Margaret Gonsalves is a Sister for Christian Community and feminist theologian active in the Ecclesia of Women in Asia and Indian Women Theologian's Forum. As founder of ANNNI Charitable Trust, she networks with nongovernmental organizations to run free residential programs in intensive spoken English, sustainable development skills, and workshops for the empowerment of indigenous girls and women.
I was born and brought up in an environment of Indian-ness.
There are many entryways to my village, Almodarwadi. At one entrance, there is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shani. At another entrance, there is a Mahalaxmi Temple, and at another is Our Lady of Remedy Church. Near our paddy field is a huge masjid (mosque).
Every morning, I heard a symphony of bells and devotional songs from Hindu temples and the Catholic Church and adhan (call to worship) prayer from a mosque minaret.
From sunrise to sunset every Saturday, I heard devotional songs played at the Shani temple. The songs, memorized, formed my conscience. During Ganesha and Diwali festivals, I would go to the Hindu neighbor's house to share food (prasad) offered to the deities and join Muslim families for the grand Eid meal.
My parents never discouraged me from celebrating feasts with people from other religions. From my childhood, I grew in the theology of Oneness.
A lesbian couple introduced me to feminist theology, and a gay couple raised money for my ministry through a musical concert. I had wonderful opportunities to participate in or give retreats to various types of groups, including LGBTQIA people.
In my early days of responding to my call within a call, I began realizing I am an "angel of presence." I began disidentifying with many of the blindly internalized beliefs that no longer helped me grow in wholeness. This helped me recognize true human nature, the human potentials of holiness dwelling in all!
A Sanskrit aphorism, "I am the Infinite Reality," underlines that everything is sacred and everything is secular. This symphony of sacred secularity led me to participate in a Native American Sun Dance in Ithaca, New York. It was like a 100-hour retreat, dancing around a tree with no food, no water — just suffering on behalf of others. On the third day, I profoundly felt the cry of Jesus, "I thirst," when my tongue stuck to my palate.
I am becoming aware: Having great capacity for compassionate love and forgiveness, we all reveal God. I became aware: Interfaith dialogue alleviates the demonization of any religion and brings us closer to the realization of Jesus' prayer: that all may be one.
Every authentic spiritual tradition is a sacred avenue to a shared Universal Reality, from which flows healing of personal and planetary problems.
We're delighted to bring you this excerpt from the monthly feature "The Life", courtesy of our friends at Global Sisters Report. This month, "The Life" asked the panelists to share their life experiences that led them into an appreciation of other religions and ecumenical experiences. You can read the full article here.