The enemies to be defeated in India are hunger and diseases: with this approach Caritas India, the humanitarian arm of the Indian Bishops’ Conference, is focusing its Lenten campaign this year on collective awareness to ensure solidarity, food security, medical care and a dignified life for all citizens, reported Fides News Agency on March 11, 2019. In this framework, Caritas has undertaken initiatives in individual Indian states, involving lay organizations and leaders of the various ecclesial communities.
The theme of the Lenten campaign of 2019 for Caritas India is “Nutrition: our right”, which touches the scourge of malnutrition, defined as “painful and shameful for humanity”. In fact, although India, with the resources at its disposal, would be able to feed its inhabitants, the nation continues to be one of the countries where the number of malnourished children and women is among the highest in the world.
According to official data, the country presents 38.4% of children suffering from rickets and 35.8% are underweight, precisely because of food insecurity. Despite the enviable rate of economic growth, millions of children in the country suffer from hunger. Malnutrition is a debilitating condition that weakens the child’s immune system, increases its exposure to diseases and therefore increases the mortality rate.
“Malnutrition as a result of extreme poverty and inequality irreversibly damages both individuals and society and increases the burden of the disease on families and governments,” said Fr. Jolly Puthenpura, vice executive director of Caritas India. “During Lent, in which believers are invited to conversion, love for God and neighbor we intend to raise awareness among the ecclesial communities on the situation of the poor, the hungry, the malnourished, farmers and migrants looking for work.”
The priest recalls the biblical passages that inspire this commitment: “In the Gospel, Jesus saw the hungry crowd and said: I have compassion for these people” (Mk 8,2) Malnutrition is a dehumanization of the image and likeness of God (Gen 1, 26) in every person. The Church must play its role as a catalyst and mobilize consciences so that communities express their solidarity and commitment to feed the poor and the hungry.
“The compassion of Jesus needs to be lived and experienced in the life of all in order to wipe out the stain of hunger and malnutrition from society. Pope Francis urges us to take urgent action to help those who live in desperate circumstances because the poor cannot wait.”
The Indian Church recalls that in the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, that is to say, the UN action program that indicates 17 Goals for Sustainable Development, the international community has committed itself to free the world from hunger by 2030 ( Objective 2), achieving food security and improving nutrition worldwide. Sharing this goal, Indian Catholic communities intend to “play their part”.