“Every day we encounter Jesus in the flesh and in the wounds and bruises of our tribal and marginalised communities of the Raigad mission,” said Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI). The prelate spoke on the second World Day of the Poor, titled ‘This poor man cried and the Lord heard him,’ an event Pope Francis established. In the Archdiocese of Bombay (Mumbai), “we meet the poor among our tribes of Raigad,” almost 200 km from the mega city, “not only with a festive lunch and a day of prayer, but also through a daily encounter to empower them.”
According to Card Gracias, one of the greatest challenges of the modern Church is “the need to go to the margins of society and give hope to marginalised groups, raise a prophetic voice and engage in advocacy to bring about a new social order.”
The Jankalyan Centre for Community Organisation (CCO) is situated in Mahad Taluka, Raigad District, about 180 km south-east of Mumbai in the foothills of Mahabaleshwar, the mission area of the Archdiocese of Bombay. In Raigad district, the local tribal community represents 11 per cent of the total population.
Fr Calistus Fernandes, director of the centre, said that although “the face of Raigad is undergoing a rapid change due to the setting up of numerous industries and globalisation,” a “large section of this tribal community still lives in dehumanising conditions.”
In fact, the “Lack of basic amenities like health, water, shelter and education” as well as “malnutrition, illiteracy, superstition, exploitation (especially of women), unemployment, deforestation and other equally serious factors threaten the lifestyle and the very existence of these tribals.”
The Jankalyan centre, like other 20 CCOs in the district, is committed to “serve the people, especially the marginalised and the oppressed, with a preferential option for the tribals.” Its goal is to promote an “abundance of life based on life values and communal harmony through fellowship.”