Skip to main content

Enjoyed working on human rights in Gujarat, leaving cheerfully to work among refugees

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
January 17, 2016 was observed as the ‘World Day of Migrants and Refugees’; it’s an appropriate, I feel, to share with you a new chapter in my life! I am really not sure where to begin! What I want to share – has many different dimensions; it’s like a multi-coloured tapestry – delicately but exquisitely inter-woven into a unique design! The creativity and the dexterity involved can be appreciated and understood – only by those who can watch it’s unfolding from a distance! Somehow, I feel myself in that situation: looking into, about to leap into something I did not even think was possible – some months ago!
Fr. Pedro Arrupe is for me and for several of my brother Jesuits and others one of the great Saints of the post-Vatican II period. He was the Superior General of the Society of Jesus from 1965, a time when the Church and the world at large was going through a historical transformation.
I joined the novitiate in Ahmedabad, Gujarat in 1974. About a year later, in December 1975, Fr. Pedro Arrupe presided over the 32nd General Congregation which left a deep impression on the universal Society of Jesus which mandated every Jesuit to the service of faith and the promotion of justice. This thrust became the defining direction for Jesuits all over the world.
In keeping with the vision he had for a world which is inclusive and all-embracing which had faith-justice as its cornerstone, Fr. Arrupe launched in November 1980 the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) (www.jrs.net) ‘with the mission to accompany, serve and advocate on behalf of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons’. Ever since the JRS has been responding to the cries of millions of people all over the world!
One of the first Jesuits to work with the JRS from India was Fr. Pierre Ceyrac, someone who has been a great inspiration in my life. He worked in Bangkok, Cambodia and other parts of South-East Asia; Fr. Jose Changanacherry (on demitting office as the Provincial of Gujarat) also went to work with JRS in Africa. Fr. Varkey Parekkatt (who was also the Provincial of South Asia) also had a stint with JRS in Nepal; listening to their moving testimonies and the fact that Fr. Arrupe has always been my hero, I always dreamt that I would one day at least “spend a little time with JRS”.
It came rather suddenly and spontaneously, in November 2014. In a conversation with Fr. Stanny Fernandes, the Director of JRS, South Asia expressed this desire. A young Jesuit Priest Fr. Prem Kumar had been abducted by some Taliban outfit in Afghanistan and all efforts were being made to secure his release.
My thoughts at that time were to serve for a couple of weeks or a month in Afghanistan, Nepal or elsewhere. Little did I realise that in a skype conversation later that evening with my friend Fr. Peter Balleis (the Director of JRS International) that Fr. Stanny would tell him of this desire. There were immediate communications from Fr. Peter literally asking as to when I would be ready to join the JRS; well, my response at that time was “it’s only for a short time and we will see”.
Early in April, I made my annual Spiritual Exercises (retreat) in the Jesuit residence of Gandhinagar. It was a troubling retreat with my thoughts constantly going back to the JRS. On Good Friday, there was this urge as never before to say “yes” and on Holy Saturday, I wrote to Fr. Peter Balleis that I think I hear the Lord calling me to serve in JRS. Peter’s immediate response was “come immediately. We are waiting for you”.
In May 2015, I had to go to Rome to speak at the Caritas Internationalis Assembly. I had some prolonged meetings with Fr. Peter and some others concerned there. They were certainly keen on me joining JRS as soon as possible and offered me some possibilities; the topmost, one being to work in the Middle East. I agreed to going to Beirut for a few days in July to see things for myself. My visit there was extremely positive but after the stay, I still felt that I needed more time to reflect and pray over things.
On my return to India I went through a long but difficult process of Ignatian discernment. During this process of discernment, I must have put down at least a hundred reasons why I should continue to be where I am and particularly in Gujarat. On the other side, there seemed to be just one voice saying to me to “let go” and to “let God”.
In the early hours of August 22nd, the Feast of the Queenship of Mary I finally said “yes” totally, willingly and cheerfully to go and to work in the Lebanon. It was certainly an important decision in my life, a very difficult one in every sense of the word.
I have been assigned the responsibility of doing Advocacy work with JRS in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA). I will be based in Beirut, Lebanon and while this responsibility is for the next two or three years, it is in fact open ended. My responsibilities sounded to me are challenging indeed!
I enjoyed being here in Gujarat and particularly for the last fourteen years working on issues related to human rights, justice and peace. Ever since friends and colleagues heart of my imminent departure, there has been no end of visits, phone calls, emails and messages. I truly value and feel good with all the appreciative things being said. Many have expressed feelings that I will be missed. I too will miss each one of you…!
Many also say how ‘shocked and surprised’ they are about my going wondering whether it was an overnight decision. Well it was not! It was kept under-wraps: very few knowing about it till very recently. Above all, no one is forcing me to go away…!
I humbly request your prayers for me, for my new responsibility and very particularly for those whom I have been called to serve.
I promise to be in touch and till we meet again, its “aavjo” (see you again) as we say in Gujarati!

*Former Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace

Comments

TRENDING

CAG’s audit report creates a case for dismantling of UIDAI, scrapping Aadhaar

By Gopal Krishna  The total estimated budget of the biometric UID/Aadhaar number project and its cost: benefit analysis has not been disclosed till date. Unless the total estimated budget of the project is revealed, all claims of benefits are suspect and untrustworthy. How can one know about total savings unless the total cost is disclosed? Can limited audit of continuing expenditure of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), an instrumentality of Union of India be deemed a substitute for total estimated budget of the biometric UID/Aadhaar number project of UIDAI? It has been admitted by CAG that the audit of functioning of the UIDAI is partial because of non-transparency. The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India arising from performance audit of functioning of the UIDAI for the period from 2014-15 to 2018-19 is incomplete because it is based on statistical information “to the extent as furnished by UIDAI” upto March 2021. There is also a need to compa

Women for Water: WICCI resource council for empowering women entrepreneurs, leaders

By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  The Water Resources Council of the Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry is formed for 2022-24. A National Business Chamber for Women, the Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry ( WICCI ) is a premier association empowering women entrepreneurs and leaders in all walks of life through advocacy, pro-active representations to government, implementing projects for women via funds allocated by various government agencies and corporates, plus bringing awareness on all issues that concern women. WICCI boosts and builds women’s entrepreneurship and businesses through greater engagement with government, institutions, global trade and networks. WICCI enables fundamental changes in governmental policies, laws, incentives and sanctions through proper channel, with a view to robustly encourage and empower women in business, industry and commerce across all sectors. WICCI is supported by the massive global networks of ALL Ladies League (ALL), Women Eco

75 yrs of water in India: whither decentralised governance to sustain the precious resource?

By Shubhangi Rai, Megha Gupta, Fawzia Tarannum, Mansee Bal Bhargava Looking into the last century, water resources management have come a long way from the living with water in the villages to the nimbyism and capitalism in the cities to coming full cycle with room for water in the villages. With the climate change induced water crisis, the focus on conservation and management of water resources if furthered in both national and local agenda. The Water management 2021 report by NITI Aayog acknowledges that water and sustainability are of immense importance for the sustenance of life on earth. Water is intricately linked to the health, food security and livelihood. With business as usual, India’s water availability will only be enough to meet 50% of its total demand and 40% of the population in India will have no access to drinking water and sanitation by 2030 . Its Composite Water Management Index 2021 states that ‘India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history and mil

Grassroot innovations in water management: Policy challenges amidst climate change

By Shubhangi Rai[1], Megha Gupta[2], Mansee Bal Bhargava[3] India despite of having a vast traditional water management history continue to struggle with water crisis from disasters like floods and droughts but more with social distress leading to asymmetric access to water goods and services. The rising water crisis in a country that is abundant in water resources and wisdom is worth questioning and resolving. The knowledge that was passed on by our ancestors who used a diverse range of structures that helped harvest rainwater locally besides replenish and recharge the groundwater along the way. Formal and informal rules were locally crafted by the community on who to use the water, how much to use, when to use, how to penalise for misuse, how to resolve conflicts and many more. As a nation, we need to revive our dying wisdom of the traditional water management systems and as water commons, enable the governing mechanisms towards sustainability. In the session on ‘ Grassroot Innovatio

Need to destroy dowry, annihilate greed and toxic patriarchy in India

By IMPRI Team Talking about an evil ever-persistent in our society and highlighting the presence of toxic patriarchy, #IMPRI Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi organized a panel discussion on Destroy Dowry: Annihilation of Greed and Toxic Patriarchy in India under the series The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps on May 4, 2022. The chair for the event was Prof Vibhuti Patel, Former Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai and a Visiting Professor, IMPRI. The distinguished panel included – Asha Kulkarni, General Secretary at Anti Dowry Movement, Mumbai ; Kamal Thakar, Sahiyar Stree Sangathan ; Adv Celin Thomas, Advocate at Celin Thomas and Associates, Bengaluru; Shalini Mathur, Honorary Secretary, Suraksha Dahej Maang Virodhi Sanstha Tatha Parivar Paraamarsh Kendra, Lucknow and Secretary, Nav Kalyani Foundation, Gender Resource and Training Centre; and Dr Bharti Sharma, Honorary Secretary, Shakti Shalini

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: Implications for India and emerging geopolitics

By IMPRI Team In the backdrop of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, #IMPRI Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi hosted a panel discussion on Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine: Implications for India and Emerging Geopolitics. The event was chaired by Ambassador Anil Trigunayat (IFS Retd.), Former Ambassador to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Libya, and Malta; Former Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of India, Moscow. The panelists of the event were Prof Waheguru Pal Singh Sidhu, Clinical Professor, Center for Global Affairs, New York University; H.E. Freddy Svane, Ambassador, Royal Danish Embassy, New Delhi; Maj. Gen. (Dr) P. K. Chakravorty, Strategic Thinker on Security Issues; and T. K. Arun, Senior Journalist, and Columnist. Ambassador Anil Trigunayat commenced the discussion by stating the fact that wars are evil. He opines that no war has ever brought peace and prosperity to any country and

Impact of climate change on Gujarat pastoralists' traditional livelihood

By Varsha Bhagat-Ganguly, Karen Pinerio* We are sharing a study[1] based learning on climate resilience and adaptation strategies of pastoralists of Kachchh district, Gujarat. There are two objectives of the study: (i) to examine the impact of climate on traditional livelihood of pastoralists of Gujarat state; and (ii) to explore and document the adaptation strategies of pastoralists in mitigating climate adversities, with a focus on the role of women in it. In order to meet these objectives, the research inquiries focused on how pastoralists perceive climate change, how climate change has impacted their traditional livelihood, i.e., pastoralism in drylands (Krätli 2015), and how these pastoral families have evolved adaptation strategies that address climate change (CC)/ variabilities, i.e., traditional livelihood of pastoralists of Kachchh district, Gujarat state. Pastoralism is more than 5,000 years old land-use strategy in India; it is practised by nomadic (their entire livelihood r

Making Indian cities disaster, climate resilient: Towards actionable urban planning

By IMPRI Team  Three-Day Online Certificate Training Programme on “Making Indian Cities Disaster and Climate Change Resilient: Towards Responsive and Actionable Urban Planning, Policy and Development”: Day 1 A three day Online Certificate Training Programme on the theme “Making Indian Cities Disaster and Climate Change Resilient: Towards Responsive and Actionable Urban Planning, Policy and Development”, a joint initiative of the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) , Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, was held at the Centre for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi. Inaugurating the session Ms. Karnika Arun, Researcher at IMPRI, welcomed the speakers and participants to the program with an introduction to the eminent panellists. Day 1 of the program included Prof Anil K Gupta, Head ECDRM, NIDM, New Delhi and Mr Tikender Singh Panwar, Former Deputy Mayor, Shimla; Visiting Senior Fellow, IMPRI as conveners, an

Gender gap: Women face disproportionate barriers in accessing finance

By IMPRI Team Women worldwide disproportionately face barriers to financial access that prevents them from participating in the economy and improving their lives. Providing access to finance for women is crucial for financial inclusion and, consequently, inclusive growth. To deliberate and encourage dialogue and discussion for growth, the Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC) of IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, organized a web policy talk by Mr S. S. Bhat, Chief Executive Officer Friends of Women’s World Banking India, Ahmedabad on ‘Access to Finance for Women’ as a part of its series The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps. The session was started by the moderator, Chavi Jain, by introducing the speaker and the discussants and inviting Prof. Vibhuti Patel to start the deliberation. Importance of access to finance for women Prof. Vibhuti Patel, Visiting Professor, IMPRI, New Delhi; Former Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, began by expre

Environment governance in small cities: Need for external intervention, capacity building

By IMPRI Team  The debate over environmental degradation has acquired substantial traction in recent years. Governments, civil communities and international organisations are all working to mitigate the environmental costs of economic expansion and growth. These reforms have also brought to light the concept of environmental governance in emerging towns, which refers to political changes aimed at influencing environmental activities and outcomes. It is under this backdrop that the #IMPRI Centre for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies (CHURS) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi hosted a talk on Small Cities and Environmental Governance in Gujarat and West Bengal: Need for External Intervention or Capacity Building? as a part of #WebPolicyTalk series- The State of Cities – #CityConversations on January 28, 2022. The talk was chaired by Dr Soumyadip Chattopadhyay, an Associate Professor, Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan and a Visiting Senior Fellow, IMPRI, New Delhi. The