Bishops to dedicate day for Kandhamal martyrs

September 12, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Kandhamal tragedySambalpur, September 2, 2015: Catholic bishops in Odisha have decided to dedicate a day to remember those who died in the anti-Christian riots, calling them martyrs of faith.

The regional council of bishops decided to observe “Kandhamal Martyrs Day” every year to remember some 90 Christians killed during the riots in the Kandhamal district of Odisha state seven years ago.

They were killed because of their faith and the observation will commence from next year, Archbishop John Barwa announced after their regional meeting Aug. 31.

“We are pleased to announce that the Church in Odisha would like to honor the Kandhamal martyrs who were killed during the anti-Christian persecution in 2008,” said Archbishop Barwa, whose Cuttack-Bhubaneswar archdiocese covers Kandhamal.

Bishop Simon Kaipuram of Balasore said the bishops may later request the national bishops’ conference to dedicate a day at national level to remember “Kandhamal martyrs.”

The regional bishops are yet to ascertain the exact date in month of August for remembering the martyrs. “It will be done after due consultation with all stakeholders,” Archbishop Barwa said.

The lives of those who were killed will inspire the Christian community at large,” the archbishop told ucanews.com Sept. 2.

Bishop Niranjan Sualsingh of Sambalpur said the celebration Martyrs Day would “strengthen peoples’ faith and enable them to live a life of Christian witness in the world according to the principles of Jesus and his gospel.”

Mobs of frenzied Hindus attacked Christian homes seven years ago shouting to convert to Hinduism or get killed. The violence claimed more than 90 lives and displaced some 56,000 people as mobs burnt down houses, churches and Christian institutions like schools and orphanages.

Reports say Hindu-Christian tension has been simmering for years in the district as its Christian population increased to some 27 percent, registering a four fold increase in four decades.

Murder of Hindu leader—Swami Lakhmananda Saraswati—on Aug. 23, 2008 triggered the riot after Hindus accused Christian for the murder. Maoists later claimed responsibility for the murder.

Catholic priest and social activist Father Ajaya Kumar Singh told ucanews.com that the observation of Martyrs Day would motivate Christian community and others to stand for truth and freedom in the region. “The sacrifice of martyrs would be a source of inspiration for faith and witness in the state, India and internally as well,” the priest added.

– ucan

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