Church in North East India studies Fratelli Tutti to promote brotherhood

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The Church in North East India came together to study Pope Francis’ latest encyclical Fratelli Tutti to promote universal brotherhood and fraternity within the Church and with the people of other faith in its annual regional pastoral conference held at North East Diocesan Social Service Society Hall, Guwahati from 8 to 10 September 2023.

Inaugurating the conference, Archbishop John Moolachira of Guwahati said, “Though this encyclical of Pope Francis Fratelli Tutti which means ‘all are brothers’ was published in 2020, it is relevant today in our context more than ever.”

Expressing solidarity with the suffering people of Manipur that is in flames for the last four month due to ethnic violence, the President of the North East India Regional Bishops’ Council (NEIRBC), Archbishop Moolachira said, “We are living a time when there is increased hatred, communal tensions, killings, polarization, and vandalism in our region, across the country and around the world. Pope Francis’ Fratelli Tutti can serve as a handbook to restore peace, brotherhood and sisterhood and social friendship among the people.”

In this atmosphere of hatred, division and polarisation, Fratelli Tutti invites us to consider other persons as our brothers and sisters and accord love, respect and acceptance rather than look at them as mere number or as an object of exploitation or, much worse, as enemies, the Archbishop highlighted.

The three-day event was attended by 180 delegates from the 15 dioceses of North East India.

Bishop Thomas Pullopillil of Bongaigaon diocese and the Chairman of North East Regional Catholic Council also highlighted the need for the Church to live out its call to universal fraternity and social friendship in the light of the teaching of Fratelli Tutti.

“In the multi-cultural, multi-linguistic and multi-religious context of North East India and in the light of the ongoing ethnic and religious violence of Manipur, Fratelli Tutti is an invitation to create an ideal world of fraternity that makes everyone part of a larger human family,” said Bishop Pullopillil.

North East India forms a major region of Christian concentration in India today. Out of the 2.78 core Christians according to the 2011 census, 78 lakh are in the North East Region. Being a major group in the region means bearing more responsibility to promote brotherhood with other Christian groups, people of Indigenous Faith, Hinduism, Vaishnavism, Muslims, and all other groups, said Bishop James Thoppil of Kohima diocese and the Secretary of the NEIRBC.

Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore and the Chairman for Commission for Laity of the Conference of Catholic Bishops in India too spoke on the importance of brotherhood and a deep-rooted commitment for peace in the society, in the context of humanitarian crisis caused by large scale migration due to ethnic violence and religious polarisation.

“More than 650 migrant students from Manipur have been admitted in our schools and colleges in Bangalore and Mangalore with free education up-to bachelor degree. Some of them had lost all their certificates in the violence,” said Archbishop Machado.

Archbishop also presented a helpline number, 18008912995, for employment opportunity and support to all the migrants across the country. He also presented a document to Archbishop Lumon, that contained the all details about the students who have been enrolled in Bangalore and Mangalore.

Thanking the Archbishop Machado and everyone for the expression of solidarity and support during the painful times of the people of Manipur, Archbishop Dominic Lumon of Imphal said, “What you have done for the people of Manipur during this moment of suffering is truly an expression of Fratelli Tutti in action.”

A book, ‘Endearing Leader in Mission’, was released during the conference on the ten years of papacy of Pope Francis. Authored by Dr. Jose Kuzhikkattuthazhe SVD and Dr. Victor Sagayam Zackarias SVD, the book highlights the important initiatives of Holy Father Francis for the last ten years, including Fratelli Tutti.

Organised together with the North East Regional Catholic Council, the Pastoral Conference of North East India this year saw research paper presentation by resource persons from other faith backgrounds to express brotherhood beyond boundary.

A comparative study on Vaishnavism of Srimanta Sankaradeva and Fratelli Tutti was presented by Dr. Sanjib Kumar Borakakoti from Nagaon, Mr. Abid Azad from Guwahati presented his views on Fratelli Tutti in relation to Islam and Dr. Yangkahao Vashum from Eastern Theological College, Jorhat, spoke on brotherhood among various churches.

The topics discussed during the conference included ‘Universal Aspiration to Global Fraternity’ by Dr. Kuriakose Poovathumkiudy from Oriens Theological College, Shillong, and ‘Tribal Culture in the Background of Fratelli Tutti’ by Dr. Vincent Darlong from Agartala.

Dr. Barnabas Mawrie SDB presented a paper on ‘Understanding Fratelli Tutti from a Tribal Perspective’, Dr. Barbara S. Sangma from Tura spoke on ‘Women and Fratelli Tutti’, Ms. Angeline Paul from Mizoram highlighted the aspirations of youth from Fratelli Tutti, Sr. Dr. Dominica Kasho MSMHC dealt with ‘Contemporary Religious Life in relation to Fratelli Tutti and Dr. Vijay D’Souza SJ spoke on Fratelli Tutti in the context of changing North East India and fundamentalism.

All the delegates expressed great joy in being part of an important conference.  Peter Lohe from Kohima, Nagaland, said, “The conference has made me realise that brotherhood and peace are core values are embedded in all the religion. We now need to look beyond our boundary and extend our brotherhood to all.”

Ms. Catherine Sayai from Imphal in Manipur said, “Women has an important role to play in the promotion of brotherhood and sisterhood especially in our context of conflict and ethnic violence. Fratelli Tutti has an important relationship with our tribal communities that celebrates community spirit.

New Bishop from Aizawl, Joachim Walder Said that the conference has taught us how to make the teachings of Fratelli Tutti a reality in North East India. Father Tom Mangattuthazhe, the Secretary for Ecumenism in North East India said, “Let us not make Fratelli Tutti merely an article in our bookshelf but let it become a handbook for action to build fraternity beyond boundary.”

The animation session of the conference came to conclude with the election of new office-bearers of North East Regional Catholic Council.

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