By Matters India Reporter
Bhubaneswar: Human right activists have welcomed the Cardinal Oswald Gracias’ willingness to facilitate with Vatican and offer Canonical assistance for martyrdom process of Kandhamal victims.
“As Cardinal points out that the process of martyrdom needs to start with the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, Odisha, in examining and studying the documents, I do feel that we have not done job in right earnest and urgency that the process deserves,” Father Ajaya Kumar Singh, director of Odisha Forum for Social Action, told Matters India.
“I do feel it as a priest from the Archdiocese. We need assistance as to how and what of ‘process of martyrdom’ requirement and working towards to it. In this juncture, it is quite reassuring that the Cardinal has offered to support canonical assistance with his trained personnel for the same. I do welcome the assistance and am sure the Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar would take up with the Cardinal to realise the collaborative efforts so that those who have been martyred suitably recognized to inspire the Christians worldwide,” said Father Singh, human rights activist and social worker.
Singh works for social works, justice and peace for Odisha Bishops’ Council, based in Bhubaneswar, state capital, Eastern India.
“Kandhamal violence 2008 is now ten years since the largest and biggest anti-Christian violence in India in 300 years. The victims have been maimed, murdered in very gory manners and destroyed houses, churches and plants in a way; one cannot comprehend. When Cardinal Oswald says that he is touched by a widow seeking Church not her children future support but martyrdom for her husband’s faith. Quite assuring to hear that Cardinal recognizes as a legitimate request for such process,” the priest added.
Although people and committees are formed, yet the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar lacked human and financial resources. We appeal to anybody could volunteer for the preparation of documents in view of declaring Kandhamal victims as martyrs,” Singh stressed.
Recently, Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai and President of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), spoke to Vatican News during his last visit to Rome about the issue. Cardinal Gracias has met with and listened to the people who suffered and is convinced that those who died in Kandhmal are martyrs in 2008. He supports Archbishop Barwa and says church needs to be sensitive to our people who have suffered.
“It is a very forthright interview. I want to volunteer to help the archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar in this,” John Dayal, secretary general of All India Christian Council, told Matters India.
Cardinal Telesphore Placidus, Archbishop of Ranchi, was the first senior cleric to visit Kandhamal in the aftermath of the pogrom targeting Christians in that district in 2008, and Cardinal Oswald have been most sincere in supporting the cause of all victims, and especially in the hope that the dead will have their rightful place as martyrs in the history of the faith in India.
“We are happy that Cardinal Gracias has stressed this once again in his interview, and has said he will consider approaching Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints,” Dayal said.
“It will not be easy for the postulator to collect all the information single handed. He needs to be supported by a group of investigators and writers. I would very like to offer my volunteer services to assist in the preparation of the documentation. The Cardinal has already offered the services of Canon law experts from the Archdiocese of Bombay. I hope this will be possible to be completed by August 2018, the 10th anniversary of the massacre. We already have considerable amount of material collected in the last nine years,” said Dayal, a senior Catholic journalist.
The outbreak of anti-Christian violence in 2008 followed the killing of a radical Hindu leader in August 2008 by Maoist rebels.
Even though Communists claimed responsibility for the assassination, Hindu groups blamed Christians instead. Christians deny the charge.
The Kandhamal violence that lasted for nearly four months in 2008 claimed more than 100 lives and rendered more than 56,000 people homeless.
The violence also displaced some 56,000 people, forcing many of them to hide in forests where some were killed by snakebites, and destroyed an estimated 6,500 Christian houses and 395 churches.
It is important to collect evidence of atrocities against Christians who refused to abjure their faith at the point of death.
The martyrs include more than 90 Catholics butchered by Hindu nationalists during a seven-week pogrom against the Christian minority.
Non-Catholic Christians also died in witness to their faith but will not be included among any future saints canonised by the Pope.
They include Parikhit Nayak, a Dalit Christian “Protestant” convert from Hinduism who was tortured to death in front of his wife, Kanak.
Hindus who had previously been his friends and neighbours burned him with acid, castrated him and finally disemboweled him, with some of them wearing his intestines around their necks as garlands.
Victims also include Rajesh Digal, a Pentecostal minister who was ordered by a Hindu mob to renounce his faith.
When he refused, he was beaten severely and was buried up to his neck for two days, with his tormentors urinating in his mouth as he begged for water. The mob eventually battered him to death with clubs, sticks and axes.
Rajni Majh, an orphan girl in the care of a Catholic priest, was raped by members of a mob before she was tied up and burned alive.