India: The story of Christian martyrs is told
Indian Mission Congress is a way for difficult stories to be shared and grace to be the final word on Orissa violence
10/20/09 India (Asia News) –“Christians have always endured persecution throughout the history of the Church and the one we have experienced in Orissa is our way to participate in the history of the Church,” said Mgr John Barwa, bishop of Rourkela, one of 35 delegates from the five dioceses of Orissa present at the Indian Mission Congress now underway in Mumbai. He is the uncle of Sister Meena Barwa, a nun who was raped by Hindu extremists in K Nuagaon (Kandhamal district) in the first days of the anti-Christian pogrom of August 2008.
For Fr Barwa and other Church representatives from Orissa, the four-day Prabhu Yesu Mahotsav are an opportunity to bear witness of the victory of faith over violence and discrimination, and receive once again the “embrace of the entire Indian Church”.
Listening to accounts from various regions of the country is a key component of the Congress, as many opening statements had indicated. However, the meeting were not limited to experiences of faith by India’s Catholics. Certain diocesan communities were invited to liven up the evening with plays, dance and documentaries, thus highlighting the Congress’ theme: ‘Let your light shine’.
The Church in Orissa presented a show that included some of the state’s dances, as well as a stage representation of last year’s assassination of Hindu leader Swami Laxamanada Saraswati and of the ensuing anti-Christian attacks. The assault against Sister Meena was among the episodes included in the play.
In a highly emotional voice, Mgr Barwa told AsiaNews that his niece is “recuperating well from her trauma, and is still enthusiastic about announcing the Gospel and about her mission among Dalits, Tribals and the oppressed of Orissa.”
“Every time she has to identify her aggressors, she suffers,” her uncle the bishop said. “But this pain has acquired salvific qualities because for her it has become a way to participate in the Passion of Christ and this gives her strength to work among the people.”
For Mgr Barwa, missionary actions among Tribals is the only path to salvation for thousands of people who would otherwise be left to fend for themselves.
“I am a Tribal and am twice as grateful to the Christian missionaries who freed my life.” For him, his encounter with priests changed his life. “They freed me by giving me an education, and a chance to know the dignity that is in every human being,” he said.
“If today I am a bishop I owe it to the Christian missionaries who brought us out of the jungle and dressed us with a dignity that we did not know existed.”
“We Tribals are people of the forest; we live in remote areas, tied to our land, worshiping spirits upon whom we rely for protection. This devotion is a form of slavery that Christian missionaries saved me from, by allowing me to meet the one and true God and to experience the light that is Jesus for the world.”