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Annual Civic Reception Message -2013

Address of Most Rev. Filipe Neri Ferrão

at the Annual Civic Reception on the occasion of Christmas

(Archbishop’s House, 27.12.2012)

It is with great pleasure that, together with His Grace, Archbishop Raul Gonsalves, my respected Predecessor and other inmates of this Archbishop’s House, I welcome you all to this evening of fellowship in this festive season, a season when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, He who is believed to be the source of all that is good and beautiful by more than two billion of the inhabitants of this world. We believe that the birth of Christ, foretold since times immemorial, came to fulfill the aspirations of humanity and to challenge us to see this earth as good and beautiful and to make it a better place to live on.

It is because of this holy Birth that the Church finds herself engaged in transforming the world and humanity in various and many ways. For the last two years, the Church in Goa has been seriously reflecting on and praying about what she views as the Covenant between Humanity and Creation, as a direct response to the blessing that God gave us when He created the earth and humankind. Our revered Pope Benedict XVI said, in his Peace Day Message for 2010: “Many people experience peace and tranquility, renewal and reinvigoration, when they come into close contact with the beauty and harmony of nature. There is a certain reciprocity: as we care for creation, we realize that God, through creation, cares for us.” (Unquote).

 Unfortunately, this reciprocity was not always observed. It has in fact been continuously marred by neglect – if not downright misuse – of the earth and of the natural goods that God has given humankind. Pope John Paul II, of happy memory, had expressed this concern already in the year 1990, when he wrote in his Peace Day Message for that year (and I quote): “In our day, there is a growing awareness that world peace is threatened not only by the arms race, regional conflicts and continued injustices among peoples and nations, but also by a lack of due respect for nature, by the plundering of natural resources and by a progressive decline in the quality of life.” And he adds: “Faced with the widespread destruction of the environment, people everywhere are coming to understand that we cannot continue to use the goods of the earth as we have in the past. The public in general, and particularly the political leaders, need to be indeed concerned about this serious problem.” (Unquote). 

We in Goa are no strangers to this situation. We have been witnessing widespread ecological degradation of our land, caused, not by the forces of nature, but by the unscrupulous manipulation of a few individuals, for reasons of power and personal gain, leaving the wellbeing of the common man grossly unattended. When such individuals appear to be backed by – or worse still -- to be found among the legislators of the land, the problem attains much greater proportions, thereby bringing in a highly unstable and disreputable political situation in the State. We have all seen the disposition of the people at large, which was reflected in the last electoral verdict. We have now a new Government which has yet to prove itself in its resolve to eradicate corruption and give to the people of Goa a clean and responsible administration. 

Once again from this platform, we would like to assure everyone that, irrespective of the political affiliations of the governments in power at the Centre or at the State level, the Church in Goa is committed to extend her unstinted support and backing to any initiatives taken to sincerely promote the integral development of human persons and communities, of course, within acceptable standards and safeguarding ethical principles.   

May I take this opportunity to highlight a couple of problems that continue to be a cause of grave concern to the people of Goa and, consequently, also to the Local Church? We believe that this will enable you to see a few things from the Church’s point of view.

The first issue is Education.  In the words of the renowned writer,  Shiv  Kera,  Education is the soul of the society.  We call our educational institutions temples of learning.  If so, Education should be pursued and promoted by all the stakeholders with the devotion and the disinterestedness that it deserves.  This soul of our society should be freed from undue political interference and communal bias.  It is a matter of concern that the Church in Goa, being the largest education service provider in the private sector and having a voluminous body of qualified resource personnel, does not receive the desired recognition in this field nor is it given an adequate representation in the decision making echelons. While we acknowledge, with appreciation, that some outstanding issues have been resolved by the present administration, others are waiting to reach their logical conclusion and many more are still to be addressed.  We hope that our educational institutions will have a certain freedom to streamline the excellence in the quality of education that they impart, for which the necessary funds and facilities should be made available, without unnecessary delays, thus ensuring the right direction to integral development and progress in our state.

Another issue that I would like to address is tourism. The World Tourism Organization has promulgated the theme for this year: “Tourism and Sustainable Energy: Powering sustainable development,” with the objective of highlighting the need to improve access to reliable, affordable, economically viable, socially acceptable and environmentally sound resources for sustainable development. We are not in a position to propose concrete technical guidelines here, but we would like to submit that development cannot be reduced to purely economical parameters; we would like to see this development accompanied by ethical guidelines which inspire respect for the dignity of persons and peoples, a development which in this state, for example, would take into consideration the interests and the wellbeing of the local people, particularly those who were adversely affected by the tourism industry and who had to adjust to their new circumstances by setting up small businesses along the coast in order to compensate for their displacement from traditional occupations. To attain such an objective, it would be imperative for the government to take into confidence the very people who are affected by this situation. In fact, our Centre for Responsible Tourism, working under the aegis of Caritas-Goa and the Council for Social Justice and Peace, has been working with such people and with various other stakeholders, for the promotion of ethical and holistic tourism initiatives in the state. 

In this context, we ask: who actually benefits from tourism? Our anxiety stems from the fact that too few of such benefits seem to percolate down to the genuine holders of rights over tourism, that is, the original inhabitants of our coastal areas where the bulk of tourism happens.  Our people seem to be systematically dispossessed by the powerful and the rich, who see their own profits as being of higher value than the people of the land. 

We cannot but express our deep concern about the whole issue of mining in our state. The government has been grappling with this dilemma which has pitted business and environment against each other, leading to a temporary collapse of an entire and important industry. While the Church cannot but condemn any illegalities in mining and the plunder of the land – which stand in direct conflict with what we termed earlier as the covenant between humanity and creation -- her heart reaches out to the many people who have lost their livelihood as a result of the ban on the mining industry. We understand that the government is looking to alleviate the problems of these people by rehabilitating them in other industries. We sincerely hope that they will not have to suffer much longer. We also know that the impasse continues. We pray that a satisfactory solution will be found soon, ideally as the result of a joint and sincere effort of the state government and of all the stakeholders. The current mining crisis is indeed a wake-up call for the government to revisit all its economic policies for their sustainability and adherence to human rights.

Dear friends, these reflections are offered here not in a spirit of confrontation, but because we believe that all of us are involved, in various ways and at different levels, in serving our country and our state in their multi-faceted needs. And we need to deliver the goods as best as possible --- whenever needed, even holding hands with one another.  May the genuine spirit of Christmas enable us all to work together, sincerely and selflessly, to face and to solve the various problems confronting  us in  our  country  and  in our own state, thereby pushing forward the process of genuine human development and promoting a milieu in which every citizen can live in peace and harmony with other fellow-citizens as well as with the environment and in which every religious community can make its unique contribution to build and enhance the secular fabric of our Society.  This is my earnest hope and fervent prayer today, as we renew our commitment to work together in fostering peace and goodwill among all the people of our state.

Thank you and a Happy New Year of 2013 to you all!

 

Golden Verse

1Korintkarank 7:38

Mhonnttôch aplê ankvar hoklê lagim logn zata to borem korta; ani logn zaina to odik borem korta.