After floods devastated the Indian state of Karnataka in August 2019, thousands of people were made homeless.
Since then, the local Catholic Church has been working to help the community, and this month the Archdiocese of Bangalore gave financial support to the Diocese of Shimoga to help build seven new houses in different parts of the diocese.
“On September 19, we inaugurated a house to a Catholic family. Yesterday, we gave houses to five Hindu families and one Muslim,” Bishop Francis Serrao of Shimoga told Crux.
“We went about it this way: We have our social work center and they are in touch with poor people and we have also self-help groups – these self-help groups meet often, and they know the people at the grassroots. and work for the people through these groups – we asked the self-help groups to give us the names of the people to whom we should give the houses. So, people we part of the decision-making process, they suggested the names,” the bishop explained.
“First, they suggested, then we go and visit them. Preference was given to the economically poor, those who are widows would get preference, those with non-earning members, those with small children, and finally, those who owned a small piece of land, where we could build the houses, since we couldn’t buy the land with our budget,” he continued. “These seven families were very happy, and grateful to the Church.”
Christians make up slightly less than 2 percent of the population of Karnataka, marginally less than the 2.3 per cent Christians represent out of India’s total population. But in the Diocese of Shimoga, there are just 19,000 Catholics out of a total population of 5.6 million, just 0.3 percent.
Shimoga is the center of the state, about 150 miles from the capital, Bangalore. During the 2019 floods, the water rose over 8 feet some areas of the city, leaving hundreds of houses flooded. At least 24 died in the state, with 235,000 being evacuated.
Immediately after the floods, the diocese provided material help to 485 families, but wasn’t in a position to give more substantial aid, such as home construction.
This is where the institutions of the Archdiocese of Bangalore enters the picture.
“The need for houses especially for those who lost everything in the floods is the beginning of a new life as family. A house or home is that which binds the family together. The Bangalore Archdiocese is proud to be part of the house building process for seven families,” Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore told Crux.
“The Bangalore Archdiocese is proud to be part of the house building process for seven families of Shimoga diocese who lost their houses in the rain floods of 2019, which were inaugurated and handed over to the families on September 17, 2020,” the archbishop added.
The Archdiocese of Bangalore was joined by several institutions within the archdiocese in aiding the Diocese of Shimoga, including St Joseph’s College Institutions; the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo; the Infant Jesus Shrine of Bangalore; St. Germain’s Academy; and the Cluny Social Service Trust, Kannur and Society of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
Machado noted that the houses funded by archdiocesan institutions went mainly to non-Christians.
“We are happy about it,” he said, adding that several other homes are being built with other funds, including for Christian families in Shimoga.