A Catholic initiative to give the poorest of the poor in India a fresh start in life is celebrating some ground-breaking achievements, reported Father Rossi Rego, SJ, Mission Procurator of the Karnataka (south west India) Jesuit Province.
Fr. Rossi Rego gave an account of his mission during a recent visit to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), he explained that Jesuit-run ‘Mission’ programs provide kindergartens, schools, self-help centres, hostels, and social support for people in debt – all mainly directed towards the Dalits, India’s down-trodden ‘untouchable’ underclass.
About 25 years ago, the ‘Missions’ were set up across south India, aimed at uplifting the Dalits by freeing youngsters from child labour and enrolling them at rehabilitation schools. Key to the self-help projects are privately-run banks, set up to encourage Dalits to save a little every month and to deter them from taking out loans with hugely-inflated interest rates.
Fr Rego said it showed that the ‘Missions’ had played a key part in enabling Dalits to break free from oppression. Things have changed enormously.” He went on: “Women have grown in asserting themselves. We have been holding a series of talks and now the women are asking questions and really coming forward. This would have been unheard of 10 years ago. They are even going to the government offices to demand their rights – again unthinkable a decade ago.”