Sunday, August 31, 2008

Excruciating Suffering

Four Franciscan monks were savagely attacked by feral thugs invading their San Columbano Belmonte monastery near Turin, Italy, last week.

Three of the monks, aged 86, 81, and 76, were tied and gagged, then punched, kicked and beaten with clubs. Another, 48 year-old Father Sergio Baldin, suffered head injuries that left him in a coma, as well as "serious respiratory problems" resulting from having choked on the food he had been eating when the assault began. He heroically put himself in the way of the rabid fury that had been directed at his older Brothers, according to one of the other monks:
"Father Sergio (Baldin) came to my aid. He put himself in front of me to try and defend me, but he too was knocked down without mercy. They hit him until he stopped crying out. Then they beat Father Salvatore and Father Martin as well. It was terrible."

In the Indian state of Orissa, violence against Christians has reached frightful proportions. Earlier last week a mission in Orissa was torched by a bloodthirsty mob of 700 maniacs:

The mob chanting anti-Christian slogans when reached Padampur in Bargarh district, attacked the orphanage where Fr Edward lived. Ms Rajni, a 20 year old student who lived in the orphanage and was also working as an auxiliary nurse in the orphanage confronted them. When Fr Sequeira arrived at the spot the mob locked him and Rajni into separate rooms, and ordered the children to vacate the orphanage. The mob then ransacked Fr Sequeira's room, poured petrol on him, Rajni and set the orphanage on fire. "I was engulfed in flames, I could hear the cries of Rajni and the mob was cheering and shouting through the windows," recalls Fr Sequeira.

"When I started to suffocate I found a crack on the wall that was damaged in the attack and kept my nose there to breath some air. All the while I could hear the cries of Rajni from the next room where she was writhing in agony. After sometime, there was silence and I thought she must have managed to escape from the room," recalled Fr Sequeira. Unknown to Fr Edward, the girl was burnt alive and had breathed her last.
People from the neighborhood who heard the cries of children rushed to the rescue, broke the walls and brought him to safety. That is when the mob attacked him again outside the orphanage and was beaten up mercilessly till he became unconscious.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of India has issued a list of several dozen Christian (Protestant and Catholic) churches, convents, hostels, as well as the hundreds of houses and other buildings burned during the spiralling wave of barbaric anti-Christian attacks. Over 25,000 Catholic schools in India have shut their doors in protest of "...the incapacity of the central government to stop violence at a time when anti-Christian sentiment is growing and the faithful are tortured and killed," said CBCI Chairman Osvaldo Cardinal Gracias.

The CBCI listed several deaths from the anti-christian violence so far, but another Indian Christian group, the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), claims that the death toll is much higher:
"We have received authentic information that the death toll is 100", says Dr Sajan George, national president of the GCIC, "and more butchered bodies and burnt corpes are being found". The Christian activist is also calling for the resignation of the entire government of Orissa, which is incapable of stopping the massacres against the Christian community. He provides an example: "In Bakingia, two families of seven Christians - Daniel Naik and Michael Naik and their families - were tortured and killed, their bodies were found with their heads pulped and smashed, they were recognised by their clothes. Bakingia is about 8 kilometers from Raikia police station".

This past week I received the monthly prayer focus from The Barnabus Fund, from where I first encountered the news of the persecutions in Orissa; their official site doesn't seem to have incorporated these latest updates yet, so I will quote directly from their e-mail, concerning yet another wave of brutality, in Angola, Africa:
Muslim extremists recently attacked the Christian community in the town of Andulo. In an horrific incident, the school-age daughter of a deacon at one of the churches was decapitated. Forty believers were assaulted or tortured, and one of them needed 20 stitches in his head. The mob burned three church buildings. They also went to believers’ houses to intimidate them and damaged or destroyed items of property. ...

When pain and torment grows unbearable, we say the agony is "excruciating". The root of that word makes it fitting to use as a description of the horrors endured by those like Father Sequeira; excruciating comes from the latin, excruciatus, past participle of excruciare, from ex- + cruciare to crucify, from cruc-, crux cross.

"The pain from the crucified one".

In the face of the rising tide of such suffering, it is hard to feel any hope for the future. How to keep faith when the world seems filled with evil triumphant over good? Fr. Edward Sequeira had devoted 25 years of his life as a missionary in India, and was managing a leper colony as well as an orphanage when he was beset upon by the crazed mob that tried to burn him to death for his good deeds. As hard as it is to contemplate the pain his scarred physical body will bear from the building's flames, it is harder still to imagine the searing damage done to the soul within. As he told his brother, upon awakening in the hospital:
"...cries of Rajni and the guilt of helplessness of saving her will always haunt me."

It must fall upon the shoulders of those of us so far spared such excruciating suffering, to pick up our own cross and follow in their footsteps, carrying forward the news that there can still be some good found in the world... good of our own making.


Anonymous said...

Two things have struck me:

first, that cries of Islamophobia in the West pale in comparison to the brutality which religions such as Christianity face. It is almost a crass thing for people such as Mohamed Elmasry to downplay the suffering of all others for their religion, by saying this his religion is reviled in the West.

Second, that once a government, such as in Orissa, has failed to protect its citizenry, then what is the point of its existence? These are not isolated incidents. These aren't just a few vigilantes skirting around the law. These are entire mobs of people running in the streets and killing people. If government fails to contain such actions, then it cannot call itself government any longer. It has failed in its purpose.

Much like in France, I do not think that we can acknowledge such leaders as government any longer.

CGW said...

Charles Henry said...

Thanks for that link, CGW, I sure needed that.