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The founding bishop, Cyril Mar Baselios, strongly believed that his people would be liberated from oppression and exploitation through education. Even in the most inaccessible areas, schools and educational facilities were provided. In 1979 the diocese had just five schools; today, the diocese claims one college, two technical schools, five high schools, 26 grade schools and 27 kindergartens.

Creation of a just society based on Gospel values is the vision of “Shreyas,” or Prosperity, the social wing of the diocese.

Having internalized a development philosophy that is people-based and people-led, Shreyas believes not in people having more but in people being more, in a society where justice, equality, community concern and growth opportunities for all prevail.

Programs and services offered by Shreyas are open to all, regardless of creed and caste. These programs reach out through community organization, development, education, health, leadership training, relief and research.

The people’s participation at all levels is the hallmark of the programs and services provided by the diocesan social service agency. This participation has ensured viability, stability and continuity in all its activities. At the village or hamlet level, people are organized in farm clubs, women’s associations, credit cooperatives and other interest groups. There are 450 organizations, each having 200 to 250 members. These organizations have planned, implemented and sustained various socioeconomic and health programs in collaboration with local and other development agencies. Through these groups the diocese has played a leading role in fostering education and literacy, thus empowering the poor, particularly the dispossessed rural poor in the tribal regions.

Until recently, the lifestyles of these sons and daughters of the land were uniquely integrated and interwoven into nature; they were a self-reliant people. Internal migration and countercultural values have contributed to the erosion of their traditional culture, economy and values. Taking these factors into account, the diocese has invested a significant amount of personnel and funds to study this scenario and to devise a comprehensive action plan to ease the tribal peoples from dispossessed poverty.

Shreyas works among 22,000 tribals spread about in 135 hamlets. They meet in groups in CNEWA-funded community centers. Along with various developmental and health care activities, the diocese conducts three grade schools and 14 nursery schools, providing formal education for the dispossessed tribal children.

This diocesan program has commissioned a group of experts to prepare textbooks in tribal languages geared for the primary level. No agency or government has attempted to give written shape to the spoken languages of the tribal peoples. A curriculum in their own language would encourage children to complete their basic education. Preparation is also underway to compile a tribal language dictionary to assist teachers and students.

In recognition of the literacy achievements of this diocesan program, the government of Kerala bestowed the Literacy Campaign Award in 1993.

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Tags: India Syro-Malankara Catholic Church Multiculturalism