“Faith must flow into action.” (Mid Term Synod Assembly, Pastoral Letter of the Archbishop Pg. 7) It is necessary for the Church in the Archdiocese of Mumbai to activate relevant and responsible systems to ensure that it is at the centre of the fight for justice at the macro and local levels in the country.
The survey conducted for first phase of the Archdiocesan Consultation clearly indicates the importance of focusing on this aspect and it also points out to how we are lagging behind in this sphere. This implies that our devoutness needs to be directed outwards in order to assimilate social needs and give them a religious fervour. There is a need to breakout from the cosy comforts of the four walls of our churches and understand that the world around can be the centre of our spirituality and salvation.
If the Church in Mumbai has to create a better world for all, it is imperative that we change our spiritual outlook and mind-set. By converting the following activities into frontline ministries as well as by integrating them into our spiritual lives, it is possible for the Church to develop and foster a meaningful relationship with the country.
a. Propagate Good Governance.
b. Contribute to Public Administration.
c. Uphold Human Rights.
d. Protect Environment.
1. GOVERNANCE: It is said, ‘Politics is the last refuge of scoundrels’ and ‘Power Corrupts.’ However, political power, per se, is not bad; but the misuse of power is. Moses was a political leader who fulfilled his task to perfection. By their calling Christians are mandated to become part of the political community. When authority, which is the basic essential for good governance, is not optimally exercised, the following problems emerge:
a. Rampant spread of corruption at all levels of government (civil and ecclesial)
b. Degradation of public office (electoral politics, bureaucracy and judiciary)
c. Deficiency of consciousness and involvement in public issues.
d. Lack of participation, transparency and accountability in public life.
2. PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION:
In spite of the Church’s pioneering efforts in education and medical care its impact on public life is abysmally low. The number of lay faithful in public service, public policy making and in positions of significance in government and is microscopic. Integration into public life is now a necessity to increase the Church’s influence on the nation and thereby make us confident as a people to spread communal harmony in the country.
3. HUMAN RIGHTS: Since ‘Genesis’, where God created humans in His / Her image and likeness, the inalienable rights which are inherent in the human person by virtue of his / her existence, are sacred and inviolable. Hence, it is crucial that the rights of every human being (irrespective of class, creed, caste and gender) are not only upheld but also proactively promoted. Some areas of concern in this area are:
a. Gender issues: patriarchy, inequality, monopoly, discrimination, dowry, evil social practices.
b. Children: deformative education system, stifling natural growth, overburden, malnutrition, child labour, child abuse.
c. Tribal: alienation of land rights (displacement), loss of traditional livelihood sources (eg., trawlers invading upon traditional fishing communities), lack of access to basic amenities and their integration into the mainstream of the nation without obliteration of their identity.
d. Senior Citizens: abandonment by children, maltreatment, lack of medical support, insufficient security (physical and economic)
e. Economically vulnerable: hunger, improper shelter, inadequate and expensive medical services, education, employment, legal aid.
4. ENVIRONMENT: Without denying its positives, two of the major fallouts of globalization are: the trampling of human rights and the spread of ecological degradation. Called to be ‘stewards of creation’, even a casual introspection would reveal that we have failed (individually and collectively) to live up to this clarion challenge. Some of the adverse impacts of the devastation of the environment are:
a. Pollution of air, water and soil
b. Loss of wet lands / mangroves in urban and rural spaces
c. Deforestation due to gentrification and commercialization of space
d. Wastage caused by conspicuous energy consumption
e. Climate change and its adverse consequences
SYSTEMS AND NETWORK IN HAND:
If the above sub-area involvements are to be meaningfully implemented, it is necessary that the Church work towards changing the mind-set of not only the ‘flock’ but also of the ‘shepherds’. The Church should effectively work through the current networks that are already available.
PEOPLE CHURCH ORGANISATIONS
1. SCCs 1. APC/DPC/PPC 1. ALMs (Advance Locality Management groups)
2. SHCs 2. Associations 2. NGOs (Non Government Organisations)
3. Individuals 3. Movements 3. MUNICIPAL CORPORATORS 4. Cells 4. MLAs
5. Priest Teams 5. MPs
6. Religious 6. Human Right Movements
7. Schools 7. Inter-Faith dialogs 8. Colleges 8. Cutural Promotion
9. CBCI 9. Political and economic Forums
10. Economic forum
11. Technology Initiative
Having listed some of the major areas of concern, it would be pertinent to note that Christians have raised their voice when it was needed and have been quite successful in securing justice for the deprived as well as for whose human right are under threat. Here are some instances within the Mumbai Archdiocese :
a. Jagruti Kendra a Community Based Organization (CBO), called CCO in Church circles, situated in Jeri Meri has worked with people’s life threatening issues ranging from struggle for human rights such as basic amenities, confronting gender discrimination, taking those in authority to task in a bid to ensure good governance, etc. The methodology followed was to identify the concerns that gave people sleepless nights, organizing the community around these concerns and training them to deal with the situation in creative ways.
b. The locals of Uttan-Gorai region were successful in thwarting Corporate and Government plans of establishing a SEZ (Special Economic Zone) in their region that threatened to displace them and deprive them of their livelihood.
c. The residents of Pereira-wadi, Bandra foiled a developer’s attempts to establish a SRA (Slum Rehabilitation Act) Project through fraudulent means with the help of supportive citizens and groups.
d. Numerous Christians are using the RTI to expose rampant corruption in public places and are also effective in improving transparency and accountability in administration.
e. Some active Christians have filed PILs both online and in Courts to remedy situations where they feel there is need for fighting for justice.
f. Some Christians have done yeoman service to the nation with their meritorious service in the police force, civil services and as elected representatives from political parties.
g. Associations such as the Bombay Catholic Sabha (BCS) and Civic and Political Cell have made efforts to interact with political parties and the administration in an effort to get good governance. They have promoted Voter Registration drives and facilitated the election process.
h. The BCS has organised major rallies at Azad Maidan and Shivaji Park to raise issues concerning injustice, communalism and atrocities against the minorities.
i. The BCS promotes Career Guidance, the utilization of Government Minorities Scheme and to sensitise people on issues such as redevelopment of housing societies, SRA, property taxes, RTI, etc.
RECOMMENDED SOLUTIONS :
In order to achieve our goals and objectives of improving our Relationship with the Country we need to put systems in place and have a suitable plan of action:
1. Establishing an apex body at the Mumbai Curia level with the mandate of co-ordinating and evaluating all the activities undertaken by all the parishes in the archdiocese. To make this body accountable, its collated reports would have to be fully published in the Examiner and excerpts in newspapers (in English and vernacular languages spoken in the archdiocese).
2. Ensuring that the Centre for Community Organisation (CCO) are not only established in every parish but are functioning as per the Post Synodal Document’s intentions (Mumbai, 56 – 57). The CCO should be given the task of carrying out on-going studies and social analysis of various issues that fall within the ambit of its parish.
3. Restructuring the activities of the CCOs and having their annual reports audited and filed with the central authorities of the Church in Mumbai.
4. Insisting that all the institutions run under the aegis of the Church introduce social involvement programmes for their clients – the outcomes of which have to be reported to the apex body.
5. Conducting annual / biannual competitions at the parish and archdiocesan levels on issues of national / state / civic significance; but also organising inputs sessions to possible participants so as to help them comprehend as well as develop the analytical acumen to grapple with the focus issues.
6. Organizing coaching classes for those aspiring to join the civil services at centralized locations within Church premises.
7. Appointing clergy with an eye to ensuring continuity in the social justice works that have already been established by the earlier appointees.
8. The on-going formation of clergy should be adapted to changing times. Seminarians should be trained with managerial skills so as to imbibe in them the spirit that ‘a leader has to serve and not be served’; the leader has to listen, discern and democratically as well as transparently execute the popular but just will.
9. Consider a rethink on the venue for formation of the seminarians. Remove them from the comfort zones of the present seminaries and make them experience the hard realities of life in slums and other challenging places.
The Church in Mumbai has the requisite framework to foster a healthy, meaningful and an effective relationship with the country while carrying out her mission of bringing succour to the poor, justice to the deprived and hope to the struggling. The Church can enlist a number of successful forays in these areas. However, it is necessary that the Church does not become complacent with these but strives to deliver more for the nation and for the ‘greater glory of God’.
Questions for Discussion:
1. Mention at least 3 most important ideas in the paper you agree with, giving reasons for the same
2. Any suggestions relating to the implementation and the way forward regarding the above?
3. Please mention any ideas in the paper you disagree with, giving reasons for the same
4. Please mention any important aspects that you think have not been covered in the paper.