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India: Calcutta Archdiocese celebrates World Day of Migrants and Refugees

Thanksgiving Mass for migrants in Archdiocese of Calcutta, West Bengal, India (Photo by RVA News)

A parish in the Archdiocese of Calcutta in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal celebrated the World Day of Migrants and Refugees with a Thanksgiving Mass on September 25.

The program took place at the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Barasat, a city in the North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal.

Father Neeraj Toppo, from Morning Star Regional Seminary, was the main celebrant. Claretian Father Augustus Kujur, preached the homily, highlighting the significance of the festival of ‘Karam.’ 

Karam is an agricultural and harvest festival celebrated in many Indian states, including Jharkhand, West Bengal, Bangladesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Odisha, and Bihar. It is observed to commemorate a bountiful harvest and good health. It is revered by tribals in Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, and Assam.

Toppo also said that the Adivasis, in large numbers, are migrants to various states and cities in India. Their presence and contributions to society are immense in various fields of work. 

Today, they are in big numbers in all the parishes of Kolkata and parts of West Bengal. 

Migrants make a significant contribution to the state and national economies. Today, they hold high positions in society, said Father Francis Sunil Rosario, the regional secretary of the Commission for Migration under the Conference of Catholic Bishops in India (CCBI).

To celebrate this day of the Karam Festival, a couple from Ranchi (Jharkhand), Mr. and Mrs. Dilip Tirkey, CEO of the office of the State Food Department, Land and Property, was invited to be the chief guests of the cultural program that followed the Mass. 

The chief guest, Tirkey, encouraged all to take an active part in building the future of the parish and society through active participation and recognition of the gifts God has given to all. 

Several groups came to participate in the cultural dance program. A few complimentary dances were performed by the girls of Providence Convent and aspirants of the Auxilium institution, Taki Road.

The parishes that performed their cultural dances for the competition were the Church of Kestopur, Rupantor, Barrackpore, Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Barasat, Green Park, Dumdum, and others. 

Migrants and displaced people face many challenges in life. The Church is very aware of its situation. Pope Francis has shown his concern for migrants, refugees, and displaced people. 

Keeping a day to celebrate the World Day of Migrants and Refugees (WDMR) on the last Sunday of September every year is a way to remember them and include them in mainstream society and the parishes. 

Karam tree

The Pope's call to welcome, promote, protect, and integrate them into the mainstream society/parishes is very vital in the Church's ministries. 

Pope Francis chose the theme for his annual message, "Building the Future with Migrants and Refugees."

His call is: "We are all called to commit ourselves to build a future based on a new global system that better responds to God’s plan, a world where everyone can live in peace and prosperity" (WDMR, 2022).

He further goes on to say that "No one must be excluded. God’s plan is essentially inclusive and gives priority to those living on the existential peripheries. Among them are many migrants and refugees, displaced people, and victims of trafficking. The Kingdom of God is to be built with them, for without them it would not be the Kingdom that God wants. The inclusion of those most vulnerable is the necessary condition for full citizenship in God’s Kingdom." 

The Pope's message for all is that "we cannot leave to future generations the burden of responsibility for decisions that need to be made now so that God’s plan for the world may be realized and his Kingdom of justice, fraternity, and peace may come."

In his message, Archbishop Victor Henry Thakur of Raipur, and chairman of the CCBI Commission for Migrants, said, "The commemoration of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees has a longstanding history since 1914. 

"We need to reflect and express our love and concern for the different vulnerable people on the move; to pray for them and pray with them as they are treated as strangers and, thus, feel isolated and marginalized with many difficulties and challenges," Thakur said. 

The CCBI Commission for Migrants has taken seriously the concerns of the migrants in 
Indian dioceses. 

"Migrants seeking a better life in the host country are not aliens, but rather our brothers and sisters. They are to be welcomed in the local churches and parishes," said Archbishop Thakur. 

Migrants dance on the occasion

It is praiseworthy to note that in some of the states, the dioceses provide pastoral care for the migrants who are originally from the north and northeastern states with linguistic assistance in their Sunday liturgy. 

The metropolitan cities and urban churches have more migrant workers, but often their contribution to the development of the cities and the states is unrecognized. 

Nearly 400 people participated in the day-long celebration of the Karam festival along with the migrants and displaced people. - Teresa Rozario


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