JCoR Workshop in Jhabua, India

Lizy Thomas SSpS

Four SSpS sisters from Jhabua, India, participated in the workshop organized by the Justice Coalition of Religious (JCoR). In January 2023, the Board of Trustees approved the membership of VIVAT International to JCoR. Since then, VIVAT International has actively collaborated with JCoR in New York as well as in countries like India. Sr. Lizy Thomas SSpS shares this story of participation in the JCoR workshop they recently attended in Jhabua.

A workshop was jointly organized by JCoR New York, CRI Jhabua, and TISS Mumbai in Jhabua (to be exact in Meghnagar), Madhya Pradesh, India, on September 16-17, 2023, which was attended by 40 sisters and participants from 2 from men’s Congregations. We, four SSpS sisters (Srs. Punita Jamra, Nirmala Marandi, Roslin Pathiyotil, and Lizy Thomas), participated in the 2-day capacity-building workshop on ‘Human Rights Advocacy in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals.’ The four resource persons were from TISS, namely Dr. Brinelle D’Souza, Dr. Shammim Modi, Dr. Ranu Jain, and Dr. Johanna Lokhande. They were a group of intellectuals with a wealth of expertise and experience. The seminar emphasized that it is a response to the signs of the times, calling for a coalition to address various challenges and issues effectively with the support of the Indian Constitution. The sessions also highlighted the need to be familiarized with this sacred book of our nation as well as the need of the time to get more religious trained in the law profession.

Dr. Brinelle D’Souza briefed us on how many religious men and women are working towards global transformation while committing themselves to improving the well-being of people living below the poverty line and the natural environment. She discussed how to make these efforts more effective on a global scale.

Dr. Shamim Modi shared her experiences regarding tribal development and the challenges she faced in the field. She described the hardships in the villages, harassment from landlords, political leaders, and the police department, as well as arrests and imprisonment. All of these experiences reflected her commitment and determination to work for the tribals in Betul, Madhya Pradesh. She stressed the importance of organizing people, working on issues, and having a strategic plan that works. At times, it may be necessary to use political means to achieve justice when other methods are not feasible. She encouraged the participants to familiarize themselves with the D.K. Basu guidelines for knowledge regarding arrests by the police.

Dr. Ranu Jain spoke about Majoritarian nationalism and Minority rights in India. She enlightened us on the reasons behind the attacks on religious women and men by fundamentalists and what their objectives are. She urged the participants to consider the actions that a minority group should take. The sisters from Jhabua shared effective stories about real incidents in their area. They also discussed the importance of training sisters to become media spokespersons or journalists.

Dr. Johanna Lokhande, a social activist from the Azim Premji Foundation, enlightened everyone on how to shift our work from being need-based to a systemic change approach. She emphasized participatory decision-making systems in villages for people-centered developmental work and stressed the importance of legal literacy to stand for justice.

Dr. Brenella D’Souza enlightened the participants on SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) as set by the UN. She referred to SDGs as modern secular Gospel values that aim to transform our world. These goals call for action to end poverty and inequality, protect the planet, and ensure everyone enjoys health, justice, and prosperity. It is critical that no one is left behind. She also emphasized the importance of data and evidence for a scientific approach and discussed the concept of spiritual leadership and the role of Religious Congregations in engaging with the UN system. She introduced the concept of Catholic social teaching and offered a fresh perspective on politics, highlighting the spiritual aspect with examples such as Jesus, Mahatma Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela, who fought for justice.

At the end of the session, the participants expressed strong recommendations for more religious people to be trained in the law, legal literacy workshops, an Inter-Congregational network on migrants, and workshops for the leadership team of the province.

Lizy Thomas SSpS