Stand with Stan

On Thursday, evening October 8 detectives from India's National Investigation Agency, (NIA) arrived in an SUV at a red and white building on the outskirts of Ranchi in India's eastern state of Jharkhand.There they picked up Fr Stan Swamy, an ailing 83-year-old activist and Jesuit priest. They seized his mobile phone, and asked him to pack a bag. They then drove him to the airport and boarded a flight to Mumbai, where Fr Swamy was remanded to judicial custody until October 23. He is now the oldest person to be accused of terrorism in India.

The NIA, which deals with anti-terror crimes, arrested him in connection with a 2018 incident of caste-based violence and alleged links with Maoists. Catholic leaders and human rights activists in India are protesting the arrest of 83-year-old Jesuit Fr Stan Swamy on charges of collaboration with Marxist militants. Fr Swamy is a noted human rights activist who has long spoken out against the mistreatment of India's tribal community in Jharkhand.

Two days before his arrest, Fr Stan Swamy had, in a video statement, spoken about his work on displacement, land alienation, rights of gram sabhas (village councils) and of Adivasis in jail, among other issues. He said he challenged the "indiscriminate" arrests of thousands of young Adivasis and Moolvasis (original inhabitants), who were only "rightfully questioning and resisting unjust land alienation and displacement, by falsely labelling them as Maoists." This, he said, could be the main reason why he was targeted in the Bhima-Koregaon case. "I have never been to Bhima-Koregaon, for which I am being made an accused," Fr Swamy said in the video.

In a video recorded days before his arrest, Fr Swamy said detectives 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 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.

A BBC News report quoted Sangeeta Kamat, a public policy professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who said, "This is absolutely appalling. The repression on human rights defenders has never been more extreme in India. She added, this is far more dangerous, as it's an undeclared Emergency."

Fr Swamy had been in the crosshairs of investigating agencies for some time. Over the past two years, they had raided his house twice, he said in the video, to "somehow prove" that he was linked to "extremist Leftist forces". But people who know the soft-spoken, low profile activist say he has devoted his life to the uplift of the tribal people, ever since he moved to Jharkhand in 1991.

In separate statements, the Jesuit Conference of South Asia and the Catholic Church in Ranchi have demanded the immediate release of Fr Swamy. Fr George Pattery, who heads the Jesuits in South Asia, on October 9, expressed shock and dismay over the arrest of his elderly confrere who has worked "all his life for the uplift of the downtrodden and other vulnerable people." The Jesuit leader said he was "immensely grateful to all people of goodwill, civil society members and institutions who have come out overwhelmingly in support of Stan." The Catholic Church in Ranchi has appealed 'to the conscience and the compassion of all concerned authorities, and all those who have a say in this matter,' to release the priest immediately, and to bring him to his residence.

Fr Stan Swamy has diligently documented the abuses and illegal activities of the authorities in Jharkhand. The priest has consistently denied having any ties to Maoist groups. "[Swamy] fought for them, he worked for them, he lived with them, and there is no other witness like him for the tribal community. I can add nothing to that. There is no other person today in our context who identifies so much with the tribal community," Fr Pattery explained. "He has already been interrogated for several hours spread over several months. He has consistently cooperated with the agency concerned. He is willing to be further interrogated at the place he is residing or online," Fr Pattery said in a separate statement. "Considering this, his age (83) and his poor health, it was not necessary to take him into custody for further interrogation to Mumbai. We hereby demand the immediate release of Stan Swamy," he said.

Collated from media reports. Courtesy BBC News and Indian Express

Reflect I Speak I Engage

The following are winning entries in the ‘Letters to the Editor’ competition organised by The Examiner for its younger readers on Instagram.

First Prize

Meeting the Man upstairs

Sir, I think the definition of spirituality has radically changed over the past couple of months. It’s no more an image that one portrays for the world to see. Now is when the real meaning of spirituality has come to the forefront - the personal connection each one of us has with the Man upstairs.

It was easy earlier, wasn’t it? Once a week, we would go to His house and vent our frustrations. Sunday was when we could go to church and be with Him. But the pandemic has changed everything.

Now, we have to make time for God within our home. God has put the ball in our court. “You want to meet Me? Invite Me into your house, set aside time for Me, remember Me.” Right now, the physical doors to God’s house have closed. The time has come for us to open the doors that actually matter – the doors into our lives.

It has been tough; to be honest, I felt abandoned by Him. But after a while, I realised it is quite the opposite. It is a chance to build a real connection with God, a chance to make Him a real part of our lives.

In all the chaos of life, we lost our focus – God. We were soulless beings, wandering through life aimlessly. But now, God has become a huge focus of our life. Because we have realised that without God, we are nothing.

Life is something we have no control over. But just by knowing that He is with us, the fear of the unknown is not as overwhelming as it once was. God will always be there to listen, but it is up to us to pick up that virtual phone and make the call to the Man upstairs.

Alison Menon, Malad West

Second Prize

Exams are integral to learning

Sir, When a pandemic strikes, amidst all the chaos and problems, cancelling exams and promoting students to the next year seems to be the right choice. But exams are important. Exams are an integral part of learning and assessment.

Each course has a set syllabus which takes into account the needs of that area of work. A doctor learns in detail about the human body and treatment of ailments. A scientist learns about science and research. A teacher learns about methods of teaching, while an electrician learns about circuits.

Human beings have the inherent ability to learn from experience and adapt by assimilation and accommodation. Exams help determine the level of understanding a student has achieved with respect to a certain topic or subject. This holds true especially, for end of the year exams. On the other hand, formative assessment helps identify learning gaps.

If a student is promoted from one year to another without an exam, there is a higher chance of learning gaps which may cause human errors. In time, a student may become lax with respect to studies and have weak concepts. In the case of schools, a student who has been promoted may not study concepts in, say Maths, which will affect them if they pursue Maths-related occupations.

While COVID-19 poses concerns with respect to safety and availability of mobile devices, exams are essential, not only to award a degree of completion, but also so that we are better equipped to face further challenges, as and when they arise. Our knowledge must be like LEGO blocks; though tiny, when put together, they stand still, not like DOMINOS which fall with a slight push, because they are not firm.

Andrea Pinto, Andheri East

Third Prize

Segregation and Waste Management: Need of the Hour

Sir, Our world is faced with innumerable environmental issues. For me, the most urgent environmental challenge is the amount of waste generated by us citizens through various sources. The current world population stands at 7.8 billion, and the waste generated is 2.01 billion tonnes. India constitutes 17.7% of the world’s population at 1.3 billion. It is estimated that the daily waste generated by the country is approximately 150,000 tonnes as of 2019. Out of this, 90% (135,000) of waste is collected; of this, 20% is processed and the remaining 80% goes to the dump sites. This poses a grave concern to the environment and ecosystem.

Improper waste management such as burning, garbage dumping at landfill sites and on the streets causes the release of harmful gases into the atmosphere. Additionally, the size of landfills in India is constantly increasing, leading to drains choked with plastic, wreaking havoc in the monsoons. Recent studies, including one conducted by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, revealed that waste dumps are the cause of bugs entering water bodies, which in turn enter food systems, and then into humans.

Hence, we need to take responsibility for this health hazard by adopting techniques such as segregating waste at their source, efficient collection of waste through door-to-door procedures, community participation, biogas generation, composting, vermicomposting and the implementation of the 3 Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) to reduce overloading landfills. Initiatives undertaken by local bodies such as Stree Mukti Sangathana, Parisar Vikas Programmme and others in Mumbai are aiding to tackle this challenge and provide employment to a substantial number of people. Efforts undertaken at the Centre by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change in 2016 also need to be accelerated to tackle this serious concern effectively.

Romaine D’Souza, Bandra

Honourable Mentions

What would Life be without Church?

Sir, Spirituality has indeed transformed during the lockdown. It is from my own personal experience when I say the lockdown has been a bright spot, since it has brought me closer to Jesus than I ever was. If someone had asked me before the lockdown, “What would life be without church?” I wouldn’t have had an answer to give. But now? It’s crystal clear to me. My life would be nothing but incomplete.

I’ve been a part of the church choir, and would go every Monday to play the keyboard for Mass. I was at peace when I was there. Just Jesus, the keyboard and I. Ever since the lockdown began, I haven’t been able to go to church, and I have never felt so incomplete or helpless before. But since the pandemic, my entire family participates in the online Mass together. It’s a source of positivity for us. We never attended weekday Masses when the churches were open, as we didn’t have the time. My sister and I would be busy with our classes, while our parents with their work. But now? We make sure to attend Mass regularly. My sister schedules her meetings in a way that it does not clash with the Mass timings. Ten years ago, when we shifted to Mumbai, who would have thought that we’d be so close to God, let alone attend Mass every day?

To conclude, yes, the lockdown has brought me to appreciate and cherish my faith even more, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Yashna Hatyal, Malad East

Water Stress

Sir, One of the most pressing environmental issues of the 21st century is also one which has not received adequate coverage by the mainstream media. The issue I'm referring to is that of Water stress. Water stress is a condition where the demand for water exceeds the available amount during a certain period, or when poor quality of available water restricts its use. According to the UN, in five years, two-thirds of the world’s population is going to be living in a state of "Water stress".

In India alone, 21 major cities (Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai and others) are at a high risk of being water stressed in the near future. The city of Chennai last year faced one of its severest droughts in decades, when its four main reservoirs ran completely dry. Four years prior, in 2015, the city experienced devastating floods due to heavy rainfall generated by the annual northeast monsoon. But most of the rainwater was lost to the sea. One of the main reasons for this was that authorities in Chennai, due to rapid urbanisation, and to meet the needs of the growing population, thought it right to build over wetlands. As a result, the rainwater unable to percolate through the pavement, flooded above the surface. Many of the rainwater harvesting systems already in place in the city are also poorly maintained, rendering them useless in most cases.

At present, India captures only eight per cent of its annual rainfall, which is among the lowest in the world. Lack of awareness and, in some cases, apathy on the part of policy makers and individuals only exacerbates the problem. The solutions to India's water woes lie in plain sight. They just need to be acted upon.

Aaron Dias, Chembur

COVID-19 has impacted Mental Health

Sir, The current pandemic has not only brought in a deadly virus, but also some novel issues. The lockdown suddenly jumped upon us, causing us all to stay indoors to remain safe. The fear of contracting the infection made excessive cleansing a ritual, which would classify for OCD, pre-COVID-19. With restricted movements, social isolation led people to feel lonelier. Those who lived with their families seemed better off, but as days turned into months, bonds were put to the test. In our fast-paced lifestyle, it was easier to overlook certain issues; but now we were forced to address them, which either led to building deeper bonds or causing irreparable damage to our relationships.

With jobs being at risk, those who lost their jobs were stressed in making ends meet and finding a new job. Others who had their jobs began working from home where there was no limit to the work. One was expected to be available 24x7. On the other hand, frontline workers had to make a decision to put themselves and their family at risk to combat the virus. Managing work and family led to feelings of incompetency, anxiousness, frustration and burnouts.

People everywhere are struggling. It is time that we take care of ourselves and reach out to one another. Spending time with each other by listening to them and giving them hope will strengthen them. Seek help when in need. Seeking help isn’t a sign of weakness, but a sign of courage, strength and self-awareness. Let us build a community where nobody is left unheard. Let’s be there for each other to heal one another.

Wynne Almeida, Borivli

Faith Formation Options during lockdown

Sir, The pandemic-induced lockdown has changed the way we perceive and practise our faith in our families and society! Firstly, attending virtual church together. Many churches are now having their services online, and you can invite each other to your church service, if you don’t attend the same church. You can then meet up virtually afterwards, and discuss the sermon or other aspects of the service.

Secondly, reading the Bible together. Another way you can develop the spiritual side of your relationship is by reading the Bible together. You can choose a book in the Bible to go through, read a chapter together when you meet virtually, or read it before you meet and talk about what you took from it when you meet. Thirdly, listening to a Catholic podcast together. If you’re into podcasts, there are some great Catholic podcasts out there, and you can pick one that interests you both, and listen to an episode prior to catching up, and talking about what you took from, or thought about the episode. As you listen, write down the thoughts that pop into your mind, and potential questions to ask the other person when you meet up, and lastly, praying together. Prayer is immensely powerful, and the main way through which we communicate with God. Praying together allows the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your conversations and draws you closer to each other, as you pray and ask God’s continued guidance for your family.

In short, I feel that church from home has brought more family members to attend Mass and get closer to God, keeping in mind the famous phrase, “A family that prays together stays together.”

Fletcher Fernandes, Andheri West

Called to be ‘Sent forth’ in His Name

The Diamond Jubilee celebrations of St Pius X College, the Archdiocesan Seminary at Goregaon, came to a solemn conclusion on Monday, October 5, 2020, with a Thanksgiving Eucharist celebrated by Cardinal Oswald Gracias, concelebrated by the auxiliary bishops and resident priests of the Seminary. The scene was in stark contrast to the packed Seminary chapel last year on October 5, 2019, when many bishops and archbishops, alumni of the seminary, priests from the archdiocese and beyond, religious sisters and the laity had all congregated to participate in the inauguration of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. This year, the pandemic and accompanying restrictions compelled the closing event to be restricted, with the Eucharist being streamed virtually.

Though the Bombay Seminary traces its history back to 1770, the current edifice in Goregaon was built in 1960 under the title of 'St Pius X College'. The official inauguration of the Seminary building was held on October 5, 1960. The current building was mainly the fruit of the vision of the late Cardinal Valerian Gracias, who initiated the process of acquiring land in the suburbs, with the intention of building a seminary large enough to accommodate the growing number of seminarians. His efforts culminated in the acquisition of a 30-acre plot in Goregaon and the building of the magnificent edifice, which stands today as a fitting tribute to his vision, foresight and dynamism.

The Seminary has given rise to many distinguished alumni, amongst whom are counted bishops, archbishops and cardinals. But more significantly, it has sent out countless labourers into the vineyard of the Lord, nurturing vocations and transforming them into priests after the heart of Christ. Seminary formation has always adhered to the four integral dimensions of Human, Spiritual, Academic and Pastoral formation. St Pius X College has also hosted many distinguished visitors over the years. Chief among them were Pope Paul VI who visited the seminary on December 5, 1964, when he came to Mumbai for the 38th International Eucharistic Congress, and Pope John Paul II who stayed at the seminary on February 9-10, 1986 on the occasion of his state and pastoral visit to India.

In his homily last year at the inauguration, Cardinal Oswald Gracias had stressed the importance of evangelisation in the context of Mumbai and India in a rapidly changing world. In the priestly apostolate, the process of evangelisation begins first and foremost with an encounter with Christ. The seminary is the nursery and crucible to lead future pastors into an authentic and challenging encounter with the Eternal High Priest. It is only when a young man encounters himself in relationship to the Lord, that he can share Jesus Christ with others. This call to evangelisation is even more critical this year in a world re-shaped by the coronavirus pandemic. In his homily on October 5, at the conclusion of the Diamond Jubilee, His Eminence noted that a contextual formation suited to the challenges of the times, of the place, of the culture, of the people, must be built on the solid rock of the Gospel. Context is contemporary, but the Gospel is perennial. He reminded us of Pope Francis' words that pastors today shouldn't just prepare for the future; rather, they must prepare the future.

This aspect of being prepared for the vineyard of the Lord through an encounter with Him is essentially interwoven with being "sent out" in mission. And this is the other theme that the current issue of the Examiner celebrates – Mission Sunday – which the archdiocese will mark on October 18. Hans Urs von Balthasar, one of the most important Catholic theologians of the 20th century, in his Christology, looks at the identity of Jesus as one who was essentially "sent" by the Father. Jesus, begotten of the Father, and hence sent from eternity, is then sent again on mission in the Incarnation. Especially in the Gospel of John, Jesus identifies Himself as one who is sent by the Father (Jn 12:44-50).

There's also a similar theme running through the Bible. Nobody in the Bible is ever given an experience of God without, at the same time, being sent. Think of Abraham, or Noah, Moses, Saul, David, Solomon, Jeremiah, Ezekiel… all of them are not given an experience of God, simply for its own sake, that they might revel in contemplative enjoyment. But the encounter with God sends them on a mission.

Having completed a glorious diamond milestone, the majestic edifice at Goregaon stands strong in its commitment to prepare 'Ambassadors for Christ' – men who will receive an experience of God and are then sent out into the world. Mission Sunday extends that mandate to each of the baptised, men and women of God, sent out to evangelise the world in which they live.

Fr Joshan Rodrigues is on The Examiner Editorial Board, with the additional duty of Managing Editor.


Alex Ambrose: Football - Life and Love

To say he has a good eye would be an understatement. Ask the defenders who had the task of marking him, and they’ll tell you: “Any sight of the goal, and Alex Ambrose would be as dangerous as dangerous could be.” It was his determination and dedication that took him from the maidans of Dadar to the hallowed grounds all over India. More than anything, the 38-year-old says it was just his pure love for the beautiful game that has been his driving force all these years.

After retiring from professional football nine years ago, he knew that he had to do something with his immense knowledge and love of football. When a coach whom he admired suggested that he take up coaching, Ambrose knew what he had to do. But first he needed to learn the ropes. In his first assignment, he took charge of the Mumbai State Police team, who were playing in the Super Division of the Mumbai District Football Association (MDFA) League. And what a shining debut that was! They won the league unbeaten that season. It’s quite an achievement since teams in local leagues often struggle to maintain consistency.

He was then appointed Assistant Manager of the Indian Super League team, Mumbai City FC, in 2013, where he got to work with some of the biggest names in world football, including highly decorated Swede Freddie Ljungberg and Frenchman Nicolas Anelka. Working with these greats must have surely prepared him for his next task - a setup with a monumental goal. He is the Assistant Coach of the Indian football team that will compete at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup next year.

“I don’t want to sound clichéd, but coaching came naturally to me. When you are a striker, you always look for ways to beat the defence. You’re constantly analysing the game, and you tend to have an attacking mindset. More than anything, I think it’s having a winning mentality that’s important,” he told The Examiner. It is that mentality that has made him the person he is today.

He studied at Our Lady of Salvation School (Dadar) till Class 5, before going to boarding school at Don Bosco (Panjim). It was there that he started taking football seriously.“At Salvation, I fell in love with the game, since most of my neighbours and friends in school played football. At Don Bosco, it was truly that I started developing into a footballer. When we won the Subroto Cup in my final year at school, I knew I wanted to pursue the sport as a career,” said Ambrose.

The road to being a professional footballer isn’t easy, especially in a country like India. Firstly, until recently, it barely paid. But to live with little money was something Ambrose learnt from a very young age. “To be honest, our family didn’t have a lot of money. My mother didn’t even have money to buy me a football. But somehow, she managed. It was just the first of many sacrifices she has made over the years. No matter what, my mother saw to it that I was able to play football. It’s helped me learn to respect the sacrifices a family has to make to support a professional athlete,” he said.

Once back in Mumbai, Ambrose played for Dadar XI. His fine performances in the MDFA League saw him not only being selected for the Maharashtra U-16 side, but he was also handed the captain’s armband. While that is something to be proud of, Ambrose kept his head down, and started working even harder.

His big break came when he was selected to train at the Tata Football Academy in Jamshedpur. With Clifford Miranda and other stalwarts as his batchmates, Ambrose soon began to develop into a fiery striker. “We were trained very well at the Academy. They were quite advanced for that time, and even took us to Germany,” said Ambrose.

After graduating from the Academy, Ambrose signed his first professional contract with Salgaocar, whom he stayed with for four years. During that time, he was selected for the National team. “I had some fabulous years with the Indian team. The best time we had was at the 2002 Asian qualifying for the FIFA World Cup (India finished third in the group, with 3 wins, 2 draws and just 1 loss). We had a really good team and gelled well,” he said.

So which hat does he prefer to wear? That of a footballer or that of a coach?

“I’ve had some great times as a player. When you perform well, you feel really proud of yourself. As a coach, you feel happy when the players put to use what you teach them in the boardroom. I don’t think you can compare the two,” he said.

As Assistant Coach at Mumbai City, Alex had the opportunity of working with the best; he tries to replicate what he’s learnt with the girls he’s currently coaching. “Peter Reid (former Man City coach) was an excellent tactician; Alexandre Guimaraes (ex-Costa Rica player, coach) instilled great trust in the players, and he spoke openly about everything. Nicolas Anelka was at a different level. He’s so misunderstood. Not once did he lose his temper or throw any tantrums. His dedication and attention to detail is something that I try to mirror when I’m coaching,” he said.

Ambrose shares an interesting anecdote about Anelka that he says describes the man perfectly. “He (Anelka) comes with a certain reputation. We expected him to be aloof. After speaking to him, we saw he was completely different. When he was player-coach of the team, I remember a member of the support staff lost his wallet, and was very distraught. Anelka, without even a second thought, removed Rs 25,000, and gave it to the person. He never saw us as inferior. He was ready to do anything for any member of the squad. That’s something that I aspire to be,” Ambrose said.

Anil Dias

Rosary as our Refuge

Fr. Anthony Charanghat

In the present tragic situation of the coronavirus pandemic when the whole world is prey to suffering and anxiety, Pope Francis has appealed to the faithful to seek refuge in praying the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary to protect us from the scourge of this insidious lethal Covid-19 attack and arrest its global seemingly relentless spread.

We have seen images of pain and perplexity writ large on our Holy Father’s face. From the depths of his silent anguish, profound prayer and reflection, he unequivocally uttered the cry from his heart that it is devotion to the Rosary which is the appropriate response to so many struggles against sin, sickness, suffering and the unprecedented plague of our 21st-century world.

Today however, many Catholics tend to take the Rosary for granted. Though they purchase Rosary beads as souvenirs, or carry them around, or even wear them — they forget the immense power present in actually praying them. Many consider the prayer of the rosary boring and too time-consuming. They consider this as a simple and lowly child’s prayer. But, precisely! — If the Rosary is a child’s prayer, then the call is to become a child— because to such belongs the kingdom of God.

The Rosary can help in this time of crisis. We know this because Mary herself told this over a hundred years ago in Fátima, Portugal, when she appeared six times to three shepherd children once a month from May to October 1917. She told them repeatedly, “Recite the Rosary every day to obtain peace for the world and the end of all kinds of evil.”

We also know the great value of the Rosary not because it is magical; but because it brings us to Jesus. To do this, we must ‘Encounter Christ’ — a phrase that, in the Pope Francis era, has become a bit of a buzzword, but which is no less vital. Encountering Christ means getting to know Him intimately, fully and without reservation. It means emptying one’s self so that we may be filled instead with His Spirit, like Mary.

There are many ways to encounter Christ in our daily lives: through prayer, the sacraments and, of course, the Eucharist. But a less-trod path is by developing a relationship first with His mother. After all, it was she who knew Him best. Mary lived with her eyes fixed on her son, watching over Him and learning from Him. She treasured each moment she had with Him and, as St. Luke’s Gospel says, pondered them in her heart.

If we are burdened and confused by suffering, or troubled by any evil in the world, contemplate the passion of Our Lord in the sorrowful mysteries. If we are anxious about tomorrow and unsure of God’s power in our life today, contemplate the resurrection power of God in the glorious mysteries. If we sense God’s call to follow Him faithfully, yet are too afraid to step out on that unknown journey, say ‘yes’ to God with the Blessed Virgin Mary in the joyful mysteries. If we are saddened by a great lack of inner fortitude to believe God’s words and the transforming power of the Son of Man, look to the life of Jesus in the luminous mysteries. We will exult in these wonderful scenes and our soul will begin to be shaped by the mysteries of Christ. This is the work of Our Lord and His most loving mother in the life of those who come to Him in prayer through the Rosary. When we pray the Rosary, we meditate on different moments of Jesus’ life, through the eyes of His holy mother. This contemplation leads to a personal encounter, which sets us on the path to Christian discipleship.

There is a startling dearth of Christian discipleship in the world today, mostly because it is not easy to deny oneself, take up one’s cross and follow Him, which are indispensable requisites for our journey to salvation. As Christian disciples, however, we are called to set aside ego, selfishness and pride, and to instead prioritize others, the lack of which is the root of all ills in the world. It is often a countercultural witness, yet one which Mary and the Rosary can help achieve.

This is why Pope Francis invites us to pray the Rosary which portrays Mary as Consolation of the Afflicted. She will embrace all her children in distress and intercede to God to stretch out his all-powerful hand and free us from this terrible pandemic, so that life can serenely resume its normal course.

Pope’s Message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees

Pope Francis has devoted his Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees to the millions of men, women and children who are internally displaced by conflict, poverty and climate change. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic that exacerbates their plight, he also turned his attention to all those who are experiencing situations of precariousness, abandonment, marginalisation and rejection as a result of the crisis. The 106th World Day of Migrants and Refugees will be celebrated on September 27, 2020 on the theme 'Forced like Jesus Christ to flee'.

The Pope points out that "Situations of conflict and humanitarian emergencies, aggravated by climate change, are increasing the numbers of displaced persons, and affecting people already living in a state of dire poverty." He added that the drama of internally displaced people is one of the challenges of our contemporary world. According to the 2020 Global Report on Internal Displacement, conflict and disasters triggered 33.4 million new internal displacements across 145 countries and territories in 2019.

The Pope notes that conflict, violence and disasters continue to uproot millions of people from their homes every year. The severity of the global crisis caused by the pandemic has "relegated to the bottom of national political agendas those urgent international efforts essential to saving lives." Reminding Christians that we are called to see the face of Christ in the faces of those who suffer, he urges them to respond to this pastoral challenge with the four verbs indicated in his Message for this Day in 2018: welcome, protect, promote and integrate.

In this year's Message, he adds to these another six pairs of verbs that, he says, "deal with very practical actions, and are linked together in a relationship of cause and effect."

Know in order to understand: Knowledge is a necessary step towards understanding others. "When we talk about migrants and displaced persons, all too often, we stop at statistics. But it is not about statistics; it is about real people!" Only by encountering them and knowing their stories, will we be able "to understand the precariousness that we have come to experience as a result of this pandemic is a constant in the lives of displaced people."

Be close in order to serve: Fears and prejudices keep us distant from others, and prevent us serving them with love. Drawing close to others often means being willing to take risks, "as so many doctors and nurses have taught us in recent months."

To be reconciled, we need to listen: In today's world, "messages multiply, but the practice of listening is being lost. Yet, it is only through humble and attentive listening that we can truly be reconciled." This year, a dramatic and troubling silence has reigned for weeks in our streets, but it has "given us the opportunity to listen to the plea of the vulnerable, the displaced and our seriously ill planet."

To grow, it is necessary to share: God does not want the resources of our planet to benefit only a few. "The pandemic has reminded us how we are all in the same boat. Realising that we have the same concerns and fears has shown us once more that no one can be saved alone."

Be involved in order to promote: If we really want to promote those whom we assist, we must involve them and make them agents in their own redemption. "The pandemic has reminded us of how essential co-responsibility is, and that only with the contribution of everyone – even of those groups so often underestimated – can we face this crisis" and find "the courage to create spaces where everyone can recognise that they are called, and to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity and solidarity."

Cooperate in order to build: Building the Kingdom of God is a duty common to all Christians, so we need to learn to cooperate, without yielding to the temptation to jealousy, discord and division. In the present context, it should be reiterated: "This is not a time for self-centredness, because the challenge we are facing is shared by all—to preserve our common home and make it conform more and more to God's original plan. We must commit ourselves to ensure international cooperation, global solidarity and local commitment, leaving no one excluded."

Vatican News

Consequences of the NEP 2020 for Education

An Educator’s Viewpoint

The New Education Policy begins with the UN goal of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. It continues, “Such a lofty goal will require the entire education system to be reconfigured to support and foster learning.” This hasty conclusion shows a total lack of respect for, and knowledge of, the educational process which is cumulative and gradual. It therefore makes proposals which will be devastating to the educational system in India. The NEP document uses very beautiful language to describe the principles, processes and goals of education, but it proposes solutions which will be most damaging to education.


1. No Christian educator was involved in the whole exercise, in spite of Christian educational institutions being among the most sought after and highly rated in the country.

2. No mention of Minority Education Rights at all. A total eclipse! What about Article 30 of the Constitution?

3. Under Constitutional values, there is no mention of Secularism – one of the pillars envisioned by the founding fathers of the country.

4. Parallel to removing Constitutional guarantees to Minorities, the reservations for SCs and STs also do not find mention. The Supreme Court had guaranteed that the basic character of the Indian Constitution cannot be changed. The NEP clearly indicates a move away from the basic intention of the Constitution in substantive ways.

5. Not content with going so far in its radical changes, the NEP has decided also to remove the present governing structure of Minority Institutions by having no role for the Managing Trustees. Institutions, with their infrastructure and excellent work culture have been built up and maintained over decades. But now:

A School Complex Management Committee (7.7) will run the institutions. (7.8): “The Dept of School Education, through its relevant official, e.g. the BEO, will endorse and confirm the School Complex Development Plan of each school complex.

In Higher Education, 19.2: “a Board of Governors (BoG) shall be established consisting of a group of highly qualified, competent, and dedicated individuals having proven capabilities and a strong sense of commitment to the institution. There shall be overarching legislation that will supersede any contravening provisions of other earlier legislation and would provide for constitution, appointment, modalities of functioning, rules and regulations, and the roles and responsibilities of the BoG.”

Untested governance structures, consisting of several people with no experience of managing education, will destroy the institutions that people have looked up to for years.

Socio-political Implications

6. A sharing of resources, Human and Material, is being envisaged. A school that is better equipped will have to share. Pairing of schools or twinning (one private and one public school) is mandated. However, sharing teachers and infrastructure will cripple a good school, especially if the Governing Board is not controlled by the School’s own Trustees. Isn’t this a refusal to build the necessary infrastructure needed for all?

7. Introduction of Samajik Chetna Kendras in the school campus; wouldn’t these be ideology based, controlled by the Government of the day?

21.6: “A key initiative in this direction will be to use schools/school complexes after school hours and on weekends for adult education courses … and for other community engagement and enrichment activities.” Control over campuses is lost.

8. The emphasis on digital learning, technological solutions, open schools and vocational exits, will leave the girl child, the socially and economically disadvantaged, the differently abled and minority community students without the opportunity for a quality education, interacting with peers in a stimulating, healthy environment of an educational campus.

9. The centralisation of creation of content, right from the pre-primary, bodes ill for quality and addressing local needs and conditions. “The responsibility for ECCE curriculum and pedagogy will lie with MHRD.” Centralisation also of school assessment through the National Assessment Survey is on the cards. “The National Testing Agency (NTA) will serve as a premier, expert, autonomous testing organisation to conduct entrance examinations for undergraduate and graduate admissions.” TET for every level of Teachers is also mandated. Even recruitment of students at the College level will be centralised. 4.42: “The admission to pre-service teacher preparation programmes shall be through a single nation-wide entrance examination to be conducted by the National Testing Agency.” Such centralisation goes against quality of education and against the rights of the States.

Infrastructure and Funding

10. The major changes in stages of education will require massive infrastructure building and recruitment of staff. It is unnecessary to have so many changes in the stages. Forcing children to attend formal school from the age of three is unfortunate. The introduction of the 4-year Bachelor’s Degree, even after the fiasco of the Delhi University experiment, is unreasonable. The latter is good only for that 1 per cent of students who would want to go abroad for a Master’s programme; they get the 16 years needed. There is very little justification for such structural changes which will cause massive disruption.

11. Funding remains a major problem. The very Government which reduced spending on Education to 2.7% of GDP (admitted by the NEP Draft Document) from an earlier 4%, and which has shown scant resources available even for the States’ share of CGST, will not be able to fund even the minimum needed for the major changes to be effected. Counting on philanthropy is like asking for the moon. Rather, this is a stimulus for the further privatisation and commercialisation of education.

What then is the agenda of the NEP? It does not seem to be an educational agenda at its core.

Dr Frazer Mascarenhas SJ is a former Principal of St Xavier’s College, Mumbai.

Pope's Upcoming Encyclical

A Sneak Preview

Pope Francis is to release a new encyclical which is expected to focus on what the world should look like following the COVID-19 pandemic. The Vatican said September 5, that the encyclical will be titled Fratelli tutti (Brothers all), and will be on "fraternity and social friendship". The encyclical will offer a framework for a more just post-pandemic world. It has been in preparation since before the emergence of COVID-19.

"It will be a social and economic encyclical for the post-COVID world, a text of reason and heart with which the pontiff will speak to the world about the necessary changes in social and productive organisation, the need to safeguard Creation, the need to take responsibility for one another, and of the increasing need for human fraternity," opined Maria Antonietta of the Huffington Post.

Pope Francis has already been sharing some hints on its contents in a new series of teachings called, "To heal the world", at his Wednesday general audiences following a month-long break. On August 5, he said, "we will explore together how our Catholic social tradition can help the human family heal this world that suffers from serious illnesses."

In the introductory instalment, Pope Francis stated that the Church, in the light of the Gospel, has developed several social principles which are fundamental principles that can help us move forward in preparing the future that we need, pointing to Catholic social doctrine. The theme of his catechesis was "faith and human dignity". He began by noting that "the pandemic has highlighted how vulnerable and interconnected everyone is. If we do not take care of one another, starting with the least, with those who are most impacted, including Creation, we cannot heal the world," he insisted.

Pope Francis said it is a question of living in communion or 'harmony' with one another, rather than living as 'individualists' who are 'indifferent' to the needs of others. He continued, "The harmony created by God asks that we look at others, the needs of others, the problems of others, in communion," recognising "the human dignity in every person, whatever his or her race, language or condition might be."

"The pandemic has exposed the plight of the poor and the great inequality that reigns in the world," he said a week later, focusing on the importance of 'preferential option for the poor.' The preferential option for the poor is at the centre of the Gospel!" He then decried our current system of social and economic injustices that hurt the poor and the environment.

He explained, "The pandemic is a crisis, and we do not emerge from a crisis the same as before; either we come out of it better, or we come out of it worse." He argued, "It would be sad if, for the vaccine for COVID-19, priority were to be given to the richest! It would be sad if this vaccine were to become the property of this nation or another, rather than universal, and for all."

"And what a scandal it would be if all the economic assistance we are observing - most of it with public money - were to focus on rescuing those industries that do not contribute to the inclusion of the excluded, the promotion of the least, the common good or the care of Creation," he went on. He reiterated forcefully that only those companies and businesses "that contribute to the inclusion of the excluded, to the promotion of the last, to the common good and the care of Creation" should be given financial assistance.

The Pope has spoken more specifically of "the universal destination of goods" (including fairer distribution of wealth) and the principle of "solidarity". He linked the first issue to the virtue of hope, and the second to the virtue of faith.

He vehemently railed against economic and social inequality. "We must say it simply; the economy is sick," he lamented. "In today's world, a few wealthy people possess more than all the rest of humanity." He went on. "I will repeat this, so that it makes us think; a few wealthy people, a small group, possess more than all the rest of humanity. This is pure statistics. This is an injustice that cries out to heaven!" Pope Francis said now more than ever is the time for enacting solidarity.

(Excerpts from an article of Robert Mickens) Courtesy: La Croix International