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Salesian Social Forum Sets New Goals in The Pope Francis Era
By John Tharakan
Hyderabad, Jul. 6. After a gap of five years on 4-5 July 2014, the Salesians of Don Bosco of the Indian provinces came together again to confirm the relevance and urgency of their social ministry in the region. The meeting was held at Don Bosco Navajeevan Hyderabad, and attended by 13 stalwarts from the different parts of the country.
Participants at the Salesian Social Forum Meeting at Hyderabad, 4-5th June 2014
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The group met with a lot of enthusiasm. Each one present had been actively involved in various social justice and human rights activities. All work on community based programmes with their reach on the larger canvass of the state, the nation or the world. All in agreement that the present situation did not warrant any complacency. The participants acknowledged that the advent of Pope Francis gave them both the personal example and the manner of going about the work with the disadvantaged people of India.

A large part of the discussions were on the Salesian context. The participants were conscious of the fact that the real purpose of the congregation was to serve the disadvantaged, especially the young people, so that these would live in dignity. Being Gospel based everyone stressed the democratic style of functioning where equality mattered. They said that equality is to be manifested in participatory processes, and that such democratic and rights based approach needed to be manifest in the Salesian style of functioning and formation.

The participants reiterated the 2009 Forum Statement regarding the Aims, Areas of Involvement, Identity and Membership of the forum: Salesian Family Members with lay collaborators and associates from the larger secular forum seek to promote a secular and inclusive approach in building a people's movement that is rights-based, and following the Preventive System Spirituality. Through our apostolate and formative processes, we seek to promote a society where there will be no injustice based on gender, class, caste, ethnicity, age or any other factor. The forum seeks to work for the establishment of a new secular social order based on social justice, human rights, inclusion and participation of all, especially the disadvantaged people, women and young people.

The participants stated that their identity is unique as they work for larger societal goals and collaborate with wider secular networks for the establishment of a rights based egalitarian society. The Salesian forum perspective is wider than the forum for the young at risk. The forum reach also goes beyond the developmental agenda of the Development Offices. The Forum members also connect with one another in their personal capacity rather than on an institutional basis.

To increase the communication among the members the forum decided to prepare a directory of activities and network contacts. This would help them to connect better on the various issues as well as among network partners. This would also enhance their impact and prevent their working at cross purposes or duplicating their efforts.
 
Being part of the Don Bosco Networks in south Asia, the forum decided to formulate a set of statutes in the format proposed for Don Bosco Networks.  A statutes committee was set up with Frs Thomas Pallithanam, Godfrey D'Sa and John Tharakan as members. After various levels of consultation with the members the finalized statutes will be presented to the Salesian Provincial Conference of South Asia by November this year for approval.

The members endorsed the SSF ''Expression of Assurance of Collaboration'' among the Don Bosco Networks.  Brief concept notes on collaboration with each of the Don Bosco Networks will be prepared by some of the Forum members. If the offer is accepted, the Forum assures full accountability for every activity accepted. Incidentally, there was a very intense discussion on accountability as Salesians.

Following a typical democratic process, the group agreed not to repeat roles of responsibility. Accordingly Fr Edwin Vasanthan was elected as the new Forum Contact Person.  Acknowledging the limited number of members available, the Forum decided to let the same Local Contact Persons to continue in their roles.
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