By Mar Andrews Thazhath Archbishop of Trichur & President of KCBC
‘Do not despise any of these little ones. The son of man has come to save the lost’
Dear friends in Jesus Christ,
We are gathered here to thank the Almighty for the abundant blessings upon Caritas India as it completes 50 years of fruitful service to the Church and the society. With St. Paul, as we heard in today’s reading, let us “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing and give thanks to God at every moment. This is the will of God, our vocation as Christians” (I Thes. 5: 16-18).
Jubilee is looking back and looking forward. According to the spirit of Jubilee seen in the book of Leviticus (25:8-28) it is an occasion of remembrance of the past events; of repentance for the faults committed; of redemption of what is lost; of return to the spirit of the founder, to the family; of rejoicing for the graces received; of reception of the freedom of the children of God, of recognition of God’s mercy towards his people and of re-dedication looking forward for making ‘the Kingdom of God at hand’ (Mk.1:16).
Jubilee is an occasion to bring forward the vision of the Church on CARITAS CHRISTI. In fact, the Church is ‘Jesus Christ prolonged’ in history. As the disciples of Jesus we are called to work, to heal and to bring to fulfillment all of creation. It is the recognition of the ‘Kingdom of God on earth, of the dignity of mankind, of the duty towards the neighbor, especially the poor and needy. This is the heart of the Jesus way of life.
As we are celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Caritas India, we are again and again reminded of the words of Jesus Christ, as we heard in today’s Gospel ‘Do not despise any of these little ones. The son of man has come to save the lost’. Accepting the call of Jesus, the Savior of the world, we move ahead with a vision to form a just and sustaining social order where gospel values of love, equality, peace and lastly dignity are nurtured and lived.
For 50 years, Caritas India exercised preferential option for the poor, responding with love and action to human suffering in an unjust and discriminative society. During this period we have seen great progress in international scenario of poverty eradication as well as in our ability to respond to disasters. Despite all the development progress made in the past half a century, there are still more than eight million people in India die each year because they are too poor to stay alive. Most live in fragile situations, often wracked by conflict, disasters and famine.
Globalization has brought tremendous opening and development to our country, more jobs, more money, infrastructural developments etc… Etc. but with a side effect! The economists call it as lopsided development. Now the gap between the rich and the poor is getting even wider. India’s poorest people are the hardest hit by the additional challenges of climate change, rising food prices and the continuing effects of global financial crisis. Rightly Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez president of Caritas Internationalis said, “Poverty and injustice are the real weapons of mass destruction”. Yahweh asked Jeremiah, as we heard in today’s first reading (Jer. 22:1-4), : “Go to the Palace of the king of Judah and give him this message”. Today Jesus is giving us the same message as Yahweh gave through Jeremiah: “Practice Justice and do good; free the oppressed” (Jer.22:3).
Now during this second decade of the 21st century, we face a series of challenges which threaten to halt or even reverse that progress. Hence we are seeing this land mark in our social development journey to design strategic directions not only to address these challenges, but also to increase our abilities to fight poverty and injustice.
There is a German proverb ‘Charity sees the need, not the cause.’… Our generation can choose to end that extreme poverty by the year 2025 if just 15 paise out of every rupee that is allotted by the Government reaches the target group. The 450 billion dollars that the United States spends on the military, arms and ammunition will never buy peace if in contrast it continues to spend around one thirtieth of that, just $15 billion to address the plight of the world’s poorest of the poor, whose societies are destabilized by extreme poverty and thereby becomes havens of unrest, violence, and even global terrorism (Jeffrey Sachs p.1). So our mission is not only being generous to the poor but also to stand for their rights and to ensure justice by taking stand against the corrupt practices in the society.
Today extreme poverty can be ended not in the time of our grand children, but in our own time. The growing wealth of the world, the power of today’s vast storehouses of knowledge, and the declining fraction of the world that needs help to escape from poverty, all make the end of poverty a realistic possibility. Poverty can be ended if right choices are made, choices that can lead to a much safer world based on a true reverence and respect for human life. The psalmist says ‘He gives generously to the
poor; his merits will last for ever and his head will be raised in Honor’ Psalms 112:9.
Many a time it happens that people have not seen the power within, they have not seen what they can achieve, or how they can influence others’ lives in a positive way. Development is about one human being investing out of choice in another human being’. If we don’t have faith in the ability of others and their sense of responsibility, the whole concept of development falls apart. So we need to give space to people what they can do with their life. They will generously contribute their knowledge, skills, material, financial and human resources. Giving has to be joyful and not something which you do when you are ashamed of or are coerced. Some of us are more fortunate to discover that power of giving within ourselves, some of us might discover it later.
In modern times, it is revealed that World Bodies, Government and Corporate Sectors have become so powerful that the system is made to benefit the top 1% at the cost of the rest 99%. It is in this context Pope Benedict XVI calls for an ethical approach to economy, public-private partnerships and a greater role for faith-based organizations in the struggle to end modern day slavery and build a just society.This is the part of new evangelization proposed by pope Benedict XVI
Our strategic vision is encapsulated in just six words: “Transforming lives as we go miles”. Caritas India believes in the essential unity and interdependence of the human family “Vasudaiva Kutumbam”. “The development of peoples depends on a recognition that the human race is a single family working together” (Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 53). The transformation we aim at is meant to see that extreme poverty is eradicated. Each person is enabled to flourish and live in peace and dignity, where our natural environment is managed responsibly and sustainably in the interests of the entire human family.
The South African experiment after Nelson Mandela became President is a remarkable example of transforming lives on the national level. Instead of wanting retributive justice for earlier crimes during the apartheid regime, they emphasized restorative justice through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. One of its principle architects Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaks of an African concept Ubuntu “the essence of being human. We say a person is a person through other persons. We are made for togetherness, to live in a delicate network of interdependence.Being is becoming, Existence is co-existence and pro-existence. I need other human beings in order to be myself. For ubuntu… the greatest good is communal harmony. Anger, hatred, resentment, all are corrosive of the good. If one person is dehumanized, then inexorably we are all diminished and dehumanized in our turn. … and so restorative justice, gives up on no one. No one is a hopeless irredeemable case. We all remain the children of God, even the worst of us. We all retain the capacity to become saints”. Revenge and blood letting were replaced by truthful confession of crimes committed and forgiveness offered by the victims; hate and retribution gave way to understanding and reconciliation.
All the teachings and actions of Jesus manifest that his mission was transformative: to bring life and love, freedom and salvation, truth and justice, unity and community by doing the Father’s will in the service of the downtrodden, the outcast and the lost. St. Luke links up Jesus’ mission with a strong social dimension: Jesus comes to change not only human hearts and interpersonal relationships, but also an unjust society with its social structures. Jesus’ ministry shows a clear and consistent preference for the poor, the suffering and the rejected of society. Quite contrary to the prevailing social customs, he respected women, received their help and numbered them among his disciples and friends. Though Jesus welcomes anyone and everyone who approaches him, it is clear he takes sides with the poor and speaks from their position. He does not wish the loss of any one and takes the radical step of leaving the 99 in order to save the lost one.
In line with Jewish prophets like Amos, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Micah, Jesus challenges the prevalent culture of oppression and initiates a counter culture. As disciples of the Master called to continue his mission today, we need to pick up courage to take a prophetic stand like him – aligning ourselves with and speaking out for the poor and oppressed, being ready to suffer humiliations, rejection and even death.
As we set forth strategic directions for Caritas India, we are assured of a confident faith identity and rooted in Catholic Social Teaching; they form a frame work for partnership, solidarity, intergenerational justice and transformative change. They are aimed at delivering four priority objectives in the areas of humanitarian response, integral human development, advocacy and organizational development. We need to make our net work stronger and more efficient. “We must travel the road together, united in minds and hearts” (Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, 80).
Transforming community needs strong persons – those who have, among other qualities, a good degree of self-acceptance, forgiveness, inner freedom, and detachment. It is a challenge to keep our eyes, ears, hands and hearts constantly open to discover how we can respond in the Jesus way towards transforming communities around us. Transformed persons will produce to distribute, feed before they eat, give before they take, think of others before they think of themselves. Only a selfless society based on sharing can be stable and happy.
Though we are minority, by the grace of God we are great. ‘Our Jewel is in our own Crown’, because we have variety of possibilities and resources especially human resources and network. The Church in India is seen as one of the largely organized and powerful faith based organizations with a long and committed history of social commitment. Down through the centuries, many women and men laid their lives in the service of the poor and thus establish an equitable society. We are appreciated for these services but often not recognized and supported with public resources. We need to shed this foreignness and establish our position from our inner strength as Indian, committed, active, faith inspired and responsible citizens. Only this will afford us the opportunity to focus and animate major actors in the welfare space. From this we need to increase our position with the Government and Corporate sectors. To rise up to this status, we need to build up strong partnerships in our diocese, regional and national net work and professionalize our organizational functioning as an efficient, committed and credible organization.
Our human resource should be the best in the country.
All these strategies need to be reflected in our mission as a whole, as we are all part of Caritas, fulfilling the charity command of our Master. We need to strategize in each diocese, parish and small community so that right and just action is initiated for the transformation of our country.
“This is what the Lord asks of you today, only this: To act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God” Micah 6:8. We will then experience what Rabindranath Tagore said:
I slept and dreamt that life was nothing but joy.
I woke and found that life was nothing but service.
I served and realized that service is joy.
During this Eucharistic celebration let us place before the lord, all who worked tirelessly for the growth of Caritas India, all our benefactors, well wishers and our staff at different levels, so that they may continue to experience the ‘Joy of Service ‘in all what they do.
As I conclude my wish and prayer is the same as that of St. Paul’s to the Thessalonians “In this endeavour, may you all be kept safe, spirit, soul and body” (1 Thes.5:23).