School gets extension for the children of pogrom victims
by Nirmala Carvalho

Archbishop John Barwa inaugurated the new extension of a middle school in Balliguda, one of the villages most affected by the 2008 anti-Christian violence. Let it be “a beacon of light for everyone,” said the prelate.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar yesterday inaugurated and blessed the extension of the St John’s English Middle School in Balliguda, Kandhamal district (Odisha), on the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes.

The new educational facility is located in one of the villages most affected by the anti-Christian pogrom carried out by Hindu extremists in 2008. Many survivors and relatives of the victims were present at the ceremony.

“Our children in Kandhamal district are intelligent and deserve every opportunity to grow,” Archbishop Barwa told AsiaNews. “This school,” he added, “will be open to children of all faiths and castes without discrimination”.

For the prelate, the facility “will offer students opportunities to acquire for knowledge, but also a chance to explore their passions, create communities, preserve their identity, and empower themselves so that they can improve the quality of life of our people.”

“Many of the pupils at St John's Middle School come from families who were victims of violence,” Archbishop Barwa explained.

“In Balliguda church buildings were also destroyed,” starting in December 2007. “The same happened again in August 2008. Extremists also destroyed the presbytery, the convent, the hostel,” and damaged other property, “burnt homes and chapels, forcing people to flee into the forest to save their lives.”

Before the inauguration, the Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar celebrated Mass in the school’s chapel on the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes. This year’s celebration coincides with the tenth anniversary of his appointment as head of the Archdiocese of Orissa.

During the service, Mgr Barwa invoked Mary's maternal heart to provide living water that purifies and heals. “This school,” he said, “is a beacon of light for everyone, dispelling the darkness of divisions and enmity to create a new society and a new future, a new Balliguda of tolerance, peace, harmony and coexistence.”