By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*
Light a lamp for COURAGE – to illumine the darkness which has engulfed many everywhere! Diwali, the Festival of Lights is a reminder that each one of us is called to be a light in our world today; a light that is visible, enkindling other lights with hope and in doing so, dispelling the fears and hopelessness that have gripped the lives of many!
Light a lamp for JUSTICE – which we desperately need in our country today! A justice which is objective and impartial; which is not of fear nor seeks any favour; which does not kowtow to the rich, the powerful, the influential or to the ruling regime! A justice which hears the cry of the poor, the Adivasis, the Dalits and the sub-alterns of our society.
Light a lamp for LIBERTY – that India awakes to that “heaven of freedom”, which Rabindranath Tagore prayed for. When every single citizen has the freedom of speech and expression and is not slapped with archaic laws of sedition and contempt of court; where freedom of religion and belief is not some theory but a reality in practice.
Light a lamp for TRUTH – which should be an indispensable dimension of our daily lives. Sadly, the beautiful prayer from the Upanishads, “from untruth lead me to truth”, has been destroyed beyond recognition by ‘fekuisms’, lies and half-truths. We no longer seem to align our lives with Gandhi’s ‘satyagraha’ or with ‘Satyameva Jayate’
Light a lamp for JOY – of childhood, of innocence, of spontaneity. Today as we celebrate ‘Children’s Day’ in India, we remember the millions of children who have been robbed of their childhood – forced into child labour and other abuses. We joyously also remember our visionary former Prime Minister Nehru and his genuine love for children.
Light a lamp for FRATERNITY – as Pope Francis reminds us in ‘Fratelli Tutti’ – “I have felt particularly encouraged by the Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, with whom I met in Abu Dhabi, where we declared that, “God has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity, and has called them to live together as brothers and sisters”.
Light a lamp for SENSITIVITY – which a Mother so beautifully epitomizes through her love, her care, her sacrifices, the nurturing to help her children grow. I remember my own mother Cynthia (who meant the world to us) who left for her heavenly abode on this day ten years ago. We yearn for the sensitivity of a Mother – the feminine face of God.
Light a lamp for INCLUSION – in a society which is becoming more divisive and polarized. We see this happening all the time: to migrants, to refugees, those not ‘like’ us. The late and beloved Fr Pedro Arrupe founded the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) on this day (his birth anniversary), so that we truly accompany the ‘nowhere’ people of today.
Light a lamp for HUMAN RIGHTS – for all those who have risked their lives to defend the rights of others. Fr Stan Swamy and fifteen others in the Bhima-Koregaon case are illegally imprisoned under the draconian UAPA. They have stood up courageously for the rights of the Adivasis, the Dalits, the poor and other vulnerable in society.
Light a lamp for RESTORATION – for the ability and creativity we need to make all things new. Today, we celebrate the Feast of St Joseph Pignatelli – a great Jesuit who is regarded as the restorer of the Society of Jesus. The Jesuits were suppressed from 1773 to 1814 (41 years) in many countries, mainly for not toeing the line of the ‘establishment’!
Light a lamp for PEACE – for all people everywhere; a peace which is respectful, wherein all are treated equally. Where a young woman feels safe and secure; where the elderly are assured of a helping hand; where people can celebrate each other’s festivals; where two lovers can marry irrespective of their different faiths. Where peace is love!
Light a lamp for CHANGE – which this red-letter day, 14 November 2020, signifies and actually mandates in so many different ways! A call for courage, for justice, for liberty, for truth, for joy, for fraternity, for sensitivity, for inclusion, for restoration, for human rights, for peace, for love and above all, for renewal and for CHANGE
Light a Lamp – today, tonight, tomorrow and everyday, till we realise the above; and after that, continue to keep the fire burning!!!
*Human rights and peace activist/writer