Sermon in the Prison at Kandhamal

Published 31 July 2017  |  
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Christian prisoners in Kandhamal, Odisha, were exhorted during the 'Sunday Sermon' delivered by Anto Akkara, the author of "Who Killed Swami Laxmanananda?" during his visit to the Balliguda Jail last month.

The book reveals the events connected with anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal district and points out Swami's murder and subsequent conflagration as a well-planned conspiracy against Christians. It lays out the agenda of hate of the Sangh Parivar.

In his commentary, Akkara wrote that he wanted to "meet the seven Christians languishing in jail after being fraudulently convicted to life imprisonment for the killing of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati that triggered the 2008 bloodshed and persecution."

The "seven innocents" were convicted in October 2013 and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Akkara said it was the divine intervention to conduct Sunday prayer in the jail. After many attempts, he was permitted to accompany a pastor who has a "pass" to visit the prisoners on Sundays.

"Of the seven innocents — Bhaskar Sunamajhi, Bijay Kumar Sanseth, Budhadeb Nayak, Durjo Sunamajhi, Gornath Chalanseth, Munda Badamajhi and Sanatan Badamajhi — all had been moved recently to the new jail, as it was closer for their families to visit them, except for Gornath, who has a daughter living in Phulbani," he wrote.

The Sunday sermon was attended by 30 Christian prisoners housed in Balliguda jail, according to National Catholic Register.

"Budhadeb started the prayer with a loud proclamation — 'Praise the Lord' — from the far left of the front row. On the far right was Bijay, interspersing the prayers often with cries of 'Hallelujah.'"

One of the attendants, Bhaskar, who was illiterate during the arrest, surprised the pastors by taking out a crushed notebook in which songs are written neatly in the Odia language.

"Since he was illiterate when arrested, I was curious to find out how Bhaskar learned to write with magnificent writing. I was told that he had made use of his nearly nine years of detention to learn this skill," Akkara noted.

Bhaskar and Durjo had sung along with "a couple of spartan musical instruments being played by fellow Christian prisoners as they sang merrily the hymns," he added.

"As the prayer gathered steam, my eyes, too, grew wet, watching tears rolling down the cheeks of Bhaskar and Sanatan, who were seated in the second row."

"Mysterious are the ways of God. Some may have committed mistakes, while others may be innocents. Don't lose hope. Though you are innocent and languishing in jail, the whole world is more aware of Kandhamal and praying for you because of your continued suffering. The Son of God, Jesus, was crucified. ... You have been chosen as instruments to spread the message of Kandhamal people's suffering and incredible witness. ... But for you, Kandhamal would have been forgotten," Akkara preached to 30 Christian prisoners along with the seven who witnessed the 2008 bloodshed and the death of hundreds of Christians, and fleeing of thousands into the jungles.

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