Cuttack (Agenzia Fides) - Christians in the Indian state of Orissa (or Odisha), while experiencing a state of suffering and discomfort, have a strong and clear awareness of being missionaries because they are baptized. And, happy for the announcement given by Pope Francis on World Mission Day, they will prepare themselves for the "extraordinary missionary month" in the joy of announcing the Gospel, aware of the fact that "the Church is missionary by nature, otherwise it would no longer be the Church of Christ, but simply a group like so many others", says a local source of Fides.
Orissa needs to develop economically, socially, educationally and psychologically. It is the second poorest state in India and, in particular, Kandhamal district, which hosts a large number of Christians, is the most underdeveloped at a socio-economic level. Even at a religious freedom level, minorities like Christians encounter difficulties. Orissa is, in fact, one of the eight Indian states in which an "anti-conversion law" is in force, which limits religious freedom and is also used to penalize non-Hindu minorities. Christians are often threatened and moving freely for missionary work can sometimes mean accusations of "proselytism" formulated by Hindu extremist groups such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Bajarangdal, Viswa Hindu Parishad, who often hit Dalits and Adivasis (tribals), sure to get impunity. These groups do not want Dalits and Adivasis to attend Christian schools and institutions. And if a Dalit embraces the Christian faith, he is immediately discriminated against.
"After 70 years of independence, constitutional rights such as the right to religion, the right to speak, the right to profess any religion are not respected in India. Nine years ago, in 2008, Christians suffered a real massacre in Kandhamal. On August 2, 2016, the Supreme Court stated that state government should provide adequate compensation for victims, houses, churches, damaged institutions and lost property; but this order has not been implemented", stresses to Fides priest Manoj Kumar Nayak, who recently spoke at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The reality is that in the state bureaucracy and the judiciary, high ranking officials are only Hindus and this causes delays or shortcomings in meeting the legitimate needs of Christian minorities. The Church is doing a lot for the poor Dalits and Adivasis, for their education and health care. "Christians - concludes Fr. Nayak to Fides - by nature, want to build peace, unity and harmony. Even when they are targeted as innocent. In this, Christians in Kandhamal are an example: their faith is alive and their testimony of evangelical beatitude is an example for all the baptized in India". (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 24/10/2017)