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9/11 and more! Many lessons to be learnt from today’s situation, as also from 2001, 1906 and 1893, to reflect, pray and act

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
It is 9/11 today! Grim news continues to come in about ‘Hurricane Irma’, as the catastrophic storm leaves behind it a trail of devastation and even death. Millions all over Florida in the US are badly affected. Our hearts, prayers and solidarity are with all of them and with those who have been affected these past days in the Caribbean, in Cuba, by the earthquake in Mexico, by the terrible floods in several parts of India and the victims of all calamities everywhere. The fury that so many are experiencing today is not merely the ‘wrath of nature’ but has much to do with our lack of sensitivity and care of Mother Earth: our common home!
It is 9/11 today! Perhaps, there is no other day in recent memory, that has been so over-defined, by a date. The very mention of it evokes all kinds of emotions, from undiluted hatred to a feeling of utter helplessness, in the face of rabid terror; from inconsolable grief at the loss of a loved one to heated debates on imponderables. Yes, ‘nine eleven 2001’, will forever be etched in human memory, even as the picture of clouds of fire spewing from the Twin Towers in New York, involuntarily take a prime- time seat in our sub-consciousness.
It is 9/11 today! As we revisit the year 1906, we are made aware that it saw the unfolding of another historic event! In a mass meeting in Johannesburg South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi kick-started his non-violent resistance campaign ‘Satyagraha’, the relentless pursuit of truth and justice. More than three thousand Indians (both Hindus and Muslims) and others, gathered to support this very significant dimension of civil obedience. ‘Satyagraha’ would ultimately become with ‘Ahimsa’ (non-violence) Gandhi’s twin-doctrine in belief and practise. He used it effectively in his struggle against British colonial rule in India. Over the years, several Civil Rights Leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela have espoused Gandhi’s twin doctrine.
It is 9/11 today! In Chicago in 1893, exactly 125 years ago, at the very first World Parliament of Religions, Swami Vivekananda gave an impassioned speech, to end sectarianism, bigotry, fanaticism and violence from this earth by fostering the values enshrined in every religion. He emphatically said, “I fervently hope that the bell which tolled this morning in honour of this convention, may be the
death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons, wending their way to the same goal”.
It is 9/11 today! Many unanswered questions and serious issues emerge, that we need to come to grips with! Among them: are nations serious in implementing the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which is meant to mitigate global warming? Do we have the political will to address homegrown terror, supported by Governments of the day, in several countries across the globe? Do we have the courage to address bigotry and violence and deal systemically with the dastardly murders of Gauri Lankesh, Dabholkar, Pansare, Kalburgi and other journalists, human rights defenders, RTI activists, intellectual and others who have dared to take on the fascist forces in India? Can we, like Mahatma Gandhi objectively and strongly expose the lies, half-truths, myths, ‘fekuisms’ and false promises that we are ‘pulverised’ with day-in and day out?
It is 9/11 today! Many lessons to be learnt of today’s situation and from 2001, 1906 and 1893! Much to reflect upon; lots more to pray about; but above all, greater determination to act now – before the reality starts becoming even worse!
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*Indian human rights activist, currently based in Beirut

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