Today, we have gathered here to felicitate His Grace Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar Thoma Valiya Metropolitan on a very special occasion.
When Shri PJ Kurein came to me, with the invitation for this programme, I immediately gave my consent, without wasting a minute.
I wanted to be a part of this felicitation ceremony and I am thankful to him for giving me this opportunity to honour Mar Chrysostom, the great man who has lived his life by example.
The life and work of Mar Thoma Valiya is an inspiration not only to the people of Kerala or to the Christian community, but to the entire nation.
His life is a shining example of how God can be worshipped through selfless service for the society and the humanity.
I am delighted to join the centenary celebrations of Mar Chrysostom here in Thiruvananthapuram.
May the Almighty continue to shower blessings of long life and good health on the Emeritus Metropolitan for many more years to come.
As per the Indian traditions we always say “Jeevem Shardah Shatah “which means live for hundred years.
But in Mar Chrysostom case this prayer is not going to work as he has already completed his hundred years.
Not many people know that the ‘Dignified Life’ of a human being in ‘Kalyuga’ is nearly 125 years. Therefore, I wish him to live at least another 25 years, after these centenary celebrations.
Very few among us are granted the boon of attaining such longevity; and attaining that age is indeed a landmark which all of us ought to celebrate.
But, in the case of Mar Chrysostom , it is not only the mere passage of time but the contributions that he has made to the society as a whole that make us doubly rejoice during these celebrations.
Mar Chrysostom has endeared himself to all sections of Kerala Society through his inspiring words and works.
His drawing room is a meeting ground of persons of diverse faiths and beliefs; and he himself is welcomed at every gathering and his presence is valued.
The basic quality of Mar Chrysostom Metropolitan is his attitude of universal goodwill and his concern for the development and wellbeing of the entire community of citizens, transcending any narrow sectarian consideration.
Considering his valuable contributions to Indian society for well over six decades, the Government of India has conferred Mar Chrysostom by awarding the ‘Padma Bhushan’ this year.
By felicitating him with ‘Padma Bhushan’ the Government has not only shown respect towards him but also recognised his tremendous contribution.
While remaining true to his own Faith Mar Chrysostom has been able to raise himself above all sectarian considerations and divisions.
He has motivated all sections of our society to love each other for the common good.
Mar Chrysostom is a man of prayer and he also works as a social reformer. His contribution towards the empowerment of weaker sections of our society is also noteworthy.
He has dedicated his life to God through service of fellow human beings.
Our ancient Indian thought has always believed in: “आत्मानो मोक्षार्थम् जगत हितायाचा” which means that the only way to Moksha/Salvation is through the welfare of the world. Mar Chrysostom is a living example of this great Indian thought.
He has been an outstanding personality combining exceptional intellectual brilliance with an all consuming love for fellow human beings, irrespective of caste, sect or religion. In short, I must say he is a Prelate without a parallel.
Consecrated in 1953, he has been a Bishop for more than Six Decades and that makes him one of the longest serving bishops in the history of Christianity. He represents the Kerala Syrian Christian tradition which is as old as the Christianity itself.
The history of Christianity in India goes back to 52 AD, when St Thomas visited Kerala.
We are proud that Kerala houses one of the oldest church in the history of mankind.
India is the land where religious freedom has been exercised for centuries.
What we understand as Indian culture today is nothing but a long standing tradition of religious freedom, compassion and tolerance.
Our culture is deeply rooted in Spirituality. We have always believed in ‘Ekam Sad Viprah Bahudha Vadanti’ which means that one truth is expressed in multiple and different ways.
India’s culture seeks the happiness for every living organism. The philosophy of सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिन: सर्वे सन्तु निरामया, सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु मा कश्चिद दुख भाग्भवेत expresses this idea which means, “All must be happy, all must be healthy, see good and no one have a share in sorrow.”
We also believe firmly in the idea of ‘Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam’ which means the whole world is a family.
Men and women of great learning and wisdom had intellectual and spiritual exchanges with the scholars from other societies, countries and cultures, thousands of years back.
We have always been open to new ideas. This has been explicitly manifested in our Vedas. The Rig Veda says: आनो भद्राः क्रतवो यन्तु विश्वतः, which means, Let the noble thoughts come to us from all sides.
Our long standing convention for openness to new ideas, tolerance towards other faiths and giving them respect is as old as Indian civilisation itself.
As Swami Vivekananda said: We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true.
Swami Vivekananda continues to be our guiding force and what he had said almost a hundred years ago holds good even today.
It holds true not only in the cultural sense but also makes a political sense in this nation.
I have no hesitation in accepting the fact that almost every government in this country have been tolerant towards all religion and faith.
This principle of equality and tolerance for all faiths has been a part of India`s character and sensibilities for thousands of years.
This spirit of tolerance has been also enshrined in the Constitution of India.
Our entire system is guided by the Constitution, which has roots in the ancient cultural traditions of our country.
It brings our attention closer to an issue which is extremely essential for maintaining peace and harmony in the modern day society.
The world today is increasingly witnessing violence, division and hostility in the name of religion.
It is a cause of grave concern for us. I firmly believe that the ancient Indian thought of respect and acceptance for all faiths is the only way to ensure peace and harmony in the age of growing religious clashes and conflict.
Ten years ago an interfaith conference on `Faith in Human Rights` was held at the Hague.
Religious leaders representing every major religion of the world including Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and many others, had extensive deliberations at this Hague conference.
They later pledged to uphold the Universal Declaration of freedom of religion or belief.
In that historic declaration, it was defined what constituted freedom of faith and how it was to be nurtured and cherished in our civil societies.
Keeping the true spirit of that Universal Declaration on Religious Freedom on my mind, I appeal to all religious sects or societies to act with restraint and respect towards every one.
Our Indian tradition takes pride in giving freedom to have, to retain, and to adopt, a religion or belief.
Religion is a personal choice and it should always remain free from any coercion or allurement.
Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi runs a government at the Centre which firmly believes in taking every section of our society along and build a New India.
The goal is – सबका साथ, सबका विकास which means Development with unity.
The dream of making our nation great again can be realised only when we the people of India stand united.
United We Stand. Divided We Fall.
India has been united not because one religion or some theological thought held the political power or exercised control over the system.
Our great nation is united because it provides space to peaceful coexistence of multiple thoughts and theologies.
The problems faced by this country had always been addressed through a unique interplay of ideas.
And the biggest living proof of this interplay of ideas is our Constitution.
We all swear by the Constitution. We have taken a pledge to defend the Constitution.
Therefore, we must maintain the ‘Sarva Dharma Sambhav’ in this country and continue cementing the pillars of United India.
Unity is our strength and we all must work to strengthen the bonds of unity, amity and harmony in our society.
This should be our resolve today when we are celebrating the birth centenary of Mar Chrysostom.
I am grateful to Shri Kurien that he invited me to attend this programme.
In the end I must add, May God give more power to people like Mar Chrysostom who have dedicated themselves to serve the society and this great nation.