Friday, 2 May 2003

Bangalore (Fides Service) – Too many poor people end up in prison, even if they are innocent, because they have no legal assistance. This happens in developed countries in the West and all the more in India where poverty is a sad reality for large sectors of the population.
Sister Grace Thomas, Salesian Missionary of Mary Immaculate, chose an unusual way to carry out her mission: complete her studies in law and act as a lawyer for the poor. However she practices her profession not only in courts but also in rural villages among Tribals of Madhya Pradesh state in India. “My purpose is to act as a mediator of peace, preventing judiciary disputes and dissuading people from turning to the police or the courts and to settle the arguments instead in a peaceful manner”.
Sister Thomas who is 62, has worked since 1990 among the poor and excluded Tribals in Mandla district, offering legal advice to the local people. “Although many priests and religious have studied law - she explains - not many of them practice. In fact it only make sense if it is in aid of the poor” Sister Thomas adds. “Although I never planned to be a lawyer, the needs of so many innocent people condemned made me decide to become personally involved, and to register as a lawyer at Jabalpur Court in Madhya Pradesh. “I always pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance,” says Sister Thomas who also gives lessons in law to the Sisters of her community.
Her legal advice and activity is given free of course: “We Christians work for justice not for money” the Sister Lawyer concludes. PA (Fides Service 2/5/2003 EM lines 23 Words: 280)