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Ten years after the massacres in Orissa, the people of India commemorate their martyrs

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By the end of August 2008, more than one hundred Christians were massacred while another ten thousand had to flee or leave their homes.

A Mass was celebrated on the 25th of  August , that marked the tenth anniversary of anti-Christian attacks in Bhubaneswar, the North-eastern capital of the country.

The 25th of August is the anniversary of the “martyrs of Kandhamal.” That is how the one hundred and one Christians killed between Christmas of 2007 and September of 2008 in the district of the State of Orissa are called.


Last Saturday, Fr John Barwa, archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar celebrated the commemorative Mass in the chapel of the Saint-Joseph’s High School in Bhubaneswar (Cuttack-Bhubaneswar is the region where Kandhamal is located). The next commemorative event will be held on the 28th of August in Phulbani. It will be an ecumenical  Christian assembly.

In a memorandum of understanding, the local government committed to financially support the families of the victims. According to the Supreme Court, the government distributed €2.6 million to families of the victims of 2008, but Fr. Barwa highlighted that only €1.8 million arrived. Families with deceased relatives would get about €2,000  while others would only receive about €660 to rebuild or renew their destroyed houses.


“About 30% of the Christians who were affected by the tragedies have got nothing yet,” said the Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar. “Some of them still need to live in tents because their houses were destroyed and they do not have the money to rebuild them.”


Meanwhile, Fr. Dibakar Parichha, the juridical director of the diocese is burdened with everyone’s problems. He is attempting to put pressure on the government to solve the issues of the Christian victims.  The Prime Minister, Naveen Patnaik affirmed that “they will consider every case.” Fr Barwa told Vatican Radio: “Although the justice system does not work quickly, they do their best,” he said.


Fr Barwa went on to say that “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Christians,” citing the famous phrase of Tertullian. According to him, since their tragic loss, the local Christian communities have become more attentive and helpful to each other thus contributing to the growth of the Church and to an increase in priestly vocations.


Fr. Purushottam Nayak was secretary to the preceding archbishop of the diocese. He manages a team tasked with proving the martyrdom of the victims of 2008. “Gathering proof takes time because relatives and neighbours of the victims usually don’t want to appear as witnesses for fear of reprisals,” said Fr. Barwa.


According to local journalist Anto Akkara: “The devastation in Kandhamal was the most painful moment in the history of Christians in India.” Besides the 101 Christians that were killed,  300 churches and 6,000 houses were burnt down. As a result, 56,000 people lost their homes.

Akkara added that “these anti-Christian infractions in Kandhamal were premeditated and planned by the  Sangh Parivar” (an alliance of Hindu nationalist groups). “The illiterate militants were manipulated and urged to kill,” wrote the Indian journalist.

Source, photo: LaCroix

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