Kochi (Agenzia Fides) - The Church in India is in prayer for the release of seven innocent Christians in the Indian state of Orissa, in prison for nine years. Their names are: Bhaskar Sunamajhi, Bijay Sanseth, Buddhadev Nayak, Durjo Sunamajhi, Gornath Chalanseth, Munda Badamajhi and Sanatan Badamajhi. As Fides learns, the seven, originally from Kandhamal district, theater of anti-Christian violence which took place in 2007 and 2008, are unjustly accused of being among those responsible of the killing of Hindu leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, killed in Orissa on 23 August 2008. In 2013 a district court sentenced them and an appeal trial is pending at Cuttack High Court. The hearing of the trial has been postponed several times. The episode of Hindu leader's death was the spark that triggered the anti-Christian violence in 2008. Christians were accused in a pretestuous way of murder, then claimed and attributed to Maoist groups.
In recent days, in an assembly of priests held in Kerala on "What Happened in Kandhamal?", the present recalled that the Indian Church organized prayer vigils for the Indian Salesian Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, kidnapped in Yemen and then released. "Now it is urgent to pray for the innocent of Kandhamal", says to Fides journalist and Catholic intellectual Anto Akkara, who has traveled many times to the district and has written several books on the subject. In one of these investigative books, titled "Who Killed Swami Laxmanananda?", the journalist reports evidence that clears the seven Christians name.
Some priests, in collaboration with Akkara, have elaborated a special prayer that will spread among the Catholic communities in Orissa and other states of India. Bishops, priests, religious and lay Indians throughout the country have confirmed that they will join the prayer campaign for the seven innocent victims. "I have no doubt that faith must lead to action. The blood of martyrs' will inspire the faithful to support the voiceless. After the launch of the campaign, thousands have already begun praying for the innocent of Kandhamal", says Akkara to Fides.
Human rights activists, social workers, journalists, and leaders of the Church have contested the district court's conclusions that condemned the seven Christians at first instance: the verdict was based on the theory of a conspiracy lacking evidence and authenticity. Akkara also launched an online petition for the release of the seven, sending it to the Chief Judge of the Supreme Court of India, to the President of India and the President of the National Human Rights Commission. "This is for me a journey of faith. The Lord has guided my path in the past nine years, and the petition and the campaign of prayer emerged from the desire for truth and justice", concludes Akkara.
The district of Kandhamal in the State of Orissa (or Odisha) experienced inter-community tensions and an unprecedented wave of violence during Christmas in 2007 and then since August 2008. The violence lasted for at least four months, killed more than 100 people and 56,000 were left without a home. (SD-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 17/10/2017)