The Capuchins in India have decided to take matters of justice, peace and ecology seriously in their lives and ministry.
They came to this decision at the end of a week-long national workshop cum training program organized by the Office of the Commission for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) at Kotagiri Friary, in the Province of Mary Queen of Peace, Tamil Nadu, India from 2 – 8 May, 2016.
18 friars from 10 circumscriptions and 2 custodies from across India participated in the program, which was aimed at preparing them, and through them other members of different circumscriptions, to be effective animators in the ministry of JPIC in India.
Besides these friars, Br. Jacob Kani, the JPIC Commission member from India, and Br. Nithiya, as a resource person, too were present for the first ever such program in India.
Br. Benedict Ayodi, the Director of the JPIC Commission, inaugurated the workshop cum training program. He exhorted the Capuchins in India to actively involve themselves in the issues of the people, especially the poor and the marginalized, in ensuring them justice at all levels, in peace building, and in caring for the environment which is facing serious and manifold threats for its healthy existence.
Br. Ben animated various sessions and motivated the participants to follow the examples of Capuchins and other Franciscans in different parts of the world who are seriously engaged in JPIC activities. He explained to the participants the spirituality of JPIC in the SEE, JUDGE, ACT framework, the Franciscan ecological concerns, the success stories of JPIC around the world, and the response the friars need to develop in the given socio-economic contexts.
Br. Jacob Kani, the Indian representative in the JPIC Commission and who organized the Kotagiri program, made it clear that JPIC is not an optional thing but an integral part of every Capuchin’s life and ministry, and that the JPIC values need to be part of the whole formation system of the Capuchins. He explained the Commission’s work under the framework of ‘INFORM, INSPIRE, and INTEGRATE’.
He emphatically stressed the need to have a JPIC structure in the conference (CCMSI) level as well as in the circumscription level. He explained the efforts he made in this regard but with little success with the CCMSI.
Br. Nithiya, Fr. James Mascarenhas, SJ and Sr. Mariola, BS conducted the workshop and enlightened the participants on how to develop a Human Rights-based approach to the JPIC issues in India. They enabled the participants to distinguish between the charity-based activities and human rights-based activities. The new Indian legislations like Right To Information (RT), Right To Education (RTE), Right To Food etc. provide ample opportunities for the socially-conscious religious to work for the rights and dignity of the poor people in the country, they pointed out.
The team brought awareness to the participants regarding the human rights of the people of India, and educated them as to how to claim those rights for the poor and marginalized sections of the society along the lines of various human rights laws and international conventions.
Br. Nithiya focused on the issue of extreme poverty and hunger and explained the Right To Food campaign that many Franciscans and NGOs undertake in the country. He also explained the Process of Movement Building and how Capuchins can involve themselves in it. He led the participants into group work and making action plan on certain JPIC themes.
Br. Arun Lobo helped the friars in ice breaking, bonding, sharing and reporting the JPIC activities in each circumscription / custody, and in organizing the program.
At the end of the programe, the participants were enthused to engage in JPIC ministry more seriously and effectively in their respective provinces and regions, as well as to motivate other members to join th em in this task.
Br. Jacob Kani proposed setting up a National JPIC Team to coordinate and animate the JPIC activities in the CCMSI conference level. Accordingly, the participants elected a 5-member team for this purpose, which is seen as a pro-active response and positive result of this training program.
The JPIC Commission intends to recommend this national team to the CCMSI for their official endorsement and approval for further planning, training, and activities of JPIC in India.
The participants welcomed and appreciated the initiative of the JPIC Commission in organizing such a program for Indian Capuchins, who are mostly engaged in traditional pastoral and spiritual ministry, school ministry, social works etc. Some of them are also engaged in media and publications work.
Many participants are of the view that a paradigm shift is required from the age old works of religious to address the issues affecting the poor and marginalized people today, harmoniously combining spiritual life and active ministry, following the example of Jesus, St. Francis of Assisi and Pope Francis, so that the religious remain relevant to the needs of the time.
Before concluding the program, we gathered the students of philosophy in the friary, who come from three provinces, and Br. Ben spoke to them about the JPIC while Br. Arun explained about the PCO VIII and its deliberations.
The friars took time for exposure, visiting the local tribals - the KOTHAS - who were the original inhabitants of Kotagiri hills (The name KOTAGIRI means ‘THE HILL OF KOTHAS’). They were surprised to find a highly civilized, educated, peaceful, friendly and well-mannered community of Kothas, who today number only a few more than 2000! We pray that these original owners of the beautiful Kotagiri hills, decked with tea estates and flowers, surrounded by hills and valleys, and filled with fresh, clean and cool air, should not go extinct in course of time, but should live long in order to tell their stories to those who become the new owners of their beautiful hills.
The last day of the program was spent on outing to the ever beautiful hill station of Ooty, enjoying the cool air, beautiful flowers, gardens, hills and valleys of this great tourist attraction in South India.
The Capuchins in India are spread across the country in 15 provinces/custody.
- Br. Jacob Kani