A financial crisis in Kerala, India, is causing people to take their own lives, reported Bishop Geevarghese Mar Timotheos of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Diocese of Tiruvalla in southern India. In an Easter letter to Msgr. Robert L. Stern, Secretary General of CNEWA, Bishop Timotheos wrote that within a recent 21-day period 20 cases of suicide in the diocese were reported.
A sharp decline in the prices of tea, coffee, cotton, coconut and pepper, the main crops of this community, provoked some desperate farmers no longer able to support their families to take desperate measures. Thomas Varghese, CNEWA Projects Director, also reported a few cases where financially ruined parents killed their children before taking their own lives.
The diocese has set up counseling centers to address depression and a diocesan rural development program is helping people deal with financial difficulties. Low-interest loans were extended so those on the verge of financial collapse could avoid borrowing money at exorbitant interest rates.
Catholic Near East Welfare Association, a New York-based Vatican agency, provides more than $4 million in aid to India each year, including diocesan programs in Tiruvalla.