Friday, May 1, 2009

Welcome to Philly Fr. Raj!

Mass is concelebrated by Jesuit Fathers Deeney, Martin, D'Silva, Roma and
Hilarius at St. Paul Miki Parish last summer in Pandabir, India

Many of you know that last summer I traveled to Jamshedpur, India to visit Fr. John J. Deeney, SJ with his nephew John Gill and the Klarich brothers (Support for Indian Catholics urgent). Through your benevolence we raised money to help, in a small way, the Jesuits to build a new school for the tribal children at St. Paul Miki Parish in Pandabir. Since then anti-Christian violence broke out in Orissa, about an hour south of where we stayed in Lupungutu. The offering we gave would now have to be used to help those poor souls try to put their lives back together.
It was my privelige yesterday to be asked by the Maryland Province to be the driver for Fr. Michael Thanaraj, SJ, the provincial of the Jameshedpur Province, as he visited Philadelphia before he departed for a meeting with the New York Province Jesuits. Unbeleivably he took more pictures in Philly than I did in India ;-) So good to se Rr. Raj again! Safe trip home.

The situation in Orissa is still bad... and the Indian government is doing little to help ease the pain of those burned out of their homes for the simple reason of their Catholic faith. Back in the fall we hosted Fr. Tony Uvary, SJ for a Mass and talk on Hawk Hill (Jesuit speaks of violence in India) If you feel you're in a position to help... please do so.

What you can do?


Catholic organizations, including the Jesuit-run Xavier Institute of Management are responding to basic needs of the affected in relief camps. You can donate to their efforts by sending a check payable to:

"Jesuit Missions"
P.O. Box 64818
Baltimore, MD 21264

Or contact Ed Plocha, Maryland Province Jesuits Advancement Director, at 800-83-7436 or

Call for Protection!

Contact your Representatives in Congress and ask them to ask the government of India to protect Christians and minorities in India from religiously-based violence.

Michael Thanaraj, SJ, Provincial of the Jamshedpur Jesuit Province, Ed Plocha, Development Director of the Maryland Jesuit Province, and Geroge Bur, SJ, President of St. Joseph's Prep, outside the Church of the Gesu. Fr. Raj in the Ignatian Commons at the Prep, overlooking the Jesuit institutions in India.

Yours truly poses with Fr. Raj and Fr. Bur at the statue of St. Ignatius Loyola,
SJ at the Prep. No one here covers up the IHS ;-)

A visit to see Ed's sister Paula Straka, manager of the St. Joseph's U. Bookstore.
Fr. Raj and Fr. Bur pose with Bruce Maivelett, SJ.

Joe Lacey, SJ, who served in Jamshedpur for 22 years, with Fr. Raj, Tim and Kathy Klarich, and 44 outside Manresa Hall at St. Joseph's University. Fr. Bur and Fr. Raj look at the locations of the Jesuits' Worldwide Web of Ignatian Committment.

Inter-religious Violence in Orissa, India

The Society of Jesus in the United States is increasingly alarmed by the continuing outbreaks of violence in the India state of Orissa against Christians and other minorities by Hindu extremists. With many of our American and Indian Jesuits in the region ministering to the people of Orissa, we are extremely concerned for our brothers’ safety and the safety of the people they serve. The violence has spread and is occurring in other states throughout India, only increasing the need for greater protection by the government. The violence was sparked by the Aug. 23 murder of Hindu leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswathi, a Hindu leader of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). Although the Indian government has blamed Maoist rebels for the killing, a backlash has been carried out against Christians and other minorities. More than 26 Christians and minorities have been killed since August 23rd, 2008; more than 50 places of worship have been attacked; 15 churches and convents have been destroyed and more than 4,000 homes of Christians in villages in the Kandhamal district have been burned. The distinguished Jesuit-run Xavier Institute of Management was threatened when mobs passed through the city of Bhubaneswar in the Jamshedpur Province.In response, 50,000 villagers fled into the forests. Relief camps have been set up for over 20,000 villagers who are frightened to return to their homes. Jesuit Brother Paul Marla, who lives in the area where the swami was murdered, is reported to have gone into hiding as have an unknown number of priests, nuns and lay catechists. "The relief camps in Kandhamal district of Orissa are filled with hungry and sick people," said Jesuit Father Michael T. Raj, provincial head of the Jamshedpur province of the Society of Jesus. "Almost all of them have no homes to return to." Humanitarian needs have been further compounded by the worst flooding to the area in 25 years, September 17-22.

Jesuits in the U.S. have been in touch with the Department of State and the Indian Embassy to raise awareness about the violence and to call for protection of Christians and minorities. "As soon as we received the urgent plea from our Jesuits in the area, we were called into action and joined them in solidarity against these attacks," said Jesuit Father James Stormes, secretary for social and international ministries of the Jesuit Conference of the United States. "The Jesuits have consistently worked for peace and reconciliation in the area and are horrified by the sufferings of the ordinary people who always pay the price for these kinds of conflicts."
Protection for the minority population of Christians, who account for only 2.3% of the 1 billion residents of India, remains an upmost concern. "I was really shocked and disturbed by the inhumane atrocities being heaped upon the Christians in Orissa," said Sebastian Puthenpura, a Jamshedpur Jesuit studying in New York. "Sadder still is the fact that the attacks on Christians are being carried out in other parts of India too."The violence has been condemned by Pope Benedict XVI who said he was "profoundly saddened" and called for communities to try to restore "peaceful coexistence."

Updates on Orissa from Jesuits in Southeast Asia:
Statements from the Catholic Bishops Conference of India:
Statements of Christian Groups Condemning the Deaths: Christians Condemn Deaths
The violence in context: In a Crucified State
America Magazine on the violence: Persecution in Orissa

44's buddy Johnny Gill addresses the students at St. Xavier's in Lupungutu.

"Uncle" John Deeney, SJ, with the children from St. Paul Miki in Pandabir.

The Maryland Jesuits brought basketball to India, and the Indian Jesuits
and their students challenged us to a "friendly" basketball match ;-)

The beautiful children of Queen of Peace School in Basahatu.

Chris Klarich is taught a tribal dance after Mass in Pandabir ;-)

John and I sharing a laugh with the boys from St. Xavier's in Lupungutu ;-)

The Catholic Bishops Conference of India expressed apprehensions over the electoral victory of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which it fears might continue its ghastly attitude over minorities.Father Babu Joseph, a spokesman for the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, said the church feared the results of the ongoing nation elections which is set to conclude on May 13.The BJP is often accused for fanning communal feelings and pursuing the "Hindutva" agenda that instigates people to attack the minorities. The violence on Christians in Kandhamal, last year, is part of such a campaign."They want to demolish secularism - they're very clear there has to be a Hindu nation and only Hinduism is acceptable," says Father Joseph. "Last time the BJP was in power, they began the process of amending the constitution of India to try and take away the rights of the minorities."Although the Constitution enshrines the rights of minority groups, with the BJP coming to power, Fr Joseph fears "tomorrow all our institutions, including our schools, could be taken over."

Referring to the August 2008 violence on Christians, Fr Joseph said many who returned to their villages for the reconstruction of their homes were forcefully converted to Hinduism."Apart from Orissa, there have also been vehement attacks on Christians in other states ruled by the BJP, including Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttarakhand. Some of them have anti-conversion laws misused against Christians, charging them with "forceful conversions".
Catholic Church fears BJP coming to power

“In the villages of Kattingia and Lingagada, anyone who dared to vote got threats. In Nulungia where a tribal Christian was killed a few months ago, people told me that at least 40 Christians (who fled last year’s violence) did not vote for fear of being beaten,” the clergyman said.
Many displaced people dared not go back to their villages. “All you have to do is visit Phirigada, Gunjibadi, Badabanga, Dodingia, Raikola, Chanchedi. In the area near the market at G Udayagiri 43 families (who abandoned their homes) are living in pitiful conditions, but do not dare go home,” he added.

The same is true for thousands of displaced people who left for the States of Maharastra and Gujarat. Another case the clergyman cites is that of Betticola, a village where Hindu extremists want to build a temple on the ruins of a church that was destroyed in last August’s pogrom.
“Not one of the 38 families from the village is living in its own home,” Father Singh said.
“Not one of the seven Christians who went to vote was allowed to cast a ballot because they did not have the right papers,” he said. “Their explanations were of no avail even when they told election officials that their identity papers and certificates were lost to fire during the violence.”

-- INDIA Elections in Orissa rigged as extremists force Christians to vote for Hindu parties - Asia News

In India, several states ban "forced" conversion, defined so broadly as to encompass charitable works done by humanitarian religious organizations, but such bans are enforced only against those converting from Hinduism. There have been a growing number of converts from the Dalit "untouchable" castes, the lowest in the Hindu system. In recent years, attacks against these converts are on the rise. In the state of Orissa alone, reports of international human-rights organizations have documented some 4,500 houses and churches destroyed, 50,000 people displaced, and over 18,000 injured as a result of violent mobs instigated by Hindu nationalists.
-- The Freedom to Choose a New Faith -

As India conducts its month-long national elections, a leading Indian bishop has accused Hindu nationalists of threatening Orissa state voters with violence and pursuing a “secret agenda” to flush Christians out of the region.Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, speaking in an interview with the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), claimed that leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have made death threats against people unwilling to vote for them. He said the BJP was determined to eliminate Christianity from Orissa state’s Kandhamal district, where the vast majority of the state’s churchgoers live. Catholic priests in Orissa report that the BJP has warned Christians in Kandhamal district that if they voted for other candidates, the party would bully them into leaving the area, ACN says.
-- Indian bishop warns of ‘secret agenda’ to remove Christians

1 comment:

  1. Good morning, Tom.

    That was a great web site (or whatever) that you put together so quickly with great pictures of Prov. Mike's visit, and a full expose of the Orissa situation. You are doing a great service for our Prov. and for the sufferers of Orissa.--

    Of course my sister, Nancy, felt bad that she could not meet Mike, but apparently that would have been difficult to arrange. -- Money for Orissa is coming in thru my account, via Tim Klarich and others.

    God bless you and all that you are doing AMDG.
    Christ's Peace, John, S.J.