Odisha (formally Orissa) is a land of numerous unknown martyrs. Many were killed simply for possessing a Bible. Yet the Word of God is a real treasure for the Catholics here. They not only read it, but they live it.

‘The persecution ten years ago has made us stronger’, says Bishop Kujur. But at the time, they fled in their tens of thousands throughout the region as they were attacked by hordes of fanatical Hindu extremists. The scars of the past are still painful.

But the Bible shows them that the Cross is the power of God. And it also shows that while our love for God is proven in fidelity to his Word, it is perfected in forgiveness. Christ’s disciples in Odisha are more than willing to forgive.

They want to live by his Word. ‘They are hungry for the Word of God’, writes their bishop. It gives them meaning and dignity. And for this reason alone, the Christians of Odisha need the Word in their own language, Odia. They already have the ‘Nutan Niyam’ (New Testament) in Odia. But it has long since been out of print.

For more than 10 years now priests, religious Sisters and lay helpers have been pleading for a new edition. And now the six bishops of Odisha state have between them brought out a new edition, simplifying the language but without changing the meaning, simple and attractive in form.

They plan to print 50,000 copies, and we have promised to help. For while the hearts of Odisha’s Christians are full of faith and love, materially speaking, their hands are empty.

The Bible is also needed for the training of men and women who will be providing spiritual help and counselling to others.

Some 250 such helpers from each of Odisha State’s six dioceses will receive training over a period of three years, on weekend courses, so they can then go out into the villages of the Dalits and tribal peoples and assist with parishes, the youth groups and women’s groups.

These missionaries will act as a bridge between the villages and the central parish, helping to keep the people’s faith alive and deepen it. Their work will include running marriage preparation courses, presiding at funerals, preparing for Sunday Mass and leading prayer groups.

But first they need the relevant training materials including the Bible, pamphlets on Catholic social teaching, human rights, papal encyclicals, and reports describing what works best in other places.

The training programme is substantial and the young students are strongly motivated. They will bring new life to the six dioceses, and promote justice and peace, in Odisha state. We have promised our assistance in all of this.

This article can be found in Mirror 0318.