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Diocese of Ambikapur

Diocese of Ambikapur
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Around 1890, some Oraon tribal delegates went about 200 kilometers from Surguja to Ranchi to meet Belgian Jesuit Father Constant Lievens and asked him to instruct them in the Catholic faith. But feudal rulers did not allow them to embrace Christianity.

After India's independence in 1947, some Catholic Oraon tribals from neighboring Jashpur Nagar in Raigarh diocese settled down in the area and missioners visited them. The Jodhpur mission began in 1947, followed by Ambikapur, Banea, Ratasali and Shantipara missions in 1952. These areas were part of Madhya Pradesh state until the creation of Chhattisgarh state in 2000.

Ambikapur was made a separate diocese on Dec. 14, 1977, with the separation of Raigarh-Ambikapur diocese into Ambikapur and Raigarh dioceses. Bishop Philip Ekka, SJ, became the first bishop of Ambikapur. After his transfer to Raipur diocese in 1985, Bishop Pascal Topno, SJ, took charge of Ambikapur in 1986. He was appointed archbishop of Bhopal in 1994, and two years later, Bishop Minj became the third bishop of Ambikapur.

Due to the large number of tribal converts, mainly Oraon, many cases of "illegal" conversion were filed against missioners by some Hindu militant organizations. Missioners are also active among other tribal communitiess -- the Gond and Koraku. Most Catholics are poor tribal farmers.

The diocese's 22,337 square kilometers comprise the districts of Surguja and Koriya in the northern region of Chhattisgarh, bordering the neighboring states of Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh. Ambikapur, Baikunthpur and Sirmiri are the main towns.

The area is home to ancient temples as well as many waterfalls, mountains, caves, and wildlife sanctuaries with tigers, elephants, bears, antelopes and sambar deer. The Sanjay National Park covers 1,938 square kilometers and is the largest in the country. The region is also known for police dogs. In recent years, outlawed Maoists have caused disturbances in the area.

Major economic activities and industries in the area include rice cultivation, mining of coal and bauxite, timber, silk and carpet weaving.

About 65 percent of the people belong to the Gond, Koraku, Kawar and Oraon tribal communities. The sex ratio is 946 females per 1,000 males.

Language

Hindi, Sarguja, Chhattisgarhi, Sadri, Oraon, Koraku and English are used in the diocesan territory.

Economy

Major economic activities and industries in the area include rice cultivation, mining of coal and bauxite, timber, silk and carpet weaving.

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