By Robin Gomes
Christians in India will commemorate the 10th anniversary of the terrible massacre and atrocities inflicted on Christians in the eastern state of Odisha, with a Holy Mass in the state capital Bhubaneswar on August 25.
Archbishop John Barwa together with the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) are organizing the Holy Mass on the theme, “Reconciliation, Thanksgiving and Grace”, appealing for secularism, democracy, justice and peace and brotherhood.
Black day - August 25, 2008
It was on August 25, 2008, that hell broke loose on the Christians of Kandhamal District, with Hindu extremists attacking them for the August 23 murder of Hindu leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati, even though Maoist rebels claimed the assassination.
Considered to be India’s worst anti-Christian persecution in 300 years, the outrage that followed for months, forced an estimated 56,000 Christians to flee to the safety of forests and homes of friends and relatives. Some 5,600 houses and 415 villages were raided and set on fire. According to government figures, 38 people were killed and two women raped, though activists give a higher number. Scores of people were injured and permanently maimed.
“The inhuman attack on innocent people caught unaware in the middle of the night of August 25, 2008 will always remain a black spot in the history of the traditionally peace loving people of Odisha and Independent India,” Archbishop Barwa said in a press statement announcing the August 25 anniversary Mass at St Joseph Convent School in Bhubaneswar.
“What was heartbreaking,” he said, was that the “massacre of the innocents continued unabated for months.” "What happened in Kandhamal, should have never happened and should never ever happen again,” he appealed.
Church close to the victims
Speaking to Vatican news, Archbishop Barwa said that in the past 10 years his archdiocese has “remained close to the victims”.
The Church, the archbishop said, has been the “prime diving force” for the legal process to seek justice and relief for those who have suffered. In this regard the archdiocese organized rallies, submitted memoranda to government authorities and is fighting for justice in the courts of law.
Archbishop Barwa said that in all these efforts, Christians have surrendered themselves to God, trusting that what is impossible to human beings is possible with God.
He said Christians are praying for true forgiveness, reconciliation and peace.
MASS FOR RECONCILIATION, THANKSGIVING AND GRACE
St Joseph Convent School ground, Bhubaneswar at 10.00 am, August 25, 2018
Ten years ago, what happened in Kandhamal, Odisha should have never happened and should never ever happen again. We recall with greatest pain and agony the barbaric events that occurred particularly in 2008. The inhuman attack on innocent people caught unaware in the middle of the night of August 25, 2008 will always remain a black spot in the history of the traditionally peace loving people of Odisha and Independent India. What was heartbreaking that the massacre of the innocents continued unabated for months. The attackers snuffed out human lives, destroyed and demolished churches, homes, schools, hospitals, dispensaries, offices, and centers working for the uplift and development of the poor and marginalized people especially the tribals, dalits, OBC and others. Women and young girls were gang raped and thousands had to flee to the jungles in fear and despair.
The people of Odisha however want to turn over a new leaf and want a renewed society filled with peace and social harmony. The Christian community believes in a God who is the God of forgiveness, reconciliation and peace. We remember even after ten years how much harm hatred and anger can do to our society. We wish to remember what happened so that it never happens again. We have no enmity with anyone. We believe like the Apostle St. Paul that “trials of every sort come to us, but we are not discouraged, we are left without answer, but not abandoned, knocked down but not crushed”, (2Cor. 4: 8-9).
Over the past one decade, the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar has remained close to the victims, and has been the prime driving force for the legal processes to seek justice for the victims and relief for those who have suffered. For the purpose we organized several rallies, submitted memorandums and are still fighting in the courts for justice. Today more than ever before we wish to surrender everything to our God in prayer and supplication believing as the Bible tells us that “for humans it may seem impossible, but for God all things are possible” (Mt. 19:26).
The Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar in collaboration with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) is organizing a Solemn Holy Mass for Reconciliation that there might be genuine feeling of goodwill, Thanksgiving for those who witnessed the faith with their heroic life, and Grace that the Church may further be strengthened to live its faith, on August 25, 2018 at St Joseph Convent School ground, Bhubaneswar at 10.00 A.M. We want to pray for true forgiveness, reconciliation and peace.
We take this opportunity to thank the Government of Odisha which has shown commitment to work for the growth and progress of everyone irrespective of caste, creed and color. We hope and pray that complete relief be granted to those who are still seeking it. The Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar and CBCI are organizing the Holy Mass for RECONCILIATION, THANKSGIVIING & GRACE with a humanitarian and clarion call to everyone of good will, especially those who believe in secularism, democracy, justice and peace and brotherhood.
We implore God’s blessings on all men and women of good will.
Archbishop John Barwa SVD