Papal encyclical seen through tribal eyes

Church has to be ready to face difficulties for siding with the poor


Raipur: The Church must be ready to face difficulties if it decides to side with the poor and downtrodden, a Catholic prelate told a workshop on the latest papal encyclical on environment.

“The poor and the downtrodden people need to be given more focus for their all-round development. We the Church people, being united with all people of good will, must stand on the side of the poor and do something to alleviate their sufferings as Jesus did. Of course we need to be ready to face the difficulties,” said Bishop Emmanuel Kerketta of Jashpur.

The prelate was speaking at the opening of the July 29-30 workshop at Raipur, capital of Chhattisgarh, a tribal-dominated state in central India.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) Office for Justice, Peace and Development, New Delhi in collaboration with Chhattisgarh Regional Justice Commission organized the workshop on Ecology and Displacement at Raipur’s Xavier Institute of Social Action (XISA).

Some 40 people from five dioceses of Chhattisgarh attended the workshop.

Bishop Kerketta, who is the chairperson of Regional Justice Commission, said, “Justice seems to be impossible for the poor and the marginalized. Hence it is extremely important for us to know the present situation in order to bring about peace, justice and dignity in society. Due to development purpose, Multinational companies come to tribal areas, including the mining companies. The result is environmental damage and displacement. The Tribals lose their land which their only source of livelihood.”

Fr. Charles Irudayam, secretary, CBCI Office for Justice, Peace and Development, in his session on Catholic Social Teaching – A Call to Social Activism, insisted that human dignity should be respected, defended and protected by all in order to live in a peaceful society. He explained the participants why the church is concerned about human rights or why it is involved in social activism. Respect for human rights is the requisite for peace. He emphasized on the principles of Catholic Social Teaching and urged the participants to pay attention to these principles in their daily activities.

In his second session, Fr. Charles presented the summary of the recent encyclical of our beloved Pope Francis, Laudato si (On Care for our Common Home). He focused on the specialties of this encyclical, including the footnotes where there are a lot reference from the national bishops’ conferences, theologians and a Sufi Mystic.

He simplified the content of the encyclical through his power points presentation, from the introduction, then the Six Chapters and the conclusion. He further highlighted the important practical tips from the encyclical to be put into practice in our daily lives.

Ajay.T.G, activist and film maker, spoke on “Environment and Displacement in Chhattisgarh”. He said, “The concept of development changes from section to section of people. So we need to ask what development is. For corporate and governments development is industrialization, globalization and market economy etc.”

“Chhattisgarh state was created after making a survey of natural resources of the area. Tribal people live in those areas where the natural resources are. Exploiting the natural resources and selling them out to corporate s and they produce steel sponge iron etc amass wealth. Can this be called development? For the sake of the natural resources people in thousands are displaced,” said the member of Vice President of PUCL in Chhattisgarh.

On the second day, Fr. Charles Irudayam explained the meaning of advocacy, the different types of advocacy and the people centered advocacy with all its salient features and urged the gathering to get involved in advocacy and lobbying.

Fr. Panka Toppo, the superior of XISA, spoke of the importance of introducing social justice in the higher educational institutions with the purpose of reaching out to the future generations, the student.

Gautam Bandoupadyay, the environmentalist, spoke on Water, Land, Forest and Development”. He said, “Chhattisgarh a very rich land and with 7 geo cultural zone around it is the largest tribal area in the country. Rich Tribal knowledge and wisdom is here. But today they are the most exploited lot in the name of development. For development democracy is the base.

Today’s development paradigm is a big question. Is it more skills, more energy, more nuclear power, more steel? In market economy money is very much in speculation and not real. The effort to bring everyone under market economy will destroy our economy. Increase production and control climate change illegitimate debt from other countries and agencies is questionable.” The environmentalist asked the participants to resist and rebuild.

Fr. Sebastian Poomattam, Secretary, Chhattisgarh Regional Justice and Peace Commission and the local coordinator of the program, said the workshop helped broaden the participants’ knowledge on the encyclical, ecological problems and issues related to it and commit on the issue on the ground in their respective dioceses.

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