A lay ecclesial group in the southern state of Kerala has completed a unique pilgrimage to stress the need to treat women with more respect. The pilgrimage -- Nirmal Jyothi Prayan or pilgrimage of the Friends and Birds of the Air (FBA) ?- was held to express outrage at an attack earlier this year on a young woman called Soumya. A man tried to rob the woman on a train, but when she tried to fight him off, he threw her from a moving carriage and raped her on the tracks. She died of her injuries six days later. The incident shocked many people and the FBA led by founder Father George Kuttickal, decided to act to protest such cruel attacks on women. Fifty people, divided into two groups of 25, fanned across the northern and southern parts of Kerala, where crimes against women are on the rise. The prayan (pilgrimage) started from Soumya’s home in Shorannur on March 1 and ended in Panathur in Kasargode district March 26. Holding placards and chanting prayers they went from district to district. We went across the state to “create awareness that Kerala has no future if it does not respect its women,” said Elizwamma who led one of the teams. They stopped in front of churches or in public places and gave talks about cruelty against women and the need to “respect our sisters, mothers”. FBA members also held workshops on how to make society safer for women. “Our tour hammered home the message to the public,” said Cherupuzhpamma, the other team leader. The FBA usually helps rehabilitate abandoned people and street children. It is shameful that such incidents are taking place regularly in Kerala which is a matriarchal society, she said. “We organized this campaign to awaken public awareness,” Father Kuttickal said. IB13777.1647
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