India’s Changing Image

Carlo Di Cicco

Carlo Di Cicco

By SAR NEWS ROME (SAR NEWS) — Deputy director of the Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano Mr. Carlo Di Cicco spoke to Salesian Father C.M. Paul on India’s Changing Image in the last decade. Excerpts:
SAR: How did you see India in the last ten years (1998-2008)?
Carlo: I was struck by the extraordinary progress India had made in the past decade, completely reversing the superficial and widespread image of a country traditionally lagging behind, to the eyes of the westerners and particularly Italians. The progress was not only economical, technological and social, but also cultural. And with the progress, the growing difficulties of a great democracy surfaced as a challenge demanding a change in attitude towards all its citizens. The development of India has shaken many clichés that identified with hunger, backwardness and religious myth. Perhaps, this has been possible thanks to better knowledge of India that we have through Indian writers and journalists who speak about their country in our media.
SAR: The recent anti-Christian persecution engulfed 12 of the 28 states of India, especially Orissa. What reactions did these evoke in Europe?
Carlo: We in Europe held India as a nation of great openness towards cultural minorities. And in these cases of anti-Christian attacks, violence cannot be justified. We cannot understand the context of the persecution of Christians and we regret the gradual estrangement of so many followers of Hinduism from the teachings and examples of great souls of India like Mahatma Gandhi. For many years, the outstanding figure of this statesman and indomitable fighter of non-violence gave India the image of a land of tolerance and non-violence. Today, we are surprised at the violence against Christians and intolerance towards other religions and, politically, the major unresolved issues with Pakistan. Besides, we cannot forget two great events that brought the Indian people and the world together at the beginning and end of this decade: the death of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the recent terrorist attack on Mumbai. With the exception of the clear and steady voice of the Pope, who spoke up for the universal principle of the freedom of religion for the persecuted Christians, especially in Orissa, pretty little of the persecution was noted, assessed or addressed in Europe. It did not evoke the response to similar situations in Africa or the Middle East. Even the voice of the policy-makers has been weak, limiting to motions and orders of the day in Parliaments. We must not forget that the President of the Republic of Italy, Giorgio Napoletano, called for Europe to do more in support of the Christian populations of Orissa and to affirm their right to religious freedom.
SAR: How did the Italian media depict India during the last decade?
Carlo: Although it continues to write and say that India is the largest democracy in the world because of the number of its citizens in Italy, not enough of Indian news is being carried in our media. Radio, television and newspapers consider the importance of India not only in view of a possible trade and cultural exchange, but also for the impact it may have in the world balance of power. We continue to see India especially as a possible escape to an exotic tourist destination, at the same time not sufficiently perceiving the cultural, economic and strategic importance of India as a world player. In terms of religion, also, India provides a large number of men and women in religious life and study of theology in many Catholic religious congregations. It is also an interesting cultural development that religious minorities, such as Christians, are working on the dialogue between different religions in India even in the exchange of monastic experience. This mutual deepening of their religious traditions could be beneficial in the philosophical and existential understanding of the different religions in the world.
SAR: As deputy director of the Roman Observer, how do you see India in comparison to your previous job as a journalist?
Carlo: I have never failed to study and learn more about the phenomena of India. Compared to my previous training period and job experience, now I cannot ignore what is moving in Asia and therefore also in India. L’Osservatore Romano (estd. 1861) is an international journal by its very nature. It is the newspaper of the Pope who is the bishop of Rome and then, for Catholics, the Successor of Peter and head of the Catholic Church, which has over one billion believers all over the world. And the Holy See has the heart, eyes and ears for the entire world. Besides, in every country there are many or at least a few people belonging to the Catholic Church. Even in India, the Catholic community, although a minority compared to other religious traditions, has an ancient presence. Thriving and fully inserted in the Indian culture, the Church tries to live faithful to the gospel of Jesus. So now, over to the knowledge of India which I try to perfect for professional reasons; I try to grow affection for India, its culture and its people as well as its different rites of ancient Christian tradition. L’Osservatore Romano has shown its great attention to the Christians in India by publishing an English language weekly edition as well as a weekly edition in Malayalam language (one of the six languages in which the weekly edition is published). For now, the daily newspaper, although international, is published only in Italian language.
SAR: What worries you most when you think of India?
Carlo: The danger that this great democracy runs the serious risk — because of its delicate position — to weaken the democratic system and may not hold on to the spirit of tolerance that has allowed the coexistence of so many religions. It would be an impoverishment not only for India but also for Asia and the world. I hope that as a result of new communication technologies growing rapidly in India, the younger generation becomes more open and tolerant than those who have often grown disenchanted and sometimes disappointed. If much is to be expected from young people, we can expect it from Indian youth who are so numerous.
Biographical note: Carlo Di Cicco, the current deputy director of L’Osservatore Romano, is a professional journalist since 1977. For many years, he was editor-in-chief of a leading Italian news Agency, ASCA, responsible for social and religious reporting. He also worked with several magazines. He promoted a daily information dispatch on social policies and the voluntary sector in Italy. He is an author of several books in Italian, including The keepers of dreams with their finger on the mouse-Educators in the Information Age (Elledici, 1999) translated into Spanish, Portuguese and Slovenian; Ratzinger-Benedict XVI and the consequences of Love” (Memori, 2006); and “I believed you to be another” (Cantagalli in December 2008).

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