ASIA/INDIA - With education and development programmes Catholic missionaries help Tribals in under-developed communities become recognised citizens with full social and civil rights

Tuesday, 11 May 2004

Raipur (Fides Service) - Before the arrival of Catholic missionaries tribal children in the area of Raipur, in the central Indian state of Chattisgarh, had never been to school, their families were hunters and ancient customs included organised marriage among minors. In ten years the Catholic mission has given children primary education, instructed adults in modern farming methods helping to improve living conditions, besides providing simple medical care and introducing new social customs such as marriage at adult age.
This service of missionaries has led many local people to ask about the faith they profess Father Thomas Vedakedath, a missionary at Chilpi mission which began outreach initiatives to help tribals some years ago.
When explaining Christian teaching on matrimony and responsible relationships the missionaries also inform the people that child marriages are now against the law in India. Through patient work of instruction they have helped these communities, previously abandoned and ignored, to take their rightful place as citizens.
Thanks to Catholic missionaries, Catholic mission schools and development programmes tribals, formerly excluded from society by India’s rigid caste system are now fully integrated and aware of their rights and dignity.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 11/05/2004 Lines: 30 Words: 312)