A delegation from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) recently travelled to West Bengal, in the Eastern part of India, to get to know the tiny and threatened Christian community up close.
Christians in India are a minority threatened by the growing wave of Hindu radicalism in the country. This exclusionary ideology is encouraged by nationalist political parties such as the BJP, of the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi , which is in power of the “largest democracy in the world”. A delegation from the Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has recently visited this country to accompany the small Christian community and learn first-hand about the needs of the local Church in the West Bengal region. José Fernández Crespo , a member of the ACN delegation shares his impressions:
India is going through a process of radicalization that is not positive for society and for religious minorities such as Christians. What is the current situation in the country like?
I am in Krishnanagar, north of Calcutta and very close to Bangladesh. They are places where ACN supports pastoral projects of the Catholic Church. I want to emphasize that here Christians are only 2% of the population, but the unity between faith and charity is very striking . It is a charity that is not only giving attention to the poorest of the poorest who are on the streets, and to whom priests and nuns approach with a smile, with a hug, offering food or medicine. It is a charity that is linked to the mission. In these places where the priests and nuns are, it is in the places where the last of the last are found. They are together with the forgotten, in very small and distant villages.
Can you give us any more details about ACN’s projects in India?
ACN supports above all projects linked to pastoral care and evangelization. We reach places where the local Church is most present and alive. And we have been in remote places , where during the trip I thought we would never arrive. It is surprising how far the Church has come. ACN supports building or rebuilding parishes, but also convents of religious who are forming the local community through catechesis. I want to tell you two examples of these projects that ACN supports. In Calcutta we support a project for the formation of young leaders of the parishes . There I have met a young married couple who had been married for a year and their mission was to go to each parish every afternoon and meet the young people. She said that going to meet other young people like them made her faith stronger.
Another example is that of a late vocation priest , who is a parish priest in a far away parish. He told me how going to this place has made his faith and his vocation make sense. He said that he has discovered that his vocation is worth it, thanks to that small group of Catholics in a forgotten and distant place.
You are experiencing all this firsthand, why is it important to support this persecuted and suffering Church in India?
It is important to support this Church and Christians in other parts of the world who are experiencing similar circumstances. It is important to return to the union of faith and charity, not only lived as a mission to the world but as an expression of love that Jesus had with all those he encountered. The first thing these Christians ask us to do is pray for them , we can all pray and have a moment in our thinking and discernment for these Christians. We can economically support thousands of priests and nuns who are giving their lives daily in places where life is worthless and without faith one could not continue.