Christian leaders remember Graham Staines on his 21st death anniversary

Published 24 January 2020  |  
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Graham Staines and his family.

Graham Staines, an Australian missionary who spread the message of love through his work was remembered on his 21st death anniversary on January 23 in Odisha.

The anniversary of Staines murder falls in the same week as Christians in the country observe the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

For Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar (Odisha), Staines showed great love to everyone, especially the last, the least and the lost, lepers, tribal people and Dalits in the society. The Christian leader wants to keep Staines' message of love alive for the generations to come.

On January 23, 1999, Staines and his two sons Philip and Timothy, 10 and 6, respectively, were killed after radical Hindus set fire to the car in which the three were sleeping.

Archbishop Barwa noted that Staines' murder was a preface to the anti-Christian violence that broke out in Kandhamal, Odisha in 2008 when Hindu extremists tried to wipe out Christianity from the region.

The Kandhamal incident was considered the worst violence in 300 years of India's history when the Hindu extremists led a series of riots that left roughly 100 people dead, thousands injured, 300 churches and 6,000 homes destroyed, and 50,000 people displaced.

"The extremists did not differentiate between Catholic or Baptist, Pentecostal or any other Christian denomination. Everyone was persecuted for being Christian, for our faith and belief in the Lord Jesus Christ," the archbishop explained.

The Christian leader lamented that "The ecumenism of blood witnessed in Kandhamal" was like that of Jesus who "shed his blood for everyone, and everyone bearing the name of Christ."

"Human beings have become more and more self-centred and cruel. The cruelties inflicted on human beings by fellow human beings are a sign of depravity," he added.

The Archbishop also said that the country risks being divided along sectarian lines, and is in urgent need of strong solidarity and unity.

Speaking about Graham Staines, Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), told AsiaNews that "For 34 years, [Staines] showed unusual kindness in Baripada, Odisha, [living] among tribal and lepers. He worked among lepers in Odisha in remote rural areas without discrimination."

Looking at the current status of Christians in the country, George regretted that "21 years on, but hate crimes against religious minorities are peaking again, and the country is becoming polarised along religious lines."

Focusing on the recent controversial law implemented in the country, George said, "Unity among Christian Churches is of vital importance today especially as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR) will affect millions who risk being declared 'illegal immigrants'."

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