Shillong (Agenzia Fides) - The spirit is to carry out a work of mercy, "feed the hungry", in the name of Christ Jesus who comes into the world to be close to every man, especially the poor and the suffering: this is why the young people of the Indian Catholic Youth Movement (ICYM), a reality under the aegis of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI) of the Latin Rite has launched "Feed a Friend", a special charitable initiative to celebrate Christmas.
As Fides learns, the initiative has taken on particular variations according to the various contexts and the various states of the Federation, also finding collaboration and support from civil institutions or other religious communities. In Shillong, in the Indian state of Meghalaya, Prime Minister Conrad Sangma, a Catholic, presented the poster and the volunteers of "Feed a friend", alongside Antony Judy, National President of the ICYM and other ecclesial and civil figures. Sangma said he was "happy to present and involve the entire civil community in the solidarity initiative" and "happy that young people are aware of the need to help those in need".
The spirit of "Feed a Friend" is to help those in need by bringing food to the poorest and most marginalized families, both on the outskirts of cities and in rural areas. To do this, the structure of the parishes is used, with their knowledge and capillarity in the territory. "We are very pleased that ICYM has launched this feeding program in the spirit of Christmas", said Bishop Nazarene Soosai, Bishop of Kottar and Chairman of the CCBI Youth Commission. "The initiative is the fruit of the conscience of young Catholics in India, enlightened by faith. They intend to concretely show their neighbor that Jesus is God-with-us", he said. "God gives us the grace to celebrate Christmas and to bear witness to our faith in charity," he added.
"Many people in India need care and love. Let's lend a hand to those who lack food. God gives us his grace, not to keep it for ourselves, but to share it", said Antony Judy, national president, to the young people of the ICYM.
The initiative, launched for the first time on the occasion of Christmas 2021, was re-proposed by acknowledging the fact that in India many families do not have "food security", that is, they cannot afford even one meal a day. "On Christmas Day alone we expect to feed 50,000 people. And, given the massive response from the young people already involved, we are thinking of extending it even beyond the Christmas season. The initiative has been welcomed across the nation, in dioceses and parishes", Judy reports. The president informs that "to get food, food collections are organized in the various communities but funds have also come through the collection of donations, which has seen the participation of people in India and abroad. Thanks to this collection we hope to be able to support the feeding schedule for next year", he notes.
In India, the practice of feeding the needy on religious holidays is also common to other communities, such as that of the Sikhs: "This commitment to sharing and solidarity is welcomed in every village and in every neighborhood by people of all faiths: it also becomes an opportunity for dialogue and collaboration with people of other religious communities. We are happy that Catholics are seen as people who practice charity towards their neighbour, without any distinction of culture, faith, caste", says Judy.
In the 132 Latin-rite dioceses in India, over 50 diocesan youth groups are actively involved in the programme. "Young people are the backbone of this initiative. Of course, there are difficulties and we need to find the necessary resources, but the Lord helps us, making himself present as Providence through so many good people", notes Judy.
Inaliza Nongbyrsaw, a young woman from the state of Meghalaya, reports to Fides: "Christmas is a time when traditionally gifts are given and received. The most important gift we receive is Christ himself who comes. We too want to offer a gift of love towards the needy. Let's take inspiration from the love we receive from God this Christmas and let's give our small contribution to ensure that it is a blessed and happy Christmas for our neighbour", concludes the young woman. (PA/SD) (Agenzia Fides, 19/12/2022)
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