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'Mother was above religion'

By Payal Singh Mohanka
Last updated on: February 24, 2015 18:03 IST
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The constitution of the Missionaries of Charity, Payal Singh Mohanka points out, declares, 'We shall not impose our Catholic faith on anyone, but have profound respect for all religions.'

Mother TeresaPrime Minister Narendra Modi's efforts to rein in right-wing elements fail once again. Hurling an accusation at Mother Teresa is the latest instance.

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat has questioned Mother Teresa's service to the poor. Mother, he believes, was motivated by her desire to convert people into Christianity.

Charges like this belittle the humane work done by about 5,000 Missionaries of Charity, the order Mother founded. Her band of blue bordered sari-clad sisters work in over 600 homes in more than 130 countries.

As Mother Teresa would say, 'God has not called us to be successful. God has called us to be faithful. We are faithful to look after the poorest of the poor.'

Proselytisation is a charge that critics had often levelled at Mother. There were those who like the RSS believed that the order traded succour for souls.

Yet, the constitution of the Missionaries of Charity declares, 'We shall not impose our Catholic faith on anyone, but have profound respect for all religions.'

As Mother once explained, 'If in coming face to face with God we come closer to him in our lives, then we are converting. We become better Hindus, better Muslims, better whatever we are.'

Each year, hundreds of volunteers come to Kolkata to work at either the leprosy colony in Titagarh or the orphanage, Shishu Bhavan or Nirmal Hriday, the home for dying destitutes in Kalighat.

Not just the Sisters, but even the volunteers say this selfless service brings them closer to God. If they are Christian, they see the broken body of Christ in the emaciated bodies they serve.

As a nun once explained, "If I find a newborn in the gutter and I bring him home ...how would we raise him? if I am a Christian, is it not natural that he too would follow that faith. Is that conversion?"

"Those who claim that Mother was converting are misinformed," says Sunita Kumar, spokesperson of the Missionaries of Charity. "Mother was above religion and so are the Sisters. The patients who are treated at Mother's various homes come from all faiths."

Memories of Mother's kindly wrinkled face and her words continue to inspire. 'It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.'

Following Mother's steps, the Missionaries of Charity continue to serve with compassion and do ordinary things with extraordinary love.

Beatified in 2003, Mother Teresa's journey toward sainthood continues.

Payal Singh Mohanka, a native of Kolkata, is a well-known journalist.

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Image: Mother Teresa seen in her hospital around the time she was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress. Photograph: Mark Edwards/Keystone Features/Getty Images

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