I studied at St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai, and my school was a convent run by a nun order that is closely associated with the Jesuit priests, an order started by St. Francis Xavier. The realisation that my life was linked to St. Francis Xavier’s work, did not occur to me until my 4th visit to the Old Goa Church Complex this year.
Saint Xavier has a huge following in the Christian world.
He also initiated large scale crimes against humanity through the inquisition motivated by religion. (link)
Visits to the complex are always thought provoking: Is religious killing justified more than any other kind of killing? In religious ideology, do the ends justify the means? Is sainthood appropriate for anyone tainted with such an association? Who decides which religious group may be condoned for its killings and which will be labeled terrorists?
In this church complex itself there is a painting in which Christian priests are being burnt at the stake by evil Mughals. Is that as justified as the Christian priests burning alive of Hindus who converted to Christianity but failed to comply with the new rules? Or do we have different views depending on which side we are on? Is there any sense to any of this killing?
Many unresolved questions poke their ugly heads… but since I am not religious all these matters are of academic interest to me and peripheral to my consciousness.
But balancing all these ugly questions, are the beauty that religion always produces ….art born out of religious devotion. And if the quality of this art is any measure then it appears that religion does bring out the best in people …arts all over the world are proof of this.
And in any case I am certain that none of my modern day friends would support such crimes in the name of religion, no matter which religion proposes them and which religion they belong to.
And so it is easy to zoom out of the ugly questions and zoom in to the beautiful objects that are legacies transported across centuries.
A few images from the church complex:
The body of St. Xavier
A visit to this church complex is rewarding.
For a larger set of pro images, please visit www.jainamishra.com
A related article on Christian Painting from the past to be published soon.