The Matha Maria Hospital is located in the Bundelkhand’s "tribal belt", about 40 km from Sagar. Only two Christian families live in the area, out of a total of 1200. The hospital specialises in women’s and girls’ healthcare. About 80 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – A Catholic hospital in Madhya Pradesh treats thousands of poor tribal people every day without discrimination of sex, race or religion.
The Matha (Mother) Maria Hospital is located in the Bundelkhand’s "tribal belt", catering to the needs of 46 villages in Rehli block, some 40 kilometres from Sagar, the capital of the homonymous district.
Only two Christian families live in the area out of a total of 1200, but “we are not interested in that,” said hospital director Fr Thomas Philip, known as Fr Biju. “We serve the whole population ".
Speaking about World Day of the Sick, which will be celebrated tomorrow, he says that Pope Francis inspired him. In his message for the occasion, the pontiff "said that health care is a right for everyone, not a privilege of a few. I share his vision that medical care is part of the Church's mission."
The hospital, he explains, "is based on the example of Mother Teresa, who sparked the physical and spiritual transformation of many people in India.”
“The facility works with rural communities, caring for the sick and providing a selfless service, without any economic gain. Our activities are aimed at the holistic well-being of humanity: physical, cognitive and spiritual."
According to the director, the hospital’s mission "is to serve the suffering humanity on a voluntary basis, especially the poor. The area is inhabited mostly by Hindus. Residents are poor and illiterate and 80per cent of them live below the poverty line."
The health situation is critical "due to the lack of medical facilities and poor sanitary conditions, which favour the transmission of diseases".
"Our work is centred mainly on women and girls,” he notes. “Their health gets worse every day because most work with livestock and in farming. They work without stop even in the harshest season.”
Our medical "Staff deals with cases of tuberculosis, miscarriages, typhus and various infections. We also have a doctor who specialises in treating infections of women’s reproductive system.”
“The nuns who work with us serve the rural populations every day, reaching the remotest villages where they spread the message of love through their service."
Fr Biju is also head of the Manav Vikas Seva Sangh. Founded 27 years ago, it is the official Social and Human Development Centre of the diocese of Sagar. Its aim is to improve conditions in society.
The organisation "is present in 286 villages developing various projects like subsistence goods, support for women, health and hygiene, informal education, good governance, sustainable agriculture, children's rights, and natural resources management."
A college that hosted tribal students since 1997 closed. The police arrived with five trucks full of Hindu extremists, scaring the children. The college is accused of forced conversions. Sajan K George: "Nationalists are against Catholics because they want to continue to exploit dalit and tribal."
Archbishop Anthony Chirayath complains about the climate of hostility towards Christians in his diocese. Extremists are backed by the nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. They want to “unify the entire population under a Hindu flag." Accusations of forced conversions are made to create fear and isolate Christians. The goal is political, ahead of the 2018 elections.
The liturgical memory of Mother Teresa of Calcutta fell on 5 September. Sisters brought rice, red lentils, biscuits, and clothes to 130 Christian families, an example of Mother Teresa's real love to the needy in the slums.