Authored by Charles Stephenson: Edited by Trophy D’Souza
Charles Stephenson had to cope with a difficult childhood. It was quite a problem for his parents to try to control his boyhood exuberance. They imagined that school would sort him out but moving him from one school to another proved unproductive. Perhaps he lacked motivation, or maybe he was not meant for serious or methodical academic work. These were reasons enough for the education systems of the time to single him out for the rough treatment that they meted out to rebellious or failing children in Burma. His father too believed that only corporal punishment was the answer to poor academic achievement. Guidance, counselling, understanding and support-learning were not on the agenda of either home or school those days.
So, Charles had it rough all the way: from home and school right through to the army and war. Perhaps there was a certain built-in resilience in Charles that helped him cope with pain and failure. It may have stemmed from an inner belief or strength he had occasionally shown in the way he spoke of his trust in the Divine. He endured punishment and humiliation without losing hope or looking for redress.
The trials he endured in his early years in many ways prepared him for the hardships of army life. His near-death escapes however left their own scars in the lack of confidence he occasionally showed or in the fear of the unknown that developed in later years.
In a strange way the skills he acquired in his boyhood adventures served to hone the techniques required in battle situations. They made him a soldier who was willing to take risks and to take the lead in the most difficult of circumstances. His gregarious instincts kept him close to his buddies and made him a mate his colleagues could trust and rely on. His linguistic skills contributed hugely towards the intelligence required by the British army fighting an enemy hiding in the unknown terrain of Burma.
He was proud to fight in the British army and was glad to have benefited from the time he spent in training and in combat. His loyalty to ‘King and Country’ as the British put it, helped to keep his enthusiasm alive and his mind focused.
The story of Charles and the narrative in the book resonate with the drums of World War II, even if the agonies and ecstasies take place in the peaceful and harmonious settings of the lush-green mountains of Burma. The descriptions and the delicate use language help to weave through the unpleasantness of war and disaster, and bring out the softer side of incidents while enriching this truly human story.
Trophy D’Souza who writes the book for Charles has five other books which also speak of human endurance, but in dysfunctional situations. The protagonists survive or evolve through seemingly complex situations. Their resilience and self-belief also help them find solutions through unexpected human or divine intervention in their lives.
Amazon and Google sites tell you more about D’Souza’s motivating books which should really be on the bookshelves of families, homes, institutions and libraries.
But Charles’ story is really special. It is one for the road –one that has to be read and appreciated before it gets forgotten on the shelf.
The book was published on 13 October 2014.
NEWD DELHI, JOHN DAYAL — The recent outpouring of support for the “development” agenda of the Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, by several leaders of the Catholic and Protestant churches may possibly stave off the immediate attention of the dreaded Intelligence Bureau and the Ministry of Home affairs, but it is not likely to reduce the deep and seemingly abiding distrust the Indian political and social system has of what is popularly called the “Missionaries”. Nor will it mitigate the hate that is now erupting in India against religious minorities.
Missionaries was a term once used in the Indian subcontinent to describe clergy, religious and social workers who came in various periods over three centuries from Italy, Spain, France, the United Kingdom and later from the United States. They set up schools and hospitals, and mission stations, in the hills, plains and deep forests of much of the Indian land mass.
The coming of foreign, and almost entirely White, religious personnel stopped soon after World War II, but there was still a sizable number in the country at Independence. In 1993 there were just 1,923, and by 2001, it had come to just a little more than half of that, at 1,100 registered foreign missionaries in India. We have no official data for 2013-14, but estimates vary from 200 to 500, some of them Indian nationals. Most of them have lived in India for periods ranging from 20 years to 60 years.
This is far removed from the image that the Sangh Parivar, and the government, paints of a land teeming with western missionaries. But since the 1960s, it is impossible for any priest or Nun to get a “Religious Visa” to India, and many who come here on tourist visas have to sign papers at Indian consulates that they will not indulge in any religious activity in India. Only rarely is a visa given to Tele Evangelists for “Crusades” or mass prayers.
But it will not be entirely correct to suggest that it is just the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh and its political face the Bharatiya Janata Party that oppose mission work on grounds of ideology and relgion. The larger Indian political leadership, both in the Congress and in other parties including those emerging from the socialist movement of Mr. Ram Manohar Lohia of North India have seen the community as an appendage of the British Raj. The leader of the Freedom struggle, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, already called a Mahatma and later formally named the Father of the Nation, had serious doubts about missionaries. E. Stanley Jones, Stanley Jones in is book The Christ of the Indian Road, records an encounter with Gandhi who he asked “though you quote the words of Christ often, why is it that you appear to so adamantly reject becoming his follower?” Gandhi’s reply was clear: “Oh, I don’t reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It is just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ”. Gandhi’s statement molded the political discourse in Independent India.
The Constitution of India promulgated in 1950 nonetheless gave Christians the right not just to profess and practice their faith, but also to propagate it, with some law givers stressing that propagation of faith was integral to the religion. But among the first acts of the government was to withdraw affirmative action from untouchable groups other than those professing the Hindu faith. The issue has agitated the community ever since.
The absolute ban on freedom of faith of this 16 to 20 per cent of the population was ostensibly to prevent their walking into Christianity, or rarely, into Islam.
The bane of the Christian community has been the anti-conversion laws, ironically called Freedom of Religion Acts which brought the State firmly into a process that was otherwise between a person and his conscience. Six states have these laws on board, another has enacted but not yet implemented it. The BJP has said in its election campaign it intends to make this a national law. Governmental permissions and severe penalties are the cutting edge of these laws. Political parties, barring perhaps the Marxists, and even the Supreme Court of India tend to agree to the need to the anti conversion laws. The United nations Human Rights Council, European Union and international freedom of faith organisations have called them a grave violation of the UN Charter on fundamental human rights.
The premise that no one converts unless he is being lured, cheated or coerced into Christianity – or Islam – is now a major political slogan in the Bharatiya Janata party’s mission to control every regional government after coming to power in New Delhi in May 2014. And it is targetted as much against Muslims and it is against the Christian community.
The Muslim community has been the object of suspicion after the Partition of India in 1947, which saw unprecedented violence, that has left an unspoken but virulent Islamaphobia in Indian society. The recent acts of terror in India have deepened this chasm between the communities.
This officially sanctioned suspicion, and from it the political hate, underpins the current campaigns by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh and its subsidiaries which target both the Christian and the Muslim communities, specially in north and Central India.
A new dimension has been added this year in the electoral rhetoric of the BJP in its very successful run up to the General elections earlier this year, and elections to the legislative assemblies of several states in north and west India. This is a campaign to evoke fears in the highly patriarchal feudal societies in rural India that the security and sexual purity of their women is being threatened by young Muslim and Christian men.
It began innocently enough in Kerala with the state High court asking the police of there was a design in several cases of inter community marriages, in which the men were almost always Muslim. The police could not find any design and the matter seemed to have ended, till now when it erupted in far away north India. But now, the police are on the side of local political thugs, and both seem acting under the patronage and protection of powerful leaders in New Delhi.
Love Jihad, as it is called, has been presented as a grand design in which Hindu young women are seduced by Muslim and Christian men, lured into marriage, and then converted in a conspiracy to alter the demographic profile of “Hindu” India.
The result has been the hounding of young men, and the humiliation of young Hindu women in areas as distant from each as Meerut in Uttar Pradesh and Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh. In Madhya Pradesh, the district police chief “annulled” the marriage of a Christian man and a Hindu woman under pressure of a Hindutva mob.
The governments of the states, and more than that, the federal government in New Delhi headed by the Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, have maintained an intriguing silence, with no official condemnation of this criminal intimidation of young couples in love. This has led civil society groups to believe that the hate campaign has the blessings of the ruling dispensation in the country. The inaction of the superior courts and the national Human Rights commissions in failing to take cognisance of these extra-judicial intrusions into the personal life of citizens compounds the crisis.
The RGU Vice Chancellor Prof. Tamo Mibang inaugurated the 2-day conference on ‘Media’s Role in Facilitating Peace in Conflict Situation in North East India and Neighboring Countries.’
It was organized by the RGU Department of Mass Communication with Eastern Sentinel, a leading daily newspaper in Arunachal Pradesh.
The ADBU delegation consisted on 12 students and two faculty (Fr. C. M Paul and Asst. Prof. Mr. Kaushik Bhuyan), along with former ADBU Director of Communications Sr Shiji James MSMHC who presented a paper on “Representation of Northeast India in the National Print Media.
Mr. Bertil Linter, an eminent journalist (Asia Pacific correspondent for the Swedish daily, Svenska Dagbladet) and a person who spent years in reporting the conflict hit areas of Myanmar, Bangladesh and North East India was the keynote speaker.
He made a deep introspection of Media’s role on conflict reporting by his own personal experiences and problems faced by journalists while reporting in conflict zones. He emphasized the importance of factual and objective reporting without being biased.
Introducing the conference theme, the conference convener Dr. Kh. Kabi, HoD, Mass Communication highlighted the role of the media in conflict situations. He underlined that the responsibility of the media is to promote peace in the society. “Peace is also telling truth without biases, it is also about equal participation during conflict times”, he added.
The two-day conference, a collaborative endeavour of the Mass Communication department of the RGU and local English daily Eastern Sentinel, was supported by IGNOU and NHPC besides a host of print and electronic news establishments.
Among the speakers were reputed journalists and resource persons including Lintner, Haroon Habib, Narendra Dev, T Monalisa Changkija, L R Sailo, Teresa Rehman, Kishalay Bhattacherjee, Pradip Phanjoubam, Rajiv Bhattacharjee and Samudra Gupta Kashyap.
On the second day Ms. Y W Ringu, Director of Disaster Management in Arunachal Pradesh, while speaking on disaster management urged the media fraternity to play a crucial role in educating the public and create the much needed awareness.
Seven technical sessions witnessed presentations of some 30 papers with in-depth analysis of ethnicity, insurgency and role of the press.
Religious undertaking served by the Consul General of India in U.S.A. to foreign tourists visiting India.
This comes immediately after Prime Minister Modi promised Visa on arrival to American tourists at Madison Square Garden, last Sunday, 28 September 2014. Please check this link to read the letter… religious-undertaking-letter
New Delhi, 30th September, 2017
[The following is the Statement issued by Dr John Dayal, Past President, all India Catholic Union, Secretary General of the All India Christian Council, and Member, National Integration Council, Government of India.]
We condemn the reprehensible and in-comprehensive decision of the New Delhi based and Indian Government sponsored Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi to discontinue the Mother Teresa Chair in Health, Eduction and Social Work which was started with much fanfare in the Christ Jubilee Year 2000
The Mother Teresa church, a prestigious institution, is ostensibly being closed down for want of funds, together with a Chair sponsored by the Indian Space organisation and some others.
The University’s Board of Management “decided to continue with chairs that are sponsored by an outside agency and did not utilise the funds of the university,” M Aslam, vice-chancellor of IGNOU, is quoted today in the national media as saying.
There was opposition to it with some of the academic staff calling it unilateral. Professors say the guidelines for establishment of chair sets rule for setting up new chair, it does not say anything about discontinuing an existing chair.
The discontinuance of the Mother Teresa Chair comes at a time when there is a global Catholic campaign urging Pope Francis to fast track the canonisation of the Albanian-born Indian-national Nobel Laureate.
Mother Teresa, founder of the Missionaries of Charities order whose religious women and men run orphanages and relief shelters across the globe, is an icon of the age for her espousal of human compassion for the poorest of the poor, for children and for the terminally ill and dying. The blue-bordered sari that the ‘Saint of the Gutters’ wore, and which her mission Sisters wear, is a universally accepted symbol of these values.
The Chair was established in a Memorandum of Understanding between the Catholic Bishops Conference of India and the university on February 29, 2000, and facilitates the initiatives of IGNOU for launching several socially relevant programmes of study.
The revised MoU was signed on April 22, 2009 at St. John’s Medical College, Bangalore. Its objectives remain to address the needs of disadvantaged sections of the society through educational programmes, extension activities and research and to develop and launch socially-relevant courses and programmes of study such as social work, HIV/AIDS, family life education, substance abuse, and Philosophy. It offers various diplomas and degrees in these subjects.
We call upon the Board of Management of the Indira Gandhi National Open University not to close down the Mother Teresa Chair, but to add to its endowment to further the cause of social work and research.
Guwahati — A flood relief team from Assam Don Bosco University set out today (Tuesday, 30 Sept 2014) to bring relief and help with the rehabilitation of the people of Garo bustee at Hahim, in the Boko Circle, of rural Kamrup district, some 65 kms away from the university.
A team consisting of MSW faculty and students visited Hahim on Sunday to assess the situation. On Monday they mobilized university authorities, faculty and students, even though the university is closed for the puja holidays since Saturday, 27 September.
While two groups are mobilizing relief materials by way of food, clothes and medicine another team of ten students both from B Tech and MSW returned from their holidays and left Tuesday, 30 September to help the flood victims who lost everything, houses, crops and cattle. Pls click the link to see a short video of the devastation.