By Vidya Bhushan Rawat
Many friends ask me why I am quiet on the issue of Mother Teresa and her canonization . Well, I have been travelling and not really following much of the news. However, I have my position which I clarified several times in the past too. I have lots of respect for Christopher Hitchens and his absolutely phenomenal analysis. The Mother was a religious woman with a kind heart. Her main aim was to ‘serve’ the God which she found in serving the people. A secular critique of Christianity can not be seen as an éndorsement’of absolutely hateful propaganda of the Sangh Parivar or Hindu fanatics. There is a much bigger battle that secularists, humanists fighting against the dominance of church as well as political Islam unlike in India where they have failed to fight a decisive war against political Hindutva as most of the secularists too have their castes privileges to defend. Hence, a critique of the Mother can not be seen as the same as the Sangh or Hindutva’s devotees might do.
It is not just Hitchens but also Tariq Ali who made his ‘famous’film ‘Hell’s angel’ and éxposed’ the realities of the charities of missionaries. However, the problem with these criticism were that they were actually coming from those scholars who were fighting for their individual rights in the west against the dominance of church on their day to day affair. Given the situation in India, Mother’s work can not be put aside with merely a charities. We know, Indian state has failed to protect the poorest of the poor. It has failed them to give life. As a society, we have hidden apartheid where people suffer because of the basis of their birth. People dont have time to listen or read to your dry jargons and philosophies unless they are ‘loved’. Millions of people in our societies suffer in humiliation and isolation without any love. We are a loveless society, a loveless country. The Mother actually taught us to love and care.
So, we may discuss bigger things in ‘theory’ and argue sitting at our comfortable homes but we can not discount the things which she did. Whether you call it hell’s angel or not, it was she who did not ask for your caste, religion or gender as who you were for loving. We do not know what were the conditions inside their charities but we hope it is the duty of not just the institutions but also the government to ensure that things are going according to law in these places.
I know Mother’s only thing was to bring people into the ‘God’s world’. Now, if the Communists, Humanists, Socialists have no time to share the pains and agonies of the people ( I do not want to listen to their political theories or conspiracy theories) but their services at the ground to uplift millions others where state failed, it is natural for the people to go. In a society which is so discriminatory, you need multiple energies and sources to empower people. It can not be like my way or highway. It cant be a Cuban revolution or the Russian one. It will need revolution against the caste system, breaking those practices of apartheid which we actually were unable to break. Many time these things can be broken more by love and affection than the theorisation.
I know Mother Teresa did not have the courage to support the Mandal Commission Recommendation. She was here in Delhi at the Gandhi Samadhi in the 1990s when the caste Hindus decided to oppose the Mandal report and young students were committing suicide. I know the Mother was not fond of speaking for the Christian Dalits and the discrimination they faced. But why do you expect Mother to reply to your political question. She was a simple God fearing woman who was serving mankind according to her convictions and her approach might be wrong but you can not really say that there was a conspiracy in doing so. What conspiracy could it be ? If there is a conspiracy, why cant the Shankaracharyas, the Babas, Gurus are able to touch the people. In a society which believe in segregation, mother taught us touchism. She hugged to all and gave her love. It was a motherly love, may be wrapped in her Christian beliefs but who stops others to do so.
Problem is not about Mother’s action but the failures of those who critique her on such basis. Surely, she was not a humanist as her world revolved around ”God’s Kingdom” and hence she would do things which she consider Godly. It is our problem that we expect humanist answers from religious leaders. People blame charities disarm people but a society which is so much corrupted culturally and socially, you need these charities to make people feel that they too have a right to life, it is these kind words that saved numerous people, that gives example to people. Outrightly rejecting it will only bring more RSS and other religious segments in reaching the people. The secularists will debate while the religious rights will use these charities to strengthen their outreach as well as poisonous agenda.
However, I will defend the Hitchens critique of mother’s work as only secularists have capacity to do so. Secondly, the canonisation prove that the Vatican still believes that only ‘Miracle’ people can be declared as ‘saint’. I wish they had given Sainthood to the ‘holy mother’ for her work among the poor and not her miracles. If Mother is a ‘Saint” just because she could perform some ‘miracles’ then it is the biggest tragedy but then religion need to survive on that basis.
In the final analysis, I would say, Mother’s actions are well acknowledged and not her ‘philosophy or ídeology’. Her greatness lies in her work and not in her miracles but with canonization of her the Vatican has proved that it will never learn lessons, it will only prove that Christianity has less philosophical contents inside it and more ‘miracles’. Perhaps, the church know that ‘philosophy’ does not help in the growth of a religion but miracles can multiply its faithfuls and hence in the coming years we will see growth of multiple miracle mongers everywhere across the religions which will expose them further. The only thing is that secularists, humanists and all those who talk of enlightenment and reasoning and whose philosophy of life revolve around the well being of human beings have to spread their outreach and share the loves and pains of people. We must understand that if religion could be used as a ‘therapy’ for the ‘hopeless’ why not humanism ?