Anti-superstition health drive launched after child dies in India
By Antonio Anup Gonsalves
Students lead the Medical Awareness Campaign March in Lazu. Credit: Diocese of Miao
Students lead the Medical Awareness Campaign March in Lazu. Credit: Diocese of Miao

.- Negligence and blind faith led to the death of a student in far north-east India, and the Church there has responded with an anti-superstition education campaign for parents.

The child was a student at St. Xavier's primary school in Lazu, part of the Miao diocese in Arunachal Pradesh state. At a regular school health check up before the Christmas break, he was diagnosed with appendicitis.

St. Xavier's principal, Fr. Joy Moc, urged the parents to seek medical treatment for their son at a hospital during the Christmas vacation.

But trusting in supernatural, magical cures, and having blind faith, the parents failed to follow Fr. Moc's advice, and their son has died from the rupture of his appendix.

“An innocent life is lost,” Fr. Moc told CNA Jan 23.

“We do not want to repeat these incidents in future.”

In an effort to educate parents so that such an avoidable death can be prevented in the future, the Diocese of Miao has launched a health and anti-superstition campaign in Lazu.

On Jan. 17, more than 500 students and faithful of the diocese participated in the medical awareness program. A “Say No to Superstition” march was held, with participants holding banners with the slogan, as well as “health is our right,” “go to the doctor when you are sick,” and “right medicine at the right time.” The banners were written in India's official languages, Hindi and English, as well as the local language Ollo.

Bishop George Pallipparambil  expressed his sympathy with the community, and assured his solidarity as he prayed for the boy.

St. Xavier's school collaborated with the local Catholic “Seva Kendra,” or social center, to educate and empower the local population with regard to health care.

Three religious sisters conducted workshops on various health awareness topics to make people to respond to timely medical needs so as to avoid such tragic events in the future.

They explained the importance of timely medical treatment, immunizations, and personal cleanliness, in addition to prayer for health.

An official of the Assam Rifles, a national paramilitary force which assists in communications, medical assistance and education in such remote areas as the Miao diocese, spoke to those gathered about the free medicines available to them at the Seva Kendra.

A physician from the nearest hospital, located some 25 miles away, educated the people about illnesses and their treatment.

The students of St. Xavier's also performed an educational skit on the unfortunate death.

At the program's conclusion, those assembled pledged to care for themselves and their families by going to physicians when sick and “saying no to superstitions.”

Arunachal Pradesh, home to the Miao diocese, is a remote part of India, and part of it is claimed by China; the diocese borders both China and Burma.

The area is mountainous, home to the easternmost portions of the Himalayas. Its mountainous terrain and remoteness has led to challenges of poverty, a lack of infrastructure, and underemployment.

In 2011, the per capita GDP of the state was $1,300, and the literacy rate was 67 percent.

In a Dec. 6 interview, Bishop Pallipparambil told CNA that “ignorance and the shackles of superstition are also big challenges, and so to tackle them, education is a priority need.”

The Miao diocese was established in 2005, and Bishop Pallipparambil, a Salesian, is its first bishop. The diocese is home to 83,500 Catholics across an area of nearly 17,000 square miles.

The diocese's total population is roughly 500,000, with Christians – most of them Catholic – comprising some 19 percent of the population. The largest religious group is Hindus, with large minorities of Buddhists and traditional religions, as well as small numbers of Muslims, Sikhs, and Jains.

Tags: Miao, Anti-superstition, Arunachal Pradesh

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