Teilhard de Chardin Colloquium 2011 in Sri Lanka

(For those who find the title of this post absolutely bizarre, please refer the following to know, who/ what is Teilhard de Chardin 😉 )

Last Saturday, 10th December 2011 on the Human Rights Day, the Teilhard de Chardin Colloquium 2011 was held at the Subodhi Institute in Sri Lanka. The event was organized by Rev. Fr. Mervyn Fernando and there were also some distinguished guests present at the event. The colloquium commenced with the message of the  Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Spiteri and the key note address was delivered by Judge C. G. Weeramantry delivered his speech on “The Legal and Religio – Ethical Order as the Indispensable Foundation of Human Development, Global and Local“. Responses for the keynote were given by Dr. Jayantha Dhanapala (from the global persepctive) and Fr. Mervyn ( Local Perspective). The second session was interesting because it dealt with the question “Have the Religions Failed?“. Four speakers representing the four main religions of the country were invited to express their thoughts, but simultaneously many from the audience were also invited to share their views.

Now what’s the connection with these topics to Chardin?? Actually, even I was trying to connect the dots during the session. I assumed that it was all gonna be a great chant on Chardin. But… Oh là là, the session turned out to be a gold mine for me 😀 Since tis the season for Thesis’ at the Theologate, I’m doing mine on Active Non – Violence. Some of the valuable pearls which fell off from the Judge’s pockets were,

  • Knowledge

Where he explained the Muslim initiative of, “Ink of the Scholar is holier than the blood of the martyr” to seek knowledge.

  • Justice

No odor of corruption should enter Justice. From the king to the farmer, all are equal! Judge is there to extract the dart of inequity from the wound of the wounded. He also spoke of the “Absurdity of the International Law“. Where everyone joined hands in rejecting the idea of the Dumdum Bullets but at present the powerful countries are given the permission to experiment on Nuclear Power. The statement made by the judge was quite thought provoking, because the decision of the IL was for me, jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. (oooh something rhymes… “dum dum”)

  • Decision Making

This was quite interesting, because he took the example of the Native Americans who made decisions taking into consideration the next 7 generations. But today, be it the next 7 generations, do our leaders or even we go beyond the frame of I, Me and Myself when we make decisions??

Dr. Jayantha who took over next, mentioned the name of the industry that has the highest expenditure. (No points for guessing that!!) Hands down, the award goes to the Military Industry. The 3 main conflicts the world is facing are,

  • Nationalism

The Age of Nations is past. The task before us now, if we would not perish, is to build the Earth“. ~ Chardin

  • Consumerism

The “Equitable Distribution of Income along with growth“. A world where there are no slums and malls standing together. Either all slums or all malls.

  • Terrorism

Another interesting area of venture for me. Dr. Jayantha explained that mere erasing of terrorism from a country or world is not victory over terrorism. One should analyze the root cause which led to terrorism and make sure it’s being solved. It’s like giving pain killers without finding what is causing the pain and treating it. Looking back at the past, back home in Sri Lanka, yes we won the war against the LTTE, but have we analyzed and addressed the issues they raised?

Next the stage was taken over by a hot topic, RELIGIONS! Sri Lanka is a multi religious country which has 4 main religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. Being such a holy country, has Sri Lanka escaped violence? Are the people walking around freely without any fear? Have we escaped terrorism? NO! Most definitely, despite having the giants of religions, Sri Lanka has failed in Peace and won in violence. So the question was, why have religions failed?

For Sri Lankans,our religion is a vital part of our identity. It is almost like another qualification. But most of us have limited the tag of being a Buddhist, Muslim or Hindu to our identity and not assimilated it to our thoughts, words and actions. Either we are extremists in our religions or we are moderates. So the problem is the vast gap between “Precepts and Practices” as Fr. Mervyn mentioned. We limit ourselves to the Sunday worships and don’t want to go  beyond the ceremonies and rituals of our religion to the actual practicing of religion or rather act what you preach.

Dr. Asanga Tillekeratne (Professor of University of Colombo) gave the Buddhist approach to this question.

Do a Self Criticism

  • IDENTIFY your mistakes.
  • ADMIT your mistakes.

Instead of holding on to the traditional views, religions have to reinterpret their doctrines to suit the current context. People have to be taught to THINK, REFLECT!

Taking upon the Muslim viewpoint, Dr. M. Saleem along with his son Mr. Amjad Saleem explained that Islam is a religion that speaks of Peace and Safety as the name implies. With regard to Terrorism, Islam considers that killing a life is equal to killing the entire humanity. What is being preached has to be put into practice.

A non-Hindu, Professor De Silva (Moratuwa University) quoted the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita and said,

  1. Do your duty, don’t expect anything
  2. Tell the Truth and tell it with Love

The world needs an awakening. The more we are silent, the more we are responsible of putting the world in trouble.

Taking upon the Christian Role, Fr. Mervyn mentioned 3 steps,

  1. Experience
  2. Constructive Critical Analysis
  3. Mediation

Like in the parable of the Good Samaritan, where Jesus says, “Go and do likewise“, Religion means Action. Doing and experiencing is what matters. The love in doing should be experienced.

So at the end of the day, what is the picture that I got from connecting the dots?? Before this day, I’ve only heard of Chardin, but was never pushed to read or know about him. But on that day, even without speaking about Chardin all the speakers spoke of Chardin. Like Chardin says “Science, philosophy and religion are bound to converge as they draw nearer to the whole“, one should not box themselves. I shouldn’t see Theology, Science, Geography, etc; as different boxes but one round globe; a blend of all colours 🙂

I think we hit the REPLAY button…. :O

Yesterday I participated in the weekly Praise and Worship of the Community of the Risen Lord and the lay minister was preaching about the readings scheduled for the Second Sunday of Advent. Well as he went on about the biblical interpretations and linking the first reading with the Gospel, something interesting caught my ear…

Sunday Gospel is taken from Mk 1, 1 – 8. It quotes Isiah’s prophecy about a messenger and shows how John the Baptist is preparing the way for the Messiah. So what’s so special about this?? Try and read between the lines of the Gospel and if you really Read and Listen, you might not need to read the rest of this post 😉

Well, if you still cannot figure it out, let me explain. Mark says, John the Baptist was inviting everyone for a baptism of Repentance. Many had Faith in what he said and followed him, because John practiced what he was preaching. It was both words accompanied with deeds. Getting back to my point, these are the words which Mark uses,

John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins“. (Mk 1, 4)

Now getting down to business, Note well… These are the words which John the Baptist used before the arrival of Jesus Christ. The very call for Repentance, Change of Heart, Forgiveness. So people repented and the Messiah redeemed them from their sins. And once the persecutions began, people came forward to sacrifice their lives to keep the faith alive. Hence, Tertullian says,

the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church“.

Okay, leaping from past to present, now what are we doing?

RECYCLING! REPLAYING History!

The irony is, the very same words uttered by John are mentioned umpteen times in Liturgy, prayer services and everywhere we turn… So instead of moving forward, I think we are going back to the Pre-Messianic times, where there are many Johns preaching the same thing. True, that we await the second coming of Jesus (Parousia) but that doesn’t give us the edge to go back in time and repeat the same mistakes right?

I’m sure if Jesus was given the chance to ask the question, He asked from Peter “Do you Love me?“, He’ll probably rephrase it and ask us,

Do YOU KNOW that I’m ALREADY HERE?

Every Sunday and in Daily Liturgy we receive Christ, in the form of His Body and Blood. How much of an impact should it create when we receive Him into our Body. He becomes one with our Flesh and Blood. But are we limiting the Eucharist to a mere ritual, where we extend our tongues or hands and receive the Body and Blood… Oh yes, we believe that Jesus is in it! But then how come, when we return back we fall in the same pit. Same mistakes… True, we’re human and we have the inclination to sin, but come on… Today we have Jesus who brought us redemption, an added advantage which the Old Covenant People did not have.

But still, we’re engulfed in the quicksand :|. High time we pulled ourselves up!

Redemption

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