The Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) has proposed to make the last Sunday of August a National Day for Indian Martyrs to commemorate the Christians who died in the August 2008 massacres in Orissa.
Nearly 30,000 people fled Orissa’s Khandamal district in 2007 and 2008 during Hindu extremists’ anti-Christian attacks on nearly 300 villages. At least eighty people, including a Catholic priest, were killed. About 270 churches and chapels were desecrated, while 6,000 homes were destroyed.
The CBCI’s Commission for Ecumenism developed the proposal for a National Day for Indian Martyrs after meeting with regional secretariats in Jhansi. The commission told Fides news agency that the proposal is expected to establish a special day to remember all priests, religious and laity who have “sacrificed their lives for their faith in Christ” and who are India’s “modern martyrs.”
The proposal won unanimous agreement among all Christian denominations present in India, Fides reports. If approved, it would be celebrated on an ecumenical level, giving the observance more strength and visibility.
Bishop Anil Cuto of Jalandhar said in a message to Fides that martyrdom is “the highest form of love.”
“I consider making an effort to remember those who died in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a memory that we want to confirm and continue, for the benefit of future generations.”
The commemoration’s celebration at the ecumenical level would strengthen unity among India’s Christian churches, he added.
“Establishing it as a celebration would be a historic decision that we hope will come true soon.”