An Experience of Helping the Helpless
in Relief Camps
Fr. Kurian (T.K.) Thazhathuveetil, SVD
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