Brother Brendan MacCarthaigh with disability rights activist Jeeja Ghosh at her home in Ballygunge. Jeeja said on Friday: “I have known Br Brendan for three decades. We feel that he is part of our family. His contribution to my life is hard to put into words. He will be missed forever.”
From The Telegraph
Two days before he was due to leave India, an educator who spent more than half a century tutoring underprivileged children spoke about how promoting one religion is hurting the country.
“Love should be the basis of all relationships rather than divisions,” Brother Brendan MacCarthaigh, who will leave Calcutta for Ireland on Sunday, told The Telegraph on Friday.
“Promoting one religion over another is crushing the country instead of helping it grow…I feel bad that religious divides are emerging and the country’s leaders are doing nothing to close that gap,” said Brother MacCarthaigh on the phone.
During several Friday appointments, Brother MacCarthaigh took the time to speak at length. This newspaper asked him what he thought of the India he left behind.
Right now “religion is a big reality in India. But as teachers, we must remember not to promote any particular religion. Youth should be encouraged to be good youth… girls and boys within the principles of their own religion,” said Brother MacCarthaigh. “If religion spreads hatred, schools should raise their voices.”
He cited the example of Serve (Student Empowerment, Rights & Vision through Education), a methodology he devised to help students discover and learn without being stifled, to illustrate the point.
The Serve education system was born in 1996 and encouraged former students Rajesh Arora and Abbas Bengali. “The fact that the three of us were of different religions was a way of telling us to keep individual religions out of work,” Brother MacCarthaigh said.
He was inducted into The Telegraph Education Foundation Hall of Fame at The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence 2016. Brother MacCarthaigh arrived in Calcutta from Dublin in 1960 when he was 22, sent by Christian Brothers headquarters.
Over the years, he has touched the lives of thousands of students on platforms, on street corners and in high school. Brother MacCarthaigh is 84.
In the 62 years he spent in India—nearly 40 of them in Calcutta—Brother MacCarthaigh usually traveled to Ireland once every three years. When he got off the plane in Calcutta, he said, “a voice inside whispered, ‘Finally home'”.
“I love Calcutta and I’ve never been bored…. In Calcutta something has always happened or is about to happen. I will miss the excitement of this city.”
He said of his departure to Dublin: “I’m going back to my hometown where I don’t know anyone…I don’t know what to expect.”
Since news of his plan to return to Ireland, Brother MacCarthaigh has been “deluged” with messages from people asking him not to go. “I feel overwhelmed by the amount of love people show,” he said.
His former students arranged a farewell for him on Saturday evening at St Joseph’s College, Bowbazar.
“He goes, but leaves a legacy of good deeds. Since our school days, he has taught and inspired us to give back to society,” said Imran Zaki, who was his student at St. Joseph’s.
When asked if he had a message, Brother MacCarthaigh said, ‘Who am I to give a message? If I were to speak to the people of Calcutta, I would say. “Keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll do even better.”