Many social problems exist in India, but, above all, is the
rising communal violence

Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao
archbp...@gmail.com

As I listened to the various speakers [from different faiths
and sections of our society], Mahatma Gandhi's description of
the seven deadly social sins came to my mind. The Father of
the Nation named these as the seven deadly sins: "Wealth
Without Work; Pleasure Without Conscience; Knowledge Without
Character; Commerce Without Morality (or, rather, Business
without Ethics); Science Without Humanity; Religion Without
Sacrifice; and Politics Without Principle."

I thank the speakers for the passion and love for the
country with which they delivered their speeches. Indeed,
they have highlighted that our beloved country is built on
diversity, tolerance and communal harmony and that the only
way it can continue to exist and progress is not simply by
maintaining these time-tested values, but, in fact, by
proactively fostering and strengthening these attitudes among
the people of India, across the divides of religion, creed,
region or language.

We must admit that the 'deadly social sins' mentioned by the
great Mahatma are to be found in countries all over the world
and quite pronouncedly in our own, beloved India.

          There are many social problems existing in our
          society which stand as stumbling blocks in the way
          to development: poverty, unemployment, pollution,
          regionalism, illiteracy, criminality, violence
          against women, drug trafficking, child marriage,
          corruption and various other challenges that are
          posing a threat to the nation's development and
          unity. But above all these social menaces, the
          rising communal violence in India is emerging to be
          the most dangerous of all social distrusts.

Mahatma Gandhi realized the damage which communalism could
cause and attended to the problem with the seriousness it
demanded. He regarded the abolition of communal disharmony
and the ensuing Hindu-Muslim unity as the essential
pre-requisite for the Swaraj.

Right from his early public life, Gandhi kept alive the idea
of communal unity. He lived in South Africa for twenty years
in the midst of Muslims, who treated him as a member of the
family. Realizing the lack of unity between Hindus and
'Mussalmans' in South Africa, he said, "I had realized early
enough in South Africa that there was no genuine friendship
between the Hindus and the Mussalmans. I never missed a
single opportunity to remove the obstacles in the way of
unity" (M K Gandhi, An Autobiography or the Story of My
Experiments with Truth, Navajivan Publishing House,
Ahmedabad, 1927, p. 341).

Our dear Pope Francis has placed culture in a very beautiful
light: "A culture is strengthened by its openness and its
exchange of views with other cultures, as long as it has a
clear and mature awareness of its own principles and values.
I, therefore, encourage professors and students to experience
the University as an environment of true dialogue, which
neither flattens nor intensifies diversity but opens to
a constructive comparison. We are called to understand and
appreciate the values of others, overcoming the temptation of
indifference and fear. Never be afraid of an encounter, of
dialogue, of debate!" (Address of Pope Francis to "Roma Tre"
University, February 17, 2017).

          Down the ages, India has been a rich and beautiful
          mosaic, a confluence of many religions, races,
          tribes and ethnic communities, having different
          cultures, languages, scripts, customs, cuisine and
          living styles, with very long ancient historical
          traditions. Here Hindus, Muslims, Christians,
          Buddhists, Jains, tribals, Jews and men and women
          of every religion, language, belief and conviction
          have, to a large extent, lived together in
          exemplary harmony and tolerance.

The world looks with awe at India's wonderfully diverse and
plural society. The composite culture of India owes its
existence not to one single community, race, tribe or
religion, but to an intricate collage of varied influences,
resulting in a way of life that has been crafted by an
intermingling of cultures and peoples over the centuries.

May I use the words of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, who, in
his poetic style, tells us: "The highest education is that
which does not merely give us information but makes our life
in harmony with all existence. Melody and harmony are like
lines and colours in pictures. A simple linear picture may be
completely beautiful; the introduction of colour may make it
vague and insignificant. Yet colour may, by combination with
lines, create great pictures, as long as it does not smother
and destroy their value. Life’s errors cry for the merciful
beauty that can modulate their isolation into a harmony with
the whole ... Life is given to us, we earn it by giving it.
Let the dead have the immortality of fame, but the living the
immortality of love" (Rabindranath Tagore, Mohit Kumar Ray
(2007). "Poems", p.588, Atlantic Publishers & Dist).

Modern India is truly a wondrous entity. It is a bouquet of
variegated flowers, a mosaic of multiple colours. The idea of
India could be continued because of the conscious acceptance
of pluralism by the leaders of India's freedom movement and
of the post-Independence period.

In 1947, many had predicted that the immense diversities
would be fatal contradictions; and that, unable to withstand
divisive pressures, the union and the nation would collapse.
But the unprecedented pluralism delicately nurtured and
fostered by the constitutional ethos became the strength of
the body politic and, seven decades later, we are still a
vibrant democracy, the largest in the world, politically
united, geographically integrated and administratively
cohesive.

Despite occasional hiccups and hurdles of riots and communal
tensions and polarisation, the cross-currents of a genuinely
plural society have powered the creative energy, enterprise
and egalitarianism which have taken Indian society far ahead
of the conditions prevailing here when the British left
India. This diversity has been successfully sustained by
democratic governance, right from the village-level to the
national level and by the values incorporated in the
Constitution of India.

Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar was convinced of the workability of
the Constitution. Speaking after the completion of his work,
the Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee told the
Parliament: "I feel that the Constitution is workable; it is
flexible and it is strong enough to hold the country
together, both in peacetime and in wartime. Indeed, if I may
say so, if things go wrong under the new Constitution, the
reason will not be that we had a bad Constitution. What we
will have to say is that Man was vile."

          In recent times, the idea of India, with its
          strongest pillars of diversity and pluralism, is
          being threatened by several emerging trends: (1)
          the emergence of both majoritarian hegemony and the
          growth of terror and extremism engendered by the
          growth of exclusivist religious fundamentalism, (2)
          the climate of fear created by movements deriding
          constitutional morality and constitutional ethics
          (3) the threat of neo-liberal corporate dominance
          with the rise of inequality and poverty, (4) the
          threat of discrimination and violence due to
          conflicts based on caste, class, gender, religion
          and ethnicities, (5) ecological and natural
          disasters due to rampant pollution and
          over-exploitation of natural resources, and (6)
          subtle and open attacks on the already marginalised
          tribal and Dalit populations.

The Catholic Church, along with the Bharatiya Sarva Dharma
Sansad, wishes to bring all men and women of good will
together for collective action to preserve and further social
harmony. We believe that all of us, intellectuals, spiritual
leaders, men and women from all sections of society, can
unleash a positive energy that can lead our country towards
an inclusive integral human development. To achieve this we
need, all of us together, to walk the talk that we are having
today and will be having in the days to come, in order to
promote communal harmony and dialogue, irrespective of
whatever differences in ideology and perspectives we may have.

I am glad that the meeting in Goa organized by the Catholic
Bishops' Conference of India and the Fr. Agnel Region of the
Pilar Society, along with the Bharatiya Sarva Dharma Sansad,
wishes to address the youth to look forward towards this goal
and to move forward towards a continuous dialogue, promoting
a strong social bonding and harmony among the people of our
Country.

May God bless us and may God bless India.

Jai Hind!
--
The above is an extract from the address of Archbishop Filipe
Neri Ferrao at the public meeting for Collective Action for
Dialogue and Social Harmony, organized by the Catholic
Bishops' Conference of India in collaboration with the Agnel
Region of the Society of Pilar (Ravindra Bhavan, Margão, on
April 5, 2018)

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