THE SPIRIT OF GLADYS STAINES
By Swami Agnivesh
massacre of Dr Graham Staines and his two little sons in Manoharpur
has justly pricked the conscience of the nation. Very few events
in recent history have evoked such strong, spontaneous and universal
indignation as this inhuman deed has. The reason for this lies
mainly in the way Mrs Staines and her daughter have coped with
this unspeakable tragedy. It is important that this inspiring
aspect of what is otherwise a gloomy event should not be lost
long time after the sensational elements in this event subside,
we shall continue to be challenged by Mrs Gladys Staines' spiritual
stature as revealed through her response. Though wounded in her
soul by the barbarity inflicted on her dear husband and darling
children, she refused to allow her mind to be tainted by hate.
She was quick to forgive her husband's killers. Her prayer
was that the love of God that inspired her husband may touch their
hearts also. She had the spiritual magnanimity to recognise that
those who become mad with hate are also children of God, and that
they too deserve forgiveness. Her 13-year old daughter, Esther,
thanked God for her father's love for the people he treated --
people afflicted with leprosy -- and for finding him worthy to
die for Christ. Can responses such as these fail to melt even
the most hardened hearts?
speaks volumes of the greatness of Gladys that, even after such
a terrible trauma, she is keen to stay on and continue the work
of her husband, rather than return to the safety and comfort of
life in Australia. It is a mark of the Staines family's total
identification with the local people that they could speak Santhali.
What a refreshing contrast to the ways of our elite who are eager
to leave this country for greener pastures and who stash away
their wealth in foreign banks. Unlike the Staines family, they
disdain to speak local languages. And it is anybody's guess
if they would allow their children to play with the children of
it is not surprising that people all over the country, cutting
across barriers, recognised this as the finest moment of true
spirituality. To the Staines family, this spirituality was
exemplified in the life and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. But
to others, the same spirit is integral to the spiritual core of
their own religious traditions. As an Arya Samajist, I am inspired
by the glorious examples of Swami Dayanand Saraswati.
by the Hindu upper caste, a cook poisoned Swamiji's food, after
various attempts on his life had failed. When Swamiji realised
that he was going to die, he called for the cook who was the caste
conspirators' hate-agent. When the misguided man confessed his
part in the plot, Swamiji in his great magnanimity not only forgave
him, but also gave him the money he needed to escape to Nepal
so that his life could be spared. A killer is one who does
not care for the life of others. The saint, in contrast, values
the life of others, even of his own would-be assassins, more than
his own. That is why our world, including its killers, needs saints.
It was such a confluence of compassion that Manoharpur witnessed.
The uncompromising commitment to love and service, even at
the cost of one's own life, is the true essence of spirituality.
In comparison, the courage to kill, hurt and destroy is cheap;
an embarrassment to the religion for whose sake it is apparently
practised. It is an insult to all that we love and cherish in
The ascendancy of hate and the corresponding atrophy of compassion
betray the weakness rather than strength of a religion. The
killers of Swami Dayanand were caste Hindus, not Muslims or Christians,
even though Swamiji was as outspoken about their religions as
he was of the aberrations within the Hindu fold. Bapuji too was
consumed by the fire of high caste hate. What a pity that
we fight missionaries and put up with armies of caste atrocities
like the Ranvir Sena, despite repeated massacres amounting to
Essence of Faith
is through people like Mrs Staines that a religion finds its true
expression. Those of us who love and respect our religions will
not fail to derive inspiration from this challenging example.
But that is not enough. We also need to exert moral pressure on
the stockists and retailers of our religions. This country is
sick and tired of the violence, injustice, oppression and fraud
practised in the name of religion. No religious establishment
in the Indian context is blameless in this respect.
From a national perspective, the most immediate and important
need is not to convert people from one religion to another, but
to challenge all religious communities to be true to the essence
of their faiths. Reforming and transforming one's faith, rather
than converting people of other faiths, is the need of the hour.
The spiritual destiny of India will be fulfilled only when we
realise that God is not an idol of our vested interests, but a
cry of truth and justice breaking out of a heart of sacrificial