[Editor’s note: India marks its national independence day on Monday, Aug. 15. In this piece, a leading Indian prelate reflects on the state of his country.]
I deeply love being born an Indian, and I give thanks to God for giving me birth in this beautiful place. Growing up and discovering India was sheer joy, because that was all I knew.
After visiting many places around the world I still conserve my love for this country, I don’t know how and why. The only answer I can give is that God meant me to be Indian and that I am one in every drop of blood in my veins.
As we stand on the threshold of the 70th Independence day, I am intensifying my prayers for my beloved Mother India. As I also get older, I keep asking: are we drifting away from the path, the dreams, the hopes and desires for this beloved nation of ours?
I could be counted among the “midnight children of independent India.” I was born just a year after independence. I have had the good fortune to imbibe many of our treasures from the past – religious, cultural, historical, artistic,etc.
My first thoughts on Independence Day go to India’s Freedom Movement.
Those heroes and martyrs of 1857 and others, like the Mahatma Gandhi of 1947, fill me with a sense of pride because my Christian faith also talks about the misery of “enslavement.” The first books of the Bible tell us how God wanted the enslaved people of Israel to be freed. Freedom is God’s first gift to them.
India’s independence helped me understand the message of God – freedom from sin, freedom from Satan, freedom from a life estranged from God.
People of all religions participated in the freedom movement of India. Very near to me is the example of Kaka Baptista, a Catholic who spoke my language and lived like my forefathers. He is just one example of a Christian who participated in the freedom movement of India.
I heard from my father that there were others of all religions. The means they followed to obtain freedom were much like what Jesus preached on the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew’s Gospel. That also makes me doubly proud, namely, that I am both an Indian and I am a Christian.
Now I wish to cry my heart out.
There are still many, many poor brothers and sisters of mine. There is growing discrimination on the basis of caste, color, creed, language and even on differences of opinion and ideas.
The religions I came to know of members of my family, neighbors, friends and others are now made to change their definitions to suit the vested interests of a few. Selfishness has hit the heights of the sky. Peace is scarce and rare. Harmony is being sent to unreachable distances.
Replacing that noble ideal, which the Vedic/Upanishadic sages began and Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore sang, some so-called powerful -not necessarily just one religious, political or cultural group – are busy imposing a materialistic vision on my beloved Mother India.
My Mother India is wounded by all these ailments. I am sad, but not without hope.
I want to keep on working for unity of my country. I want to spend my life for lasting peace, peace which has been robbed by some. There are many, many like me, of all religions, who have not given up hope.
I believe that the present state of the country is only a passing phase. The sooner her sons and daughters realize the urgency to stand by the perennial values of our Mother India, the quicker India will once again remain faithful to her original divine vocation.
Freedom is God’s gift. Peace is God’s gift. God’s gifts are meant for His children.
Independence is not a once-and-for-all achievement, but it is forged daily, achieved daily. Independence is not an external reality, but an inner force which comes only from above.
“Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.” As a devoted Christian citizen of my beloved India, I cannot but recall the words of my Master and Lord, Jesus: “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.”
My prayer: Let us Lord, each India, build her/himself from within. Teach us that building a beautiful, strong and stable India is not to start from external reality, but to start from within.
Does this sound idealistic, Lord? But you have already taught us and continue to teach us where to begin. I want to be the first one to do that, Lord.
Archbishop Felix Machado leads the Archdiocese of Vasai in India.