Mumbai (AsiaNews) - In India August 15 is the first and foremost Independence Day. But for the 14 million Catholics in the country, the coincidence of the main national holiday with the Solemnity of Assumption is a source of pride. "For us Christians in India it is a double joy", Mgr. Felix Machado, Archbishop of Nasik tells AsiaNews. Known in the country for his commitment to interfaith dialogue, the prelate sees in this coincidence a sign of responsibility that India has to itself and its history but also in the world today. "August 15 is a celebration of faith and at the same time of our country. The two occurrences are interwoven in our commitment to enhance the good of people and of our beloved motherland, India-Bharat Mata ".
On August 15, religion and state are united. How do these two realities of Indian culture coexist today?
India is a deeply religious, pluralistic country, with a great heritage of tolerance and mutual understanding between different faiths. If every citizen of this land follows the precepts of his creed that teaches peace, love, unity, integrity then these values can help build the common good of the country. Faith and Commitment to the country and interdependent- for the benefit of the progress and development of the country.
But India is often the focus of international attention for acts of religious intolerance ...
Religious intolerance is an exaggeration, we see signs of hope all around, at all levels, in communities, societies and even at the level of spiritual leaders, these are signs of immense Hope.Religion. While I am not naïve that there are not instances of tensions, in our multi religious pluralitistic country- I am witness to Hope. There are a few dark spots, but in the words of Jesus ‘it is better to Light a Candle’, than to curse the darkness, The Light of the teachings of Christ – Reconciliation forgiveness , and Peace.
How can we deal with this association of religion with violence?
One of my concerns are when people do not follow the basic tenets of their religions, and unfortunately vested interest create and ‘ideology of religion’ and sadly at times these could have negative implications on the people, but India is a multi cultural, multi religious society and we live in peace and harmony and unity and our strength lies in the innate belief in the good of the human person, and we do not allow such small divisive elements to tear apart the moral and social fabric of the country.If we follow our culture- both local and regional which is built on the ethos of Indian culture- India will flourish India’s religious roots are its strength and source of harmony and peace!
So to safeguard its future India has to preserve diversity of worship?
Certainly. I am a very proud son of India. I am very happy that I am Indian born in a country where people have always searched for the absolute, the divine. India has made tremendous contributions to the world in the field of science. But now is the time for India to contribute to the real wealth of the world; to contribute the wealth of ancient Indian tradition, to contribute wisdom, peace, integrity, loyalty; to promote harmony of the human community. We stand for a value of spiritual, religious dimension of life; we stand for peace fraternity and friendship among people.
You spoke of progress and prosperity. How do you reconcile that with the great poverty that affects much of the country?
The material progress achieved by India is undeniable and obvious. We have contributed to the progress of the world and played an important role in the development of technology. The reasons for this progress should also be sought in situations of great poverty in which the country lived which led us to seek development. But it is sad to still see today that this progress has left a large part of the population in poverty. I speak especially of those who live in the countryside, people who in most cases suffer from hunger. I am the son of peasant farmers and I know what it means for example, the lack of rain in recent times in many regions. India is an agricultural country and hunger has effects on all aspects and dimensions of life. In this regards, Benedict XVI has given us a great gift with his latest encyclical. Caritas in veritate has an impressive and decisive significance for us. Just think how relevant it is to our situation in the places where the Pope speaks of development, combating poverty and protection of creation. Affirming the dignity of man, made in the image and likeness of God, he ahs put at the center of development the human person and respect for nature.