10/27/2009, 00.00
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Orissa remembers Fr Bernard Digal a year after his death

by Raphael Cheenath
The Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar, recalls the priest who died of serious wounds sustained during the attack by Hindu fundamentalists. Fr. Bernard died "to support the faith of Christians today, and nourish the seeds of faith for future generations." But "for the defenceless Christian community danger is always around the corner."

Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) - Tomorrow, October 28 marks the first anniversary of the death of Fr Bernard Digal, one of the first victims of anti-Christian pogrom of August 2008, who died at St. Thomas Hospital in Chennai after two months of slow agony for the serious injuries sustained during the attack by Hindu fundamentalists (see AsiaNews, 28/10 / 2008, "Father Bernard Digal has died, the India mourns another martyr of Orissa”). His murderers have not yet been arrested and the family never received any compensation. The Indian Church is preparing to remember the exact day of his death with a Mass at the church of Saint Vincent in Bhubaneshwar. Presiding over the celebration of suffrage will be Msgr. Raphael Cheenath, archbishop of the capital of Orissa, who has offered this reflection on the figure of the priest and the current situation of Christians in Kandhamal. 

In Kandhamal and other districts of Orissa, the danger is always around the corner for the helpless Christian community. The other day a local newspaper published an article in which it was written that extremist forces argue that conversions to Christianity are my main interest. Today, another newspaper said that the killers of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati [the Hindu leader whose murder sparked anti-Christian pogroms,ed] are Maoist militants, but that there is another group that supports them and this too is pointing to me.  

The Sangh Parivar [organization of Hindu extremists, ed] to continue spreading these lies to justify all their crimes even though everyone knows that they are false fabrication. The problem is that the silence of state and central government continues to support these lies.

The harsh reality of the attacks against Christians is still a fact today and is by no means a solved problem. I think that more Hindu extremist violence could erupt again, not only in Kandhamal, but also in the rest of the country. The Sangh Parivar will not stop in its plan to erase Christianity from Kandhamal and from the entire state of Orissa.

  "There is a corner of my body that has not been beaten," said Fr, Bernard. The extremists beat him for hours with crowbars, lathis, [spears], wooden boards, leaving him completely naked.  His blood was shed for the Kandhamal in the true sense of the word, to encourage and support the faith of Christians today, and nourish the seeds of faith for future generations.  

The Sangh Parivar has specifically targeted our sisters our priests, religious leaders committed without any ulterior motive other than the hard work of helping the needy, the marginalized and poor. The extremists are opposed to the work of the missionaries because they contribute to the emancipation of the poor and neglected, freeing them from exploitation and oppression.  

Today, many people forced to become Hindus during the pogroms, have returned to the Church. Now they freely of the deep anguish and intense pain they suffered when they were forced to accept Hinduism.  Our Fr Bernard is one of them, a local youth, a young man of this earth that God has ordained priest was chosen because, for the Kandhamal suffer even unto death, to become a sign of the risen Christ for his brethren. We must thank the Lord for his testimony of faith.

Of the 50000  Christians displaced from Kandhamal, at least 10-15 thousand are staying outside the district(migrated)  approx 15 thousand are internally displaced and other  returned to their homes, at the moment restoration of the houses is on going, but we do not know, when harmony will return to this beautiful land of ours.”


(with the collaboration of Nirmala Carvalho)



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See also
Father Bernard’s funeral in Orissa, Christ’s triumph over death
Orissa bishops call on government to rebuild churches by Christmas
Economic interests of upper caste Hindus behind the massacres in Orissa
Bishop of Orissa: fear surrounds Easter because of tension over elections
Orissa government cuts death toll from anti-Christian pogrom