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Newsletter. Issue 17. August 14 , 2010



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The statements, opinions, or views in the articles may not necessarily reflect that of the Goan Voice Canada.


Strengthening the Goan Community
Published on: July 31, 2010 - 22:51 | By Tomazinho Cardozo

In the past, Goans used to live as a community wherever they settled, in Goa as well as in other parts of the world. However, today, the concept of the word ‘community’ has changed. Today, more than ‘Goan community’ we prefer to call ourselves ‘Goan Hindu community’ or ‘Goan Christian Community’ or ‘Goan Muslim community’.

The segregation of the Goan community does not stop here. We are proud to be called the Saraswat community, the Bhandari community, the Kharvi community, etc, and by doing so we are strengthening the divisive walls between us.

A community is a human group living in a definite locality characterized by one common life. Community sentiment is the feeling of unity among its members. Community sentiment arises naturally among people who spend a common life, live together, speak a common language, accept the same customs and traditions and share a common goal and interest. Its intensity differs in different communities, and among different members of the same community.

In a rural community, villagers help each other in various ways. They participate in all important occasions. They are present at marriages, deaths and births. They celebrate festivals together and jointly face calamities that descend upon the village. Thus a sense of brotherhood is generated among the villagers. They tend to identify with each other’s joys and sorrow. This attitude is community sentiment. Due to this people sacrifice their own little interests for the interests of the community and begin to look upon the good of the community as their own good.

The most important element in community sentiment is the ‘we feeling’. As a result, an individual, instead of regarding himself as separate from others, identifies himself with the people of the community. The people look upon the pain or pleasure of community members as their own. The fundamental cause for this feeling is a similarity of interests.

‘Role feeling’ is another factor that strengthens community sentiments. In the community, every individual has a definite role to play as per his/her status. They make contribution towards the working of the community in accordance with this status. The community sentiment inevitably induces this desire for contribution because this is a part of the community sentiment. As a result, an individual looks upon himself as a specific part of society and shoulders responsibility in accordance with his status.

The third element of the community sentiment is the sense of dependence. An individual believes he is dependent on community and denies his existence apart from community. It is the sense of dependence that stops him from objecting to any designs the society has on him, and he always tries to work in its favour.

There is no doubt that community sentiments are great forces, which can be positively used for the betterment of the whole Goan community provided we inculcate ‘Goan community’ sentiments within us. Unfortunately, our vision has narrowed to such an extent that we are unable to recognise what exists beyond the boundaries of our religion, and caste. It is for this reason that today’s politics is also based on the influence of these small communities.

A political party will nominate a Hindu candidate to contest an election in a constituency that has a majority of Hindu community. In the same manner, constituencies having more Christian voters will have Christian candidates. If members belonging to Bhandari community are influential in a constituency, a political party gives preference to a candidate belonging to Bhandari community to contest the election from there. The same thing happens when the Kharvi community or other communities have significant influence in a particular constituency. The elected members, in the capacity of MLAs and ministers, then set themselves in motion. They go all out to support the welfare of their respective communities. The Goan community as a whole does not figure anywhere in their agenda. This attitude of our political leaders is disastrous in nature and instead of uniting all Goans under one umbrella they promote disintegration.

It is high time we worked selflessly towards building a strong Goan community instead of wasting our precious efforts in promoting communities based on religion and caste. True, living within the walls of small communities benefits the political future of certain individuals, but it will definitely ruin Goa. Our political leadership must realise that all sections of the Goan society progress as the ‘Goan community’ and not as communities based on religion and caste. Such an attitude will also help Goans to be a part and parcel of the Indian community, which believes in unity in diversity. This mindset needs to be changed and this process should begin with the political, social, religious and other leaders of society.


In Defence of Jose Pereira and the Hindu Faith
Published on: August 8, 2010 - 02:42  | By Suresh Gundu Amonkar

Some commentators justifiably assert that some self-appointed defenders of the Hindu faith have voluntarily assigned to themselves the position of official spokespersons of Hindu religion. Swami Vivekananda says:

“The word Hindu, by which it is the fashion now-a-days to style ourselves, has lost all its meaning, for this word merely meant those who lived on the other side of the river Indus (Sindhu). The word was murdered into Hindu by ancient Persians, and all people living on the other side were called by them, Hindus. And during the Mohammedan rule we took up the word ourselves” (cf ‘Essentials of Hinduisim’ pp5).” In reality Hinduism is a system which comprises within its fold an infinite variety of thoughts. Vivekananda preferred to call Hindus the Vaidiks, followers of the Vedas, or better still, the Vendantists, followers of the Vedanta. Hinduism with its vide variety of sects is basically a view of life and a way of living which has evolved over four millennia, trying to successfully meet the various challenges it has faced from invaders, intolerant and fanatical adherents of proselytising creeds, etc. The vitality of “Hinduism” lies in its ability to allow diverse interpretations of man’s relationship with his creator or Parameshwar or Almighty God or the Infinite or the Supreme Being. One can continue to be a good Hindu as an atheist or an agnostic or one who does not follow any ritualistic way of worship (Karmakand).

Lord Buddha was the first and the greatest reformer of Hindu way of life who stressed the need for ethical and moral living and emphasised “Panchsheel” – five principles of Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (Truth), Astheya (non-stealing), Bramhacharya (celibacy for monks and nuns and non-adulterous way of life for married people) and Aparigraha (non possession of excess wealth). He has much to guide us in the present social trend of consumerist culture. The crafty priestly class manoeuvred to ex-communicate him from the Hindu fold and later common Hindus elevated him as the ninth avatar or ninth reincarnation of Lord Vishnu. We are fortunate to have a series of great religious and social reformers since Buddha like Saints Tiruvalluvar, Dnyaneshwar, Namdev, Tukaram, Ramdas, Narsi Mehta, Basaveshwar, and leaders like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Gandhiji and many others, who have always given a new direction to Hindus through their personal life, actions and examples.

All Hindus accept the basic principle that there are many paths to reach the Supreme Being and achieve one’s Salvation or Nirvana or Moksha or Liberation or Redemption. In the whole System of Hindu Philosophical texts there is no expression which says that the Hindu alone will be saved and not others. Says Vyasa: “We find perfect men even beyond the pale of our caste and creed. One prayer I learnt as a child elucidates the thought simply and succinctly: “Just as the waters of the rain falling from the sky ultimately reaches the sea (through thousands of rivers) the namaskar (devotional prayer) to all Gods finally reaches the Supreme Being.” So Hindus have accepted willingly thousands of manifestations of the Divine Principle both Nirguna (Formless) and Saguna (with form). Hindus do not need any self-appointed directors to tell their co-religionists how they should pray or think and express themselves on every single issue that concerns them in life and in any artistic, literary and cultural activity. The guiding thought for Hindus has always been to let a thousand flowers bloom. Thank heavens Hindus do not have a “Supreme Religious High Command or a Politburo” to issue periodic diktats or orders to control their minds lest they be damned eternally. If it had the powers we would have seen expulsions or excommunication orders galore and books, films or works of art would have been proscribed by such a High Command.

During the Middle Ages Europe suffered a set back because great scientists, writers and translators of the Bible were burnt at the stake. Our neighbours in Pakistan are suffering as a result of “Talibanisation” of their politics. India too suffered after the Partition when Gandhiji was put to eternal rest by a misguided man’s bullets. But truth can never be muzzled and today Gandhiji’s thoughts continue to inspire people in all the countries of the world from Japan to Chile without any organisation or multi-national corporation to propagate his ideas of truth, non violence, simple living and eco-friendly programmes for reconstructing the world.

Dr Jose Pereira who is a great Indian, Indologist, Sanskrit Scholar, a linguist who speaks and/or reads fifteen classical and modern languages, is a savant par excellence. He is Professor Emeritus at Fordham University (New York) USA. He teaches Sanskrit and lectures on theology of religions - especially Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. He is a lover of Konkani and speaks with pride and authority in Konkani on Konkani literature and folk art. He has written numerous books on temple and church architecture. He is also an accomplished artist and Goa is fortunate to have his fresco paintings in a chapel in Margao. In publishing ‘Hindu Theology: A Reader’, he has undertaken a task of major theological proportions - a single volume devoted to great schools and archetypes of Hindu theology (covering the six Darshanas – Sankhya, Yoga, Mimamsa, Vaisesika, Nyaya, Vedanta, six Advaita Schools and Dvaita Vedanta, Sonic Absolutism, Puratana Vedanta, Visistadvaita (qualified Non Dualism), Suddhadvaita (Pure non dualism) to Saivadvaita, Vira Saivadarshana and finally Shakta Darshan). A reading of his book reveals his deep and extensive knowledge of Indian thinkers and theologians. He has rendered them from the original Sanskrit texts into lucid and readable English and it offers fresh insights into the impact of non-western thought and philosophy on the Western world. “Knowledge of Hindu Theology”, Dr Pereira thinks, “is particularly relevant to the theology of our times, for the Indic works contain so many of the ideas that modern Western theologians seem to believe are their discoveries.”

Dr Pereira, who is himself a devout Catholic, has in the Indian tradition continued his love of and tolerance for all theological thought. He is truly a “Renaissance” personality. Both as a Goan and an Indian I really feel proud of his scholarship and knowledge and his sustained work as India’s cultural ambassador abroad. I hope he will continue to inspire us and wish him a long and productive life.

The Hindu society is an evolving society, not a static and stagnant one and therefore despite numerous set backs and impediments, has survived onslaughts by invaders or encounters with diverse thoughts and cultures. The great Indian scholar and reformer Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar, who wrote the Constitution of India with inputs from all his “Argumentative Indian Colleagues”, should now be adopted as a scripture by all Indian citizens to ultimately evolve themselves into a caste-free egalitarian society, with empowered women in a social structure sans vestiges of bigotry and intolerance, illiteracy, female infanticide, child-marriages, untouchability, grinding poverty, superstitious beliefs and corrupt politicians and their sycophantic henchmen as all these factors impede progress.

I recommend to all the champions and defenders of Hindu faith to launch a project of self-education - “Discovery of India” a la Nehru which should include reading of great scriptures – Dhammapada, Geeta, Guru Granth Sahib, Kural, the Four Gospels, works of all Indian Saint Poets as also the reading of Kalidasa’s ‘Kumarsambhava’ (after which they will never be scandalised) and a visit to the Khajuraho temples, viewing of Rajasthani miniature paintings after which no “defender of Hindu faith” will ever think of threatening a Hussain or a Pereira.

A religion, to satisfy the largest proportion of mankind, must be able to supply food for all types of minds; and where this capability is lacking, the existing sects all become one sided.

I conclude this article with a message from Swami Vivekananda, who is adored and oft-quoted by Hindus holding diverse opinions. Talking of Yoga – Raja Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Karma Yoga – which are different paths to achieve peace of mind and Liberation he says: “First we must hear about them (Yogas), and then we have to think about them. We have to reason the thoughts out, impress them on our minds and we have to meditate on them, realise them until at last, they become our whole life. No longer will religion remain a bundle of ideas or theories, nor an intellectual assent, it will enter into our very self. By means of intellectual assent, we may today subscribe to many foolish things, and change our minds altogether tomorrow. But true religion never changes. Religion is Realisation: not talk, not doctrine, nor theories, however beautiful they may be. It is being and becoming, not hearing and acknowledging; it is the whole soul becoming changed into what it believes. That is religion”. (cf ‘Essentials of Hinduism pp73’).

(Suresh Amonkar is noted Goan educationist, translator of many religious scriptures and a Padmashree awardee)


Cardinal attacks US over Lockerbie bomber reaction
8 August 2010 Last updated at 05:44 ET

Cardinal Keith O'Brien said the Scottish government had done nothing wrong

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland has attacked the US over the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien said the Scottish government was right to free Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi last year on compassionate grounds. US lawmakers want Scots politicians to explain their decision to a committee but the cardinal said ministers should not go "crawling like lapdogs". He said Scotland had a culture of care, while the US was fixed on vengeance.

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill released Megrahi, who has prostate cancer, after being told that three months was a "reasonable estimate" of his life expectancy.
'Invidious company'

However, he is still alive after almost a year and the decision continues to provoke anger in the United States, which was home to 189 of the 270 people killed on board Pan Am flight 103 in 1988.

In an interview with BBC Scotland, Cardinal O'Brien said Americans were too focused on retribution.

"In many states - more than half - they kill the perpetrators of horrible crimes, by lethal injection or even firing squad - I say that is a culture of vengeance," he said.

"An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth - that is not our culture in Scotland and I would like to think that the US government, and these states that do still have capital punishment, would learn something from us." Megrahi shortly after release Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was released last August The cardinal said Americans should "direct their gaze inwards" rather than scrutinise how the Scottish justice system worked.

He said the use of the death penalty meant the US kept "invidious company" with countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran. "In some states it's month by month now that they are killing people who have a right to live, whatever they've done wrong," he said. He also backed the Scottish government's decision not to give evidence to American senators investigating Megrahi's release.

"The Scottish government has made the decision and the Scottish government is answerable to the Scottish people - not the US government or US citizens.

"Everyone acted according to Scots law in releasing Megrahi on compassionate grounds, having taken medical advice.

"I still think they did the right thing, although the man is still alive.

"We shouldn't be crawling out to America, or having them come here and questioning us on our own territory."

Reacting to the cardinal's comments, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the BBC that the Scottish government's position remained that it had nothing to hide.

She said: "Al-Megrahi's release was a release on compassionate grounds, Kenny MacAskill has already made that clear and we've made that clear to the United States Senate."


South Asian population has outnumbered all ethnic minorities in Canada
Two sides to the coin

Thursday June 5 2008

Official figures indicate the South Asian population has outnumbered all ethnic minorities in Canada - and the numbers continue to grow. Going forward, these numbers are bound to accelerate, as the South Asian region will remain Canada’s primary source for new immigrants.

Given Canada’s steadily declining birth rate, it has often been pointed out that from 2012, immigration will account for all net growth in our labour market. But more interestingly, it will be the Subcontinent that will primarily supply the flow of newcomers to Canada. And here, India will be Canada’s biggest source market, Pakistan the third biggest, and Sri Lanka the fifth biggest. Even as things stand at present, there are close to a million Canadians of Indian origin.

While there is doubtless strength in numbers - and possibly a comfort level afforded - the community must also consider the responsibilities such numbers cast upon our society as a whole.

Even as we are all in awe of how large our ‘desi’ populations has grown, it may be fitting to take a moment to reflect on what this means in terms of the social issues that are relevant not only to newcomers but to our community, as social service organizations are now beginning to point out. This includes getting jobs commensurate with qualifications, focusing on health and well being, and promoting a greater quality of life for newcomers.

We couldn’t agree more.

Further, the expansion of a community also means a rise in the number of individuals accessing social services, and a concurrent rise in the demand for volunteers, and for financial support.

We need to be alive to these challenges. Yes, there might be a certain comfort level in the numbers - but there is also a responsibility attached that we will have to start addressing today, in order to face our tomorrows.

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