The JCSA Core Team held its third meeting on 13-14 January, 2018, at Indian Social Institute, New Delhi, to take stock of the prevailing socio-economic and political situation in South Asia and articulate a Jesuit response to it. The meeting began with rich tributes being paid to one of its members, Dr. Ambrose Pinto SJ, who passed away on 3rd January. While paying homage to Dr. Pinto, the members felt that his life should inspire us to work with greater zeal for justice peace and reconciliation in the South Asian peninsula. The highlight of the meeting was the presentation on the "Assessment of the Socio-Economic and Political Situation in the Aftermath of Gujarat elections and their Implications on the Rest of India" by Dr. Lancy Lobo SJ, Director of Centre for Culture and Development (CCD), Baroda. The members expressed satisfaction at the progress made in popularising the JCSA Statement issued in July last year and the positive responses received from several Provinces in South Asia. The meeting considered the mandate of JCSA to formulate an effective response to the rise of extremism and fundamentalism in the South Asian region and has decided to organise workshops during the year to raise awareness and devise effective strategies to promote justice, peace, harmony and reconciliation in the region.
Ambrose pinto’s death after struggling with treacherous cancer for about Six months on 3 January of 2018 made me feel that this year would be bad for Dalits. His smiling face, hopeful of change, keeps flashing through my mind.
I last met him when I gave a special lecture at Indian Social Institute Bengaluru on January 20, 2017, in memory of Fr.Henry Volken S.J, who founded the institute. That evening we had dinner at Akar Patel, well known journalist’s residence. It was at that dinner I was supposed to meet with Gauri Lankesh also. But she did not turn up. The whole nation knows what happened to her later.
Ever since I met Ambrose in the early 1990s he impressed me and our friendship continued. He was a scholar with great concern for the poor, human rights and human dignity. As director of ISI Delhi he converted that institute into place of pro-Dalit Bahujan activism, theory and social interactions.
Earlier and later as principal of St.Joseph evening college he turned that college into a totally reserved place of SC/ST/OBCs students by undercutting upper caste seats. The issue went to the Chief Minister of Karnataka, who called him and asked why that college does not admit upper caste students at all? As Ambrose told the CM “When we were admitting only upper castes, without observing reservation principle no Chief Minister asked us why were doing that? Now we have decided to admit SC/ST/OBC students more than the reservation quota principle, why are you questioning now?” He continued that policy till he was in that college.
Because of his committed transformative agenda in the Christian educational institutions hundreds of slum, village SC/ST/OBC students entered into high end jobs all over the country.
He trained those students to speak good English and earn high quality degree which would make them stand on their own legs all through life. He was doing the same at the St. Aloysius college that he was heading while he passed away.
Ambrose Pinto, a Jesuit by training, a dalit liberator by belief was uncompromising on Dalit human rights. Though a life time Jesuit he never looked at human problems within the framework of religion. He was secular to the core. Anyone who reads his writing in news papers ( he was a regular contributor to Deccan Herald and other papers) and journals like Economic and Political weakly, Mainstream, and so on he comes out as convinced Marxist, without proclaiming so.
But at the same time his commitment to the Ambedkar’s ideology and liberation of Dalits and Adivasis by using democratic instruments and Indian constitutionalism is unshaken. He was an excellent negotiator between Marxism and Ambedkarism with a Christian conviction of liberation theology at the core of his understanding. He would not refer to Bible as much as he refers to Marx and Ambedkar in his discussions and writings.
Ambrose has given a new definition to the concept ‘Jesuit’, a person who lives as whole time God man, only occasionally in the Jesuit garbs but most of the time in T-shirt and simple pant to work for the liberation of Dalits and Adivasis.
When he was in Delhi Ambrose expanded the public space so much that the ISI, Delhi became a place for new wave democratic movements, even at a time when the Bharatiya Janatha Party was in power. It became a place of everyday activity for progressives, nationalists and humanists. Though it was a short period of three years within those three years he became a noted person in all the progressive circles of Delhi.
Any new book in the market, that has a liberative message would find a platform for release, wherever Ambrose worked. Any protest meeting against injustice found Ambrose walking with a placard in his hand in the front row.
With Ambrose leaving us, of course a same smile India looks poor, as a friend of Ambrose said in an E-mail message. In the absence of Ambrose also we must continue our work, which is as much his work.
Prof. Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd, Director, Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Maulana Azad National Urdu University.
> > > http://www.countercurrents.org/2018/01/04/ambrose-pinto-gods-man-walked-talk/
With his tall, lean and thin figure, wearing round glasses and carrying his prized possession — a cloth bag around his shoulder — Father Bob Slattery is not difficult to identify.
The Australia-born Jesuit, who has been in India for nearly 60 years, continues his work among socially oppressed Dalits and ethnic minority people in the Hazaribag region of eastern India.
The 83-year old landed in 1958 in this area, now part of Jharkhand state, where the Jesuit Hazaribag Province is based.
“I volunteered for India because as a Jesuit I thought it would be good to serve the poor,” said Father Slattery, currently development director of the Hazaribag province.
His day starts early with prayers and he works late until night as his hands are full with planning and finding resources for the welfare of the indigenous and Dalit people.
The job is basically “to beg for funds, a challenging task,” he said.
Ever since he started his mission in Hazaribag, teaching at St. Xavier’s School, where most children are from Dalit and ethnic minority backgrounds, his priority has been education.
“I think my first feeling was of challenge and at the same time of being accepted by the students and the Jesuits here. I was happy because I enjoyed teaching,” he said.
Jharkhand has 32 small and big indigenous groups, with Santal being a major one. According to the 2001 census, these communities account for 7 million of the state’s population of 26 million.
Father Slattery speaks the languages of the indigenous Santal and Oraon groups, which he says helps him relate to them. He often visits villages, which also gives him an opportunity to meet village leaders.
He prefers to take public transport in the impoverished region as it gives him more opportunity to communicate with locals and know their problems, he said.
Australian Jesuits have been focusing on education since their arrival in India in 1951. Their mission has built up 13 high schools, seven middle schools, 12 primary schools and numerous small village schools.
The mission, spread across seven districts in the state, provides education to about 25,000 students from primary level to university education.
Jesuits also manage a university college and another college to train primary teachers. Plans are afoot to start another college to train teachers, Father Slattery said. It is his responsibility to find funds for the project.
Father Slattery, who has mostly served as a teacher and later as principal in various schools across the province, said he has always tried to maintain good relations with the staff and “I learned a lot from them.”
He has always cherished village life. “I liked it because the people were so good. We used to spend time in villages and stay around at night and rush to the nearby forest in the morning as there were no toilets in those days,” he said.
In 1978, Father Slattery was appointed as education director of the province. From 1993 to 1999, he was secretary for Jesuit education for South Asia and involved in launching schools in India, Pakistan and Nepal.
The priest takes simple meals like rice, Indian bread, pulses, vegetables and eggs. “I am blessed with good health, which I got from my parents. If you enjoy good health, naturally you will go ahead,” he said.
Father Slattery’s commitment to serve the indigenous and Dalit people in Hazaribag province was so intense that he gave up his Australian citizenship to become an Indian citizen in 1993.
“I thought if I got Indian citizenship I would have a good chance of staying in India,” he said, recalling that an Australian Jesuit was “evicted because he spoke up against the corruption in the country.”
The Jesuit priest keeps in contact with many of his students, even some he taught way back in 1958. He says it is great to meet them and learn that they are doing well.
Father Slattery says he enjoys being with students, teachers and fellow Jesuits.
“I will keep on working in the mission I have been given because that is what I am here for,” he said.
ROME - A pope is also the Bishop of Rome, and every once in a while, Romans expect to hear something special from their shepherd. On Sunday Pope Francis delivered, offering a New Year’s Eve homily expressing gratitude for his own Roman flock - although in terms, however, which will have resonance well beyond the Eternal City.
In effect, this was Pope Francis’s version of the famous 1969 “silent majority” speech by U.S. President Richard Nixon, suggesting that the concerns of ordinary people aren’t necessarily reflected in the rattle and hum of media coverage.
While Nixon meant the phrase as an assertion of support for his own conservative politics, Francis appeared to set up the silent majority in Rome as an alternative to politics of all sorts - meaning people, the pope said, who serve their communities not through noisy words, but quiet deeds.
The pope spoke during a vespers service in St. Peter’s Basilica intended to offer thanks for the year coming to a close.
Over the past twelve months, Francis said, he’s felt “sympathy and gratitude for all those persons who, every day, contribute with small but precious gestures to the common good, who seek to do their duty as well as possible.”
“As the Bishop of Rome, I feel gratitude in my soul, thinking about the people who live with open hearts in the city,” Francis said.
As examples of that spirit, the pope began with a for-instance that will echo the frustrations of many a Roman resident - “those people,” he said, “who move in traffic with good sense and prudence.”
By consensus, the poor state of maintenance on Rome’s roads, the lack of accessible public parking, and the city’s paralyzing traffic, are among the top complaints from locals. For the last couple of decades, Rome has finished atop the list of European cities for both the highest number of auto accidents and fatalities. According to government estimates, the average Roman spends 227 hours every year in traffic jams, the equivalent of more than a week and a half, wasting a total of 135 million hours at a cost of almost $2 billion.
The pope then went on to cite other examples of heroism from the silent majority.
He praised “those who respect public places, and report things that aren’t right; those who are attentive to the elderly, and people in difficulty; and so on,” Francis said.
“These and a thousand other behaviors express concretely love for the city,” the pope said, adding that they come “without giving speeches, without publicity, but with a style of practical civic education for daily life.”
“In this way, they cooperate silently for the common good,” the pope said.
Francis also said he wanted to thank “parents, teachers and all educators who, with the same style, seek to form children and teenagers in a civic sense, with an ethics of responsibility, educating them to feel part [of the city] to take care of it, and to be interested in the reality that surrounds them.”
Francis offered thanks to all those who pursue those outcomes without fanfare.
“These people, even if they don’t make news, are the majority of the people who live in Rome,” he said.
“Among them are many who find themselves in economic difficulty,” he said, “but they don’t cry on each other, nor do they harbor resentments and grudges, but they try every day to do their part to make things a little better.”
Francis said that in offering thanks to God for the past year, he’s especially grateful for these “artisans of the common good, who love their city not with words but with deeds.”
In the opening to his homily for the vespers service, Francis said that New Year’s Eve breathes the “fullness of time,” not simply because a calendar year is closing, but because “the faith makes us contemplate and hear that Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, has given us the fullness of time of the world and of human history.”
Looking back to 2017, Francis said God gave humanity the year “whole and healthy,” but that once again, human beings “used it up and wounded it,” including through “lies and injustices.”
“Wars are the most flagrant sign of this persistent and absurd pride,” he said. “But so are the small and large offenses against life, against truth, against fraternity, that cause so many forms of human, social and environmental degradation,” the pope said.
Tomorrow, Francis is scheduled to celebrate a Mass honoring Mary as the Mother of God, followed by a noontime Angelus address.
On Jan. 6, Francis will preside over celebrations of the feast of the Epiphany, followed by his annual address to diplomats accredited to the Vatican on Jan. 8. Those events are generally held to mark the end of the holiday season in the Vatican.
Full Text of Pope Francis’ 2017 Christmas Vigil Homily
“The faith we proclaim tonight makes us see God present in all those situations where we think he is absent. He is present in the unwelcomed visitor, often unrecognizable, who walks through our cities and our neighbourhoods, who travels on our buses and knocks on our doors."
Mary “gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Lk 2:7). In these plain and clear words, Luke brings us to the heart of that holy night: Mary gave birth; she gave us Jesus, the Light of the world. A simple story that plunges us into the event that changes our history forever. Everything, that night, became a source of hope.
Let us go back a few verses. By decree of the Emperor, Mary and Joseph found themselves forced to set out. They had to leave their people, their home and their land, and to undertake a journey in order to be registered in the census. This was no comfortable or easy journey for a young couple about to have a child: they had to leave their land. At heart, they were full of hope and expectation because of the child about to be born; yet their steps were weighed down by the uncertainties and dangers that attend those who have to leave their home behind.
Then they found themselves having to face perhaps the most difficult thing of all. They arrived in Bethlehem and experienced that it was a land that was not expecting them. A land where there was no place for them.
And there, where everything was a challenge, Mary gave us Emmanuel. The Son of God had to be born in a stable because his own had no room for him. “He came to what was his own and his own people did not accept him” (Jn 1:11). And there, amid the gloom of a city that had no room or place for the stranger from afar, amid the darkness of a bustling city which in this case seemed to want to build itself up by turning its back on others... it was precisely there that the revolutionary spark of God’s love was kindled. In Bethlehem, a small chink opens up for those who have lost their land, their country, their dreams; even for those overcome by the asphyxia produced by a life of isolation.
So many other footsteps are hidden in the footsteps of Joseph and Mary. We see the tracks of entire families forced to set out in our own day. We see the tracks of millions of persons who do not choose to go away but, driven from their land, leave behind their dear ones. In many cases this departure is filled with hope, hope for the future; yet for many others this departure can only have one name: survival. Surviving the Herods of today, who, to impose their power and increase their wealth, see no problem in shedding innocent blood.
Mary and Joseph, for whom there was no room, are the first to embrace the One who comes to give all of us our document of citizenship. The One who in his poverty and humility proclaims and shows that true power and authentic freedom are shown in honouring and assisting the weak and the frail.
That night, the One who had no place to be born is proclaimed to those who had no place at the table or in the streets of the city. The shepherds are the first to hear this Good News. By reason of their work, they were men and women forced to live on the edges of society. Their state of life, and the places they had to stay, prevented them from observing all the ritual prescriptions of religious purification; as a result, they were considered unclean. Their skin, their clothing, their smell, their way of speaking, their origin, all betrayed them. Everything about them generated mistrust. They were men and women to be kept at a distance, to be feared. They were considered pagans among the believers, sinners among the just, foreigners among the citizens. Yet to them – pagans, sinners and foreigners – the angel says: “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Lk 2:10-11).
This is the joy that we tonight are called to share, to celebrate and to proclaim. The joy with which God, in his infinite mercy, has embraced us pagans, sinners and foreigners, and demands that we do the same.
The faith we proclaim tonight makes us see God present in all those situations where we think he is absent. He is present in the unwelcomed visitor, often unrecognizable, who walks through our cities and our neighbourhoods, who travels on our buses and knocks on our doors.
This same faith impels us to make space for a new social imagination, and not to be afraid of experiencing new forms of relationship, in which none have to feel that there is no room for them on this earth. Christmas is a time for turning the power of fear into the power of charity, into power for a new imagination of charity. The charity that does not grow accustomed to injustice, as if it were something natural, but that has the courage, amid tensions and conflicts, to make itself a “house of bread”, a land of hospitality. That is what Saint John Paul II told us: “Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ” (Homily for the Inauguration of the Pontificate, 22 October 1978).
In the Child of Bethlehem, God comes to meet us and make us active sharers in the life around us. He offers himself to us, so that we can take him into our arms, lift him and embrace him. So that in him we will not be afraid to take into our arms, raise up and embrace the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned (cf. Mt 25:35-36). “Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ”. In this Child, God invites us to be messengers of hope. He invites us to become sentinels for all those bowed down by the despair born of encountering so many closed doors. In this child, God makes us agents of his hospitality.
Moved by the joy of the gift, little Child of Bethlehem, we ask that your crying may shake us from our indifference and open our eyes to those who are suffering. May your tenderness awaken our sensitivity and recognize our call to see you in all those who arrive in our cities, in our histories, in our lives. May your revolutionary tenderness persuade us to feel our call to be agents of the hope and tenderness of our people.
For the past five years, Father Joseph Kalathil SJ has been deli-vering letters to students in India and Pakistan, despite deep politi-cal animosity between the regi-onal arch-rivals. And this year, the Jesuit priest based in Chandig-arh, northern India, arrived at the Pakistani border on foot.
He informed fellow Jesuits in Pakistan about his presence at Wagah border crossing, located 24 kilometres from Lahore, in Pakistan’s Punjab Province.
“After getting through the passport control, it was only a five minutes’ walk and I was in another country,” Father Kalathil told.
The director of his self-styled “Peace Mission” delivered hand-written letters from 32 students at three Indian schools to two Catholic schools in Faisalabad diocese in Pakistan during his Oct. 22 to Nov. 9 visit.
He returned with parcels and replies to the letters he delivered.
Since 2012, he has delivered hundreds of similar colourful letters between students at educational institutes in the neighbouring countries. “I wanted to start with children,” he said. “I do not discuss religion or politics. Instead we discuss human rights, peace and friendship.” Sometimes young people rejected him, calling India an enemy.
(Source: The Light of Truth)
17-20th December, 2017 at Navjeevan Renewal Centre, New Delhi
Province Development Directors (PDDs) from 19 Provinces and 2 Regions/Missions met for the 10th Annual Meet from 17-20th December at NRC, Delhi to deliberate on various issues in the context of GC-36 on discernment and justice with focus on greater collaboration and networking. The theme of the meet was Development & Sustainability.
An orientation programme for the new PDDs was scheduled in the morning hours from 09.00 to 1.00 PM. Fr. Jorge Serrano, SJ (Assistant Treasurer for Development Resources) has been accompanying the PDDs and was the main resource person who articulated the historical process and goals of setting development offices across the countries. He also explained the important role the PDDS can play in the development planning and resource mobilisation in their respective provinces. Fr. SijiNoorokariyil SJ, PDD Coordinatorexplained the evolving role of PDDS and shared about the good work done by some PDDs in their provinces.
The Meet formally began at 6.00 P.M. on 17th December with a warm welcome to the delegates by Fr. Jose Kuriakose SJ, PDD Delhi Province. Then, Fr. Siji shared the summary report of review of the roles and responsibilities of PDDs which followed by a group discussion and sharing by the participants. The day-2 proceedings began with a brief presentation by FR. Siji contextualising the meeting followed by a Message from Fr. Jeera (Provincial Delhi). Then, Fr. George Pattery (POSA)in his key note address highlighted the role played by Jesuits in the context of GC-36, various processes being underway like REGAE and Strategic Apostolic Planning. He appreciated the role played by Assistancy Development Office (ADO) working with different Provinces and Jesuit Institutions in giving shape to the 3-Pillars i.e.Non-Formal Education, Technical Education and Skill Development and Ecology and Environment in the whole South-Asian Assistancy.
The Core Committee members from the 3-Consultations on 3-Pillars shared the major outcomes and plans for the consideration of PDDs in supporting as well as promoting these Pillars in their respective provinces. The Jesuits working on Non-Formal Education have come together and formed a network called SANKALP for collaboration, learning and sharing as well as fund-raising. Similarly, the Technical Education Group has formed an institution called JESUITEC to further promote this pillar. The Ecology Group will come out with a Jesuit Name for networking and collaboration in near future.
Fr. Sannybhai, Coordinator, JESA presented the work and achievements of LOK Manch as a Jesuit promoted Network on people’s rights and entitlements. There is a lot to learn from the Lok Manch model and experience on networking and collaboration. Later on, Mr. Lourdes Baptista, shared the work done by Jesuits on 2-other priority areas of JCSA i.e. Migration & Refugees as well as Peace and Reconciliation.
The PDDs came out strongly to engage with the ADO on capacity building, learning and sharing, networking, collaboration and developing quality programmes to serve the poor and marginalised communities. It was proposed to undertake mapping of all programmes, Need Assessment and Baseline Studies, Communication Materials development and Resource Mobilisation to strengthen the 3-Pillars in all the Provinces based on needs.
By Manoj Pradhan
The consultation on Ecology by the Jesuit Conference of South Asia was held at Indian Social Institute, New Delhi on 16-17 December 2017. It was a coming together of all the Jesuits who are fully involved in Research on Ecology, writers, thinkers, educators and activists. It was an eye opener to see the amount of good work the Jesuit ecologists do in South Asia. Many of our Centres have been acknowledged by the governments and even UN.
The Ecology Consult came up with the following statement.
"Imbued with the Ignatian charism of finding God in all things and all things in God, inspired by the call of Pope Francis to care for our Mother Earth through his encyclical Loudato Si, encouraged by the commitment of our own Society to protect the earth and heal the broken world and strengthened by the commitment of innumerable number of people who are engaged in environmental protection,18-Jesuits involved in ecological ministry in India, gathered for a deliberation at ISI, New Delhi on 15-16th December, 2017 invited all Jesuits to get engaged in this eco-mission with great zest and enthusiasm.
While appreciating the efforts and actions taken already by some individual Jesuits and Provinces as a whole in the realm of Research, Advocacy, Eco-Awareness, Environmental Spirituality, Relief Works, Rights based Approaches, Organic Farming, Alternate energy, Watershed Management, Biodiversity and Natural resources and other direct interventions, the participants urged all the Jesuits for deeper and stronger involvement.
It was strong expression by the Jesuits of South Asia that survival of human beings in earth depends on judicious use of natural resources and caring for the same. Hence, the delegates urged forurgent and immediate interventions in the following areas:
- Immerse our Formees at every stage in eco-spirituality and environmental awareness
- Build strong networks and collaboration among all who are working in the realm of ecology and environment to enable sharing of experiences, expertise, resources and to access funding
- Develop concrete project proposals to mitigate the environmental problems faced by people, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized communities
- Ensure that ecological concerns are cross cutting across all apostolic areas which come under various sectors of the society’s administrative structure
- Provinces set up structures and lay down and implement policies to mainstream ecology within the provinces.
- Explore newer avenues like climate justice for further promotion.
By Manoj Pradhan
A pall of smog, dust, smoke, exits from vehicles and factories normally hang over the winter Gangetic plains both before and after the winter solstice. The wind blows them away and the sparkling rays of the sun everywhere. One notices the golden orb rising over the hills in the orient, source of the new brilliance. And revival begins: grass, plants, shrubs, bushes, trees, flowers and fruits. Life activities commences all over. The Birth of Jesus we can compare to that phenomenon of the udaya surya bhagavan (the dawning sun).
Manifold evils like crimes, violence, massacres, suicides, fraud, theft, deception, at one level, envy, jealousy, greed, debauchery, hostility, feud, wars, destruction, depression, at another level. And poverty, exploitation, deprivation, landlessness, resource-lessness etc yet at another—had hung over the humankind. The children of God, ‘created in the image and likeness of the (creating) God’ lived under this pall of gloom and multi-layered darkness. The human persons, born out of the luminous and bliss-filled God of all, but living forlorn, were longing for liberation from manifold captivity.
The illumined ones, the prophets and sages, across the human family, down through centuries, gave vent to the cry of the souls, prayed:
“O come to lead the captive from prison; free those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death”—(a line from one of the prayers during the season of Advent).
When the first dawn for a just released prisoner is out after serving the term, when the children rush out of the class rooms after the last hour, when the concentration camps of Hitler were thrown open by the victorious Allies, on all similar occasions the pulsation of hearts reached its zenith. Gloom and exhaustion left behind, joy and celebration ahead.
The celestial figures shed their luminosity over the shepherding group by announcing ‘we bring you tidings of great joy’. The song needs echoing and re-echoing.
One of the earliest roars of the God-seeking sages of India was ‘from darkness lead me to light’. All do experience that inner darkness and consequent restlessness of soul. The same is echoed, perhaps in other ways, when some of the thinkers summarized life as marked by sorrow (Dukham(Siddhartha), or affliction’ ‘klesh-Patanjali). Hardly anyone will challenge their sentiment since their followers abound even now in our land and beyond.
It is against these backgrounds that the “tidings of great joy” was sung out by none other than by a band of celestial luminous figures popularly known as angels. The melody filled the hearts and minds of the shepherds that were tending to their flocks of sheep in the valley, The melody had been echoing down the corridors of time’. The many visitors to homes or churches these days, especially on Christmas night/day will be tickled by the revival of memories when they hear it sung again.
Celebrations, rejoicing, greetings, exchange of gifts, singing of songs are about to take place for almost a fortnight. There will be brightness of faces and thrills in the hearts. The extra-terrestrial beings called angels who delivered an unusual message to struggling world through a shepherd community:
“Behold I bring you tidings of great joy” (Lk 2:10). How to understand this ‘joyful’ message to some night vigil keeping shepherds. It was not to astronomers who are involved, apparently, in observation of cosmic phenomena. Neither to God-seekers ((prophets, sages, rsis..). Nor to scientists or philosophers who are devoted to probing .
Honey bees leave the tiny cell, relishing sweet hope in mind. From flower to flower it reaches out, kissing each flower, humming and thanking, bestowing its service to every flower. They leave, greatly rewarded and enriched. The flowers begin to bloom and function. Fructifying, gradually. From home to home, with lit lantern in hands, the faithful, muffled in winter garments, up the hills and down valleys, knocks at every home and delivers the message; ‘tidings of great joy, received from the angels, verified in the crib, inviting all to come out singing and celebrating.
Tagore advised the worshipper in the temple: ‘leave this chanting and telling of beads…_.
Similarly the central message of the angels, because of the Birth of Jesus, to the shepherds, needs to be de-coded, transcribed in terms of enhanced human relationship and wafted across hearts, huts, villages, work places, and assemblies is: ‘leave the smoggy den of dislike, hatred, envy, greed, violence, exploitation discrimination, voluptuous grabbing and restlessness and line up to embrace everyone to create a new society where mutual acceptance, service, solidarity, diversity, to the task of building new bridges across divided hearts and homes. And in the worship place they assemble singing: ‘Let us forget ourselves and worship the Lord, Jesus Christ the Lord’.
The honey bee returns with its collection to build new chambers for storing their produce: combs. The worshippers, having done their sacred rituals, leave the sacred places, and gather around fire places, homes, celebration halls, dining halls, village hearths, and begins the their tasks: to build further bridges across the separated and separated hearts, families, neighbourhood…Eventually to new the face of the earth.
That is the dream of God for humanity. Christmas therefore is but a faint intimation of the plan God has for humanity. Merry Christmas.
T. K. John SJ
Assessing the social delivery system of the Jesuit Conference of South Asia (JCSA) and assisted by Jesuits in Social Action (JESA) and the Jesuit-managed Indian Social Institutes of Delhi and Bengaluru, launched a programme under the banner of LOK MANCH (LM; in Gujarati means, “People’s Platform”) on 2 November 2015, after a sixteen-month long preparation. Right now, LM is directed by the National Secretariat headed by the JESA Secretary.
It is a people’s movement for the development of leadership among dalits, adivasis, women, minorities, urban as well as rural poor, and other marginalized communities of various regions, religions, and cultures. It works on the principle of collaboration with like-minded Organizations or persons or agencies, all of whom having a similar ideology or spirituality, and all aiming at social change not bolsters but promotes human dignity. This interactive network is necessary to succeed in attaining the common objective. This network consists of a hundred likeminded organizations covering 12 states of India. What makes it special is that it has been owned up by people. “LM is a platform for marginalized people like us to come together to claim our rights, to fight for our rights, to live with dignity,”recalls 27-year-old Kanchan Devi, a beneficiary of the National Food Security Act (NFSA). She comes from the Musahar community, one of the most deprived communities in Bihar. She has no land or livestock, nor does she have any income other than what she gets as a manual daily worker. NFSA empowers her and her family not with but through campaign - the right to food.
Vision and Mission
LM envisions India an egalitarian, just, inclusive, democratic, and secular nation. Its mission is to create a strong national platform for ensuring people’s improved access to Government schemes, and improving the qualities of policies and their proper implementation. That mission is carried out by discovering and training local leaders who will then lobby for the necessary changes with the present Government legal provisions and social schemes, and for the better access of impoverished households to entitlement schemes like the National Food Security Act (NFSA), Schedule Caste Sub Plan (SCSP), Tribal Sub Plan (TSP), Water, Sanitation, Hygiene (WASH) and other Governments Schemes. These schemes are used as resources and tools to enlighten and empower the grassroots leaders. Grassroots democracy is pivotal to the Nation Building. The people at grassroots should be empowered to develop themselves and their communities.
LM is guided by 11 core values: liberty, justice, equality, fraternity, love, peace, commitment, gender justice, credibility, forgiveness, and excellence. These become operational under certain core principles: decentralization, participative decision making, transparent in accountability, team work, and shared responsibility.
Composition and Administration
The entire country is divided into 4 zones, each consisting of 23 units, each unit having 4 organizations. Out of 100 Organizations that act in partnership, only 44 are Jesuit run. Each unit reaches out to about 12,000 households, in about 80 villages, with approximately 160 community leaders, and around 80 monitoring persons who can take up their own issues. Altogether a total of 5,520 such leaders will be empowered by the end of three years. They are chosen from among their own communities by the communities themselves, and they are trained to respond to the issues of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Their praxis is “action- reflection- action” that was articulated by Paulo Freire in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed.
LM is true to its motto: ‘’together we make a difference!’’ Today, LM covers countless households and enables them to keep from starvation, which is the “unfinished task of the freedom struggle,” according to Fr George Pattery, the President of the JCSA (the Provincials conference of South Asia), who has shown great interest in LM, and encourages fellow Jesuits to implement it on war footing in every village of India.
Thanks to LM, people are organized to represent their concerns and grievances to their elected representatives and to Government bureaucracy. The dream of LM is to translate into a national movement with people’s leadership being exerted from the bottom of the pyramid. As the leadership of LM will be taken up by the people, the Jesuits and other collaborators will play accompaniment /complementary role as days go by and be willing to take orders from the leaders! Through LM, gram sabhas (village assemblies) are getting so activated and strengthened so as to work and to rebuild a new home based on human values. LM has shown Jesuits and others a new way of engaging in social action in the country and spreading the theme of GC 36.
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