Mass Stipends for 20 Jesuit Priests in India
When people hear the name Assam, the first thing they think of is the famous tea. And indeed, the state of Assam in northeast India is still the largest single tea growing area in the world. Sadly, the reality is that the thousands of Indians who work here as tea pickers do so in conditions of near slavery. Many of them belong to the minority tribal and ethnic groups. They are disadvantaged, for the most part illiterate, and widely exploited. So often the parents are working from dawn to dusk on the plantations and barely have time to care for their children – and since they themselves never went to school, they likewise would never think of sending their own children to school.
The Jesuit missionaries in the region have made it their goal to offer these children the chance of a better future. "I have been working here for 18 years," says Father Xavier Lakra. "From the very first day I have seen for myself the misery in which these people live. The key to a better future lies in a better education. We are trying to persuade the parents to send their children to school," he adds.
And in fact many of the parents are themselves learning to read and write, thanks to the commitment of the Jesuits. "Before, they couldn't even write their own name, but had to witness documents with their thumbprint – and they were often cheated and exploited as a result. In the meantime many of them have learned to read and write, and as a result they are no longer so hopelessly exposed to exploitation."
But what the people need most of all is pastoral support. They love the Church and have a profound natural piety. Yet at the same time they have to come to the realization that as children of God they truly have an inherent human dignity, for they often feel themselves to be worthless since they are right at the bottom of society. Hence, conveying to them an understanding of the love of God is a vital task.
Last year, our
benefactors helped the 20 Jesuit priests involved in the pastoral ministry to
the tea pickers in Assam with 800 Mass Stipends, a sum of $7,000 altogether.
This represented a vital help, enabling them to continue their precious
apostolate among these poor and disadvantaged people in India.
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