For decades, CNEWA has worked closely with the churches of India. CNEWA has provided the
Snehagiri Missionary Sisters with funds for mother and child care,
covering expenses for equipment, lab tests and medicines. The
association’s generous donors
have also helped the Deen Bandu Samaj Sisters supply hospice and palliative care, and aided the
Eparchy of Jagdalpur in caring for thousands of disadvantaged
children, many with special needs. To lend your support for the
church in India’s remotest areas: 1-800-442-6392 (United States) or 1-866-322-4441 (Canada).
In 1972, the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, a congregation of priests of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, established their first mission among the poor of the region. That same year, Pope Paul VI created an ecclesiastical jurisdiction known in the Eastern churches as an exarchate and entrusted its leadership to the congregation. Five years later, he erected the Eparchy (a diocese in the Eastern churches) of Jagdalpur, one of the first eparchies of the SyroMalabar Church located outside the church’s historical territory in the southwestern state of Kerala. Carmelite Father Thomas Kollikolavil directs the eparchy’s
social service wing. He says the Naxalites — named for Naxalbari, the West Bengal village where the Maoist-inspired movement began in 1967 — entered the region in 1980, positioning themselves as saviors of Adivasi villagers, devastated after years of abuse and subjugation by landlords and government officials. Most Naxalite leaders were educated urban youth disillusioned with the unjust social system, says Sister Julie, who has been taken deep into the nearby forest for questioning by the rebels. As the Naxalites established their hold over Bastar, it became an important part of India’s Red Corridor, a contiguous area spanning eastern India rife with illiteracy, poverty, exploitation and overpopulation. In 2009, the Red Corridor covered nearly 180 districts across ten states, in which the Naxalites ran a parallel government. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described this as the most serious internal threat to the country’s national security. By 2011, military and paramilitary operations reduced the corridor to 83 districts. Yet, the Naxalite grip on Bastar has only tightened. In 2006, one of the most controversial anti-Naxalite militias, Salwa Judum (“peace march” or “purification hunt”) rose to prominence. Supplied with arms by the government, the organization mobilized local youth, sometimes forcibly, and trained them for combat — in some cases evacuating entire villages and resettling the inhabitants in camps. Human rights groups allege Salwa Judum torched more than 640 Adivasi villages. Human Rights Watch has reported at least 100,000 people were displaced, many fleeing to the neighboring state of Andhra Pradesh to escape the violence. In 2011, amid numerous allegations of arson, murder and rape, the Supreme Court of India declared the government’s support
of Salwa Judum unconstitutional and the organization itself illegal, ordering it to disband. Even after this, a squad of Naxalite women slew Salwa Judum founder Mahendra Karma in a May 2013 attack that killed 27 people. In this volatile region, more than 400 sisters and 90 priests serve some 3 million people, 60 percent of whom are Adivasi. Rooted in the Gospel and in Catholic social teaching — which focuses on the dignity of every human being, the imperative to advocate and correct social injustices, and the church’s preferential option for the poor — the eparchy has begun programs to teach traditional farmers modern agricultural techniques; founded schools and youth clubs; started hundreds of help groups, most geared toward the needs of women; and established parish communities to nourish souls with the word and the sacraments. At the forefront of many of these apostolic activities are the Deen Bandhu Samaj and Snehagiri Missionary Sisters.
he Snehagiri Missionary Sisters were founded in 1969 in Kerala to serve the elderly and destitute (Snehagiri is Malayalam for “Mountain of Love,” referring to Calvary). Currently, 32 sisters work in seven centers in the eparchy, including Chavara Ashram, a boys’ boarding school in the Kanker district, a conflict-stricken area of the eparchy. In keeping with their charism, the sisters also administer homes caring for elderly men and women. Asha Nivas (“Home of Hope”), two miles outside of Jagdalpur, cares for destitute women, some of whom are mentally challenged. Men are housed at Asha Bhavan (“House of Hope”), half a mile away. Sister Prabha, who administers the two facilities, says parish priests direct people to her. The
The official publication of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA)