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Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa (Albanian: Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu (August 26, 1910 – September 5, 1997) was an Albanian Roman Catholic nun who founded the Missionaries of Charity and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her humanitarian work. For over forty years she ministered to the poor, sick, orphaned, and dying in Kolkata (Calcutta), India. As the Missionaries of Charity grew under Mother Teresa's leadership, they expanded their ministry to other countries. By the 1970s she had become internationally famed as a humanitarian and advocate for the poor and helpless, due in part to a documentary, and book, Something Beautiful for God by Malcolm Muggeridge. Following her death she was beatified by Pope John Paul II and given the title Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

Reception in India and Asia

Mother Teresa was granted a state funeral by the Indian Government in gratitude for her services to the poor of all religions in India. In tribute, Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan said that she was "a rare and unique individual who lived long for higher purposes. Her life-long devotion to the care of the poor, the sick, and the disadvantaged was one of the highest examples of service to our humanity." Mother Teresa had first been officially recognised in the region long before her death. In 1962, she was awarded the Padma Shri by the Indian government. That same year she received the Philippines-based Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding, given for work in South or East Asia. The citation said that "the Board of Trustees recognizes her merciful cognizance of the abject poor of a foreign land, in whose service she has led a new congregation". She continued to receive major Indian rewards in successive decades including, in 1972, the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding and, in 1980, India's highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna.

Indian views on Mother Teresa were not uniformly favourable. Her critic Aroup Chatterjee, who was born and bred in Calcutta but lived in London, reports that "she was not a significant entity in Calcutta in her lifetime". Chatterjee blames Mother Teresa for promoting a negative image of his home city. Her presence and profile grated in parts of the Indian political world, as she often opposed the Hindu Right. The Bharatiya Janata Party clashed with her over the Christian Dalits, but praised her in death, sending a representative to her funeral. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad, on the other hand, opposed the Government's decision to grant her a state funeral. Its secretary Giriraj Kishore said that "her first duty was to the Church and social service was incidental" and accused her of favouring Christians and conducting "secret baptisms" of the dying. But Parvathi Menon, writing the front page tribute for the Indian fortnightly Frontline, dismissed these charges as "patently false" and said that they had "made no impact on the public perception of her work, especially in Calcutta". Although praising her "selfless caring", energy and bravery, Menon was critical of Mother Teresa's public campaigning against abortion and that she claimed to be non-political when doing so. More recently, the Indian daily The Telegraph referred to her as "the Saint of the Gutters", also mentioning calls for "Rome to investigate whether she did anything to alleviate the condition of the poor or just took care of the sick and dying and needed them to further a sentimentally-moral cause".

Reception in the rest of the world

By the early 1970s, Mother Teresa had become an international celebrity. Her fame can be in large part attributed to the 1969 documentary Something Beautiful for God, which was filmed by Malcolm Muggeridge and his 1971 book of the same title. Muggeridge was undergoing a spiritual journey of his own at the time.During the filming of the documentary, footage taken in poor lighting conditions, particularly the Home for the Dying, was thought unlikely to be of usable quality by the crew. After returning from India, however, the footage was found to be extremely well lit. Muggeridge claimed this was a miracle of "divine light" from Mother Teresa herself. Others in the crew thought it was due to a new type of ultra-sensitive Kodak film.Muggeridge later converted to Catholicism.

Around this time, the Catholic world began to honor Mother Teresa publicly. In 1971, Paul VI awarded her the first Pope John XXIII Peace Prize, commending her for her work with the poor, display of Christian charity and efforts for peace. She later received the Pacem in Terris Award (1976). Since her death, Mother Teresa has progressed rapidly along the steps towards sainthood, currently having reached the stage of having been beatified.

Mother Teresa was honored by both governments and civilian organizations. The United Kingdom and the United States each repeatedly granted awards, culminating in the Order of Merit in 1983, and honorary citizenship of the United States received on November 16, 1996. Mother Teresa's Albanian homeland granted her the Golden Honor of the Nation in 1994.Her acceptance of this and another honour granted by the Haitian government proved controversial. Mother Teresa attracted criticism, particularly from the left, for implicitly giving support to the Duvaliers, to corrupt businessmen such as Charles Keating and Robert Maxwell, and to politicians on the right of Western politics, such as U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and United States President Ronald Reagan. In Keating's case she wrote to the judge of his trial asking for clemency to be shown.
Universities in both the West and in India granted her honorary degrees.Other civilian awards include the Balzan Prize for promoting humanity, peace and brotherhood among peoples (1978),nd the Albert Schweitzer International Prize (1975).In 1979, Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, "for work undertaken in the struggle to overcome poverty and distress, which also constitute a threat to peace." She refused the conventional ceremonial banquet given to laureates, and asked that the $192,000 funds be given to the poor in India, stating that earthly rewards were important only if they helped her help the world's needy. When Mother Teresa received the prize, she was asked, "What can we do to promote world peace?" She answered "Go home and love your family." Building on this theme in her Nobel Lecture, she said: "Around the world, not only in the poor countries, but I found the poverty of the West so much more difficult to remove. When I pick up a person from the street, hungry, I give him a plate of rice, a piece of bread, I have satisfied. I have removed that hunger. But a person that is shut out, that feels unwanted, unloved, terrified, the person that has been thrown out from society - that poverty is so hurtable [sic] and so much, and I find that very difficult." More specifically, she singled out abortion as 'the greatest destroyer of peace in the world'.

Her death was mourned in both secular and religious communities. The former U.N. Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, for example, said: "She is the United Nations. She is peace in the world." During her lifetime and after her death, Mother Teresa was consistently found by Gallup to be the single most widely admired person in the US, and in 1999 was ranked as the "most admired person of the 20th century" by a poll in the US. She out-polled all other volunteered answers by a wide margin, and was in first place in all major demographic categories except the very young.

Towards the end of her life, Mother Teresa attracted some negative attention in the Western media. The author Christopher Hitchens has been one of her most active critics in both the United Kingdom and the United States. He was commissioned to co-write and narrate the documentary Hell's Angel about her for Channel 4 after Aroup Chatterjee encouraged the making of such a program, although Chatterjee was unhappy with the "sensationalist approach" of the final product. Hitchens expanded his criticism in a 1995 book, The Missionary Position.

Chatterjee writes that while she was alive Mother Teresa and her official biographers refused to collaborate with his own investigations and that she failed to defend herself against critical coverage in the Western press. He gives as examples a report in The Guardian in Britain whose "stringent (and quite detailed) attack on conditions in her orphanages ... [include] charges of gross neglect and physical and emotional abuse", and another documentary Mother Teresa: Time for Change? broadcast in several European countries. Both Chatterjee and Hitchens have themselves been subject to criticism for their stance. The German magazine Stern published a hostile article on the first anniversary of Mother Teresa's death. The medical press has also published criticism of her, arising from very different outlooks and priorities on patients' needs. Other critics include Tariq Ali, a member of the editorial committee of the New Left Review, and the Irish-born investigative journalist Donal MacIntyre.
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