08/16/2022, 10.36
INDIA
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Orissa Christians: True equality and unity 75 years after independence

by Purushottam Nayak

While PM Modi in New Delhi traces new goals for the country, in the Kandhamal district - scene of persecution at the hands of Hindu fundamentalists in 2008 - the local Catholic community pray for an India free of corruption, hatred and revenge. Dalits: "When will we really be considered citizens like others?" In Karnataka, a Christian stopped for displaying an Indian flag bearing Jesus' name.

Raikia (AsiaNews) - India yesterday solemnly celebrated 75 years since its independence. Nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi marked the occasion with a lengthy speech at the New Delhi Fort wearing a turban in the colors of the national flag. Modi pointed to women's rights and the fight against nepotism and corruption as goals for what he called the "mother of democracies."

India's Catholic community also commemorated this important anniversary, an occasion to reflect on the lights and shadows of India today. The celebration held in the district of Kandhamal, Orissa was particularly significant in this sense. It was the scene between 2007 and 2008 of the very harsh persecution against Christians at the hands of Hindu fundamentalists.

Hundreds of faithful, priests, religious, nuns and students gathered at the parish church of Our Lady of Charity in Raikia to pray for the nation on this day that fell on the very solemnity of the Assumption. "Mary was free from sin, which is why God took her body and soul to heaven at the end of her earthly life. We too can be free from the sin of corruption, hatred, jealousy, revenge, in independent India," Fr. Pradosh Chandra Nayak, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, said in his homily.

"A person's freedom brings with it responsibility," he continued. "Just as Mary was responsible for raising Jesus, we too can act personally to cultivate an India where love, fraternity and unity spread regardless of caste, creed and color.

Runita Malick, a 10th grade student says : "I prayed to Our Lady for my country, India, for peace, harmony, safety and security for minorities such as Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jains and all other people in the Hindu-majority country. I also prayed for Droupadi Murmu, India's first tribal president," adds a Catholic tribal girl from Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bamunigam, where the first anti-Christian violence broke out on Dec. 24, 2007.

Dalit Christians were also present at the national holiday celebration in Orissa. "When will we celebrate our true independence? - Prasna Bishoyi, one of their representatives, wondered. "We minorities and Dalits are still considered second-class citizens in India. In the name of religion, caste, class and employment sector, we are discriminated against and oppressed. The attacks on Christians are a gross violation of the right of minorities to practice their faith without any fear. Let us pray for our country, people and rulers: through Mary's intercession, God bless us all."

"Today we remember the freedom fighters, the leaders who sacrificed their lives to bring freedom to our country. As they have been faithful, we too must build a nation that enjoys peace and harmony," said Simanchal Digal, principal of St. Catherine's Girls' High School, in her address to the school on the occasion.

Just on the occasion of the anniversary these days, however, Indian Christians have also had to deal with a new act of intolerance: in Bellary, Karnataka state, a person was stopped by police simply for displaying an Indian flag inside which he had written the name of Jesus. A complaint against him was filed by Hindu nationalists.

(Nirmala Carvalho contributed)

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