FROM MANOHARPUR TO NARAYANPUR
senseless killing of Graham Staines and his two little sons
indicates the extent to which forces of aggression have invaded
the sphere of religion. Well-meaning people all over the country
are deeply disturbed by this blatant abuse of religion for political
in various parts of our country, especially in Bihar, continue
to be victims of chronic atrocities. In the last one year alone
nearly 100 dalits have been massacred in Jehanabad district
of Bihar. In the final analysis, the murder of the missionary
and the massacre of the dalits belong together as symptoms of
the same disease. Both point to the injustice and aggression
to which the poor and the dalits are vulnerable.
It is against this background that "Religions for Social
Justice" undertakes this pilgrimage to the site of the missionary's
killing. By connecting Manoharpur with Narayanpur we seek to
focus people's attention on the epidemic of injustice that currently
afflicts many parts of our country.
This initiative has two goals. First, to create a visible
symbol through which nation-wide indignation at atrocities on
innocent people can be embodied and expressed. This is important
because the absence of expressed protest is often mistaken for
tacit approval. This pilgrimage is envisaged as a symbol of
the common man's rejections of injustice and aggression. It
is also an affirmation of sanctity of life, and every human
being's rights to life, which we hold to be inviolable.
there is a need to uphold and affirm the two profound values
involved in the Staines episode. The sacrificial service
that Graham Staines had been rendering to the victims of leprosy
in Baripada and his total identification with this neglected
section of our society, deserve to be appreciated and applauded.
This spirit of selfless service is of the essence of applied
spirituality that transcends all religious differences. Secondly,
in the extra-ordinarily noble response of Mrs. Gladys Staines
to her painful personal tragedy, we catch a magnificent glow
of true spirituality. She was quick to forgive the assassins.
And she has dedicated her life to the continuation of her husband's
work among lepers. This, rather than the aggressive game plans
unleashed from time to time, is what is in harmony with the
ethos and spirituality of India.
recent times, developments pertaining to religions have left
the common man confused about what true religion is. If the
present trend continues, people will come to associate religion
only with fraud and aggression. All religions stand in danger
of being discredited. This will be a terrible disaster for all
of us. It is important, therefore, that we rise above religious
differences in order to affirm what is spiritually valid, and
denounce what is perverse and unjust in the sphere of religion.
"Religion for Social Justice" as a multi-religious movement
is committed to this goal. Hence the present initiative.
We are concerned that the people of India are being increasingly
marginalised, and vested interests are hijacking religions.
The common man feels irrelevant and helpless. This must change.
Building a healthy society needs to be seen as a shared responsibility
of people of all responsible and well-meaning people. It
is suicidal to leave this in the hands of outfits that are out
to destroy everything in the pursuit of their selfish goals.
This pilgrimage therefore also aims at raising people's awareness
of their role in building a just society and a healthy nation.
From this prospective, this is not only a pilgrimage to Manoharpur
but also a pilgrimage to the India of our dreams.
key to effectiveness is people's unity based shared spirituality
and commitment. The forces of evil are united and highly motivated.
People of goodwill, in contrast, remain scattered and passive,
for all their good intentions. This leaves the field entirely
to subversive elements. It is a dangerous situation. We cannot
afford to be passive and apathetic to the forces of injustice,
no matter who they are. The mark of a healthy society is
that people as a whole unite to defend what is right and noble
from the aggression of evil forces. Every citizen, not less
than the government, is under the duty to practice and defend
justice. Nothing encourages the forces of evil as much as people's
indifference. There is a great need to change from apathy to
concerted action in the defense of truth, justice and righteousness.
goal of this pilgrimage would be fulfilled if this serves to
inspire people of India to form multi-religious initiatives
for social transformation and nation building. True religious
commitment must express itself in the struggle against every
form of oppression, exploitation and injustice, and in celebrating
the heroism of doing good rather than the cheap thrill of practising
violence. As a people, we need to create and maintain peace
and discourage the forces of unrest. This can only be achieved
through sustained people's initiatives. This pilgrimage is best
seen as an appeal to the common man to wake up and become the
watchdog of truth and justice in the given context.
Religions for Social Justice
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
Rev. Valson Thampu
Dr. Mahinder Singh
Dr. A. K. Merchant