Indian Archdiocese Makes African Nationals Feel at Home
Matters India || By Adolf Washington || 17 July 2016
A Catholic archdiocese in southern India is trying to reach out to migrants from various African nations in the backdrop of increasing attacks on people from the world’s second-largest continent.
“You are precious before God and are dear to all of us. We welcome you without any reservation,” Archbishop Bernard Moras of Bangalore told more than 100 African nationals on July 17.
He was addressing aspecial program organized by the archdiocese for African nationals at St. Josephs Boys School in the capital city of Karnataka state.
The prelate said the Church feels “blessed to have peoples from different cultures as they enrich us to grow in our understanding of Global cultures and expand our spiritual horizons.”
The archbishop had created the Bangalore Archdiocesan Commission for Migrants in October 2015 to make people hailing from different countries and other Indian states “feel accepted and at home” in Bengaluru, the Silicon Valley of India.
The archdiocesan initiative comes in the backdrop of a few incidents of attacks on African nationals in some Indian cities such as New Delhi. Local people in these cities tend to look at these immigrants with suspicion after a few incidents of crime involving them.
With increasing job prospects, Bengaluru is witnessing a steady influx of people from various countries and Indian states.
A five-day India-Africa Summit held in New Delhi in October 2015 has helped improved relationship between India and countries in Africa. Subsequently, New Delhi announced a doubling of India’s assistance to African states, through a US$10 billion loan concession and US$600 million in terms of grant assistance.
Viewed as the cementing of long standing friendships between the two continents, an attempt to take this forward crystallized in the form of the May 2016 Africa Day Celebrations in New Delhi with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.
However, 42 countries threatened to boycott the event in the wake of attacks against African nationals in the country and the murder of Masonga Kitanda Olivier, a 23-year-old Congolese French teacher.
In March 2015, men from Ivory Coast were targeted in northeast Bengaluru where locals reportedly found the African community to be a “nuisance.” A mob of over 20 people threw stones and beer bottles at African students on passing vehicles. There were also the assault of a man on a motorbike as well as of four students in a car, which passed the location of the previous attack soon after.
“Given the pervading climate of fear and insecurity in Delhi, the African heads of mission are left with little option than to consider recommending to their governments not to send new students to India, unless and until their safety can be guaranteed,” said Alem Tsehage Woldemariam, ambassador of Eritrea, when asked about the death.
A strong letter demanding improved safety measures was sent to the Indian Government by envoys. The Association of African Students of India and scores of individual African students had intended to hold an anti-racism rally to condemn the act and bring to light the issue of discrimination that they faced, though the rally was put on hold subsequently.
Several participants of the archdiocesan program applauded the initiative.
The archdiocesan commission regularly organizes spiritual and cultural programs in various parts of the city to make the migrants feel accepted and cared for by the Church.
The Sunday program was exclusively organized for Africans working and studying in and around Bengaluru
Odo Amos Ikechukwu, a youth from Nigeria, told the gathering “It feels so good that we have a home away from home. Ever since I realized that Bangalore Archdiocese has a commission for the likes of us, I never felt lost or lonely. We feel it is a spiritual treat for us.”
William Kengne Gatchuessi Guillaume from Cameroon applauded the archbishop “for initiating a commission that helps people feel a sense of belonging to the Catholic Church and the love and watchful care of God while we build our careers here.”
Fr. Shaju Kalappurakkal, executive secretary for the Commission, told Matters India that it was the first time the commission organized something special for the African community in the archdiocese.
“It is very uplifting to see their zeal, vibrant participation and thirst for spiritual services. We are gradually expanding the scope of activities and trying to bring many more migrants together. With Bengaluru being so vast a city, it is indeed a herculean task. But we are thankful for the co-operation we are receiving,” he added.
Jesuit Father Martin Puthussery, general secretary for the commission, steered the gathering into discussions on pertinent subjects related to the life of migrants the world over.
The participants included Fr. Joseph Antony, rector of Jesuit Nivas, and priests and religious associated with the commission’s activities.
Source: Matters India…