UN selects Indian Catholic to represent Asia’s indigenous languages

United Nations has nominated a Catholic activist and educationist from the eastern Indian Jharkhand state as the indigenous languages’ representative for Asia.

Anabel Benjamin Bara was selected on March 19 from Asia by UNESCO for the Global Task Force of International Decades of Indigenous Languages (IDIL) 2022-2032.

The appointment letter signed by Xing Qu, UN Deputy Director-General for Communication and Information, said “members were nominated by the respective electoral groups of UNESCO’s member states, indigenous peoples and indigenous peoples’ organizations from each socio-cultural region.”

They are also selected by UN mechanisms, namely the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs, as well as the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Bara completed his doctorate at the Xavier’s Labour Relations Institute (XLRI) Jamshedpur and is currently with the Jesuit-run Indian Social Institute, New Delhi working on tribal issues and also teaching at the University of Delhi.

He is a national executive member of the tribal people’s forums such as Adivasi Ekta Parishad, Adivasi Samanway Manch Bharat, and India Indigenous Peoples. He also works with tribal organizations across India and other countries on tribal issues.

The UN declared 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYIL). It aims to raise awareness of the consequences of the endangerment of indigenous languages across the world, with an aim to establish a link between language, development, peace and reconciliation.

Looking at the rate of extinction of tribal languages, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to declare 2022-2032 the IDIL on Dec. 18, 2019. UNESCO will serve as the lead agency to implement it.

“One tribal language gets extinct from the world every second week. Tribal language has traditional knowledge and well-being of life which is far from the mainstream of the society,” Bara told UCA News on March 22.

“The identity and existence of tribals are with their language. If the language is erased, then the valuable knowledge and esoteric secrets of life also disappear with it,” Bara, a tribal Catholic from Jamshedpur.


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