Archive for March, 2012

Downhill Cycling


A wonderful cover on the Times of India newspaper today / yesterday (depending when you read this) – if you can’t make out the words then I have typed them below………………………..

Watching the sunrise from the top of a hill

Cycling down and enjoying the thrill

Stealing Mangoes from the tree

Taking a road-trip simply to break free

On a hot Sunday afternoon chasing a kite

Diving into a pool in the middle of the night

Dancing at a friends wedding

Proposing at sunset without a ring

Without a map driving off to explore

Life is all this and so much more



First Generation Students


Many Dalit children are left to a life of illiteracy and looking after sheep or goats

Education is the key to unlocking poverty so it is fascinating to observe first hand the struggles and resistance in creating a culture of education in an area where until now there has been very little.  We take education for granted but here in Raichur District the literacy rates are the lowest in Karnataka State.  The impressive Indian Censusof 2011 (perhaps unique in the modern age for technological expertise in such a diverse country indicates that rural literacy rates in Karnataka have increased from 59% in 2001 to 68% in 2011  (with girls only 59% boys 78%).   Here in Raichur District – the literacy rate is still hovering around the 50% mark, which makes the Xavier High School and the Loyola College here so important.  But it is also a challenge educating so many students from families who have always been illiterate, as it is involves changing minds and hearts or parents and grandparents too.

The Jesuit High School - almost entirely for Dalits offers a way out and hope for the future

Today I have been preparing presentations to the students on basic hygiene.  This is very important particularly for our boarding students (400+).  They are all from very poor villages – and as such are used to a different way of life. This can create problems when we have so many living in a small space – the boarding hostel.  They need to live here so that we can ensure they attend classes every day and do not spend time in the fields grazing goats as their parents would ask.  They are all the first ones in their families to go to secondary school.  Many families still  live a subsistence life so it takes a while for them to understand and value the importance of education.  Most of the children are sponsored through excellent charities such as Supporting Dalit Children, but still every family must pay something towards the education  and living costs.  Yesterday morning it was very sad to see a group of children in tears outside the gates, because their parents had not paid their annual fees – after weeks and weeks of promising.  Each pays what they can – for some it is as low as 500 rupees a year (£7 or $10).  I was told that their parents are relying on the Jesuits to be  kind, but they are standing firm.  This is important as all must value their education.  Today most have come and paid what they promised.

Part of my preparations is to teach the children how to use a latrine toilet.  Many of them used to living in the small villages have always gone and squatted in the fields. With 4oo living together in the hostel this proves to be a health hazard but they are frightened of using the commode – so part of my presentation is to show them why this is important. Fr Rohan (the head of the school) suggested I show them the video below by Wilbur Sargunaraj who has been called the first Indian ‘You Tube’ sensation.  From Madurai, Tamil Nadu, he is famous for his music and instructional videos.  Through his songs and his videos he aims to promote cultural intelligence.  I showed the video to the college teachers I am training and they were laughing and cringing! It is true that is not a sophisticated image of India – but I find him very likeable and this video is interesting (as well as funny) because it shows the basic level of education that is needed – which those of us who are urban and literate take for granted.  It is worth noting that the video is meant for us foreigners on how to use an Eastern Latrine.


The murdered Mexican Journalist María Elisabeth Macías Castro

As the Pope visits Mexico it will be interesting to see if he mentions a brave and inspiring woman – Maria Elizabeth Macias Castro who was tortured and beheaded by a drug cartel last September. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (click), she was the first journalist in the world killed for use of social media. It is known that Benedict will speak out about the growing violence and corruption of Mexico’s drug cartels, significantly one of the big cartels has called a ceasefire as an acknowledgement of his presence.  Castro (39), a committed Catholic,  blogged under the name “Laredo Girl,” was found butchered by a roadside monument to Christopher Columbus with two computer keyboards, cables, disks in a seeming macabre montage of here cyber-activity. A large placard stood propped nearby, with a scrawled note that read in part, “I’m here because of my reports…Thank you for your attention, respectfully, Laredo Girl.”  She was reported  by Zenit as one of five Catholics who were killed last year in Mexico for their faith.

According to John Allen of NCR, Maria was a  leader in the Scalabrian Lay Movement,  as well as being a reporter for the regional newspaper “Primera Hora” based in the town of Nuevo Laredo located in northern Mexico close to the U.S./Texas border. She was in favour of using social media to post helpful information for society related to organized crime.  In January last year Pope Benedict called for Catholics to embrace social media, with caution, he said: “To proclaim the Gospel through the new media means not only to insert expressly religious content into different media platforms, but also to witness consistently, in one’s own digital profile and in the way one communicates choices, preferences and judgments that are fully consistent with the Gospel, even when it is not spoken of specifically. Furthermore, it is also true in the digital world that a message cannot be proclaimed without a consistent witness on the part of the one who proclaims it. In these new circumstances and with these new forms of expression, Christians are once again called to offer a response to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is within them.”

It would seem that Maria could be seen as a powerful example of this – who was brave enough to speak out  and effective enough that she was silenced in a particularly evil way.  There are two paths to sainthood, one a life of outstanding virtue and holiness –  where miracles are required as a sign of the deceased ‘intercessory’ efficacy.  However a second path, which bypasses the need for miracles is available ,  the path of martyrdom – if it can be demonstrated that someone was killed ‘in odium fidei’ i.e. hatred of the faith. I know nothing more about Maria’s life but… could a cause be opened for her? Maybe one day we will see her as the patron saint for bloggers. In a time that seems to be marked by scandals, leaks and cover-ups – the Church needs to be on the front foot more in offering inspiring examples that we can connect with and emulate. And what better day to start the momentum than on the feast of the Anunciation!