force on Friday, 22 January 2021. Pope Francis’ words at Hiroshima, which defined even the possession of nuclear weapons as immoral, are the latest act of a long magisterium spanning the twentieth century up to the present day.
There are two dates, in particular, that serve as an indelible reminder to humanity. On 6 and 9 August 1945, two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. A few moments after the explosions, terrifying toxic clouds engulfed the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, leaving innumerable victims and piles of rubble. Those harrowing scenes are and remain the tragic backdrop for the heartfelt appeals made by the Pontiffs in recent decades — words and prayers that point to a single, desired objective: nuclear disarmament.
During his Apostolic Journey to Japan, on the occasion of his Address at the Peace Memorial in Hiroshima on 24 November 2019, he emphasized, “The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral, just as the possessing of nuclear weapons is immoral…” He then posed the question: “How can we speak of peace even as we build terrifying new weapons of war?” It is a question that even to this day, despite the tragic events in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, continues to challenge humanity and humanity’s conscience. It is as tragic as the image from a photo taken in 1945, which Francis had reproduced on a card: a 10-year-old boy carrying the body of his little brother who was killed in the atomic bomb explosion at Nagasaki.
Pope Francis has renewed this exhortation, adding his own voice to that of his predecessors. After his apostolic trip to Japan in November 2019, on the flight from Tokyo to Rome, the Pope repeated that “the use of nuclear weapons is immoral.” For this reason, he added, “this must also be included in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.” Not only the use, but the possession of nuclear weapons is immoral, he said, “because an accident [due to] possession [of nuclear weapons], or the madness of some government leader, the madness of an individual, could destroy humanity.” Pope Francis repeated his call for global disarmament at his General Audience on 20 January 2021. Referring to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, he explained that it is the “first legally binding international instrument explicitly prohibiting these weapons.”
Gallagher: Dialogue for a world free of nuclear weapons
Pius XII: only the cry of humanity will remain It was a time violently shaken by the detonation of the atomic bomb: the Second World War revealed, before its conclusion, the tragic power that nuclear energy can achieve in the military sphere. The atomic bomb, as Pope Pius XII pointed out on 8 February 1948, is “the most terrible weapon that the human mind has ever conceived.” On 24 December 1955, in his Christmas radio message to the world, Pope Pius forcefully described “the spectacle that would be presented to the horrified eye” after the use of nuclear weapons: “Entire cities, even the largest and richest in history and art, annihilated; a black blanket of death over the pulverised matter, covering countless victims with limbs burnt, twisted, scattered, while others groan in spasms of agony.”
John XXIII and the world on the brink of the abyss On 25 October 1962, a few days after the opening of the Second Vatican Council, the world was on the brink of a third world war. Moscow and Washington seemed to be one step away from using the atomic bomb. From the microphones of Vatican Radio, Pope John XXIII made an appeal to avert the threat of conflict posed by the Cuban missile crisis: “With your hand on your conscience may each one hear the anguished cry which is raised to the skies from all parts of the earth, from the innocent children to the elderly, from the people of the communities: Peace, peace!” Consequently, Pope John points out in his 1963 encyclical letter Pacem in terris, “people are living in the grip of constant fear. They are afraid that at any moment the impending storm may break upon them with horrific violence.”
Paul VI: the nuclear threat is the most frightening one
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was approved on 1 July 1968 — an encouraging moment, though not a decisive one. A few days earlier, on 24 June 1968, Paul VI reiterated the urgency of “putting an end to the nuclear arms race.” “We know that the Treaty, in the opinion of many, has many intrinsic limitations that keep some governments from giving it their unconditional adherence.” But, he added, “it is nonetheless an indispensable first step toward further measures in the field of disarmament.”
John Paul II: a moral revolution is needed In an instant, the world and its fragile balance can be upset forever by atomic weapons. In 1980 Pope John Paul II, addressing UNESCO, noted that “geopolitical reasons, worldwide economic problems, terrible misunderstandings, wounded national egos, the materialism of our age, and the decline of moral values have led our world to a situation of instability, a fragile equilibrium…” One year later, on 25 February 1981, Pope John Paul observed, “Our future on this planet, exposed as it is to nuclear annihilation, depends upon one single factor: humanity must make a moral about-face.”
Benedict XVI: Peace is based on trust The perspective of those governments that measure their strength and security on atomic weapons is “fallacious”… and “fatal.” Instead, the world must pursue the path of disarmament. Benedict XVI also stressed on multiple occasions that nuclear weapons affect the future of humanity. During his General Audience on 5 May 2010, he said, “Progress toward a collaborative and secure nuclear disarmament is closely connected with the full and rapid fulfilment of the relevant international commitments. Peace, in fact, rests on trust and on respect for assumed obligations, not only on the balance of power.”
Let us promote A Nuclear-Weapons-Free World.
The Province Coordinator of Kolkata Province- Rev. Fr. Dr. J. Felix Raj, SJ, called the meeting to order.
At the request of PCA, Siddhartha Kr Tripathi led the congregation for a prayer to seek blessings of Almighty God for His divine guidance for a successful meeting
The meeting started with a Welcome Address by PCA- Rev. Fr. Dr. J. Felix Raj, SJ, (also President of St. Xavier’s University Kolkata Alumni Assn) extending a warm welcome to all the delegates and acknowledged thankfully of all the alumni associations of the Province assembled with their representatives.
All the delegates introduced themselves. Representative from each association was invited to make presentations on the activities of their respective alumni associations. The summary of the presentations is given in Annexure C.
PCA Rev. Fr. Dr. J. Felix Raj, SJ, addressed the gathering on the 4 Universal Apostolic Preferences, which are common guidance for the Society of Jesus, namely:
He called upon each association to make concrete plans for one year: One programme/project for each UAP (Total of four activities) to be accomplished by the association.
It was also decided that in order to bring cohesiveness and furtherance in the bonding of the alumni associations of Kolkata Province, some project towards one of the aforesaid objectives can also be adopted jointly.
Way forward: it was agreed that to keep the pace of the momentum on this, a periodic meeting of the alumni representatives be held. Delegates were requested to deliberate within their respective associations ways and means of their plans towards the project/plan of activities.
Next Meeting: It was decided to hold the next meeting on Saturday, April 17, 2021. The alumni associations (school and college both) proposed to host the said meeting and the house acknowledged the gesture.
Jeetu Rampuria, nominee of Kolkata Province to JAAI- proposed vote of thanks by offering gratitude to Almighty Lord for the blessed occasion and expressing thankfulness to all the Fathers and fellow alumni members for the overwhelming response and active participation, hospitality and all help extended by St. Xavier’s University and its Alumni Association for organizing the meeting, PCA Fr. Dr. J. Felix Raj, SJ, for the guidance and leading the meeting. The vote of thanks was carried with loud applause.
The meeting was preceded with a hearty lunch fostering fellowship over the sumptuous spread and terminated with heartwarming tea spiced with post meeting exchange of notes laced with humor filled gaiety.
Approval Required for Religious Institutes
In an Apostolic Letter, "Authenticumcharismatis,” issued in the form of a 'motuproprio', Pope Francis amends the canon law of the Oriental Churches to require the Apostolic See’s approval for the valid recognition of new institutes and societies of eparchial law.
Pope Francis has modified Canon 579 of the Code of Canon Law concerning the erection of institutes of consecrated life. With this amendment, new institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life must receive written approval by the Apostolic See, which alone has final judgment as regards their erection. Previously the law stated that Diocesan Bishops could establish new institutes with prior consultation with the Holy See.
force on 10 November 2020 and will be subsequently published in the official commentary of the ActaApostolicaeSedis.
Referring to the Apostolic Exhortation EvangeliiGaudium. § 130, the Apostolic Letter notes that “a sure sign of the authenticity of a charism is its ecclesial character, its ability to be integrated harmoniously into the life of God’s holy and faithful people for the good of all.” The faithful, therefore, have the right to be alerted by their pastors about the authenticity of the charism and the reliability of those who present themselves as founders after genuine discernment.
The Apostolic Letter further underlines that “it is right to respond to the gifts which the Spirit inspires in particular Churches, welcoming them generously with thanksgiving” but it is also necessary to “avoid the imprudent emergence of institutes which are useless or lacking sufficient vigor” (Decree Perfectaecaritatis, §19).
Discernment about the ecclesiality and reliability of charisms is an ecclesial responsibility of the pastors of particular churches. This, the Apostolic Letter notes, is expressed in "care for all forms of consecrated life and in the task of evaluating the necessity of establishing new institutes of consecrated life and new societies of apostolic life."
Ecclesial recognition of new institutes
The Apostolic See has the responsibility to accompany the Pastors in the process of discernment leading to the ecclesial recognition of a new institute or society of diocesan right. This is in line with the Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata §12, which affirms that the vitality of new institutes and societies “must be judged by the authority of the Church, which has the responsibility of examining them in order to discern the authenticity of the purpose for their foundation and to prevent the proliferation of institutions similar to one another, with the consequent risk of a harmful fragmentation into excessively small groups.”
“The act of canonical erection by the Bishop transcends the diocesan sphere alone and makes it relevant to the wider horizon of the universal Church,” the Apostolic Letter notes. Though established in the context of a particular Church, they serve as a gift to the Church which “is not an isolated or marginal reality, but deeply a part of her. It is at the heart of the Church, a decisive element of her mission” (Letter to Consecrated Persons, III, 5).
The amended canon 579 reads:
Episcopidioecesani, in suoquisqueterritorio, instituta vitae consecrataeformalidecretovalideerigerepossunt, praevialicentiaSedisApostolicaescripto data.
A rescript of the same law which was promulgated on 1 June 2016 stipulated that prior consultation with the Holy See was to be understood as necessary for the valid erection of a diocesan institute of consecrated life, on pain of nullity of the decree of erection of the institute itself. The new motuproprio makes explicit that Diocesan Bishops can only validly erect institutes of consecrated life by a formal decree, and only when written permission has been given by the Apostolic See.
Fr. J. Felix Raj, SJ
This Christmas, I remember my fellow Jesuit, Fr. Stan Swamy. December 25 is his 79th day in jail. I wonder how he is celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ at Taloja. As a true Jesuit, I am confident thathe isreaching out to the fellow-prisoners and sharing with them the joy of the new-born divineBaby Jesus, and if the jail authorities do not ask him to appeal to the court for permission, he would distribute some sweets and wish them all a FelizNavidad.
As winter sets in, close to2.6 billion Christians across the globe, and other believers alike, brave themselves up for Christmas. It is now a global festival that has transcended the perimeters of religion and symbolises different sentiments – love, friendship, hope, benevolence, forgiveness and amity. It is the season of gaiety and giving. It teaches us to share the joys of life; for it is in giving that we receive.
Unfortunately, Christmas celebrations now are far removed from the first Christmas celebrated 2020 years ago by only three people in a manger in a small little village in Bethlehem — Joseph, Mother Mary and Baby Jesus— in the company of some shepherds. Now it has become highly commercialised, devoid of its human elements. Hence,its true essence is lost.
It is the shepherds who received the good tidings of Jesus’ birth first. I remember the tens of thousands of farmers who are protesting in Delhi and elsewhere against the unconstitutional and draconian farm laws. I pray that this Christmas brings them some good news.
This loss of humanism is all the more glaring in the treatment being meted out to an octogenarian, Fr. Stan. The world is not unaware of the arrest of the 83-year-old Jesuit who has committed his entire life to the upliftment of the poor, the marginalised and the voiceless, and who is also suffering from advancedParkinson’s disease. For all his commitment and services, today he is under investigation by the National Investigative Agency (NIA) for his alleged participation in the Elgar Parishad case — since October 7.
What is even more pathetic is that a person with his condition, had been denied his basic necessities by the insensitive bureaucracy — his straw and sipper. These two harmless and nondescript items have been an integral part of his existence for the past few years now and yet the powers that be have turned a blind eye towards this.
If this is the kind of treatment being meted out to a person who is only under investigation, then one can wonder at the treatment accorded to ordinary inmates who may or may not have been wrongfully detained for years.
Where are we heading to? Where is our humanity? How many times shall the Son of God have to descend to the Earth to save us from our own selves? Can this Christmas be anoccasion of hope and freedom for thousands of unfortunate prisoners like Father Stan and distressed farmers who are the lifeline of our country?
I appreciate the steps taken by some good people who campaigned to provide Father Stan with a straw and a sipper. He needs more than these — fair trial and justice.Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore had said, ‘Every child comes into the world with the message that God is not yet disappointed with humans. Let our celebration of Christmas not turn into a meaningless annual ritual but an event of hope and freedom’.
It is said, “A thousand times in history a baby has become a king. But only once in history did a king become a baby”. On this joyous occasion of Christ’s birth, I wish all readers A Merry Christmas and a joyful New Year 2021.
The writer is Vice-chancellor of St. Xavier’s University, Kolkata
Dr. Saswati Chaudhuri
Associate Professor (Economics)
St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata
The 2020 Indian farmers' protest is an ongoing protest against the three farm acts passed by the Indian Parliament in 2020. The acts have been described as "anti-farmer laws" by farmer unions, while opposition politicians also say it would leave farmers at the "mercy of corporates."
Today, the 8th December, 2020 would be remembered in history as a day when the farmers of the country called a‘Bharat Bandh’ and the countrymen lenttheir support to them to repeal the recently passed Bills. Rewinding back to a ‘Kisan’ rally in Uttar Pradesh on 28th February, Prime Minister Modi had unleashed a dream of doubling farmer’s income by 2022. Probably, one of the measures that the Union government proposed to sub-serve this end was in the form of the three Farm Bills in September 2020 — by liberalising access to agricultural markets, removing existing barriers to storage of agricultural produce, and facilitating contract-farming.
For better exposition it is important to introduce the bills to the readers – the first one pertains to Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, the second one pertains to facilitating contract farming [Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill],while the third bill,that is, the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Billhas mainly stirred the hornet’s nest.
There is no denying the fact that the agricultural sector has still managed to employ more than half of India’s population while cornering only a meagre 15% of its GDP. The sector was in a dire need of policies aiming towards its revival. The sector had been facing problems in the form of fragmented landholdings, unorganised sourcing of agricultural produce, inefficient supply chains, post-harvest losses emanating from marketing and storage inefficiencies and imbalances of international trade. However, the newly introduced billsstrive to address these structural inefficiencies plaguing the sector by liberalising the agricultural sector.
As with everything in this country, different political parties have been trying to usurp the clout of the farmers’ protest and different arguments are doing the rounds positioning themselves on either side. However, I would like to put forth some points:
Firstly, the Bills are a stark attempt to transform farmers into stock exchange traders who would at the same time be adept at finding their way through the meandering alleys in the texts of contracts. This would be too much to ask from them as it is beyond their skill and not a part of their knowledge domain.
Secondly, the above attempt by the Bill would deliberately position the farmer in an unknown world. Their lack of knowledge and skill would augment their transaction cost in those fields, as they would have to hire expertise. Additionally, when such contracts are signed with multinational companies, farmers shall either be forced into paying hefty fees to lawyers to be able to dissect such contracts for them, or, in the alternative, open the floodgates of their exploitation at any time by such companies. Thus, there is a direct infringement on the freedom to earn a livelihood by the farmers – a violation of Article 43 of the Directive Principles of State Policy.
Thirdly, to make matters worse, the definition of ‘farmers’ appears to be inherently flawed in the Bills. Labourer, tiller and cropper cannot be brought into the ambit of the definition.
Fourthly, in the context of contract farming, a ‘farming agreement’bestows more and, rather an unbalanced, power on the sponsor to refuse the yield without citing any proper reason. Thus, the farmers are liable to exploitative treatment and that too in a legitimate fashion by virtue of the bills. The quality check of the farm produce would be carried out by a ‘third party’ and no safeguards have been ensured to limit any sort of bias of these agents. Hence, the farmers would be forced to bare themselves to unabashed exploitation at the expense of filling up the corporate coffers.
Fifthly, the farmers have no right to appeal – a provision which is akin to crucifixion of the farmers at the altar of democracy. It is as if the state has elevated itself to a god-like status whose decisions are immune to challenge. Clearly the Bills seem to defy the safeguards that the fathers of the Constitution created it to stand for.
Fr. Stan Swamy: No Straw, No Sipper
Tuesday, November 10, is Fr. Stan Swamy's 33rd day in jail. He is an octogenarian (83-year-old) Jesuit priest and a senior tribal rights' activist working in Jharkhand for four decades. He has advanced Parkinson's disease. He has almost lost his hearing ability.
He had fallen in the jail multiple times. Fr. Stan applied before a special court that he be allowed to use a straw and sipper in prison to drink water as he cannot hold a glass because of Parkinson's disease.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has sought a good 20 days' time to file a reply to Father Stan Swamy's application. Poor man is now without a straw and sipper.
His request for bail on medical grounds was rejected by special judge Dinesh E. Kothalikar on October 22.
The NIA has filed two charge sheets in the case, alleging that "Leftists groups with Maoist links" associated with the Elgar Parishad event had orchestrated violence against Dalits at Bhima Koregaon in January 2018.
The Meghalaya cabinet on November 4 approved the St Xavier’s University Bill, Shillong 2020.
The draft bill was brought by the education department and the same was approved by the cabinet.
The bill is to be placed in the autumn session of the State Assembly on November 5.
Speaking to media persons, Deputy Chief Minister PrestoneTynsong said, “St Xavier’s universities are the most successful universities in the country. The Calcutta Jesuits have established St. Xavier’s University, Kolkata at New Town in Kolkata in 2017. It is run very successfully.”
When asked about the concerns of allowing another private university to enter state, especially when Meghalaya did not have a good experience with CMJ University and other private universities, Tynsong said the proposal to set up the St Xavier’s University in state had gone to the regulatory board under the Meghalaya Private Universities (Regulation of Establishment and Maintenance of Standards) Act, 2012 and the board has strongly recommended for the University.
The St. Xavier’s University Meghalaya will be run by the Jesuits of Kohima Region working in the North East. Before submitting the Letter of intent to the Government, a team of Jesuits visited other Jesuit universities in the country. This is the third Jesuit University in the country after XUB Orissa and SXUK West Bengal.
The Chief Minister of Meghalaya Conrad Sangma has been a great inspiration behind the venture. In one of his letters, he wrote to Father Felix Raj, “It is wonderful to hear the positive response from the Jesuits on the proposal and idea of setting up a university in Meghalaya… It is great to know about Jesuit relation with my father. He had immense respect for the Jesuits, and I share the same respect and feeling which he had. I am sure this relation will continue…”
The Meghalaya government has set up a regulatory board under the Meghalaya Private Universities (Regulation of Establishment and Maintenance of Standards) Act, 2012.
The regulatory board will ensure that private universities maintain the standards of infrastructure, teaching, research, examination and extension of services, fee structure, and safeguard the interest of the state.
The board will ensure that the student community gets quality education and avoid commercialization of higher education.
Tynsong said the proposal to set up the St. Xavier’s university had gone to the regulatory board and the board had granted its recommendation.
With the setting up of the St Xavier’s University, Shillong is set to compete with Assam and Nagaland that have the Assam Don Bosco University and St. Joseph’s University respectively.
The North Eastern Hill University (NEHU) is the only central university in Meghalaya that students look up to but no other private universities that have mushroomed in the state.
Fr. Stan Lourdu Swamy is the oldest person to be accused of terrorism in India. He is a senior citizen who deserves to be treated compassionately on grounds of his advanced age and health.
A special National Investigation Agency (NIA) anti-terrorism court rejected the interim medical bail plea of 83-year-old Stan Swamy, an activist who worked with tribals in Jharkhand, accused in the BhimaKoregaon violence case and lodged in the Taloja Central Jail, Mumbai.
Fr. Swamy, a Jesuit priest of Jamshedpur province, was arrested on October 8 from his residence at Ranchi and was brought to Mumbai the next day. He was remanded in judicial custody from October 9.
Advocates Sharif Shaikh and Kritika Agarwal, representing the octogenarian, told the court that Fr. Swamy has been suffering from Parkinson’s disease and has almost lost hearing ability in both ears. He has fallen in jail multiple times.
Mr. Shaikh sought his bail on humanitarian grounds and as per the recommendations of the committee appointed by the Supreme Court to release prisoners in view of COVID-19 outbreak. The Central agency opposed the bail saying Mr. Swamy is taking undue benefit of the pandemic. Mr. Swamy has since been shifted to the prison hospital.
The octogenarian priest has denied any involvement in the violence saying he has never been to BhimaKoregaon, Maharastra in all his life. From day one of his interrogation, he has been asking, “what is my crime for what I harassed?” The frail Jesuit was arrested on October 8 from his residence in Ranchi where he works for the rights and welfare of indigenous tribal and marginalised people. Fr. Stan has advanced Parkinson’s disease and has almost lost hearing ability in both ears. Due to his illness, he could not even sign his court documents and had to use his fingerprint.
Peaceful protests, rallies and marches, including online initiatives, have been taking place across the nations against the priest’s arrest, demanding his release. On October 8, when the NIA picked up Fr. Stan, they seized his mobile phone and asked him to pack a bag to be driven to the airport.
Fr. Stan was arrested in connection over a 2018 incident of caste-based violence and alleged links with Maoists. The rebels, who are active in several eastern and central states, claim that they are fighting for communist rule and greater rights for tribal people and the rural poor.
In a video recorded days before his arrest, Father Swamy said NIA had questioned him for 15 hours over five days in July. They had produced "some extracts" allegedly taken from his computer that pointed to his links with Maoists, he said.
He disowned them, saying they were "fabrications" that were "stealthily" put into his computer. His advanced age, health complications, and the raging pandemic would make it difficult for him to travel to Mumbai, he told the detectives. He hoped "human sense would prevail", he said.
United Nations rights Chief Michelle Bachelet, on October 20, also appealed to the Indian government to safeguard the rights of human rights defenders and NGOs, and their ability to carry out their crucial work on behalf of the many groups they represent. Her Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights particularly noted that “the 83-year-old Catholic priest Stan Swamy, a long-standing activist engaged in defending the rights of marginalized groups, was charged and reportedly remains in detention, despite his poor health.” She urged the government to “release people charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for simply exercising basic human rights that India is obligated to protect.”
The walk for Fr. Stan Swamy, organised by the Mother Teresa International Award Committee on October 17, 2020, started from Park Street, in front of the police station and ended in front of the bust of Mother Teresa at the crossing of Park Street and Camac Street.
Father Stan Swamy was arrested in Ranchi on October 8, taken to Mumbai the next morning and sent to judicial custody till October 23. Father Stan Swamy is from the Jamshedpur province of the Jesuit Order.
Archbishop Reverend Thomas D’ Souza, who joined the event after the walk concluded, said: “The way Fr. Stan was treated, very inhuman way, cruel way I might say. It is not acceptable to us. Therefore, along with all countrymen, right-thinking people, people of goodwill, we also want to show our displeasure and certainly want to protest against that treatment to an elderly, sick person who has worked for the poor. Therefore, today we appeal and demand that he be released and like him so many others….
“Thank you for coming here to show your solidarity for this particular cause. Once again, we appeal to the government to release Father Stan Swamy.”
The archbishop added: “We are here to show our solidarity with him. He is not alone but we are with him so that his suffering and the cause for which he has fought and has been fighting… for the tribals, the Dalits, their issues of injustice, their human rights, has been uppermost for him all his life. To tell him we are with him.”
MaulanaQasmi said: “We condemn this arrest… and appeal to all that people should raise their voice against those who are being oppressed…. If we want everyone to be good, we have to treat everyone with love and sympathy. We should not think who is being subjected to cruelty. If one person is being subjected to injustice, all others are brothers and sisters. If one brother is facing injustice, the other brothers will not be silent spectators. It’s an appeal to the government to release Father Stan Swamy.”
The vice-chancellor of St. Xavier’s University, Father J. Felix Raj, one of the leaders of the rally, said the Calcutta protest would inspire many others to raise their voice.
“We are here as brothers and sisters of Father Stan Swamy and raising our voice. And I am sure our rally, our attempt, our effort will be an inspiration to many, many churches, to many, many communities and centres, to many, many organisations to start and express their opposition, express their protest, raise their voice,” said Father Felix Raj.
“This is the 10th day he (Father Stan Swamy) is in jail. Let us wait and see what happens…,” Father Felix Raj added.
“He has been working for the people of Jharkhand, particularly for the tribal community, for more than 50 years. He is not an activist alone. A man who has studied, a man who has researched the lives, the problems of the tribal communities. His life has been issue-based. His stand for the tribal community has been issue-based. He has faced all these issues and stood with the poor tribal people, particularly the youth, particularly for their rights, the language that they have. So he has been standing with the tribal community and this is the consequence that has happened,” Father Felix Raj said.
Father Felix Raj said the case against Father Stan Swamy could continue. “But there must be a compassionate, concerned approach towards a senior citizen.”
The number of participants at the rally was restricted to abide by Covid protocols.
Schoolteacher Beulah Caleb said: “Covid or no Covid, it is important to come for a cause like this and make the government listen.”
Education is the most powerful mechanism, with which we can transform the world. It empowers people and builds the nation. Investment in education is essential as it benefits the individual, society and the world as a whole. The sustained economic development of any country is directly determined by its education system. Education is a Nation’s health and wealth. Education is the answer to many socio-economic problems we face today; it creates a cosmic awareness of our responsibilities as citizens of the world. A progressive nation is inevitably an educated nation.
Education is the principal perspective of holistic development of the human family. Jawaharlal Nehru once had declared that if all were well with our educational institutions, all would be well with the nation. Educational institutions are intimately linked with society at large. They are the temples of knowledge. They are the agents of social change and transformation. Therefore, the general condition of our colleges and universities is a matter of great concern to the nation.
The Kothari Commission in 1966 had beautifully said: “The destiny of India is now being shaped in her classrooms. This we believe is no mere rhetoric. In a world based on science and technology it is education that determines the level of prosperity, welfare, development and security of people. On the quality and number of persons coming out of our colleges and universities will depend our success in the great enterprise of national construction whose principal objective is to raise the standard of living of our people”
With a world population of 7.80 billion people, we, as individuals and societies need to live together sustainably and harmoniously. We need to act responsibly based on the understanding that what we do today can have implications on the lives of people and the planet in future. Educational network empowers people to change the way they think and work towards a sustainable and harmonious future.
Speaking on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis reflected on the path of hope and love, as the world continues to suffer.
Pope Francis said, “We have reflected together on how to heal the world from the suffering highlighted by the pandemic.”
As disciples of Jesus, “allowing ourselves to be guided by faith, hope and charity, we have proposed to follow in His steps, opting for the poor, rethinking the use of material goods and taking care of our common home.”
May the path continue:
The Pope continued by expressing his hope that we “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus” who saves and heals the world and takes care of all “without distinction on the basis of race, language or nation”. In order to do this, and follow in his footsteps, he explained, we must “contemplate and appreciate the beauty of every human being and of every creature”, all conceived in the heart of God.
In this way can we recognise Christ present in our poor and suffering brothers and sisters, to encounter them and to listen to their cry and the cry of the earth that echoes, continued the Pope.
In recognising Christ we will be able to regenerate society and not return to so-called “normality”, said the Pope, explaining that the normality we once knew was “sick with injustice”. The virus has highlighted so many injustices, all of which are the result of humankind, he continued, instead, we are called to the normality of the Kingdom of God, “where there is bread for all and more to spare, social organisation is based on contributing, sharing and distributing, not on possessing, excluding and accumulating”.
“To come out of the pandemic, we must find the cure not only for the coronavirus, but also for the great human and socio-economic viruses”, said the Pope.
Viralise love, globalise hope:
Finally, Pope Francis noted that “a fair and equitable society is a healthier society” and that together we can work towards the Kingdom that Christ inaugurated for us: “a Kingdom of light in the midst of darkness, of justice in the midst of so many outrages, of joy in the midst of so much pain, of healing and salvation in the midst of sickness and death”. Let’s make love "go viral" and lets “globalise” hope in the light of faith".
- By Vatican News
Swami Agnivesh, who was hospitalized due to liver cirrhosis at the Institute of Liver and Billary Sciences (ILBS) in Delhi, passed away on Friday evening. I had spoken to him on Tuesday.
The 80-year old former professor of St. Xavier’s College (1963 -69) and friend of St. Xavier’s University. Kolkata and a social activistwas an advocate for dialogue between religions. He was involved in various areas of social activism including campaigns against female feticide and the emancipation of women. He was a prominent associate of Anna Hazare during the India against Corruption's campaign in 2011 to implement the Jan Lokpal Bill.
Swami Agnivesh was truly “ a man for others”…A sanyasi in the Arya Samaj Order, he stood tall, both on the national and international stage, as an educationist, a philanthropist, a philosopher, a spiritualist, most of all as a humanist. The sublime words of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit Order applies to him perfectly… “He was contemplative in action, finding God in all things”. And also important to me, Swamiji and I were close associates and friends.
I met Swami Agnivesh 34 years ago in Delhi, although I had heard of him three years prior to that, while I was a lecturer at St Xavier’s College. He was known for his revolutionary ideas, oratory skills and the bold stand he often took for the liberation of the disadvantaged people.
A 14 year old Sri Lankan girl had been arrested for unlawfully entering India. She was housed in Tihar Jail in 1987. My Sri Lankan friends had requested for my help for the child. I met Swami Agnivesh seeking his guidance and advice.
Both Swamiji and I were at the court when the case came up, we modestly sat in the last row. When the judge entered, he happened to notice Swamiji and questioned his presence. Swamiji explained the context and that he hoped for the smooth release of the minor.
Since then our friendship blossomed we worked on several issues, social and religious. Thereafter I often invited him to visit Xavier institutions be it the Jesuit College of theology in Delhi, Vidyajothi, St Xavier’s College or St Xavier’s University, Kolkata. He also figures amongst one of the most notable and prominent former faculty members of the St Xavier’s College.
Vepa Syam Rao was born into a Brahmin upper caste Telegu family. He completed his Masters from Calcutta University. He taught at St Xavier’s College from 1963 to 1969. At 24 young Rao was inquisitive and curious to know the inner workings of the Belgian Jesuits. One day he sneaked into the Jesuit residence known as cloister and peeped in. The austerity and simplicity of the Jesuit living quarters astounded him ….Only a table, two chairs, a bed and a wooden almirah.
It was unbelievable… ‘The Jesuits lived a life of high thinking and simple living,’ this made a deep impact on him. While coming out of the Jesuit cloister Rao met a senior Belgian Jesuit in the corridor. He asked the priest as to what had motivated him to come to the distant shores of India leaving behind his home and the comforts he had had there.
The Jesuit answered him…. ‘I am here like my fellow Jesuit Fathers. Our mission is to serve the people of India, particularly of Bengal, mainly to impart quality education to Indian students; this is the humble contribution we hope to make.’
Swamiji was deeply impressed and he has often reiterated that this response by the Jesuit priest had an influence his future life and missionary zeal. He said, ‘it made me ponder. What is MY mission for India?
Swamiji has always stressed his strong faith in spirituality. He insists that spirituality ought to be social spirituality. This spirituality should not be an individualistic or escapist type. He insists that it should be one that would keep the interest of the society intact; which would depend on the respect for individual interest. These are inextricably linked. They are complimentary…religion must be a thrust for social awakening and revolution. Swamji has written a number of books on this subject to promote and share his views and ideas (listed below).
Swamiji was a bridge between religions, respecting the differences…. ‘Do unto others as you would have others do unto you,’ was his golden rule. He further advocated, if we want life, let us give life to others; if we want opportunities, let us provide these opportunities to others. God’s love is the same for all, no matter what one’s religion or nationality is.’ He was against the throw away culture, where people not only throw junk but also the poor, the refugees and the downtrodden. He promoted through his work an education in fraternity for real solidarity. This in fact was the essence of Swamiji’s conviction and work.
Swamoiji was termed as anti-national, Christian sympathizer. It is forgotten that he believes the world is one family….’Vasudhaivakutumbakum’. God enjoins us stay united as one family. Swamiji was a messenger of God. He was a giant among men. India is blessed to have him.
He was a relentless fighter for the downtrodden not caring for personal attacks or even results… just fight till something positive emerges was his firm belief. As Shakespeare said, reiterated by Justice V.R Krishna Iyer…. ‘What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god, never at rest but ever in meditative communication with God.’
Swamiji was diamond hard in his convictions, honeybee in his sweet collectivism for all suffering humans, a defender of the constitution and a humanist, aware of the religious pluralism of Bharat. Anything that might destroy the fabric of this country or threaten its development was the recipient of his ire.
Swami Agnivesh was indeed a man among men….A prophet for all seasons on the side of truth and justice with a deep seated spiritual perspective. A true inspiration. A Karma Yogi, Champion of the socially challenged …..A true Arya Samaji.
New Delhi: Swami Agnivesh, who was hospitalized due to liver cirrhosis at the Institute of Liver and Billary Sciences (ILBS) in Delhi, is in a critical condition after suffering multi-organ failure during the treatment, the hospital said on Thursday. The hospital added that a multi-disciplinary team is monitoring his condition.
The 80-year old former professor of St. Xavier’s College (1963 -69) and friend of St. Xavier’s University. Kolkata and a social activist has been on ventilator since then.
He is also an advocate for dialogue between religions. He is involved in various areas of social activism including campaigns against female feticide and the emancipation of women. He was a prominent associate of Anna Hazare during the India against Corruption's campaign in 2011 to implement the Jan Lokpal Bill.
Swami Agnivesh is truly “ a man for others”…A sanyasi in the Arya Samaj Order, he stands tall, both on the national and international stage, as an educationist, a philanthropist, a philosopher, a spiritualist, most of all as a humanist. The sublime words of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit Order applies to him perfectly… “He is contemplative in action, finding God in all things”. And also important to me, Swamiji and I are close associates and friends.
Let us pray for his speedy recovery and good health.
Fr. Gaston Roberge, a French - Canadian Jesuit priest, had been asking himself since the 1980s why India did not have a new theory of popular films. It was only in 2010 he got an answer after studying the 2000-year old Indian treatise of dance and drama – Natya Sastra. The result was a 100 page book, The Indian Film Theory: Flames of Sholay, Notes and Beyond that offered a new perspective on the theories underlying Indian commercial cinema.
The book was released at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata on June 15, 2010 by GoutamGhose, a renowned Indian film director. It has been described as ‘easily readable’ and ‘radical in its content.’ Ghose said, ‘Fr. Roberge introduced the study of film in the context of our social matrix, which is very important. He analysed the phenomena in the sociopolitical context of this complex and heterogeneous country, writing about our society while studying two films - Sholay and BederMeye Jyotsna. He had a kind of social observation on cinema. He would ask, “Why were people enjoying films? Which class of people? What about education?”
Fr. Gaston, a legend, a pioneer in the study of cinema and a close friend of Satyajit Ray, passed away in Kolkata on August 26 and was laid to rest at DhyanAsharm, the Jesuit Novitiate at Konchowki, 20 KM from the city of Kolkata. He was a Master teacher of film theories and was known as the high priest of cinema.
Fr. Roberge, was born in May 1935 in Montreal, Quebec. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1956 and was sent to India on his request in1961. He graduated, and did his Masters at UCLA. He graduated from the University of Montreal and did his Masters at the University of California in film studies.
He then went to New York where he saw Satyajit Ray’s PatherPanchali and became a fan of Ray. He became a close friend of Ray, with whom he had many interactions and wrote about. They were mutual advisors to each other in the world of films. Ray was also one of the advisors of Chitrabani. Father Roberge also developed great associations with Mrinal Sen and other filmmakers of India.
I had known Fr. Gaston for over thirty years. He was an exemplary Jesuit and in the 70s and 80s, an idol to many young Jesuits like me. I had interviewed him a couple of times for an Italian magazine, Popoli and other publications. He was a large-hearted man with the spirit of magis in all that he did especially in spiritual and intellectual life. During his short break in Montreal, I paid a visit to him. He took me to the St. Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal, a basilica and national shrine in Montreal. It is a National Historic Site of Canada and is Canada's largest church, with one of the largest church domes in the world.
In one of my interviews he told me, ‘I was reborn in India on October 15, 1961. For the last 50 years I have been mostly living in Kolkata. I teach communication media and write. My main interest is the cultural roots of the Indian movies. And I love it.” Fr. Roberge has authored more than 25 books on cinema, communications and spirituality. He won an Indian National Film Award for his best writing on Cinema for the year 1998 from the then President of India, K. R. Narayanan.
His first book, Chitrbani, published in 1975, like the institute he started, is a book on film appreciation. Satyajit Ray, through his kind relationship with him and through his films, helped him in his journey to the 'cave of the heart.' That is how he completed the "Pedagogy of the Media Oppressed − In Tune with the Indian Folk Movies: Seven Steps of a Self-Education for Liberation.”
He was the founder-director of Chitrabani (1970), the first and the oldest media center in eastern India located at PrabhuJisurGurija campus, Kolkata. For some years, Chitrabani was an extension centre of SXCK and Fr. Roberge taught film appreciation at the college. Thousands of film-makers, scholars and film critics have been students of Fr. Roberge. National Award Winning director, K G Das has made a documentary on ‘Fr. Roberge – Master Preacher of Film Theory.’
He was also the founder-director of the EMMRC of St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata. He was solely responsible for the UGC granting the necessary affiliation and permission of EMMRC to SXCK. St. Xavier’s is the only College which has an EMMRC under its management among the 19 EMMR Centres in India. He was the Executive Secretary for Social Communication (1997 to 1999) at the Jesuit Curia in Rome.
Ray’s PatherPanchali shook him and Indian cinema became his passion, his love and his commitment. Through Chitrabani Fr. Roberge pioneered film academia in India as well as cultivated and nurtured several generations of cineastes and filmmakers." That is why the Bimal Roy Memorial & Film Society, Mumbai gave him the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.
After his retirement he remained at the St. Xavier’s infirmary till his eternal rest. He was 85. He had almost totally lost his hearing and had to be on hearing aid. This Jesuit priest and film guru has made a "significant contribution" to the film industry. He will continue to be a major player on the field of Indian cinema.
The author is Vice-Chanceloor of St. Xavier’s University, Kolkat
September 5 is the Feast of St. Teresa of Calcutta and Teacher's Day. Mother's work gives all of us an opportunity to sufficiently and deeply reflect on her life and mission for the poorest of the poor. For us, she is the song of celebration, the hymn of compassion.
Her message is universal. No matter what religion a person is, or if they don't believe at all, Mother Teresa's message is to serve with love. "Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love".
She has taught all about life, especially to give love, dignity and service to the poor, irrespective of race and religion. She was a true saint.
- The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi approved the National Education Policy 2020 on July 29, 2020. This is the third Education Policy in India after independence (1968, 1986 and 2020).
- The Policy has four parts on: 1. School Education; 2. Higher Education; 3. Other Key Areas like Adult Education, Professional Education, Online Education etc., and 4. Implementation, Financing and Making the Policy happen.
- The new policy aims to pave the way for major transformational reforms in school and higher education systems in the country. This policy replaces the 34 your old National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986.
- The Cabinet also approved a proposal to rename the Ministry of Human Resource Development as the Ministry of Education.
- It is said that it is a policy for the 21st century.
- It is a framework to guide the development of education in the country.
- It aims to make India the global knowledge superpower ensuring equity and Inclusion.
India, the Nation:
India completes 73 years as an independent nation on August 15. The Republic of India is a 'Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic' with aparliamentary system of government. With a total population of 138.13 crores as of August 7, 2020, which is 17.7 per cent of the world’s population, India is the largest democracy in the world. It is a fact that one-third of world’s poor live in India. 27.1 per cent of India’s population live below the poverty line. The per capita income is US$ 2,500, which is 1/13 of the developed countries. India ranks 129th in the human development index in 2019. India faces, besides economic and political instability, frequent ethnic and communal outbursts which have proved fatal to its overall development.
Though economically still a developing country, India, the cradle of religions, is steeped in a sense of the sacred. We sense a cosmic worldview to life with rich cultural diversity expressed in art, architecture, music and the rich classical and folk traditions. But modern social media, IT and LPG forces are posing a serious threat to its much-desired development. The glaring reality of the vast multitude of poor, the varied deprivation and dehumanization, rampant corruption and injustice and the inevitable exclusion of the displaced, untouchables, women, indigenous and migrant communities confront India. The exploitation of our eco-systems further aggravates the plight of the poor.
System of Governance:
Democracy is a communications-intensive mode of governance in which individuals play a more direct role through “the power of citizen-to-citizen communications” which benefits both themselves and their community. A successful society is one that gives opportunities to its citizens and promotes its capacities in equality so that citizens think, work, grow and develop in an atmosphere of freedom.
The contentment of citizens is closely linked to the level of political and social empowerment they have. Where citizens control the agenda, stability and contentment is enhanced. Even though we have made some progress, government systems and administrative functioning have many weaknesses and inadequacies, which are proving quite a handicap in providing satisfactory deliverance of services to people.
Governance systems at various levels must improve -What we urgently require are accountability, transparency and an environment of trust at all levels. Governments should introduce measures for making governance more effective and hassle-free. In order for globalization to bear a “human face”, we need to foster a major democratic participation not only at the local level but also at national level, in institutions and multilateral organizations. We want a better India, a more peaceful and harmonious India. It cannot be based on hegemony, in the balance of powers or in persuasion, but it has to be based on dialogue and cooperation, human dignity and justice.
The present political system and the process require purification so that political will is strengthened to take necessary action against forces that generate corruption and sow the seeds of division, casteism, hatred and communal violence. There is a need for transparency and accountability at all levels. India's legal and judicial systems are highly sophisticated and well developed. Despite that, it has not kept pace with the changing needs arising from increasing population, increase in number of laws, increase in industrial activities and other changes resulting in inordinate delays in disposal of cases. The present judicial system does not render speedy justice to people. A comprehensive review of the system is required.
Today we live in a global context of secularism and democracy. In the last hundred years, secularism has come to be accepted as an alternative to religious orthodoxy and fundamentalist ideology. Secularism, we know, is lived and practiced in diverse ways in different countries. There cannot be one, homogenous way of practicing it. A secular state is one that allows its citizens to profess and practice their respective faith freely and fearlessly. Secular state does not interfere with the religious and spiritual affairs of the people. It should respect all religions equally. It should not prefer one to the other.
Secularism in India is different from the western concept of the state in confrontation with the Church. Indian secularism was born out of an experience, a painful process of national liberation struggles. The Fathers of our Constitution had reasons to introduce secularism in our country: fear of disorder arising from dangerous forces of political movements associated with militant Hindu nationalism, Muslim separatism, Hindu-Muslim communalism and so on. Nehru condemned casteism and communalism. He observed that communalism was fascism in India and favoured secularism. For him, secularism was necessarily a civilized behaviour. This was to transcend religious, cultural, caste differences and combat militant communalist forces.
Human civilization has brought into focus the significance of secular ideals, and there is a growing consciousness to support and nurture this type of societies. Today almost all the countries in the world have come to accept that secularism is sine quo non-for democratic governance. To establish a peaceful and just society, secularist principles and democratic polity are indispensable.
All true religions have an immense potential for tolerance. Each religious community claims that theirs is the most tolerant religion of our time. Their claim is true so long as they recognize other religions as different ways leading to the same goal. Tolerance is a normative value, yes, but it is not an answer to the fundamentalist danger to unity and integrity of our country. In today’s context, what we need is to affirm and perpetuate:
1. Rootedness of every believer in his/her religion;
2. Acceptance of the other and his/her religious belief and practice;
3. Ongoing dialogues between different religions.
These are the principles that will pave way for a healthy atmosphere of respect, tolerance and acceptance of each other, of each religious tradition and enable us to live together as Indians in peace and harmony.
Need of Spirituality:
There is an urgent need for spirituality that considers persons as subjects and not objects of history. A spirituality that considers men and women as sacred, unique, irreplaceable and irreducible human beings, free by nature and called to transcendence. A spirituality that is human and acceptable to all religions. It should recognize the cultural diversity, the uniqueness of national and local cultures and heritage. Steeped in the sense of the sacred, it should take a holistic approach to life that life is sacred and that all beings journey towards the cosmic unity. Spirituality plays a major role in building human communities based on peace and harmony.
Spirituality liberates and empowers through a sense of shared purpose. Such a sense of purpose is a pre-requisite for a national unity and social cohesion. To lack a shared sense of purpose is to invite drift and division. Spirituality, with its regenerating power, holds the promise of a new beginning. Optimization of the wholeness of humanity with a special focus on human development and well-being is the quintessential spiritual purpose. It is spirituality that sustains development in society. It is the soul of all human actions. It is a powerful tool, which could bring religions together to fight against the dangers of globalization: materialism, egocentrism, consumerism, and destruction of the environment and the crises of family and neighbourhood ties.
Our efforts to correct the ill effects of neo-liberalism, globalization and fundamentalism depend on spirituality that gives us inner strength. In the absence of such spirituality, development becomes a mere material advancement based on greed and avarice. Earth is one, but India and the world are divided. We should be determined not to leave them as we find them.
It is time now for all academicians, thinkers, philosophers, theologians and the like to come out openly and speak out against the dangers of fundamentalism and its offshoots of disorder, and undo, with the weapon of their wisdom, all that has gone wrong. Politicians are not capable of doing this job. All that they normally seek is power and for more power, they justify any means. If the age of Enlightenment and of Science has brought changes in the west, our intervention at this juncture will definitely put the wheels of our country on the right track. What the German Bishop Niemoler said about the situation under Hitler might teach us something:
‘When Nazis put communists in the concentration camp, I did not protest because I was not a communist; when they persecuted the social democrats, I did not protest because I was not a social democrat; when they massacred the Jews, I did not protest because I was not a Jew; when they banned all political parties and trade unions, I did not protest because I was not one of them; when they came for me, there was no one to speak for me.’
The author is Vice-Chancellor, St. Xavier’s University, Kolkata
Reconcile with your brother:
“If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift “(Mathew 5:24).
Be a servant:
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their superiors exercise authority over them. It shall not be this way among you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave” (Mathew 20:26).
Jesus came to serve:
“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”(Mathew 20:28).
No Servant is greater than Master:
Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him”(John 13:14-16).
God is Spirt:
“…the hour comes, when you shall neither in this mountain, norat Jerusalem, worship the God. You worship you know not what: we know what we worship… But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the God in spirit and in truth: for the God seeks such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:21-24).
J. Felix Raj, SJ
Today is the age of Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and other voice assistants. They are here in our midst, in our offices, homes, cars, hotels and many other places. These digital assistants collect and use personal, potentially identifiable and possibly sensitive information. The list of commands that Alexa can understand seems to grow daily and Amazon calls these as “skills”. Take our own Chitti, a humanoid robot portrayed by actor Rajinikanth in Enthiran and Ra. One. Chitti is programmed to understand human behavior and emotions.
Alexa can set up routines where a single command of yours, ‘Alexa, Goodnight’ – shuts off all the lights, locks your doors, sets an alarm for you to wake up and sets your coffee pot to turn on at a certain time. The latest version of Alexa is able to perceive and acknowledge your frustrations, thought-process and even your future plans. Alexa can now guess what we are thinking and what we have forgotten. Daniel Rausch, VP in-charge of Alexa Smart Home Features, predicts that we have reached a stage where we can program our intuition and machine intelligence will soon replicate human curiosity and insight.
Alexa or other personal digital assistants can violate the privacy and security of our life and data. They are a privacy nightmare and we cannot trust them. Possibly, this is a dark side to these virtual assistants. In 2019 Amazon had over 10,000 employees working on Alexa and related products. Over 100 million Alexa-enabled devices have been sold. There are now more than 70,000 skills available in the Alexa Skills store.
Artificial intelligence (AI), sometimes called machine intelligence, is human-like intelligence, demonstrated by machines, in contrast to natural or human intelligence (HI). Machines (for example, robots or computers) are programmed to act as intelligent agents, artificial beings who perform cognitive functions associated with human mind such as perceiving, learning, responding and taking actions that maximize its chance of successfully achieving its goals.
John McCarthy, an American computer scientist, is known as the father of AI which began as an academic discipline in the 1950s and developed on the assumption that AI can precisely simulate HI. It is an idea which has been explored by myths and fiction for time immemorial in history.
There is a fear among people that AI can do things better than humans. Some people consider AI dangerous to humanity if it progresses unabated. They believe that AI, unlike other technological revolutions, will create a risk of mass unemployment. On the other hand, AI has become an essential part of the technology industry, helping to solve many challenging problems in computer science, software engineering and operations research.
Creation of human beings was an extension of God and his divine intelligence (DI). Human person is the crowning glory of God. And AI is just an extension of HI. Humans can fix up and change the shortcomings in any AI robotic system. Human intelligence is bigger, broader and next to only divine intelligence (DI). As DI is the creator of HI, HI is the creator of AI. AI cannot replace HI. Humans, not machines, will build the future.
Yes, it is true that AI has incredible precision, accuracy and speed. It won’t be affected by hostile environment, thus it is able to complete dangerous tasks, explore the space, and endure problems that would injure and kill human beings. Yet, I am optimistic that AI will not be intelligent enough to replace HI because, in the end, AI shall always depend on programmed cods that can only be written and erased by HI.
Is the future of humanity in danger? More than 99% of all species, amounting to over five billion species that ever lived on earth are estimated to be extinct. Many of them perished in five cataclysmic events. It is said there are currently around 8.7 million species on earth. According to a recent survey, seven out of ten biologists think we are currently in the throes of a sixth mass extinction.
Let Alexa, Siri and Chitti live with us. Let them become an integral part of our daily life. They can intelligently and fluently interact with us providing us with adequate and accurate explanations and answers. Sure, we can benefit if they can understand and respond to our commands and queries. Let us remember, a machine is a machine and it could fake emotions. Let us not allow machines to sit on our heads. Prevention is better than cure. Jesus once said, “No servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” Therefore, no AI is greater than HI and no HI greater than DI.
The author is Vice-Chancellor, St. Xavier’s University, Kolkata: www.felixrajsj.com
1. Notre-Dame de Paris fire:
On 15 April 2019,, a structure fire broke out beneath the roof of Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral in Paris. The cathedral's altar, two pipe organs, and its three 13th-century rose windows suffered little to no damage. Three emergency workers were injured.
The cathedral's altar, two pipe organs, and its three 13th-century rose windows suffered little to no damage. Three emergency workers were injured. The medieval cathedral of Notre-Dame is one of France's most famous landmarks.The 850-year-old Gothic building's spire and roof have collapsed but the main structure, including the two bell towers has been saved.
Visibly emotional, Mr. Macron said the "worst had been avoided" and vowed to launch an international fundraising scheme to rebuild the cathedral. French president said that the cathedral would be restored by 2024, and launched a fundraising campaign which brought in pledges of over €1 billion as of 22 April 2019.
Officials say it could be linked to the renovation work that began after cracks appeared in the stone, sparking fears the structure could become unstable.Paris prosecutor's office said it had opened an inquiry into "accidental destruction by fire". A firefighter was seriously injured while tackling the blaze.
No other site represents France quite like Notre-Dame. Its main rival as a national symbol, the Eiffel Tower, is little more than a century old. Notre-Dame has stood tall above Paris since the 1200s.
It has given its name to one of the country's literary masterpieces. Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre-Dame is known to the French simply as Notre-Dame de Paris.
The last time the cathedral suffered major damage was during the French Revolution. It survived two world wars largely unscathed.
Watching such an embodiment of the permanence of a nation burn and its spire collapse is profoundly shocking to any human person.
In pictures: Blaze at Notre-Dame
1. UG COURSES: online application has begun from July 15, 2020. Students can apply online for undergraduate degree courses now. Last date: August 5, 2020.
2. PG COURSES: Last date for submission of online application and the application fee for Post Graduate degree courses (Excluding MBA) is 27th July, 2020. Tentative dates for online Admission Tests (MCQ based) will be between 2nd August and 9th August, 2020.3. LAW: Last date for the submission of online application and the payment of application fee: 29th July 2020 (till 5 PM).Tentative date for Xavier Law Admission Test (XLAT): Saturday, 22nd August 2020. For mode of test and other details will be announced on the University website.
4. MBA: Xavier Business School invites application for two years MBA Residential Programme. Last date is August 20, 2020). Specializations: Finance- Marketing- Human Resource – Systems & Operations).
5. Ph.D. : Last date for Application is over. Conduct of XU-RET (Entrance Test) is on August 22, 2020.
6. For more details regarding eligibility criteria, important dates and so on, visit www.sxuk.edu.in
7. M.COM. (Morning): In response to the requests from the student community, M.COM. programme of the University will be conducted in the morning hours (7 AM - 12 Noon) for the students taking admission for the academic session beginning from July 2020.
Sathankulan Murder Case: Latest News:
In God We Trust – And So We shall overcome...Our Hopes Not Shattered.
- Father-Son Duo Murder under Police Custody in Sathankulam
- The inhumane torture and murder sparked nationwide furor
- Tamil Nadu Government transferred the probe to CBI
- The Madras HC directs the CBI to probe the case
- Six Policemen booked on Murder charges
- Sub-Inspector Raghu Ganesh arrested by CB-CID officials
- The National HRC has sought a report from the Police Officers
- The HC has received so far similar complaints from a dozen victims (Indian Express).
- A Cuddalore based advocate has moved the SC seeking direction to TN Chief Minister to refrain from holding the State Home Portfolio pending investigation and completion of trial in the Santhankulam custodial murder case. The advocate Rajarajan has requested the Court to investigate the role of CM Palaniswami in safeguarding the accused police by misusing his official capacity.
Tuticorin has witnessed a gruesome case of Police Brutality. People are angry and outraged in India and abroad..
Jeyaraj (59) and his son, Fenix (31) of Sathankulam, Tuticorin District, Tamil Nadu died after they were taken into custody by the Tuticorin police officers (TN Police), detained under sections 188, 269, 294(b), 353 and 506(2) of IPC and beaten up.
This inhumane act by the policemen cost the life of J. Fenix on Monday, June 21st night and P.Jeyaraj on Tuesday, June 22nd morning.
All this because they kept their shop open past 8 pm! The news of this police brutality has shaken the people of Tamil Nadu and of India to the core.
As a result of this inhuman act, all the involved policemen got was a suspension and a transfer order.
We demand justice for Jesyaraj family. Let us raise our voice and demand justice. Write to the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and the Prime Minister of India to take immediate action and punish the culprits. We can't stay silent any longer!
Mahakavi Bharathiyar has said:
"No more exploitation of ... come what may.
If any one goes sans food, we shall set fire to the whole world!"
"Sentamil Nadenum Bodhinilae
Inba Thaen Vandhu Paayudhu Kaadhinilae
Engal, Thandhaiyar Nadendra Pechinile
Oru Sakthi Pirakkudhu Moochinilae"
An effective transition to an online mode of teaching-learning requires the debunking of several false views
COVID-19 has turned the world upside down. All sectors, including the education sector, have been drastically affected. The world is searching for new strategies to cope with this pandemic and its aftermath. Higher educational institutions are now looking at online teaching-learning as a window of hope. Many institutions and teachers have taken efforts to incorporate online education and are trying to use tech tools to such as Learning Management Systems (LMS) and web conferencing platforms such as Udemy, Educadium, CourseCraft, and Skillshare, and are trying out different means of reaching out to their students who are quarantined in their own homes and towns and villages. The apex bodies such as the UGC and AICTE have also appealed to teachers and have advised students to make effective use of web learning. But sceptics and cynics have created myths about web learning, which we need to debunk so that we can transition effectively so that knowledge and skill sharing is not disrupted but is continued in different ways through diverse platforms and tools.
Online teaching is meant for the young and techno-savvy
I have heard people say: “I’ve another two years to retire and I’m not inclined to learn anything new, especially online teaching, at this stage of my life.” Or “Oh, these online teaching practices are for those in their 30s, surely not for those in their 50s.” A few others have commented: “Virtual teaching is for those who are techno-savvy, not for people like me who are averse to technology.”
The fact is that everyone — young and old, and those who are conversant with and averse to technology — has to embrace technology and live with it. In other words, technology in tertiary education has come to stay and all teachers have to make a clear and conscious shift despite their age and attitude. Successful people in any walk of life are those who love and welcome change.
Online teaching is only a stopgap arrangement
There is no denying the fact that we are living through difficult times because of the coronavirus pandemic. Against this backdrop, quite a few argue that online teaching is only a stopgap arrangement—at the most for a semester or two. Some feel that when normalcy returns, it will be back to chalk and talk. So, why bother to learn new teaching methodologies? The fact is that online teaching has already become an integral part of our educational system and irrevocable changes have been made in our teaching-learning process. COVID-19 has drastically altered our teaching methodologies and there is no going back. The winners are those who embrace technology and look at online education not as a long-term game changer.
Online teaching is not egalitarian
Some argue that online teaching subtly favours those who have access to high technologies and turns down the disadvantaged sections of society. There may be some truth here but the larger fact is that online education is meant for all. In most cases, all that the students need is a smartphone and most have smartphones with Internet connectivity. Most students can access Zoom or Google Hangout or Cisco WebEx Meeting using their smartphones. Therefore, the claim that online teaching will exacerbate the social and economic divide among students is not justified. It is true that in rural and semi-urban areas, high speed Internet may not be available around the clock. But online teaching, especially the asynchronous mode, will certainly help all students because of its flexibility.
Technology will eventually replace the teacher
Till the dawn of the third millennium, higher educational institutions in India were preponderantly teacher-oriented. The last two decades have brought some welcome change in that there have been conscious attempts to make the curricula student-centred. But this pandemic has brought in yet another paradigm shift — the conscious and deliberate move towards technology. Earlier, teachers were synonymous with chalk and duster but are now seen with laptops and head-phones and that would sum up the change in pedagogy.
There is an innate fear in teachers, especially the ‘old timers’ that technology will eventually replace them. Teachers need to be reassured that they cannot be replaced but also need to be told that their role has changed significantly. Earlier, they were seen as the repositories of knowledge. But now they are seen as syllabus designers, content developers, knowledge sharers — all through the medium of technology. Therefore, they need to develop a different set of skills, especially knowledge of Learning Management Systems (LMS).
Students prefer face-to-face interaction, not online teaching
This is a subtle form of resistance. Teachers who are not very comfortable with technology and are hesitant to switch over to online teaching use a weak argument that their students prefer face-to-face interaction and not online teaching. This stems from a wishful thinking that teachers are indispensable and, without them, the teaching-learning system would collapse. The youth are not only conversant with technology but are also willing to embrace change in any form. They constantly look forward to new ideas and love to experiment and innovate and, therefore, will not have major issues in switching over to online education. Most students, if properly oriented, will switch over to online learning seamlessly and the onus is on the educational system, especially teachers, tofacilitate this transition smoothly. To these students, it is not a question of either/or but both technology and teachers.
Online teaching-learning is not as effective as face-to-face mode
There are quite a few advantages in face-to-face classroom transactions. The biggest is that teachers can think on their feet, strategise according to the content and the mood of their students and constantly monitor students’ intake. Unfortunately, these are absent in online teaching-learning. The content, mode and manner of delivery are already programmed for each module and teachers have little freedom once a module is prepared and delivered. Besides, the attention span of students in the online mode, especially in the asynchronous mode, is unpredictable. Therefore, it is argued that face-to-face interaction is better than online instruction.
There are merits and demerits in both ways. But good teachers are always good, whatever the mode. A good teacher will always adjust the content and delivery according to the mode and will ensure that there isn’t a big gap between input and intake. Therefore, the question of which is a better mode doesn’t arise.
Degrees and diplomas obtained through online education are not valid
In India, education is synonymous with offline education, which is equated with schools and colleges in their physical structures. The nation is still reluctant to accept degrees and diplomas earned through the online mode, which and subconsciously they are deemed inferior. Online education is assumed to be meant for those who don’t make it to regular colleges or universities for want of sound financial and/or academic credentials. Even in the job market, online degrees and diplomas are not treated on par with regular degrees and diplomas.
Two clarifications are required. The kind of online e-learning that we are discussing is, in fact, a blend of online and offline. Face-to-face interaction is supplemented with online teaching and this is due to the fact that regular classes cannot be conducted because of the lockdown, forcing teachers and institutions to switch over to the online mode. Therefore, it is strictly speaking not an online programme as such. Second, technically, there is no distinction between the degrees and diplomas earned through online or offline education. Both are virtually the same.
Extraordinary times and situations call for bold and radical solutions. In this new ecosystem created by this pandemic, teachers have to constantly reinvent themselves to address the exigencies born of this crisis and offer students whatever is relevant and helps them adapt to a crisis thereby making them resourceful and resilient.
The writer is the Dean, School of English & Foreign Languages, Gandhigram Rural Institute. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Every educational institution is reflecting with its faculty members and other stakeholders to arrive at the balanced blend between online and offline modes of teaching-learning and evaluation processes. We need to study and weigh the prospects of what will be the best combination that an institution can adapt for the benefit of the student community in its totality we ponder over a manner that will be effective for future leaders.
Higher education institutes need to have a short-term and long-term, perspective plans to tackle the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in the education sector. Every crisis, natural or man-made, poses serious problems and challenges, and it is our responsibility to convert these challenges into constructive opportunities. That is what has happened in the last two and a half months during the lockdown period.
Our schools and colleges switched over to electronic modes of education to meet their academic demands of completing the syllabus and continuing education. Though the crisis was sudden, and most of these institutions were not prepared or equipped with infrastructure, they tried to convert these challenges into productive opportunities for the benefit of stakeholders, primarily students.
I can speak from my experience; our faculty members acknowledged our initiatives and involved themselves in conducting online teaching and learning. The whole process has been progressing in a planned manner and still continues to the satisfaction of all concerned. This encouraging experience is motivating us to a new future. We will soon face the post-COVID period. The uncertainty of this immediate future should make us start progressively reflecting in this direction.
Lockdowns have jeopardized academic atmosphere. There is an overwhelming sense of emotional damage, anxiety and uncertainty among teachers, students and their parents about classes, examinations and academic progression. We should address these issues systematically and find viable solutions to the satisfaction of all. I see two solutions to this at the higher education level - one is a short-term solution and the other long-term. The short term one has four phases.
The first phase involves the conduct of examinations of the final (terminal) semester students of PG and UG courses. We have the advisory from the regulatory bodies like UGC. As per their guidelines, we shall give 50 per cent weightage to previous semester aggregate and 50 per cent weightage to the Continuous Internal Assessment (CIA) of the end semester. The CIA component includes an online assignment or examination based on online teaching-learning conducted during lockdown period.
The process of the first phase could be completed by the end of June and the results announced by mid-July to make it possible for the final year students – either to take up their placements in industries or to pursue their academic career. All educational institutions may have to plan this way to do justice to our final year students.
The second phase, of course concerns the intermediate semester students. We need to plan out the conduct of their examinations. The examinations could be scheduled in the beginning of August and classes for the students could begin from the end of August. It is not right to conduct these examinations on only online mode. While we assure our students of all precautions and necessary protocol measures to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19, we must ensure that students do not face any problem in future related to their career opportunities and recognition of their academic standards.
The third phase is the admissions of fresh students. Some institutions like ours have already begun the online admission-process for different courses except UG which will start after the announcement of the +2 results, sometime in July-August. The fourth phase is to begin the new session. If all go well, new session could begin from the first week of September. It is beneficial to discern through the collective wisdom and take appropriate decisions that suit situations.
While working out the long-term, perspective plan, one must bear in mind thattechnological advancement and innovations are the extension of human mind and wisdom. Teaching online is a virtual reality. It cannot replace offline, face-to-face interactive mode. It can definitely supplement the offline mode and enrich the whole process of education. Keeping this idea in mind, we must evolve a right blend between these two – offline and online modes of teaching, learning, evaluation and even research.
In the last couple of months, Education market has become exciting. We have seen the mushrooming of online education start-ups who are promisingvarious digital platforms to educational institutions. They have offered themselves to handle A to Z of the activities in the institutions. They are wooing the institutions with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, and WhatsApp to provide live and recorded classes to the students.
We cannot allow our institutions and stakeholders to suffer at any cost. Academic atmosphere of the temples of wisdom must be maintained. Every institution needs to collectively reflect with its faculty members and experts to gradually find a permanent solution to make education student- friendly, novel and transformative. The proportion between online and offline could be on the basis of an institution’s infrastructure and facilities. The COVID pandemic has challenged us to look for alternatives and to usher in new “normal” in terms of rethinking the modes of dissemination of education within our institutions.
There may evolve two streams of students on the basis of their choice - one stream of students who would prefer to go into the industries, so they may like to have predominantly an online type of education. The other group of students who would choose to further the academic route might like to have a face-to-face and offline education. So we have to study and find what will be the best combination that each institution should choose for the benefit of our student community.
The COVID 19 with its sudden upheavals has changed our routines and life styles. Work, worship, home, health-care, education and social life have all been altered. We are forced to adapt to quarantine, lockdowns, physical distancing and mental agony. Physical health has been badly affected. Our needs and the ways to meet these needs are changing. A new pattern, a new normal is emerging. It is important in the process to identify and prioritize key issues and address them effectively. Some of the areas we need to focus on are:
1. The whole institution must be prepared and ready to face any eventuality, whether natural or physical. Every crisis must be turned into an opportunity to change. We need to educate ourselves with faculty and student development programmes.
2. The academic plan must be drawn up in such a way that it is flexible and therefore may be modified for any situation. 3. The institution must be equipped to handle the crisis with immediate and eventual plans. Immediate solution is to find ways and means to accompany the end-semester students to complete their course and move to the next stage in life.
4. The institution must be prepared to handle other intermediate semester examinations, evaluation and results. 5. Other areas to be immediately attended to are admissions and commencement of new sessions.
6. Educational institutions are the second homes of our students. They are to go beyond the four walls of their classroom and assist in their personal, emotional, and mental and health-care issues to promote their holistic well-being.
7. The institution must roll out a perspective plan for 5 or 10 years with a clearly spelt out vision and policy statements for the institution. 8. Educationalinstitutions have a social identity; they do not exist in isolation. Thus, Educational institutions must network and collaborate with one another, sharing resources and taking triumphant strides with their collective wisdom. Students are our primary stakeholders, in every move that we make every plan that we chalk out, the student community, as the principal pillar of societal growth, remains the inspiring ideology of all our endeavours in the field of education.
9. Colleges and universities must focus on creative research and innovations to further augment their online and offline teaching-learning modes of education. Academia-Industry interface will provide a structured platform for collaborative efforts.
10. It is the responsibility of every institution, public or private, to promote the four Es, namely Expansion, Excellence, Equity and Employability supplemented with a value-based foundation course and service learning.
Technology-enabled teaching-learning is evolving fast and will play a major role in the education sector in the future. We cannot restrict ourselves to only the methodology. The challenges are local and global, and they should involve our whole being and doing – transform and uplift the content of teaching-learning, our approaches, attitudes, relationship and ensure the betterment of our education and transformation of our students. This is the mission of every teacher and every temple of wisdom.
The author is Vice-Chancellor, St. Xavier’s University Kolkata. www.felixrajsj.com
Lockdown, particularly the closure of nonessential businesses—are having an unprecedented impact on the employment scenario of the world. Hundreds of millions of people worldwide have lost their jobs as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic. What about the 1.6 billion workers (22 % of the world’s population) in the “informal sector” – half the global workforce, who didn’t have a steady job to start with?They are in immediate danger of losing their jobs and livelihood. It is not certain that they will be recalled after the pandemic is over.
Dr. Ranjanendra Narayan Nag, Dr. Samrat Roy and Rishab Lodh
On March 24, 2020, the Government of India, under the leadership of Narendra Modi, decided for a nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the Covid-19. While the implementation of the "new normal" lockdown, travel bans, and social distancing has reduced the rate of doubling to 12.6 days, but it came at the cost of bringing the economy to a complete standstill.
Waking up every other day to the news of the death of more migrant workers makes one wonder what is more appalling: the condition of the itinerant labourers or the extreme apathy of the Government regarding their predicament. Two centuries earlier, a young Engels brought out the grim reality of the workers in Manchester during the Industrial Revolution in his first book “The Condition of the Working Class in England” (1845). Today, the scenario in Mumbai, the financial capital of the country which had been the most treasured British colony, is equally, if not more, horrifying. The present pandemic has brought out this harsh truth in broad daylight.
The worst-hit were the migrant workers, who lost their livelihood overnight and became homeless. The dilemma of implementing lockdown in a populous country like India is obvious. The immediate challenges faced by these migrant workers were related to food, shelter, loss of wages, fear of getting infected, and anxiety. This snatched the livelihoods of an estimated 40 crore informal workers leaving them without food and shelter. It resulted in a massive exodus of inter-state migrant workers from the metropolitans to their home states.
While there is no official data of the migrant workers, various estimates based on 2011 Census, Economic Surveys and the NSSO surveys, suggest at the number to be at least 8 crore. The suspension of transport services left no option for this huge populace other than walking for thousands of miles. As per official reports, over a 100 migrant workers have died from accidents, hunger and exhaustion before they could reach their home. Although their identities remain unknown, their images and stories are heart wrenching.
While protecting citizens of the country from community contagion due to the corona virus is an immediate priority, public policy and public action are equally important to ensure food security and to avoid starvation. Undoubtedly, this is an uphill task in a situation of an unprecedented crisis.
“Yahan ruk kar kya hoga? Hum bhookhey mar jayengey. Hum log paidal nikal jayengey.” (What will happen if we stay here? We’ll die of hunger. So we will walk home.)- From Voices of Invisible Citizens.
The following table will show the prevailing situation:
|Category||Maharashtra||Karnataka||Delhi and Haryana||Punjab||Tamil Nadu|
|Less than 100 rupees remaining||75%||53%||68%||84%||72%|
|No cash received from the Government||100%||98%||98%||93%||94%|
|Not been paid by employees||81%||70%||80%||81%||97%|
Source: The Hindu, 4th May 2020
The International Institute of Population Sciences summarizes that in urban areas, average wage earnings per day by casual labor engaged in works other than public works ranged between Rs 314 to Rs 335 among males and nearly Rs 186 to Rs 201 among females during 2017-18. So, a large number of migrant workers and migrant workers were surviving on subsistence wages. In a post lockdown world, the migrant workers are solely depending on Government’s spending/subsidies to support their food and nutritional intake and access to healthcare.
In these circumstances, it is important for the Central and State Governments to work in synergy and might consider the following points:
1. Under the 20 lakh crore relief package of Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, the centre decided to provide free food grain for migrant workers, and additional monthly free rice or wheat allocation of 5kg per person, 1kg of pulse per household from April to June to ration card holders. Many programmes meant the poor do not include migrant workers due to a lack of residential proofs and other papers. The need for the requirement is considering the migrant workers as a stakeholder of the urban economy. Keeping the situation under purview, the Government decided for "One Nation, One Ration," and for non-card holders, the centre and state will work in synergy for locating the non-card holder migrants.
2. To protect the livelihoods of the marginalized in the post lockdown economy, under MGNREGA, 14.6 crore person-days of work have been created, which 40%-50% higher than the previous year—affordable rental complexes planned under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna. While people across the quarters have welcomed the move, but over time the coverage has been low due to several reasons, most prominent being the number of households denied job cards. With 85% of leakage history, the low rate of job cards could be indicators for corruption-ridden system, and payment delays.
3. Several agricultural economists have welcomed the reform of investing Rs 1.5 lakh crore to build farm gate infrastructure and support logistics needs for fish workers, livestock farmers, vegetable growers, beekeepers, and related activities. In a bid to provide more securities to agricultural yield, the Government has decided to bring a facilitative legal framework to oversee contract farming, which would provide the farmer with assured sales price and quantity.
4. Shramik special trains are being arranged, but according the Railway Minister many States are not permitting them, possibly because of fear of the virus.
5. While the success of the above policies depends on strong implementation. Policies need to be framed for healthcare, which is already in a challenging state in rural areas without the pandemic. The availability of sanitizers, mask, and basic functional healthcare system has to be ensured.
In total, Rs. 14500 crore is supposed to be spent for some estimated 8 crore migrant workers which is Rs. 1812.5 per capita. Given that India and the global economy is headed towards a long recession, it is needless to say these measures are just peanuts for the migrant workers. As much as one would like to state otherwise, darkness looms large over the future of the migrant worker. It is extremely regrettable that the informal sector in India, which is the source of cheap labour and acts as a cushion to economic fluctuations, is always the least compensated and the worst hit during all types of disasters, be it natural or man-made.
The exodus of the labourer proved that migrants are being reduced merely to their labour power, and during a pandemic shock while others had the privilege of maintaining social distancing from their lavish homes, migrant workers were left in the lurch. As a part of civil society, let us hope, in the post-Covid world, we will see migrant workers as worthy stakeholders in urban welfare policies.
* Dr. Ranjanendra Narayan Nag, Department of Economics, St. Xavier’s College and St. Xavier’s University, Kolkata.
* Samrat Roy, Department of Economics, Faculty of Commerce (Morning), St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata.
* Rishab Lodh, MA Economics, St. Xavier’s University, Kolkata
Dr. Saswati Chaudhuri
Associate Professor of Economics
Department of Economics
St. Xavier's College (Autonomous)
Associate Professor of Economics
Department of Economics & Politics
VisvaBharati University, Santiniketan India
Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared as a savior on our television screens on Tuesday (12th May, 2020) and announced an economic package which puts India amongst the Developed nations of the world in terms of theirstimulus as a proportion of the GDP of the respective nation. With a package of Rs. 20 lakh crore implying a whopping 10% of India’s GDP, India is poised to be in the same league as Japan (21.1%), USA (13%), Sweden (12%) and Germany (10.7%).
Let us not forget one simple thing – the governments of these nations had announced such packages without appending the contributions of their Central Banks. The Federal Reserves had pumped $3.3 trillion to some critical segments of the US economy to boost small- and midsized businesses, as well as state and local governments andto purchase Treasury and mortgage-backed securities to help keep credit flowing. However, such infusions were totally delinked from the magnanimous package announced by Donald Trump.
In our case, we get an all-inclusive Atma-Nirbhar (Self-Reliant) package. A cursory glance at the table below would make the idea clear:
|1||6th February, 2020||RBI announced measures to inject liquidity||Rs. 2.8 lakh crore|
|2||27th March, 2020||Nirmala Seetharaman’sannouncement of GaribKalyan Package||Rs. 1.7 lakh crore|
|3||27th March, 2020||RBI announced measures to inject additional liquidity||Rs. 3.75 lakh crore|
|4||17th April & 27th April, 2020||RBI infused more liquidity through two separate announcements||Rs 1 lakh crore|
|5||12th May, 2020||PM Narendra Modi announces the ATMANIRBHAR package||Rs. 10.75 lakh crore|
The package is seen as a government attempt to check the world's fifth-largest economy hurtling towards its first full-year contraction in four decades. According to estimates, lockdown may have led to 12.2 crore people losing jobs in April and consumer demand evaporating. So our expectations were obviously laced with transparency and rational policies.
However, what struck us the very next day came as a ‘bolt from the blue’. The finance Minister never even bothered to provide some degree of transparency regarding the source of the fiscal package or the pattern of its finance. Liquidity infusion seems to be the major thrust of the Government, which would turn out to be ineffective if the ‘demand’ pathways of the economy are not diagnosed with urgency and efforts are directed towards its revival.
Thus, it is not enough to have ‘demand’ as one of the five pillars of aAtmaNirbhar Bharat. Rather policies transparent enough to boost demand should be underway, or else we would have to thrive on demagogy and nothing else.
To analyse the Prime Minister’s speech in a deeper perspective, a ‘self-reliant’ economy is never a hurdle for broad-based growth. We have shown in an econometric exercise that economies with higher levels of exposure to China have been the victim of more infection. Three variables were used in our analysis viz. migration, trade and FDI.
This can be amply exemplified by the example of Italy, possessing the highest Corona virus infected case and death in Europe and is considered to be the epicenter of the pandemic in Europe. China is also the largest cooperative partner of Italy in terms of imports and exports. Lombardy, a town in northern Italy has been severely affected by the outbreak. The reason might not be hard to fathom as Northern Italy has a very prosperous fashion and apparel industry and China had always offered cheaper manufacturing for their apparel factories. This has resulted in more and more fashion houses outsourcing their work to China, especially Wuhan. It also allowed over 100,000 citizens from China to move to Italy and work in those factories. During the Chinese New Year, which is generally celebrated on 25th January, many of these workers had gone home to celebrate their festival and might have been a carrier of the deadly virus on their return.
Thus, it is apparent that countries would take counter-active measures like closing borders and discouraging flow of goods and labour. Hence, with an unreliable global market with its myriad fluctuations, a vibrant domestic market is the need of the hour. Thus the adage propounded by the PM – vocal for local- would lead the country to a more cushioned territory, given the implementation is grounded properly with more action rather than words.
As human persons, Jesus and Tagore have many common attributes. They were spiritual leaders who have had great influence on their followers and readers. Tagore was also sometimes compared in the West to Jesus in his manner and appearance
That the Birth of Jesus made a deep and lasting impression on Tagore is evident from his poem, The Child. It is the only poem of Rabindranath Tagore, which is originally written in English. The piece was composed in July 1930 after his visit to the village of Oberammergau, 40 miles from Munich, Germany. Tagore visited the place to watch the traditional passion plays of Jesus Christ, held every ten years. It was later translated into Bengali as Sishutirtha (Pilgrimage to Childhood) in Punashca.
The Child is a recurrent metaphor in Tagore’s poems. The passion plays coalesced in the poet’s imagination and he conceived the Child in the harmony of creative impulse in the course of a night. Tagore finds humanity striving to transcend the burden of frustration and failure, breaking, yet refusing to be defeated and persevering with the quest. Man contains in himself the spirit of his redemption and one day, the Newborn; the divine Child shall triumph towards glorious fulfillment.
The poem is in ten sections and the actions pause and heave like the eternal waves of the sea. The poem blends the cultural contexts of the East and West, of impressionistic description and profound prophecy.
Religion is for spiritual guidance and growth of people. It is a major resource for promoting peace, harmony, liberty and justice. We must use religions to maintain and enrich our cultural and religious plurality, which is our asset. Our response must be based on reverence, respect, tolerance and compassion. Every person is an image of God (Genesis 1:27) and so a person is sacred, unique, irreplaceable, and irreducible. But the serious problem in society is that man has created God in his own image.
We need to build and promote a spirituality that is acceptable to, as many people as possible, if not all. Spirituality is an essential part of an individual’s holistic health and well-being. It plays a major role in human and societal governance and development. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, “God bless America” came easily to the lips of all Americans. In fact, spirituality came alive. It established the fact that human beings cannot do without it.
What is spirituality? It is hard to define. It is often understood as having to do with escaping from life’s temptations and challenges by going off to deserts and mountaintops to pray all day. It is often identified with matters otherworldly, something to do with spirits, something associated with pious and religious observances and activities. It is often contrasted to the temporal, to the material, or to the worldly.v
Until the 19th century, the history of spirituality remained bound up within the history of religion. Spiritual innovators, particularly the eighteenth-century Enlightenment thinkers, often opposed to clericalism and skeptical of religion, sometimes came to express as “spirituality” their more emotional responses to the world. In the wake of the Nietzschean announcement of the "death of God" in 1882, people, unconvinced by scientific rationalism, turned increasingly to the idea of spirituality as an alternative both to materialism and to traditional religious dogma. The distinction between the spiritual and the religious became more common in the popular mind during the late 20th century with the rise of secularism and the advent of the New Age Movement.
One can simply state that spirituality is one’s inner quality that makes one transcend the barriers of worldliness, caste, creed and sensuality; and realize one's connection with the Truth. It focuses on personal experience. Many spiritual traditions, accordingly, share a common spiritual theme: the "path" of perceiving and internalizing one's "true" nature and relationship to God, to the universe and to life, and of becoming free of the “egoic” self in favor of being fully one's "true" "self .”
Spirituality has to do with the "spirit" of our life - with the way in which we live out our relationship with God: our way of being spirit filled. Richard McBrien writes in Catholicism (1980):
To be "spiritual" means to know, and to live according to the knowledge, that there is more to life than meets the eye. To be "spiritual" means, to know, and to live that God is present to us in grace as the principle of personal, interpersonal, social and even cosmic transformation. To be "open to the Spirit" is to accept explicitly who we are and who we are called to become…
Spirituality is a path to God and to become God-like. Some Indian traditions define spirituality (Sanskrit: adhyatma) as that which pertains to the self or soul (Sanskrit: atman). According to Ursula King, it is understood "anthropologically as an exploration into what is involved in becoming fully human”, and fully alive (spirit-filled). In this respect, it is a supportive mechanism even in the workplace.
God is Spirit. That is how Jesus explains it to the Samaritan woman: “The hour is coming, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for God seeks such as these to worship him. ‘God is spirit’, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:23-24). ‘God is Love’ (1 John. 4: 8,16) and ‘God is Light’ (1 John. 1:5).
God is beyond form, space, time, sex, caste, color, religion and so on. The word ‘spirit’ has to do with wind; with the air we breathe in, and therefore with life. The spirit is life. Spirituality unfolds life that calls for transcendence: experience, awareness and appreciation of life beyond self. It helps a person to experience God as truth, love and peace. It takes him or her to something greater and higher. It takes a person beyond his or her egocentric nature and fills him with an other-centric attitude.
The Tamil Poet, Thirumular explains in his thought provoking Thirumanthiram that the Omnipotent cannot be transcribed in a single place nor can he be measured, nor has he any names but can only be experienced. God is love. It is only the ignorant who think that Love and God are two different things. Only few understand that the Divine is nothing but Love. Those who understand this become saints. He has no beginning or end and is also timelessness. In spiritual ecstasy, some experience the Divine as Abba, some as Spouse, some as Lover, some as Friend and so on.
Spirituality points to something central to human life. It is the experience of being unique, being human, being something – a power, energy, presence, drive – that shapes one’s actions and cultivates his or her life. It is what St. Augustine called “restlessness”. It is a path to God to become gradually God-like. The great scientist, Albert Einstein, had once said that his every effort was to “know God’s thoughts”. Spirituality is to be God–intoxicated as it happened in an ardent atheist, Spinosa’s life.
For Mahatma Gandhi, God is Life, Truth, and Light. He is Love. He is the Supreme Good. Gandhi could see that, in the midst of death, life persists, in the midst of untruth, truth persists; in the midst of darkness, light persists. He experienced God through service of humanity, for he knew that “God was neither in heaven, nor down below, but in every one.”
The unknown monk of the 12th century lucidly explains the unfolding of spirituality. "When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn't change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn't change the town, and as an older man, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realize the only one I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that, if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world."
We often don’t realize that transforming the world starts with transforming ourselves. Human persons are endowed with the greatest responsibility of preserving and promoting life. That is the mission given to every human person by the Divine. Spirituality helps persons to realize that mission, to become leaders and to reach out to fellow persons in love and service. For service to humanity is service to God. Many political, religious and business leaders succeed in deceiving people, especially the poor. But they cannot deceive their conscience.
The famous US President, Abraham Lincoln, was also a spiritual leader. During the terrible American civil war, when his secretary of State, Stanton, said, “Mr. President, I hope God is on our side”, Lincoln gently replied, “My dear chap, it is more important that we are on God’s side”. As Sri Aurobindo describes, “All depend on the spirit in which a thing is done, the principle on which it is built, and the use to which it is turned”. An important dimension of spirituality is an awakened consciousness. St. Ignatius of Loyola speaks of this aspect in his Spiritual Exercises as “seeing God in everything. God dwells in all creatures – in plants giving them life, in animals conferring upon them sensation, in human persons bestowing understanding. He also works and labours in all living creatures”. The Upanishads describe “Cosmic Consciousness”, as being present in all life and matter.
A guru once gave a test to his disciples. He gave them each a dove and told them to kill the doves where no one could see them. Only one of them returned to the guru and said, "I searched everywhere but could not find an unseen place to kill the bird, because even in the lonely places the bird was seeing me and I was seeing the bird and I felt that God was seeing both of us.” God is ever present in all things and everywhere.
People can be classified into three kinds as St. Ignatius explains in his Exercises. They can belong to any walk of life – religious, business persons, teachers, workers, students and so on. Their goal in life is the attainment of life-satisfaction through perfect service to God and humanity. To achieve this goal, they must be ready to sacrifice anything that stands in the way. No matter how entangled a person is in secular pursuits, he has the disposition to achieve the goal.
Suppose that each of these three kinds of persons has an equal sum of money and has an unreasonable affection for the amount. Any inordinate attachment produces inner disturbances and consequently loss of peace. All three types want to get rid of this inordinate attachment to achieve the goal. But, they differ in the means used.
Anything I possess outside of my mind and will, and to which I am strongly attached, would give me comfort, pleasure and joy. It can be anything: money or cultural possessions or business, or certain attitudes or even spiritual things. My will may become more or less bound to any of these. But when, on reflection, I discover that my attachment is inordinate, I am faced with the decision of either compromising or going “all out” in ridding myself of the disorderly affection. According to St. Ignatius, unless I am ready to be rid of the thing itself, I am not really sincere to myself.
The first of these three kinds of persons is unwilling to use any means to attain the goal. Until death they fail in the fundamental prudence to use suitable means to sacrifice the sum of money. A variety of reasons may be given for this failure: slothfulness, or avarice, or fear, or lack of self-confidence, or lack of conviction, or lack of faith and so on.
The second ones of these three kinds are compromisers: they want to be rid of the internal attachment and also retain the sum of money. They want to shape the course of Providence to suit them, instead of adapting themselves to the demands of Providence. It may well be that the sum of money to which a person is now attached, may be kept or continued without sacrificing, and detachment is still achieved. But if one is sincere in wanting to be freed of the psychological burden, he must be willing to dispose of the sum, which causes the inordinate interior effect.
The third type of persons has the generosity to dispose of the money and to shake off the dangerous affection. They are not satisfied with a minimal service, but want to do whatever is more conducive to the service of God and humanity.
Spirituality is emptying of self. It has no boundaries. It makes persons active and alive, transcendent and joyful. The only source of joy and happiness is the “Spirit” (God), the Aatman. It is the nature of Sat – Chit – Aanand (Existence – Knowledge – Bliss).
BramabandhaUpadhyaya adopted the vision of Saccidananda as expressive of the Christian mystery of God as Trinity. “I bow to Him who is Being, Consciousness and Bliss. I bow to Him whom worldly minds loathe, whom pure minds yearn for, the Supreme Abode. He is the Supreme, the Ancient of days, the Transcendent, Indivisible Plenitude, and Immanent yet above all things.” That reminds me of a story from one of Fr. Anthony De Mello’s books about a Salt Doll. The Salt Doll wanted to know who he was and so he went about asking people. One day he encountered the ocean and was impressed by its vast beauty. So he asked it if it knew who he was. The ocean said, “Come in and see for yourself.” The salt doll entered into the ocean and was carried by the waves. Just as the last part of the salt was about to dissolve, he said, “Now I know who I am!” I am a Salt Doll. But I am afraid of dissolving, of course.
As a Tamil poetic work, Purananuru proclaims, ‘To us, all villages and towns are one and all persons are kin.’ “The hallmark of spirituality is responsiveness to the given context….” affirms Swami Agnivesh, a spiritual leader of the marginalized and bonded labourers. “The spiritually enlightened person cannot remain indifferent to the problems and sufferings of others. Justice becomes the most authentic expression of spirituality in the social context.”
Spirituality is not opposed to religion. It is regarded sometimes not as religion per se, but as the active and vital energy that transforms life. It is also not identical with religion. As William Irwin Thompson put it, "Religion is the form, spirituality takes in civilization". It is also regarded as a two-stroke process: the "upward stroke" of inner growth, changing oneself as one changes one's relationship with the external universe; and the "downward stroke" of manifesting improvement in the physical reality around oneself as a result of the inward change. We all have spirituality whether we are religious or not. It is that which unites all as one human family, prevents us from disintegrating and puts people in harmony with the universe.v
Osho Rajneesh, a controversial Indian Guru, who was based in Pune, used to comment about spiritual leaders: ‘out of one hundred masters, there is only one Master, ninety-nine are only teachers. The teacher is necessarily learned; for the Master ... it is not a necessity... The Master is a rebel. He lives out of his own being, he is spontaneous, outspoken, constructively critical, not traditional…’
The earth is one, but the world is divided. Spiritual leaders therefore should come together and take a bold stand against corruption, injustice, and communal violence, and promote justice, harmony and peace. In a climate of acute crisis, they must show the way to the future. They must promote a sound and acceptable spirituality at the political and corporate levels to liberate and empower politicians and business leaders through a sense of shared purpose. Such a sense of purpose is a pre-requisite for good governance, national unity and overall development.
PRAYER OF ST.IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA
Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty,
my memory, my understanding and my whole will.
All that I am and all that I possess you have given me.
I surrender it all to you to be disposed of according to your will.
Give me only your love and your grace;
With these I will be rich enough,
and will desire nothing more.
The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola are a compilation of meditations, prayers, and contemplative practices developed by St. Ignatius Loyola to help people deepen their relationship with God. They grew out of Ignatius Loyola’s personal experiences as a man seeking holistic growth in union with God and to discern God’s will. He kept a journal as he gained spiritual insight and deepened his spiritual experience. He added to these notes as he directed other people and discovered what “worked.” Eventually Ignatius gathered these prayers, meditations, reflections, and directions into a carefully designed framework of a retreat, which he called Spiritual Exercises.”
Ignatius wrote that the Exercises: “have as their purpose the conquest of self and the regulation of one’s life in such a way that no decision is made under the influence of any inordinate attachment.” He wanted individuals to undertake these exercises with the assistance of an experienced spiritual director who would help them shape the retreat and understand what they were experiencing. The book of Spiritual Exercises is a handbook to be used by the director, not by the person making the retreat.
The Structure of the Exercises
Ignatius organized the Exercises into four “weeks.” These are not seven-day weeks, but stages on a journey to spiritual freedom and wholehearted commitment to the service of God.
The first week of the Exercises is a time of reflection on our lives in light of God’s boundless love for us. We see that our response to God’s love has been hindered by patterns of sin. We face these sins knowing that God wants to free us of everything that gets in the way of our loving response to Him. The first week ends with a meditation on Christ’s call to follow Him. Second week:
The meditations and prayers of the second week teach us how to follow Christ as His disciples. We reflect on Scripture passages: Christ’s birth and baptism, his sermon on the mount, his ministry of healing and teaching, his raising Lazarus from the dead. We are brought to decisions to change our lives to do Christ’s work in the world and to love Him more intimately. Third week:
We meditate on Christ’s Last Supper, passion, and death. We see his suffering and the gift of the Eucharist as the ultimate expression of God’s love.
We meditate on Jesus’ resurrection and his apparitions to his disciples. We walk with the risen Christ and set out to love and serve him in concrete ways in our lives in the world.
Prayer in the Exercises
The two primary forms of prayer Ignatius teaches in the Exercises are meditation and contemplation. In meditation, we use our minds. We ponder over the basic principles that guide our life. We pray over words, images, and ideas.
Contemplation is more about feeling than thinking. Contemplation often stirs the emotions and enkindles deep desires that reside in us, unnoticed. In contemplation, we rely on our imaginations to place ourselves in a setting from the Gospels or in a scene proposed by Ignatius. We pray with Scripture. We do not study it.
The discernment of spirits underlies the Exercises. We notice the interior movements of our hearts, and discernwhere direction they are leading us to. A regular practice of discernment helps us make decisions that are purposeful in terms of societal enactments.
All the characteristic themes of Ignatian spirituality are grounded in the Exercises. These include a sense of collaboration with God’s action in the world, spiritual discernment in decision making, generosity of response to God’s invitation, fraternity and companionship in service, and a disposition to find God in all things. Spiritual integration is a prominent theme of the Exercises: integration of contemplation and action, prayer and service, and emotions and reason.
What Is Ignatian Spirituality?
Ignatian spirituality is holy exercise for everyday life. It insists that God is omnipresent in our world and active in our lives. It is a pathway to more intense prayer, good decisions guided by keen discernment, and an active life of service to others.
Where Can I Find God?
Question-marks: Ignatian spirituality is rooted in the conviction that God is active, personal, and—above all—present to us. We don’t have to withdraw from the world into a quiet place in order to find God. God’s footprints can be found everywhere—in our work and our relationships, in our family and friends, in our sorrows and joys, in the sublime beauty of nature and in the mundane details of our daily lives. It’s often said that Ignatian spirituality trains us to “find God in all things.”
This perspective greatly influences how we live and how we pray. The daily grind of our everyday lives takes on transcendent importance. It is the place where we connect with God. This means that the choices we make in our daily lives either push us away from God or draw us more closely to him. Our lives matter.
The God of Ignatian spirituality is a giver of gifts. “God’s love is poured forth lavishly like a fountain spilling forth its waters into an unending stream,” St. Ignatius wrote. God’s blessings are a loving gift that invites us to love in return and act in reciprocation.
For centuries the Exercises were most commonly given as a “long retreat” of about 30 days in solitude and silence. In recent years, there has been a renewed emphasis on the Spiritual Exercises as a program for laypeople. The most common way of going through the Exercises now is a “retreat in daily life,” which involves a month-long program of daily prayer and meetings with a spiritual director. The Exercises have also been adapted in many other ways to meet the practical and providential needs of modern people.
We need a balance in mind, body and spirit. Physical exercises are a must for fitness of body, so also spiritual exercises are a must for the fitness of mind, spirit and life.
In August 1990, a Jesuit scholastic, while writing about Mother Teresa and Jesuits dropped in to see her not knowing that she was in retreat. She did see him. While he apologized for disturbing her, she just smiled and said, “I will always have time for Jesuits.” When she heard that the scholastic was from Calcutta, she became almost chatty and continued, “Being a priest is not enough, being a good priest is important…. The Jesuit vocation is a very special type of religious vocation, called to a great spirituality. The Society has given many saints to Mother Church. You are called to aim at nothing less….”
The association of the Jesuits with Mother Teresa goes back to the days when Mother was a member of the Institution of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM), a religious congregation for women founded after the pattern of the Society of Jesus. The then Superior General of the Jesuits Fr. E. Mercurian, helped in defining the institute's spirituality. He gave them the unrestricted use of the Ignatian Constitutions with permission to change the textual wording from 'he' to 'she'. By virtue of her having been a Loreto nun, the Constitutions of St. Ignatius and his spiritual exercises have had great influence on Mother's spirituality and life.
Mother Teresa had habitually preferred Jesuits as retreat preachers, spiritual directors and confessors for herself and her Sisters. Many Jesuits of Calcutta Province were in close contact with Mother Teresa. They include Archbishop Ferdinand Perier, Cardinal Trevor L. Picachy, Frs. C. Van Exem, Julian Henry, Joseph Sanders, Edouard Le Joly, Camille Bouche, Anton Gabric, Jose Cukale, Josef Neuner, Shukaley, Lawrence Abello, Carl Dincher, Harden, Albert Huart, Moyeson, Jambrekovic, McGuiire, and Travers-Ball. Most of these Jesuits were Belgians who had made, like Mother Teresa, Kolkata their home.
Fr. Celest Van Exem was the earliest main adviser and supporter to Mother Teresa and for the foundations of the Missionaries of Charity, right from her days as Loreto Sister. He was the spiritual director to whom Mother Teresa confided her inspiration and who first sought to discern the authenticity of her experiences. He was the first to support Mother in requesting Archbishop Perier to begin the process for her to leave the Loreto Congregation. He made major contributions to the writing of the Constitutions of the Missionaries of Charity. From the time of the foundation of the Congregation until his illness in the 1980s, he was a confessor and instructor of the novices. A few days before his death, he wrote to Mother Teresa, herself critically ill, that he had offered his life to God in exchange for hers and for her mission to China (which did not materialize).
Fr. Julian Henry SJ was a spiritual friend and close cooperator of Mother already from her days as Loreto sister. In 1949, as parish priest of St. Teresa's Church, he was the first to help Mother Teresa in her new apostolate, offering her a place to pray, rest and to run a dispensary. Before Mother had Sisters as companions, Fr. Henry used to send girls to accompany her. The Sisters of the first group to join Mother Teresa are grateful to Fr. Henry for all that he did in the early days to assist their apostolate, including the teaching of slum children to do carpentry.
Fr. Edouard Le Joly SJ, right from the beginning and for many years, was giving instructions to the M. C. Novices. He had frequent contacts and dialogues with Mother. He has written many books on Mother. His books have been translated into at least 25 languages. He has been associated with Mother for more than 25 years. He was spiritual adviser to the novices at Mother House and to the Sisters preparing for their final profession.
Cardinal Trevor L. Picachy SJ was spiritual guide, confidant, confessor and retreat director to MC Sisters. He was one of the most influential of her spiritual directors, in whom she confided a great deal. He gave much support and cooperation when he was Archbishop of Calcutta. He helped her in times of depression and low spirituality.
Fr. Camille Bouche SJ took over from Fr. Le Joly SJ. Mother had tremendous trust in Fr. Bouche. She took him to address the young sisters. He was one of the confessors of the novices, homilist and a spiritual guide. Fr. Anton Gabric SJ, a Yogoslavian Jesuit missionary in 24 parghanas, was parish priest at Basanti. He persuaded Mother to open centers in rural areas. The Yugoslavian Jesuits went back to their country and spoke about their experiences to the local youth. Mother was among one of those youth when she heard about Calcutta. He was a person whom Mother Teresa admired and whose ideals she shared, including zeal for souls, love for poor and a willingness to "love until it hurts". Like her, Fr. Gabric saw the immediate needs of the poor and sought to bring Christ to them through material, as well as spiritual service. Fr. Gabric's personal practice of poverty was probably very appealing to Mother and when she was still in Albania; Fr. Gabric’s letters about the Calcutta missions inspired her.
Fr. Jose Cukale SJ was from the same cultural background as Mother. Initially she worked with him. He was a good friend. At Mother's request he went to Armenia for one year to be chaplain of Sisters there. Fr. Josef Neuner SJ wrote the first article on Mother in German. He was retreat director for the sisters. He helped Mother to integrate her interior experience of spiritual darkness and to see its value as the spiritual side of her work for the poorest of the poor. Fr. Travers-Ball SJ, became in 1965, the co-founder and first Servant General of the Missionaries of Charity (Brothers). After leaving the Society of Jesus, he developed the Brothers as a Congregation and helped them to live Mother Teresa's charism with their own distinct identity. Fr. Joseph Sanders, a canonist, didn't have much personal contact with Mother, but was important adviser of Archbishop Perrier in the matter of foundation and MC Constitution.
Many more Jesuits had frequented friendly contacts with her, giving retreats and talks, being confessors in Mother House and rendering other services. For example, Frs. Robert Antoine, Pierre Fallon, Bishop Linus Gomes, etc.
According to a senior Calcutta Jesuit, "Mother Teresa was a saint and mystic. She was one of the great prophets of the option for the poor in the Church and in the world. Though a very orthodox Catholic (in some aspects pre-Vatican II), she had deep and spiritual relations with non-Christians in India and abroad. Her approach to the poor - reaching out to the poorest of the poor was necessary but not the only one. How to reform the system for more justice was not clearly emphasized or explicitly encouraged by her. The formation she favored for the Sisters might have been rather hasty and narrow."
By FR. FELIX RAJ, SJ
In August 1990, a Jesuit scholastic, while writing about Mother Teresa and Jesuits dropped in to see her not knowing that she was in retreat. She did see him. While he apologized for disturbing her, she just smiled and said, “I will always have time for Jesuits.” When she heard that the scholastic was from Calcutta, she became almost chatty and continued, “Being a priest is not enough, being a good priest is important…. The Jesuit vocation is a very special type of religious vocation, called to a great spirituality. The Society has given many saints to Mother Church. You are called to aim at nothing less….”
When I asked for her blessings in one of our meetings in 1994, Mother Teresa gave me a compassionate look and thrust a Rosary (a string of prayer beads) into my palms and said, “Pray for me and my work for the destitute and dying.” I discovered in this great lady the divine dispensation that reached the core of my heart. Every word she spoke, every touch and every look exuded a transformative tint.
I have had a close association with Mother Teresa. On many occasions, I had brought her in touch with the youth of Calcutta. She was there with her characteristic smile, exemplary humility and a penetrating presence that created an atmosphere of prayer and veneration. She was always inspiring and every time she met the youth, she had a message of love for them.
In 1989 – thirty-one years ago, I had just been ordained a priest and I had gone to Mother House to celebrate the Holy Eucharist for all her Sisters. As I entered the Mother House chapel, she stretched out her hand and touched my feet – I hastily withdrew and proceeded with the celebration.
Later, Mother met me in the sacristy with a broad and radiating smile. She gently kissed my hands and knelt down for my blessings. I was nervous and said, “Mother, who I am to bless you! Instead you must bless me.” She looked at me with a gentle smile and said, “You are a priest, a newly ordained priest, a representative of Christ, and so I humbly seek your blessings”. I blessed her abundantly, and quickly knelt down and sought her blessings. It was an unforgettable and a transformative moment of my life. The memories of that encounter are still fresh in my mind.
When I think of Mother Teresa, the image that I have of her is the universal Mother like the Goddess Durga for the cultural connotation of the people of Calcutta. Undoubtedly, Calcutta made her first Mother Teresa and then Saint Teresa. She performed the mission of destroying the evil of poverty and inhumanity that does away with life and propagated peace of thought and purity of act. The permeating concord of human solidarity that spreads across Mother’s missionary journey of charity removed the emotional distance between people. Indeed, she healed our race.
August 26 every year is Mother’s birth anniversary. I am fortunate and blessed to share my birthday with her. Her favorite words have always inspired me: “The fruit of silence is prayer; the fruit of prayer is faith; the fruit of faith is love; the fruit of love is service and the fruit of service is peace.”
It is said, ‘every beginning has an end and every end has a new beginning’. Mother is not dead; such a life cannot have a foregone conclusion. She bridged the gap between life and death and her legacy continues to live in the hearts of her sisters and followers like me.
Mother was a woman who spoke with authority.
On one occasion, when I had gone to the Mother House to pick her up for a function at St. Xavier's, as she came out of her room she asked me, “Father do you recite rosary?” In my youthful Jesuitical way, yet spontaneously, I whispered to her, “I do not say rosary Mother".
“What kind of a priest are you? Don’t you have love and devotion to our Mother Mary?” she almost scolded me.
"Yes Mother, I have devotion to our Lady, but you see..."
"There are no buts and ifs in my dictionary young Father. From today, you pray the rosary. Understand?" She resolutely commanded.
Her powerful wordspierced into my veins and mingled with my system. I knew they came from her heart. No woman had spoken to me with such commanding authority earlier, of course with the exception of my mother.Since that day, two soul mates accompany me always and everywhere: my rosary and a picture of Master Ignatius with his prayer of ‘Take and Receive.’
I underwent a dramatic transformation in my devotion to our Lady and my outlook to and respect for women. My association with Mother of Kolkata has enriched my life.
Mughal Empire Between Vasco da Gama's arrival in Calicut in May 1498 and his death in Cochin at Christmas 1524, Asia witnessed the emergence of the last great Muslim empires. In 1501 Shah Isma'il founded the Safavid dynasty(1501–1736) in Iran, which was to remain in power until the early 18th century. The Ottomans, a Turkish dynasty named after its founder, Osman, had conquered Cairo in 1517 and were advancing through the Red sea with a plan of becoming a power in the western Indian Ocean. Finally, there was the Mughal Empire which reigned in northern India from 1526 through 1858. Babur had pushed ahead with his conquest of Hindustan, taking the throne of Delhi and becoming the first emperor of this newly formed state in 1526. All three empires posed new challenges to the Portuguese, who established their capital in Goa in 1510.
The Portuguese were little used to dealing with political powers in the continent. They maintained a string of settlement that stretched as far as Gujarat. Their survival in southern Asia depended on a successful relationship with the Mughals, which was expressed in a range of fields that included commerce, politics, religion, culture and the arts. The religious relationship was indelibly marked by the Jesuit's influence at the courts of Akbar and Jahangir (1605-27), of course, not neglecting the localized presence and work of the Augustinians and the Discalced Carmelites. The cultural and artistic relationship was based on the multiple influences that affected objects, ideas, tastes and styles.
Babur's grandson, Jalaluddin Muhammed Akbar, who occupied the throne from 1556 to 1605, consolidated Mughal rule over the whole of northern India, taking in Sind, Kashmir, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Orissa and Bengal, forming a partnership with the Hindu Rajputs to govern through a centralized bureaucracy with officers of state and provincial authorities under his personal direction. The empire of Akbar stretched from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal. Akbar himself was a capable (although illiterate), shrewd, and conciliating administrator, who managed to gain the cooperation of the peoples and their rulers in the regions he conquered. He abolished the poll tax that had customarily been levied on non-Muslims.
During the middle of his reign, Akbar's quest for Truth and Knowledge accelerated. He got the Holy Text of Mahabharata translated from Sanskrit to Persian. He took expressed interest in the religious beliefs of his subjects, especially that of the Muslims and Hindus. He enforced many reforms, including the edict of complete tolerance for all religions. From the mid-1570s, he had instituted weekly religious discussions in a specially built structure called the Ibadatkhanch, house of worship. More open-minded than most contemporaries, he invited Islamic, Hindu, Christian, Jain and Zoroastrian scholars to religious discussions. His broad fascination with religions culminated in 1582, in the establishment of the Din-Ilahi, a syncretistic cult incorporating Islamic, Hindu and Christian beliefs.
Jesuit Mission to India
The Indian mission of the Jesuits lies at the very origin of their Order. It is to India that Ignatius of Loyola, the Founder of the Society of Jesus, sent his greatest son, Francis Xavier, and to him and his collaborators, that he gave that inspiration and those directives, which became the basis of the Jesuit mission and method. India has also been the birthplace of missionary theories and the testing ground of missionary policies.
Francis Xavier was the first Jesuit to set foot on Indian soil on May 6, 1542. That day, he entered Goa in the entourage of the new governor, Martin Affonso de Sousa, with whom he had sailed from Lisbon. They were given a rousing welcome, and the natural beauty of the Mandovi riverside, together with the imposing buildings, could not but move Xavier. He took charge of the College of St. Paul in Goa started in 1541 by a group of Portuguese. This college was the first educational institution in India which became later the cornerstone of wide-spread Jesuit mission in education and in other fields.
Xavier was a zealous “missionary on the move”. He constantly travelled along the Fishery Coast visiting parava villages, then west into Marava country, then to Mylapore (present-day Chennai). He sailed to Malacca and Japan in 1549 where he spent two and a half years. In April 1552 he set sail to China via Malacca from Goa, never to return alive. He died at Sancian, a small island facing China, on December 2 of the same year. Wherever he went, he plunged himself into charitable and pastoral work preaching the message of God’s love to people. At the time of his death there were 64 Jesuits in India. He worked in India for ten years, 1542 to 1552, called the Xaverian decade.
Jesuits at the Mughal Court
Akbar, the 3rd great Mughal ruler was a religious man, who, in the words of his son, “never for a moment forgot God”. Akbar got his first insight into the Christian character and religion from the actions of two Jesuits – Frs. Antony Vaz and Peter Dias, who had reached Bengal in 1576 at the request of the Bishop of Cochin. These Jesuits had severely rebuked some Portuguese merchants who had defrauded the Mughal treasury by not paying taxes. They had asked them to restitute, otherwise there would be no forgiveness for them. Akbar was greatly impressed by this news and curious about the religion, which insisted so much on honest dealings. Soon he sent for Fr. Julian Pereira, Vicar-General of Bengal in 1576, who in turn suggested that he should invite the Jesuits to his court.
In September 1579, Akbar’s ambassador arrived at Goa with a letter, asking for two learned priests to be sent to Akbar’s court. To quote Akbar’s letter: "... I am sending Abdullah, my ambassador, and Dominic Perez (an Armenian Christian, the interpreter) with the request that you will send me two learned Fathers and the books of Law, especially the Gospel, that I may know the Law and its excellence…" He wanted them to provide him and his Muslim and Hindu courtiers with first-hand knowledge about Christian doctrines (which, according to him, consisted of the message of the Tora and the Gospel).
The invitation elicited great hopes among the Goan Jesuits. The Provincial, Fr. RuiViccente chose three Jesuits for the project. They were Fr. Rudolf Acquaviva (who later suffered martyrdom at Goa and was declared blessed) who led the mission, Fr. Antony Monserrate and the Persian born Br. Francis Henriques as his companions. They reached FatehpurSikri some 110 miles south of Delhi, via Surat and Gwalior on February 28, 1580 and were received with extraordinary warmth and affection by the emperor, whose attachment continued throughout the three years of the duration of the mission. Since Akbar did not become a Christian and appeared to be doubtful as to all forms of faith, unwilling to commit himself, the Jesuits thought they might, as well, spend their time elsewhere. In 1582, Francis Henriques and Monserrate returned back leaving behind Rudolf who wanted to pursue the efforts for some more time. But in 1583, Rudolf too returned to Goa as nothing positive happened, thus ending the first Jesuit Mission to the great Mughal Empire.
The one clear objective of the Jesuits was to convert the emperor. Throughout the three years of acquaintance, Akbar showed sincere friendliness with them, but remained uncommitted. Their uncompromising advocacy for the Christian faith, occasionally perceived by the audience as aggressive, was met by the firm commitment of the Muslim scholars to Islam. The interest that Akbar showed in Christianity, giving rise to Jesuit hopes that they could be converted, turned out to be nothing more than a reflection of the religious eclecticism of the emperor who had hesitation in using Christian imagery as propaganda tool. The eclectic and rationalist politician, Akbar, who was also mystic, did not embrace Christianity. The announcement of Din-Ilahi also dashed the Jesuit hopes of Akbar becoming a Christian. To the Jesuits, he was first an encouragement, and then became an enigma, and finally, a bitter disappointment. Fr. Anthony Monserrate is said to be the first Jesuit geographer in India. When the team left Goa for the Mughal mission, he was asked to keep a diary of all events, which he did faithfully, adding greatly to its value by his geographical and astronomical observations. On his journey from Surat to FatehpurSikri in 1580, he made a survey and took observations for latitude. When Akbar marched to Kabul in 1581 against his half-brother Mirza Muhammed Hakim, he took Fr. Monserrate along for continuing the tuition of his second son Murad. Akbar encouraged Fr. Monserrate to take observations en route. He, however, showed no interest in the date collected by Fr. Monserrate who kept it with himself even when he returned to Goa. Later in 1804, Francis Wilford of Bengal Engineers made use of Fr. Monserrate’s manuscripts to prepare a valuable map of the countries west of Delhi.
The first Jesuit Mission, however, cannot be considered as a total failure. The Jesuit presence did help to bring about a better understanding and dialogue between Islam and Christianity. Art, literature, and history in India as well as in Europe, benefited by the presence of Jesuit missionaries at Akbar's court. The Jesuits at the Mughal court did end up writing an extremely important chapter in the history of inter-religious dialogue in India. The opening of a religious dialogue was precisely what the circumstances thrust upon them there. The friendship that came into existence outlived the first missionaries. This first contact created a pattern of normal relationships between the learned of different religious convictions. Subsequent Jesuit missionaries were similarly well received by the Mughal court.
In 1591, a second mission consisting of Fr. Edward Leitao, Fr. Christopher de Vega and Bro. Stephen Riberio arrived at Lahore on Akbar’s invitation. But it lasted less than a year. The Jesuits soon felt that they were engaged in a futile task and feared that Akbar was manipulating them for his own ends. Once again after a gap of 13 years, Akbar’s earnest efforts to obtain a replacement were rewarded. In May 1595, Fr. Jerome Xavier (grandnephew of Francis Xavier) accompanied by Fr. Manuel Pinheiro and Bro. Bento de Goes arrived in Lahore on a third mission. This time Akbar gave them permission to open a school and to build churches at Agra and Lahore. However, the king avoided the subject of religion with the Fathers on the pretext that the Jesuits needed to learn Persian before embarking on religious discussions. The third mission had more of an impact on both Mughals and Portuguese. Akbar commissioned Fr. Xavier to translate the Life of Christ into Persian as the Dastan-i-Masih. This was completed in 1602.
The Jesuits enjoyed the patronage of Akbar and his son Jahangir; but under Shah Jehan and Aurangzeb this disappeared. Though there were no Christian congregations of importance in Moghul India, there were a number of individuals who wielded considerable influences in Court and elsewhere.
Akbar also married an Armenian Christian, Mariam Zamani Begum. Mariam’s sister, Lady Juliana was the doctor of the royal harem. Juliana was given in marriage to Prince Jean Philipe de Bourbon of Navarre of the royal house of France. It is said that Juliana built the first Church at Agra. Akbar had an adopted son, Mirza-Zul-Qarnain (Zulcarnen), first son of Mirza Iscandar an Armenian who was a cavalier at Akbar’s court. Mirza-Zul-Qarnain was the founder of the Jesuit College at Agra.
He was brought up in the palace Queen Mariam, and grew up as the brother and playmate of Jahangir and Shah Jehan. His rise was fast. He was the Governor of Sambar, Mogor, Babrich (Oudh), Lahore and Bengal. Both Jahangir and Shah Jehan had affection for him, appreciated his administrative ability and respected his staunch faith and virtuous life. He was a genuine Christian and was in very good relations with Jesuits Fathers. He built a Church in Mogor and promoted Christianity. He always helped the Jesuits by donating funds. He gave them a large sum of money to purchase a land in Salsette(Mumbai), to the College in Agra and to establish a mission in Tibet.
He freed them when they were imprisoned. On all solemn feats of the year, he would send to the Jesuits large sums of money to be distributed as alms among the poor Christians. He won the admiration of the Jesuits Fathers, and they have left glowing accounts of him. One record refers to him as the “Father of Mogor Christians” and the “Pillar of Christianity in India”. He is also referred to as an Apostle, a second St. Paul.
Easter marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ.It will be celebrated on Easter Sunday, April 12 this year by 2.2 billion Christians all over the world. Easter this time will go on record as the celebrationswill be held indoors and at homes due to COVID -19 lockdowns, marking a different mode of solemnity to the occasion.
Church services and public assemblies, on Good Friday and on Easter Sunday, have been called off. People have been advised to celebrate Easter privately and to be in touch with others online. Even Pope Francis himself has decided to hold Easter Mass without the public, for the first time at St. Peter’s Square.
COVID-19 has compelled the world to come to an uneasy halt. The pandemic has swept into almost all countries of the world. It has killed as of now more than 70,000 people and infected more than a million worldwide. It has hit us all; it has levelled the world through an act of death. Things have changed in just a matter of days.We are deeply concerned by the alarming levels of spread and severity.
People experience fear and anxiety. The total lockdown besides being a measure designed to encourage people to stay home and to limit opportunities to unknowingly spread COVID-19 to others has put all of us particularly the poor at risk.It has hurt the marginalized communities of the migrant workers and daily-wage earners,without proper livelihood, food, shelter, health care and other basic needs. Thousands have been left stranded with rail and bus services shut down.
Churches, Mosques, temples and all places of worship are closed. We have even quarantined God! Educational institutions, factories and all work places have been shut down. People have quarantined themselves within the four walls of their houses. We are afraid of each other; we maintain a safe distance of two meters from each other including dear and near ones. Have we rebelled against God? Is God displeased with us? Is COVID – 19 a wrath of God revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth? We need to step forward like Abraham (Genesis 18:24) and pray, “Far be it from You God to do such a thing to kill all of us. Spare us and as the Judge of all the earth, do what is right.
COVID-19 has also come as a blessing in disguise. After so many years of hustle and bustle of life, there is quiet all over, sky is clear, blue and grey, air is fresh, birds are chirping and flying happily around. Nature has cleansed herself, people have discovered time; they have rediscovered their families. A new way of interrelatedness has begun to take place.Governments and all those in power and leadership need to ensure all have access to sufficient and proper food, shelter and health care.
The family is the nucleus of civilization and the primary unit of society. Stronger familial bonds ensure stronger society. Therefore, Resurrection has acquired its truest message of new life, of thecosmic enchantment which Easter symbolizes. Tragedies can be transformed into opportunities, of spiritual and personal rebirth of communities.
Easter is the paradigm for Jesus’ sacrifice for humankind and the triumph of good over evil. It represents the cleansing of the earth and the self and deliverance from all wickedness. This moment of eternity is our journey, our sail on Noah's Ark upon the sea of life, together as one people in solidarity, respectfully adhering to the directives of the Government authorities; it is our passage from pandemic danger to new found freedom and human fellowship. As in the case of Jesus and Noah, this pandemic will pass away, a rainbow will shine and shower on all peoples of the earth the colors of life.
Easter for us today is our efforts and sacrifices to win over COVID 19. Let this Easter generate in our hearts and families an abiding love and reverence for one another, for nature and for the whole universe. Let us hear the resurrected Christ’s footsteps as he walks out of the tomb victorious.
I wish all readers a peaceful Easter celebration. May the Risen Jesus bless all of us.
The author is Vice-Chancellor, St. Xavier’s University, Kolkata: Log on: www.felixrajsj.com
A Jesuit is a disciple of Jesus Christ in the footsteps of Ignatius of Loyola for the greater glory of God (ad maiorem Dei gloriam - AMDG)in the spirit of Magis(greater and greater). AMDG is the motto of the Jesuit Order, the Society of Jesus, and Magis refers to the philosophy of Jesuit charism.
Key Jesuit Values or Strategies to accomplish Christ’s Mission:
All these Jesuit values flow from the Jesuit Charism. A "charism" is a grace or talent granted by God to a special person. God granted special graces (or charisms) to St. Ignatius that now help the Jesuits and their mission. At a Jesuit institution, these charisms help us to define how we interact with our faculty, staff, students, parents, alumni, alumnae, people in general and with each other.
My Jesuit Heroes:
When I wanted to join the Jesuits, the first book I read was “Red Sand: A life of St. John de Britto, S.J. martyr of the Madura mission by A Saulieŕe, SJ. I have visited Oriyur, the place of his martyrdom as a school student. The distance between Oriyur and my ancestral village is 45 km. His life has been a great source of inspiration me. I consider myself a Britto Christian. Red Sand led me to read the lives of St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Xavier.
1. St. Ignatius of Loyola: A Heroic Life – Inspiring and Challenging.
Ignatius, born in 1491 in Spain, was one of those remarkable characters of the 16th century. A Basque nobleman, he was just over five feet tall. He became a brave knight at King Ferdinand's court.
In May 1521, in the battle between Francis I, King of France and the Province of Navarre, Ignatius was wounded in both legs. In hospital he underwent a painful and unsuccessful operation. During the long weary weeks of convalescence at home Ignatius read two books, the "Life of Christ" by Rudolph of Saxony and the "FlosSanetorium", which transformed his life.
In 1522, he left home and went to the shrine of our Lady of Montserrat near Barcelona. There he hung his sword and dagger as a pledge of his new consecration to Christ and His Mother. For the next year he lived on alms, spending long hours in prayer.
There he wrote his "spiritual exercises", the most efficient and widely used Retreat Manual today. Firm in his determination to serve God, but realizing that first he needed the weapon, of knowledge; he completed his philosophical and theological studies at Paris University, where he won six men, all brilliant students - Francis Xavier, Peter Faber, James Laínez, Simon Rodrigues, Alfonso Salmerón andNicholás Bobadilla.
The day came when Ignatius and his companions decided to form themselves into a new community. After much prayer and consultation Ignatius prepared a document, outlining the new order, to be known as the "Society of Jesus", which was made a religious order by Pope Paul III.
"Ignatius had a real facility for finding God in all things," his close friends used to say. The end came suddenly for Ignatius. In 1556 he fell ill. On July 30, he sent Father Polaneo to Vatican for Pope Paul IV's last blessing. Next morning at sunrise, shortly after the secretary's return, Father Ignatius passed away peacefully.On July 31 every year, Jesuits and Jesuit institutions throughout the world celebrate his Feast.
2. Francis Xavier – The Great Missionary and Patron of India:
Francis Xavier was born in the royal castle of Xavier, in the Kingdom of Navarre, on 7 April 1506, in Spain. In 1525, Francis completed his studies at the Collége Sainte-Barbe, University of Paris and joined there itself as a lecturer. He met Ignatius at the university who was pursuing theological studies to become a priest.
Ignatius' saying: "What will it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" made a deep impression in the heart of Francis Xavier and eventually decided to follow Christ like Ignatius after having gone through the Spiritual Exercise.
He was one of the first seven Jesuits who took vows of poverty and chastity at Montmartre, Paris in 1534. He led an extensive mission into Asia, mainly in the Portuguese Empire of the time and was influential in evangelization work, most notably in India.
The Indian mission of the Jesuits lies at the very origin of the Jesuit Order. It is to India that Ignatius of Loyola, the Founder of the Society of Jesus, sent his greatest son, Francis Xavier.
Xavier was a zealous "missionary on the move". He constantly traveled along the Fishery Coast, then west, into Marava country, then to Mylapore (present day Chennai). He sailed to Malacca and Japan in 1549 where he spent two and a half years. In April 1552 he sailed to China via Malacca from Goa, never to return alive.
He died atShangchuan Island, a small island facing China, on the 2nd of December of the same year. Wherever he went, he plunged himself into charitable and pastoral work preaching the message of God's love to people. He worked in India for ten years, from 1542 to 1552, and the period is called the Xaverian decade.
3. John de Britto – Arul Anandar:
John de Britto, known as Arulanandar, was born at Lisbon on March 1, 1647 in a wealthy family. A playmate and fellow-student of the princes of Portugal he entered the Society of Jesus on Christmas Day, 1662. In 1673 he sailed from Lisbon for the East with 17 fellow Jesuits.
During the course of the voyage 13 of them died. De Britto was one of the four who survived. After his arrival in Goa, he continued his theological studies and then towards the end of April 1674 he set out for Madura Mission.
At Kolei he acquainted himself with Tamil customs. He preferred sitting cross-legged on the ground, drinking water without the vessel touching his lips, eating meals with his hands, walking barefoot, wearing a flowing shirt called "anghi" and a turban on his head, and rings in his ears. He abstained from eating meat, eggs and fish and took to rice and vegetable curry.
Within six months he learnt Tamil. He proceeded to preach the word of God in the five ancient kingdoms: Vellore, Jingi, Tanjore, Madura and Marava. He travelled hundreds of miles in spite of many hardships and the fear of attack upon his person.
In 1686 Britto was arrested by the command of the chief minister of Marava called Kumara Pillai. He was beaten mercilessly and subjected to torture in a well. Eventually he was freed.
Among those he helped was a prince of the royal family, called ThadiyaTheva, whom Britto had cured of a disease. The prince decided to give up the practice of keeping many wives. Kadeli, one of his many wives, complained about her dismissal to the Raja of Marava. The Raja had Britto arrested. He was sentenced to death. The next day he was taken to Oriyur and was beheaded on February 4, 1693. The place where he was beheaded is red even to this day and so it is called Red Sand.
De Britto died a martyr's death. He was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1947. On February 4 the whole Church celebrates De Britto's Feast.
Link: “Jesuit Legacy and Education” an article by Fr. Felix Raj in the Telegraph Paper on July 31, 2019 in Kolkata https://www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/a-precious-milestone-of-jesuit-legacy-and-education/cid/1695510
All of us know that COVID-19 has compelled the world to come to an uneasy halt. The pandemic has swept into at least 177 countries. It has killed more than 31,000 people and infected 6, 63,924 worldwide as of March 29. It has hit us all; it has levelled the world through an act of death. Things have changed in just a matter of days.We are deeply concerned by the alarming levels of spread and severity.
In India, as of March 29, cases of infection are more than 1000 and the virus has claimed 24 lives so far. In view of the urgent need to contain the spread of the deadly COVID-19, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced a three-week complete lockdown across the country on March 24. “To save India and every Indian, there will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes,” he said in a national address.
Both the Central and State Governments are responding to the situation and are coordinating efforts across the country to combat the spread of the coronavirus. It is our moral and Xaverian duty to join hands and support the schemes and projects undertaken by the HCM and her government. I appeal to all to generously come forward with whatever monetary contributions you can make. I am glad to inform that all the faculty members and the officers of the University have already volunteered to donate one-day salary for this purpose.
Let us remember the dead and pray for the repose of their souls, and the suffering for strength and solace. Our gesture may be a drop in the ocean; but it is the little drops that make the mighty ocean. We shall transfer the amount collected for this purpose to the “West Bengal State Emergency Relief Fund”.
Your contributions can be sent to: St. Xavier’s College Kolkata Educational Trust, by NEFT/RTGS.The details of the account are as follows:
A/C No.: 95852010029620
You may contact our Finance officer, Fr. Arul Raj for any query (Mobile: 91 7044329088). After transferring the amount, kindly send a note to the FO so that we can send you an acknowledgement mail (email@example.com).
Kindly note that such contributions will qualify for Income Tax Relief u/s 80G of IT Act.
May God bless all of you.With the assurance of our prayers. Stay home and stay blessed at this moment.
Fr. J. Felix Raj, SJ