09/05/2008, 00.00
INDIA

On the feast day of Mother Teresa, 3 camps opened for refugees’ from Orissa

by Nirmala Carvalho
They will host a small part of the 50 thousand people still hiding in the forests in the aftermath of recent violence. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sends a letter to Sr Nirmala Joshi, mother superior of the Missionaries of Charity.

Kolkata (AsiaNews) – News of the violence in Orissa has not quashed the atmosphere of celebrations in the Mother House of the Missionaries of Charity.  On the feast day of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Archbishop Lucas Sirkar this morning presided over mass in the chapel before a congregation of 500, drawn from diverse religious backgrounds.  10 priests concelebrated.

One of the sisters described the atmosphere as one “filled with joy and peace”.  Throughout the day there will be various encounters and a continuous pilgrimage to Mother Teresa’s tomb.

To mark the feast day of their founder, in Orissa Missionaries of Charity have decided to open 3 refugee camps to gather those who have fled and are still homeless in the wake of the destruction of and violence carried out by radical Hindus.  According to protestant sources there are at least 50 thousand men women and children still in hiding in surrounding forests or in temporary shelters set up by the government of Bhubaneshwar.

At the onset of the violence, Sr Suma, along with a group of Mother Teresa’s sisters, was stoned by a group of fundamentalist youth who destroyed the car they had been travelling in.  They were saved from being lynched thanks to the intervention of a group of village elders.  Sr Suma told AsiaNews: “Today on the Feast of Blessed Mother, we will open 3 relief camps in three villages in Khandamal district of Orissa, we have the permission, but we are praying to Blessed Mother to intercede for the safety of the patients - the victims of the violence- to be brought to these Relief Camps”. Kandhamal district was the epicentre of the recent violence, which left at least 20 people dead, 52 churches destroyed and 4 thousand Christian homes across 300 villages in ruins.

Mother Superior of the Missionaries of Charity, Sr Nirmala Joshi, has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of her concern over events in Orissa. Singh replied with a letter promising government support and protection for Christians.

The central government in Delhi may only intervene at the behest of the Orissa state authorities.

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