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​From the darkness of terror
to the light of hope

· ​Seven years since the massacre of Christians in Odisha ·

With prayer and “No more violence” events, the Christian community in India observed the seventh anniversary of the massacres that occurred in Kandhamal District, Odisha (formerly Orissa), in August 2008. These events took place not only in this martyred land, where the main commemorative event will be held on 31 August, but also in other Indian states. “I am always moved by my people’s joy,” said Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar. “They suffered horrific anti-Christian violence. Yet, their faith did not waver; on the contrary, they strengthened their faith and love for Christ.”

On 23 August 2008, a Maoist group killed the Hindu leader Laxamananda Saraswati in his ashram in Kandhamal District. Although guerillas had immediately admitted responsibility, Hindu radicals instead blamed Christians whom the guru had long criticized for their social commitment, especially to Dalits (“untouchables”, according to the caste system), and whom he had accused of proselytizing. Among those accused by the Hindu leader were bishops, priests and women religious. Hindu extremists in Kandhamal unleashed the most violent persecution against the Christian minority ever seen in India. The massacres caused 55,000 faithful to flee and led to the looting and burning of 5,600 houses in 415 villages. According to the Catholic Church and social activists, nearly 300 churches were destroyed, in addition to convents, schools, hostels and care institutions. At least 91 victims perished: 38 were killed outright, 41 died due to injuries incurred in the attacks and 12 by police action. The district government recently decided to award 15,000 rupees to 12 of the victims injured in the 2008 attacks. Among them were several women religious who had peacefully protested against the brutality of the Hindu radicals.

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