Tag Archives: Sri Lanka

I AM FREE!

I walk down the streets of Jaffna,
No one checks my ID or backpack, no eyebrow raised,
No one asks my whereabouts or where my feet are taking me.
I buy what I want, I head where my head turns,
I am Free!

I wait impatiently for an ice cream at a Dhansala,
I enjoy the bun from St. Anthony’s church,
I walk behind the Vel chariot to be treated with delicacies,
I walk into the mosque and no one asks for my creed,
I am Free!

My friend cheats me, he’s Sinhala,
They cannot be trusted.
My classmate puts me down and boasts of his status,
Tamils – their pride goes before their fall.
My colleague at work is very picky about her food,
Muslims – they are only halal in their food.
I am Free!

I dine at a business party,
Food tastes better when I use my hands,
I’ve to be in my best behaviour,
So starts my table etiquette.
I am Free!

What on earth is she wearing? How hideous is that?
Fashion blunder!!
Thank God for my sense of style,
I can’t afford it but I have the right choice and
I know where to invest.
I am Free!

I’ve to shed those pounds, trim my waist,
Control my mouth and get married soon.
I’ve to build some muscle, get a personality,
Sharpen my photogenic features.
Good looks are all that matters.
I am Free!

I’m sick, I go to the general hospital to find,
“Today doctors are on strike!”
The last day to pay my exam fees,
I toiled hard for the money but can’t make it,
Bus and Train strike!
I am Free!

Thanks to my job, my family has a roof.
I don’t agree with the ideas of my boss,
They challenge my beliefs.
I get paid for my work and if the majority is okay,
Why fret?
I am Free!

AM I FREE?

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A meek Brown Man From Goa – Cry, Bathe and Smile

Cry

Cry

Few months before the release of the book, there was a buzz around regarding the investigation of a non-Catholic, about Blessed Joseph Vaz. For me personally, it sounded like another trumpet blowing, “We’re trying to make Bl. Joseph Vaz a Saint!“. That’s a phrase I’ve heard since the beginning of the last year. For some weird reason, unlike other Sri Lankan Catholics, who were bragging about his work, I was simply not interested. Everyone is a Saint, so if he has done something good, he’ll be rewarded in Heaven, why run behind a “Saint” prefix for his name? To add to my disinterested spirit, last year we had a module at the Theologate regarding Bl. Joseph Vaz and his contribution to the Faith and country. Nope, neither did that get my spirits high about the guy.

I got this book last week and first thing I usually do when I get a book is to read the Cover. The back of the book mentioned about the author Kusum Waidyaratne and his research areas, Para Human Archaeology, Ethnoarchaeology, Rheology, Architectonic, DNA. Those words sounded music to my ears, because I fancy all the high tech science and geeky stuff (NOT fiction, but Realizing fiction with Reality).

Bathe

BatheRead the first page, turned to the next… kept on doing it for minutes, hours and before I even knew I had read the first 10 chapters of the book and wanted to keep on going. It was addictive, the more I read, the more I wanted to dig in and dig deeper. I also did some research on my own with regard to the scientific areas touched in the book to see if, what I was reading was reality or the author was trying to fool me into something.

I don’t want to spoil the fun, but I’ll give a sneak peak into the book. It’s primarily about Bl. Joseph Vaz. And if you don’t know who that is, let me help you out. Ask a priest, catechism teacher or the final resort Mr. Google. If you’re a Sri Lankan and you don’t know him, high time you relearned history. And if you’re Sri Lankan plus a Catholic and don’t know about him, then shame on you!

As you go on reading, it will unravel the reality of this great personality, Bl. Joseph Vaz and his immense contribution to a foreign soil. Done only with one intention in his mind, that is to do his Father’s will. Every word of the book is a prayer, a step towards a strengthening journey of Faith. You can take my word on this, because though I’m a Theology student, I’m not a hard core prayer person. The word “Prayer” gives me jitters. But today, I’ve come to realize that Prayers are a constant chitter chatter with God. Speaking to Him, Crying with Him, Laughing with Him and even fighting and insulting Him and asking for forgiveness. Giving the truth of your Heart, that is the only Mantra.

The best example of such an intimate relationship is the one that Bl. Joseph Vaz had with God the Father. This book made me realize that we all are Bl. Joseph Vazs inside. The difference is, some have discovered themselves and people like you and I keep orbiting our day to day painstaking lives, looking for help outside. Our help is right here, within our grip, but we don’t see it. We ignore it and go venturing into other modes to find solutions. And if we do know it’s there and reach it, there’s always that thorn of doubt pricking constantly.

The story of the book flows on two rivers and they meet at a confluence. One stream carries the tales of BJV (Bl. Joseph Vaz) and the other speaks about a married gentleman named Wishwa, who is a father of two and is struggling with his own life’s journey. The two stories run parallel. Whatever happened to BJV few centuries ago, happens to Wishwa today. Similarly you can also see a comparison of human effort vs God’s guidance.

Few Examples from the Book:

  • Persecution by the Dutch soldiers // Imprisonment or Wishwa being attacked by some goons.
  • BJV praises God during crisis // Wishwa cursing the divine

The book also uses the Word Of God, Sacred Scripture quotations to form the foundation of Faith. It comes handy as a literary technique to give light to the readers, a glimpse of hope towards a better fulfillment of the story.

…if you believe you will see the glory of God

~John 11, 40

The initial chapters, speak of the Journey of BJV and only in Chapter 20 you get to know about the beginning years of BJV. The essence of these chapters is, the author portrays a heart of a mother. A 3D view is given with 3 mothers playing the roles. BJV’s mother, Wishwa’s mother and the crest, Mother Mary – The Mother of everyone.

The book also touches areas which provide clear cut evidence that Catholicism existed in our land before the arrival of the European invaders. It also shows that the era where Buddhism was in a declining phase, it was not because of the Catholics.

The book portrays the miracles of BJV, his intercessions, crucial journeys, prayerful life and most importantly, how loud his silence was and is.

I found three interesting themes run across the story.

  • Cry

Starting with a sob it progresses towards a loud cry. It is revealing one’s true self, confession, helplessness.

  • Bathe

With the act of taking a bath, where the characters felt refreshed, cleansed. In Christianity, this is a sign of purification or sanctification.

  • Smile

A sign of hospitality, love, care.

The book also reveals details about BJV’s tomb and what is disappointing is that, intense details about him are not found in Kandy. One would get to know the real reason behind this. But if there were records, I’m sure it would speak volumes about BJV.

Smile

smileIf the Bible is a book that contains mystery, comedy, romance, thriller, action, tragedy, history, science, etc; Then ගෝවෙන් අමුත්තෙක් ඇවිත් – A meek Brown Man From Goa will similarly fit into most of the literary genres. Unlike fiction it wouldn’t provide you with a temporary mental satisfaction. These pages would help you face your biggest fear, LIFE! It is a live manifestation of Divine Providence. For sure it will show you at least a ray of Hope.

Instead of learning about saints who are foreign to our land, it is important that we as Sri Lankan Christians, give credit to the valuable service and sacrifices of BJV. If it was not for him I would’ve not been able to address my God in my mother tongue. If it was not for him I would’ve not been a Catholic, the Church would’ve died decades ago. As Sri Lankan Christians it is our duty to recognize this great servant of God and cherish his work.

I tried this interpersonal formula that I learned from my new friend BJV. It was yesterday, when Asia was hit with an 8.9 magnitude earthquake. The moment I got the news, only thing that ran across my mind was, “What would Blessed Joseph Vaz do?” Without delay, I went to my room and started “Praying“. I think this was after many months or years, that I prayed so intensely. I called Mother Mary and BJV to come for our mediation. Within few hours, the news said that the earthquake was horizontal, hence it was less likely that a Tsunami will occur. I believe that this happened because of the intercession of Mother Mary and BJV. I’m sure millions of us prayed for a miracle and we got it.

Reserved for Clergy!

Few personal experiences that I had during my traveling, prompted me to write this post. The title of this post is a common slogan found approximately in all the buses in Sri Lanka. Two seats are reserved for the clergy of all religious denominations, considering it to be a right of the Clergy. Okay, now you’re probably wondering why I’m talking about the transport systems in a blog that should be talking about theology. True enough, but what disturbed me was not the fact that people were not willing to give the seat for the Non-Buddhist clergy, but the failure of our own Christian people to understand the difference/similarity of the Catholic Clergy and Religious.

To give a clearer picture, let me explain what I witnessed. Some of my colleagues, who are Religious traveled in the bus after classes. During the evening hours, the buses are crowded, so getting a seat is almost like finding for water in the desert. But you would think that it’s a piece of cake for the Religious right? Well sadly, NO! I was quite disappointed of the attitude of the people towards the Nuns after my first experience of this scenario. The bus conductor either had to ask someone to offer a seat or if the conductor was a Christian, he prefers not to speak up and instead does a better favour by not taking the ticket money from the Religious.

Before proceeding further, for those who are not aware of the different meanings of the terms Clergy and Religious, the simplest definition I can provide is, the former refers to the Priests and the latter refers to the Nuns, Brothers, Monks, etc; In the Sri Lankan context, it is easier for a Priest to get a seat compared to a Nun. But why so? And no, the answer is not because the society is still patriarchal. When it comes to Buddhism, there’s no differentiation! Patriarchal or Matriarchal, female Buddhist monks are considered to have the same rights as the male Buddhist monks. I personally think, this is the problem of our perception. For years, we have been considering the priests to be of a higher pedestal compared to the nuns. Hence our first priority is always towards the clergy. But what is the difference between the two? Why is one considered to be of a higher rank than the other?

I used to be one among the many who thought that, clergy ought to receive a higher priority than religious, till I followed the module Consecrated Life and Theology of the Laity. In reality, there’s no difference between the vocations of the clergy and religious. Both are called by the same, One God and they lead a Consecrated Life. And if there were to be any differentiation, then I think the Nuns would beat the Priests to it. This is because only Nuns get an opportunity to be “Sponsa Christi – Bride of Christ. They get a chance to sign their consent, at the altar. Both Clergy and Religious fall into the category of Consecrated Life. Together, they bring out different colours and flavours of the Church and offer their services accordingly. The different forms and charisms of this way of life is well explained in Pope John Paul II‘s Apostolic Exhortation, Vita Consecrata (The Consecrated Life).

So next time, if you travel by bus and happen to see a Nun who is standing, make sure that they get their right of sitting where they should sit. Because they will not fight for their rights due to their vows and humility, but as Laity, it is our duty to stand up for them and show the world that Priests and Nuns are equal. They differ only by their ministerial functions.

My Name is MAHA!

Since I’m four posts old now, you would’ve probably figured out that I come up with whacky titles for my posts 🙂 Yes, they come with a twist, in order to prove a point!

Contemplating for a while, there are certain things in life which we didn’t ask for, but like it or not we’ve got them. For instance,

  • My mother country
  • My family
  • aaaand MY NAME!!

Okay, you guys are probably wondering what I’m trying to say by emphasizing a name??  Well it kept me thinking all my life and a recent argument made me write this post. Well before I speak about the Theological aspect, let me narrate my own story.

My name is M. Antoinette Jerom. And the “M” stands for “Maha“. And before you go on laughing at that, I find it very offending if someone laughs at my name 😉 (Just to make sure we’re on safe grounds). Those who are from Asia and specifically from India and Sri Lanka will have an idea of the meaning of Maha which is reasonably amusing. It refers to Huge or Great. But this is not the reason why I got the name Maha!

Okay, so what ticked me off recently??  It was my cousin! (Typical!) I have a technical blog which I named along with my First Name, http://technomaha.wordpress.com. When he saw the name, he found the sound of Maha to be quite amusing and preferred Ann or Antoinette instead.The reason I named this blog after my name is because I recently discovered the true meaning of my name which I have been hating all my life and never revealed to anyone. And trust me, it took a lot of courage to go public with this.

I was named by my Grand Mother for having big blue eyes when I was born. And it also reminded her of a little girl in Bahrain whom she loved, called Maha. Nevertheless, what Maha really means is,

Arabic name meaning beautiful eyes. Every maha has gorgeous big round eyes, especially when they’re babies.

You’ve got gorgeous blue mahas.“” (Urban Dictionary, n.d.)
The other meaning which also describes my personality is also absolutely correct,
beautiful, kind, great fashion sense, and in love with all the wrong guys. keeps her relationships private. arabic for full moon . has beautiful, large eyes. loyal to her friends and true at heart. serious and mature when first met, hyper and life of party. referred to someone with a strong spirit. known to have a powerful connection with the supernatural and nature. can be weird but lovable. makes plenty of mistakes even though careful. forgives easily and can’t hold grudges. A maha usually has a kind heart and a smile that lights up the world, but if you piss one off, she will kill you.has uncanny love of music. brave and bold and takes a lot to bring down. a maha is smart but has her blonde moments. means young deer in persian, and full/ cresent moon in latin” (Urban Dictionary, n.d.)
I’ve always thought that it was unfair for only God to have the opportunity to decide to name Himself and His Son.
God’s name is revealed in Exodus 3, 14 as “I AM” and the angel of the LORD revealed the Son of Man’s name as “Emmanuel – God with us” in Matthew 1, 23. So why don’t we have the choice of picking our own names??
Just like God chose our motherland, our families so I don’t think that God went wrong with this one either, our Name, which is the Prime identity of a person. My name defines who I am or what I am.
You created my inmost self,
knit me together in my mother’s womb...
Your eyes could see my embryo.
In your book all my days are were inscribed…” (Psalm 139, 13. 16)
I believe in a God described in these verses. If so, can He go wrong in inspiring my Grand mother to choose the name MAHA for me?? I don’t think so!! God sees things beyond human eyes. He knows what we turn out to be at the end. So if you’re a John, Zanta, Hud, Gogula or even a Maha, just CELEBRATE YOURSELF! Be happy for having a unique and beautiful name! God won’t be amused with your name, unless you turn out to be sarcastic with having a name called “Jesus” and turn out to be a “Lucifer” 😀
After almost 21 years, I discovered that I’ve not only got the perfect name, but also turned out to be what it really means 😀 So I’m proud to be known as Maha and I do not care what the world thinks of it, because God chose the best for me! 😀
I was baptized in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit as Maha Antoinette Jerom!

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 🙂