Saturday, May 23, 2015

My First hand experience in Assamatadu “Holy Ground” (Fr. Manoj Kharady, SVD)

“Amu Macadique nee la diak, hela iha nee deit”, was the frequent statement made by people when I moved from Darabai, Uatolari to Assamatadu, Macadique. Assamatadu is the place where our residence is located in Macadique. Recently, as I was down with dengue-malaria, once again this phrase haunted me because people reminded me once again saying, “amu rai nee lulik, diak liu muda ba fatin seluk.” Our residence is located near the cemetery probably that’s why people call it as “Holy Ground”.

I was presented to the people of Macadique on 13th May 2014 on the Feast day of Our Lady of Fatima, the Patroness of the Ensino Basico Central, the school where I would teach English. Thus, it is almost one year since I arrived in Macadique.

The first hand experience was that I enjoyed the warm welcome, feast and dance with the children and the smiling faces of the children who were so fascinated to see an Indian priest in their midst.  Within a few weeks I realised that I was more than a priest for them. In me they saw an artist like Shaharuk Khan whom most of them call by “Rahul” the famous name in the film. When they see me on the roads and school they sing shingly, “Kuch Kuch Hota Hei”. The song from Indian movie.

As a young missionary the responsibility that is bestowed upon me is not only to cater the spiritual needs of the faithfuls but also to administer the Catholic High School (SMPK) belonging to the diocese of Baucau given into the care of SVDs. We are two in the community, the director of the school and me. Thus, as pastors we carry out spiritual as well as education-formation programs. It is not an easy task to be a teacher and pastor though basically all pastors are teacher. The total strength of the school from the primary section to the high school are 445, in which 249 boys and 196 girls. We are total 19 teaching staffs, of which 15 male and 4 female teachers, including we two SVD priests and one SSpS sister. It is a great joy to work in collaboration with different ethnic as well as religious groups. Along with teaching we also carry out different training and community building programs.
As for my mission as a teacher in the school and as an assistant pastor in the church I am quite happy and contended and feel great joy by being with the people. However, lately I have discovered that it is really not easy to be a missionary in Timor Leste, especially in the East, in Uatolari. Because people are really tough and not easy to break through their stereotypes of the culture and traditions which keep them shackled from moving forward.   Slowly, now I am beginning to discover why they are the way they behave. It is because of their painful and horrible past, war, long mistreatment by the colonizers and the later occupants that made them so inferior and worthless that they find difficult to see their own goodness. However with the missionary presence slowly things are getting better. What I feel is that some of us religious and missionaries will have to change our stereotypes and mind set towards the Timorese people if we really sincere and faithful in our calling as priests. And finally, personally as a missionary priest I feel that it is indeed a great challenge to be in Timor Leste.

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