Orissa youth at WYD: In the name of our martyrs, we learn mercy
A delegation of about 50 young people from the area of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar is in Krakow to join the rest of the young people from around the world. Forgiveness, reconciliation and the Eucharist "are our encouragement to overcome the pain of the pogroms". John, 21, speaks of the impact of the vocational centers: "Come and See is a beautiful invitation. And in my heart I feel a love that I can not express. Perhaps it is the Lord who calls me, maybe not. But I could not go home without talking to a priest".
Krakow (AsiaNews) - The martyrs of Orissa "spiritualy accompany not only us, but all the young Indian pilgrims. This is because their death has changed our faith, not in a deeper way but certainly making us more aware. Thanks to them and World Youth Day we learn mercy”, says John. He is 21 years old, from the "warrior" caste and comes from the diocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar. Accompanied by three priests, a group of 50 young people are in Krakow for the XXXI World Youth Day, and have among them a Hindu girl who is considering starting the catechumenate.
The Indian presence in Poland is not impressive: The Orissa delegation do not know the exact numbers, but estimated at about 500 fellow countrymen. However after Italy, France and Poland of course the Indians on the streets of the cultural capital of the country seem the most numerous: singing, involving other young people, bring their flags to every event.
John lost a close friend in the pogrom of 2008. Still today he carries a photograph in his wallet. "He is not a martyr – he tells AsiaNews - because he had no alternative to a violent death. Even in life he was not a hero. But for me his death, somewhat 'normal' way even if tragic, deepens our faith. If God chooses the humble to be his witnesses, my friend was one of them".
On 23 August 2008, a Maoist group killed Hindu leader Saraswati Laxanananda in his ashram, in Kandhamal District, a fact the group readily admitted. However, the followers of the radical Hindu cleric blamed Christians, whom he had criticised for a long time because of their social involvement with tribals and Dalits (outcaste) and had accused - along with bishops, priests and nuns - of proselytising.
In Kandhamal, Hindu extremists unleashed the most violent persecution against the Christian minority that India had ever seen. Overall, the pogrom forced 55,000 Christians to flee, with 5,600 houses and 415 villages raided and set on fire. According to government figures, 38 people were killed and two women raped. Scores of people were injured and permanently maimed. The Church and social activists reported instead the destruction of almost 300 churches, plus convents, schools, hostels and welfare facilities. At least 91 people died, 38 immediately, 41 from injuries sustained in the violence, and 12 in police action.
John's friend, Rajesh, was one of the victims "not counted". The government says the boy, "is considered a so-called 'white' death because the victim died of a stray gunshot wound. To me that's okay, I do not seek revenge. I would perhaps like to see more justice, but this is an evil that affects India and the whole world". The trip to Poland "is an opportunity for me to remember him. During one of the morning catechesis in Hindi I spoke of his death, and many people asked me more".
John is not only a regular of the catechetical meetings and appointments with Pope Francis, who tonight will meet with young people in Blonie Park for the first major youth event. The young Indian spent two days prior to the beginning of the WYD in close contact with one of the priests of the vocational centers scattered around the city. Like every WYD, the Krakow edition it is not only dedicated to the theme chosen by the Pope - this year "Blessed are the merciful" - but also of the sacrament of reconciliation and vocations.
This experience "satisfied me beyond belief. The theme chosen by my companion was 'come and see', which I know is a very common theme in European vocational centers. And indeed I did: he took me to a seminary, we spoke with a contemplative religious, but most of all I was heard in a way I had never been listened to before". The young man concludes: "I feel a love that I can not express at heart. Perhaps it is the Lord who calls me, perhaps not. But I could not go home without talking to a priest".