Kandhamal is a backward district of Orissa State. But today due to the persecution of Christians the Kandhamal has become a well known name in the whole world! Swami Lakshmananada Saraswati created a great controversy by his ‘Ghar Vapsi’ (Return Home) programme of reconverting tribal Christians back to Hindu fold. Then, the Swami has been caught up in many court cases against him. The people in Kandhamal say that Swami Lakshmanananda was killed when the Swami became a liability as the court verdicts were expected to come against him!
My journalist friend Anto Akkara has visited Kandhamal 25 times. He has written and published news reports and research articles in many newspapers and other periodicals in India and abroad. Then, as an in-depth reporter he has also authored much acclaimed 3 books on Kandhamal. I have with me all three books. His third book is entitled “Who Killed Swami Laxmanananda?” the book published first in May 2016 has since saw 4 editions by December 2017!
Here I do not wish to write about the 3 book but I want to describe one concrete instance of the persecution of Christians in Kandhamal. A journalist- writer friend of mine Fr. Cassian Parichha hails from Raikia in Kandhamal. He has written an article named “Kandhamal, Ten Years after the Persecution” in a weekly newspaper “The Herald” published from Kolkata on July 6, 2018. Fr. Cassian Parichha went for holidays to his native place Raikia in May 2018. Raikia is the nerve centre of the Catholic Church in the District. There in the massively built Church Fr. Parichha was ordained a priest in April 1964. The specious Church with two wings built in 1957 was attacked by anti-Christian forces. Let me quote the story in the words of Fr. Parichha as he has described it in his article.
“The church had been desecrated and vandalized on the 6th August, 2004 by the anti social and anti-Christian young men of Raikia and around recruited and instigated by the controversial Swami. Over hundred untruly young men, led by two police constables, opened the gate and at first smashed the statue of Lady’s Lourdes grotto, then pushing into the church, ransacked whatsoever they could and set fire the sacred books, musical instruments and some furniture, having piled them up together. They toppled the two statues of angles at both edges of the altar.
“Then two boys, having climbed the altar, put down the tabernacle, spat upon and urinated on it. Meanwhile one of the boys pelted a stone aiming the head of a Lord Jesus of a large painting kept reclined against the wall, at the side of the altar. The stone, hitting on the wall bounced back and hit the boy’s head who fell down bleeding. Others collected him and all rushed out panicked.”
Meanwhile, two boys who had spat and urinated on the tabernacle, felt strange scratching and burning sensation in their genitals. Doctors expressed inability to do the needful and referred them to the nearest Medical College Hospital at Berhampur, at a distance of 145 km. There too doctors said the same thing. On their way back to their village Luhuringia, about 10 km from Raikia, the boys died. These are not myths of stories, but hard facts! Several such startling incidents did take place. All Compassionate God and Merciful Saviour is also Supreme Lord, Master and Irrevocable Judge of everything and everybody, all need to know!”
Today big and small, hidden and not so hidden attacks against Christians and Church institutions are going on all over India! A Christian organization listed more than 500 cases of anti-Christian persecutions in India during the six month from January to June 2018! Records show that the persecutions against Christians have steadily gone up during the last few years!
In this context I am reminded of the then USA President Barak Obama’s call to all Indians in his address from Siri Fort, New Delhi on 27 January 2017. Obama without referring to the persecution of Christians or of any minorities called all Indians to appreciate the religious, cultural, linguistic, regional differences of the people and challenged us to go forward with mutual tolerance on the path of progress and development.
Quoting appropriate articles from Indian and American constitutions Obama gave us a clarion call to make progress on the path of democracy celebrating unity in diversity without quarrel and strife. Obama said that we are all the children of one God… We are a variety of colorful flowers in a garden… We are different branches of one tree… We are all the brothers and sisters of one another.
Ignoring our sacred Constitution the people who persecute the Christians should know two things. First, the Christians are much concerned and worried about the ongoing persecution because they are the victims of the persecution. But they are not frightened about the persecution. They do not run away from the persecution. For, they know that the Truth is in their side. God will help them in the long run. So being firm in their faith they are even ready to sacrifice their lives. The victim of the persecution can say with St. Paul, “I shall bring honour to Christ, whether I live or die. For what is life? To me it is Christ. Death, then, will bring more” (Philippians 1: 20-21).
Second, a converted Christ Tertullian (160-220) who has written much in the defense of Christians and their faith wrote “Whenever you cut us down then as often our number increases”. The same thing has been said by a church scholar Jerome: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”. This has been proved in the case of Kandhmal.
People know that after the murder of Swami Lakshmanand Saraswati his body was carried in a zigzag way to cover the entire district of Kandhamal which was followed by murderous attack on Christians as well as looting and burning down Christian houses, Churches and other Christian institutions. About 100 Christians became martyrs of faith in the persecution apart from houses and other properties worth cores of rupees destroyed.
Fr. Cassian Parichha says that the persecution have made the Christians strong in faith and even better off in socially and economically as many people migrated to cities and studied and are earning a living better than before. Even in some cases the persecutors of Christians have recognized their folly and a few even got converted to Christian faith!
Finally, I end this essay recalling once more St. Paul’s words. Concerned with the deteriorating situation of the Corinthians Paul wrote; “We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed. At all times we carry in our mortal bodies the death of Jesus, so that his life also may be seen in our bodies.” (2 Cor. 4: 8-10).
Changed On: 16-08-2018
Next Change: 01-09-2018
Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018