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This Is a First Hand Account

of what Fr. Edward Sequeira SVD went through
when a mob tried to burn him alive 31.08.’08

Dear Friends

met Fr. Edward Sequeira (my classmate all through the seminary life) this morning and was consoled to see him in good spirit. Earlier when people used to ask him “how are you?” he used to say jokingly, “I am well in the hell”. But now when the same question is asked to him he says, “I am safe in the hands of God”. He shared with me personally the events that took place on 25th August. What I want to share with you in this mail is his spiritual experience during that time.

It was One O’clock in the afternoon. He came back to his residence to have lunch, after being out there on the construction sight. He was about to take the first gulf of food and at that time some people came to see him, and asked him, “Who is the priest here”? Fr. Edward thought they must have come for some help like, somebody is sick and needs to be taken to the hospital. So he said, “I am the one”. When he looked outside he saw there were about 20 people with sticks, iron bars, shovels, and spades. He realized what was going to happen. So he tried to close the door. But their sticks and iron bars came in between. He could not close the door and bolt it. When this was going on one of the men shouted, “You twenty people cannot manage one?” Any how they managed to pull fr. Edward out and then started beating him all over. With all the instruments they had they beat him on the head from behind, on both the shoulders from behind and on the hands. So he has fractures now on both the shoulders, on right hand and the skull is broken at the back of his head. From front they punched him all over the place including where it hurts most. They slap him on the face with chapels. This went on for 45 minutes and then Fr. Edward collapsed. Meanwhile some others had gone inside the house, and looted. They took away cash, and whatever was useful to them. The rest including all the clothes they piled together in the office and in the bed room to burn. They spread chemicals on the floor so that all area would catch fire easily. With this chemical the floor had become very slippery. Then they set fire and came out. The house was full of smoke. They held Fr. Edward and pushed him inside the house and bolted the door from outside. Remember Fr. Edward has lost his strength and had collapsed. But at this moment when he was alone inside the burning house he realized he was not alone. There was Jesus with him. He experienced tremendous strength at this moment. He experienced Jesus not as a separate entity from him, but “He in me and I in him”. He experienced Jesus suffering in him. The floor was slippery, and he could not see anything because the house was full of smoke. The fire had not yet spread to where he was. He held on to the wall and windows on the wall and found his way to the bath room. He saw wild flames of fire in his bed room and in his office. He collected half a bucket of water and went and threw it in his bed room and the fire went off. MIRACLE? He filled another half bucket of water and threw it in the office and the same result. Fire in the office was put off. He had a deep sense that God was with him. He went back to the bathroom and locked himself inside. But all the rooms were filled with smoke and breathing was difficult. Somehow he managed to remain still in the bathroom. The people who attacked him were outside. They wanted to know what has happened to him. They tried to break the window, and managed to make a hole. Their job became difficult as smoke was gushing out through the hole. But somehow they managed to break open part of the window. They tried to see inside. Fr. Edward was still in a corner. They could not see him. They concluded that he is dead. But they wanted to make sure. They went to the roof and broke open, but landed in a different room.

Meanwhile Rajani Majhi, 19 years of age, a student and a helper at the orphanage (orphanage is for the children of the leprosy patients) came to the scene. Fr. Edward could only hear the cry of Rajani, “Father, they are going to burn me”. Then he lost his consciousness. Rajani was burnt alive. Fr. Edward came to know about it only two days later. Rajani was a Hindu girl, very committed and hard working, She was like a all rounder in the orphanage. In the morning she used to go to the college and came back around 1.30 p.m. and then help out in the orphanage.

Fr. Edward believes that it is because of the efforts of Dr. Mary Kutty, H.M., and Dr. Rajnesh Samal, a Baptist missionary, he is saved otherwise he would have been suffocated to death. When these two heard the news of what has happened to Fr. Edward they mobilized help though some influential people, and the ambulance, fire brigade with police personnel arrived at around 5.30p.m. and Fr. Edward was admitted in the Sub-divisional Hospital Padampur. His brother, Commodore Valentine Sequeira joined in to help at this stage. From there he was shifted to Burla Medical College, Sambalpur. He says, the Doctors there were extremely good to him. Now Fr. Edward is recuperating in a hospital in Mumbai and is given good treatment and care.

When people come and tell him, “we are praying for you”, he says, “Do not pray for me, I am in the safe hands of God, you go and work for the rights of the minorities”. Fr. Edward believes that God has saved him miraculously and He has a purpose for him.

Jesus is alive.

Yours in Christ
Fr. Edwin Vas SVD.