tv Mosaic CBS December 2, 2012 5:00am-5:30am PST
insight into one of the great spiritual masters and i would say one of the great historical figures of our time. that is gandhi from india. we have an expert to talk to today, father charles, who is pastor of a parish in san francisco, st. veronica's in south san francisco. welcome. >> thank you. >> father is indian. he is now with us permanently in the arch diocese. we are very thankful for that. of course he has a great knowledge and experience and history of india. i would like to start by welcoming you and thanking you. >> thank you. >> thanking you for all you do for people in the diocese.
give us a history perhaps of how you got here to the united states. what kind of a journey was that for you? >> it has been a beautiful journey of discovery and also a sense of fulfillment for me. i originally came to the united states to do a ph.d degree at marquette university in milwaukee in american literature. my dissertation was on wallace stevens. >> oh, my. very good. excellent. >> then my family having moved to this country -- >> the reason you came because you got the ph.d, you told me you were originally a jerusalem ewe it. >> i was. >> then you became a diocese priest. >> yes. >> jesuits are involved in academics. that's why you got the ph.d.
>> as the joke goes jesuits take the world and take practice and put those worlds into practice. >> put it into practice. that is good. >> that is a joke. that is a joke. i have been in the arch diocese for 12 years and it has been a wonderful experience to being committed to the call of christ and also to serve people and to lead people and to organize the parish community in so many different ways, to bring god's blessing to everybody and to respond as a community to the call of christ. >> was your family in india always catholic? did you just become catholic? how is that? >> we have always been catholic. my parish community is over 250 years old. >> oh, my. >> we were brought from another state to this particular state by a jesuit who belonged to the
suppressed society of jesus in the late 1700s. so that is how we owe our faith to the missionaries. also going back the faith dates back to st. thomas the apostle who came and preached in india and in the very city that i come from. that is where we have a big cathedral for him. that is the place where tradition holds that he was martyred. he preached in that area. >> there aren't many catholics in india proportionately, correct? how many total? >> catholics would be about 1.75% of the total population which would be about 25 million people. >> okay. that would be total catholics.
i see. so that's a relatively small group in this country really dominated by hinduism. >> and muslims. there is about 15% of the population muslim. >> didn't all the muslims after the english left go to pakistan? >> they did, some of them. when the partition took place in 1947, some of the muslims from india moved to pakistan. some of the hindus who were living in those areas moved back to india which caused a lot of blood shed. >> so there is still a lot of blood shed and still problems there. we're going to talk more about india. of course we also want to really single out gandy which we'll do after this break.
>> welcome back to mosaic. today we're talking to father charles who is a priest of the arch diocese but he is always of indian descent. our topic today is to talk about a figure of great history to the whole world actually. you were telling me and i didn't realize this as we were preparing that there is a statue in a shrine not far from this studio in the ferry building or outside the ferry building, correct? would you describe that. >> that is one of the discoveries i maid at st. patrick. when i went behind the ferry
building i found the beautiful statue with very nice quotations that are engraved on the base of the statue. that for me is a kind of a shrine. i would like to visit that statue whenever i am at the ferry building and kind of try to recapture the spirit of gandy. >> tell us a little bit about how the spirit of gandy became real. where did he start out? where did he get his sense of commitment to human rights? his commitment to the poor, commitment to nonviolence? how did that start out? >> he was born in india, in the western part of india. he went through histories and then he went to england to do
his law. he became barister at law. he went back to india. he was not so confident at that time to practice law when he was called upon by this company to represent them in south africa. >> south africa. >> he was only 23 years old when he went there. a whole lot of situations and circumstances, especially the discrimination going on against people of indian descent. >> when did he first feel a sense of that discrimination? was it in south africa or india. >> south africa. he was a different and very timid kind of a person. but circumstances lead him to become a ward for discrimination.
this was his first week. he was traveling by train. he had the first class ticket to travel on that train. >> this in terms of time was back in the time of part tied. >> when part tied was going on. >> in what year? >> late 1800s. >> okay. so very strong racial division. >> it was very strong there. there were of course british colonies there and the people of dutch descent. they had their colony. they prevented people of any other races from traveling in the first class. but gandy had this ticket and he came from india and was shocked by the discrimination. he refused to move from the first class coach compartment, the train compartment.
he was asked to move. he refused to move. he was literally thrown out. >> isn't that not really according to his personality? wasn't his personality somewhat meek and mild? >> he was a meek person, a timid person, not self confident. when he got thrown out of that train, then he was humiliated. he wanted to go back to india. he said no, i have to fight this. this is really unjust. when he talked to a lot of other people also of indian descent he became aware of how prevalent this discrimination was. that was an eye opener for him. >> so were the indians who had moved there to south africa, they were mostly there to work on the plantations? >> on the plantations. >> were they considered -- obviously people of color to the
whites. >> right. >> but different than the blacks? were there different strata of discrimination? or they lump them all together? >> they lump them all together. anybody who was not from england originally or from holland, they were all discriminated against. the whole majority of natives were discriminated against. people from india were immigrants and had gone there to find work and for a better life, they were all discriminated against. >> i see. >> they were not allowed into so many things. that is why there is this incident from his life about how he started reading the bible and was fascinated by the sermon on the mound. he wanted to go and then see for himself how the christians worshiped and practiced their religion. he went to this church. there he was stopped. this was in south africa. he was stopped by this gentleman
and told to go, if he wanted to worship, to a church down the street which was reserved for the blacks. >> yes. he again felt the discrimination discrimination. >> discrimination. >> he became a social activist in a sense. that was his epiphany, his rosa parks moment. we'll talk more about that after this break.
today. as we finished the last segment we talked about how his social activism became real in his life because he felt the discrimination. would you say a few words about his spirituality? i think one of the things i remember learning about gappedy is i always had this image of him as a man of great peace, a man who is very centered. so where did that peace come from? is this a religious thing with him? >> it was based on his religious belief. he was a very deep and arresteddent follower of hinduism which spirituality came to him from his own mother. when he watched his mother doing all kinds of fasting and penances it was great inspiration for him.
he practiced some of those. he grew into those. he read this famous text, the most sacred text for hindus. he derived a lot of his principals from there. also he read the bible. >> i see. >> the sermon on the mount fascinated him. he really liked christ. >> i think a lot of people in the united states don't understand hinduism. you mentioned there was fasting and that sort of thing. i wouldn't put those two things together. hinduism and fasting. why was that? what principal did that evoke for them to fast and to deny themselves? >> that is part of the religious practice of hinduism, you know, it is a way of culture. it was a way of living their life. their religion permeates everything. their way of eating, their
dressing, the way they build houses. it is that religiosity on that defines their culture and their world view, their way of living. so gandy grew up as a hindu and read the strip occurs, read the bible. he was inspired by the sacred text. hinduism was a very, very important factor in his spirituality of renounce asian, understanding of nonviolence, his love for even his enemies, turning the over cheek. >> those came from the hindu religion and the bible. >> and the bible. >> i see, i see. >> right. he derived these mostly from hinduism but christianity had influence on him too. >> i see. he spent how many years then in south africa? >> he went there to work there for only one year on a kind of
contract from his company to represent people of indian descent being discriminated against. he ended up staying there for 20 years. >> long vacation. >> much longer than he wanted. in between he went back to india and thought he had finished work there but he was called back because the voting rights were suppressed for people of indian descent. people in south africa wanted gandy to come back because he had developed this tremendous sense of leadership. >> he was already a national figurine international figure in south africa. >> he became an international figure because he was fighting discrimination and standing up for justice and organizing people and burning the registration cards because people of indian descent are required to carry all these
identity cards. >> this was already him doing nonviolent protest. >> and he organized people. a and he went to the mines. he got women involved. he was a huge community organizer and builder and fighter for justice. that drew international press in india and also in the western countries. they were fascinated by this man who was standing up for truth, fighting for rights and justice and doing all that through a kind of nonviolent means. his stay in south africa for 20 years prepared him for his work later in india. he would go back to india for the next 35 years or so. he would fight for the freedom and so many other things, for justice, for uplifting the
lowest cast people, for building hope in people in all these processes. he really excelled. he did it all in a marvelous way. he was a lawyer. he was a fighter for -- community organizer. he was a very religious person. he was a politician. he was a holy man. >> he was everything at the time. we will talk more about his life then in india when we come back from this break.
fascinateing man. i grew up as a social activist in the united states. martin luther king, jr. who was nonviolent and of course called upon gandy and said i use him as a model and then later on i was involved with the united farm workers with shavez. he did the same thing. fasted for days and days to move the social consciousness of people. as we finish up this last segment, what has gandy given as a gift if you will to catholics and to christians? i have heard it said that gandy is perhaps more christian than most christians in the sense that he practiced things that
jesus taught. what would you say about that, father? >> yes. his lifestyle comes so close to following christ and being a disciple of christ. his sense of renounce asian. he owned no house, no money in the bank. he only had his glasses and his sandals, his eating bowl, and such things. six different articles. also he believed very deeply in nonviolence which comes close to christ teaching and nonattachment. >> here he was in an area, a country, when he went back to india which was just filled with violence, correct? >> yes. in one sense. because the british were colonial powers there. but hinduism is a very peaceful
religion. there were conflicts between hindus and muslims but mostly they live in harmony. when he went there, there were all kinds of discriminations and human rights violations. he had to fight for freedom, political freedom. he also had to fight for economic freedom because so many people were deprived of their rights as workers. so he had to fight for their rights and also there is this class called the untouchables. the people of god. he called the lowest cast people god's people. >> which is a very christian idea, that the poorest of the poor are closest to god's heart. >> right. >> he embodied that. >> in fact when i was talking
with parishioners, collins and carter, peg mentioned father could he ever be canonized? that is a very interesting question i thought. if people of other religions could be canonized, gandy would be on the top of that list. >> definitely. >> his values are so close to the values of christ. >> yes. how did he die and what were the circumstances? >> he was assassinated by a hindu nationalist person. this happened on january 30, 1948. gandy was going do his prayers. he was met by this person who put his hands together as if he was greeting him but then he pulled out his gun and shot him.
gandy said heram. that is my god. he fell to the ground. >> he fell to the ground then. of course revered by indians and by people throughout the world and i think especially by christians in a very special way. father, thank you so much for being with us and giving us this deep background. there is much more of course that we could say and you could say about this. could you very briefly perhaps give a short blessing to our audience there that would embody the spirit of gandy and jesus christ as we end? just a very brief one. >> would i say it as a prayer? >> as a prayer please. >> god our loving father thank you for all your blessings. thank you for the precious gift of your son jesus christ who calls christians and people of all nations and cultures and races.
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