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‘Martyrs of Kandhamal’ may be made saints, says cardinal

15 January 2016


Peaceful: tribal women from Kandhmal take part in a peace rally in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India, in October, 2008

Peaceful: tribal women from Kandhmal take part in a peace rally in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India, in October, 2008

NEARLY 100 Christians slaughtered in mob violence in India in 2008 could be canonised.

The Archbishop of Bombay, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, said that he had asked the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints to start the process to canonise the “martyrs of Kandhamal”, in the state of Odisha, eastern India.

Cardinal Gracias told the Vatican-based news agency Fides: “The Church is sensitive to modern-day martyrs. . . I am willing to speak personally about Kandhamal violence and its martyrs to Pope Francis.” He has ordered church authorities to collect evidence of atrocities against Christians who refused to abjure their faith at the point of death.

The martyrs include more than 90 Roman Catholics killed by Hindu nationalists during a seven-week attempt to eradicate the Christian minority. Non-RC Christians also died in witness to their faith, but will not be included among any saints canonised by the Pope.

They include Parikhit Nayak, a Dalit Christian convert from Hinduism who was tortured to death in front of his wife, Kanaka. Hindus who had previously been his neighbours burned him with acid, castrated him, and finally disembowelled him.

Other victims include a Pentecostal minister, Rajesh Digal, who was ordered by a Hindu mob to renounce his faith. When he refused, he was beaten severely, and buried up to his neck for two days. The mob eventually battered him to death.

Rajni Majhi, an orphan girl in the care of an RC priest, was raped by members of a mob before she was tied up and burned alive. A 28-year-old nun was also gang-raped.

Relations are usually peaceful between Christians, who make up 2.5 per cent of the country’s 1.1 billion people, and Hindus, who account for more than 80 per cent.

In the past decade, however, instances of violence have multiplied: hard-line Hindu groups say that missionaries are persuading lower-caste Indians to convert to Christianity.

The outbreak of anti-Christian violence in 2008 followed the killing of a radical Hindu leader in August 2008 by Maoist rebels. Even though Communists claimed responsibility for the assassination, Hindu groups blamed Christians instead.

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