Sunday, January 29, 2023

Leaving behind a lasting legacies

The year 2022 ended with the world biding tearful adieu to three very inspiring personalities that are ever known to mankind of this generation: Heeraben Modi, the adoring mother of Narendra Modi, prime minister of India and one of the most powerful leaders in the world today, Pele, a larger-than-life icon in the world of football and Pope Benedict XVI, a German Priest who had once enjoyed the support and loyalty of more than one-seventh of the world population and the first Pope of the Catholic Church to resign in more than 500 years.
The three, who all passed away on December 30-31, 2022, do not possess any legitimate or officially defined political power or authority during their lifetime. Yet their influence and the role they played had impacted lives all around the world, transcending human barriers. Humanity representing different nationalities, religions, languages, political ideologies and cultures rallied around the personalities of Heeraben Modi, Pele and Pope Benedict XVI to draw inspiration, hope and joy, and adored them. One way or the other, the inspiring life the three had lived had unified humanity, amidst conflicts and divisions that confront the world, and make the world still a liveable planet for mankind.
The moving scene of an emotional Narendra Modi leaving the national capital to his hometown to see for the last time the lifeless body of his mother and then carrying his mom’s dead body to the funeral pyre had touched the hearts of the world.
At that given moment when Life came calling, the meaning of being a very powerful man and the status of Narendra Modi as a prime minister ceased; instead, he became just a grieving son who was returning home to see his deceased mother.
Heeraben Modi represents the struggle of Indian women from the poorest section of society. The story of Heeraben Modi and many Indian women of her class is a story of a lifelong struggle, in the midst of poverty and hardship, to find ways and means to raise and support a family and provide basic and decent education to their children. From hardship to raising a son who went on to become the prime minister of the second-most populated country in the world, her life will inspire many women around the world who are facing similar problems and challenges like her, and would give them strength and courage to face those life’s challenges. Albeit her passing, the inspiring personality of Heeraben Modi will forever etch in the hearts and minds of humanity.
And if the story of Heeraben Modi is a story of inspiration, the story of Pele is a story of bringing cheers and excitement to millions of football fans across the globe through the beautiful game that he had once played and fans around the world fondly remembered. More than four decades since he stopped playing football, until his demise, yet the meaning that he gave to the game continues to dominate the world football’s discourse.
Today, one cannot talk about football without talking about or remembering Pele. He was the one who had added a new dimension to the game of football – that a football is not just a game but a beautiful game: meaning football is not just about two different teams playing for a win, it’s more about bringing joy and cheers to mankind. Engaging with football means setting aside real life’s hardships and difficulties for time being, and taking a moment to see the brighter and lighter side of life!
Pele’s career in football came at the time when the world was at its peak of Cold War. Decades after the disastrous two world wars, the world was still a troubled place. Uncertainty and tension continued to plague humanity with the world dividing between the eastern communist bloc and the western democratic bloc. It was during this troubling time that the beautiful game of football, led by Pele and his generation of football’s heroes and legends, provided the platform for people torn apart by different political ideologies to come together and celebrate humanity through the game of football. Football indeed had played its part well in giving a ray of hope for humanity at the time when the dark cloud of uncertainty covered the world during the era of the Cold War.
If Pele’s beautiful game gave hope to humanity at the height of the Cold War, it was the institution of the Pope that became one of the instrumental forces in bringing the end of the Cold War. Remember, the defeat of Communism and the fall of the iron curtain in Eastern Europe was a triumph of humanity. It was the solidarity movement that was launched in Poland in the 1980s and supported by Pope John Paul II, a Polish Pope and a predecessor of Pope Benedict XVI, which had liberated Eastern Europe from the clutch of communism.
The election of a Polish Pope in 1978 by the Church of Rome encouraged the Polish citizens to raise their voices against Communism in the country. Within years after the election, a revolution broke out in Poland which led to the overthrowing of the communist regime in the country and replaced by a pro-western democratic government. This ripple effect of the defeat of communism in Poland spread all over Eastern Europe in the subsequent years and eventually led to the disintegration of the mighty USSR in 1991 into 15 independent states.
Pope Benedict XVI, who succeeded Pope John Paul II, had led the Catholic faithfuls comprising of more than one billion and represented the Christian community at large in preserving and defending the conservative values of the Christian faith and traditions until his unexpected resignation in February 2013. Pope Benedict will be best remembered for his unapologetic defence of the Biblical position of marriage as a union between one man and one woman, Complementarianism as the sole criterion for Church ministry and religious freedom. Pope Benedict’s unapologetic defence of those Conservative Christian values, for which the Christian community should be forever grateful, came amidst the onslaught from the liberal forces against those values which not only affects Christianity but threatens to devalue humanity.
The common thread that brought Heeraben Modi, Pele and Pope Benedict XVI together was that the life they lived represented the best of humanity. And taking inspiration from them, drawing the best out of their life and living in accord with it will help humanity towards creating a better world.
Dr. Nsungbemo Ezung,
Wokha Town, Nagaland

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