India. Bhopal: Keeping tribal identity alive

Tribal culture and identity in India today may well disappear if the juggernaut of globalisation continues to roll on unchecked. This was the note sounded by the Provincial of India, Fr Lisbert D?Souza SJ, as he spoke of the need to withstand its force at a meeting of South Asian Jesuits working with Adivasis and tribals in Bhopal (26-29March 04), also attended by the Archbishop Pascal Topno and Fr Fernando Franco SJ, Secretary, Social Justice Secretariat. Displaced from their homes by the construction of huge dams and driven to the cities in search of employment, Adivasis constitute a highly vulnerable group in South Asia. Fr Franco cast an international light on the problem by speaking of Malaysia where the emphasis is on enculturation through education, and Mexico, where tribals have taken responsibility for their own development. Some of the issues raised by representatives discussing threats from within and without at the Bhopal meeting were education, preservation of indigenous knowledge like herbal medicine, resisting the dominant mainstream, and obstacles in the economic and political spheres. There was a welcome sharing of joy and grief, hopes and anxieties. Breaking up into small groups they identified, for each zone of the South Asian Assistancy, common threats to Adivasi/Tribal Identity and elaborated action plans to deal with these. Proposed activities aim at strengthening indigenous movements and self-awareness through the promotion of local arts and culture. Training and educational programmes to initiate awareness campaigns for the rights of indigenous peoples are also on the cards. One of the outcomes of the meeting was the approval of a draft mission statement of Jesuit Companions in Indigenous Ministry (JCIM), specific to the South Asian reality. [HL40503] Fr Agapit Tirkey SJ (convenor), [email protected]