Disturbing the Dust is the latest book by Australian missionary Fr Tony Herbert SJ. Fr Herbert has lived in India’s Hazaribag Province for more than five decades, and since 1980 has worked among India’s disenfranchised Dalit people. As a social activist he has advocated for the Dalits in criminal, educational, health and land rights disputes, and exploitation by coal mining and logging companies.
In Disturbing the Dust, Fr Herbert recounts some of his many experiences during his years as a missionary, and reflects on their role in shaping both the Dalits’ world and his. Disabused of the romanticism of poverty, he relates his experiences as a Jesuit immersed in the lives of India’s poorest, most marginalised caste. He acknowledges both the inroads that he has made over many long decades of work, and the failures he’s weathered. Perhaps most poignantly, he tackles the many ways in which his ministry has shaped him and his idea of church and faith. Ultimately, Disturbing the Dust is a book that gives witness to the Dalit’s struggle, and strips away the reader’s own status to reveal in all of us a “common human poverty”.
Since 1965, Fr Tony Hebert SJ has lived and worked in India, particularly in the Karanpura Valley of the state of Jharkhand. Most of that time he has spent working among the Bhuiyan villages and other Dalit communities, engaging in social action education programs and social awareness training programs. He has also published articles on Dalit identity and on the social impact of coal mining in Hazaribag.
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