Our projects in Northern India

Since the mid-70s Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has committed itself to working with its long-term pastoral projects in the country with the second largest population. ACN supports Catholics in the North of India, where a large number of the faithful – our sisters and brothers – are Dalits or tribal people. Both groups are very much neglected and extremely poor and discriminated in the Indian societal structure. The Catholic Church is providing them above all spiritual support through various pastoral initiatives. For “man does not live from bread alone”. There is material poverty, but faith makes a difference. The poorest of the poor suddenly feel stronger when they become part of a community. This experience is so overwhelming that they are willing to make major efforts to achieve it. For instance, they have to walk for hours or spend the little they earn – rarely more than one or two dollars per day – on transportation to get to their nearest church. For families who live off the land, working in the fields, it means that initially they have to give up even more. To have a church or chapel built close to their village is a priceless gift to them. A chapel or church not serves only as a place to gather and worship. It is also a visible sign of communion and shared faith. It strengthens the identity of Christians, which is so important to this marginalized but engaged community.

The presence of a catechist in the village is also extremely important. In this part of the world, catechists are the lifeblood of the Church especially for Dalits. Catechists are those who lead the community and give hope and consolation. Catechists are in direct contact with the local population. They are the first persons to be involved in faith formation. They create a religious atmosphere in the village. The catechists, as all their neighbours, work in the fields. Their income is so low that they can barely survive. ACN gives them the possibility to attend Christian faith formation courses where they also learn how to develop new perspectives for their daily lives and to build their community.

Another pillar of the Catholic Church in India is the so-called Small Christian Communities. The prayer groups meet sometimes in private houses, sometimes in parishes to take part in various courses about the faith. They pray together, they discuss their daily struggles and how to overcome them. Guided by the Bible, together with religious sisters or a priest or especially skilled laypersons, small groups of about ten people gather regularly to share and grow in faith and service to the Lord and the others. The overall goal is to build relationships in which everyone cares for one another, as Veronique Vogel, responsible for ACN’s projects in India, states. “Through Gospel sharing, laypersons become an engaged part of the Church and are encouraged to reach out to others,” she explains. “By reading the Bible, the value and dignity of each human being becomes evident to them and they learn to respect and to share each other’s burdens. Group members are encouraged to identify the problems around them and to respond practically. Then, as they grow in faith and service, they develop a deeper sense of, e.g. their role in the family, the value of marriage, and the equal dignity of men and women, who in the end gain greater confidence and a better understanding of the beauty of their particular responsibilities as mothers. As a result, the Small Christian Communities transform laypersons who through their witness and concrete actions carry the Gospel values into society.”

ACN’s pastoral support for the Catholic communities in North India includes the supply of religious books, especially Bibles, the construction of chapels, churches and houses for religious sisters and priests, catechism programmes and the work of the Small Christian Communities. They all contribute to transforming the lives of the Dalits in line with Christian values.

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT Aid to the Church in Need, VISIT http://www.churchinneed.org
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ABOUT US

Founded in 1947 as a Catholic aid organization for war refugees and recognized as a papal foundation since 2011, ACN is dedicated to the service of Christians around the world, through information, prayer and action, wherever they are persecuted or oppressed or suffering material need. ACN supports every year an average of 6000 projects in close to 150 countries, thanks to private donations, as the foundation receives no public funding. ACN – Aid to the Church in Need gGmbH, HRB 8446 is non-profit organization officially registered in Germany and audited internationally by KPMG.