Gospel, Communalism and Yoga

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Humans are cultural beings.  The Church teaches that humans can achieve true and full humanity by means of culture. Gospel of Christ reaches humanity by immersing itself into a particular culture. The Church has always been aware of this Gospel and culture encounter.  As cultures evolved, the Church has always embraced new fields of evangelization and enabled humanity to reflect on the mystery of God, the world and in particular of the human person. The fact, that culture evolves manifests the humans seek transcendence and are not prisoners of any of their cultures. The encounter of Gospel with cultures has enabled humans to give expression to this transcendental dimension of their life.  The encounter of the Gospel and cultures has demonstrated the fundamental openness as well as longing  of humanity to the transcendent.  This cultural dynamics of human person also shows that culture is marked with frailty and sin and can be purified by the Holy Spirit. Thus, the Gospel encounter with culture leads humans to experience the mystery of God’s love and salvation in the living context of their daily life.  This means faith incarnates within a culture.

The Paschal mystery forcefully brings to light that God in Jesus Christ penetrated, purified and led to fulfilment all human cultures. Hence, there can be no real split between faith and culture but one is not reducible to the other. Faith illumines and transforms our culture. Hence, the Gospel and culture encounter bring about the evangelization of cultures.  This evangelisation of the cultures is not merely decorative and cosmetic in its approach but one that vitally permeates and redeems it entirely. Hence, the mysteries of incarnation, kenosis and redemption like the yeast, salt and the light bring about transformation of cultures in the power of the Holy Spirit at work in his Church.  This means that evangelizations lets the Gospel penetrate the core of the cultural life of humanity and its values and brings about its Christification from which emanates authentic Christian life.  Hence, the encounter of the Gospel and culture renders a culture compatible to Christian faith and life.  The  cultural evolutions and innovations emerging in our society become the new Areopagus situations that challenges us to bring them at the feet  of Christ.       

Church in India and Goa has been faced by the challenge of Gospel and culture encounter and has always been in dialogue with dynamic cultures of our people. The Church has addressed the imperative of faith to discern the seeds of the Gospel as well as immerse the Gospel values in the multiple cultures in our country.  The multiple cultures in our country have provided both challenges and opportunities for the Church to strive and make everything new in Christ. The Church in Goa worked hand in hand with people of God will in our society and  became a catalyst for various people’s movement for common good, justice, peace and human rights. The participation of the Church in people’s agitation shows how she has responded to the imperative of faith to build the kingdom of God in our society through the inauguration of a new society. The nurturing and development of Konkani, and other cultural forms  of the Goan people, particularly  after second Vatican council has demonstrated that it has profoundly worked to  enflesh the Word in our  Goan society. The effort to bring about a pastoral response to tourism, grass root democracy, and heighten focus on inter-religious dialogue as well as quest to upgrade its educational infrastructure has demonstrated that Gospel and culture encounter continues with great vigour in Goa. 

The cultural metabolism in our country as well as Goa has reached a new tipping point.  The growing attempts to mono-culture and sigularize the plural and diverse cultures of the people of our country, the cultural politics that brews identity conflicts among our people and the growing weakening of our democracy and its institutions that enable a few corporate elites to plunder the public resources in our country bring new challenges to both the Church in Goa and India.   The derogatory remarks on Mother Tereza, several communal outbursts of the ministers and other leaders of the ruling party, the Ghar Vapasi movement etc., exhibit a kind of intolerant culture that was steadily churning in our country.  The recent attempts to communalize the meeting of the catholic MLA’s and the imposition of the Yoga day on every school Children have to be viewed within this new cultural dynamism bubbling in our country. Hence, we have a challenge of a new kariological moment to bring about a creative and responsible response to the cultural changes occurring around us. 

The Gospel and culture encounter offers us new opportunities and challenges us to assert and defend the plurality of cultures in our country as authentic ways of living a true and fuller human life. The threat of erasure of multiple cultures through a culture of homogenization becomes a new challenge to Church in India to dialogue with the forces that intend to bring about a cultural iconoclasm in our country.  Within this challenge   to counter homogenizing forces, there is another important challenge. It is to responds to entho-nationalism or the cultural nationalism that is reigning in our country. This requires us to clearly understand what communalism really is as our developmental and liberating work can be paralysed by projecting us as communal.  Hence, communalism in our country has invented a strategy of minoritizing the religious minorities by positioning them as communal. Often, many good meaning people among us can tend to get sucked into this discourse and surrender  the freedom associate among us as minorities for fear of being tagged as communal. This is exactly what happened with the meeting of the catholic MLA’s in Goa.  The bite of the real issue got subdued, deflated and deflected. The Church that was championing the cause of the less privileged suddenly had to defend itself of the communal allegations while the real issue took a back seat  and craftily manufactured denial of educational infrastructure to the poor began to look normal.  

The Gospel-culture encounter challenges us to address the positioning of the Church as communal by some vested interests in our society.  It appears that minorities as the other of the majority community seems to have no voice of their own. They also do not seem to enjoy the right to assemble and voice their plight. If they do so they are positioned as communal. Hence, the silencing of the voices of the minorities has to be understood as the side effects of this new strategy of the communal forces. Hence, this orchestrated voicelessness imposed on the Catholics in Goa has to be interrupted the voice of the Gospel,  that will give us freedom and courage to continue to speak in our unique voice and  not merely repeat what the power elites in  our society what us to say.  May be we don’t have to be apologetic about coming together with the politicians belonging to our community. It is not mere coming together that makes a meeting communal.  Neither is it legally unlawful assembly. What this assembly does is that what can lead us to consider whether such an assembling is communal or not. Communalism largely, favours its community and promotes intolerance and hate of other community. In the case under our consideration, Catholics feeling being victims of communalism had convened the meeting to speak their concerns. It is an amazing case where a victim is called to justify its innocence. 

Within, this communal culture one has to view the imposition of Yoga on all children.  The physical side of Yoga is of profound value and may even promote health and discipline of mind and body. The challenge before, the Church in India is philosophy behind it. This Philosophy seems to be incompatible with the Gospel. Hence, the Church remains open to  physical dimension of what is Hatta Yoga and accepts its goodness and value  as a means of enhancing health and concentration. Hence, there is no real issue with  the physicality of Yoga.  The problem is in its monopolistic imposition on everyone.  Such an imposition does violence to the freedom of the individual. Moreover, the fact, Catholic students are called on Sunday, a sacred day for all Catholics also brings about an employment of yoga as a means of intolerance of the religious sensitivities of the minorities.  Yoga is supposed to develop our awareness and heightened our moral sensitivity yet the way it is being imposed in this context,  it clearly demonstrates that the virus of communalism has crippled it. All this has placed the catholic students and workers in a situation between   devil and deep sea. It appears that a kind of religious discomfort is being craftily designed for the Catholics.  Somehow the way yoga is promoted appears to be feeding to a kind of narcissism. While we are positively open to yoga, we as Catholics have to employ it to live our kenotic self-giving in love so that we are enabled to love God and Humanity and serve our country and society.          

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao