Dear Friends of Mission,
First of all, I would like to thank you for your love and continued financial assistance to the missionary and charitable work being carried out in faraway India with the blessing of the Holy See of Singapore, where the Orthodox Church of India belongs ecclesiastically. We all know that the missionary work is a collaboration between God and man. We deposit our poor human powers and the One who ultimately acts and accomplishes everything is the Holy Spirit. And it is truly wonderful and obvious, in the field of Mission, the way in which the Holy Spirit inspires, enlightens, guides and supports every single effort made in a spirit of humility and love and with a unique motive and goal the glory of the Name of God and the salvation of human souls. At the same time, however, Mission is an inaccessible path. Like any good, this God-pleasing struggle is fiercely fought by the wicked one who tries in every way to cause anxiety, agitation, distress ,faintheartedness and conflicts that lead to divisions, in order to thwart any divine effort. What we need is persistence in the struggle with patience and above all, prayer with Faith that the Lord of the Vineyard is present and never leaves us alone because “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world”. As is well known, in India, despite its great growth and wealth, there is a lot of poverty for a large part of its population. Western Bengal is one of its poorest states, especially its capital city, Kolkata. Many are the homeless who are born and die on the streets or in miserable slums. The Orthodox Church, imbued with the spirit of love, mercy and offering, tries in every possible way to alleviate human suffering and misery, having as its principle the command of the Lord: “But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. 36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.”(Luke, 6:35-36)
So since 1992 we have started a feeding program in the courtyard of the Greek Church in Kolkata which provides the morning meal, with hot milk, cookies and vitamins for about 250 children of the area who gather outside the door early in the morning and wait patiently. For many children, this breakfast is probably the only meal of the day. With dirty and uncombed hair, unwashed, almost naked, beg for another cookie or a little more milk. But where do these children live? On the streets or in the neighboring islamic cemetery where their slum has been formed. They sleep in the underground graves and in 2×2 tin shacks, where whole families are stacked. Humans and mice, mud, rubbish, odour ,set a scene where they try to survive without prospects or expectations. Poverty-stricken human beings, totally forgotten by both people and state. Nobody cares whether they live or die, since human life under these conditions has absolutely no value. For the Christian heart though every human being is precious because everyone is an image of God, for whom Christ shed His blood. It is therefore impossible for us to remain indifferent to such misery.
Another program has also been introduced on a daily basis, that of the distribution of meals to the poorest of the poor. Every day the immense human pain and misery unfold before us. Shocking images that tighten the heart and control the conscience: bony human beings, blind, handicapped, lepers, wait patiently from dawn in the queue that covers the entire sidewalk outside the Orthodox Mission Center for a plate of food, which is nothing but a tiny drop of life in the ocean of their suffering.
Another concern of our Mission is the free medical care of needy patients. For this purpose, 5 general medical clinics have been set up in remote villages where there was no medical care and people were dying for no reason because the necessary medicines were not available, such as quinine for malaria. It should also be noted that Indian doctors and nursing staff have been hired for the operation of these clinics, thus contributing to the fight against local unemployment.
Special care and importance is also given to education. Illiteracy in West Bengal is almost the norm as there is lack of schools in the rural areas.
Thus, the Mission has built 5 Primary schools at a distance of 150 km from Calcutta, in order to meet the educational needs of rural children. We have also hired local teachers and provide students with textbooks, stationery and anything else that is necessary
“ THEOTOKOS” GIRLS’ ORPHANAGE
Children are and will always be the hope and future of a country. The Mission takes care of them with a lot of love, taking care above all of the orphans and unprotected, often abandoned souls in the garbage dumps of the city, regardless of their religion, their color and their race. We always respect the freedom and individuality of every single child. All of them are creatures of the same God and they find a cosy, loving home which is the only one that heals the wounds of their orphanhood and in many of them, even of their abuse.
The operation of the Girls’ Orphanage began in November 1999. Since then, we have raised, educated and rehabilitated hundreds of orphaned girls, saving many innocent lives.
All of the above began with the hard struggle of Fr. Ignatius Sennis from 1991 until 2004, when he was forced to leave India, and he continues his missionary work as Metropolitan of Northern Madagascar.
Βy the Grace of God and with His help, we try to maintain, continue and increase as much as possible this effort with the support, spiritual as well as material, of our brothers from Greece and abroad.
“ST. IGNATIUS” BOYS’ ORPHANAGE
In 2010, the operation of the Boys’ Orphanage began in another building, but in the same area south of Calcutta. One of the worst moments of our life in Calcutta was seeing the exploitation of young children; small children working in construction sites doing heavy adult labor for a plate of rice instead of going to school, instead of playing and enjoying their childhood. Others are made to beg and are beaten if they do not fetch them enough money. The images of child exploitation and abuse are harsh. It is simply impossible to save them all, I wish we could, but we do everything in our power. We believe that the children who grow up near us, will eventually become active Mission members.
“ST. IGNATIUS” ENGLISH SCHOOL
For the good education of our orphans, as tuition fees in good private schools are very expensive and with the current economic crisis in Greece which has resulted in the reduction of donations, we could not possibly respond effectively; thus, in 2010 we decided to establish our own English school, that of “Saint Ignatius” so that we can supervise their education. Good education and higher studies for these orphans is the key to a better future.
A beautiful building has been constructed, one that meets the specifications of the Ministry of Education of India to get the recognition. However, the 3rd floor remains unfinished due to lack of money. We hope that God, who speaks to people’s souls, will help again and complete the reconstruction of our school, which has already earned a good reputation and is considered a model school.
We must note here that all of the above is part of the whole project. Further planned relief efforts of the Mission include:
Visits to villages for distribution of clothes, food, and medicine as well as school supplies to students. Drilling boreholes to ensure access to clean drinking water and therefore to avoid many diseases that plague the area. Repairs to damaged houses, or free provision of small houses to needy families. Hospitalization coverage (operations and medicine). Naturally, all of the above is done to the extent possible, as we greatly depend on donations and there are times when we have great difficulty and are unable to help as much and as we would like to. However, God’s Providence is evident and it is truly wonderful the way in which His Hand paves the way and opens doors when our coffers are empty and help is nowhere to be seen; it is then that a donation suddenly comes very simply and blessedly, with the exact amount of money required from where you don’t expect it. The constant presence of God and His providence gives us wings and makes us forget the effort we have to make as well as the difficulties and the adversities we have to confront, and strengthens us to continue our struggle for the glory of God.
We wish everyone a blessed and fruitful ecclesiastical year. Please, remember us in your prayers.
With deep gratitude and love in Christ,
(To be continued)