When I first heard about your imminent transfer and that you will no longer be the Editor of Indian Currents, my immediate and spontaneous reaction was “Oh! how sad!” These are (particularly the next six months) are crucial times for the country; with you continuing to be at the helm of Indian Currents would certainly help in ensuring that the content, context and challenges which you brought to your readers would not come to a grinding halt. This sentiment has been voiced by several, particularly by the laity, these past weeks.
Several of the laity are unable to understand, appreciate the ‘vow of obedience’ in the life of a religious. This is to be expected! Nevertheless, dear Suresh, by so cheerfully accepting the change and making yourself readily available for a different mission speaks volumes of the wonderful Franciscan you are! You put it meaningfully and poignantly in a letter to some, “As per the statutes of the Krist Jyoti Province of the Capuchins, to which I belong, a member can be in the same place and the same position only for three terms, i.e. nine years. I have now completed a bit more than nine years.” Yes indeed, it is time to move on!
Now is also the moment to say “a big thank you” to you dear Suresh! But where do I begin?
You took over the reins of Indian Currents at a watershed time for both the Church and the Country. It was the golden anniversary of ‘Inter Mirifica’, the path breaking Vatican II Decree on the means of Social Communications on 4 December 2013. It was the first months of the pontificate of Pope Francis and that year on 21 September whilst addressing the Pontifical Council for Social Communications in Rome he said, “The Decree (Inter Mirifica) expresses the Church’s solicitude for communication in all its forms which are important tools in the work of evangelization”. He further said, “Are we able to communicate the face of a Church which is ‘home’ to all? We sometimes speak of a Church that has its doors closed, but here we are contemplating much more than a Church with open doors, much more! We must, together, build this ‘home’, build this Church, and make this ‘home’. A Church with closed doors or open doors; the task is to move forward and help build the Church. The challenge is to rediscover, through the means of social communication as well as by personal contact, the beauty that is at the heart of our existence and journey, the beauty of faith and of the beauty of the encounter with Christ. Even in this world of communications, the Church must warm the hearts of men and women.”
For ten years until May 2014, India celebrated her democracy with a liberal fest, which permeated different sections of society. Suddenly with a change of regime, that breath of fresh air stopped. It was indeed significant that in just a little over a month later (end of June 2014) you took over the responsibility of the Editor of Indian Currents (IC). In your very first editorial (July 2014) you made an unequivocal statement of intent, “IC has been committed to eliminate injustice in our society and to be a voice for those in distress. I assure that IC will give space for ex
One can easily highlight several outstanding qualities, which you radiated as the editor of IC. I would like to focus on just three of them: your commitment, your competency and your courage. These, of course, are not in order of priority and they are all deeply intertwined with each other.
Commitment: Your commitment to journalism, which was free, fearless, and without favour, permeated every issue of IC. You were committed to the responsibility entrusted to you by your Religious Superiors and to the overall mandate of the Catholic Church to communicate the kingdom values of Jesus: those He lived and died for! Above all, you were committed to the Constitution of India and to its core principles of justice, liberty, equality, fraternity, secularism, pluralism, socialism, the unity of the nation and the dignity of all citizens. You were committed to a journalism of truth. Commitment to values and principles is never easy, but you ensured that you did not fall into the trap of compromise!
Competency: It needs much more than ordinary skills to bring out a weekly: regularly and punctually. It meant a whole range of complexities: thinking of an appropriate theme, making it contextual, finding the right ‘pro bono’ writers (with deadlines and word limitations), getting the copy editors and the whole team of technical and other professional staff to do a non-stop 24x7 run to get the issue into place! It could be smooth sailing in conditions when one has unlimited resources, talents, professionals – but yours certainly was otherwise. Besides, you also had to deal with all kinds of hiccups -- minor and major! You took all in your stride and never failed the legion of IC readers from every walk of life.
Courage: A mere glance at any IC cover under your stewardship will clearly show that you were/are a courageous journalist. In a recent interview in Matters India, you told the editor Mr Jose Kavi that St Titus Brandsma, the Dutch Carmelite priest, who challenged the Nazi regime is your role model. Great! In fact, given the situation we are in today in India, St. Titus should be a role model for all Catholic Communicators in the country. He did not flinch in taking on the brutal Nazi regime. You have epitomised this prophetic courage as the editor of IC, despite having to face hostilities from different quarters.
There is much more to be said -- but I do not want to embarrass you, anymore! Yes, when I say ‘thanks’ to you – I am also saying ‘thank you’ to many others: your dedicated team, your collaborators, your Religious Superiors and confreres, the whole range of writers, designers and other professionals who have made IC a reality week-after-week. It was a herculean task indeed. My words of gratitude flow with all sincerity from my heart; and I know that I have also tried to voice the sentiments of many who have tremendously appreciated your role as a communicator par excellence.
Yes, Suresh you are a communicator par excellence! Journalism is your forte; it is in your DNA! You have shown the way to many. There is plenty that all of us, particularly Catholic Communicators, need to learn from you today even as ‘Inter Mirifica’ turns sixty! Continue communicating justice and truth, peace and love with prophetic courage.
Thank you once again for all! God bless you abundantly in your new ministry!
(Fr Cedric Prakash SJ is a human rights, reconciliation and peace activist/writer. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org )