By Purushottam Nayak
Kandhamal: Indian and Filipino members of an international Catholic movement spent a day to encourage Kandhamal Christians to remain firm in their faith amid threats, even to life.
Nearly 100 couples from Kandhamal, a district in Odisha who survived modern India’s worst anti-Christian violence attended the February 25 program organized by the “Couples for Christ” Balliguda, some 280 km west of Bhubaneswar, capital of the eastern Indian state.
“All of us are called to be mature in our work as evangelizers. We want to have better training, a deepening love, and a clearer witness to the Gospel,” Raman Santiago, Asia coordinator of the Couples for Christ, who led the program, told the gathering. The Catholic from the Philippines was accompanied by his wife Teresita.
Indian couples Marin Antony and Freeda from Kochi, Kerala, and Nabar Soreng, who heads the Couples for Christ program in Odisha, and his wife Suchitra Biling assisted the Filipinos.
They chose as the theme “Be on your guard. Stand firm in the faith.” Santiago urged the group to imbibe this exhortation of St Paul so that they can not only gain a good foundation in their faith and but lead others to be strong as Catholics.
Juano Pradhan, a member of Couples For Christ from Kandhamal, said the movement has greatly strengthened his faith. “I learned the value of prayer as Saint Mother Teresa said, ‘The family prays together stays together,” he added.
Freeds from the Catholic stronghold of Kerala who is on her first visit to Odisha, told Matters India that she found the Kandhamal Christians “quite strong in their faith” despite facing constant harassment.
Santiago said he was impressed to learn that the participants had left their daily work to attend the program. “This shows their thirst for God. They are convinced that God stands by them in all situations,” he added.
The anti-Christian violence in 2007 and 2008 claimed nearly 100 lives and rendered more than 56,000 homeless. Several churches and Christians institutions in Kandhamal were also damaged in the violence triggered by the killing of a Hindu religious leader on August 23, 2008.
Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, head of the Catholic Church in Odisha, thanked the Couples for Christ for further strengthening the Kandhamal Christians in their faith. The movement has also sponsors the education of 267 Kandhamal Catholic children.
Couples For Christ is a Catholic movement, started in 1981 in Manila, Philippines, by Ang Ligyan ng Panginoon (Joy in the Lord), a covenant charismatic community. Through the years, it has increased in number and in territorial reach. It is now present in 110 countries.
In 1995, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines approved the movement as a national private association of lay faithful. It found Vatican recognition in 2000, was as a private international association of the lay faithful of pontifical right.
The movement undertakes its humanitarian services through its sister organization, “Answering the Cry of the Poor (ANCOP).”