By MICHAEL DUGGAN
the village of the growing trees; the villages of springtime and the south wind.
But building houses is only the first step in constructing a community. The next step is to set up centres for health, education, employment and cooperative groups, and to make a start on "leadership formation" through training camps and rural "scouting" movement. Then an informal village council will be set up as the prototype of a formal elected council of 13 members, eight of them young people. On moving into the new houses the villagers hold an inauggration ceremony which reminds Fr Windey of the Exodus from Egypt. Old huts are dismantled, symbols of the past — an outdated weaving instrument or broken utensils — are buried in a monument and a text is read out on the theme: "Out of crisis comes rebirth." It is an emotional moment.
As a symbol of their new life villagers are invited to grow flowers in a kitchen garden. If a man has once grown flowers in his garden," says Fr Windey, "order in the house becomes automatic.
"Day by day it's terribly frustrating. But somehow when You consider over a span of three or four years you see things which seemed incredible."
The Jesuit economist, who first went to India in 1946 as a university lecturer, explains his policy by quoting Gandhi's words: "You must not only teach economics, you must do it."
"I decided that unless people with some academic value went down to the very poorest level 'nothing much would change through academic teaching," he says. "Therefore I stepped down. I felt the educational pattern was very unrealistic."
To prove his point Fr Windey explains that when he took his decision there were no textbooks on the relationship of natural calamities with national poverty — although he himself has seen a series of cyclones and famines during his 28 years in the subcontinent. "I'd like to teach village management rather then business management," he says.
"I felt that one of the great errors.or.illusions is that people change individuaily. They don't change individually very much: they change socially.
"In other words the instrument of real change is community. 1 won't accept defects till I'm told about them.
"I consider myself to be an evangelical witness as well as an expert. I derive much of my philosophy and skill and confidence from the basis of faith.
"The Church's own way to success and the raison d'etre of its existence is that it is a comtnunity-forming existence — unlike Hinduism.
"The biggest obstacle in India is that that sense of the neighbour is not there. No-one will go down to become a beggar — except Gandhi: and there Gandhi is my inspiration.
"Gandhi is a 'close Christian' and a contemporary one. The tragedy is that Christianity in India has never become Gandhian.
"If the Church had put its full weight behind Gandhian ideas even after his death both the fate of the Church and the fate of the country would have been very different.
"The Church is still largely caught in the past: for example the Church has not really shaken off the caste consciousness. This is also true of Communism.
"The Catholics feel superior. This makes ecumenism so dif'ficult.
"What I want to develop is the evangelical infra-structure for the Gospel. Apart from being Christo-Gandhian and, in that sense, likely to be unique in India the VRO is also, I think, the only large-scale ecumenical operation for service."
Adding that his organisation was primarily secular and not directly evangelising. Fr Windey explained that his "infra-structure" — which he sees as a precondition for•acceptance of the full Gospel
message — consists of four "pillars". These are: strong insistence on community as a precondition for progress; sound respect for manual labour; involvement of young people, who put new questions and give new answers; and an ecumenical base.
' Fr Windeyhad an Engffsh father, and he speaks English with a pleasant Flemish-Indian lilt. He spends his whole time travelling round the villages, which are arranged in clusters along the coast in the hope that they will start off a chain reaction, and he lives on less than one dollar a day.
One of the principal obstacles to his work is the difficulty of recruiting Indian volunteers to help, in the absence of means to support them. He would like to set up a reserve fund to guarantee subsistence.
A second problem is training community leaders to carry out the reconstruction programmes, since no college carries courses of this type. Fr Windey needs £15,000 to establish a training_centre for 40 leaders and it is partly for this reason that he is in Europe. But most painful of all for the Jesuit professor is the lack of understanding for his work shown by the Indian hierarchy — with some outstanding exceptions. Fr Windey sighs: "I hope and pray that this will one day be clearer."
* Readers who wish to sponsor an Indian village or make a contribution to Fr Windey's work are invited to send cheques or postal orders to: Mr Hugh Kay, Jesuit Information Office, 114 Mount Street, London WlY 6AH. All donations will be forwarded in full to Fr Windey.