By Purushottam Nayak
Raikia, Oct. 24, 2018: Anisha Digal was just five when anti-Christian violence in 2008 uprooted her family from their village in Odisha’s Kandhamal district.
Ten years later, Anisha was on the forefront of those remembering children in difficult situations throughout the world.
She was among 300 children of Kandhamal survivors who celebrated the 175 years of the Holy Childhood Day attending a three-day camp.
Each had to contribute 1 kilo rice and 50 rupees for the October to 21-23 camp held at St. Catherine’s School, Raikia, one of the worst affected parishes in Kandhamal.
Sores of catechists, priests and nuns helped the children get connected with the Universal Church.
“We are happy to come together, to know each other by making friends with one another and to be with Jesus,” Anisha told Matters India. The 15-year-old said she knew about the Holy Childhood Day and what it means for children in difficult situations throughout the world.
“Although I am away from my own birthplace because of the hate crime of Hindu fundamentalist I am not away from Jesus,” she said and recalled spending days and nights in the jungle and later in the relief camp since 2008. “I thank Jesus that I learned to be away from hatred, to be truthful and become obedient and loving like my Jesus,” she added.
Daughters of Charity Sister Goreti Senapati, the chief guest at the concluding program, reminded the children that Jesus loves them because of their innocence, honestly, humility and holiness.
“God wants you to be little missionary in your life journey. May you continue to grow in these qualities day by day,” the nun added.
Sr. Senapati urged the elders to be ever willing to help children in their time of difficulties, hardships and in critical moment. It is the duty and responsibility of everyone to shape the future of these little ones, she added.
Philip Pradhan, a catechist from Gomandi village and Kandhamal survivor, said the camp helped Christian and Hindu children to mingle.
“They studied and played together. Religion was no hindrance for them to interact. They have shown the future generation can be saved from fundamentalists who pollute the tender minds by creating division and religious hatred,” he explained.
Father Trinath Francis Kanhar from St. Peter’s Parish Pobingia, which was destroyed in the violence, his people are happy to share the wonderful reality of the Pontifical Society of the Missionary Childhood or Holy Childhood in their own communities.
Romakant Pradhan, another catechist, interacted with the children posing questions. He said children, drawn from all corners of Kandhamal, had responded enthusiastically.
“I have learned in this camp how to fear God, parents, teachers and elders who guide me to be the dear child of God,” said Ashalota Nayak, another participant.
The children took oath to obey parents, teachers and elders. They also pledged to be truthful and disciplined, to study and pray well.