30 August 2015
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Friday, 09 March 2012 16:32

Archbishop Ian Ernest : “This nation is called upon to become a caring and a loving one”

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Bishop Ian Ernest is fully engaged in national inter-faith, ecumenical and spiritual movements. He is fully active in any action that aims at improving social and family relations and comes forward promptly whenever there is a need to look for steps that can bring the population positively forward.
Born before the Independence of Mauritius and serving the Nation through the Anglican clergy for more than two decades, Ian Ernest is a privileged witness of the development of Mauritius for the past 44 years. News on Sunday has called upon him to talk on many issues directly related to our Motherland.

Your Grace, Mauritius is to celebrate its 44th Independence anniversary on Monday. You are a son of independent Mauritius. You lived in the times of colonial days and celebrated as a committed youth the freedom of our country from the shackles of foreign rule. You believed in the future of Mauritius and remained here to participate in its development. Has Independence really brought freedom to the people?
Freedom is indeed an important ingredient as we embark in the process of building up nationhood. It is good to note and to be proud of that we have been able as a new-born nation to commit ourselves to make our island, a Sovereign Republic that can care for its needs and its dreams. I was only thirteen years of age when the Mauritian Flag was hoisted for the first time in 1968.

Since then I was imbued with an in-depth conviction that we would succeed to uphold to the expectations that the freedom of governance offers to us. These expectations, if properly geared, would certainly help us to attain progress and human fulfilment.
Independence means taking the responsibility of giving a destiny to one’s own life or the life of people sharing nationhood. Freedom of thinking, freedom of expression, freedom of action, freedom of religious beliefs and practice, should be prevailing if a common destiny is to be shaped. But this Freedom, if it is to be maintained, has to be solidly grounded on the following basic values: Respect, discipline and knowledge.

As we look at the life of our nation, I will affirm without any hesitation that Independence has given our country a form of liberation that enables us to stand on our own feet. We are to the world an example of harmonious living in spite of the pluralistic context of Mauritian society. Education and respect towards the Constitution of our country are the two other pillars that support our life as a nation. These are the rich resources that we possess. They have not been reaped by the shedding of blood but only by a great spirit of sacrifice and hard work. This is the legacy left to us by our ancestors. Today we have to continue to honour this legacy by being non-complacent and uncompromising. This is how we can fulfil the expectations that were ours in 1968.

Your Grace, after 44 years of self rule, racism and communalism are rampant. Solidarity and love for the neighbour which existed before independence have been transformed into selfishness and hatred. What are the sources of such a ‘malaise’?
In the “Call of The Clarion”, an open letter addressed to my fellow citizens in 2011, I did underline the need for us as a mature nation to be law-abiding citizens. Our political leaders have to be courageous and with the electoral reforms that are at hand, the opportunity is given to them to give urgent priority to the formulation of an anti-racism and anti-communalism bill. I won’t certainly say that solidarity and love have disappeared but I would say that if we are not vigilant, corrupted minds will emerge and infect our nation with seeds of unethical and un-patriotic behaviour. The “malaise” prevails because of our inability to provide equal opportunities for all the citizens of this country and fairness at meritocracy when it comes to the recruitment and promotion of men and women in the different sections of professional activity.

Never did we see Mauritius so attached to religion. And yet religion is today a source of conflict and misunderstanding. Are religious leaders at fault? Do you think that the pastors have conducted their flock into wrong pastures?
It seems that religion is becoming the scapegoat for all the ills of Mauritian Society- again may I refer to ‘The call of the Clarion’ where I mentioned that we all, whether we are religious leaders or not, have an individual responsibility. It is right to say that, many times, religious institutions have failed as they were unable to resist the temptation of seeking to preserve one’s own interests and advantages.

The objective of any Religious Leadership is to provide a moral guidance, spiritual help and support to those who wish to lead a life with a sense of purpose. Therefore, we should not condemn religion but individuals who use it in an irresponsible manner. It is also important to stress that we should distinguish between religious leaders and presidents of socio-religious groups.

As religious leaders we are called upon to transcend the limits of one’s religion to address the needs and the benefits of all whereas for religious associations, the objectives are different. An inadequate understanding of this distinction may create tensions if one is not vigilant for the aim of any religion is to create a space for mutual respect and love from which peace and justice emanate. So, it is appropriate that we revise our approach towards how religious bodies can be a unifying force instead of being a divisive one. I am appreciative of the work of the Council of Religion and my appeal is it should be encouraged to become an instrument of dialogue and understanding amongst the religious components of Mauritian Society.               

Somewhere you wrote that ICT is driving the youths away from the good news, describing ICT as an ‘alien culture’ while social negativists are using the same ICT to change the minds of the youths into a devil’s workshop. How far can we use this “alien culture’ as an opportunity to teach the youths of the blessings to live life fully, rightfully and in the service of humanity?
This post-modern culture offers us new possibilities but the other face of the coin can lead us astray if we are not fully empowered to face the challenges that emerge from it. Every generation has its own challenges and crisis and it is for any generation to use this crisis as an opportunity for growth and development. Today, it is our duty to assess the values and resources that are brought to us in this present generation. We should be able to discern what we can use for our benefit and self-fulfilment and not to blindly become a slave of this post-modern culture.

So, definitely we have to appropriately use ICT to become an instrument of information and equipping. It should not be used as a tool for propaganda and “brainwashing”. Due respect is to be given to the freedom of thinking and expression of any individual. Our main objective is to build up the character of an individual whose primary ambition is to reach self-fulfilment. For me, happiness comes only if we are able to be kind, good, faithful, gentle, patient, perseverant and diligent. These are the fundamental values that we have to transmit to this generation whatever be the tool for transmission.

Since the beginning of the year 2012, the media has highlighted an alarming number of suicides, among them a young of 11 years and the perpetration of atrocious murders. Have you ever been alarmed by these happenings? What are the causes and what should be done?
I am indeed distressed by any event that causes death. Different factors can lead to the perpetration of violence. As for any thing that may be out of our control, it is necessary to think of preventive measures that can be used to enable us to face the hardships of life. Each stakeholder of this society should be concerned and as per our skills and field of action, we should be able to offer proper guidance to the more vulnerable. The lack of affection, the scarcity of material and spiritual resources, the loss of the essentials of life i.e. a dear one, a job…..would certainly trigger inside us a low self-esteem that may lead us to depression, frustration, dementia, anger and madness.

Today there is a great need to work towards the establishment of Counselling Units with qualified counsellors and clinical psychologists and social workers. They should be made available in Citizens Advice Bureau, schools, place of work, hospitals. Churches and other religious bodies are called to revise their pastoral programmes in view of serving those in need. This nation is called upon to become a caring and a loving nation. Our faith should lead us to become seeds for transformation and instruments for self-affirmation.

Your Grace when you learn of all these things what do you want to tell policy and decision makers?
It is not my intention to give any lesson to any one. My calling as a Christian and my position of leadership in The Anglican Diocese of Mauritius gives me an opportunity to be a prophetic voice. What I mean by this? Our relationship and partnership with God urges on us to alert the society we live in on aspects of its life that may be detrimental to our human nature. As companions of God, we are called to remind ourselves that we have to conform ourselves to his will, which is defined in those terms: “Love one another”.

So, it is a privilege for us to highlight to all the stakeholders of our nation the need to be passionate towards human upliftment. So, I reiterate my appeal to create some sort of Social Advisory Council where responsibility is to lobby for social responsibility and justice. There is a great need that we learn to listen to one another. Nobody has the truth as the truth is with God. Only the truth can liberate and offer us new perspectives.

The Most Reverend Ian Ernest was born in Mauritius on 30 August 1954. Married to Kamla, they have a son, Julian. Bishop Ernest has been exposed to a wide spectrum of tertiary education in India, Mauritius, the United Kingdom and, of late, the USA. His fields of study have covered an electric array of subjects ranging from marketing and commerce, communications and counselling to the obvious theology and pastoral care. He has been a Commissioner of the Mauritius Diocesan Synod, then a member of the Provincial Synod, this former Rotarian.

Since 2003, he has been appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Committee responsible for the organisation of the 2008 Lambeth Conference. He is also the Convenor of the Target Group for Bishops’ Training. He has been from 2007 to 2012 the Chairperson for the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa. He has been a resource person for numerous conferences worldwide speaking on various issues relating to family life and values, peace, justice and Reconciliation and Theological Issues.

Indradev Curpen

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