For Sister Meena, victim in Odisha, ‘our suffering’ was not in vain
Thirteen years ago, violence spread across Kandhamal district. A nun survived a rape during the anti-Christian pogrom to tell her story. “During the lockdown period I completed reading Holy Bible. I realise that the Word of God is reality for me,” she writes. Her community suffered so much, but now they “have a deeper faith”.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Exactly 13 years ago, in August 2008, Kandhamal district experienced the most serious wave of anti-Christian violence in India's recent history. Sister Meena Barwa, who survived a rape during the pogrom, and her story have come to symbolise that tragedy. In the text that follows, written for AsiaNews, she reflects upon the legacy of that time.
“I live a normal and happy life, because the bond I have with Jesus my master is strong. It is because of the unconditional forgiveness and love that I experience that I am free from negativity. I am not perfect human. I am only a fragile person but I realise that I need to strive for that.
During the lockdown period I completed reading Holy Bible. I realise that the Word of God is reality for me. Like “Eternal is His merciful Love, He is faithful from age to age” (Ps, 99:5); “You will restore me and comfort me again” (Ps, 71:21), “He snatched us away from our foes” (Ps, 136:24). These words of God are few but they are reality for me; they are alive and active and affect me and gives me strength.
One thing I am sure is that the suffering come into our life as a challenge, not to put us down but to elevate us to a higher level. It makes us patient, hopeful, courageous and understanding. It is in a way to purify and sanctify. That is how the suffering of Jesus is meaningful and His suffering give sense to our suffering. The essence of our existence is two (opposite) sides. We need to accept all with a thankful heart.
As we mark 13 years of struggle for peace, for justice, for equality and to live with dignity and respect, I remember the martyrs of Kandhamal and pay tribute to them. My concern and support are for the brothers and sisters who suffered and continue to suffer even now. I remember those who put their lives at risk and helped out the people of Kandhamal, to put things right, to make life better. I am thankful to all the angels who contribute to my life and help me to accept my life, to be happy, to dream of a better society, etc.
Challenges come so that one may discover abilities within; they affect us positively. The people of Kandhamal have suffered so much, but they are putting all their trust in the Lord. Suffering in itself is a grace. I see it as a challenge to grow out of it. The Christian community’s attitude towards what happened in Kandhamal in 2008 is not negative. They are hopeful and have a deeper faith. The tragedy has made them stronger. The words of Saint Paul come to mind: “Who can separate us from the Love of Christ?” The people of Kandhamal are living this.
“I am grateful for my life, my strength, and my sense of purpose; all of which were given to me by God. He is my strength. And He has empowered me to serve others.
In 2019 I got my law degree. Now I am a member of the Odisha Bar Council. My own case drags on. Three people have been convicted, and all others are out on bail.
Justice for me means seeking and doing justice, stopping crime. I remember the late Pope Paul VI who said "If you want peace in the world, work for justice". I think we need to reflect on this.