Skip to main content

Need to do as much as possible to make our world a more humane, just, equitable, loving, peaceful place

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
On 21 January 2018 I complete two full years since I left Ahmedabad and reached Beirut, to work here with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in the MENA Region. Looking back at these two eventful years, I realise that there is much to be thankful for: I have learnt and received much in my interactions with the refugees and the displaced.
I think I have grown as a person: a bit more spiritually and perhaps in maturity too. I have had much opportunity to read and study; reflect and write on a whole range of issues. There have been several meaningful engagements. All this and much more!
It has also not been easy; definitely not smooth sailing, but I never expected it to be so! There have been several challenges and even some difficulties on various fronts. The contributory factors are often complicated: perceptions differ, and not everything is black and white. I certainly have my own failings and shortcomings. There is also the awareness that when one asks sensitive though pertinent questions a feeling of discomfort is natural from those who have to respond; when one stands up for justice and truth or when one seeks greater transparency- one necessarily has to pay a price. Some do not like the status quo being disturbed or the boat to be rocked or simply feel threatened. The sometimes-rough journey has also helped deepen my faith and contributed to my growth.
Nevertheless, given my limitations, I know that I have given of my best to the responsibilities which were entrusted to me; besides, to some extent I have also contributed positively to those I have had the privilege to interact with.
As I look back these past two years, I have absolutely no doubt that I said “Yes” to call; that I am here on a mission - nothing less! There have been the down moments - the shadows and the clouds, the times of not understanding and not knowing the road ahead. Yes, they were all there – but there was never a moment of regret for having come here.
My two- year contract with JRS MENA ends on 25 January 2018. Last November, the new JRS MENA Regional Director Fr Nawras Sammour requested that I stay on at least till September/ October 2018 - to head a research project on the Status of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon’ and as the Advisor in the Advocacy and Communications team of the Region.
It was once again not a very easy decision to make. I had set my sights on returning to India early in 2018 and had spoken about this to several of my companions and friends during my vacation in India last August. There was unanimity that I should return. However once there was the invitation to stay on I needed to review things. After receiving the official request from Fr Sammour, my Provincial Fr Francis Parmar wrote back saying that he had no objection if I stayed on but left the decision to me.
Christmas week was for me a time of prayer and discernment. I spoke with some of my companions and friends here. This discernment was like the one of August 2015 not easy. There were compelling reasons (including personal ones) as to why I should return to India. On 3 January, feast of the Holy Name of Jesus (titular Feast of the Society of Jesus) I awoke very certain that God wanted me to stay on here this year. Really do not why; perhaps the answer/s will unfold in the months to come.
In the meantime, I request your continued prayers and support to the work here for the refugees and the displaced. The reality is indeed extremely complex with many big players and stakeholders who thrive and profit when ordinary, innocent people are at war. It goes without saying that xenophobia, racism, casteism, pseudo nationalism, gender bias seems to be the order of the day everywhere. Some so-called leaders thrive on being divisive; discriminatory attitudes/actions and hate speeches have permeated civilized societies.
Many have no qualms of conscience to exclude others or regard the other as a threat just because of their religion or because of the food they eat or the dress, they wear.
Pope Francis (a hero and inspiration for me) in his message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2018 (14 January) has underlined the importance and urgency to Welcome, Protect, Promote and Integrate them There is much more that all of us have to be doing everywhere to respond to the cries of the displaced and the excluded. We all need to do as much as we possibly can, to make our world a more humane, just, equitable, loving and peaceful place.
This letter is being sent to several of my companions, colleagues, comrades, relatives and friends and even some acquaintances. My apologies for not sending it as a personal’ mail to you. You have every good reason not to reply to it - but if you do so, I will be grateful - your insights / comments/ feedback will certainly be of great help in my journey ahead. Also request your understanding if you receive this more than once. The contents of this letter though personal (about me, my feelings) are general. Therefore, you are welcome to share it with others too. Thanks for all.
Many of you have been a source of strength and support to me during these past two years - your prayers, words of encouragement, appreciation and good wishes have meant much to me.
On 20 January 2016, just before I left India, I wrote to many of friends; a year ago, on 21 January 2017, I wrote to just some. In the latter letter, I quoted Dag Hammarskjolds immortal words for all that has been thanks; for all that will be, yes! I reiterate the same prayer today.
Last year I also shared the words of a popular song What a Journey it has been by a famous Filipina singer Lea Salonga. In 2011 when I was in Zamboanga, Philippines at the invitation of the Sisters of the Queen of the Apostles (SRA Sisters), they introduced me to that song. I have often referred to that song in my writings. The lyrics are very meaningful and the tune is haunting. Last night a close friend once again sent me a video of this song. I have spent most of today in prayer and thanksgiving and listening over and again to the words of this beautiful song (do listen to it too if you have the opportunity, I am happy to send it to you if you wish); I share the chorus with you:
What a journey it has been

And the end is not in sight

But those stars are out tonight

And they're bound to guide my way
Yes two years here and what a journey it has been!
Thank you for being part of my Journey.
Do continue praying for me and our mission here...
My prayers for you, for your near and dear ones and for all your endeavours.
---
*Indian human rights activist, currently in Beirut, looking after Advocacy & Communications, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) MENA Region

Comments

TRENDING

NYT seeks UN intervention, says: Modi turning autocratic, talks absurd on Kashmir

By Our Representative
In what appears to be a scathing reply to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much-publicized “New York Times” (NYT) article on Mahatma Gandhi titled “Why India and the World need Gandhi”, NYT’s powerful editorial board has said, Modi “didn’t address” the Kashmir issue in his United Nations (UN) speech, calling his assertion at the Houston rally a few days – that revoking the constitutional clause on Kashmiri autonomy meant “people there have got equal rights” with other Indians – “absurd”.

Ceramic worker dies: 20,000 workers in Thangadh, Gujarat, 'risk' deadly silicosis

By Our Representative
Even as the country was busy preparing for the Janmashtami festival on Saturday, Hareshbhai, a 46-year-old ceramic worker from suffering from the fatal lung disease silicosis, passed away. He worked in a ceramic unit in Thangadh in Surendranagar district of Gujarat from 2000 to 2016.
Hareshbhai was diagnosed with the disease by the GCS Medical College, Naroda Road, Ahmedabad in 2014. He was found to be suffering from progressive massive fibrosis. He is left behind by his wife Rekha sister and two sons Deepak (18) and Umesh (12),
The death of Hareshbhai, says Jagdish Patel of the health rights group Peoples Training and Research Centre (PTRC), suggests that silicosis, an occupational disease, can be prevented but not cured, and the Factory Act has sufficient provisions to prevent this.
According to Patel, the pottery industry in the industrial town of Thangadh has evolved for a long time and locals as well as migrant workers are employed here. There are abou…

Gujarat's incomplete canals: Narmada dam filled up, yet benefits 'won't reach' farmers

By Our Representative
Even as the Gujarat government is making all out efforts to fill up the Sardar Sarovar dam on Narmada river up to the full reservoir level (FRL), a senior farmer rights leader has said the huge reservoir, as of today, remains a “mirage for the farmers of Gujarat”.
In a statement, Sagar Rabari of the Khedut Ekta Manch (KEM), has said that though the dam’s reservoir is being filled up, the canal network remains complete. Quoting latest government figures, he says, meanwhile, the command area of the dam has been reduced from 18,45,000 hectares (ha) to 17,92,000 ha.
“According to the website of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd, which was last updated on Friday, while the main canal, of 458 km long, has been completed, 144 km of ranch canals out of the proposed length of 2731 km remain incomplete.
Then, as against the targeted 4,569 km distributaries, 4,347 km have been constructed, suggesting work for 222 km is still pending. And of the 15,670 km of minor canal…

Cess for Gujarat construction workers: Spending less than 10%; no 'direct help' to beneficiaries

By Our Representative
While the Gujarat government’s Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board, set up in 2004, as of March 31, 2019, has collected a total cess of Rs 2,097.62 crore from the the builders, it has spent less than 10% -- Rs 197.17 crore. And, as on May 31, 2019, the total cess collection has reached Rs 2,583.16 crore, said a statement issued by Bandhkam Majur Sagathan general secretary Vipul Pandya.
Pointing out that just about 6.5 lakh out of 20 lakh workers have been registered under the board, Pandya said, vis-à-vis other states, Gujarat ranks No 13th in the amount spent on the welfare of the construction workers, while 11th in the amount collected.
And while the builders are obliged to pay just about 1% of the total cost of their project, the calculation of the cess is flawed: It is Rs 3,000 per square yard; accordingly, Rs 30 per square yard is collected. “Had the cess been collected on the real construction cost, it would have been at least Rs 7,000 cr…

Why nobody objected to Gautam Gambhir, Sunny Deol in t-shirt, jean?: Activists

By Our Representative
Mimi Chakraborty and Nusrat Jahan’s excitement on their first day as MPs was overshadowed by a barrage of sexism over their ‘non- sanskari’ outfits, a group of civil society activists have said in a statement. According to Aarushi Nigam, Divya Kaushik, Riya Sharma, Ruman Ganguly, and Anulekha Agarwal, both Bengali actors and first-time MPs "were certainly excited to take them on when they posted pictures from their new workplace on social media."
Hit by misogynistic comments, the activists say, "Their choice of workwear – jeans and a white button-down shirt for Mimi, a wine-coloured peplum suit for Nusrat – was the first and last word on their political competence for many."
“You’re not on vacation”, “they have mistaken Parliament for Kolkata’s Nicco Park or City Centre”, “this is not a photo studio, this is a place where you should fight for people’s rights and legislate”, “keep some respect towards your Bengali society” were some of the &quo…

132 Gujarat citizens, including IIM-A faculty, others declare solidarity with Kashmiris

Counterview Desk
A week after it was floated, 132 activists, academics, students, artists and other concerned citizens of Gujarat, backed by 118 living in different parts of India and the world, have signed a "solidarity letter" supporting the people of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), who, it claims, have been silenced and held captive in their own land. The signatories include faculty members and scholars of the prestigious Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A).

Amit Shah 'wrong': Lack of transparency characterized bank frauds, NPAs, jobs data

Counterview Desk
India's senior RTI activists Nikhil Dey, Anjali Bhardwaj, Venktesh Nayak, Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu, Dr. Shaikh Ghulam Rasool, Pankti Jog and Pradip Pradhan, who are attached with the National Campaign for Peoples' Right to Information (NCPRI), have said that Union home minister Amit Shah's claim that the Government of India is committed to transparency stands in sharp contrast to its actual actions.