Honourable chairperson, Archbishop of Guwahati Most Rev. John Moolachira, Most Rev. Lumen Monteiro Bishop of Agarthala, Rev. Fr. Sebastian Vadakumpadan- National Co-ordinator for PMI India, AshaPreeti the Regional co-ordinator for PMI, dignitaries on the dais, the co-ordinators and the volunteers of Prison Ministry India
It gives me great joy to be present here this evening for the inaugural function of Co-ordinators and Volunteers’ Meet here in North East India. At the outset I want to extend my heartiest congratulations to Sr. AshaPreeti the Co-ordinator of PMI north east and all the collaborators for their great, committed and dedicated service to this ministry, for all that they have been able to achieve in terms of meeting the objectives of Prison Ministry and above all for being instruments of Christ’s Compassionate love to the People behind the bars.
This is the first time I am attending a programme like this, though I have visited prisons and interacted with the prisoners, have become part of the CRI volunteers who visited the prisons. I just want to share my thoughts and views to the group here.Strange but true that life today is full of challenges and difficulties, which were not there in yester years. The younger generation does not seem to feel it. To them what they see is what they know. Past is history. There could be convincing explanations to all this anomalies we see. But life is changing fast and becoming more materialistic. In this rat race the less fortunate are left behind believing on the adage “survival of the fittest’
Some of the captions in the media highlight the paradox of the present day life and its priorities. I would like to mention a few:
First of all the ministry of prisoners is a vivid encounter with the Lord. Indeed, in Christ the love of God and love of neighbour have become one, so that ‘in the least of the brethren we find Jesus himself, and in him… God’ ( Deus caritas est. n.5). Jesus said: “I came so that they may have life, and life in abundance” ( Jn: 10/10). Life without proper freedom or liberty is mere existence and cannot be called human life. Prisoners can be overwhelmed by feelings of isolation, shame and rejection that threaten to shatter their hopes and aspirations for the future. Within this context the members of the prison ministry are called to be heralds of God’s infinite compassion and forgiveness. Secondly this ministry requires highest qualification in compassion, mercy and forgiveness because this mission is a call from the Lord to bring the love of Christ, His compassion, mercy and forgiveness. Therefore, every volunteer should be equipped with two certificates: conviction and commitment, compassion and care. This ministry involves lot of challenges, risks and volunteers need to accept them in humility and simplicity. Swami Vivekananda said, “They only live, who live for others. The rest are more dead than alive.” Mother Theresa once said,’ I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I do know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, how many good things have you done in your life?, rather he will ask, how much Love do you put into what you did? The CRI North East India has been active leaven supporting the Prison Ministry. Many of the CRI units in different dioceses of NE India have taken PM is part of its active ministry to be a witness to God’s liberating love to the people behind bars. Sr. AshaPreeti the Sister of the Ursuline Franciscan Sisters who Co-ordinates Prison Ministry in North East India and all the States, and diocesan co-ordinators of North East have been toiling very hard to make this ministry effective. The CRI supports PM to fulfillits mission with an effective Christ-centered, faith based approach by meeting the spiritual, personal and social needs of the jail and prison inmates, former inmates and their families. The CRI will continue to give its full support in the future years too. What is not done is just a drop in the ocean. Much needs to be done through interventions as the needs of the Prisoners are vivid and distinct. Suggesting a few of them: 1. Legal interventions 2.Individual counseling and family counseling of the prisoners, 3. Taking the help of the Legal Aid Cells of the dioceses or regions to help the innocent prisoners, 5. Human rights education and legal aid education to the prisoners.
A good system of net-working has to be developed to make our interventions effective. I call upon the religious congregations to give full time volunteers to making these possible. Dear friends, in spiritual sense we are all prisoners of selfishness, hatred, jealousy, anger and rebellion which separate us from the new law Jesus gave” Love your neighbour as you love yourself’. So, we all stand in need of release from prisons that prevent us from being children of God.
I wish every success with God’s abundant blessings on this noble ministry to the Prisoners
Northeast Regional CRI