In India, finding life partners is a social and family responsibility; more so among the country’s tribal communities because it ensures that young people do not stray outside their tribal and faith communities for the sake of a spouse. A “suitable match” traditionally means meeting the parameters of caste, sub-caste, age, education and religion. In recent times, employment has also become a significant factor.
Kiran Bhabor has good jobs as a hostel warden and nursing college teacher. But the 33-year-old doesn’t have a husband. For over a decade, she has looked unsuccessfully for a suitable partner. Even the efforts of her Bhil tribal family have failed to turn up any candidates. She says her search has failed because most of the men in her community in Madhya Pradesh state are economically and educationally “backward,” making it a difficult prospect for educated women like her to find an appropriate groom. Bhabor’s options are even narrower. As a Christian Bhil tribal, she must find a Christian Bhil man with her level of education who is older than her – not an easy thing in such a small minority of the population.
In contrast, finding a mate is easier among Hindus, as their communities regularly conduct parichay sammelan – introduction meetings – where women and men who want to get married come, along with their families, to meet prospective partners.
Taking a cue from such meetings, Catholics in Indore diocese in central India have begun to organize their own introduction meetings along the same lines. The process has the added benefit of being trustworthy and reliable because of the involvement of the Church.
Father Joby Anand, director of the diocesan Youth Commission and organizer of the introduction meeting, said the initial results were good and the meetings will continue regularly. Educational institutions run by the Church have provided better opportunities for tribal families to educate their children – an advantage that others in the community do not have.
Young Christians marrying outside their faith has become a great concern for the Church, according to Bishop Chacko Thottumarickal of Indore, who sees the meetings as a good tool to remedy the problem. “We want our youths to marry within our faith,” he said. “The meetings will not only help them find a suitable match, but also make them stay in the community.”