Written by Jermaine Broetje, Philanthropy Intern
Our grant partners at World Renew and EFICOR (The Evangelical Fellowship of India Commission on Relief) lead peace-building efforts with the Malto and Santhal people of India (formerly called ‘untouchables’). Both groups primarily rely on agriculture and forestry for their livelihood, but population pressures have increased the need for fuel for household consumption and income, destroying the forest they rely on. Today, the Maltos blame the Santhals for their poverty and pass on stories of how their lands have been taken away by them. Since the time of colonization, each tribe has competed for resources and power. Through village peace and joint venture committees in 23 villages, both tribes are now working together to heal historic wounds and address contemporary challenges such as poverty and deforestation.
Ramesh lives with his wife Nilam in the Jetke Village, Borio block of Sahibganj district, where he serves as a teacher and takes part in paddy cultivation. Ramesh and Nilam have a family of five, four daughters and one son. During November last year, EFICOR held a peace committee meeting in Jetke Village. Afterwards, both Malto and Santhal community groups felt compelled to give one another gifts as a first step toward building peace and reconciliation.
Ramesh never felt compelled to give to the Santhal community until he was able to acknowledge himself aside from his own class and status. He came to see himself as being an agent of change through developing a better relationship with the Santhal community. After attending a peace committee meeting and workshop, placing peace at the root of reconciliation, Ramesh was inspired to give a gift to Matla Chore, a poor Santhali farmer from the Saraibindha village. He bought a shirt from a market in Borio and gifted it to Matla in December 2021.
“I have been working in a mission hostel for three years as a cook for boys but never received a gift from anyone. I am very thankful to Ramesh for this precious gift. I will also supply some gifts to my Malto brother in the coming days.”Matla Chore
There has been a shift in giving between these groups. Malto and Santhal members are sharing clothes and vegetables, and inviting one another to weddings, festivals, and church events.
A clear mindset change is developing between these two communities that were not coming together before. They are building self-esteem and setting aside their pride in order to see one another. These historical shifts are actively healing disconnections between self and community. Peace being at the forefront of this change is allowing Ramesh and his community to acknowledge his new friend Matla and other Santhal members as people too. He has created a ripple effect of friendship that will sustain future generations.