Some Church people in Madhya Pradesh plan to further work for children after the government admitted that an average 83 children die daily because of malnutrition in the central Indian state.
“This is an alarming death rate,” said Bishop Sebastian Vadakkel of Ujjain. He told UCA News that Church groups will collaborate with local bodies and other agencies to protect children.
The Church’s response came after health minister Aunp Mishra told the state assembly recently that in the past four years 122,422 children have died because they did not get enough food and water.
Noting that more than 30,000 children die annually, Bishop Vadakkel said the Church alone cannot handle the task as it requires “money and manpower.”
He said his diocese has already started an awareness program through a network which has 1,700 groups of 20 persons each from all religious communities.
Father Mathew Vattakuzhy, who directs the Church-run Forum for Social Works in the state, said they have already sought funding from Church agencies to arrest the trend. “Though the Church cannot tackle the issue on its own, it can, no doubt, work as a catalyst,” the priest said.
Father Anthon Kattara, director of social work in Jhabua diocese, said the deaths are a “direct reflection of the larger social problems” such as child marriage, dowry practices, dwindling agricultural land and poverty.
“It is time for the Church to focus on a livelihood program,” he told UCA News.
The Church cannot ignore this “serious issue” although right-wing Hindu groups have always said the Church’s social work was a façade to convert the poor and gullible, the priest said.
The state witnessed increased anti-Christians incidents after the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian people’s party) came to power in 2003.