"It gives me great joy to visit Kerala, the ever green state of the Republic of India, what we fondly call the ‘God’s own country’, a state of which we are proud because of the enduring and enterprising spirit.
It is a unique state in India which has a literacy rate of 94%, the highest in the country, the highest human development index among all the states and the highest life expectancy and the highest sex ratio.
It is a state which has traditionally welcomed all religions over the last twenty centuries and is the land of Adi Shankara, the greatest exponent of Advaita philosophy, the land of Cheraman Juma Masjid at Kodungallur, the very first mosque in India. It is the land of Thomas the Apostle who walked this land in the sixth century AD. It is the land where the Hindu rulers like Sthanu Ravi Varma of Venad gifted a plot of land in the 9th century AD to build a church. It is the land where Judaism, Jainism and Buddhism co-existed over so many centuries. No wonder it is now called “God’s own country” where divinity has been worshipped in multiple forms by different sects exemplifying the ancient Indian vision of welcoming noble ideas and ideals from across the globe.
It is a matter of great pride that we have this illustrious cultural heritage in our country. Ours is a country that has celebrated plurality, diversity and inclusivity. We must collectively strengthen this unique perspective.
Today, we are celebrating the 101st birthday of His Grace Most Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar Thoma Valiya Metropolitan and 60th anniversary of priestly ordination of His Grace Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan.
I am aware that the Mar Thoma Church is an ancient Church founded by Saint Thomas, one of the Apostles of Jesus Christ. It is also a national church with deep roots in the history of Independent India. The Church always stood for freedom and justice. Late Shri T.M. Varghese was among the trio who fought against the British in restoring Travancore State along with late Shri C. Kesavan and late Shri Pattom A. Thanu Pillai. I am also aware that when Emergency was declared, it was the Head of the Church, who wrote to the then Prime Minister protesting against Emergency and seeking its withdrawal. Thus, the Church always stood for freedom and liberty.
I am also happy that this ancient church has gifted to our nation several leaders of eminence and great stature, like Dr. M. M. Thomas former Governor of Nagaland, Justice K. T. Thomas Former Supreme Court Judge, freedom fighter late Shri T M Verghese and my colleague Prof. P. J. Kurien, the Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha.
It gives me immense joy to be with the people of Kerala on this very happy occasion celebrating two important landmarks in the lives of two illustrious sons of our great country - Padmabhushan Dr Philipose Mar Chrysostom Valiya Metropolitan and His Grace The Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan.
I congratulate Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom who has completed 100 years of active service to God and God’s devotees. I applaud his achievements and appreciate his contributions for the well being of the people of our nation.
I am reminded of the prayer in Atharva Veda which says – “Let us live for a hundred years and beyond, with good health, intelligence and everwidening thoughts”. His Grace Philipose Mar Chrystostam Mar Thoma Valiya Metropolitan is truly blessed that he has been given this vast and unique opportunity to serve humanity for so many decades. We are blessed to be in his presence today.
Many of you are well aware that Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrystostam Mar Thoma Valiya Metropolitan has endeared himself to his devotees because he showers his blessings through good humour and pleasant demeanour. Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Valiya Metropolitan, possibly one of the longest living bishops in the world and a devout idealist, believes that the way to the creator is through the creations of God. He has internalised the essence of Christianity and propagated its tenets through his words and action.
When Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Valiya Metropolitan completed 90 years, I am very happy to note that the Mar Thoma Church through the Navathy Project reached out to the people in the margins and more than 2,500 houses were gifted to them. I came to know that Navathy celebration was inaugurated by veteran leader, Shri L K Advaniji and at that time, he had wished Metropolitan a life of more than 100 years and also assured to attend his 100th birthday. I am happy to know that he came and inaugurated the centenary celebrations last year.
I am happy to know that a biographical film has been made on centenarian Metropolitan Emeritus Philipose Mar Chrysostom, Who served as a bishop for nearly 66 years. Helping the needy and poor has been his sole mission and continues to be.
I also congratulate the Metropolitan Dr Joseph Mar Thoma who is celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of his holy Ordination. I am happy that the people have benefited from his visionary leadership and enduring passion for the health and well being of suffering humanity.
I am told that he is also a champion of environmental protection and I understand that through the great Maramon Convention, he is instrumental in taking up a large scale plantation programme.
It is indeed heartening that as part of Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma’s 80th Birthday, the Mar Thoma church has initiated a challenging project called 'Snehakaram' (hand of love) to give help for the people who suffer from life threatening diseases like cancer. Dialysis is being given free of cost to people in need of help and support. With a funding of more than one crore rupees annually, this Project is undoubtedly of great help and succour to people who suffer financial hardship. I am happy that this help is extended to all people, regardless of caste or creed.
I congratulate Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma for his ecclesia and ecumenical leadership in national and international arena.
I wish him many more years of leadership in the paths shown by Dr. Juhanon Mar Thoma and other great leaders of the Mar Thoma Church. My best wishes are with you all for the success of the Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Diamond Jubilee Project also.
My best wishes are with the people of Kerala with its rich cultural heritage and wide range of religious traditions.
As I mentioned earlier, this state is a pace-setter for the nation in many ways.
It is fortunate to have an enlightened leadership for a long period.
The Maharaja of Travancore’s visionary leadership, the reformist zeal of Sri Narayana Guru, the invaluable contribution by the Church leaders like Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar Thoma Valiya Metropolitan and Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan as well as other spiritual and cultural leaders have enriched the cultural capital of India.
We are deeply indebted to these visionary leaders who had an underlying belief that service to humanity leads one towards divinity.
It might be worthwhile to remember what another great exponent of Indian thought, Swami Vivekananda had said in the World Parliament of Religions at Chicago on 27th September 1893:
“The seed is put in the ground, and earth and air and water are placed around it. Does the seed become the earth, or the air, or the water? No. It becomes a plant. It develops after the law of its own growth, assimilates the air, the earth, and the water, converts them into plant substance, and grows into a plant. Similar is the case with religion. The Christian is not to become a Hindu or a Buddhist, nor a Hindu or a Buddhist to become a Christian. But each must assimilate the spirit of the others and yet preserve his individuality and grow according to his own law of growth.”
Mahatma Gandhiji, the father of our nation, also had said:
“The golden rule of conduct ... is mutual toleration, seeing that we will never all think alike and we shall always see Truth in fragment and from different angles of vision. Even amongst the most conscientious persons, there will be room enough for honest differences of opinion. The only possible rule of conduct in any civilised society is, therefore, mutual toleration.”
As we remember these ennobling statements and recognise today the outstanding work done by two of the blessed sons of India, we have a rejuvenated sense of well being.
We feel a new energy pervading in ourselves and the world around us.
A positive energy, a source of harmony, understanding, respect, a perennial fountain head of the timeless values that India has stood for.
It is time to nourish these roots. It is time to re-discover the treasure within.
Churches, Temples, Mosques, Gurudwaras and other religious shrines are places of devotion, pious places of spiritual regeneration and catalysts of intergenerational transmission of cultural values.
They are potentially the sites of social and community education.
So long as they fulfil this role, they serve to bring people together. However, if they stray from this path and dabble in politics and issue unwarranted divisive statements, they become dysfunctional.
I hope these two strands of religion and politics are not mixed up and the religious leaders give spiritual guidance to every human being and the political leaders take inspiration from our noble heritage to provide a clean polity.
Today is an occasion for that process of recognizing goodness, recognising the spirit of creating a heaven on earth through pious thoughts and righteous action.
Once again, thank you all for inviting me to be a part of this event.