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INDIA: Salesian Ethnique Festival Teaches Community about Mising Culture

(MissionNewswire) The fourth annual Salesian Ethnique Festival took place in early January highlighting the culture of the Mising tribe of the Indian states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, both located in the Northeast part of the country. The event was organized by youth who were once unemployed school dropouts but are now part the Salesian-run Institution for Culture and Rural Development (I-CARD).

The three-day festival featured innovative presentations, dances, music, rituals, folktale narration and street theater dramas presented across 13 venues. Close to 200 aspiring artists participated in the festival entertaining and educating more than 2,000 attendees. Youth from the Institution for Culture and Rural Development were responsible for the preparation and execution of the festival including setting up, making and selling craft items, organizing performances and lighting and preparing informational materials on local cuisine.

A special attraction of the event were the many stage scenes presented by youth that brought to life traditional stories from Mising culture and the various rituals that mark community life. Also featured were 16 food stalls constructed like colorful umbrellas that served various ethnic foods. In the main building of I-CARD, attendees were able to study the historical heritage of the Mising people and artifacts collected from different parts of the Mising world.

The festival’s aim, in addition to celebrating Mising culture, was to remind tribal youth of the importance of belonging to a community. Each individual, rich in culture and history, contributes to a community and as the festival noted, differences are to be embraced. The festival also gave a platform to young artists to highlight their work and increase their employment prospects.

“Culture and community are an integral focus of our work with youth around the globe,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “This festival demonstrates how Salesian missionaries help youth discover who they are and where they come from while encouraging them to celebrate their differences and their many talents. Festivals like these work to build character, self-esteem and cultural pride as well as help to educate the wider community.”

With more than 1.2 billion people, India has the world’s fourth largest economy and according to UNICEF, is home to one-third of the world’s poor. Close to 217 million of India’s poor are children. Although more than 53 million people escaped poverty between 2005 and 2010, most remain vulnerable to falling back below the poverty line.

India’s youth face a lack of educational opportunities due to issues of caste, class and gender. Almost 44 percent of the workforce is illiterate and less than 10 percent of the working-age population has completed a secondary education. In addition, too many secondary school graduates do not have the knowledge and skills to compete in today’s changing job market.

Salesian missionaries have a long history of helping poor youth in India. From providing education and technical training that prepares youth for employment to art and cultural events like this festival, Salesian missionaries focus on creating opportunities for their students to become well-rounded citizens and future leaders in their communities.



UNICEF – India

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