Persecution is part of the Christian vocation - Orissa Archbishop

Three years after the massacre in Kandhamal, Orissa, the number of faithful in the region is growing, says the Archbishop of Orissa, John Barwa.

While the persecution of Christians in Orissa still exists, faith of people have been growing, and "even the number of faithful is increasing", said the Archbishop, who was recently inducted as the new archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar.

Barwa's archdiocese includes the district of Kandhamal, where over 60 were murdered and thousands forced out of their homes into hiding in the jungles following the death of a Hindu leader in August 2008.

"Persecution exists, we face many challenges, not without concerns. But we believe that persecution is part of our Christian vocation and Christian life. We are not afraid, but we live it as a blessing from God," the Archbishop said in an interview with Fides last week.

"We know that where there is persecution, faith is strengthened, and today I am proud to say that faith in my people is strengthening.

"The blood shed for the faith in Christ is always the seed for new Christians: in Orissa the number of Christians is increasing."

According to the All India Christian Council, over 14 of the 30 districts in the state of Orissa were impacted by the violence and 6,000 houses were burnt in 400 villages, including 296 churches and smaller places of Christian worship.

Barwa said there is still a "subtle form of oppression and intimidation" carried out by saffron groups and Christians who fled their homes are still terrified and cannot return to their homes.

"At the base there is hatred and hostility against Christians that result in discrimination on behalf of some sectors of society and also by the institutions," he said.

On whether he has confidence in justice, police and civil authorities, the Archbishop said the results of ongoing trials would be strong evidence to see if people can really have faith in justice and if everyone is equal before the law.

"Today we do not feel sufficiently secure and protected. Furthermore, at least so far, we have not received justice for the violence suffered," he said.

"Orissa is a test for the respect and administration of justice in India."