08/26/2020, 12.39
INDIA
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Patna: 84 priests helping the poor and the unemployed

by Biju Veticad

Priests have given up part of their allowance to provide food and coronavirus kits to those in need. About 33 per cent of Bihar residents live below the poverty line. Some 1.3 million unemployed migrant workers need help. The Church is committed to fighting illiteracy.

Patna (AsiaNews) – In the Archdiocese of Patna, 84 priests gave up part of their monthly allowance to help the poor and the unemployed during the COVID-19 outbreak.

"Thanks to their generosity, the Catholic Church has been able to provide supplies to people in difficulty, make and distribute protective masks and sanitiser, and engage in programs to raise awareness of the effects of the coronavirus," said Father Amal Raj, director of the Archdiocese’s Social Service Centre, speaking to AsiaNews.

The pandemic has not affected the commitment of the Catholic community to the needy in Bihar, north-eastern India, one of the country’s least developed state, where the lockdown imposed by the government to stop the coronavirus from spreading has negatively impacted the material conditions of large segments of the population.

The most affected are the families of about 1.3 million migrant workers from the state. After moving to other parts of India in search of employment, they were forced to go back to their villages because of confinement measures and the halt to economic activities.

About 33 per cent of Bihar residents live below the poverty line. Catholics are less than 1 per cent of the local population, but the contribution of the six dioceses to the development of the state is significant (and visible).

Thanks to Sewa Kendra, an inter-diocesan platform, the Catholics have managed to keep up their charitable work even in the midst of the pandemic.

For example, to ensure the financial security of migrant workers who lost their jobs, farm animals – sheep, chickens, ducks and hens – have been provided to migrant families.

Founded in December 2014 by Archbishop William D’Souza, of Patna, Sewa Kendra works above all for Bihar’s socio-economic development, the education of children in rural villages and the emancipation of women.

“Its projects are financed with donations from benefactors, but the economic crisis, with the closure of many companies, is reducing the flow of aid,” Fr Raj said.

For the Church, illiteracy, especially female illiteracy, is one of the main obstacles to the state’s development.

Sister Anila SCN, from the Diocese of Muzzafarpur, explains that Sewa Kendra is very committed to this cause. “Girls and women must be empowered through education. This can bring quality to their families and society as a whole.”

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