By Antony Cony D'Souza, Karkala/Qatar
Mar 7: It was an unexpected call after almost two decades since Mother Teresa’s demise; a severe blow came to the noble hood from chief of RSS Mohan Bhagwat targeting Mother Teresa, Saint of the Gutters, that her motive behind social work was conversion. What options are at our disposal on such outbursts? Don’t you think that it is a blessing in disguise? Therefore, let him/them rattle it out but surely it helps the spirit of Mother Teresa and her immortal works to get better and better in this world, strengthening and carrying forward her legacy of unconditional love and service to the poorest of poor irrespective of caste, creed and religion.
If I analyse this case, on political ground, the Outer Mohan Bhagwat might have cast shadow on Mother Teresa’s selfless works but the Inner Mohan Bhagwat might have been sober at Mother Teresa’s good intentions of selfless service all these years, or else he and his party could have protested against her work while she was alive and not almost two decades after her death in 1997. What led to RSS chief’s sudden outburst? Was this in self-defense of Hindutva policies?
Everyone is aware of the fact that recently Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi after a prolonged silence, came out rather boldly on religious violence and categorically said that his government will ensure complete freedom of faith and that everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influence. Perhaps this turnaround came after the Delhi election results where BJP could win only 3 out of 70 seats. It was a crushing defeat to BJP of its divisive policy and communal hatred and its partners. Sensing the mood of the people and its grave impact for the future elections, the Prime Minister had no other alternative than to come out openly and assure the minorities in India that the constitutional right to freedom of religion and its propagation will be secured and that the government will not allow anyone to act against the provisions of the Constitution.
Has this assurance of Narendra Modi to minorities not gone well with the RSS? Is it because of this conflict of interest of Hindutva policies, the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat challenged the Prime Minister by uttering communal expressions and by targeting Mother Teresa?
Mother Teresa’s humanity and works have been appreciated by all Indians. She picked anybody who was sick from the streets and gutters and served him/her without knowing to which religion he or she belonged. Religion was never a criterion for her service to humanity. There are eye witnesses who have seen her helping a person in the last moment of his/her life to have a peaceful death. She would catch the sick person and said “You pray to your God and I shall pray to my God”. Thousands have breathed their last in her hands in peace and happiness due to the humanitarian approach of Mother Teresa.
Mother Teresa’s service was so valuable that the whole world loved her in return. Recognizing her selfless service she was conferred with the highest universal award - Noble Peace Prize. India honored her with the highest recognition - Bharat Ratna. Not only this, the BJP stalwarts like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani always commended her selfless services to the nation. In spite of all this revolting Mohan Bhagwat has the audacity to target this great soul of India.
Let us look at the fortifying statement by Mother Teresa, “By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus. God still loves the world and He sends you and me to be His love and His compassion to the poor”.
By her above statement of faith, it is clear that Mother Teresa, Saint of the Gutters, small of stature, rocklike in faith was entrusted with the mission of proclaiming God’s thirsting love was a soul filled with the light of Christ, on fire with love for Him and burning with desire to quench to love and serve the poorest of the poor. Her main mission was to serve Him by helping the ‘unwanted, unloved, and uncared, reaching out to the poor and needy each day, fulfilling His desire to radiate love, kindness and compassion. From this point of view, she reached out first to the Indian part of the world and then gradually to other parts of the world. Mother Teresa, an icon of the Good Samaritan, went everywhere to serve Christ in the poorest of the poor. Not even conflict and war could stand in her way.
Mother Teresa was not an empty vessel. More than once Mother Teresa had declared that it’s the Lord's words that became the guiding spirit / lamp to her path (Psalm 119:105) for humanitarian services. Some of them I have quoted below:
1. “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant" (Mk 10: 43) She had chosen to be not just the least but to be the servant of the least. As a real mother to the poor, she bent down to those suffering various forms of poverty. Her greatness lies in her ability to give without counting the cost, to give "until it hurts".
2. "As you did to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25: 40). This Gospel passage, so crucial in understanding Mother Teresa's service to the poor, was the basis of her faith-filled conviction that in touching the broken bodies of the poor she was touching the body of Christ. It was to Jesus himself, hidden under the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor, that her service was directed. Mother Teresa highlights the deepest meaning of service - an act of love done to the hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick, prisoners (cf. Mt 25: 34-36) is done to Jesus himself.
3. "Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you". How often, like the Psalmist, did Mother Teresa call on her Lord in times of inner desolation: "In you, in you I hope, my God!".
Being obedient to the words of the Lord “Light of my Light”, Mother Teresa first started an open air school and soon established a home for the dying and destitute in a dilapidated home.
In 1952, she inaugurated the first Home for the Dying, where people brought to this home received medical help and accorded the opportunity to die with dignity. Adhering to the different faith that people came in from, all who died were given their last ceremonies according to the religion they followed, thus dying a death of dignity.
The next step was initiating a home for those suffering from Hansen's disease, commonly known as leprosy. The home was called Shanti Nagar. Additionally, several clinics were formed in the city of Calcutta which provided medication, bandage and food to those suffering from leprosy.
In 1955, Mother Teresa opened a home for the orphans and homeless youths. She named it as Nirmala Shishu Bhavan, or the Children's Home of the Immaculate Heart.
Mother Teresa is not the only one, there are thousands in India and some of them might well have done more useful work than Mother Teresa’s religious order. Baba Amte, another saint we know, looked after lepers all his life. He was a Hindu. One must always respect them and their noble works. One should not question the motives of selfless service of Baba Amte or Mother Teresa or anybody else who were/are sensitive to the sufferings of the downtrodden, abandoned infants in the gutters, weak, sick and dying people and lepers. If we hurt such people and their followers it is not only showing disrespect to the departed souls but also showing disrespect to the people who received selfless service from them.
Let’s read an analogy drawn by Julio Riberio (Ribeiro joined the Indian Police Service in 1953 and rose to be the Commissioner of Mumbai Police from 1982 to 1985. He was promoted to Director General of Central Reserve Police Force, then to Director General Police of Gujarat. Ribeiro served as Director General of Punjab Police during its worst years of terrorism in Punjab):
“Mother Teresa truly believed in the god of the Christians just as Mohan Bhagwat believes in the god of the Hindus. As we believe that the god they each believe in is the same. Only the name they each give to the one they worship is different. Both dedicated their entire lives to upholding the divinity of their god. Their approach to fulfillment was obviously different. Mother worked with her hands and her feet in the gutters of Kolkata. Mohan Bhagwat executives his works from his office in Nagpur. Each was carrying out his or her life’s mission as they are called for. It is only their missions and path they chose were different.” By these words of Julio Roberio one can conclude that for god, they are both just like any brother and sister.
Further, it is simple logic that had Mother Teresa any intention of carrying out conversion, why did she have to daily visit the stinking gutters, bandaging soaring leprosy wounds, carrying and nursing abounded children in the streets, taking care of dying people and encouraging them to pray at the death bed with their god and after demise performing their last rites as per religious practice ? If Mother Teresa wanted to convert those she touched and if that was her main motive, she would have continued as a teacher in a Catholic school and tried to influence impressionable minds. Why would she rather choose the way of selfless service for mankind that nobody else would want to do?
To shed more wisdom on Mother Teresa’s inner being, let’s understand from Mother Teresa’s own quote: "There is only one God and He is God to all; therefore it is important that everyone is seen as equal before God. I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic. We believe our work should be our example to people."
Mother Teresa wanted to be a symbol of God's love, God's presence and God's compassion, and thereby remind all of the value and dignity of each of God's children, "created to love and be loved". Thus Mother Teresa brought the wounded, perishing, neglected and poorest of poor to God in Prayer and Service and God’s love to His people as an instrument of God.
Defending the good works of Mother Teresa, Rajasthan Congress chief Sachin Pilot said,
"By giving these kind of statements, they (the RSS) are trying to create a religious divide. Mother Teresa comes from which religion does not matter, what matters most is the service she provided to the poor."
Trinamool Congress spokesperson Derek O'Brien condemned Bhagwat's reported remarks and said Mother Teresa was not about just Christianity but was a world figure loved by everyone. "Since I am from Kolkata, it makes it even more worse to hear what he said," he said.
Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal criticised the statement in a tweet: "I had worked with Mother Teresa for a few months at Nirmal Hriday ashram in Kolkata. She was a noble soul. Please spare her."
Had chief of RSS Mohan Bhagwat and his followers visited Nirmal Hriday Ashram unlike Arvind Kejriwal, this controversy might not have cropped up.
Mother Teresa converted none to religion by her words, but perhaps by the exemplary life she led, people must have been attracted to her and emulated her work, which is not called conversion. God Bless the Divine Soul.
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