India: January 7, 2018. (PCP) An Open Letter: To Bishops, Church Heads and Christians by Father Dr. Anand Muttungal: “I write this open letter regarding the standoff with Hindu Organizations in the question of offering “Arati to Bharat Mata” in the institutions run by the Christian organizations. First and foremost, I must appreciate the clear stand taken by Bishop of Sagar (Catholic Diocese) and all those who faced the onslaught very courageously and my special prayers to those persons who work over time to diffuse the crisis”
Fr. Anand further write “Since late 19th century with the play named ‘Bharat Mata’ by K C Bannerjee, the picturised form of Bharat Mata became the symbol Indian Nationalism. It is a matter of fact to be agreed with the well-known writer K D Menon that "the vision of India as Bharat Mata has profound implications for the politics of Hindu nationalism" and that the depiction of India as a Hindu goddess implies that it is not just the patriotic but also the religious duty of all Hindus to participate in the nationalist struggle to defend the nation.” And it is a clear fact that the Hindu fundamental ideologists believe that all those who do not subscribe to the practices enemies and anti-nationalist”
The real concept of Mother Earth is originated from Greek Culture which dates back to 13 century B C but Greek Philosopher Aristotle created it into some clear concept above petty ideologies. The notion of mother earth encompasses and pervades all political and cultural ideologies which motivate people to work to save the earth from global warming and climate change and its killing effects. So we must not undermine the importance of Mother Earth Concept. Here the Bharat- India is personified as the Mother or Soul of India as part of the Spirit of God to be honoured, cared and seen as an icon of Indian unity.
Among the many important insights that arose from the Second Vatican Council, one of the most important one is the recognition that the church has not simply been a self-contained and distinct civilization or institution from the “rest of the world,” but has always been a part of the world. The magisterium teaches that enculturation is a must for developing an exchange of cultures, “especially in a time characterized by rapid change and a growing variety in ways of thought, the church has particular need of those who live in the world, whether they are believers or not… It is for God’s people as a whole, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and especially for pastors and theologians, to listen to the various voices of our day, discerning them and interpreting them, and to evaluate them in the light of the divine word, so that the revealed truth can be increasingly appropriated, better understood and more suitably expressed (Gaudium et Spes no. 44).
In the similar way iust after the Vatican Council II in 1966 the East Asia Christian Conference (Ecumenical Conference) held in Hong Kong came up with documents named Confessing the Faith in Asia Today which draws five points in relation to the responsibility of Churches. It said that Churches have responsibility to learn cultures , to interpret cultures, to mediate with cultures , to create cultural values and thus belong to cultures
It will be worth quoting Pope Francis who while addressing the farmers (31/1/2015), said ‘in the spirit of St Francis, love the land as Mother earth, and proposed that they make an alliance with it, so that it can continue to be, the source of life for the entire human family. His Holiness calls the “Earth our mother”, it is a common, poetic sentiment, not meant to convey any kind of theological or cosmological truth. The Bible teaches that God created the universe including the earth before all its living being were made and God used the creative power of the earth to create the living beings. So it is the mother of all beings. Bharat Mata is part of that Mother Earth that has God’s power to create living beings. Honouring that power of God and praying for it will not be in any way against the teachings of the Bible, “You shall have no other gods before me.”
We must resist any effort by the fundamentalist organizations to insist that we must worship the picture presented by them as a God. It is an aggression on ones personal and the right of community to believe in ONE GOD. All monotheistic religious believers will have same problem. But in its original terms if 'Bharat' is treated as a religion-less entity, symbolizing the Soul of Unified India regardless of class or caste, it must be a wonderful idea to save the mother earth. It is an open fact that over the years Christianity has assimilated many cultural practices that helped to get well immersed into the people. The Vatican II and the Ecumenical documents published by various Churches also promote the enculturation in the multicultural and political situation of Asia and India in particular.
It is the need of the time that we are a community that has prayers for every occasion. We have introduced various cultural values in our building of Churches, prayers, religious tunics and all areas possible because they are not our core faith but externals. It is probably right time that our liturgists, theologians and missiologists put their heads together to develop a special prayer which prays for the Mother Earth and the “Bharat Mata”. It will help the Church to further establish itself in the midst of misunderstood troubles.
Father Dr. Anand Muttungal