REPORT ON CHUKNAGAR MISSION FOR APRIL 2012
S. X. ASSEMBLY
SHORT PRESENTATION OF CHUKNAGAR MISSIONARY ACTIVITY
We gave our last report on Chuknagar mission to the S. X. Assembly of April 2010.
During the last 2 years something new happened in the history of this mission.
I will tell you about that during this report.
A SHORT HISTORY
Talking about history, I do not start from the beginning because I suppose that everybody knows how the mission started in Chuknagar, who started it and who were the fathers who spent years and energy for this mission. In the report of 2010 I gave you a short memory of the last 10 years of this mission. So I’m not going to repeat myself. From February 2009 up to February 2011 Fr. Melecio worked with me and then since last January 2011 Fr. Yulius took his place.
Every day at 6 AM we come together for the morning prayer and the Eucharistic celebration, always in Bengali. Some faithful also come and join us in the celebration. Also at 6 PM we come together for the evening prayer in Bengali. We try to communicate each other, although because of the language, the task is not always easy. Especially when we have the meeting with teachers, we seat together to prepare the agenda of the meeting. On this occasion, together with the supervisor of the T. P. and the catechist we analyze the requests made by our students and decide the amount of money to be given to them. The overall economical management at present is in my hand. Fr. Yulius looks after the bazaar and every week end goes to Satkhira for pastoral work.
We have 4 employees, who are paid according the pay scale of the X. S. Region: Pobon Das, our cook; Ponchanondo Das, our krishok (farmer); Dilip Das, supervisor of the Tuition Program and Sudhangsho Das, who is catechist and keeps in touch with the local somaj (community) and other organization of the area. On Friday morning, 4 girls from the para, (cluster of houses) come for cleaning the house and washing our clothes. Each one of them gets tk. 500 per month.
ON THE MAIN STREAM OF THE TRADITION.
Although we are different people from those who worked at Chuknagar Mission before us, we are trying to keep alive the tradition that made Chuknagar a turning point on the struggle for the liberation of the Rishi people through education and conscientization.
THE TUITION PROGRAM. F
Fr. Yulius with the supervisor and the catechist looks after this program, although for any important matter we come together and take decisions. The tuition program remains a structured program consolidated by its decades of history. The project is mainly meant for the Rishi people, although in almost every village we have a few Muslim boys and girls. We are present in 13 villages with 43 teachers and a total of 650 boys and girls from class IV up to class IX. Boys and girls of class X leave our program in order to prepare themselves to the SSC examination. This year a total of 60 boys and girls gave the SSC examination. With the teachers we meet twice a month. The first meeting is meant for their formation and the second one is a routine of the monthly evaluation and planning. For the going on formation of the teachers, usually we invite people from outside. For 2 years we published a six months magazine where we reported about our activity and initiatives trying to involve in it teachers and students. We stopped it last year because we were too busy with the inauguration of the 2 buildings. Up to now we did not resume the publication.
Twice a year we have also a gathering in every village with the students and their guardians. Usually we meet at the beginning and at the end of the year. We attach a very great importance to this kind of meetings, because we see them as an opportunity to motivate our people so that they can perceive that the struggle we are now leading is their own struggle. Every year we stress an issue we consider crucial. So for the last few years we have been conducting a very hard battle against the ballo bibaho (child-marriage) that we see as a curse for the Rishi community. In many cases we were successful, although we have to confess that it is not so easy to eradicate a mentality so deeply rooted in the culture of our people.
BARNA PRATHA (caste system)
This issue always present since the beginning of the mission in Chuknagar is the core of the liberation movement among the Rishi of the area which has turned out to be unstoppable and irreversible. The real strength of this movement is education intended as global human promotion, of which alphabetization is just the starting point. In line with past, we celebrate with particular emphasis the International Day of Human Rights on the 10th of December and International Day against Racial Discrimination on the 21st of March.
ASSISTANCE TO THE SICK PEOPLE
There was always a considerable concern for the assistance to the sick people in Chuknagar mission. It is not so easy to face this problem. When the Dalit constructed the nearby hospital, we hoped that the problem would finally find a solution. Instead the problem got more complicated. Sick people go to the Dalit hospital, where they get a very long prescription and then they come to us asking for help. Because of the global financial crisis during the last months we reduced drastically the help to sick people. We used to spend 40 thousand takas every month for medicines and operations. The quota now is tk. 10 thousand per month.
REHABILITATION, SANITATION, HOUSING.
In the past people were happy when they could get a three-cycle van. In Chuknagar there are almost 25 people who gain their means of subsistence by driving a van, which, indeed, is a very hard job. Most of the vans were given by the mission. When people get older, they are not any more able to drive the van. So some of them ask now for a motor van. Every year for this kind of rehabilitation, sanitation and housing, out of the budget, usually we submit a project to the Regional Superior for the approval. This year because of the huge effort we did for the construction of the church and the community centre, we did almost nothing to help people in rehabilitation, sanitation and housing.
In this matter, last September 2008, on the occasion of the annual aggiornamento in Dhaka, I wrote a detailed report. The report, translated in Bangali, is available in Mongolbarta(catechetical magazine) and was published in English and in Bengali in the Shoronika (memorial book)of last October. Since then not so much is changed in our method. As you know, last September, after a journey of 5-6-7 years some 70 people received the sacraments of the Christian initiation through the Bishop Bejoy. At present in Chuknagar we have a total of 40 Christian families and 150 baptized people. Nine groups at different days and at different time attend regularly to Bible class. Four groups come to me, one to Fr. Yulius, two go the catechist. For the little ones three college-students are helping us as volunteers.
THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE CHURCH AND THE COMMUNITY CENTRE.
As you know last 28 October 2011 in Chuknagar there was the inauguration of the church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Poor and of the Community Centre building, entitled to St. Guido M. Conforti. The construction work, which lasted for almost two years, did not deflect us from the normal activities of the mission. Before starting the work in order to run in a regular way the tuition program, the Bible classes and the liturgical celebrations we provided for a temporary arrangement (osthay babostha). There was a felt need of restructuring the old crumbling buildings and a need of having a suitable place where to pray for the Christian community who were increasing in number. My intention was to have two separated but very ordinary buildings. But things went differently. When I contacted the bishop for the purpose, I realized that our point of view was quite different from that of the bishop. At the end the bishop won and with consent of the superior we started the construction work according to a design prepared by Fr. Ezio Mascaretti, PIME and executed by the contractor Thomas Gomez.
I’m giving here the total amount of the expenses:
Among the donors, through whom the Providence helped us in the realization of this big project for the Chunagar mission, I want to remember Mrs. Luigina Zucchinelli, the late sister of Fr. Luigi Zucchinelli; the Community of Cremona, where I worked for 6 years, through Fr. Sandro Parmiggiani helped me very much; my father Michele, before dying, left for me € 20 thousand; my former classmates of the seminary, Caritas of my own diocese, people from Duronia who migrated to USA and Canada helped me very much. The Christian community of Chuknagar gave a contribution of 30 thousand takas.
SUCCESS AND FAILURE.
Certainly the growing awareness among the people and their will to overcome a situation of slavery and oppression are a clear achievement of the 32 years of the S. X. presence in Chuknagar. Also the increasing number of college and university students is in the same line. After completing their studies, many of them get jobs at public level and in the different NGOs present in the area. At present there are also 4 girls from Chuknagar who work as nurses at Fatima Hospital. In a few occasions we experienced also a growing concern and solidarity with other people in difficulty. As, for instance, when the Aila cyclone struck the Munda Land, some of our people spontaneously went out and collected money and rice in order to help the affected ones.
Luigi used to say: Dilly bohu dur! (Referring to New Delhi, the capital of India, which is far away) Working among the Rishi requires from you a total commitment. You need patience; do not look for results; do not expect gratification and remember: the more they receive from the more they will create troubles to you. Gratuity will be the golden rule for you.
HOW DO YOU SUSTAIN IT ECONOMICALLY (HOW MUCH MONEY DO YOU SPEND?).
The budget we are going to submit to the regional superior for the approval is as it follows:
So for running all the activities of the mission we spend 20 laks (20 thousand euro). During the current financial year we got 15 laks from the S. X. Region, 4 laks as local donations and 1 lak from land revenue and contribution from the T. P. Students. In the last five years we jumped from a 15 laks budget to a 20 laks budget. There are two main reasons for this jumping. The first reason is the cost of life that in the last years, as you know very well, increased very much. The second reason is that the number of the students, especially college-students, in last few years increased incredibly. In last two years we sustained the big effort of the constructions, so all the money went there. Now that we turned to normality we should not have problem for the running.
HOW (TRHOUGH WHICH WAY) DO YOU RECEIVE FUNDS FOR YOUR ACTIVITIES?
I have a list of 40 friends or benefactors, with whom I am in touch in a regular way. At least twice a year I prepare a letter for them with a report about Chuknagar mission. I realized that they like very much this kind of relationship and they help the mission in a regular way. I use also web site and emails to contact friends and benefactors. I have to tell you that these friends of mine are getting older as myself and it is not so easy to find new ones. Never the less I always trust the Divine Providence.
Chuknagar, 14. 04. 12
Fr. Antonio Germano Das S. X.