08/22/2009, 00.00
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One year on from the Orissa massacres, vigils and prayers for peace in India

by Nirmala Carvalho
Gatherings in Madurai, New Delhi, Bhopal to remember the martyrs killed in Kandhamal and to strengthen the foundations of coexistence among religions and groups in India, after the "shame" of the massacres in Orissa.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - Christian groups in many parts of India are organizing vigils, meetings, prayers to remember the martyrs killed last year in Orissa and to demand peace in a country that must remain "multi-cultural, multi - religious, multi-lingual”.

The day after the death of their radical leader Swami Laxamananda Saraswati, August 24 2008, crowds of Hindu nationalist extremists, linked to the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) and the Sang Parivar, launched a campaign that had as its’ slogan "Kill the Christians, destroy their institutions”.  In a few days 123 faithful were killed (but unofficial estimates speak of 500), hundreds of churches and thousands of homes destroyed and burned, creating 51 thousand refugees.

One year on from the violence, many Christian groups want to remember the victims, but above all to convey a message of coexistence and peace with justice.

The Ecumenical Christian Forum of Human Rights (ECFoHR) has arranged a day for interreligious harmony to be held August 24 at Madurai (Tamil Nadu), with a prayer vigil for the Christian martyrs killed in the district of Kadhamal, among the most affected by extremists fury.

Prof. Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) has long been committed to legal assistance and rehabilitation for victims of Kandhamal. He explains to AsiaNews that "Kandhamal needs peace and through this, equal opportunities for all sectors of society, who are entitled to live and to live with dignity."  

"The culture of the conflict - he explains - needs to be replaced by the art of communication and diplomacy".  But dialogue does not mean hiding evil. "So far, the Kandhamal widows of Martyrdom have washed the shame of hatred with their tears. Now is the time to bring them out in the open and place them before the world community, which is clamouring and hoping for peace in each corner of the globe. The more we see them, the more will develop an urge to move away from the path that leads us to such an end"

 “Peace – he continues - is the basic framework necessary for all development programs in education, health and other infrastructure sectors to be launched and led for the good of humanity. So, let us resolve to prevent conflicts as far as we can think and devote ourselves to human development”.


On August 24, another group has organized an ecumenical prayer meeting for peace, healing and reconciliation. The meeting will take place in the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in New Delhi.

In the seminary in Vidya Bhavan in Bhopal, students are organizing an hour of Eucharistic adoration to remember the massacres of Kandhamal. Fr. Anbu, dean of studies states: "We believe that prayer can work wonders and change the hearts and minds of people."

Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai tells AsiaNews about the meaning of all these meetings: "The ecumenical and interfaith meetings between people are one way of finding harmony, dialogue at all levels of society: schools, communities, universities. India must regain the glory she had before this 'shame' [the massacres in Orissa-ed], of being a multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-lingual country, with values of peace and harmony, understanding and tolerance ".

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