Greetings from India,
It seems you already have received news from various sources about the crisis of communal violence in Orissa, which flared up in Khandamal District (not far from Bissamcuttack) This area has seen an increase in poor villagers accepting Christ. It is estimated that 25% of the population in that area are now Christian. You probably know that certain fundamentalist Hindu groups have been concerned about this, A Swami with 4 disciples has been working with the support of the VHP to convert some of the local tribal Christians to Hinduism. On August 23rd night they were brutally murdered. Until now it is not known who has done this crime. However a terrible communal violence was set off, causing churches and the homes of Christians to be burned and many Chrisitans to be slain/burnt. Furthermore, in fear, thousands fled to remote parts of the jungle where there is no food or shelter (in this rainy season).
Some 20,000 Christians are put up in a few relief camps which have been set up.
I am sending you a copy of a letter from Dr. Rajnish Samal, the Director of Christian Hospital, Diptipur which explains the gruesome events which took place near there. Father Edward is a Catholic priest who has been some years in Padampur (a town near Diptipur). He runs a leprosy colony and a children’s home. Fr Edward was unmercifully beaten, but thankfully he has survived this most unfare treatment to a person who has dedicated his life to serving the poor and sick.. He was hospitalized and is recuperating elsewhere. (The persons in his community are treated at Diptipur when necessary)
Rajnish happened to be away from Diptipur when this happened and Dr Ipsita our lady doctor who hails from Padampur has been bravely carrying on The hospital in-patient service was closed as per advice from the Bishop and District Officials and it is still closed.. Dr Ipsita and staff open the OPD everyday and treat outpatients, but refer any patients who need admission.
She goes back to her home daily in Padampur where she fees safer The police provided protection to the hospital and we are grateful that no damage has been done there Rajnish came to Diptipur on 13th Sept to disperse salaries for August to the staff and take care of other pending work in the office He has planned with staff how to bide this time and how to keep safe there.
We had planned to go to Diptipur this month, but had to cancel that so we are in Tilda. Our partner, Dr. Lucy Mamen from Second Sight, UK was also due to come, but her visit to Diptipur had to be cancelled Instead, Rajnish is going to Delhi to meet her and discuss with her how to keep the eye surgery going She is partnering in several hospitals in North India (Bihar, UP and Rajasthan) but she and her eye surgeon have claimed that these patients in Orissa appear to be the most neglected of any of the places they have seen. She has provided a vehicle so that our eye team can go out into the surrounding villages to find and bring patients who are found sitting totally blind in their homes.
In connection with the eye services, I also wanted to let you know that your gift for rennovation of the eye ward has given a real facelift to the area, with painting and repair of roofs etc. The roof repair has been a very major project, however the good news is that there were no leaks in the rainy season as were previously hampering patient services. We do want to give thanks to the donors who have facilitated this repair allowing eye camps to go on in the rainy season as well.
We seek prayer support for the Christians of Orissa and the Christian ministry facing persecution. These are difficult days and there are examples of tremendous couarage among some who have died as martyrs rather than forsake their faith. We hope and pray that normalcy will resume in all these places in Orissa. We also pray that law and order can contain the violence which has spread to other states such as Kanataka as well. It is worthy of notice that no Christian schools or hospitals have been attacked. Only places of worship are targeted.
Now Orissa faces still another calamitry. This past week we had several days of very heavy rain in mid-India which has resulted in the Hirakud dam of Orissa to fill to capacity so that the gates were opened and the water rushed into all those areas along the Mahanadi River up to the Bay of Bengal causing severe floods in 17 districts of Orissa,thought to be worse than the Bihar floods and worse than other floods in any area of India. More than 7 lakhs persons have been affected and not all have been rescued yet. Some are stranded and receive food dropped from helicopters.. The amount is never enough for all.
These are troubled days in many parts of India with terrorist attacks adding to the misery and loss. We can only look to our Almighty Father for encouragement and hope.