Can one have a free & frank discussion with PM Modi? Meeting Over, Questions Linger on!
This article below is by John Dayal, in Indian Currents, Delhi for us to read and react!
PM Modi’s visit to Pope in Rome was part of his journey to Glasgow on climate summit. What was uppermost in the mind of Francis could have been the climate of Religious harmony in India! This is what John Dayal discusses below.
Moot questions, what?
Francis is the head of the Catholic Church which includes Catholics also in India a democratic secular republic. Both are seen smiling and then embracing each other. Does their body language reflect the situation of religious harmony in India, is the moot question Deyal discusses.
Islamophobia, Christian persecution, Fr Stan’s death following incarceration, Hindutva ravaging the country’s social fabric and community peace are some of the hot topics discussed here. The Vatican meeting was without the presence of Indian or international media.
Christians just 2. 3% in India
Christians in India make up just 2.3% of the population, and Stan Swamy, was an elderly Jesuit like Pope closely connected to Pope. Was this issue discussed?
Read John Deyal carefully to promote Peace and harmony! Why? Because listen to Francis: He advises: “In what we say and do, do we want to be appreciated and gratified or to render a service to God and to our neighbour, especially the weakest?” Let serving the last, least and lost be our end goal! james kottoor, editor CWC
Please read below John Deyal’s analysis1
Did Pope Francis raise the issue of persecution of Christians in India and the custodial death of his confrere Stan Swamy with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Vatican?
Days after Mr Modi went on to embrace other unwilling heads of government in the climate summit in the United Kingdom city of Glasgow, the question continues to be raised by civil society in India. The Glasgow embraces have in the public mind already replaced those half a dozen photographs of the head of the Catholic Church and the leader of the Indian democratic secular republic smiling, and then embracing each other.
Civil rights activists had helped mobilise public opinion against Islamophobia and Christian persecution, and were active in the defence of Fr Stan during his incarceration in the Bhima Koregaon conspiracy case. They, and a section of the country’s Christian community, remain agitated that perhaps the Church hierarchy has allowed Mr Modi to again escape international censure for the rampant and weaponised Hindutva ravaging the country’s social fabric and community peace.
Unlike Mr Modi’s visit to the United Nations and stopover to meet President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, very little official information has been released. The Vatican meeting was without the presence of Indian or international media. In the US, the media was present in force, and the American government released the video recording of Vice-President’s terse reminder on civil liberties and religious freedom in modern democracies.
A report in the Vatican News of 30 October, which covered the meeting, included a backgrounder referred to earlier meetings between Vatican and Indian dignitaries. “Other issues touched on during that meeting were the situation of religious minorities in a country where Christians make up just 2.3% of the population, and the release of Father Stan Swamy, the elderly Jesuit priest and activist for the rights of indigenous peoples, who was imprisoned for nine months on terrorism charges and died in July.”
Columnists, including this one, had to infer from the Pontiff’s gift of a bronze plaque illustrating Isiah 32:15 that unpalatable issues must have been on the table other than the excuse of climate change that brought Modi to Rome, and ensured he was invited to the Vatican. Modi has, to be fair to him, invited Pope Francis to visit India, something he had successfully stalled for seven years despite frequent appeals by the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, and the two Cardinals of the Syro Malabar and Syro Malankara Catholic churches who had met him a few times after he took office.
Social media influencers and civil society activists had nothing but caustic comments and acidic memes that have gone viral in the Indian echo-sphere. Film-maker Anand Patwardhan, one of the leading activists against religious intolerance, asked if the Pope gave an earful to the Indian premier on the custodial death this autumn of octogenarian and ailing Fr Stan Swamy, arrested on fake charges and repeatedly denied bail.
Stan belonged to the Society of Jesus, of which Pope Francis is also a member. The Jesuits had lobbied internationally for the release of Fr Stan. The Jesuit activist working with the indigenous Adivasi people, died of Covid in a Mumbai hospital. His lawyers are in court seeking to clear his name of any criminal stain.
The first of two most viral memes splices an old photograph of Adolf Hitler photo-shopped with Pope Pius XII, with the Modi-Francis visual, while the second shows the Indian premier in the vestments and mitre of a Catholic bishop. No captions were needed. In multi-lingual India, civil society activists wanted them to reach out far and wide.
But even the leadership of denominational and independent churches has been underwhelmed by the result of the visit. The official statements have focused on climate change and recovery from Covid, with no hint of any other issue that may have been discussed.
With over 300 incidents of violence on Christians reported in the first ten months of the year by data keepers of the Evangelical Fellowship of India and Persecution Relief, ordinary Christians and lay leaders feel let down. There are no takers to explanations that the Pope, as head of state of the Holy See, cannot go beyond diplomatically couched language in bilateral talks and no plain-speaking statement can be expected.
For the church in the greater Indian geography, issues of persecution, religious freedom and the rights of the Dalit Christians loom large. No one is spared by the Sangh Parivar and its poisonous tentacles which penetrate metropolises with the same ease that they do spread over smaller towns and villages in North and Central India and states such as Karnataka in the south.
No one is spared. And although an occasional Catholic Bishop or lay leader may say evangelical and Pentecostal churches and independent pastors are inviting trouble with their uninhibited witness to the gospel and church-planting, Catholic clergy, women religious and institutions are not spared.
Nuns were again harassed in Mau district of Uttar Pradesh, which records the highest number of assaults by non-state actors with the complicity of the local police and political leadership. The Nus, who were at a bus-stand to make some enquiries, found themselves surrounded by a Hindutva mob. Young men beat up the driver of the convent vehicle even though he was a Hindu. The Nuns found themselves spending hours in the police station before they were let off.
In nearby Madhya Pradesh, a Catholic school in Satna has been told to put up a statue of Saraswati or face the wrath of the Sangh. This is not an empty threat. A few years ago, a students’ group which had been given space for its activities suddenly showed its political affiliation and challenged the management.
It is another matter of greater concern that the new education policy had hidden in it clauses that may give local non-state actors an entry into school monitoring by way of consultative structures. That there is a larger and well thought out design connecting all these dots are statements by Hindutva religious leaders, political personalities and “bhaktas” calling for the disenfranchisement of Christians [and Muslims], if not expelling them from the country.
This is quite in keeping with the foundational teachings of the Sangh, codified in their documents and conveyed discretely to members in their Sunday morning drills and catechisms.
The statements coming out of the RSS headquarters and other groups, even while the Prime Minister was in Rome, show little evidence of a toning down of the anti-Christian rhetoric. The RSS top brass has again argued against conversions and the Christian empowerment and inroads among Adivasis and Dalits.
In states such as Karnataka where the BJP has made major inroads in the last three decades or so has consolidated its position not on the current caste sectors but on a unified Hindu thesis. The survey ordered by a government agency of all churches in the state amidst an outcry of large scale conversions has been momentarily halted after it was challenged in a court of law by civil society.
The Archbishop of Bangalore, Peter Machado, held a press conference to rebuff the government survey of Churches. The Archbishop of Bhopal, Leo Cornelius, wrote to Mr Modi to contain the violence by Sangh activists.
The Catholic community hopes that the visit of Pope Francis to India will materialise soon. The last papal visit was a generation ago, back in 1999. But the moot question is when will it take place and what will be the itinerary? How many places the Pope will be allowed to visit? Will he be able to visit towns such as Ranchi in the middle of the Adivasi belt or Chennai in Tamil Nadu which is a focus of Dalit Christians?
Sangh elements have announced that they would campaign vigorously against the Pope’s visit to India. During the last Papal visit by John Paul II, the Sangh through its Vanvasis wing of the VHP had accused the Pope of encouraging conversions and fomenting dissent and divisions in the country.
Francis, the Pope, the Catholic Bishops Conference of India and diocesan bishops have a great responsibility in strengthening Indian democracy’s main pillars, the freedom of faith, expression and collective social action. A papal visit will go a long way in reassuring civil societies and other denominations that the Church and its leadership will not shirk its responsibilities, and will emerge out of its shell of local and institutional interests!
Isaiah 32:15 is an incomplete verse on stand-alone basis. In order to understand the meaning Mr Modi will have to read the entire chapter 32. He is not going to be amused reading it. Did Pope mean to say that he is not the righteous king referred to in it? But his doubts will soon vanish when he reads verse 18. He or his advisors will realise that Indians do not qualify to be addressed as “My People”. Isaiah was referring to the chosen ones which we Indians are not despite what Christian apologists say about today’s Christians the world over.
New International Version
The Kingdom of Righteousness
32 See, a king will reign in righteousness
and rulers will rule with justice.
2 Each one will be like a shelter from the wind
and a refuge from the storm,
like streams of water in the desert
and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.
3 Then the eyes of those who see will no longer be closed,
and the ears of those who hear will listen.
4 The fearful heart will know and understand,
and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear.
5 No longer will the fool be called noble
nor the scoundrel be highly respected.
6 For fools speak folly,
their hearts are bent on evil:
They practice ungodliness
and spread error concerning the Lord;
the hungry they leave empty
and from the thirsty they withhold water.
7 Scoundrels use wicked methods,
they make up evil schemes
to destroy the poor with lies,
even when the plea of the needy is just.
8 But the noble make noble plans,
and by noble deeds they stand.
The Women of Jerusalem
9 You women who are so complacent,
rise up and listen to me;
you daughters who feel secure,
hear what I have to say!
10 In little more than a year
you who feel secure will tremble;
the grape harvest will fail,
and the harvest of fruit will not come.
11 Tremble, you complacent women;
shudder, you daughters who feel secure!
Strip off your fine clothes
and wrap yourselves in rags.
12 Beat your breasts for the pleasant fields,
for the fruitful vines
13 and for the land of my people,
a land overgrown with thorns and briers—
yes, mourn for all houses of merriment
and for this city of revelry.
14 The fortress will be abandoned,
the noisy city deserted;
citadel and watchtower will become a wasteland forever,
the delight of donkeys, a pasture for flocks,
15 till the Spirit is poured on us from on high,
and the desert becomes a fertile field,
and the fertile field seems like a forest.
16 The Lord’s justice will dwell in the desert,
his righteousness live in the fertile field.
17 The fruit of that righteousness will be peace;
its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.
18 My people will live in peaceful dwelling places,
in secure homes,
in undisturbed places of rest.
19 Though hail flattens the forest
and the city is leveled completely,
20 how blessed you will be,
sowing your seed by every stream,
and letting your cattle and donkeys range free
Mr. Dayal seems to be eating anti-Modism for breakfast, lunch and dinner as his article is filled with scorn for Caesar that is Modi the Prime Minister of India. Mr. Dayal seemed to have forgotten Jesus’ command “give it to Caesar what is his”. It is expected of a citizen to show at least minimum respect to PM. But then he identifies himself as a Communist and he has reason to spit venom on Mr Modi as the latter’s party has hounded out the Commis from all States but Kerala. As long as Modi is there the Commis are going to be confined to Kerala. So Mr Dayal’s frustration is understandable.
Mr Dayal speaks of 300 attacks against Christians. I would like to know from him how many Catholic Churches were burned down. He cites the nuns’ cases. I would imagine that the hardliners see all Christians are one. The truth is that no Catholic Church was burned in Kerala, Goa and in major cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru and Mumbai where large number of Catholics live and where they have number of churches and institutions. In my opinion the so called attacks are all against evangelists who make themselves of a nuisance witnessing the Gospel (whatever it means).
Mr Dayal makes refers to Fr Stan 5 times in his report. How many Indians have heard about this person until get got arrested. Anti-Modi constituency is using the dead Stan as a stick to beat Modi with in spite of knowing very well that it is not Modi who decides outcome of justices in those cases that are with the Court. Just yesterday 27 Naxalites have been shot in an encounter in Maharashtra State where a formation headed by Shiv Sena is ruling. These things are happening in the course of governing. You can’t accuse Modi for it.
I do not say everything is right with Modi led government but by far he has demonstrated admirable leadership skills.