For the archbishop of Cuttack-Bubaneshwar, whose priests have had to flee mobs of fanatics roaming around looking for Christians, the Cross has set deep roots in Orissa. “The Church,” he said, “will be the light for generations to come in Orissa.”
Mgr Raphael Cheenath, Verbite, archbishop of Cuttack-Bubaneshwar (Orissa), described to AsiaNews the situation of the faithful under his care after two days of attacks by radical Hindus against churches, social and pastoral centres, parishes and convents.
“Father Thomas, director of our pastoral centre, is hiding in the forest,” the archbishop said. “From there, tears in his eyes and sorrow in his heart, he saw it go up in smoke. Just before the attack he phoned me and I told him: ‘Pray and be vigilant.’ But when he saw mobs of people coming towards the centre he had to flee for his life. The pastoral centre had cost more than 15 million rupees.”
The new wave of destructions comes in the wake of the assassination of radical Hindu leader Swami Laxanananda last Saturday (23 August), which was blamed on Christians.
“We Christians refuse violence. We condemn every act of violence and terrorism. But we are also against taking the law into our own hands,” said the bishop.
“As soon as we heard about Swami Laxamananda Saraswati’s assassination I issued a public statement strongly condemning the dastardly attack and murders. I called on everyone to remain peaceful and in harmony. We want relations of friendship with all communities.”
News of more violence are still coming in from around the diocese—a chapel torched in Sundergarh, a van owned by nuns burnt in G. Udayagir, etc.
“We feel totally abandoned. This morning the authorities sent three policemen to watch over the nuns’ convent and the bishop’s residence. But they don’t even have a stick to protect us from the fury of the mob!”
For Monsignor Cheenath anti-Christian (and anti-Muslim) violence is rooted in the ideology that developed around the RSS (which inspires other fanatical groups linked to the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party).
“Golwalkar, a founding member of the RSS, in a book that he wrote borrowed ideas from Hitler’s Nazism. His admiration for Hitler was well-known. He rejected the idea that India was a secular nation, and posited instead that it was a Hindu Rashtra (a Hindu system), which a great of influence over much of the Indian population.” But in a Hindu Rashtra there is no place for other religions.
“In Orissa we are victimised because of the Cross,” Monsignor Cheenath explained. “More than 94 per cent of the population is Hindu. Christianity is practiced by only 2.4 per cent of the population. There have been some conversions though among Tribals, who have often been abused by the people of the cities.”
“Here the majority would like to eliminate the Cross, but its roots are too deep and the cancer of nationalism will not prevail. The Church will be the light for many generations to come.”