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24 Mising tribal youth take solemn pledge of community service
By Fr. K.A. Thomas, sdb
Dimapur, Sep. 5. In a ritual that verbatim resembled a religious profession, or the initiation ceremony in an Assam's Satra, 24 young people committed themselves today to serve their community. These young people, called Takars, have undergone training in discipline, community service and spirituality for two years. Of these 13 belonged to the 12th batch of Karsang Takar, the school dropouts training centre of Institution for Culture And Rural Development (I-CARD). Since the ritual was not performed  after a lapse of five years, another 11 young volunteers, belonging to earlier batches too joined the commitment group.
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All the 24 young people belong to the Mising tribe, and were dressed in their best cultural attire for the occasion. In an impressive procession, they marched two by two, holding earthen lamps in their hands. They stood around the  m�ram (fire-place), symbolic of religion in Mising tribal tradition, while prayer songs were sung by the assembly. ''Shine like stars, lighting up the sky, as you bring the message of life'', so read a passage from the scripture.  The president of the ritual, Fr. Mulayinkal Thomas, from Don Bosco Amguri, exhorted the candidates to make the commitment real by their life in the villages.

After they placed their lamps over the fireplace, and did obeisance, the community prayed over them.  Then came the solemn moment of the commitment, the words of which they repeated after Fr. Thomas,  the director.  They committed themselves to live a model life and to work for their community. They invoked the assistance of saints to help them on their lives' journey.

In the final part of the ritual, each candidate was given a medal, with the words, ''shine like stars, bring life''. By now most candidates were overcome with emotion, and were visibly in tears. The power of prayer, the presence of the community and the invocation of divine powers had filled them with emotion. All those present in the assembly greeted the newly initiated young person, and congratulated him or her for the courageous step each one had taken.

The ritual itself was the climax of five days of preparation, a sort of spiritual revitalization for the young people who hail different parts of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Two of them are married. As for religion, some of them follow the tribal traditions and others the Christian religion. This is a new concept of religious consecration for young people who live in villages, following the rules and demands of I-CARD, as volunteers. It does not matter what religion they follow.  They come together every six months for re-orientation, and are roped in as per need for the various project activities of I-CARD.  ''They are the leaven in the world for other young people'', says Fr. Thomas, the director.

Speaking during the felicitation that followed, Puspalata Mili, of the first batch of trainees, and who had made her promise way back in 2003, said: ''this prayer and this promise gave me such courage and confidence that I was not afraid of my family or village people any more. I was a Hindu and I battled in my mind about what my family would say, and how I would adjust to them after being trained in a Christian institution. Praying around the m�ram (fireplace) was electrical. Only someone from the Mising tribe will know what that implies.''

Gayatri Pangging of the first batch too, said: ''one cannot imagine the impact of prayer that happens during this pledging ceremony. I was afraid to pronounce the words of commitment. But this gave me such motivation to dedicate myself to my community, that I am still trying to do even now.''
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