Hundreds of nuns, bishops and volunteers attended a Mass on Thursday marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of Mother Teresa, the selfless nun who dedicated her life to serving the sick and poor in India.
School children, tourists and volunteers, some carrying bunches of flowers or candles, also crowded Mother Teresa’s grave in the headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity, the order of nuns she founded in 1950 in the eastern Indian city of Calcutta.
Special feasts to feed the poor, a festival of films on her life and work, the launch of a new train called the Mother Express, and interfaith prayer meetings were among events planned to mark the yearlong anniversary.
Inside the drab district hospital, where dogs patter down the corridors, sniffing for food, Ratan Bhuria’s children are curled together in the malnutrition ward, hovering at the edge of starvation. His daughter, Nani, is 4 and weighs 20 pounds. His son, Jogdiya, is 2 and weighs only eight . . . And they are hardly alone: India’s eight poorest states have more people in poverty — an estimated 421 million — than Africa’s 26 poorest nations, one study recently reported.
Sonia Gandhi [leader of the ruling Congress party], is pushing to create a constitutional right to food and expand the existing entitlement so that every Indian family would qualify for a monthly 77-pound bag of grain, sugar and kerosene. Such entitlements have helped the Congress Party win votes, especially in rural areas.
To Ms. Gandhi and many left-leaning social allies, making a food a legal right would give people like Mr. Bhuria a tool to demand benefits that rightfully belong to them. Many economists and market advocates within the Congress Party agree that the poor need better tools to receive their benefits but believe existing delivering system needs to be dismantled, not expanded; they argue that handing out vouchers equivalent to the bag of grain would liberate the poor from an unwieldy government apparatus and let them buy what they please, where they please.
Luca Fiore of Oasis magazine wrote an article on the Christians in Kerala titled, The Amazing Secrets of Kerala. I will briefly summarize this article presented by the eloquent Sandro Magister of Chiesa.
Legend has it that Saint Thomas the Apostle arrived and preached in Mylapore, India, not far from Madras, where he suffered martyrdom and where his tomb is kept today. Prior to his martyrdom Saint Thomas arrived in Kerala at about A.D. 52. The Christians in south west India called Thomas Christians due to the missionary efforts of Saint Thomas.
The Christians in Kerala are of the Syro-Malabar Rite within Catholicism and they constitute up to 20% of the population, where in the rest of India Christians are just a bit over 2%. Kerala is a pluralistic society where the majority of residents are Hindu, Muslims make up 25%, and Christians 20%. All the faiths live in peaceful harmony which is unlike some parts of India.
The state of Kerala is somewhat of an anomaly in India. With relative peace among the different faiths, Kerala also has the highest literacy rates in the country, over 90% compared to roughly 65% to the rest of India. Another exception is that Kerala is also the only government with Marxists in control. This coming from a state where the majority of the schools, from elementary to university levels, are predominantly Christian.
Conversions are not common, but when they occur, there is normally no violent reaction whether they convert to Christianity from Hinduism or Islam, though Pentecostals are the most militant and cause the most disturbance among the residents of all faiths. There are many reasons for conversion to Christianity, some convert because of the communal aspects of worship which is lacking in some Hindu strains. Other convert due to the love the converts witness that is carried out among Christians. But there is no definitive evidence of the major reasons behind conversions.