New Delhi (Fides Service) – Father Stanny Ferreira who came to work in Madhya Pradesh six years ago set work immediately to improve the living conditions of the local people in Alirajpur and lessen tension between the two local ethnic groups. He made a phrase of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Popolorum Progressio “Development is another word for peace” his missionary programme.
When Father Stanny arrived, Alirajpur was a district with widespread poverty and a high rate of criminality which baffled the activity of the security forces. There was violent rivalry between two tribal groups Bhils and Bhilalas. Extreme poverty and unemployment led to thieving and killing. “But when Father Stanny came he was like a messenger from God,» said one of the Bhils chiefs.
The Salesian set to work to increase farm productivity, build new irrigation systems, increase food security, alleviate poverty, organise health-care services. He was convinced that improved living conditions would help to eliminate the problem of criminality and restore social harmony. “When I arrived I was surprised to see young men walking around armed; robberies and murders were the order of the day. Many people used to leave to seek work elsewhere, families and animals had little to eat and they hardly survived. There was bitterness among the people because of hardship. This situation was fertile ground for violence and hatred tog row”.
Today Father Stanny’s work is showing its fruits: farm productivity has increased considerably, animals thrive, and families live a dignified life. What is more the rival tribes have learned to live and work side by side. The local police congratulated Father Stanny, who succeeded in transforming an area with one of the highest crime rates in India, into a zone of peace and tranquillity. PA (Fides Service 4/7/2003 EM lines 31 Words: 368)