12/23/2008, 00.00
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Bishop of Orissa: Glory in heaven and peace on earth, including Kandhamal

by mons. Raphael Cheenath
The archbishop of Bhubaneshwar emphasizes that Christmas is an occasion of joy even in the refugee camps for persecuted Christians. Amid the sufferings and anguish of more than 50,000 victims, sharing and solidarity have shone from the entire world, the beginning of a new world, a new world order. The reflections of Archbishop Cheenath were gathered by Nirmala Carvalho.

Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) - "Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men of good will": Christians from all over the world, uniting themselves with men and women of good will, are celebrating Christmas, remembering the birth of Jesus, born in a manger.

This little district of Kandhamal has through the power of Jesus Christ heralded a new world order.

I am deeply aware of the pains and agonies that many of our sisters and brothers, Hindu, and Christian, tribals and dalits, and many other people have gone through in the recent past in our state. It is time that we stand united, determined to dismiss all that divides us and say in once voice, enough is enough. Everyone of us is yearning for peace where we can live without fear. We need to exhibit our togetherness and respect for one another celebrating our diversity of cultures and faith and begin the process of healing,

This Christmas will reflect the events of last year [editor's note: when Hindu extremists destroyed 13 churches, killing 3 people], this Christmas will reflect the agony that our people suffered, and importantly the Christmas story will be replayed here in our eastern state of India in the Kandhamal district.

Christmas night reminds us of Joseph and Mary, who gave birth to the Saviour of the World in a manger, a stable for animals. Mary and Joseph, the unwanted, the couple who experienced homelessness - there was no room in the inn - this is the situation of our 13,000 people in our relief camps - no homes, unwanted, who will bring forth the Saviour of the World in the Relief Camps - this little babe who will create a new world order in humanity.

When Christ was born, the choirs of angels sang, but here the joyful singing has not been heard, the sounds and howls of miscreants and criminal have been resounding since last year, and in this situation a child is born for us, the Star will shine over Kandhamal, a Saviour is born who will establish his kingdom of justice, peace and love. That is why it is so important for us to celebrate Christmas and welcome the Birth of Christ, this event of salvation which can give new hope to the life of each human being.

Peace founded on justice will never perish; it can only degenerate or be marginalized as a temporary phenomenon; and ultimately peace will triumph. I appeal to you to remember and pray for peace in Orissa and in particular that peace may prevail in the hearts of all those who are affected.

I take this opportunity to recall to mind the wonderful solidarity and sympathy you have expressed during our troubles and anxieties. Sisters and brothers from all over the world have come forward as one community to express their concern and fellowship. I would like to express our deep gratitude to you for this. I am extremely happy to recall the goodness of humanity which was manifest during the persecution of the Christians of Kandhamal especially since Christmas 2007 and the August 2008 violence. This wave of anti-Christian violence, which left a trail of death and destruction, reawakened the conscinousenss of humankind around the globe. The unprecented universal solidarity was truly a work of God, the Light shinning in the midst of darkness.

More than 50,000 Christians of Kandhamal suffered intense persecution, humiliating poverty, and displacement and behind this small district, the large global community expressed their solidarity and rallied around our suffering Chrsitians. Many lobbied Governments local, national as well as international governments for justice and peace, and people were reminded of the power of prayer, hundreds of thousands have been praying for Orissa, people renewed their faith through prayer. The persecution of Kandhamal Christians brought forth a spiritual renewal in people.

In our secular country and across the globe, people of good will urged for the protection of the most elementary rights of our Kandhamal Christians experiencing persecution for the faith. This persecution is bringing forth new life. We are already witness to a united humanity, a caring humanity, universal solidarity. A new world order is emerging as a result of our people dying and suffering for the faith.

And my prayerful greetings to all people of good will is that this new birth, this little vulnerable new life of the babe Jesus, the light of the Child Jesus might encourage humanity to build a more just world order. A humanity renewed with Gospel values will work towards building a civilization of love.

The Holy Eucharist will be celebrated in all the relief camps around Kandhamal, and this is a sign of the unity of the universal Church with the Kandhamal Christians. The Archiodese will host lunch for the thirteen thousand Chrsitians in the relief camps, and the collector and superintendent of police will visit each camp to share a piece of cake with the victims of the violence.


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See also
Christmas, moment of peace and hope for young widows of Orissa
Bishop of Orissa: let Christians in refugee camps vote
Political motives also behind Hindu fundamentalist violence
Filipino Church prays for persecuted Christians of India
In Orissa, a peaceful Christmas, but "armored"


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