Orissa, six years on from pogrom "faith in the crucified Christ never abandons us"
Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) - Faith in Christ crucified "is rooted in a profound way in Orissa. Our people live in truth and love, and despite our suffering, vocations to the religious life have increased. 6 years have passed from the terror of the pogroms but the witness offered by the victims remain steadfahe massacres carried out by Hindu extremists in Orissahe massacres carried out by Hindu extremists in Orissast in all our minds, and this has produced fertile seeds", the Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar, Msgr. John Barwa SVD tells AsiaNews. He is commemorating the Day of Remembrance in memory of those who died in the massacres carried out by Hindu extremists in OrissaAugust 25, 2008.
That day, the local Christians have faced unspeakable persecution because of their faith: falsely accused of killing a Hindu holy man, Christians were systematically targeted by a group of ultra-nationalist Hindus, sparking a large scale witch-hunt. The local government allowed them to slaughter and vent their anger in total impunity.
During the persecutions about 400 villages were purged of all Christians; more than 6 thousand houses, 340 churches, chapels, clinics and schools were burned and destroyed; thousands of people were injured; many women and girls - including Sister Meena, nephew of the bishop - suffered gang rapes; about 60 thousand men, women and children were left homeless. A total of 75 people, including the treasurer of the archdiocese, were brutally killed. The victims include 22 Catholics, 28 Baptists, 12 Pentecostals, 4 of the Anglican Church of North India, one of the independent Church and 8 non-Christian tribal.
Out of 3331 complaints, only 800 or so were registered. Out of those, only 518 cases charges-sheeted. Just 247 cases have been disposed off with a high number of acquittals. Out of 30 murder cases that have been tried so far, only 2 resulted in conviction for murder, and about in four for lesser offences (than murder). All others have resulted in an acquittal.
It is this state of things grieves the local Church, which calls for justice: "Justice for the victims - syas Msgr. Barwa - meaning desire to heal wounds. Justice for Sister Meena [whose assailants were acquitted] would mean respect for women and love for our young people. Justice for seven Christians accused of killing the swami Laxamananada [the Hindu holy man murdered by Maoists whose death sparked the pogroms] would mean love and respect between communities . Those terrible days are gone, but they should never happen again".
According to Card. Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai, the Church in India "The Church in India prays on the anniversary of the Kandhamal for the Iraqi Christians and other vulnerable population. In Iraq, a grave humanitarian crisis has unfolded with thousands of Christians and other religious minorities being displaced from their homes and cities by the forces of invading religious extremists. We pray, that uniting the wounds of sufferings of our Kandhamal Christians, may bring Peace to Iraqi Christians".