Last night here in Manhattan, Father Leo Maasburg, an Austrian priest who was a close friend, spiritual advisor, translator, and confessor of Blessed Mother Teresa, shared stories and offered a window into the spirituality and life of the woman that Blessed John Paul II referred to at her beatification as “one of the most important figures of our time, one of the greatest missionaries of the 20th century.”
During the question and answer session after the talk, Father Maasburg enumerated what “Mother” had considered the six types of poverty that cause someone to be the “poorest of the poor.” The worst of these poverties in Mother Teresa’s eyes was the poverty of not being able to learn about and practice one’s faith.
Such poverty remains prevalent in Mother Teresa’s homeland as Alliance Defending Freedom chief counsel and executive director of global activities Benjamin Bull says, “. . . a law designed to prevent conversions to Christianity in India is exhibit A for the truth that, in some countries, religion is but one more aspect of life controlled by government or ruthless factions that fear no government.” Bull says:
The law required those intending to change religions to provide a district magistrate with “prior notice of at least 30 days…of his intention to do so.” Failure to provide advance notice of conversion required a mandatory police investigation, prosecution, and sanctions. . . . all persons desiring to change their religion were listed in a public registry, scanned regularly by fundamentalist Hindu extremists that make it a daily routine to retaliate against, persecute, and even murder new Christian converts. And of course the public notice law did not apply to anyone changing their religion to Hinduism.
In Evangelical Fellowship of India v. State of Himachal Pradesh the High Court of the State of Himachal Pradesh ruled that such a law was unjust.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and allies represented Evangelical Fellowship of India in challenging the law because it was being used as a cudgel to stop – through intimidation and fear – a potential flood of conversions to Christianity.
While the High Court ruled against the law, Bull says, “The case will now go to the Indian Supreme Court where extreme pressure will be brought to bear by extremist Hindu organizations doing everything in their power to curtail the lowest Hindu caste from fleeing a life of religiously sanctioned poverty and degradation.”
“The victory in Evangelical Fellowship of India was [only] one step in a long and on-going struggle to win genuine religious freedom in India.”
I wonder if the Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and allies have had a little help from Mother.
Father Maasburg offers more stories in his book Mother Teresa of Calcutta: A Personal Portrait.
A video of his talk will soon be posted here.