Kandhamal Christians’ faith “deeply” moves bishops’ conference officials

A 28-member team visited Kandhamal on November 28

A 28-member team visited Kandhamal on November 28

By Purushottam Nayak

Kandhamal: A Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India team that visited Kandhamal says the faith of Christians in the district of Odisha has inspired them immensely.

“You have gone through the misery because of your unfading faith. We are deeply moved and inspired by your model life and deep faith,” Bishop A Neethinathan of Chengalpet, chairman of the CBCI office for Scheduled Castes and Backward Castes, told the survivors of the 2008 anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal.

The bishop from Tamil Nadu, southern India, on November 28 led 28 priests and nuns from Andhra Pradesh, Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu associated with the CBCI office, to visit Kandhamal district the scene of the worst violence against Christians in modern era.

“You will be certainly rewarded by the Lord,” Bishop Neethinathan assured the Kandhamal Christians. He said his team members have personally witnessed what they had been hearing about the Kandhamal Christians’ unflinching faith in Christ.

Bishop Sarat Chandra Nayak of Berhampur led the Mass the team celebrated at Tiangia, a town in Kandhamal where a memorial pillar has been erected in memory of Christians who died during the violence.

“As long as the Lord is with us and we in Him none can do us any harm,” Bishop Nayak said in his homily quoting St. Paul’s letter to Romans. “Who will separate us from the Love of Christ?”

The survivors shared with the team their continued struggle.

“We are still not secured and we struggle without employment,” said Sarat Nayak. a survivor from Tiangia. “The 2008 violence calls us to deepen our faith and unity,” he added.

Anita Pradhan, a widow, said they still await the compensation announced by the Supreme Court on August 2, 2016. “We struggle for daily food and livelihood. We cannot go back to our village as we feel danger to our lives,” she told with tears in her eyes.

Father Manoj Nayak, a local priest who accompanied the team, said Christians cannot return to Betticola village once a flourishing Catholic center. The church and presbytery there were completely destroyed. A temple has been built at the site of an under construction convent,” he pointed out.

At present the villagers are resettled in Nandagiri (Shanti Nagar), about 15 km from Betticola.

The team also visited violence affected villages such as Bakingia and Raikia. They interacted and prayed with people in the newly built village church where faithful of all denominations joined.

At Raikia the team met with widows and Survivors Association members. They also met the wives of seven people who are in jail for almost 9 years for unfounded reasons.

Kandhamal widows
Capuchin Father Anna Christopher from Trichy, one of the visitors, said the pilgrimage to Kandhamal was “a special experience” for him.

Franciscan Sister Alphonsa Gonzaga, another team member, said she felt “very sad” to see some demolished churches still remain in ruins even after nine years.

The CBCI team on November 29 attended a seminar on Dalit at Ishopanthi Ashram in Puri, a coastal town in Odisha.

Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, who led the opening Mass, noted that priests are becoming not only a messengers but the message.

Bishop Neethinathan, in his keynote address, stressed the need to follow Pope’s Francis’ call to show compassion to the marginalized and exploited. He also said priests and nuns should always be open to support the poor and downtrodden.

During the seminar, Sisters Alphonse from Tamilnadu and Goretti from Odisha and Father A J Bosco of Andhra Pradesh, Augustine Singh and Manoj Kumar Nayak of Odisha were given the Archbishop Oscar Romero Brilliant Star award for their significant contribution in bringing about the change in the lives of Dalits and poorer section of society.

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7 thoughts on “Kandhamal Christians’ faith “deeply” moves bishops’ conference officials

  1. Dear Bishops,brother priests, sisters and beloved people of Kandhamal, it is a fitting tribute to our beloved sisters, children and brothers who gave up their lives for the sake of Jesus. As survivors and victims this is the time to regain our strength to go forward. Let me appreciate Bishop Neethinathan, Fr. Devasagayaraj for organizing this wonderful event.

  2. We are gratefully acknowledge the kind gesture of beloved Bishops, priests, nuns and laity to visit the people who were victims of anti-Christians. It is true
    As followers of Christ, we are challenged to make a fundamental ‘option for the poor’ – to speak for the voiceless, to defend the defenceless, to impact on the poor…..As Christians, we are called to respond to the needs of all our brothers and sisters, but those with the greatest needs require the greatest response.
    Economic Justice for All, paragraph 16

  3. This is the true spirit of Catholic as Pope Bendict said

    God is Love (Deus Caritas Est)
    Pope Benedict XVI, 2005
    “… love for widows and orphans,
    prisoners, and the sick
    and needy of every kind, is as
    essential to [the Church] as
    the ministry of the sacraments
    and preaching of the
    Gospel. The Church cannot
    neglect the service of charity
    any more than she can neglect
    the Sacraments and the
    Word” (no. 22).

  4. It is encouraging to get the love and concern from CBCI. All the priests, nuns and officials (CBCI) showed special concern for the weak, vulnerable, poor and helpless people of Kandhamal. We are grateful to you all. We are grateful to Mattersindia, Jose Kavi who is the agent to reach out the reality of Kandhamal all over the world.

  5. It is an invitation from the Lord to be with the poor, marginalized, men, women, children and widow of victims of extremists of 2008 in Kandhamal. Those who visit they have special love, compassion and solidarity towards the survivors. Let many more brethren share the pain and agony of the most neglected and marginalized people.

    Charity in Truth (Caritas in Veritate)
    Pope Benedict XVI, 2009

    “To desire the common good and strive towards it is a requirement of justice and charity…. The more we strive to
    secure a common good corresponding to the real needs of our neighbours, the more effectively we love them.
    Every Christian is called to practise this charity, in a manner corresponding to his vocation and according to the
    degree of influence he wields in the [state]. This is the institutional path–we might also call it the political path–of
    charity, no less excellent and effective than the kind of charity which encounters the neighbor directly…” (no. 7) “the least of these” (Mt. 25).

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