Prayer focus- India - The Paharias of Jharkhand

Prayer focus- India - The Paharias of Jharkhand

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The Paharia people live in the northern end of the subcontinent. The word Paharia is an Indo-Aryan word which means the people residing in a hilly/mountainous region. According to anthropologists the Paharia tribes of ancient times were famous as bandits. They also attacked the cargo boats full with trading items and utensils. The plains' inhabitants used to identify them as "those hill men". According to the census, these Paharia tribes number around 150,000.

The Paharias are divided into three groups - Sauria, Kumhar Bhag and Mal Paharias. The Saurias claim to be the original Paharias, as they still preserve their traditional culture and language. They were nomadic and now live on very unproductive lands. Their present economic, educational and social situation is so precarious that they are on the verge of extinction.

The Paharia villages are situated either on hilltops or on the slopes. An average village will have about 20-30 houses and the houses are densely situated, thus susceptible to fire. The houses are mostly thatched/tiled huts with two rooms supported on pillars of poles, with a main pillar at the center. The roof is kept low so that it may not be blown off by the wind. Most villages are devoid of basic amenities. The Paharias are mostly animists, though of course, many have accepted Christianity and Hinduism in recent years.

Living in a difficult terrain, their economy is way below the minimum. On average, one person supports two others. The Paharias are used to dry farming and have strong connections with the forest and land. They live from the sale of forest products - firewood, cotton, Kendu leaves, Mahua flower and other edible fruits and roots. But the price they get is less than half of what they can get in the markets. The monsoon rains are irregular and they do not have irrigation.

Their daily necessities are met either by the weekly markets or by the hawkers. They use a barter system and their lack of awareness of the value of the commodities and their produce results in their exploitation. They borrow from the Mahajan, the most important person in their economy. He cheats them in measurement, accounting; he exploits their women and girls; and dupes them of their land and possession.

Due to the practice of shifting cultivation, they cut the forest vegetation at an interval of 3 to 5 years. Increased soil erosion makes the land barren and will eventually impact on the good paddy fields down below. This will necessitate migration of the Paharia population.

The general health of the Paharia people is poor; increasing their susceptibility to disease. Several water borne diseases are commonplace. The majority suffer from malnutrition and acute diseases like malaria and kala-a-azar in the epidemic form, cases of leprosy, and goiters (among females). The poor health care facilities contribute to this. A widespread addiction to Mahua wine also impacts on their health. These are significant factors in their child mortality rate.

What We Aimed For:-

In 1993, in Mukri Pahar, I made first recordings in common Paharia language and produced outreach cassettes for the Paharias. Those recordings were used by the FMPB missionaries for years with excellent results. Many new congregations were formed and number of churches started.

Then FMPB missionaries bought many of our Good News and Look, Listen & Live Picture books and are still using these to teach believers and evangelize. Surendra bought more of these pictures books recently for use in children's ministry. Last year, I was invited to speak in one of their meetings where I met Solomon (an old friend), who desired to work in partnership with Surendra to make new recordings and provide outreach materials - in Sauria, Kumhar Bhag and Mal Paharias. I sent him scripts and some instructions.

The good team work :-

Solomon called his co-workers ( Jacob Gnanpandithan and Surendra) from 3 different Paharia language groups and from 3 different regions - Sauria, Kumhar Bhag and Mal Paharia. They worked together to translate scripts, compose songs, choose musicians, singers and speakers. A great majority of our language helpers were oral preference learners, so more than a week was spent preparing their respective groups. To reach that area was another tiresome job. There was no electricity, telephone nor good roads or transportation available. We hired a car and to reach about 80 kms, it took about 4 hours as most of the road was bad. Those 3 groups hired jeeps to reach the recording spot, and the same way we arranged jeeps to send them back. Solomon and his wife, stayed with us for 4 days until recordings in Sauria and Kumhar Bhag Paharia were over. Then Brother Jacob with his 15 members team reached Mal Paharia and within two days completed the recordings.

Some struggles we faced :-

We had some real struggle to complete the recording job - there was no power. Our batteries needed to be charged. Then scripts were translated, but they were hand written, and the speakers were not able to read them. So Surendra went with a jeep to bring a generator, a printer, some papers etc. We praise God for all these arrangements. With the generator, we could charge the batteries, Surrendra could type those scripts and get them printed in a local language. Everyday we used the generator for 13/14 hours. The nearest market was about 20 kms away, and we had to arrange motor bikes when we needed something. We were not able to communicate with people as there was no telephone service.

The Recordings Done :-

First 2 days we recorded 15 GRN short scripts, 14 songs and Good News commentary in Sauria Paharia language, Next two days we completed 8 GRN short scripts and 14 songs in Kumhar Bhag Paharia language, and then another two days we recorded 14 GRN short scripts and 13 songs in Mal Paharia language. We expected some good speakers from Kumarbhag language, but due to some problem the team could not come, and they requested us to go there again in June.

Immediate orders:-

Before recordings were over, Jacob placed his first order to us. We will supply 400 Outreach CDs in Mal Paharia language for him, Mr. Issac wants 300 Outreach CDs in Sauria Paharia, Brother Solomon wants 300 outreach CDs in Kumarbagh language, as well as 50 Hindi outreach Cds and 50 Bengali outreach CDs he needs.

Other Requests They Made :-

Due to some problem the Kumarbagh speakers could not reach us and the work is only half completed, Brother Solomon wants to complete the recording in June he also requires fresh recordings in the Oraon language so he can begin an evangelism work among the many Oraon living in that area. He also requested to record the commentary of Look, Listen & Live in Sauria Paharia. We hope to do a good evangelism work in those jungles and mountainous areas with the help of FMPB and ECI missionaries. Our service will help them to reach many home with the gospel.

Prayer Requests :-

  1. For Solomon, Jacob, Surendra, Issac, Daniel and such leaders are working hard to reach the people. They are targeted by anti-Christians and were threatened many times. Pray for their protection.
  2. The converts are often harrased by political and religious leaders. Many people are afraid of them. Please pray for those people.
  3. GRN recordings have been used to turn many to the Lord; they have found Christ when they heard the gospel in their own language. Missionaries are leading them further. Praise God for this joint venture and partnership.
  4. There will be many Mela (village fairs) in that region. Evengelists and Christian workers will be there to preach the gospel. There will be much risk and they can be attacked. Please pray for their protection; ask the Holy spirit to bless them with much courage.
  5. Pray that the Lord will provide sufficient funds to do more recordings in June. Also we need money to buy CDs etc.

19th February 2011

In His service,

Swapan Roy and Kolkata GRN Team