Martyrs of Trust in God
Fr. Thomas Kattathara, SJ
Trust no one unless you have eaten much salt with him,” said Cicero. Many Catholics from Orissa state's Kandhamal district and Mangalore in Karnataka cannot overcome the experience of being forced, under the threat of death, to convert to Hinduism. "We lost everything, but the humiliating ceremony to disown our Christian faith still haunts me," says one of the victims Mr. Suresh Nayak, to the Catholic News Service at a refugee camp in Cuttack, about 20 miles from Bhubaneswar, Orissa's capital.
"They tonsured my head and made me drink cow dung water to purify me. We were also forced to write a declaration that we are becoming Hindus of our own (will) and giving up the Christian faith," he said. He with his family and 20 more Christian families from Pirigurg village in Kandhamal district, fled to nearby jungles on 24th of August after they were alerted that Hindu extremists were planning to target their village. "They looted our houses and burned everything down," he said.
On Sept. 9th, Kamal, a Catholic, spoke to the UCA (United Catholic News Agency) how his brother-in-law Rajesh was buried alive by a violent Hindu mob. On August 24 Rajesh, 27, and his Hindu friend, Tunguru Mallick, returned from Chennai, where they work, only Rajesh to be buried alive and his friend to be burnt, just for the reason on being friend to a Catholic youth. As the two youth tried to talk to the violent mob, someone pulled a bible from Rajesh's bag. The mob then began beating Rajesh, who fell down to the ground. While some continued to beat him, others dug a pit in a nearby field. As they dragged Rajesh toward it, he asked the attackers why they were burying him when he was still alive. They retorted, "Call your Jesus. He will save you." They then tied Rajesh, dumped him into the pit and covered it with mud. The extremists then turned to Tunguru, who kept insisting he was a Hindu. Nonetheless, they condemned him for befriending Christians, then poured kerosene on him and set him on fire. Tunguru fled to a nearby village where people helped douse the fire.
A nun was brutally gang raped while the armed police stood witnessing to the crime, the cry of the priest to save the sister could only leave him brutally beaten up by the cruel mob. The police refused to file her case. The stories of cruel persecution goes wild and unending, with churches burnt and destroyed, Christians killed, wounded and chased away from their houses, their houses looted and burnt, in most cases in the presence of the police.
Two tribal Christians, Dushashan Majhi, a highly respected and influential leader of the Christians and his son Shyam Sunder Majhi, were killed by a group of Hindu extremists on the night of October 2 in the village of Sindhupanka, in the district of Kandhamal. The elimination of community leaders has become the prime objective of fundamentalist groups.
The state government claims that the situation is under control! Of course, they are right in their own way because the state government is in control of the BJP (Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP- Bharatiya Janatha Party Indian Peoples’ Party is the political mentor, although the BJP leaders deny it for convenience and the other groups are violent organizations under the patronage of BJP) and its sub groups like the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad), RSS (Rashtriya Swayam Sevaks Sangh) and Bajrang Dal, all hard core Hindu fundamentalist groups, who carry out the cruel persecution of Christians in several parts of India and naturally the cruel situation is fully their making and fully under their control. It has spread to other states of the country where BJP is in fully or partially in power.
The fanatic violent Hindu fundamentalism, which is wide spread and terrorizing Christians all over India, takes its sustenance from Nazism. The caste Hindus who dominate the BJP, VHP, RSS Bajrang Dal leadership have always sought to maintain the Caste status quo and when challenged or threatened in anyway, they resort to ruthless violence to eliminate those on their way. Mahatma Gandhi and many others are classical examples of this violence of elimination in the past. They attack the minorities to intimidate them and carry out false campaign against them and silence those who raise their voice against the terror. The organized campaign against the minorities can be traced back to before Indian independence (1947).
Christians remain always the most vulnerable among all the minority groups because of their forgiving faith lends itself to loving service of neighbor until it hurts. The caste Hindus will have no difficulty to accommodate the Christian community provided it becomes another additional group like the many low caste groups, running our good schools, higher education institutions and hospitals only at the service of the high caste Hindus. The opposition to Christian communities today boils down to loss of status quo and the social and economic benefits along with their social dominance from early history. But a genuine Christian can never be a Christian without the preferential option for the anavim. Their lies the root cause of Hindu fanaticism against the Christian community. The violent opposition gains strength after the BJP gained power in the centre and many other states in the north with Karnataka being one in the south. The fanatic sub groups, mentioned above, spit violence on the Christian communities today in several parts of the country.
How much have these persecuted hapless lots eaten salt to trust in God to this extent! Incredible trust, till the last breath! No, they do not worry about their lives; let alone what to eat and what to drink. They trust and till the last breath they trust!
The meaning of trust in God comes across here to us is an undefined, inexplicable love response that dwells from the depth of hearts. Jesus says, “But strive for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Mtt 6:33). It stands noticeable here that in opposition to “worry”, about which Jesus speaks in Mtt 6:25-34, the response sought from us is trust; trust in God’s providential caring for us. Perhaps Jesus intensifies the necessity to trust in God with the shortest parables, we see in the Gospels, of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. As intense is the experience, so short can its expression be (cf. Jn 11:35). The call to trust in God, in apposition to all natural human needs of eating, drinking, clothing and longevity of life, in themselves intensively sought after, is very briefly and lucidly articulated by Jesus through these parables. The opposite response to “not worry” is not therefore a “carefree Epicureanism,” rather deeper trust in God, which in other way is a total childlike loving in God’s fatherly providence. And the obvious is often affirmed in negating rhetorical interrogation: Are you not of more value than they? (Mtt 6:26b, which is affirmed in 10:31and in 12:12) and Will he not much more clothe you- you of little faith? (6:30b). The answer for both questions is a positive affirmation. The disciples need not be inordinately attached to existential needs because just as God cares for the birds of the air and the lilies of the fields they stand assured of the providential care of the Father in heaven.
The saying of Jesus highlights the trust in God’s providential care, and the futility of the over anxiety about physical needs in the future. As the gift of our life, greater than the daily physical needs for which often unduly worry about, from God sui gratis, so also is His foresight and provision for our lesser needs; Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; (Ps 55:22). Under the burden of anxiety, the scope of human possibility narrows down. Anxiety is a psychic-parasite, which eats up future possibilities. In contrast to human worries stands out the parables of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, evoking awareness of the Father’s all pervasive providence and these sayings in no way proposes carelessness.
The call to trust in God in a situation of seemingly assuredness of the future possibilities is no big challenge; hence may not be intensely an act of loving faith in the providence of God. Within the four walls of security, the teaching of Jesus “do not worry” sounds redundant. However, the anxiety of those who struggle to successfully retaining hold of their material holdings can be stronger and sleep-endangering. However the call to trust in the providence of God, in extraordinarily virulent situation as in India, tastes not easily palatable because of the desecrated and destroyed churches, the disgusting odour of burnt corps, the blood-spotted ground, which was once theirs but no more, and still sky-scoring dark grey smoke out of the burning hutments of the Christians, who vanished into the dreaded darkness of the forests of the unknown. The fretful violent heartbeats of these Christians hit our ears stronger than the words of Jesus (6:25; 31; 34). Their trust in God seems to fail them! They trust in spite of all odds! Trust in God becomes a commendable human virtue when its rays streak out through the thick dark clouds of human impossibilities and threat to very existence. The virtuous expression of trust in God is found when it is painfully birthed out of the womb of the bleakest possibility of hope.
At the close of the long teaching discourse on the Mountain, Matthew affirms, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes (Mtt 7:29). The didactic power is here self-evident because the obvious response of the hearer tends to be a seeking with trust the kingdom of God and his righteousness, with the assurance of God’s providence, and all these things will be given to you as well (Mtt 6:33b). “One-day-at-a-time” disposition of the Lord’s Prayer vividly comes across here. Trust in God’s care as a human response can be perhaps, synonymously expressed here as childlike surrender tending to the unknown future, a faith response (cf. Heb 11:1). It is leaning on to the hard rock against the strong winds. Trusting is loving; loving is believing for we are called to live in him (be-living) (cf. Jn 11:25).
Did those victims really trust? Could they articulate the depth of their trust in God? No, depth dimensions of experiences cannot be limited in words. They witnessed to their trust in God. Their trust expressed itself in their living up to that loving trust. They had reasons to worry but their faith outlived their worldly worries till their last breath. The affected Christians in those places still witness loudly to this trust in God’s providential love. Trust in God is deeply felt in human vulnerability and dependability. Trusting in God’s providential love is like finding far away at the horizon a firefly in the darkest November night to lighten ones way. Trust in God is that maternal tender touch to the frightened baby. It is the warmth in every tissue that is sustained by the blood flow of be-living faith in God. These modern martyrs are indeed martyrs of indefatigable trust that strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness.