“It was heart-breaking to see the suffering of Christians in Odisha, already some of the poorest and most persecuted in India. Their simple homes and their few possessions were at the mercy of the destructive winds and rain. But their faith and hope in the Lord remain unshaken.” – a Barnabas Fund staff worker who was in Odisha when the cyclone struck on 2 May.
Cyclone Fani brought devastation to India’s Odisha state last week, especially for impoverished and persecuted Christians. But Barnabas has sent aid for around 20,000 of our brothers and sisters.
Thanks to the Indian authorities, not many lives were lost as more than a million people were moved to “evacuation centres”. These centres were strong and robust local buildings – able to withstand the high winds which blew down trees, electricity poles and poorly consructed walls, and caused much damage to the makeshift homes of many Christians.
Already poor and persecuted
Odisha state (formerly called Orissa) is strongly Hindu and notorious for a time of terrible anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal district in 2008-9. Many of the cyclone-affected areas have considerable Christian populations, including Bhubaneshwar (the state capital), Puri, Kendrapara, Balasore, Mayurbhanj, Gajapati, Ganjam, and Jajpur.
Shahid Slum, in the heart of Bhubaneshwar, is mainly inhabited by Christians who were displaced by severe anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal in 2008-9. As tribal people they are oppressed and marginalised, and being Christians too makes their plight even worse. Most work as “daily wage labourers” in jobs such as street sweeping or cleaning the sewers or as domestic servants. This type of employment is poorly paid, risky and insecure. Whenever there is a day they cannot get work, they have no income.
Where a little money goes a long way
Barnabas has sent funds to provide 2,000 rupees (£22; $29; €25) per family for 4,000 Christian families affected by the cyclone. Local pastors have expressed their gratitude for such a prompt response to their request for practical help for their congregations. The primary need will be to repair the Christians’ flimsy homes. The government has provided some food to cyclone victims, but the Christian cyclone victims need money for other basic needs while they are unable to work due to such a major disruption of daily life.
Poor, persecuted and now afflicted by natural disaster too, Christians in Odisha need your help. Please give now
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