By Fr. Prabath Sanjeeva
Fernando, S.J. LEGEND IS BORN
Iñigo Lopez de Oñaz y Loyola, whom we know as St. Ignatius of Loyola, was the founder Father of the Society of Jesus, (in fact St. Ignatius preferred being called as the co-founder). Iñigo Lopez de Loyola, was chasing after military fame and fortune when a cannon ball arriving like a thunderbolt, shattered his leg and crushed his hope-filled dreams. The cannon ball not only broke his leg, but also his image as a handsome, dashing courtier, the vainglory that he had lived for; was shattered, too. It is aptly said, that sometimes, God lets you hit rock bottom, so that you will discover Him as the Rock, at the bottom. Since the bone was protruding after the operation, it exhibited an awkward appearance as he walked. He could not tolerate such a black marked stain on the spotless veneer of his esteem. Thus, Iñigo insisted on having the leg re-broken and re-set; even without anesthetic. At times, isn’t it true, that in life, no matter how hard we try to fix certain idiosyncrasies imposing our own will, they would nevertheless remain the same or get even worse! The similar fate occurred in the life of our saint. In the end, one leg was still shorter than the other. Therefore, Iñigo had to limp for the rest of his life.
During the time of his convalescence, Ignatius loved to read romantic novels and daydream of a princess who would be his own. However, the next chapter of life had its own U-turn. In the rest home, the only available books were the Life of Christ and the Lives of the Saints. Bored and tired, he resorted to these tomes for an adventurous escape. Providentially, these books in turn offered Ignatius a new set of eyes and a unique perspective in following the Prince of Peace, Jesus and the Queen of the Church, the Blessed Virgin Mary. This paradigmatic shift, certainly, I would say, brought this boisterous young man closer to Mary and God. It made a lasting and an indelible impression in his life, so much so that Ignatius made a pilgrimage to the shrine of Blessed Mother Mary, at Montserrat near Barcelona. He remained almost a year at nearby Manresa, in a pauper’s hospice, often in a dingy cave in the hills, praying. After a period of great peace of mind, he went through a harrowing trial of scruples, prayer, fasting, sacraments and penance. In fact, this going through paved a way to a growing through experience in the Lord; And so was born a legend.
Ignatius preferred to be called the ‘Pilgrim’. At La-Storta, a little town outside of Rome, when the pilgrim and the companions stopped to pray at a small chapel, he had a vision of Jesus carrying the cross with the Father at his side. Jesus said to Ignatius, “I wish you to serve us.” Then, the Father added, “I will be propitious to you in Rome”. When in Rome, the Society of Jesus was approved by Pope Paul III in 1540 and thus became an official Catholic religious order. Following this, Ignatius was then elected their first leader (General) wherein he vehemently declined the election for he did not want to fall into the same temptation of the vanity of vanities. Yet, later on, as the rest of the companions insisted, Ignatius agreed upon serving God as the General of the newly-founded Society of Jesus. The apparent distinction was, in contrast to the ambitions of his early days, the fundamental option of the newly-born Ignatius was that we must desire and choose only that which fulfills the end for which we are created – that is to praise, reverence, and serve God through serving other human beings. Ignatius was exceedingly driven by the ardent desire to do everything for the ‘Greater Glory of God’. So much so he prayed:
“Teach us, good Lord, to serve you as you deserve;
to give, and not to count the cost,
to fight, and not to heed the wounds,
to toil, and not to seek for rest,
to labor, and not to ask for reward,
except that of knowing that we are doing your will”.
Ignatius was a soldier-sinner who turned out to be a mystic-saint. He was a broken legged soldier who in recognizing his sinful past allowed God to mould him to become a contemplative in action. A sickbed conversion changed his entire life, but not without an uphill journey. Perseverance in prayer and total trust in God pulled St. Ignatius out of the darkness that was trying to consume him. There are so many things that could be said of St. Ignatius’ life, especially of how he allowed God to show him who he could become, which was much more than what he thought he could ever be. Ignatius experienced wholly the true meaning of “unconditional” in the commonly known phrase – “God’s Unconditional Love.” Once liberated, he continued to seek out ways and means so that he could share this profound gift and experience, one that I feel is very much needed in our world of today.
The pilgrim saintly character of St. Ignatius provokes us to commence the journey of faith, by trying to become saints while we are still alive. Understandably, it is a gift that is given, but on the other hand, it also has to be asked and strived for. This journey is quite arduous, for it requires, our radical following of Christ. The clarion call is to live lives of authenticity, purpose driven, and rooted in faith. The saintly life of Ignatius challenges us not to be just the followers but rather to become the leaders, the founders. Hence, we are becoming founders of our true self, our real humanity and becoming who we are created to be every day, by our actions and words. It has been said, don’t follow if your following makes you timid, complacent and average. Therefore, legacy is something daring, life-changing and long-lasting. It goes on and on. It continues to urge us to imbibe the very dynamism that navigated the founder himself. When we tap that source, the river of life begins to flow into our lives and palpably that spirit of the founder is freely available, even today. That power source is active and alive right where we are, waiting to make us enspirited bodies and embodied Spirits.
Ignatius’ strength is derived from the in-depth and personal experience of Jesus and he in turn offers us the Spiritual Exercises to make that inward journey to Jesus the Master and be His apprentice. We need to let our hearts to be pierced and broken so that genuine conversion can be realized. We need to break free of our comfy shells so that the aura of transformation envelops us. Our legs may not be shattered by a cannon but we can certainly become wounded-healers; broken-healers, today.
The followers who become the founders today, would have the fire of His Unconditional Love to go set the world aflame. It is aptly said that ‘if you want to be useful to others, reform the world and renew the society, begin by taking pains with yourself. The fire that is to enkindle others, should be lighted at home first’. We need to conquer ourselves in our sincere attempts to help souls to attain the end for which they are created. ‘Every saint has a sinful past and every sinner has a saintly future’; This statement apparently being credited to Oscar Wilde can only be actualized, if now in the present, we have the wisdom to know the difference. Such a difference can only be understood if one is truly mindful and loving.
At present, the one towering personality that heeded the call and rose to the occasion is the Holy Father, Pope Francis. The founder of the renewal of the Church, who evidently is charged with the grandeur, the fire of God’s love. It is unmistakable in his life style, homilies and of the motto. ‘God, seen through the eyes of Mercy, has chosen me. Pope Francis has been tremendously creative in his approach and yet, he has been extremely faithful to the life-line of the Church’s teachings. We can all adopt this notion of creative-fidelity as a viable support in our lives. We all need that spiritual power generator more than ever. We need the compassionate gaze of the Lord, which shatters our stony-hearts and makes us leaders of the brave array, the founding members of His Reign here on earth. The founders with broken, perhaps shattered yet brave hearts. Thus, to be founders, leaders and saints is not restricted or constrained yet it is freely available and accessible to anyone who wishes to take a stand and be a way-maker and path-finder. We are always invited to let another legend to be born in our own-selves and to continue the legacy of the noble knight. Possibly, the following lines uttered by Pope Francis would give us a clue. “To be saints is not a privilege for the few but a vocation for everyone”.
A blessed Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola!
(The writer is the ‘National Director’ for Pope’s World-wide Prayer Network & Eucharistic Youth Movement in Sri Lanka. He can be contacted: email@example.com)
Traffic in Colombo and suburbs: Is it unsolvable?
By Praying Mantis
People curse this phenomenon called traffic congestion in Colombo and the suburbs. However, it has to be unequivocally conceded that the populace has to get about on their daily chores and obligations. The result is traffic, with or without congestion, and we have to come to terms with the fact that it will be there, whether we like it or not. Many deem traffic congestion to be a spectacle that is an eyesore. But it can be solved and the current apparently impenetrable problem can be mitigated to a large extent. What is required is a little bit of intelligence, some meticulous planning, and strict implementation of the rule of law, irrespective of all other mundane considerations.
One important aspect of trying to sort out the problem is judicious timing and usage of traffic lights. These can be set to a computer-assisted or time-controlled operational mode. It needs careful study of the movement of traffic across these junctions where traffic lights are already installed. Steps also need to be taken to install these lights in areas where they are really required but are not installed as yet. All traffic lights should have digital clocks so that the drivers behind the wheels can get ready to move decisively once the colours change to green. All vehicles should move promptly when the traffic lights change from amber to green. At present there is a considerable delay in their starting off from the blocks. In the Western countries, you will be charged for unduly delaying your take off from the stationary position. At the same time, speed limits should be very strictly enforced. Road hogs, who block traffic on the outside fast lanes, should also be prosecuted.
We are quite sure that our excellent engineers, especially those in the Moratuwa University, can set up a system or some devices that would allow the green to come on at consecutive colour lights, suitably timed to enable the traffic to move steadily and reasonably fast right across all traffic lights on a main highway. We are quite sure that this would not be such a problem for our excellent engineers. We do not need to get down foreign experts for this.
A directive from the political hierarchy should go out immediately to the police that they SHOULD NOT switch off traffic lights under any circumstance. This will solve a lot of problems. ALL TRAFFIC LIGHT INTERSECTIONS should have yellow criss-crossed ‘no waiting’ areas. Those who wait on these lines, blocking the smooth flow of traffic, should be instantly fined or charged. The traffic policemen could intervene appropriately, even with the traffic lights functioning, to prevent grid blocks and unnecessary lawless blockages. The police are so trigger happy to switch on constantly blinking amber lights at the drop of a hat and take over directing traffic. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The policemen love to take ‘absolute power’ over the motorists into their own hands by switching off the traffic lights, and make a complete mess of it all by themselves. The computerised traffic lights would do a much better job than the brains of stupid traffic policemen with IQs about 10 below plant life. They seem to have one-track minds and most of the time they think that in the mornings, only the traffic going towards the centre of Colombo should be allowed and, in the evening, only the traffic going away from Colombo need to be given preference. The police patrol (four- and two-wheelers) should be used to apprehend road traffic rule violators. At present they are parked on our roads, sometimes blocking traffic, all by themselves, with all the officers engaged in chats, in person, or through mobile phones. Our traffic police should take examples from the Highway Patrol Vehicles of the Western countries, particularly the California Highway Patrol fleet. Catch the offenders and punish them, irrespective of their political connections. Our traffic policemen are “PAVEMENT POLICEMEN.” They should catch and deal with all the traffic rule violators, notwithstanding any of their powerful connections. These include motor bicycles that weave in and out of traffic, those on two-wheelers who go on the pavements, those that overtake on the left, three-wheelers and buses which are a law unto themselves, lane jumpers of all types who could not care less for the other road users, the speedsters that weave in and out of lines of traffic, those who wilfully cross centre double and single lines just to get a micro-second advantage in time, just to mention only a few.
All two-wheeler motor bicycles, three-wheeler tuk-tuks, and buses of all types, should be strictly reined in. The maniacs that ride and drive these contraptions need to be disciplined remorselessly. They cause more traffic jams and accidents than all other vehicles put together. When confronted for their mistakes by other road users they even turn aggressive or make lewd gestures, especially to female drivers of other vehicles. The currently prevalent lane allocation operative during the rush hours in Colombo is doing a little bit to ease the problem. Yet for all that, at all other times it becomes an even deadlier free-for-all, totally ignoring lane-discipline. It is also laughable that a certain controlling big-wig of the Private Bus Mafia has threatened to strike if the three-wheelers and two-wheelers are not taken out of the inside lane. The government should call his bluff and see how they will all come back with their tails between the two rear legs when their income drops down to zero. It has been said that the private buses are generally allowed the freedom of the ass by the police because most of such buses are owned by either policemen or politicians. We have of course not checked the veracity of this contention.
All container carriers, large lorries and other bulky vehicles, except passenger transport buses, should be allowed to get onto the roads only from 9.00 pm to 6.00 am. They should be banned from all our roads from 6.00 in the morning to 9.00 at night. They cause more traffic jams than all other vehicles on our roads.
The DIGs, SSPs, SPs, ASPs, CIs and IPs of traffic police should come out of their air-conditioned cocoons, called offices, and get on to the roads to supervise the way traffic is controlled by the lesser ranked policemen. At present these worthies generally come out only when the so-called top politicians move around in Colombo. Then they crawl back into their own holes, so to speak. Some years ago, a Senior DIG of Traffic with the initials of RML, used to get on to the roads to see how things were. He did a fantastic job and was responsible for creating some of the one-way streets in Colombo. Definitely an officer to be emulated.
NO PREFERENCE WHATSOEVER SHOULD BE GIVEN AT ANY COST TO VVIPs, VIPs AND OTHER ASSORTED POLITICAL ELEMENTS ON OUR ROADS. The violation of all traffic rules by large platoons of support vehicles just to enable one political nincompoop to travel a distance of a couple of kilometres at break-neck speed is a real crime and a crying shame. This is a particular menace down Parliament Road. After all, they are supposed to be servants of the people. If they need to get somewhere in time, they should start off early enough. In other countries, even Kings, Queens, Presidents, Prime Ministers and Ministers, do not enjoy preferential treatment on their roads. Their vehicles obey their own rules and laws.
The flashing red and blue lights on the windscreens of vehicles should be completely banned. The donkeys behind the steering wheels of vehicles with these rapidly flashing lights seem to think that they have carte blanche to do as they wish. They will have those blinking lights on and come at you even on the wrong side of the road. The ONLY vehicles allowed to use these flashing red and blue lights should be ambulances and police patrol vehicles. Incidentally, ALL police officers should be instructed to intervene and provide right of way and a clean fast run to all ambulances with lights flashing and sirens blaring. The really valid reason for this is the fact that it may mean life or death for a patient. As is done in the United Kingdom, that should be the only overriding concession made to vehicles on our roads.
You might say that all this is wishful thinking!!! The powers that be have turned a Nelsonian blind eye to this problem so far. They have certainly acted as if they could not care less. The politicians would not want to give up their exalted positions on our roads. Why should they worry? Their steamrolling juggernauts would get them there in time. Even if they get a bit late, the stupid organisers will wait for them to start the proceedings. The unimportant masses can spend all their time on our roads for all they care.
We hope these suggestions catch the attention of the powers that be in government, the police, people in positions of forward planning and traffic control. More than anything, we hope that the Executive President of our country would read this and act on at least some of these suggestions. He is perhaps the only one who can control this menace on our roads. If he so decides, like many other things he has done so far, this problem could be solved virtually overnight. It can only be done by reading the riot act to the police which would then percolate down to all the miscreants on our roads.
How to transform conflict into co-existence
Humans and elephants killing one another
Eng. Mahinda Panapitiya
M Sc, (Department of Irrigation Engineering) Utah State University, Utah, USA – 1982 , B Sc (Civil Engineering), University of Peradeniya, Sri lanka – 1974
I thought of writing the following note after reading a recent news item about the interest of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to solve the human-elephant conflict. By the way I am an Irrigation engineer who has worked for Mahaweli Projects since the 1970s while developing the dry zone forests areas for irrigated agriculture. The main purpose of this note is to put forth a proposal to solve this conflict, from a different perspective based on my field experience.
Sri Lanka has been truly blessed with the presence of the largest mammal on earth; it has contributed tremendously to our culture, economy, environment, leisure industry and natural beauty. Elephants are quite closer to humans than to other mammals. According to the article (referred to in the end note) for most of the mammals, brain mass is already developed at more than 90% when they are born. But elephants and humans are different, because brain mass development at birth is 35% for elephants and 28% for humansi. Therefore, unlike other animals they can’t survive during their infant age without the support of their parents. For an example if a human baby grew up in a jungle among the animals from child stage, he or she could not learn the normal human behaviour. This holds true for elephants.
Elephants are also intelligent like humans and have the ability to make rational choices and judgements. They don’t attack people without a good reason. When people increase their aggression towards them, they also increase their aggression. They also remember well, and therefore they can be increasingly aggressive and violent with the passage of time. As a result the ‘human-elephant conflict’ would transform to a never ending battle until elephants are driven to extinction in this country.
Human-Elephant conflict based on
my living experience
As an engineer who closely watched behavioural patterns of elephants while working on the Mahaweli Project since the 1970s, (before the forests were cleared for “development”), I still remember how they were freely roaming in harmony with the farming communities dependent on village irrigation tanks. For an example, elephants used to drink from a domestic tank built behind our Mahaweli quarters to meet our daily water needs before we chased them away to lay the modern canal network. Villagers also never considered elephants as threat to their lives unlike leopards because there were no elephant attacks. Grass growing in the village tank beds in valleys and secondary growths in chenas in the highland areas after their harvesting periods were their favourite food items. Even for birds, an area was allocated under village tanks known as kurulu panguwa. In addition, the villagers had also built forest tanks (kulu wewa) exclusively for wildlife and also to replenish ground water aquifer with rains. However, according to modern commercial-oriented western-based farming methods, we have destroyed thousands of those storage tanks and pitted ourselves against nature. We have been fighting a losing battle. An article published in the Economic Review magazine in 2010 explained in detail how this happened under irrigation projects developed during the last 2 centuryii.
Confrontation Vs Negotiation
Since the introduction of the so-called modern development strategies increase food production, we have been chasing out elephants and putting up electrified fences to ward them off. However, according to my first-hand experience, we could transform this conflict and co-exist with elephants if we handle the eco system for food production in an environment friendly manner. According to the recent observations on brain development behaviour of elephants, if we adopt what is dubbed the negotiation mode, I am sure, elephants will treat humans not as enemies to attack but as another species they have to coexist with. Instead of electrified fencing, live fence using plants such as lemon, palmyra and bamboo could be introduced.
Also, in some countries, bee keepingiv is also used to prevent elephants from roaming in residential areas.
Against this background, it is possible to test out the ancient development model at least at pilot scale in a selected area which has not yet been “developed” under the Mahaweli Master Plan. In the proposed approach, there are no artificial fences separating eco systems according to conventional EIAs recommended by various international funding sources. This is a very low cost method which could be implemented with local private sector involved in Organic Agriculture and Eco Tourism. The best pilot area I can recommend to test that negotiation approach is the Right Bank area of Maduru Oya. I also recommend that the Project be managed by a multidisciplinary team comprising wildlife and agriculture experts, irrigation engineers and archaeologists.
Confrontation verses Negotiation
According to my past experience no innovative ideas could be implemented on ground without political involvement. The main purpose of this note is to interest the political authority in this project. I hope my effort is a success. It should be implemented immediately because the Mahaweli Authority has already planned to follow the conventional confrontation approach for developing the Right Bank area of Maduru Oya.
Lane discipline then and now
By Eng. Anton Nanayakkara
Chartered Civil Engineer
At a time a valiant top heavy effort ( police plus army ++) is being made to enforce lane discipline , it is relevant to recall how a similar attempt was made by a small group of professionals, with foreign driving experience, to introduce the concept of lane discipline as practised in the countries like Singapore, the UK, the US, etc.. It was during 2000 and 2003 that two exhibitions were organised at the OPA for the first time, under the theme, ‘Introduction to the Basics of Lane Discipline’.
It took the form of a seminar- cum- exhibition with a 16’x 8″ physical model to explain all details of correct lane markings, their meanings, etc., to help a person drive any type of vehicle in a disciplined manner without any external assistance or excessive police presence.
At the first exhibition (2000), the Chief Guest was the Minister of Health and the Guest of Honour the Resident Representative WHO, at that time one Dr Peter Hybsier. Dr Hybsier said it was ‘exactly the way to set about solving the existing traffic problem’. In the second case, too, the same model was used with improvements, such as operating traffic lights using led bulbs. The Chief Guests were the Minister of Health and the Minister of Transport. Yet another special feature of the second exhibition was the inclusion of a pilot project on Parliament Road from the parliament roundabout to the Devi Balika roundabout with minimum police presence and no traffic fines so as to secure motorists’ fullest cooperation; only advice and warnings were given.
The most important feature of the pilot project was the prior training of all categories of road users. Specially prepared leaflets were to be distributed to all drivers two weeks ahead of the implementation of the pilot project. For this purpose five different categories of drivers were identified and the leaflets contained material applicable to each type of vehicle he/she will be driving at the time. (See below)
At the second exhibition immediate orders were given by the Minister of Transport to the only RDA engineer present at that time to take action to implement the pilot project without delay. So as usual everything ended there! The following pictures give some idea of the model.
While all the efforts being made under the present conditions are to be appreciated, it must be said that the use of public roads for training instead of a scaled down model dilutes all the good efforts, not to mention the need for a massive manpower input (police and army). It is difficult to believe that all drivers from one end of the road to the other end of the road and drivers in different lanes get the same message. It is also not fair to delegate any lane to one particular type of vehicle. All vehicle owners pay ‘road taxes’ that are used to build and maintain roads. So, the roads belong to all road users.
In Singapore, many more vehicles move much faster and much safer than in Sri Lanka. Where driver training is imparted is called the Singapore Safe Driving Centre, which is run by the private sector in Singapore and Honda Company of Japan.
The method proposed in the years 2000 and 2003 here applied to all roads, at all times, irrespective of weather conditions. Fines were the last resort. It is a pity that the present effort is being made 13 years after year 2003, and during that period thousands of lives have been lost on our roads not to mention many thousands of new vehicles getting smashed up, causing millions of damage to public and private property.
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