Christmas is less than a week away… and there is so much I would like to share with you. Plenty has kept happening in this year 2000…
It has been a year of conflict and violence! We see so much of it everywhere. Globally, nationally and at a local level. The minorities (the Christians, Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis) in Gujarat, continued to be at the receiving end. Vicious attacks on individuals, desecration of Churches continue with frightening regularity. Our Centre continues to be the hub of activity. We made a representation before the National Minorities Commission when they visited Ahmedabad in August and also took up matters with the National Human Rights Commission and even the President of India. As I write this… fear and insecurity still grip Christians in many parts of Gujarat.
Yet, on the other hand, we celebrated a Year for the Culture of Peace. In many small ways we have tried to foster communal peace and harmony. The children in our Chatrayalas put up several programmes based on this theme. It always a great learning experience for them to celebrate this essential. SHANTI (PEACE!) - our new initiative for the promotion of communal harmony, justice and peace, has also taken wings, with several programmes organised during the year.
It has been a year of floods and drought! Sounds contradictory! But true! For three days in July, it rained and poured, as though it would never stop! Ahmedabad and several parts of Gujarat - became one big sea … The poor who live in the slums lost their homes and belongings. Nobody had even seen so much rain in their lifetime! The irony is that the rains then completely stopped… And we have the third successive year of drought: people have begun migrating from their villages, cattle are dying, many have to trudge several miles to get a pot of drinking water … Their misery goes on..
Yet, on the other hand, we are making efforts to respond to this calamity; we have initiated programmes in many of the rural areas - like deepening wells where we have the boardings (there is a great possibility that we will have to close down many of our boardings in February - if we don’t have water); taking up water-shed programmes; providing some cash relief to the worst affected; sending in water tanks to some villages. In the context of last years drought - we did receive some help… the situation is a hundred times worse this year… we once again appeal to your generosity.
It has been a year of pain and suffering! Apart from the hundreds who are victims of human rights violations and natural calamities, this year we have seen so much death and suffering all around. Several of my colleagues lost a parent - (John who works with us in the ESP lost his father); among others who died are Hasinabibi (our oldest health worker in the slums); my own brother-in-law, Rex, our dear friend Taisto in Finland; a Jesuit community member Fr. Colon; two other Jesuits in road accidents… (one of whom, Fr. Chacko, was involved in our Balwadi Project). The list is endless… At least two very close friends of mine are suffering from cancer just now. Your prayers please…
Yet, on the other hand, we have had joy and celebration: the birth of children in families we know: the fact that our children both in the slums and villages are able to express themselves and stand up for their rights. Several children from our slums, took part in presenting programmes over radio and TV for the International Children’s Day of Broadcasting. At SXSSS, we have entered the 25th year … The ESP family continues to become bigger.
Its been a year of transition and travel! So many changes have kept happening. I have done plenty of travelling in Gujarat and to different parts of the country; besides three foreign trips. Travel always disrupts one’s everyday routine. My companion here, Fr. Moses, went to the South of India for eight months for his Tertainship; Puspa, who was the mainstay here, accepted a fantastic scholarship to do her doctoral studies on “Conflict Analysis and Resolution” in the United States.
Yet, on the other hand, it has been a year of renewal and responsibilities. Meeting once again close friends; everywhere warmth, hospitality and generosity was unbounded. It was a rare privilege to be invited to be one of the eight speakers at the World Summit of the Catholic Relief Services which was held in Florida. Apart from my other responsibilities, I have been appointed to head a new institution of the Gujarat Jesuits called the Province Office for Integral Social Development (POISD) which will coordinate and monitor all the development works of the Gujarat Jesuits besides, oversee works related to human rights, justice, peace and public relations…
It has been indeed a long letter!… but in a JUBILEE YEAR… Sharing is the key-word. We thank you for accompanying us - for your presence in our life and in our works: through prayers, sacrifices and material help.
The year 2001 is the International Year of Volunteers and also of “Dialogue among Civilizations.” We pray that renewed efforts may bring us closer in love and in peace.
Like the Logo on this letter: May Your Light Shine… not only this Christmas but every day of the New Year. And do keep in touch,
Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ