09/10/2018, 16.54
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Victims of anti-Christian violence in Odisha celebrate the Nativity of Mary, protectress in times of persecution

by Purushottam Nayak

About 3,000 Catholics gathered to remember the violence of 2004 and 2008. For Fr Singh, Mary intercedes for us above all in times of fear. In the wake of the 2008 violence, Catholics may be materially poor but are strong in their Christian faith”.

Raikia (AsiaNews) – About 3,000 people came together yesterday to celebrate the Nativity of Mary in Our Lady of Charity, a church in Raikia that was vandalised in 2004 and 2008. Five Catholic priests and ten nuns prayed with the community dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

"God chose Mary as the Mother of our Saviour Jesus Christ who constantly intercedes for us in times of need, especially in times of persecution, fear and threat,” said Fr Manoranjan Singh, a victim of anti-Christian violence in 2008, during the service.

Children lit candles and led the procession from outside the church to the altar. Afterwards, the Bible was carried in a procession. The Church itself was attacked in 2004 and 2008.

On 26 August, 2004, a mob of 300 Hindu fundamentalists vandalised it. At the time, the parish's Vijay High School had been allowed to plant trees and build a fence around the building. However, a group of local Hindu merchants opposed the decision.

On that fateful day, a swami, Lakshmanananda, led about a mob of a thousand to protest against the new installations, egging them on to tear down the fence and uproot the trees.

When a group of Christians, especially women, protested against the violence, the most radical ones attacked the church itself, shouting slogans such as "eliminate the Christian religion" and "kill all Christians".

To save themselves, the members of the parish fled. But this did not stop the fury of the extremists who attacked the priests, beating and threatening them; destroyed the main door, urinated on the altar, broke statues, sacred images and the crucifix, and threw the hosts on the ground. The vandals also smashed musical instruments, tore the garments and set fire to the Bible and other sacred texts. Some Catholic homes were also attacked.

Church leaders condemned these criminal acts. However, the persecution continued in the village. In fact, in 2008, Dalit and Adivasi Christians became the victims of even worse crimes in Khandamal district. Hindu extremists attacked members of lower castes in order to drive them out.

For Fr Singh, Mother Mary has been at the side of the faithful in the most difficult moments of anti-Christian violence.

Similarly, Fr Pradosh Nayak noted that "We were not born by chance or by mistake because behind every birth of being human there is a reason. And Mother Mary was predestined to play a greater role in the history of Christian salvation. Let us be inspired by her virtues of honesty, simplicity, holiness and be ready to say yes to God’s will."

"We receive blessings, wisdom, wisdom, health and safety through the intercession of Our Lady," said Priya Rani, a first-year high school student.

"My faith is governed by God and this faith grows stronger every day when I recite the rosary,” noted Jasinta Naya, a survivor of the 2008 violence. "Christians may very well be materially poor, but we are strong in our Christian faith, something that fundamentalists cannot tolerate."

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