06/24/2006, 00.00
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Wife of missionary murdered by fundamentalists back in India

by Nirmala Carvalho

Seven years after her husband and two sons were massacred, Gladys Staines, an Australian woman, speaks about Christian hope, born of forgiveness. She is in Orissa to see how the leprosy home - her husband's dream - is getting on.

Baripada (AsiaNews) – More than seven years after the violent death of her husband, a Christian missionary, and two sons, who were killed by fundamentalists, an Australian woman, Gladys Staines has returned to Orissa, eastern India. Speaking to AsiaNews, she underlined the importance of forgiveness. ""In forgiveness, there is no bitterness and when there is no bitterness, there is hope. This consolation comes from Jesus Christ."

Christ, she said, gave her the "strength" to continue living. "I live in the hope that whenever God calls me home, I will see God but also be reunited with my family."

Gladys arrived in India on 15 June; four days later, she attended the general meeting of the Mayurbhanj Leprosy Home (MLH) association. The MLH is a home for lepers in Baripada: the "dream" of her husband Graham before his death is today a flourishing reality. The woman said she had received a warm welcome. "On 20 June, I celebrated my birthday surrounded by the love of friends; this brings back so many memories, I feel I have never left, I am so glad to be among people whom I love and who love me."

But not everything is straightforward. PK Das, the chairman of the Graham Staines committee said "even though Gladys has come on a personal visit, she is always surrounded by police security."

Rev. Graham Staines was burnt alive on 22 January 1999 while he was sleeping in his jeep together with his two sons aged seven and nine, in the village of Manoharpur. A Hindu fundamentalist, Dara Singh, was condemned to death for the crime, and 12 others were sentenced to life imprisonment. In the past, Singh used to present himself as the "saviour of Hinduism", attacking Christian pastors and missionaries who were "making conversion offers". On 19 May 2005, however, the Orissa High Court commuted Singh's sentence to life imprisonment and released his 12 accomplices.

Gladys is now living in Townsville, in Australia, where her daughter Esther attends Medical School; she will be in India until the end of June.

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