Liberation reflections: inter-religious harmony, identity, Goan concerns and the marginalised of our land by Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao

December 8, 2011 by  
Filed under newsletter-lead

Being a Goan ChristiansGoa, December 7, 2011: It seems once a guru was walking with his disciples at dawn.He asked his disciples if they knew how to tell when the night ended and the day began.

One of the disciples said: “When you see an animal at a distance and you can distinguish if it is a cow or a goat.” “No,” said the Guru. Another of the disciples ventured: “When you see a tree at a distance and you can istinguish if it is a mango tree or a banyan tree.” “Not either,” said the Guru.

“We give up,” said the disciples in chorus. “Please tell us, when is it?” The Guru answered: “When you look at a man’s face and recognize in him your brother and when you look at a woman’s face and recognize in her your sister — only then can you truly say that the night has ended and the day has begun. If you are not able to do this, then, whatever hour it be, it is still night for you.”

The Golden Jubilee Year of our Liberation is a significant moment that commemorates what we consider having been the end of the night and the beginning of the day of our Freedom. It is a moment that invites us to rise from the shadows into the light of true freedom. Borrowing the words of the great Rabindranath Tagore, it is into this heaven of freedom that I pray that our beautiful Goa awakens some day. Yes, the Liberation Jubilee is indeed a new springtime of hope that gladdens our hearts, soothes our pains and holds out a promise of a better future.

However, while we rightly rejoice on this historical moment, it is important that it also becomes a moment of profound reflection which will enable us to collectively come of age as the liberated people of Goa.

It is in this context that I welcome the book written by Fr. Victor Ferrão, with sincere appreciation for his work and an expectant hope that it will bring about a leap of consciousness in the understanding of our Goan-ness and also of our ‘Christian-ness’. Yes indeed, the Golden Jubilee of our Liberation is not just an occasion to reflect on the many achievements, but also an invitation to understand what this Liberation has really done to us.

We produce as well as are produced by history. We create and shape our history and, in that sense, our liberation has been an achievement; but, at the same time, we are shaped and influenced by our history. Although Goa is territorially small, it is indeed blessed with a dynamic and vibrant history. It is often erroneously thought… that the history of Goa is as small as its geography.

That is why a book that seriously studies our colonial as well as our post-colonial experience, from the Christian as well as Goan standpoint, becomes relevant both for the Church and the Society in Goa. I thank Fr. Victor Ferrão for inviting me to release this book today. A book of this kind can help us to understand how our past still lives in our present.

In this book Fr. Victor effectively shows how the many differences among the religions in Goa have their roots in the colonial era. He sensitively handles the condition of inter-religious harmony in our state. His reflection somehow manifests that our society is largely marked by a certain inter-religious incompetence. He suggests that the colonial past has in a way isolated and insulated Christians from the Hindus and he earnestly calls
all Goans to own their past as adults and allow the jubilee of liberation to become a springboard which
would enable everyone to deal therapeutically with the hurts of the colonial era.

A theology that is both Goan and Christian can surely bring about a greater integration of our Goan-ness and our Christian-ness. Fr. Victor’s book invites Goan Christians to be assertive in terms of their Identity, yes, but also to be compassionately proactive in terms of Dialogue with other religions.

Hence, the sub-title of the book: “Identity, Rift and Synthesis.” Victor rightly points out that the Apostolate of
Inter-Religious Dialogue in our Archdiocese will have to deal with the pathos of the past, before it promotes more positive and fruitful inter-religious relations in post-colonial Goa.

While, in our days, the Church has always been where the people are and expressed the Gospel solidarity with the marginalized and the oppressed of every creed and colour, especially through our Council for Social Justice and Peace, much needs still to be done to bridge the inter-religious gulf that exists in the psyche of our society. I pray that the jubilee of liberation becomes a moment of grace for our Church as well as for our society, so
that the Christians along with others in Goa come of age and see in every Goan a brother and a sister.

To recognize a brother or a sister in our fellow Goan seems to have become enormously difficult in these times. Behind the popular slogan that Goa is a haven of peace and religious harmony, there appears to be a serious rift, whereby each community sees the other through the prism of suspicion, threatening this same peace and harmony in our society.

To make things worse, there are always vested interests that attempt to convert our felt differences into political capital, damaging the long-term prospects for genuine peace and harmony in our State.

The jubilee of our liberation has the potential to become a catalyst that will bring about a new springtime of trust and harmony. Fifty years is perhaps long enough to consider all our issues dispassionately and in a true spirit of dialogue.

I appeal to all sections of our society to work to build a Goa that will truly become a pearl in the crown of our Mother India. Along with the challenge to build a healthy inter-religious culture and competence, there is another vital reality that affects all Goans.

It is an underlying reality which the recent violence in Balli has placed under the spotlight, one more time. We have to hang down our heads in shame over the fact that those whom we call the aboriginals of Goa, arginalized for a long time, have yet to find an honourable place in our society. Even within the Church, we find ourselves fighting our little wars on the basis of caste: a virulence which we have inherited from the pre-colonial times and which, unfortunately, the colonizers maintained, perhaps because they found it expedient to do so.

One of the greatest challenges, therefore, that lies before the society and the Church in Goa is to engender a process that will bring due dignity to every fellow-Goan and thus eliminate every shade of social discrimination.

Even at the risk of sounding utopian, I dare say that, until such a day comes, our so-called ‘liberation’ will remain incomplete.

Besides these ethnological issues, the models of development followed recently in our eco-sensitive State have brought an increasing number of Goans on the streets. The conflicts emerging from the Regional Plan, the Village Panchayats and the Town and Country Planning Office only demonstrate that there is, among us Goans, a growing awareness about the value of our God-given land.

Particularly during the current year, when we have, through our Pastoral Letter, placed our focus on the created world and on an eco-sensitive spirituality, we are all being challenged to re-evaluate our land, not only as an economic resource, but as an emotional, cultural and historical wealth, to be saved for the future generations of Goans.

It is in this context that the suggestion of Victor Ferrão for evolving a Theology of Development for the Church in Goa deserves serious consideration. In this globalized world, such a Theology would perhaps assist us in formulating an effective pastoral response to our socio-economic, historico-cultural and politico-religious realities.

It is hoped, therefore, that the book that has just been released today may contribute towards such a theological
reflection, which would enable us to better understand our Goan-ness and Christian-ness and respond in a way that would assist us to see in everyone a brother and a sister. We would then usher in, truly and fully, the Liberation DAY in our lives.

– archbishop filipe neri fferrao

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