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*Sister Shobhana gets Florence Nightingale award *In search of missing Christian MLAs

June 2, 2011 by  
Filed under India, Persecution

Sister Shobhana gets Florence Nightingale awardThe tireless efforts of Sister Shobhana, who works with HIV/AIDS patients, has received national recognition. The nun, who belongs to Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny, was honored with the National Florence Nightingale award for her outstanding services in the health sector by President Pratibha Patil on May 12. “The award was unexpected. I dedicate this honor to my team,” a modest Sister Shobhana said.

She is currently working at Sneha Sadan, a community center for HIV/AIDS patients, in Dharmapuri, Tamil Nadu. “We bring the patients diagnosed with HIV/AIDS to our center and provide them with counseling and nutrition,” she said. The center also takes care of the children infected with the disease. “Right now we have 50 such children staying with us.” Sister Shobhana, who completed her nursing and midwifery course from St. Martha’s Hospital, Bangalore in 1993, said that they also organize awareness programs on TB.

After working for two years in the same hospital in which she studied, she served in a remote village dispensary in Salem district of the state. Becoming a household name in the country has not changed her much, she is her tireless self serving with renewed zeal the marginalised and the down trodden. Currently she is busy with a group of women, educating them about personal and environment hygiene, nutrition, ante- natal, intra-natal and post-natal care.

In search of missing Christian MLAs

The number of elected members are indicative of Christian empowerment dynamics. Christian leadership is largely missing in the newly-elected State Assemblies, but for the lone exception of Kerala. This calls for introspection, reflection and action on the part of the religious leaders. A simple analysis of the members of the legislative assemblies that went to polls raises many questions. While we do not have many details, the number of elected members are indicative of Christian empowerment dynamics. We do not promote communal politics. But active presence of Christians in politics is not only desired but an evangelical imperative.

In West Bengal, where a revolution took place, there is just one Christian name. Though we cannot speak of any Christian influence in what happened with the political make over in that state where the Left Front was dislodged after its 34-year rule. Mother Teresa brought the compassion of Christ to the poor but the leadership of Jesus is not visible in the political field. May be it is an opportunity for Conference of Religious of India to go in for an in-depth reflection and pro-active action. Tamil Nadu, which boasts of a large Christian population, has just 5 Christian names which includes communist party members.

Are the Church leaders satisfied in building such communities? There have been meetings of bishops with the political leaders in trying to handle the post-election scenario. Is it not time to meet with the Christian leaders in the state and promote strategies for better involvement of the laity in their specific field? The neighboring Puducherry, which is perceived as Christian due to its past French connections, also failed to elect a single community member. Though there were three Christian candidates none got through the democratic scrutiny.

Christianity will continue to bear witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ through education and charitable works but what about political leadership? Assam returned a chief minister for the third time and affirmed a time of peace in the troubled state. There are 4 Christian names indicating a presence but not any influence. The Church has a strong presence in the whole of Northeast but the culture of political leadership is yet to be seen as a matter of priority.

Kerala continues to be an exception in Christian presence. There are 32 Christian MLAs. The cabinet has 7 ministers, including the chief minister. It is proportionate to the population. But the strong Christian leadership in public life is inversely proportional to the influence of religious leadership in the state. Our clerical set up and religious congregations have a responsibility to promote Christian leadership at all levels of our society. The political field has a unique place in a democratic country.

A positive and promotive approach to the building up of leadership by the religious leaders can be a step forward. Perhaps it can also be a solution to many other problems of the society and the Church that we encounter in our daily life. The Church has a very powerful presence in training young people through its schools and colleges but leadership seems to be a casualty. May be the Major Superiors of religious congregations in these states would find a strategy to change the situation in a period of 6 to 12 years. It will help us to get away from being indifferent to the world of public life.

– Brother Mani Mekkunnel

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