Freedom for 1000 prisoners – Indian Franciscans’ initiative in the Jubilee Year of Mercy
At their 15th National Assembly in Shanthi Sadana in Bangalore, Indian Franciscans took up the theme: Franciscans: Christ’s Face of Mercy in this World and announced a nationwide plan to release at least 1000 prisoners under the network of Association of Franciscan Families of India – AFFI.
There are around 50000 Franciscan religious men and women in India with 54 Congregations and 164 Provinces spread throughout India. They are involved predominantly in the uplift of the poor and marginalised through their various educational and medical institutions, along with social work. As they were already involved in the spiritual and corporal works of Mercy in the footsteps of St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi, the call of the Pope Francis and the Church to the Jubilee year of Mercy added a special excitement to the mission of the Franciscans in India.
Among various programmes of animation, training and seminars, the Major Superiors have focused specially on the release of prisoners jailed for petty theft and other minor crimes. It would be spread throughout India this year. The Franciscans have already initiated this process of freeing the prisoners with the involvement of their school, with some success.
Through negotiations with the Government authorities and concerned officials along with the involvement of the members of the Franciscan Congregations and their Institutions, the Franciscans will work out ways and means strategically not only to release the prisoners but also to guide them to settle in life with dignity and hope.
The Franciscans also plan to focus on Sustainable Development Goals with special emphasis on those living under extreme poverty and hunger, to stop violence against women, to focus on the education of the poor and the needy children and to be involved in the holistic health of the rural poor and slum dwellers. All these undertakings will be the outcome of genuine spiritual search and commitment to the oppressed and the marginalised.
To enhance this initiative, the Indian Franciscans will organise country-wide training and updates both at the national level and at regional level. The outgoing National Team of Br. Mathew OFM.Cap, Sr. Sinclare FCC and Sr. Apoline UFS developed the National Network of Indian Franciscans as a model for other countries aimed at deeper involvement in the lives of the poor. The new team that was elected for three years on 19th Feb consists of the President Brother Dolphy Pais OFM.Cap, Vice President Sr. Ann Joseph FCC, Secretary Sr. Severine UFS and Treasurer Br. Remish Ekka OFM.Cap. Brother Nithiya was re-elected as National Coordinator.