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An Experience of Helping the Helpless
in Relief Camps

Fr. Kurian (T.K.) Thazhathuveetil, SVD

Just recently, I was fortunate to spend a week in two places in Khandhamal, Orissa - the place badly affected by the recent communal violence and planned and calculated attacks on the Christians. While I was there, attacks were still continuing and the resulting confusions of curfews, road blocks, etc. We lived under the threat of an attack at any moment. We experienced fear and insecurity in an intense way.

I was accompanying three medical teams by coordinating their work and being the contact person with the government and those involved in the medical relief works. We were reaching out to about 9000 people in four relief camps in two places. The conditions in the camp are poor to miserable. From September 12, we were in one camp. After a week, we were allowed to serve in one more camp in the same place. Last week the government invited us to move into two more camps in another place. I was privileged to initiate the work there.

We were/are strictly instructed to give only medical assistance and that too as secular persons without showing our religious allegiance. But, we took courage to visit the tents and listen to the heart rending stories of the people.

Practically all the people in the relief camps are Christians. Many of them have lost some of the family members. Some of them are killed, others forced to re-convert to Hinduism, yet others have run to safety. All of them have lost all their possessions - property, houses, live stocks, and all the possibilities of earning a livelihood. They have become a displaced, unsettled, insecure and haunted people.

It was a faith experience for me to be with these people. Many of them are heroic in holding on to their faith. Some have taken shelter in the relief camps leaving behind husbands, children, parents who have become Hindus. Many say that even if they will loose their life they will not leave Jesus.

We plan to continue with the medical assistance. The Catholic communities and other peace loving people are looking for ways and means to help the people in different ways. At the earliest possible we will join hands with all the people of good to rehabilitate the people, providing them with basic necessities and psychological and spiritual accompaniment. I am thinking about helping the school going children and the youth. We want to do everything possible to bring peace and harmony among all the people in the affected areas. It is going to be a challenging and time taking process.

I am deeply touched by the solidarity of people from all over the world, irrespective of color, caste and creed. I believe, in the long run, all what has happened, the good God will turn them for the good of everyone.