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India: Kandhamal Martyrs’ Memorial inaugurated

Priests and People in front of Kandhamal Martyrs memorial

A Memorial for the Kandhamal martyrs was inaugurated at Divine Mercy Church of Kolanaju in Odisha, Eastern India, on Saturday January 21, 2023. The monument enshrines the names of 105 who were killed during Kandhamal persecution.

Father Pradosh Chandra Nayak, Vicar general of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar archdiocese, inaugurated the memorial of the victims who were brutally killed in anti-Christian violence of 2008.

“We need a memorial which allows any person to pay homage, respect, show solidarity, to the one who has sacrificed his or her life for the sake of Christ,” said Father Manoj Nayak, one of the survivors and the promoter of the memorial.

“They are in our hearts and minds we cannot forget them because they have shown courage and stood firm in faith in Christ,” continued Nayak.

According to Nayak the memorial gives all mourners, including Christian families, access to pay their respects, reverence, and connect with the ones who sacrificed his or her life for the sake of Christ. We need the memorial for the victims of persecution to remember, to remind, and to honour the people who lived and witnessed the Gospel by sacrificing their lives to Christ.

“The erection of a monument, helps people to move from a life with an individual’s physical presence to preserving one’s memory, in the grieving process,” said Father Nayak.

People paying tribute to Kandhamal Martyrs

The faithful welcomed the priests with dance for the Eucharistic celebration.

There was sharing of memories and prayers for the martyrs in front of the memorial after the Eucharistic celebration by the faithful and the catholic priests.  

A Divine Mercy statue was also installed in the Church.

Hundreds of Kandhamal survivors assembled for the inauguration of the memorial.

“It is painful for us to lose someone we love very dearly, our feeling of connection to them continues, even though they are no longer present with us physically,” said Anakleta Nayak, the senior catechist. One of the survivors of the 2008 anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal, he was forced to denounce Christ but faced the perpetrators courageously and escaped from death.

“Praying for the departed souls is a great Catholic tradition. The moment I see the name of my brother I remember his love and affection for the people, service and witness to Christ through sacrificing his life,” said Luicy Digal, brother of Father Bernard Digal, who was mercilessly killed in the time of anti-Christian violence 2008.  the former Treasurer of archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, hailing from Tiangia,

“The martyrs gladly accepted pain, agony, persecution, torture and finally death for the faith in Christ,” affirmed Nayak.

Divine Mercy Church has catholic villages of Kolanaju, Mundanaju, Gudripodi, Budedpada, Majumaha, Sipaiju and Raikia under Cuttack-Bhubaneswar. The parish has about 12 hundred catholic families. Raikia block was worst affected in anti-Christian violence 2008

Violence against the Christians of Odisha erupted in Kandhamal district after a Maoist group killed Hindu leader Saraswati Laxanananda in his ashram, on 23 August 2008, in Kandhamal District.

However, the Hindu ‎right-wing groups blaming Christians and unleashed the most violent persecution against the Christian minority that India had ever seen.

The social involvement of the missionaries with tribals and Dalits (outcaste) had been criticized by radical Hindu leaders for a long time, accusing them of proselytising

Over 100 Christians were killed and 55,000 Christians were forced to flee to the forest, with 5,600 houses and almost 300 churches, plus convents, schools, hostels and welfare facilities in 415 villages raided and set on fire.

Although over 3,300 complaints were made to the police, only 727 cases went to trial in fast-track courts, where more than 88 percent of the accused were acquitted.


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