Bishop Senapati: We make no distinction between high and low-caste Christians in Odisha. We fully welcome dalits. We are all baptized in one faith – we have one God. We welcome all the people.
ACN: Does the Church see genuine opportunities for dialogue with moderate Hindus as a tool to combat Hindu extremism?
Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar: We are all children of God and one day we will all understand that. Hate campaigns do not build up society. There is an openness among the Hindu population at large; they are drawn by the example of Christian love, as witnessed in a particular way by St. Mother Teresa. All kinds of “dialogues of life” are taken place – being together, getting to know each other. This is leading to unity and solidarity.
Of course, we need dialogue more than the Hindu majority. We have to take the initiative and demonstrate our willingness to dialogue. The Church presents itself as being at the service of everybody. We are making progress. A great majority of the Indian people are good-hearted; not all are extremists.
India is a land of Hindus where we are a tiny minority. But we should be proud that we are able to do so much through our dedication and commitment – let us make this more visible and vibrant. The Church can become like a lamp on top of a mountain, a light for all to see.
Bishop Singh: We are seen as a Church that creates harmony among faiths. For example, in the wake of the 2008 killings, Christians did not take revenge. That was very significant. The Church belongs to the powerless of society, people who naturally do not choose violence; they respond to violence with acts of reconciliation and a message of peace. Non-violence is also a witness to Jesus; it shows Hindus the power of our faith, the power and freedom not to meet violence with violence; the Church is an agent of love, forgiveness. That is our identity and it makes the Church a powerful witness.
Bishop Senapati: We push for peace, reconciliation and the emancipation of the poor, irrespective of caste, creed or religion. All deserve the opportunity to develop themselves and become self-sufficient. We must be a genuine religion of love and brotherhood. Nothing is more important. There are Hindu leaders who are very good and appreciate the real message Jesus has for India – such as forgiveness, peace, love for the poor, etc. With them we can have the dialogue.
ACN: What areas of the Church’s life and ministry need the most strengthening in India?
Bishop Singh: We need to stress the notion of catholicity – the Church’s oneness. Our Church is too much divided according to language, ethnicity and geography. Our dialogue with other faiths has to go deeper – we need to reach out, to better understand others, and thus move toward brotherhood. We need to intensify our activity among the poor; our concern for the poor has to be more visible. We risk being too much of an institutional Church that does not hear the cry of the poor – we need to elevate the poor! Mother Teresa’s canonization was a spur to action.
Bishop Nayak: The formation of the laity is crucial; we must help raise a generation of great Catholic leaders who will assume the responsibility proper to them in all aspects of society – social, political, economic, and environmental. We want to build up an enlightened laity.
ACN: Does the Church have confidence that, in the end, justice will be done in Odisha?
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Archbishop Barwa: There is nothing impossible for God. Justice is slowly being done. There will be success and there will a growth of the Christian community in Odisha. The scars will take a long time to heal and evaporate. Prior to the massacre in Kandhamal, there was peace in this region; now trust has been broken; our people cannot trust those who burned down our houses and churches. Building up trust and confidence will take much longer than the reconstruction of homes and churches.