Edmund Rice Education beyond Borders’ is a familiar caption adopted for nearly four years now. It has taken two successive meetings before arriving at this great congress in Kolkata, India; the first meeting being held in Nairobi, Kenya, where the idea was born, and the second in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2015.
The 2016 Congress in Kolkata brought together over two-hundred delegates, from twenty-three countries. The theme for the congress, “Nomoshkar and Educating and Encountering Humanity,” fitted very well.
“Nomoshkar” is a Bengali expression meaning: “I bow to the divine in you”. It expresses politeness, courtesy, honour and hospitality.
The twelve-day congress, from 28th September 2016 to 10th October 2016, had two elements. There was an immersion component before the congress itself. Delegates had the opportunity to experience various immersion sites and places to at least understand and appreciate the rich diversities of cultures, and to acquaint oneself with some of the prevailing issues of India.
As delegates shared their immersion experiences, the predominant words expressed were ‘hospitality’ and ‘respect’, qualities we all dearly felt among the Indian people. St. Mary’s Orphanage and Day school in Dum Dum, Kolkata, was my immersion place. My experience of Indian hospitality was no exception. The treatment from the Brothers, teachers and students at Dum Dum was phenomenal.
Coming to the actual congress, which was held at Peerless Inn, the buzzing of noise engulfing the hall on the very first evening of our gathering, was a clear indication of how much energy we were going to generate throughout the congress. Some were simply reconnecting with friends from past meetings, while others were making new friends among other things.
In his welcoming remarks Br. Lenny Lobo, a member of the Indian Province Leadership Team, warmly welcomed all delegates to Kolkata, one of the most vibrant cities in the world. He said that “India may have a thousand problems, but with a billion solutions”.
He gave two examples of very important personalities in India’s recent past who have demonstrated commitment and nobility in the cause of humanity. Br. Lenny spoke of Mahatma Gandhi, laterally as an angel of peace, for the role he played in preventing a major strife between India and Pakistan; and Mother Theresa of Kolkata, canonized just a few weeks earlier, as the “angel of mercy” when she committed to her life to the poorest of the poor.
O God, we thank you for the life of Edmund Rice.
He opened his heart to Christ present in those oppressed by poverty and injustice.
May we follow his example of faith and generosity.
Grant us the courage and compassion of Edmund as we seek to live lives of love and service.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.