Time for Church to Act – Indian Currents

Source: Indian Currents

Narendra Modi, who was then the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, used the media and social networking sites with meticulous planning during the last Parliament elections to ensure victory. A select team of professionals continue to manage the media and publicity department to project Me. Modi as a great leader and messiah of the country. Young people are so brainwashed that they consider him as the only leader who can develop the country and fulfil their aspirations.    

As I was travelling across the country I was surprised to see a large number of priests, religious and even bishops who were full of praise for Narendra Modi. As the young people they were also impressed by the way he talks and his popularity both in India and abroad as reported by the media. At the same time when I asked them about the Hindu fundamentalist groups and their strategy they were ignorant about them. They knew very little about the communal violence and bloodshed which took place in Kandhamal in Orissa and other parts of the country like Muzzafarnagar. Many of them do not know how the Hindutva groups in Chhattisgarh are threatening and harassing the Church personnel.

These clergy and the religious are believing in the eloquent speeches of Narendra Modi without any critical analysis. They were not seeing the serious implications of the statement by Rajeshwar Singh of Dharm Jagran Manch, a Hindu outfit, who said: “By 2021, we will finish Islam and Christianity”. Neither could they see anything wrong with the Government which granted an hour to RSS chief Mohan Bagawat to address the nation through Door Darshan. Though there are hundreds of Christian lawyers practicing in High Courts and Supreme Court including lawyer priests and religious, none of them dared to file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against these inflammatory statements which violate the spirit and letter of the Constitution.

 Many of the Church leaders neither analyse nor react to the decisions of HRD Ministry which ordered to keep the schools open on Christmas to conduct different activities on ‘Good Governance”. While the opposition parties protested, the Church personnel kept silence. Many Central Government departments have decided not to give holiday on Christmas; instead asked the employees to attend programmes to mark former Prime Minter Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s birthday on 25th December. The BJP and the Hindutva fundamentalists clearly want to communicate to the Christians that they don’t care for them. Yet the church bodies like Conference of Bishops and Conference of religious do not feel the necessity of organizing any emergency meeting to discuss these emerging realities which affect the life and mission of the Church.

All are busy with routine Christmas carols, processions to make Christ known to people of other faith, seminars and retreats to preserve outdated practices. To make things worse, some are engaged in organizing mega religious events in public places spending many lakhs of rupees without any impact. This show of strength of the minority community will only provoke the anti–Christian groups. Hardly anyone seriously evaluates, ‘what way God is going to be glorified by these extravagant celebrations? What lasting spiritual nourishment will the people who participate in these mega events will receive?”

The RSS strategy of making India a Hindu Rashtra is no more a secret agenda. Mohan Bagawat spoke of it openly that the campaign to help people of other faiths reconvert to Hunduism will continue. He dared the political rivals to bring a law to ban religious conversions if they wanted to stop ‘gharvapsi’. The reconversion drama is a carefully planned strategy to trap the opposition parties and get an anti-conversion law passed in the Parliament. O.P. Tyagi had made an attempt to introduce similar Bill during the Janata Party rule in seventies. Recently Sushma Swaraj, the External Affairs Minister, had spoken very bluntly, “Gita should be made the national scripture”.

A brainwashed nation with the support of large corporate houses and the opportunist media will not bother about the arrogance and violation of the spirit of the Constitution by the fringe groups.   With his eloquence and carefully cultivated image, Modi has already made sure that he and his party will win elections with the vote of the brainwashed new generation and the selfish middle class. The tactics of Hindu consolidation by the dedicated RSS cadre will help Modi and BJP to remain in power.

Hardcore Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders like Ashok Singhal and Praveen Thogadia speak as if HinduRashtra has already arrived. “Finally, after 800 years, a day has come when we can say we have a government which is committed to protecting Hindutva,” said Mr. Singhal.    

The harassment and attacks on Christians by the fanatic Hindu organisations had been a frequent experience over the years. What disturbs me more is the indifference of priests, religious and all those who are in leadership position. In all these years the Church has failed to stand united and reflect on the anti-Christian campaign. Both at the local and the national level, it has not made any serious analysis of the emerging challenges. Nor does it make any strategy to deal with them. Whenever I had spoken to bishops and leaders of religious congregations about the urgency to analyse, make strategies and equip the church personnel to prepare to face the crisis, they remarked, ‘there is no need of any such strategies.’

I recall my conversation with the PRO of the CBCI suggesting to convene a consultation to analyse and prepare a strategic action plan to deal with the attack on several church institutions and Christians in Kandhamal region. I had proposed this after my visit to the region within a week of the violent incidents. The response was indifference and helplessness. When at last I had   organized a consultation with over 60 religious and priests which brought out concrete proposals,   petty theologians and self righteous preachers questioned the validity of organizing such a meeting . (These proposals are available in my book VISION 2030).   

A day after the BJP swept the elections with absolute majority under the leadership of Narendra Modi, I had written a letter to some bishops and leaders of religious congregations about the urgent need for a review of the Church priorities and making strategic planning. Some responded saying, “now there is no need of such a strategy. Let us watch what they would do”. Many of them were blaming Congress party and the failure of Rahul Gandhi’s leadership. A large majority of them did not have the courtesy of acknowledging the letter which I had written with much concern for the future of the Church.   After a couple of months once again I wrote to those in leadership positions realizing the role of a prophet as a “cry in the wilderness”.

It is a pity that many who are holding responsible positions are cut off from the socio-political realty. They are like Ostrich which buries its head in the sand when it sees any danger. The largest bird feels very safe when it does not see the danger only to be killed. The ignorance of the socio-political context makes priests, religious and hierarchy indifferent to the challenges and continue the unproductive routine life. The preoccupation in organizing mega events, noisy preaching sessions and meaningless rituals replace contemplation. These events only drug the simple flock to incapacitate them spiritually and intellectually. This internal disorientation is more dangerous than the external attacks by the anti-Christian forces.   The church becomes weak by the inner conflicts and internal divisions.     

Though late, persons in leadership positions should explore the possibility of preparing for more serious challenges ahead. As a part of the strategy we need to review our religious and missionary life and activities and bravely abandon the outdated and irrelevant practices. Aggressive and self righteous ideas and practices which have been inherited as colonial legacy should be replaced by more meaningful practices which are closer to the local culture. The thrust of formation should be such that the young novices and seminarians should be equipped to meet the ‘new wine’ of challenges which are at hand. Meetings and workshops should be organized with the help of experts to make an integral, creative and concrete plan of action for all ministries. The inner conflicts and divisions at all levels of the Church should be resolved forever.

One of the effective ways to have lasting impact of our mission is to focus on the young students studying in our schools and colleges. God has entrusted them to our care so that we guide them to form a vision of life so that they respond to the socio-political issues with critical mind . Narendra Modi and the BJP have succeeded to brainwash them because they were not guided to have this vision and critical thinking. It is a pity that we could not influence the minds and hearts of thousands of young people who were with us for many years. We teach them to read and write, whereas Modi and other politicians provide them with ideas. My work with the young people over the last thirty years has convinced me that the young people are willing to follow those who speak to them with conviction and authenticity.

Week after week hundreds of young students who come for the enlightened leadership training in Universal Solidarity Movement affirm my conviction by their testimonies of personal transformation. In the last 20 years, I had been speaking and writing to appoint full time value education coordinators in schools who would take value education program seriously. When we have full-time staff for sports and games, music, dance, painting etc.., why not a full-time person for value education? Through value education program, we can make them ambassadors of pluralism, i.e. accept, appreciate and promote diversity . Our educational centres should be training centres of enlightened leaders who will preserve the unity and integrity of the country by safeguarding the values enshrined in the preamble of the Constitution.    

Time is running out; youth power is being misused and exploited by fundamentalists and corrupt politicians. It is time for leaders as well as individual clergy and religious in the Church to wake up from the slumber! Ostrich style of leadership will cause irreparable damage to the mission of Christ.

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