Catholics in southern India’s Kerala state have been urged to show greater solidarity with the suffering Christians of Odisha state and spread the message of their exemplary witness. Cardinal George Alencherry, Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly who heads the eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, made the appeal on June 6 while releasing the Malayalam version of a book by rights advocate and journalist Anto Akkara that details the atrocities of the 2008 anti-Christian violence in Odisha’s Kandhamal district.
The riots orchestrated by Hindu extremists that raged for weeks, claimed the lives of more than 100 Christians because they refused to abandon their faith. Over 6,000 Christian homes and 300 churches were plundered and torched leaving more than 56,000 homeless. Nearly 9 years after the violence, many Christians are still awaiting justice and compensation from the government. Many have not been able to return to their homes.
Akkara’s several books on the Kandhamal riots were the results of numerous visits to the district. The Kerala-born journalist has doggedly investigated the violence and meticulously recorded the witness and suffering of the Christians that followed the murder of Hindu leader Swami Laxmanananda which Hindu fundamentalists blamed on Christians, despite Maoist rebels claiming it.
“We have a duty to spread this message," urged Card. Alencherry while releasing the Malayalam version, “Early Christians of 21st Century”. "The book brings out the brutality” Kandhamal Christians had to suffer. These revelations can touch human conscience and enlighten even non-Christians," Cardinal Alencherry told the assembly of Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) attended by over 40 Catholic bishops and 150 religious superiors.
"This book has touched the nerve centre of human conscience with graphic details of the suffering and witness of Kandhamal Christians who challenge us to 'bear witness to the truth' as Jesus taught," observed KCBC president Archbishop Maria Callist Soosa Pakiam of Trivandrum.
"The incredible witness of Kandhamal Christians who carry the stamp of crucified Christ, brought out in this book, will aflame the Christian faith and witness in the readers," said Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, the head of the eastern-rite Syro-Malankara Church and president of Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI).
In his remarks, Akkara said his revised edition has included several new topics including a chapter on Kerala Christians' strong bond with Kandhamal. “Hope this will lead to greater concern about Kandhamal in Kerala," he said.
Seven innocent Christian men have been languishing in jail for the murder of Swami Laxmanananda. Akkara’s book, “Who killed Swami Laxmanananda?” busts the myth of a Christian conspiracy behind the murder. Apart from unveiling the Hindu nationalist fraud behind Kandhamal with tell-tale evidence, he has also launched an online signature campaign at www.release7innocents.com urging the authorities to release the 7 Christians.
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