INDIA – Two priests give an account of religious persecution against Christians
Two priests from the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar in Orissa spoke about their experiences of religious persecution at a conference on religious persecution organised by Aid to the Church in Need. Fr Mrutyunjaya and Fr Santosh Kumar described the difficult reality of Christians in their country, who suffer for their faith every day.
A few months ago, John Barwa the Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, declared that the faith of Christians in Orissa has been strengthened by persecution. In his frequent visits to the convents, priests and Christian families in the area, Bishop Barwa received moving testimonies: “Archbishop, our homes have been destroyed, our churches have been destroyed, our loved ones have been killed … but there is one thing the persecution could not do: they could not separate us from Jesus “.
The vast majority of the population in India professes Hinduism, but there is a 2.5% Christian minority. Although the Indian Constitution guarantees religious freedom, violent religious persecution against Christians threathens to wipe them out. The region of Orissa in India is one of the areas hardest hit by Hindu religious fundamentalism that encourages persecution of Christians.
The priests described how Christians were offered the choice of convert to Hinduism or dying and they chose martyrdom. The priests said that these events helped to strengthen the faith of survivors: “We have forgiven those who attacked us because it is what our faith has taught us.”
In recent years about 5,600 Christian homes and 340 churches, chapels, clinics and Christian schools were destroyed. Thousands of Christians were injured, dozens of women and girls were raped, including a nun. 56,000 people have been displaced and forced to live in refugee camps and at least 100 Christians have been burned alive. Yet only 31 murder cases went to court and only one ended in conviction for offenders.
The Christian situation in India gets worse every day. Anti-conversion laws have re-emerged and are inciting more violence against Christians, encouraging animosity toward them. Impediments to build churches are increasing and work on churches that are under construction has come to a halt.
The Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has been one of the organizations that has helped the Church in Orissa following attacks in 2008. ACN has carried out projects for the reconstruction of destroyed churches and parish centres, the formation of priests, religious and laity, and provided them with vital transport. ACN gave a total of 6.9 million euros for emergency and pastoral projects in India.