February 2013

Editorial

ARE WE A DEMOCRACY?

KURUVILLA CHANDY

The two big agitations of last year were against rampant corruption and the epidemic of rape that has spread all over India. I suggest that corruption and rape happen because we don't practise democracy in our country. Since extortion takes place in a top-down situation, we can see the connection between corruption and a lack of democracy.

Similarly, it is true that most rapes are top-down occurrences (rich men/spoilt brats rape poor women or girls; upper caste men rape lower caste and achoot women-the only time when untouchables become touchable). But it is not because of this top-down state of affairs that we must admit that we are not a democracy.

We are not a democracy because what we have in India is a VIP culture. While in other countries flashing beacon lights and sirens are used only on emergency vehicles (ambulances, police vehicles and fire engines), here petty government officials want the flashing light as a status symbol. The result is that when ambulances and fire engines flash their lights, no one pulls aside to give them way. Another sign of this culture is that almost all parliamentarians and legislators move around with gunmen, even when some are so unknown that there is no threat to their lives. As a result, many of our police are on VIP duty and they are therefore not there when it comes to safeguarding the public areas where the ordinary people are.

In such a culture the law is not applied equally. The rich and powerful are able to buy off investigative officers (the police, medical examiners) and hire lawyers (and, sometimes judges) to delay justice for so long that justice will never be done.

How then should officials function in a democracy? Jesus taught His disciples that they had only one Master and that all of them were brothers (Matt.23:8). The Church started as a people's movement. It had no priestly class at first. There was no hierarchy then. Jesus said that the Church's leaders had to be servants because He Himself had come, not to be served, but to serve (20:25-28). That is why the Church chose the word 'minister' to describe anyone who is a spiritual leader because it is rooted in the concept of being a servant. When you 'minister' (verb) to someone, you serve them.

This is the word that the political world has taken and drained it of any notion of being a servant. The word has been turned upside down. When people become ministers, they think that they are on top of people. They are 'VIPs' and they treat people like dirt.

The first time the Early Church took an action in unity was when one segment of people complained that people with domiciliary identity were treating them like second class citizens (Acts 6:1). The apostolic leaders didn't ignore the problem. They gathered the whole community (v.2), but didn't waste any time investigating the accusation. It was something that could be presumed based on humans being clannish in outlook and behaviour. They didn't side with their own kind. They ensured that the disadvantaged would be represented by their own people (v.4). They took steps to ensure equality. Their decision was accepted by the whole community (v.5).

The next time the Early Church acted in unity was when one group tried to impose on others a practice of theirs (Acts 15:1-5). If it had been enforced then they would have been able to claim superiority and advantage, as the first practitioners. Both sides of the argument were duly heard (v.6). At this meeting, the first presiding officer stepped down because he was one of those who had to give testimony in the matter (vv.7-11). An absolute newcomer presided, summarised the proceedings (vv.13-18) and gave a ruling (vv.19-21), which everyone concurred with (v.22).

Years later this leader, who hadn't clung to office, counselled that if anyone had leadership responsibility, then they must not lord it over others in their charge, but lead by example (1 Pet.5:3).

India must lose its VIP culture. When that happens, law enforcement and delivering justice will follow. And, people will not be exploited, abused and raped.

Editorial: ARE WE A DEMOCRACY? - KURUVILLA CHANDY

GLORIFYING GOD - P. Samuel Manoharam

ENTITLEMENT, ENTERTAINMENT AND ENJOYMENT - J. N. Manokaran

FAITH, LOVE AND HOPE - Vivek Salins

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE! - Suresh Manoharan

LEADERSHIP LESSON FROM THE BOOK OF JOSHUA - Vijay Thangiah

ARE WE ON THE SAME BUS? - Jamila Koshy

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