The social teachings of Christ influenced millions of people around the world. The members of the Catholic Church have responded well to this clarion call to develop this world from the socio-economic point of view based on justice and peace. It is being guided by the words of Christ , “He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none, and he who has food let him do likewise”( St. Luke 3:11). In the Gospel of St. Mathew, Lord Jesus makes it more clear by saying, ‘I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me’. His command to extend help to everyone is being observed strictly.
The Indian Catholic Church officially began to take up social development projects in 1962 through its official social apostolate organization Carithas India . The Catholic Church extends its assistance regardless of caste, class and creed. It is involved in humanitarian assistance in calamities, rehabilitation programmes, empowerment of women and children, restoration of human rights, economic empowerment programmes, gender equality programmes, natural and human resource management, education of technologies to farmers in short many things possible under the sky. Adding to these, Church has a large network of Health Services in the rural areas. If we analyse the programmes it make one feel that Church is trying to enter into every field where funds are available rather than designing its programmes as per its priorities.
The Carithas India invests around seventy crores of rupees every year through its various partners of which 10 % is collected from the Catholic Lay faithful in India but economically poor Catholics have no preference in its projects. Other than these, the dioceses and religious congregations through its own source must be investing another thirty crores, moreover, each diocese and religious congregation together set apart around five hundred personnel for this work. The whole idea of spending so much money and engaging so many hands by the Church is no doubt for the development of the country at large. Indeed a good gesture!
I have travelled through many parts of India . I conversed with as many people as possible. The plight of economically marginalized Christians, to my surprise, has not become any better, despite the fact that they constitute the large chunk of Christian population. However, the social apostolate of the Church in India appeared to be immune to this stark reality and has not come out with any concrete programme to uplift the socially deprived Christians to bring them into the mainstream yet.
Can the Church wash off its responsibility towards the deprived section of our (Christian) community, with an argument that we receive funds for the non-religious specific works? Can it continue to ignore their plea for help to stand up and join the mainstream of life? How long the Church will shut its doors against them?
I recently refused to be member of a church run social work core group, as Church’s crores of rupees social development projects had no programme to cover the economically backward my (Christian) brothers and sisters. My question is very simple, if the Church pumps in huge sum of money and engages its trained man power especially those who took the vow to safe guard the interest of the Catholic Church and for the social development, then a major share must be for the economically poor belonging to Lord Jesus. It should not be seen as a charity but their right to have it for being the disciples of Christ Jesus .
I fight with tooth and nail against the proposal of Madhya Pradesh Government to bring “Christian Property Regulation Act”. I converse with hundreds of Catholic and non-catholic and non-Christians on this matter. I realize majority of them support the bill because of the insignificant care given by the Church to the economically poor Catholics and Christians. It is the right time that the Catholic Church in India brings out a clear policy on its social apostolate, preferential option to the poor Catholics, Christians and lower middle class Catholics who are over burdened with loans. Probably it is fitting to say let us reflect on the great saying,”CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME”.