05/07/2010, 00.00
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Despite anti-Christian persecution, we bring the love and charity of Christ

by Santosh Digal
Balasore bishop says Orissa Christians are involved again in missionary activity, making their presence felt in society, despite the violence and murders of 2008 and 2009. They are concerned about healing wounds and reaching out to those who burnt churches and tried to kill Christians.
Bhubaneswar (AsiaNews) – In Orissa, the Church has resumed its missionary and social activities, moved by charity and love towards people of every religion, this despite anti-Christian violence perpetrated by Hindu radicals since 2009. Mgr Thomas Thiruthalil, bishop of Balasore and president of the Orissa Regional Council of Catholic Bishops, spoke to AsiaNews about the current situation and about what local Catholics are doing.

“Last year’s sporadic violence in Kandhamal and Orissa has not dampened the Church’s spirit of service, love and charity. We are not afraid of violence although we do not approve it. The Church has been reaching out to Hindus and Christians as God’s people in our missionary endeavour. Jesus is with us for doing His missionary work here on earth,” he said.

Priests, nuns and lay people have re-established good relations with local residents through their work in education, health care and social development. This comes after Kandhamal District saw major anti-Christian violence in 2008.

According to Church sources, the death toll from the recent outbreak of violence stands at more than 90 (mostly Christians). About 50,000 people were forced from their homes because of attacks from Hindu fanatics, who were backed by local political interests.

The violence elicited criticism from both Indian and foreign groups, including in the United States and the European Union.

Now priests and Christian catechists are visiting rural villages to meet people and re-establish an atmosphere of trust and confidence among local residents, including those who attacked Christian institutions (churches and schools) as well as individual Christians, sometimes going so far as trying to kill them.

“We need to heal the wounds caused by anti-Christian violence as well as help people to live in harmony and peace rather than in discord and disarray caused by some groups of Hindu fanatics,” he said.

“Once we reach out to our opponents, we will able to help them understand us so that they may feel ashamed for their offences. We can win them over with the language of love, charity and service. Jesus taught us to love our enemies and we stand by Christ’s principles. The freshness of the Church’s work and love can help people create and build a transformed society,” the prelate added.

“All Hindus are not bad, although some Hindu radicals have taken advantage of the situation to divide people and create chaos,” Bishop Thiruthalil explained. “God is here with us. Our human society is still imperfect; for this reason, we need to work hard to establish peace in it”.

“Many Hindus appreciate the Church’s contribution in terms of education, health service and charity work. We shall continue to do it no matter what happens. It was edifying to note that our Hindu brethren have acknowledged the Church’s contribution.”

Last December, Bishop Thiruthalil held a Christmas party to which some 100 Hindus from Balasore were invited. The goal was to establish good relations with them. For next December, the diocese is planning to organise a large-scale gathering open to Hindus from every walk of life.

“Our hope is that we can still create a better place to live for all people as before,” the bishop said. Hence, “We are not afraid of bringing Christ’s mission to all”.

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