Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) - "Pray for the Christians of India, pray for our people . . . so that they may understand that God is greater than anything, and can overcome evil with good": this is the message that Sr. Nirmala Joshi, superior of the Missionaries of Charity, has given to AsiaNews during her visit to Orissa, where for more than a month radical Hindu groups have unleashed a pogrom against Christians.
The Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa's order, have been struck by the wave of violence; orphanages and hospices for lepers where they welcomed the abandoned have been destroyed. The brutality of the attacks has also struck women and children: two women have been raped and tens of thousands have been wounded, in addition to 60 killed.
"It is shocking and very painful, and this absolutely should not have happened especially here in India, our country where women are respected so much. It is horrible. Children are now scarred and traumatized, these little ones are our future, what have we done to them? Our women are suffering so intensely. Such pain and anguish, such sorrow - fear hovers over them. Their agony so deep, the extent of the death, devastation, tragedy and heartbreak continues to unfold."
Hindu fanatics justify the pogrom by claiming that they want to block conversion to Christianity by tribals and Dalits, which according to them have been obtained through deceit and bribery. For this reason, they are destroying prayer and gathering places, social centers and other Christian buildings.
Sr. Nirmala Is concerned about these violations of religious freedom: "Freedom of religion is one of the fundamental rights of every human being. Article 25 of the constitution of India guarantees that freedom. Now our religious freedom must be guaranteed to our people in Kandhamal and all over the country by the government, both central and state, and the administration must take measures to ensure that people can freely practice their faith. All persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate their religion. Places of worship must be rebuilt. It is the duty of the government to restore the places of worship. Peace must be restored; people must be able to go back to their homes. Our people are unsafe now and cannot return to their villages out of fear and the government must ensure their safety and security."
During their attacks, Hindu fanatics forced many Christians to renounce their faith and return to Hinduism. "This has to be strongly condemned," Sr. Nirmala says, "this is absolutely against our constitution and against the rights of our people.”
The superior of the Missionaries of Charity, who succeeded Mother Teresa as head of the order, had already visited Orissa and the district of Kandhamal - the epicenter of the violence - in December of 2007, on the occasion of another attack against Christians. At that time as well, three people were killed and 13 churches were burned. But she says that "the magnitude of this violence far exceeds that in December. This time, they are attacking the people, the religious, the priests. This anti-Christian violence was on a large scale - the ruin it brought upon our people, there is nothing but devastation."
Through AsiaNews, Sr. Nirmala issues an appeal: "Pray for our people and always hope in God, who cares for the people. God sees everything, He knows everything and He can do everything and He can bring out good even out of all this evil for all those who trust him. Mother Teresa from her heavenly home is telling each of us and especially to our people here: 'Do not be afraid, I am with you. Forgive, overcome evil with good.” God bless you! God bless India!"