BHINGAR, MARCH 28, 2012: I have been witness to two forms of violence, the first being the Rwandan genocide, where ethnic Hutus killed maimed and destroyed Tutsis, two antagonistic tribes. Next, the tribal conflict over elections results, in mainland Kenya, that resulted in death and destruction of life, property and damage to the economy of that country, the source being violence.
On March 25, during the evening Lenten Recollection, from 4.30 pm, Fr. Udaynath Piroyi, a Diocesan priest of Cuttack Bhubaneswar Diocese, resident of Orissa and first hand witness of the ethnic cleansing of Christian in Khandmal articulated the tragic happenings of those atrocity-filled and traumatic days in his life and ministry. Few attended in the beginning in St JB church, Bhingar, but many followed as the talk took off. He recalled with vivid and lucid images, the sights, sound, loss and pain of a fatal moment in time when unruly mobs ruled the streets, fanatical Hindutva fundamentalists called the shots and the naked day-light murder of the disciples of Jesus drove people into the jungles to survive a death by persecution. These were moments that do not get forgotten easily, but moments that must be forgiven peacefully. These were moments where we remember that the Church is founded on the blood of martyrs. In the vicious circle of the death of the victims, it were from the poor, ignorant and illiterate believers, a triumph of the faith occurred, unseen and unproclaimed, that rose up to Heaven. Fr. Uday in simple terms and logical narration evoked the systematic planning and perfectly executed process of the decimation strategy that began with the single killing of Dr. Staines that followed up with genocide of the worst kind, the panic-driven Christians to an untimely and premature death, by fire.
He invited all to see those days and the aftermath through his clouded eyes, the years of 2007 and 2008 as if it were all happening today.
An issue that made of all of us take notice, was, the approach of the Bishop who told his priests to flee and save themselves, was questioned. When it was reported in the Press that the people did not have a single priest with them in the forest, the Bishops response was unequivocal: "I spend so many years training and forming a priest, about fifteen, so I do not wish more martyrs, but I want my priests to stay alive. Life is more important than death; the Church has enough of martyrs. I do not need my Priests to belong to that extinct group." This seemed good thinking by the Bishop. Self preservation is of prime importance, in a crisis.
Fr. Uday is presently in De Nobili College, Ramwadi, Pune doing his Ph. D Research on the Christological theme: "The Suffering Jesus mirrored in Khandmal."
What Fr. Uday presented was a stimulating and shocking prototype of the present day India, with its pulls and pushes, its tension and it pressures on Christians to renounce their faith in the face of economic poverty, the lure of easy and corrupt money and turn their face of their belief in the living Christ. Facts tell, stories sell! In the midst of death, the power of the Risen Indian Christ who journeys along shone bright as a beacon of Hope and Courage: "I am with you always until the end of the ages." Many made their annual confessions after Mass.
All left moved and touched, with their hearts broken and tear filled eyes.