Oh! Christian, will you be United?

Oh! Christians, Will you be United?
christian unity
18-25 January has been marked in the calendar of the Christian community, world over, as ‘Christian Unity Week’. This is also known as ‘Unity Octave’ or ‘Week of Prayer for Christian Unity’. This week is specially scheduled for promoting unity among all the Christian communities of the world, major and minor, on various levels.
Prayer sessions, interactions, discussions, fellowship meals and collaborative ways of reaching out to the least and the lost are some of the major ways of celebrating this week. These programmes are intended to be planned in such a way that they involve persons from all Christian communities. Such events are supposed to be organized on the local, regional, national, continental and international levels, as well.
This noble tradition of promoting unity derives from the Second World Catholic Council of Vatican in the 60s of the 20th century, which struck a historic ‘note of unity’, both among the Christian communities and among all religious and social communities of the world. ‘Nostra Aetate’, meaning ‘In our time’, is the name of the significant document that motivated this fundamental awakening for ‘a new way of being Christian’.
Accordingly, discriminating human beings in the name of ethnic origin, gender, language, caste, class, colour, creed, rite, tradition, ideology, community, culture, nationality, social customs, food habits, dress patterns, and the like, is a sheer violation of the Christian faith in God, the loving Father of all human beings and the entire creation. For that reason, sustaining fraternal relations leading to unity is the right way of being a Christian and staying united with all Christian communities, along with humans of all religious and social affiliations, is and has to be the real outcome of the radical realization mentioned above.
In view of translating the above vision into a mission, the Catholic Church instituted in course of time Pontifical Council for Christian Unity at the international level, along with offices of Christian unity at the continental, national, state and diocesan levels. Most of the Christian communities in the world established units for Christian unity on different levels, too, like World Council of Churches, National Council of Churches in India and Evangelical Fellowship of India.
Now, as a matter of fact, Christian unity is grounded in sharing, one to another, three core realities of life -- the human and spiritual ‘values’ of Jesus the great Teacher and Master, the Bible as the sacred scripture of ‘good news’ and the ‘faith’ in being part of the large family of God the Father on earth. The ‘filial experience’ of God coupled with the ‘fraternal expression’ of being a sister or brother to every human being on earth is the pathway to Christian unity. And, Christian unity, in its turn, necessarily leads, and has to lead, to unity among all religious and social communities on earth, as well.
In addition, Jesus is like a tree and all Christian communities are like the branches of that tree, just like the body having different parts perfectly blended together. Abiding by the tree and all its branches is the only way to draw the sap of life from the tree and to flourish as branches, in the spirit of sharing the divine and human life among them from the same source. ‘Love’ is the characteristic mark of being a Christian and without loving Christians of all communities, along with all other communities, no Christian can claim to love Jesus and God the Father, not at all. This is what John, a significant writer of the story of Jesus in the Bible, categorically affirmed, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen”.
Furthermore, “Do to the other what you would have him or her do to you” is the universal golden rule set on top by Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Moreover, ‘When you have loved other Christians, other believers and other human beings, you have already loved Jesus and God the Father’, and definitely not otherwise. This is the golden sum and substance of a faith or life that is worth the name on this planet. This is what the late Pope John Paul II illustrated on dialogical terms when he stated, as well, “By dialogue we open ourselves to one another, for as we open ourselves to one another, we open ourselves to God”. Yet again, Pope Francis, the most brilliant papal leader of the modern times, through his latest encyclical ‘Fratelli Tutti’, has summarized Christian faith, and all faiths for that matter, to ‘fraternity and social friendship’ with every person.

Therefore, on the occasion of ‘Christian Unity Week 2021’, Christian believers in India and across the globe have a razor-sharp question right in front of them, ‘Oh! Christians, will you rise above trivial private concerns and remain United?’ A ‘refresh’, and even make a ‘restart’, is called for, in favour of maintaining brotherly, sisterly and friendly relations and fellowship with all Christian communities and people of all faiths, ideologies and cultures, in our country and in the entire world. One’s faith has to be the vibrant source of motivation for contributing one’s mite in making our country and the world society more harmonious than what they are today, by staying united with one and all.
Dr MD Thomas by Fr. Dr. M. D. Thomas

Examples We Set Today

Examples We Set Today                                                             

secularism 1

by Don Aguiar.


India at the time of our Independence and a couple of decades after that did have the dispensation to set examples for a peaceful, democratic and secular republic of India.


The present dispensation priorities are different and require setting examples of bhaktism, communalism, and nationalism, patriotism, big talk and fake news…..resulting in intolerance, communalism, revenge, unemployment…. The right wing government ideology is to make India a Hindu Rashtra in the very near future.


At present context the Americans say –

At least we guys have –

Donald Trump, Bob Hope, Stevie Wonder and Johnny Cash

YOU in India have –

NaMo, No Wonder, No Hope, No Cash – ONLY BIG TALK, unemployment, Revenge, Intolerance….


Will they attain their goal by exploiting the unemployed or will the unemployed display of enthusiasm by the dream they are promised of changing their adversity into advantage be a liability to their attaining their goal of a Hindu Rashtra. The present happenings shows the desperation of the situation, may help shape the corrective action needed to be taken.     


Yesterday a message was sent out by the Government on Swatch Bharat Divas. The message was revived and read by the unemployed youth in different states too who were recruited by the right wing ideologists. Misunderstanding the message, so in response, they went on a spree and cleaned swiped their neighborhood of …. Cash, jewelry, expensive goods and whatever they could put their hands on.


On asked by an elderly woman as to why they were so excited and buoyant about the whole affair, they showed her the message, it read, “Let’s clean our neighborhood, village, city and country. Let’s strive to create a Swatch Bharat”. Join ‘Swatchhata Hi Seva”


Two small stories that show how the examples we set today, may help shape the character of generations tomorrow.


Story – I

We all know about Al Capone. The notorious gangster, mafia who virtually owned Chicago. He was a crime boss who lorded over the windy city dealing with all sort of crimes prostitution to murder to you name it and he escaped the law for many years.


It was because of one man, his lawyer nicknamed “Easy Eddie” Eddie was very good! In fact, Eddie’s skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for a long time.


To show his appreciation, Capone paid him very well. Not only was the money big, but Eddie got special dividends as well. For instance, he and his family occupied a fenced-in mansion with live-in help and all of the conveniences of the day.


The estate was so large that it filled the entire Chicago City block. Edie did have one soft spot, however. He had a son that he dearly loved. And despite his involvement with organized crime, Eddie tried to teach him right from wrong. Eddie wanted his son to be a better man than he was.


Yet, with all his wealth and influence, there were two things he couldn’t give his son, he couldn’t pass on a Good Name or a Good Example.


One day Edie reached a difficult decision. It’s believed Easy Eddie wanted to rectify wrongs he had done. So he decided he would go to the authorities and tell the truth about Al “Scarface” Capone, clean up his tarnished name and offer his son some semblance of integrity. To do this, he would have to testify against The Mob, and he knew that the cost would be great. Nevertheless, he testified. 


Within the year, Easy Eddie’s life ended in a blaze of gun fire on a lonely Chicago street. But in his eyes, he had given his son the greatest gift he had to offer, at the greatest price he could ever pay. Police removed from his pockets a rosary, a religious symbol and medallion and a poem clipped from a magazine.


The Poem read “The clock of life wound but once, and no man has the power to tell just when the hands will stop, at late or early hour. Now is the only time you own. Live, love, toil with a will. Place no faith in time. For the clock may soon be still.”


Story II


World War II produced many heroes. One such man was Lieutenant Commander Butch O’Hare. He was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific.


One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission. After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top off his fuel tank.


He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship. His flight leader told him to return to the carrier. Reluctantly he dropped out of the formation and headed back to the fleet.


As he was returning to the carrier, he saw something that turned his blood cold; a squadron of Japanese aircraft was speeding its way towards the American fleet.  The American fighters were gone on a sortie and the fleet was all but defenseless. He couldn’t reach his squadron and bring them back on time to save the fleet. Nor could he warn the fleet of the approaching danger.


There was only one thing to do, only thing he learned growing up. He must somehow divert them from the fleet. Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he drove into the formation of Japanese planes. Wing-mounted 50 caliber’s blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprise plane and then another.


Butch wove in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until all his ammunition was finally spent. Undaunted, he continued the assault. He drove at the planes trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible, rendering them unfit to fly. Finally the exasperated Japanese squadron took off in another direction. Deeply relieved Butch O’Hare and his tattered fighter limped back to the carrier. Upon arrival, he reported in and related the event surrounding his return. The film from the gun- camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It showed the extent og Butch daring attempt to protect his fleet. He had in fact destroyed five enemy aircraft. This took place on February 20, 1942, and for that action Butch became the Navy’s first Ace of WW II and the first Naval Aviator to win the Medal of Honor.


A year later Butch was killed in aerial combat at the age of 29. His home town would not allow the memory of this WW II hero to fade and today O’Hare Airport in Chicago is named to the courage of this great man.


So next time you find yourself at O’Hare International, give some thought to visiting Butch’s memorial displaying his statue and his Medal of Honor. It’s located between Terminals 1 and 2.


Uh... Wait, what does these two stories have to do with each other?


Well, you see, Butch O’Hare was… “Easy Eddie’s” son!  


Just like “Easy Eddie” - Let’s us hope in the coming election we the people will reverse this present trend to the ideals set by the founding fathers of our nation – for a peaceful, secular democratic republic of India. 


Indian rupee symbol
by Don Aguiar
India is in the middle of an extraordinary economic experiment.
On 8 November, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave only four hours' notice that virtually all the cash in the world’s seventh-largest economy in the world be effectively worthless.
The Indian government likes to use the technical term "demonetisation" to describe the move, which makes it sound rather dull. It isn't. This is the economic equivalent of "shock and awe".
Do not believe reports that this is primarily about bribery or terror financing, the real target is tax evasion and the policy is very daring indeed. You can see the effects outside every bank in the country. Queues of people clutching wads of currency notes stretch halfway down the street.
Mr Modi's "shock and awe" declaration meant that 1,000 and 500 rupee notes would no longer be valid. These may be the largest denomination Indian notes but they are not high value by international standards - 1,000 rupees is only £12. But together the two notes represent 86% of the currency in circulation.
Think of that, at a stroke 86% of the cash in India now cannot be used.
What is more, India is overwhelmingly a cash economy, with 90% of all transactions taking place that way. And that is the target of Mr Modi's dramatic move. Because so much business is done in cash, very few people pay tax on the money they earn.
According to figures published by the government earlier this year in 2013 only 1% of the population paid any income tax at all. As a result huge numbers of Indians have stashes of tax-free cash hidden away - known here as "black money".
Even the very poorest Indians have some cash savings - maybe just a few thousand rupees stored away for a daughter's wedding, the kids' school fees or - heaven forbid - an illness in the family. But lots of Indians have much more than that. It is not unusual for half the value of a property transaction to be paid in cash with buyers turning up with suitcases full of 1,000 rupee notes.
The size of this shadow economy is reckoned to be as much as 20% of India's entire GDP. Mr Modi's demonetisation is designed to drive black money out of the shadows.
At the moment you can exchange up to 4,500 (£48) of the old rupees in cash for new 500 (£6) and 2,000 (£24) rupee notes.
There is no limit to the amount that can be deposited in bank accounts until the end of December, but the government has warned that the tax authorities will be investigating any deposits above 250,000 rupees (£2,962).
Breach that limit and you will be asked to prove that you have paid tax. If you cannot, you will be charged the full amount owed, plus a fine of 200% of the tax owed. For many people that could amount to be pretty much the full value of their hidden cash.
This is brave politics. Some of the hardest hit will be the small business people and traders who are Mr Modi's core constituency. They voted for him because they believed he was the best bet to grow the economy and improve their lot. They will not be happy if he destroys their savings.
Mr Modi says he is simply delivering on his pre-election promise to tackle corruption and tax evasion. He says he warned that he would squeeze black money out of the system and had already offered amnesties to those who declare their black money holdings. And, so far at least, the policy seems to be popular, in spite of the long queues and the fact that much day-to-day business in India has ground to a juddering halt.
Most Indians resent the fact that many of the richest among them have used black money to evade paying their fair share of tax and are happy to suffer a few weeks of what Mr Modi called "temporary hardships" to see them face justice. They also recognize the benefits of drawing more people into the income tax net.
India has very low rates of tax compared to many other countries. The tax-to-GDP ratio - how much tax is raised as a proportion of the output of the economy - was 17% in 2013. The average across the economies of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development - a club of mostly rich nations - was over 34%.
Demonetisation is part of a wider project to draw Indians into the formal economy and to get them to start paying the tax they owe.
Curbing tax evasion is part of the agenda for the "aadhaar" scheme, (a giant digital database designed to give hundreds of millions of Indians a unique ID) and of the new Goods and Services tax.
And reducing tax evasion can only be good for India. The more money it raises in tax, the more it has to spend on useful stuff like roads, hospitals and schools. The more the country spends on public goods like that, the faster the Indian economy is likely to grow - or so the argument goes.
So the big question is: will it work?
Some economists have questioned the decision to introduce the 2,000 rupee note. They say if the policy is designed to force people into the banking system why issue a higher denomination note - presumably an even more convenient vehicle for black money transactions?
But the headlines about chaos and confusion are a bit misleading. There have been virtually no reports of violence despite the huge disruption this policy has caused. The new 500 and 2,000 rupee notes are in short supply and banks regularly run out of them. The queues are orderly and the worst you hear are the irritated mutterings of those whose days have been wasted standing in line.
But Mr Modi needs to be careful. The new notes are in short supply and there are not enough smaller denomination notes to go around, so the banks regularly run out of cash. That cannot go on for long without irritation turning to anger.
But some queuing may be excusable, because in one regard the policy has already been a complete success: it came as a surprise to the entire country.
Think what that means. The government managed to plan this audacious policy, printing billions of new notes without anyone letting slip what was happening.
Reportedly, even senior members of the cabinet were not told what was being planned, for fear that if word got out the entire policy would be undermined. The hoarders would have time to empty their mattresses and launder their stashes into gold or other assets.
Keeping a secret of this magnitude in India, a country that thrives on rumor and gossip, is nothing short of a triumph and surely a reasonable justification for a few hiccups along the way.
Mr Modi’s dramatic move to scrap 500 ($7.60) and 1,000 rupee notes is poor economics, a leading economist says. The "collateral damage" is likely to outstrip its benefits.
The overnight ban on the notes last week was intended to crack down on corruption and so-called "black money" or illegal cash holdings. But it sparked scenes of chaos outside banks and ATMs.
Low-income Indians, traders and ordinary savers who rely on the cash economy have been badly hit with hordes thronging banks to deposit expired money and withdraw lower denominations. As the anger mounted, the government raised limits on cash withdrawals on Sunday.
The rich will not suffer as corruptly acquired fortunes have almost all been converted to shares, gold and real estate. But the poor who make up the bulk of the nation’s 1.3 billion people will lose out. For them getting to a bank and queuing for hours will cost money and time they don’t have. In less than a week the policy has claimed more than a dozen lives. The government says that it will take weeks to sort out the problems.
But some economists say the move will have a limited impact as people will simply begin to accumulate black money in the new currency as soon as that becomes available.
The government hopes this will bring cash worth billions of dollars in unaccounted wealth back into the economy. The two notes accounted for more than four-fifths of the currency in circulation.
Prof Basu, who now teaches at New York's Cornell University, says India's Goods and Services tax, was "good economics, but demonetisation is not". "Its economics is complex and the collateral damage is likely to far outstrip the benefits,”.
What Prof Basu, who was chief economic adviser to the previous Congress government, means is that this "demonetisation" just witnessed in India is at best, a one-time flushing out of the system and the return of black money is likely if not inevitable.
Many economists say the costs of such a one-time "flush" will be huge. They say hundreds of thousands of ordinary people (including farmers who do not even have bank accounts) who hold cash but not black money will get caught out and the fear of harassment by officials could trap them in a bureaucratic net they don't know how to deal with.
So it is possible that all this achieves is a sudden curtailment in the total money supply, effectively a kind of contraction of the economy.
Economists have long talked about "helicopter drop" of currency - printing large sums of money and distributing it to the public in order to stimulate the economy.
India's decision to scrap high denomination notes is simply the reverse and according to economist Prabhat Patnaik the government's move "betrays a lack of understanding of capitalism".
"Typically, what happens in capitalism in a situation like this is that there would be a new business opening up about how to change old currency notes into new ones... A whole range of people would come up who will say you give us 1000 rupees and we will give you 800 rupees or 700 rupees or whatever. Consequently, instead of curbing black business it will actually give rise to the proliferation of black business,"
But not all experts agree that it is such a risky move.
India now operates under a monetary policy regime known as inflation targeting. If a portion of the stock of currency in circulation, consisting of currency and demand deposits gets 'burned', metaphorically or literally, the Reserve Bank of India, the central bank, can in principle fully offset this through what economists call 'open market operations',. These involve purchasing bonds from the markets and injecting money (and therefore liquidity) into the markets in return. This is standard operating procedure for central banks.
To put it more simply: suppose a warehouse of cash owned by someone goes up in flames and the money stock drops. The central bank, economists say, can augment the money stock. The loser is the individual whose money went up in flames - in other words, by analogy, someone holding illicit unaccounted cash that cannot be converted into new currency or deposited.
There will be short run adjustment costs as the old notes are replaced by new ones, but see no medium to long term impacts on growth, inflation or other pertinent macroeconomic variables. The gains will be a one-time tax on black money and a possible disincentive for future black money accumulation, in the event that there is a prospect for future demonetisations.
A currency note is a promise note that must be kept whatever the circumstances. Because this trust has been broken in India queues have formed outside banks and ATM’s with banks closing midway through the business day saying they have run out of cash… Pro establishment die-hards would snigger and argue that the two high value notes have been withdrawn to check black money …. it had to be done in total secrecy they say to thwart nefarious attempts by hoarders to dump currency.
Mr Modi’s scheme has more in common with the failed experiments of dictatorship which led to runaway inflation, currency collapse and mass protests. While Mr Modi campaigned to end corruption it would have been better if the government had updated its antiquated tax system to realize such a task.