The 14th “Spirit of Assisi National Award”

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The 14th “Spirit of Assisi National Award” was conferred to Ms Dayabai on 24th July 2010 at Assisi Shanthi Kendra Karukutty.

Ms. Dayabai
Ms. Dayabai, after having completed her high School education, joined the Sisters of Hasaribagh Convent in Bihar in 1957. Living in this convent, she got in touch with the tribal people for the first time. She faced a new challenge in her life, whether to remain secure in the convent or to live with and for the tribal people, facing all the insecurities of such a life. She opted for the latter. 

Then she worked as a teacher for one and a half year in the Tribal School at Mahoda, in the District of Palamo, Bihar. Then we find her in Bombay, wandering through the streets and colonies and in Calcutta working to help the victims of the Bangladesh war, joining hands with the Caritas India at Saltlake. She also participated in the relief works in Andhra Pradesh and in Bihar after the natural catastrophe hit those places.

In 1980, as part of her project work, she went to Chintwada District in Madhya Pradesh and lived in the village of Surlagappa, among the tribals, with whom we find a new phase in her life. She decided to dedicate the rest of her life for the last, least and lost of these poor adivasi villagers. In 1981 she reached at the tribal village of Thinsai and lived there among the Ghondus till 1995. During these years she lived as one among them and led those uneducated people in their fight for rights and human dignity.

In 1995 she bought some land at Barul with the money that she got from home as her patrimony. This marked yet a new beginning in her life. There she made her home with her own hands, produces her food by herself, decides her own caste and religion and lives us a most independent woman, defending the dignity of the tribal women. Through the bio-agricultural method that she applied in her land she began to teach the adivasies an innovative way of cultivation.

“The Spirit of Assisi National Award” 
The award is instituted by the Franciscan Centre for Peace and Dialogue with its office at Assisi Shanthi Kendra, Karukutty. It is an important activity of the Conventual Franciscans in India with the collaboration of the International Franciscan Centre for Dialogue in Assisi, Italy. “The Spirit of Assisi National Award” was instituted in 1995, motivated by the Spirit of Assisi that entered the world on October 27, 1986, when the most notable representative of many of today’s world Religions joined Pope John Paul II at the City of St. Francis to pray together for peace.

The purpose of the Award is to give public recognition and encouragement to any person or institution in India who is contributing in one of the following areas: peace, justice, safeguarding of creation, ecumenism, inter-religious dialogue and the promotion and defense of human life.

This year the Award was given to Ms Dayabai for her tireless works to realize the dream that justice, equality and liberty becomes a reality to everyone in the nation.

The Award ceremony
The public function of the conferment of the Award was began at 3.40 pm. Rev. Fr. Mathew Purayidom, the Minister Provincial of the Conventual Franciscans in India welcomed all the function. Mrs. K. R Meera, one of the most prolific writers in Kerala, introduced Ms. Dayabai to the audience.

Then Binayak Sen, who is a pediatrician, public health specialist and national Vice-President of the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) made the Presidential address. Mr. Sen is noted for extending health care to the poorest people, monitoring the health and nutrition status of the people of Chhattisgarh, and as an activist defending the human rights of tribal and other poor people. Sen helped to set up the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha's Shaheed Hospital, which is owned and operated by a workers' organization. He was the recipient in 2004 of the Paul Harrison award for a lifetime of service to the rural poor. He is currently on bail on controversial charges laid by the state of Chhattisgarh. After the Presidential address Dr. Binayak Sen conferred “the Spirit of Assisi National Award” to Ms. Dayabai.

Then Ms. Dayabai made her acceptance speech. This was followed by felicitations from Mr. K. M Roy, one of the pioneers of journalism in Kerala, Dr. K. S Radhakrishnan, the former vice-Chanellor of Sanskrit University, Mr. Wilson Issac, a police Constable of the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau who wrote the first book in Malayalam about Dayabai. Fr. Alfred Parambakathu, the director of the Franciscan Center for Peace and Dialogue made the Vote of thanks.