Tuesday, January 31, 2006

SECOND THOUGHTS ABOUT INDIA
Photo: the crypt of Mother Teresa of Calcutta at the Mother House of the Missionaries of Charity
BEHIND THE SCENES. I realize that I am being given a very privileged introduction to India. I am coming in not so much as a tourist staying in the finest resorts, being pampered with the best accommodations, being steered away from the places that I see daily. I am coming in as one privileged to see and experience a more authentic India, its underside or real side, perhaps. I know I am not seeing it completely, but what I have seen helps me begin to understand, love and intercede for this people.
TEACHING AND LEARNING. From Friday through Monday, Bishop Joe James and I participated in the Immanuel Free Methodist Annual Conference and pastor’s training retreat. We shared the teaching/training responsibilities and preaching for 200 pastors from across India. I taught four sessions and preached at the Annual Conference. Many of them had traveled 12-18 hours by train to participate. I think it’s safe to say that their combined incomes would amount to less than $100,000 American dollars. This is a conference that doubled the number of churches and gained 40,000 members in one year. Maybe they should be coming to America to show us how it’s done.
CARRYING YOUR GOD. We walked on the Howrah Bridge today. It’s the third longest cantilever bridge in the world, a massive structure that spans the nearly one-mile wide Hoogley River. 200,000 people cross between Kolkata and Howrah each day, perhaps half on foot. We walked on the bridge among this hurting, hoping mass of humanity. Many people carry large, heavy bundles on their heads. I pointed out to Bishop Joe James a man carrying a large statue of the Hindu god Krishna on his head. “Look,” I said, “he’s carrying his god.” The Bishop replied: “I have a God who carries me.”
BRITAIN’S DOMINATION. There is just no way to avoid saying it: The British plundered this country. In the name of the Christian God and the guise of a free market, the English East India Company (a business corporation), backed by English military power, began exploiting India even before England began to put a stranglehold on the 13 colonies in America. Americans revolted, signing a Declaration of Independence in 1776 and winning independence a few years later. But India continued to be exploited by Britain for another 175 years. Today I read India’s Declaration of Independence, dated January 26, 1930. It would be another 17 years before that independence was realized (relatively nonviolently, under the influence of Mahatma Gandhi). For all the “good” that the West thinks England did for India, the Indian declaration spells out clearly how Britain ruined India economically, politically, culturally, and spiritually. How does a nation recover from 200 years of such exploitation in the face of the future shock of an exploding technological age? Slowly.
MISSIONARIES OF CHARITY. We visited the mother house of the Missionaries of Charity and sat awhile by the crypt of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The Missionaries of Charity, a Catholic order founded by Mother Teresa, have committed themselves to serve and love the poorest of the poor here and around the world. I came away with a sense of awe and thanksgiving for the depth, magnitude, joy, and simplicity of the Missionaries of Charity’s work.

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