Pics: Dayanand Kukkaje
Daijiworld Media Network - Beltangady (SB)
Beltangady, Feb 2: It was a historic day for the Catholic community as over 30,000 people gathered at the Catholic Maha Samavesha-2020 held at Sacred Heart Church ground, Madanthyar here on Sunday, February 2.
The event started with a 'unity rally' from Madanthyar town to church ground. Bishops of Mangaluru, Puttur and Beltangady, hundreds of priests, religious sisters and thousands of delegates from the community, participated in the rally. Dr Peter Paul Saldanha, bishop of Mangaluru flagged off the rally.
Ronald Colaco, NRI entrepreneur and philanthropist, hoisted the flag of the Catholic Samavesha–2020 prior to the formal inauguration.
Bishops and dignitaries inaugurated the Samavesha by planting saplings of sandalwood and lighting the lamp.
Dr Lawrence Mukkuzhy, bishop of Belthangady Syro Malabar diocese, Dr Geevarghese Mar Divannasios, bishop of Puttur Syro Malankara diocese, Fr Maxim Noronha, vicar general, Mangaluru Diocese, Ronald Coloco, NRI entrepreneur and philanthropist, Fr Mathew Vas, spiritual director, Catholic Sabha, Fr Ronald D’Souza, director, ICYM, Fr Francis D’Souza, director DCWC, Fr Eldo Puthankadathil, vicar general, Beltangady diocese, Fr Jose, Puttur diocese, Leon Saldanha, president, ICYM central council, Fr Basil Vas, parish priest, Madanthyar, Fr Stany Pinto, assistant parish priest, Madanthyar church, Dr Ronald Fernandes, member KPSC, MP Noronha, secretary, diocesan parish council, Mangaluru, were present on the dais. ICYM Karnataka regional representative Jaison Pereira was also present.
In his inaugural speech, bishop Dr Peter Paul Saldanha said, "We are Indians. In Mangaluru, we have a 450-year history of living peacefully, respectfully, and not doing any harm to others as followers of Jesus Christ. We believe in the goodness in humans and we always give priority for humanity in our private and social life. At the same time, we believe in our Constitution. We live for our country. Fr Jerome D’Souza who also worked with Dr B R Ambedkar, has contributed during the preparation of the Constitution."
Rolphie D’Costa, president, Catholic Sabha Mangaluru Pradesh presided over the inaugural event.
“We Christians always stood for our country and we have served our country in various fields such as education, health and social service. But some incidents, false allegations hurt us. Some people who have a hidden agenda are trying to divide us. However, this will not stop us from continuing our social service. We will live here respectfully. No one can separate us from our motherland and no one can divide us,” he said.
In his speech Dr Geevarghese Mar Divannasios said, "We have gathered here to show our unity and put our demands in front of government and authorities. We are eligible for all kinds of facilities given to us by our Constitution. We are known for social service and harmony. With this Samavesha, we are announcing that we are not the people who will fall easily. Our emotions are always with our country and our faith is always with one God who brings us all together and teaches us to love. We are united with India which has a Constitution that emphasizes unity in diversity."
In his keynote address, Dr Lawrence Mukkuzhy, bishop of Beltangady said, "With the objective to unite, to reflect and to strengthen, we organised this Catholic Samavesha-2020. We are united with Jesus and the Catholic faith. We reflect the teachings of Jesus. He teaches us humanity. Without humanity there is no meaning to religion. Humanity is our faith which is centered around Jesus. Secondly, we are cent percent Indian citizens. We are in the forefront when it comes to our contribution in the fields of education and health. No one can neglect this with silly allegations and reasons. There are ministers in all governments, sportspersons in all sports fields, educationalists, scientists and intellectuals who studied in Christian management institutions. We never tried to convert them or anyone else to Christianity, nor have they left their religion. We respect all religions and accept their faiths. As citizens of India and hardcore lovers of this country, we will continue our social service. No one can stop us from this."
On behalf the Catholic community of Mangaluru, bishops of Puttur and Beltangady diocese and dignitaries bestowed the title ‘Vishwa Bhushan’ to Ronald Coloco, NRI entrepreneur, philanthropist and felicitated him with a shawl, memento and bouquet.
Acknowledging the honour, Colaco said, "I am happy to accept this title that has been conferred on me by the people of the three dioceses. I thank the Catholic Sabha and all the organisers for this recognition and felicitation. I never rendered social service for any award or reward or any personal benefits. As a human, it is my bounden duty towards the society that I have come from and to understand the necessities of fellow human beings. Humanity always triumphs over every community, caste and religion. I am sharing what I have received by the grace of God.
"I salute the organizers for holding the Samavesha of this magnitutude having more than 30,000 participants. It shows unity and strength of Catholics of the three dioceses. At the same time, it also shows how hungry our community is for this unity. Same unity should continue. We are lucky to be born in India which is one of the most respectable and beautiful countries in the world. India is shining in the world as the largest democracy. India is a country of diversity with multiple regions/space, religions and castes, cultures and traditions, food habits and languages, but still we have unity in diversity and are all living here in harmony and in peace. The history of ancient India says that one way or the other, many are migrants, including the Aryans, and some of the Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Buddhists and Christians. But now by birth we are all Indians. Therefore one cannot tell the other that 'I am Indian and you are a migrant' and no one should speak about their true nationality in terms of religion, caste or creed. Some forces and individuals are trying to give the wrong message in order to divide us. We, the Indian Catholic community, are known for social service and humanity. However, hidden forces are trying to stop us from doing social service. But they will not succeed in stopping us. I request our youths to become active in the nation-building process. Instead of going abroad they should find opportunities within the country. The government sector is one of the finest areas to work in. The community should take an interest in helping the youths become active in bureaucracy," he added.
"In the days when Gurukula sytem was prevalent in our country, education had become the sole property of Brahmins, Rajputs and Kshatriyas. All other communities were deprived from learning. This is well demonstrated in Mahabharata from the actions of Dronacharya towards Ekalavya. That is the time the Christian missionaries opened schools and colleges in many villages, small and big towns, and thus accommodated all other deprived communities and enabled them to have their education. Srinivas Prasad, the former central minister and state revenue minister in one of his speeches in Kollegal has quoted the statement of our national poet Dr Kuvempu where he said, 'at a time when Gurukul system of education was prevalent in our country, where only Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Rajputs could get their education, and all other communities were deprived from learning, had these Christian missionaries not opened schools and colleges for rest of us, I would not have been educated to become the national poet that I am today. Probably I would have been carrying cowdung on my head and grazing the cattle'. Thus our contribution in the field of education right from those early days has enabled people of all sections of society to get educated, which resulted in the overall economic development of the country that we are witnessing today in science and technology, IT-BT sector, aeronautics, electronics, launching satellites, atomic energy etc," he said.
"When there were people suffering from leprosy, no one wanted to touch them. There were only two hospitals - Father Muller in Mangaluru and CSI, Vellore - which took them under their care and looked after them in order to cure them from leprosy. But some people with a twisted mentality viewed such selfless work in education and healthcare with suspicion and began levelling allegations of forced conversion. How can anyone be converted forcibly? Forced conversion is only possible if you were to literally cut open someone's chest and replace the person's heart wiith the heart of Jesus and sew it back. Most people who have converted are Dalits, who were educationally, socially and economically backward. They were able to bear with being educationally and economically backward, but not socially. They were not even allowed to be anywhere near the temple, or even look at a Brahmin. In such a scenario, when our institutions opened their doors to them without any discrimination and gave them free education and shelter, it was natural that they showed affinity towards Christianity.
"Today, one third of the students of our country are studying in Christian institutions, some of them with a history of 150 years. If, as alleged, even one percent was converted to Christianity every year, then our population today would have been 70 percent today. But we are still at 2.5 percent, the same as before. Where did all the converts go then? Why do you accuse us of conversion then? You do not have to praise us for our service, but at least do not criticise," he added.
Narrating an anecdote involving RSS leader Dr Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat, he said, "I once met my good friend Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat, and also visited his Sri Rama school. I even donated a certain amount to his school and spoke to the students. There are students from northeast India in the school. I jokingly asked him if he planned to convert all those northeast students. If they did want to convert, it is not a problem, it is their choice. We never question anyone who wants to convert.
"Kalladka Bhat asks, 'Why do you address priests as 'fathers'? Do they give birth to you?' I want to tell him, 'Should only those who study medicine be called doctors? Doctorates are also awarded to those who write a thesis on earthworm or a leaf. Why should they be called doctors if they are not qualified to prescribe medicines? We give lot of respect to women in our country. How do we address them? We say 'hegiddiriamma?' (how are you) or 'chennagiddiramma?' (all well?) Does addressing the woman as 'amma' mean she become my mother? It is a manner of paying respect to their status and position.' Understand my dear friend Dr Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat, please do not divide the people, please do not hurt their sentiments of those who have rendered selfless service to society. We call them father because they educate us and guide us like a parent, it does not mean they give us birth," Colaco said.
He questioned the violent actions undertaken by youth during recent times and mentioned the four pillars of democracy - legislature, executive, judiciary and media, necessary for a better tomorrow. Colaco stated that the pillars were growing weak and it is the responsibility of the countrymen to strengthen them.
He claimed that the people of other communities are determined to excel in the field of administration, finance and the private sector. However, the Catholic community is lagging in becoming frontrunners where the parents advise their children to work in the Gulf countries for better pay. "Parents are telling their kids to go to the gulf countries for better pay. But, it is a hotchpotch and not that simple," Colaco said.
"Gulf is not what it was once before. Now the Middle East is an expensive place to be. You spend as much as you earn which leaves zero savings," he added.
Colaco requested youth to not fall prey to offers from the Middle East and try to focus on building a brighter future in their motherland. He encouraged the youth to work hard, with dedication and determination and make efficient utilisation of the government schemes for their entrepreneurial ventures.
He urged people to stop vesting blind faith on a particular political party and instead follow the party who can help make a difference. He mentioned how he was determined to work towards the recognition of the contribution of the Catholic community to the society. Colaco recalled that the CM of Karnataka Yediyurappa supported his idea of installing a Christian Development Board to collaborate the community efforts for a progressive society. "CM Yediyurappa rendered support because of societal service I am constantly involved in even though I voted for him or not," Colaco said.
Colaco stressed that youths needs to abstain from excessive use of mobile phones and games in it. "Life does not give several chances and once the time is lost, it can never be brought back. Youngsters need to have good role models who they can idolize and who inspire them to do great things," he said.
On a concluding note, he spoke about how some media houses portray certain religious communities under a bad name,while others put out unbiased news which conveys the true purpose of media. Therefore, people must be aware of what is to be absorbed and what is to be ignored.
In his presidential address, Rolphie D Costa said, "Without any coaxing or special invite, more than thirty thousand have gathered here as delegates of our community. It shows unity and strength of our community. We have gathered with an intent and to take few resolutions. We are not the kind of people who live for ourselves. We are people who have lived and are living for society and humankind.
"As responsible citizens of India, we have always been in the forefront in nation-building activities. Being a part of our state, through this Samavesha, we demand an independent 'Samudya Bhavana' with a care centre to rehabilate drug addict youths and bring awareness on drug abuse. Secondly, we demand an independent Christian Development Board and Rs 50 crore initial grant along with government land for this.
"The Christians of coastal Karnataka celebrate September 8 as birthday of Mother Mary which is a family feast. As a custom, all family members should attend this festival and have lunch and dinner together. As this falls on a working day, children, teachers and government employees of our community miss the chance to celebrate this festival with family members. So, we demand a government holiday on September 8 with prior notification. We also demand a ban on online games like PUBG which put our youth and students in depression. Finally, we also demand an equal reservation opportunity for Christian candidates in all parties. Based on population, we are eligible to get tickets to contest elections and political parties should think about it," he said.
After his speech, Rolphie read the resolutions and was backed by the delegates with a huge applause. He handed over the resolution to Ronald Colaco for submission to authorities concerned.
Joel Mendonca, convenor, Catholic Maha Samavesha-2020 delivered the introductory speech and briefed the motto and five objectives of the Samavesha. He also welcomed the dignitaries and gathering.
Harish Poonja, MLA, Beltangady and other major donors of the Samavesha were felicitated by the dignitaries. After the stage programme, Mass was held. Along with delegates, hundreds of priests who arrived from various parishes participated in the Mass.
Leon Saldanha read the oath for 'youth against drug and alcohol consumption'. Bishops felicitated the newly-elected vice-president and secretaries of various parish councils.
Dr Ronald Anil Fernandes, member KPSC gave a talk on 'Government jobs and youth towards the higher education'. Dr Harsha P S, police commissioner, Mangaluru spoke on the subject 'Crime and youths' while Lydia Lobo spoke on 'Drugs, constructive usage of social media and its control'.
Students of Sacred Heart English Medium School performed a welcome dance. Madanthyar church choir led by Prof Leo Noronha sang the prayer song. Walter Monis, secretary, Catholic Sabha rendered the vote of thanks.
Vivek V Pais and Francis V V compered the event.
Catholic Sabha Mangaluru Pradesh, Indian Catholic Youth Movement, Diocesan Christian Councils of Catholic Women (DCCW) were the organizers of this event, while diocese of Mangaluru, Syro Malabar diocese, Beltangady, Syro Malankara diocese, Puttur were the joint organizers.