Hundreds of thousands of Indian Catholics are petitioning the government to improve living conditions there.

The Syro-Malabar Catholic Congress presented Kerala state Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan with the petition late last month after a major signature campaign, one meant to address what the congress described as “unprecedented crises” facing the Christian community there.

Vijayan “was very concerned and assured to consider our demands,” Catholic Congress President Biju Parayannilam told UCA News this month

“Around half a million Catholics” in Kerala signed the petition, UCA News said. 

“Ordinary people are struggling to eke out a living and we want the government to focus its attention on their problems,” Father Philip Kaviyil, director of the Catholic Congress’ global committee, told the news outlet. 

Among the demands presented to the government was the timely delivery of social security payments. Elderly citizens in the state are given the equivalent of about $20 per month from the government, but they “are not getting it on time, making their life miserable,” the priest said. 

Farmers are also reportedly struggling to make ends meet while also dealing with wild animal attacks. 

Parayannilam said the activists were “hopeful that the government will make some positive announcement regarding our demands in the current budget session of the state assembly.”

Vatican News noted that Christians make up about 20% of the local population in Kerala, with the Christian community there tracing its ancient roots to St. Thomas the Apostle. 

More in Asia - Pacific

The Syro-Malabar Church is one of the 23 autonomous Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with Rome. Based in Kerala, it has more than 4 million members worldwide, making it the second-biggest Eastern Catholic church after the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.