Church in India Remembers Its Modern Martyrs

National Day Proposed to Mark Deaths From 2008

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BHUBANESWAR, India, NOV. 17, 2009 ( The Church in India is proposing to institute a national day of remembrance for the modern martyrs of the nation, scheduling it for the last Sunday in August, in memory of the 2008 violence in the state of Orissa.

That conflict erupted after a Hindu leader was killed and fanatics blamed his death on Christians. At least 80 people died in the violence and dozens of Church properties were destroyed. Thousands fled the area.

The Indian episcopal conference’s Commission for Ecumenism is proposing a remembrance day in honor of the priests, religious and laypeople who “sacrificed their lives because of their faith in Christ,” the Fides news agency reported.

They are the “modern martyrs” of today’s India, the commission stated.

The proposal has the agreement of all Christian confessions in India. If the proposal is approved, it will be celebrated as an ecumenical event, drawing in all Christian faithful.

Bishop Anil Couto of Jullundur, president of the Commission for Ecumenism, emphasized that martyrdom is the highest form of love.

He said that it is important to remember “all those who died in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

“It is a memory we wish to confirm and continue for the benefit of the new generations,” the bishop said. And he added that celebrating the martyrs in an ecumenical event reinforces Christian unity in India.

Meanwhile, delegates from an Indian Catholic youth movement are making an appeal for an end to the violence.
More than 500 young people of the group took part in a demonstration for peace, which was held in Mangalore.
The Christian community has criticized the delay of justice: Only a small percentage of those arrested for the Orissa violence have been sentenced.  And those who have been released are considered a new threat to eye-witnesses of the violence.

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