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Interreligious Prayer Meet to Condole the Death of Fr. Sumit Edwin Menezes SJ: Friend of Musahars & champion of their Culture


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An interfaith prayer service and condolence meet was held in Jeevan Sangham, Bodh Gaya in honour of Fr. Edwin Sumit Menezes who died on 18 December 2019 from a cardiac arrest. Welcoming the large gathering Fr. Anto Joseph recollected his valuable contri¬bution towards the development of Jeevan Sangham with the twin objective of walking with the Bhuiya – Musahar community in their empowerment and promotion of interfaith dialogue and social harmony. Fr. CyriacPoovakot, with a reading from the Holy Bi¬ble led representatives of various religious traditions to pray for the departed soul. Shri. Jitan Ram Manjhi, honorable former Chief Minister of Bihar highlight¬ed the significance of the commitment of Fr. Sumit. He said, “There is no greater worship than sharing the pain of others and serving others.” Speaking on Fr. Sumit’s contribution to the social empowerment of Bhuiya – Musahar community, he lauded the ser¬vices of the church towards the educational empowerment of the com¬munity. ShrimatiJyoti Manjhi, former Member of Legislative Assembly, Bihar recollected his encour-agement to her. “He always remained an inspiration, guide, and motivator in my life”, she said. His passion was to search for and understand the his¬tory and culture of the community. He once wrote, “The culture of these groups who live their lives on the margins, is woven inextricably with their occu¬pation, their everyday conflicts, their productive processes and their life styles. Hence, for me to work with and among these people meant an understand¬ing of their world and world views, their culture and traditions, their folk religion, their economic rela-tionships, their rites and rituals, their stories, their myths and mythology, their songs and dances…” Fr. Tony Herbert, SJ, and Shri Frank Krishner, his team members working on his dream project of creating a virtual museum of Bhuiya History and Culture, said that Fr. Sumit’s dream of the cultural museum shall be fulfilled soon. Prem Mandal narrated how Fr. Sumit, following a very simple life style, walked around the villages, lived among the people, listened to their stories, par¬ticipated in their dance and music and encouraged them. He described the journey of the community with Fr. Sumit in establishing an Ambedkar Study Centre from where about 25 children complete sec¬ondary education every year since 2017.

Venerable Pragya Deep, president, All India BhikshuSangh, recollected his association with him. Shri. A. H. Khan, the secretary of Inter Faith Forum, Bodh Gaya, informed the gathering that Fr. Sumit had been a founding member and secretary of the Forum. He recollected his commitment to inter faith dialogue and social harmony. Shri. Pradip Jain from the Interfaith Forum fondly remembered the contri¬butions of Fr. Sumit for the cause of religious harmo¬ny and social justice.

Shri. Priye Ranjan, a personal friend and President, YMCA, Gaya, as well as the former president of Ro¬tary Club, Gaya, recollected his fond memories of Fr. Sumit. He said, “Fr. Sumit had been personal guide to many people and he was a true friend of many. To all for whom he was a personal guide, he kept whis¬pering in their heart ‘when you start earning, no mat¬ter how much, you should share a part of it with the poor”. On this occasion, Venerable SumatiSasana, sent his condolence message titled ‘Father Sumit: My friend has departed’. Venerable SumatiSasana wrote, “We shared so much, a respect for each other and our respective religious traditions as well as a concern for the state of society and the world. Father Sumit prac¬ticed what he believed; spending most of his working days with the people he cared for and loved the dalit communities.

Rev. Fr. Donald Miranda, the Provincial, thanked the gathering for their affection towards Fr. Sumit. He said he feels fulfilled when his companion Jesuit is so fondly remembered by so many people. The values which Fr. Sumit believed in and lived out are close to the heart of every Jesuit. Jeevan Sangham which Fr. Sumit founded shall take forward the mission of walking with the poor and working for religious and social harmony. While Fr. Lawrence Ujjwal, the direc¬tor of Inter-religious dialogue, Jeevan Sanham, gave the vote of thanks. Fr. John Ravi, the director of Social Ministry of Jeevan Sangham, led the gathering to sing in one voice as if a call to take forward the mission of Fr. Sumit, “Ham HongeKamyab…”

– Anto Joseph



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