“If you are a Hindu and hate Muslims, you are wrong. If you are a Muslim and hate Hindus, you are wrong. If you are anything and dislike anybody, you are wrong. It’s all about love.”
Brother Brendan MacCarthaigh gave a 10-minute farewell speech in the city on the eve of his departure where he urged his audience to “hang on to love”.
The Christian educator, now 84, learnt about the importance of love at the age of 81, he said. On Saturday evening, he almost pleaded with his audience, many of them now ageing past pupils, to teach the young to love and to forgive. “Hang on to love as your value system, all else is manageable,” he said. Brother Mac, as most of his former students and associates call him, got a standing ovation when he finished speaking at St Joseph’s College, Bowbazar.
“Thank you for your devotion to me. But the me you are talking to is old and is constantly asking himself... questions,” he said. He encouraged the audience, “ageing like myself at various stages”, to ask important questions. Like “what am I here for?” Brother MacCarthaigh said: “Our life has only one meaning. Love. If love is not there, you are wrong. If you are a Hindu and hate Muslims, you are wrong. If you are a Muslim and hate Hindus, you are wrong. If you are anything and dislike anybody, you are wrong. It’s all about love. Otherwise, you have no meaning and you are not helping the young generation to learn anything if they don’t first learn love. It’s very hard.”
He did not stop at love but enunciated the importance of forgiveness, despite being hurt by offensive statements. “The hardest thing that humans ever have to do is forgive. And we all get hurt by people and they say offensive things and they hurt us. And we have to forgive them? Yeah. (It’s) hard work. Terribly hard work. But it is the only answer,” he said.
And he questioned the role of politicians. “Now politicians come in on this in a big way.... In the north of my little country, Ireland, Protestants were trained to hate Catholics, Catholics were trained to hate Protestants and they killed one another. To some extent, it is still going on.... In India today, we are all supposed to be Hindus and speak Hindi... What are they doing? They are splitting the country into bits of hatred.” On Sunday, Brother Mac is flying back to Ireland from a country where he had come in 1960, at the age of 22. He spoke about religion as a social construct.
“Religion is only a social construct where we come together and some will pray in this way and some will pray in that way. It is only a way of doing things,” he said. For close to 50 minutes, the audience on Saturday paid their tributes to him with their words, warm hugs and flowers. There were some in the audience who later told Metro how they shared many of Brother MacCarthaigh’s concerns.
“When we were in school, we would address our friends by name and not identify them by caste or religion. It is shocking to see how it is in your face now and we cannot remain mere bystanders any longer,” said Sunil Lucas, from the 1984 batch of St Joseph’s College, Bowbazar, who hosted the programme on Saturday. Rajesh Arora, who has been a close associate of Brother MacCarthaigh from his student days, said Brother Mac has always raised the right subject at the right time.
“Now, there is a need for unity and acceptance in the family,” said Arora, from the batch of 1987 of St Joseph’s College.