“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of the American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel and the anti-Gospel. This confrontation lies within the plans of divine providence. It is a trial which the whole Church… must take up.” Karol Cardinal Wotyla (Sept. 1976)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Persecution of the Roman Catholic Church in India

I know many times Americans take the practicing of our Roman Catholic Faith for granted. This is not the case in many locations around the world as the persecution is intense as witnessed by martyrdom. Here is a piece by Bill Flynn that appeared in the Camden, NJ, Diocesan newspaper highlighting the persecution of Roman Catholics in Munigua, in the Rayagada District of India.

"On Aug. 25, 2008, a large mob of Hindu terrorists arrived in the early evening and began two days of systematic destruction of all physical structures on [the parish's] ten-acre site. The priests and nuns were alerted to the impending violence by faithful parishioners in the adjacent community. With only enough time to secure the consecrated Eucharist from the tabernacle and some of the parish records, the entire compound of priests, nuns, hostel boys and girls (ranging in age from 5 to 16) and staff members ran for their lives down the road to the town center and called for help from nearby parishes.

On the parish grounds they left behind were a grove of cashew trees, gardens of vegetables, flower gardens, a grotto to honor the Blessed Mother and fruit trees. The buildings consisted of a large church, rectory, boys’ hostel housing approximately 100 boys, education building for the carpentry apprentice program, convent, girls’ hostel, and “out buildings” such as the power generator shed.

The destruction was thorough. The wrought iron windows were pulled from their foundations with trucks; all wood doors, tables, chairs, beds and other flammable materials were placed in piles in the center of buildings and burned to create enough heat to warp the reinforced steel bars inside the concrete slabs that made up the walls and some ceilings. This was specifically done to render walls and ceilings unstable and non-repairable. All breakable items were destroyed. Clothes and books, vestments and furniture were all used as fuel to torch the buildings after all portable objects of value were removed (“all portable objects of value” included even water pipes that were removed from the walls). The grotto was smashed and all statuary was defaced.

In the past 15 months over 650 Catholics homes, scores of churches, convents, hostels, prayer chapels and other structures have been destroyed in the state of Orissa alone. Thousands of Catholics are still in refugee camps.

Here is an insight into these Catholics of India. If the refugees go home, many are forced to embrace Hinduism and are immediately forced to pray at the local temple. Their general response so far has been, “No thanks, I’ll sit right here and keep my faith.” They will not trade their homes, farms and whatever material possessions they have if it means losing their faith.

There is a saying in India, that I am sure is borrowed from early Christian martyrs, “Wherever the blood of a martyr is spilled into the soil, there the faith grows even stronger.” This is true. I’ve witnessed it. In February 2008 I attended the Dantoling feast which honors Our Lady of Lourdes. Last year’s feast was less than 60 days after the start of these 15 months of persecution. Only 10,000 attended last year, possibly out of fear of the unknown. I attended the feast again this February of 2009 and in spite of the continued persecution throughout the year, the numbers grew to over 20,000 attendees."

To give you more of an understanding of the widespread violence in this region, here is a chronological list citing what has happened to Christian institutions in the last 5 months of 2008.

Our friends at the National Catholic Register had this very disturbing but inspirational piece on the persecution in India printed in an issue from September:

"BHUBANESWAR, India — An armed Hindu mob landed at the doorstep of evangelists Samuel and Daniel Nayak on Aug. 25, with an ultimatum: Denounce the faith or die. [Blogger Note: The Nayaks were brothers who were lay catechist instructors.]

“Do you want Christ or your life?” the mob leaders demanded of the Nayaks and five other members of the Nayak family. Unfazed, the brothers replied, “Christ is everything for us.”

Enraged, the Hindu fundamentalists hit two children in the house with iron rods, breaking their skulls. After pouring gasoline on the adults, the fanatics gave them “one more chance.” They stood firm and raised their hands in prayer.

Within seconds, five adults were aflame. Foreseeing that they might try to escape, the mob had poured gasoline on the outside walls of the house. The house was set on fire, reducing all seven members of the family to ashes."

We must keep these brave brothers and sister of our Faith in India constantly in our prayers and appreciate the religious freedom that we have in this country. In America, we have the luxury of complaining about long homilies. This puts everything in perspective, doesn't it?

We must also take increased dedication to being bold in our Faith from these examples.

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