Indian Catholic News

Bishops pray for seven Christians jailed in Odisha

Cardinal Baselios Cleemis led the “Prayer for Kandhamal’s Seven Innocents” composed by journalist Anto Akkara"

(Photo credit: Anto Akkara)

All the bishops of India, including the four cardinals, jointly said a prayer for release of seven Christians, jailed for nine years convicted of murdering Hindu Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati that triggered the wave of anti-Christian riots in Kandhamal.

The bishops recited the prayer Feb. 8 during the 33rd biennial assembly of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) in southern Indian Bangalore city.

Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, the outgoing CBCI president, led the “Prayer for Kandhamal’s Seven Innocents” composed by journalist Anto Akkara, who campaigns for the release of the seven, maintaining that they are fraudulently jailed.

While addressing the bishops from 174 dioceses, including Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the newly elected CBCI president, Cardinal George Alencherry and Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, Akkara said the six of the seven jailed are illiterates, and one of them is mentally challenged.

Hindu groups perpetrated the ‘Christian conspiracy’ theory even before the murder of 81-year old Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati who was shot dead in his Ashram in Kandhamal on Aug. 23, 2008. The murder triggered a seven-week-long wave of anti-Christian violecne.

“It was not police, but VHP leader Pravin Togadia who announced the names of ‘Christian killers…The police later arrested these seven Christians from the remote Kotagarh jungles,” noted Akkara.

Akkara in May 2016 released an investigative book ‘Who Killed Swami Laxmanananda?” pointing a finger at the Hindu radical groups for the crime, concluding that it helped them orchestrate the violence against Christians.

However, these efforts did not gather steam and “so, I resorted to the prayer campaign” which was launched in Kochi on Oct. 15 “and is working miracles now,” he told the bishops.


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