Monday, April 22, 2024

Passion week reflection: The way of the cross


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By Kyrsoibor Pyrtuh

“If anyone desires to come after Me, he must deny
himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me”
(Luke 9:23)
With spring comes the passion and sufferings of Jesus Christ and the season is also associated with renewal and hope. During the season, Christians across nations remember the crucified Christ and reflect on lessons and sacrifices Jesus made for humanity. Against the backdrop of Zionist bombing on Gaza and the rise of aggressive Hindutva fascism let us ponder on the way of the cross and its teachings.
In the case of Gaza, millions of Palestinians are experiencing unbearable pain and irreplaceable loss due to abhorrent genocide. Similarly, in India we witness the aggression of religious fanatics and fascist elements. Thus, it is crucial to behold the core teachings of love and justice which Jesus had taught us. The way of the cross is to stand up and respond to injustices and oppression with courage and clarity of thought.
The way of the cross is not to pitch one religion against another or one group against the other, rather to learn and embrace each other’s values, so that together we can build a more compassionate and peaceful world. However, recently the passage of the Healing (Prevention of Evil) Practices Act 2024 in the neighboring state of Assam, perhaps will make the life of minority Christians in the State difficult. It is not in the Christian tenet to perform magic and Christian churches never teach the believers the art of performing magic, rather Christianity engages with issues or problems (both spiritual and physical) and wrestles with them through intercessions and prayers. Prayers is the way of the cross and it provides solace, solidarity and comfort to the sick, destitute, slaves and exploited. But now to express such act seems to attract a penalty under the Anti Healing law.
Although the law has been sharply criticized by the Assam Christian Forum, the impending threat made by Hindu fanatic groups to Christian schools and the harassment of the nun, is sending shock waves and fear amongst the minority groups. It is also likely to create discord, mistrust and reduce Christians to second class citizens. The targeted attacks against Christians and minorities in Assam should generate empathy and concern in Meghalaya. Although in Meghalaya, the majority Christians are living in comfort, the troubles and hardships faced by fellow Christians and minorities in neighboring Assam and elsewhere should be our burden too. Therefore, sharing the pain and burden of others is the way of the cross.
Even though one’s tribal identity and ethos are far remote from the rest of the nation, the framers of the Constitution whose wisdom and commitment to constitutional values of justice, freedom and equality, were able to provide Constitutional guarantee and protect, especially linguistic and cultural minority groups, from being pushed to oblivion and to make India a home for every one irrespective of religion, race, color, sexual orientation, socio-economic class and political leanings. Nonetheless, there were dark alleys in the Constitution which the members of the Constituent Assembly managed to navigate through and to lay the foundational principles of liberty, equality and justice. Thus, for this sake this generation must reclaim these values and that’s the way of the cross.
The debate surrounding the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in India is indeed complex and has generated concerns among various sections of society. It is crucial to approach this topic with empathy and understanding, acknowledging the apprehensions and fears of those who feel that the law is violative of human rights and disproportionately affects minority tribal and Muslim communities.
Moreover, the situation in Northeast India is undeniably complex, and the potential impact of the CAA on the demography of the region and its tribal communities should be taken seriously. It is essential to consider the concerns of transborder communities, such as the Garos and Khasis in Bangladesh, in which a sizeable number of them are adherents of primal or traditional beliefs system (who are neither Hindus nor Christians), who may face persecution in a Muslim-majority country and struggle to relocate themselves with members of their own community in India. The CAA is discriminatory as it fails to guarantee the immigration of people outside the religions mentioned to India and only allows immigration on grounds of religion.
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has indeed raised concerns regarding its inclusiveness and adherence to human rights, particularly in the context of the Kuki-Zo community and the Rohingyas. By excluding these vulnerable groups from the amended citizenship law, the act appears to be in violation of the fundamental principles of fairness and compassion.
The Kuki-Zo community, like the Rohingyas, in Myanmar are facing persecution and displacement, and they should have access to safe havens and support systems. However, the CAA’s exclusion of Myanmar as a country of origin for these refugees makes it challenging for them to seek refuge and connect with their kin in India. This situation not only goes against the values of the way of the cross but also contradicts the basic humanitarian principles of protecting and assisting those in need.
It is imperative to undo the CAA on the grounds that it discriminates and adversely impacts human rights and the well-being of displaced people. By adhering to the principles of empathy and understanding, we can work towards creating a new and robust immigration regime that prioritizes the protection and well-being of all vulnerable communities, regardless of their nationality or religious background. This approach aligns with the teachings of the way of the cross, which emphasizes the importance of love, compassion and the inherent value of every human being.
Closer home the extensive usage and proof texting of the Christian Bible by the Voice of Peoples’ Party (VPP) during electoral campaigns had raised eyebrows. The misuse of religious texts, such as the Bible, for political or economic gains or for behavioral control is indeed a concerning issue that can undermine the core values and principles these sacred texts represent. It is essential to recognize that throughout history the Bible had been misused by the oppressors/occupiers to justify their actions. The way of the cross serves as a reminder that Jesus stood with the marginalized and vulnerable, advocating for love, compassion, and justice.
To ensure that the call for clean politics and good governance is genuine, we must actively work towards dismantling hate and violence in all its forms and in our own backyard. This includes standing up for the vulnerable sections of society and promoting policies and initiatives that prioritize the well-being of not only one’s own community, but others as well. By doing so, we can honour the teachings of the way of the cross and contribute to a more just and compassionate world.
Finally, what does the crucifixion of Jesus tell us today? In the words of Stanley J.Samartha, “The cross stands at the intersection where religion of politics and politics of religion meet each other to conspire against a lonely sentinel of truth and righteousness. In a chain of bribery (hate, targeted violence, discrimination) and corruption an honest person will either succumb to temptation or if he remains honest, he will be thrown out. Anyone who voluntarily defies the conspiracy of power structures…anyone who voluntarily, against all friendly advice, dares to expose the conspiracy of evil in high places ends up on the cross. The death of Jesus was not a spiritual suicide. It was a painful, physical death, a voluntary death on the way to the obedience to the will of God.”


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