On the 15th of this month, our nation will be celebrating her 70th birthday! As one born before Independence, I thought I could share some thoughts particularly relevant to us university students and graduates of the post-independence generation.
Before Independence, it was a common practice to blame the British, rightly or wrongly, for all ills facing our country. We now have no such excuse after 70 years of Independence from Britain. Most of us Indians, including we Christians tend to blame our post-independence governments alone for our present predicament. But is this right? As disciples of Christ and faithful citizens of India, our nation’s 70th birthday is a good occasion for us to take stock of the situation and see whether we have assessed our Christian responsibility to our country correctly in the light of Scriptures.
India has done well economically in that we have a growing middle class as can be seen from the shopping malls selling branded goods. But we cannot be oblivious to the fact that after all these years, our agricultural sector which is supposed to be the backbone of our economy, is witnessing the suicides of farmers.
John Stott, who was a great friend of India and of the UESI, used to talk about Double Listening – listening to God’s Word and to His created world – a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other, so to speak. Stott used this as a metaphor for relevant preaching of Scripture from the pulpit to the marketplace people in the pew. I want to use the same metaphor for the involvement of UESI students and graduates in contributing to the future of our nation.
We need to recognise that we have been given the privilege of university education that most of our fellow-Indians do no enjoy. As Christians, this privilege brings added responsibility. How do we bring the values of the Kingdom of God in the building of our country? In what ways do we proceed?
During my 28 years of service in the Government of India, I kept in view 4 Old Testament characters as my role models – Joseph, Daniel, Esther and Nehemiah as my role models. A common historic factor that links these four figures is that they were living and working in countries not their own – they were in exile. In the same way, we hold a dual citizenship – of India and of the Kingdom of God (Phil.3:20), the latter being the ethical rule of God and not a political kingdom.
I suggest the following steps:
1. Jeremiah taught Jewish exiles in Babylon to pray for the peace and prosperity of the nation to which they were carried away as captives (Jer.29:7). This is particularly true in today’s context both of military pressure from our neighbours and the economic problems faced by the poorer sections of our society.
2. We need to learn to pray incarnationally for our nation in the first-person plural (we have sinned…) like Nehemiah (1:6,7), Daniel (9:5) and Ezra (9:6) prayed, rather than in the third-person plural (them…). Why is this necessary? If we are the salt of the earth (India) – Matt.5:13 – and our society is rotting at the core, is not salt responsible for this decay? If we are the light of the world (Matt.5:14) and if our nation is floundering in moral and material darkness, are not we liable to answer God for our present predicament after 70 years of freedom from foreign rule? How we need to desperately clean up our own lives and be the channels of blessing for our country!
3. We should also to a great extent be the answer to our own prayer; when our Lord taught us to pray, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as in heaven…”, He expected us to be the answer to our own prayer. We need to ask ourselves as UESI graduates and students whether we practise Kingdom values in our work and in our studies. If we don’t, we have no moral platform from which to share Christ and His salvation with others.
4. Prayer is the tip of the arrow where the action is but it also has two flanks – thought and action. Sometimes, all of us make prayer the escape route from thoughtful action. People of God in the past, both men and women, have made great contribution to the upliftment of society in our country. Pandita Ramabai is credited with social reform among women but the foundation was her turning to Christ. A less known example is Mr K T Paul whose full-length portrait can be found in the central hall of Trivandrum YMCA. He headed the 4-member Christian delegation to London at the round-table conference for discussing freedom for India; Gandhiji was the head of the Hindu contingent and Jinnah led the Muslim group. At the conference, there was a serious dispute between Gandhiji and Jinnah about the numbers allotted to their respective groups. Paul stood up and said to them, “Silver and gold we have none but we have these 4 seats which we give up; please divide them among yourselves; let us get independence and go back”.
The third aim of the UESI states that the testimony of historic Christian faith is the solution to the problems of humankind and this aim must be taken seriously and implemented. This aim is not confined to the starting EU cells in colleges and leading fellow-students to faith in Christ; that is the beginning of something that should go further to contributing to the welfare of our nation in various fields. A promising beginning has been made at the Diamond Jubilee conference in terms of the study forums where students would consider what contribution they could make in the name of Christ to their areas of study. Christian graduates need to encourage the younger generation in involvement in society in terms of entering the civil services and influencing the policies of the government. God’s call to Abraham (Gen.12:1-3) started with his personal commitment to God but was the first step to be a blessing to all the families of the world in every aspect of life. May that be echoed in the lives of our students and graduates as we contribute to build up our nation!
L. T. Jeyachandran, Pune
Vice President of UESI