Though it has been almost a decade since nearly 100 Christians were murdered in the Indian state of Odisha for refusing to convert to Hinduism, it’s been officially approved to open the cause for sainthood for the murdered Christians.
According to CNA, Archbishop John Barwa, speaking on the issue said that the opening of the cause is a source of pride for the relatives of those killed, but also “for the whole Church this is a pride because our men, our women and our children, those who were martyred for the faith, they are not forgotten,Although those killed often lost their lives in gruesome ways, “their death has brought newness of life (and) newness of faith, and for this all of them (the victims’ families) feel proud."
Archbishop Barwa oversees the diocese of Cuttack Bhubaneswar in India’s Odisha province, and was put in charge of organizing the cause by Cardinal Oswald Gracias.
Cardinal Gracias, who is the Archbishop of Bombay, President of both the Catholic Bishops Conference of India and of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, and a member of Pope Francis’ “Council of Nine" cardinals, gave the official OK to begin the process to declare the Christians massacred in 2008 as the “martyrs of Kandhamal."
After the murder of the leader of the right-wing Hindu nationalist organization, Swani Lakshmanananda in August 2008. Holding Christians responsible for the murder, the Hindus in India attacked the minority Christians in the Kandhamal district of Odisha.
In the months that followed nearly 100 Christians were slaughtered for refusing to convert to Hinduism. Around 56, 000 were displaced as a result, taking refuge in forest where they were exposed to deadly insect bites and starvation. During that attack around 6200 houses and over 300 churches were burnt down. Record has it that some 10,000 people have still not returned due to fear of getting mobbed by the angry Hindus.
Some who had converted to Christianity from Hinduism were targeted in the attacks. After the ordeal was over, some of the converts returned to Hinduism out of fear, though they continue to believe in and practice the Christian faith secretly.
The families and friends of those who died have recounted stories of the brutal deaths of their loved ones, many of which include torture, the demand to renounce their faith, dismemberment and worse.
Archbishop Barwa said he is discussing prospective candidates with his colleagues, and has met with the council of his episcopal conference as well as some of the leading officials in his diocese to bring about the emergence of a team who will work on the cause.
In the meantime, he said that plans are moving forward to build a memorial for the martyrs. A location has already been selected for a small museum commemorating those who were killed.