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Poor Indian Christians help Covid-19 relief fund

Despite fighting poverty themselves, Kandhamal faithful become role models for the privileged in helping others

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Poor Indian Christians help Covid-19 relief fund

Father Madan Sual Singh, director of Jana Vikas, the social service wing of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Archdiocese, distributes relief to the needy in Kandhamal on April 12. (UCA News photo)

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Kandhamal Christians, even though poor and the targets of anti-Christian riots in India's eastern state of Odisha in 2008, have contributed to the chief minister’s relief fund to combat the coronavirus.  

Some 28,500 rupees (US$374) collected from Raikia Catholic parish and other Christian institutions was used to help the needy.

“Since the entire world and our country are fighting this pandemic, we thought we would make a contribution. Even a small amount can make a difference,” Father Pradosh Chandra Nayak, parish priest of Raikia church, told UCA News.

“It is not easy for our faithful to contribute to the chief minister's fund as people here are mostly farmers, laborers and the downtrodden who themselves are fighting poverty,” said Father Nayak, who is also vicar general of the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar.

“The idea came to my mind that even though we are poor, we still can become role models for many who are privileged and capable of paying and helping their brethren during this difficult time. Our people came forward with open hearts and have contributed even a small amount as 10 rupees. It is very encouraging.”

The priest first shared the idea with the president of the parish council, Jogendra Nilamani Mandal, who readily agreed to the proposition and worked on the logistics.

They spent 5,500 rupees on distributing food packages, milk, biscuits, medicine and face masks to the patients of a government hospital, while face masks and gloves were given to the hospital staff. They also distributed biscuits to orphans of Raikia’s St. Catherine’s House.

Mandal said each year they collect money during Holy Week and donate it to the archdiocese, which uses the money according to the needs of the community.

Mandal, Father Nayak and representatives of eight Christian agencies handed over 23,000 rupees to block development officer Prabin Kumar Banua on April 10.

Father Madan Sual Singh (blue shirt) takes part in a social distancing campaign. (UCA News photo)

Parish doing commendable work

Father Madan Sual Singh, director of Jana Vikas, the social service wing of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Archdiocese that covers Kandhamal district, told UCA News he hailed the initiative.

“Each parish is doing their best to cope with the lockdown and even our center is engaged with relief work according to directives from the archdiocese,” he said.

“Raikia parish is doing a commendable job because even though they are poor they did not hesitate to give whatever they can, and that is the message of Easter. We go to different places and distribute masks and campaign for social distancing.”

Kandhamal witnessed one of the worst anti-Christian riots in Indian history in 2008. It started on Aug. 23 as Hindus celebrated Janmashtami (the birth of Lord Krishna) when their leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati was shot dead.

Hindu radicals rounded on Christians after dubbing the murder a Christian conspiracy. The violence that continued for seven weeks claimed over 100 lives, left 56,000 homeless and destroyed 6,000 houses and 300 churches.

Meanwhile, according to data released by the ministry of health and family welfare, two new coronavirus cases were reported on April 12 in Odisha. This brings the total reported cases in the state to 50.

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