AsiaNews.It: “Lalji Nayak, martyr for the faith in Orissa”

Lalji Nayak, martyr for the faith in Orissa
by Nirmala Carvalho
With a knife pressed to his throat, threatened with death, he did not renounce his Christian faith. But there are others who, under threat, have been forced to convert to Hinduism. Injured Christians attacked even in the hospital. Three more villages attacked in the district of Kandhamal. The missionaries of Mother Teresa want to return to take care of leprosy and tuberculosis patients.

Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) – Lalji Nayak, tortured to force him to abandon his Christian faith, died of his injuries two days ago. Fr Manoj Nayak of the diocese of Bhubaneshwar calls him “a martyr for the faith”.

Fr Manoj recounts that “they [his radical Hindu assailants] stuck a knife in his neck and threatened to kill him if he did not renounce Christianity, but Lalji Nayak, even though he was severely bleeding, refused to abandon his faith. He died in the hospital on October 1”.

Lalji Nayak’s village, in Rudangia, was attacked by Hindu fundamentalists on September 30, at four o’clock in the morning. Rudangia is in the district of Kandhamal, the epicenter from which the pogrom against Christians began more than a month ago.

On the same day on which Lalji died, the injured were attacked even inside the hospital. Fr Oscar Tete, superior of the Missionaries of Charity, the men’s branch of Mother Teresa’s order, tells AsiaNews: “On October 1, a mob entered the Berhampur Government Hospital, causing a ruckus and commotion, they came for the six victims and were just barely stopped from attacking those six patients. These Christians are now being targeted inside the government hospital itself”. Today, Fr Tete will move the patients to the order’s house in Bhapur Bazar, also in Berhampur.

Fr Oscar Tete was in charge of the Shani Nivas hospice for lepers in Srashananda, in the district of Kandhamal,which was destroyed by radical Hindus last August 24, at the beginning of the pogrom. Fr Oscar tells what happened that day: “We had just left our MC home in Srasananda when the mob attacked. They completely burnt down the building where the leprosy patients were admitted and the chapel which was just being rebuilt after the December ’07 carnage. The extremists then beat up the ten general patients in an attempt to make them confess where we were hiding. These radicals then poured some chemical into the patients’ eyes and left after destroying our home this time too. These leprosy and tuberculosis patients were moved into the Udaigiri relief camp and later we brought them to this Mother Teresa’s Home in Berhampur”.

Since then, in Orissa and in other states episodes of violence and destruction have been reported every day. Yesterday afternoon, 120 homes belonging to Christians were burned in the district of Baudh, bordering on Kandhamal. The inhabitants fled into the forest.

Fr Oscar Tete is not giving up, and wants to return to Srashananda to take care of leprosy and tuberculosis patients again. “Mother Teresa always told us to be with the suffering and the poor”, he says. “We cannot abandon our mission”.

In Bhubaneshwar, Fr Manoj recounts another story of humiliation: the pain of his elderly father, who was threatened with an ax at his throat and forced to convert to Hinduism. “My father was the postmaster of the district, a respected educated person, he was a Catholic catechist of the diocese for the past 30 years. On August 27, a mob came to the Tiangia village, unleashed their fury and specifically targeted my dad, Anaklet Nayak. These radicals had prior information of the village and being the leader, my dad was identified. These men placed an ax at his neck and forced him to change to Hinduism. Now, even more than a month later, my father is literally under their guard, he is continuously surrounded by extremists and is completely helpless, these radicals are not letting him out of their control. But the pain of his forced conversion to Hinduism is the severest torture he has to undergo.”

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