Chennai: A training programme on `Rights-based Approach to Social Work` was held on 27-28 November for the social work coordinators of the various religious congregations and provinces of Tamilnadu-Pondicherry region of the CRI at the Salesian Provincial House, Chennai. For the 51 participants from 24 congregations who took part in the two-day programme organized by the national CRISEC (CRI Socio Economic Concerns), it was an eye-opener.
Addressing the group on `Social Analysis in Today`s Context`, Fr. Jabamalai Raja SJ said for religious to live a happy religious life we need to connect with the history and live with it. He pointed out that socio-economic analysis must be done from the perspective of the poor and for the poor, keeping the people who suffer at the centre of our planning and decision making.
Fr. Jnana Patrick, a Professor at the Department of Christian Studies, University of Madras, spoke on the `Social ministry of Christianity in India.` He pointed out how our educational ministries cater to social transformation not only by offering knowledge but also awareness and skills for life.
Fr. Joe Mannath SDB, CRI National Secretary, speaking on ``Integral Spirituality and Social Justice,`` said spirituality means ``to live lovingly, wisely and responsibly in one`s concrete setting``. He clarified that one`s spirituality cannot be directly checked; it is seen in our person: our integrity, basic trust in God, love and justice.
Fr. Jose Thachil SJ, Programme Director of CRI, presented the vision, mission and dynamics of CRISEC, and spoke on the Rights-Based Approach in our social ministry. The right to life, he said, is not only about surviving, but includes the right to live with dignity, to have one`s basic needs fulfilled, the possibility of earning one`s livelihood and the right to have life security, respect, justice and freedom. He further pointed out that today, while needs are met, rights are not respected.
On the final day of the programme, Fr. Joe Mannath, the National Secretary, released the TNPCRI Directory of Tamilnadu-Pondicherry Region.
Organizing and empowering priests and nuns who are engaged in social work ministry was one of the dreams of the CRI National Leadership conference held in 2009. To facilitate this, the CRI Secretariat in New Delhi added a new wing called CRISEC (CRI Socio-Economic Concerns). A survey carried out on the social work done by religious revealed that out of the 125,000 religious men and women in India, 40,000 (one-third) were engaged in the field of social work. The study also showed that they were the ones who were working with the poorest of the poor and the marginalized and excluded groups. Yet they did not have a national identity of their own in the country.