By Lakshya Kalra:
AnjezÃ« Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, better known as Mother Teresa was one of the most influential persons of the twentieth century. She is known all over the world for her love of the poor and the downtrodden. The Missionaries of Charity, which was her brainchild, has become a symbol of benevolence and compassion across the globe. Mother Teresa and her legacy has done the world a ton of good. But since her death in 1997, there has been a constant stream of criticism against her. Accusations of monetary fraud, neglect in medical care and alleged closeness to bloodthirsty dictators have plagued her legacy. Her detractors claim that she was a part of a grand plan by the Vatican to promote Christianity. They have sought to tarnish her once saint-like image.
One of the biggest and the most damaging accusations to be put on Mother Teresa is the alleged monetary fraud that she conducted via her Missionaries of Charity. Unaccountability and lack of transparency have been cited as the main reasons as to why people believe that Mother Teresa’s mission committed the monetary fraud. Unfortunately, we have been looking at this from an incorrect perspective. We need to understand that Mother Teresa was a devout member of a religious and a medieval order. Her upbringing, her schooling, her values, her beliefs, her thinking-have all been greatly influenced by the teachings of the church. To her, money was simply a means to attain her goal; namely, service to the poor. The monetary gain was not the goal she had in mind. She regarded accumulation of wealth as a temptation and a sin. It is therefore, of no wonder that she gave little to no importance to the monetary transactions. Her Nobel Peace Prize money, too, was channelled into her Mission. Like the sages of old, she was truly free from the hold that wealth has on humans. She has also been criticised for her views on suffering, she felt that suffering would bring people closer to Jesus. Due to this belief, people claim that she made no effort to reduce the pain and suffering of those who came to her “homes for the dying”.
Her detractors have time and again accused her Mission of poor quality care and flouting of basic medical procedures. Again as stated earlier, in order to fully realise the situation, we need to look at Mother Teresa’s past. Her views on suffering were no more radical than the Pope’s and after all, she never once claimed that her homes were hospitals. They were never established for the purpose of medical relief. Their sole purpose was to give the downtrodden comfort and spiritual relief in their final days. It is true that the spiritual relief provided was along Christian lines, case in point being the Mission’s views on suffering, but then again the missionaries of charity were a religious mission at the end of the day. Also we one must keep in mind that no one was made to seek refuge in the Mission’s homes forcefully. It was their own free will which led them there. As Mother Teresa herself said, the purpose of these homes was to give people who lived like animals a chance to die like angels–loved and wanted.
Mother Teresa was a kind and trusting woman. Influenced by the teachings of the church, she saw goodness in everyone and forgave one and all. She believed that everyone had the capability and intent to do good in this world. Perhaps, that is why, she was accused of having close ties with the various dictators of that era. Mother Teresa was a selfless nun who undertook great hardships to provide service to the lowest strata of the society. She spent her entire life towards that cause and asked for nothing in return. It is really sad to see such baseless accusations framing her pious and noble deeds. Allegations like these mar the legacy of a great and kind human being and those that do so, should be ashamed of it.