Nun who survived Odisha pogroms saw persecution but is not afraid

Sr Deepika Nayak is originally from Tiangia, a village that saw some of the most vicious violence by Hindu radicals. In 2008 she survived by escaping into the forest. “The executioners may kill my body, but not my soul. Death is not the end but the beginning of eternal life.”

Tiangia, a Catholic village in Kandhamal District (Odisha), one of the one most affected by the anti-Christian persecution in 2008, has a new nun, Sr Deepika Nayak, 22.

In August 2008, she was a witness to the massacres and survived by fleeing into the forest. Now she is being sent to the Delhi province.

“I saw my people brutally killed for their faith in Christ,’ she said, “but persecution in Kandhamal did not deter me. On the contrary, it pushed me to accept God’s calling.”

On 15 September the village organised a ceremony in her honour. In his homily, Fr Vijay Nayak said: “We thank the Lord for the constant love and compassion that the people of Kandhamal experience every day.”

“God calls us to his Kingdom not because we are worthy, but because he makes us worthy. The Lord has called Sr Deepika to be a missionary like the disciples of Christ. Kandhamal is like a tree that gives good fruits like the priests and nuns who have a great mission to fulfil.”

About 3,000 faithful, 23 priests and 15 nuns took part in the celebration in Tiangia, the small village that gave the Indian Church the martyr in faith Fr Bernard Digal, who was killed by Hindu radicals in 2008.

Sr Deepika, the second of seven children, was born in the village on 2 May 1996. She began her education at the local school. From 2009 to 2011 she studied at the Pravati Tara Girl’s High School in Bamunigam, then in 2011 she entered the training school at Sanipath, in Hariyana.

Afterwards, she spent a year of discernment in the community of Delhi before starting her novitiate in 2016. On 8 September she made her first profession of faith, thus joining the Sisters of Charity of the Saints Bartolomea Capitanio and Vincenza Gerosa, also known as nuns of Maria Bambina (Holy Child Mary).

The sisters of the Institute are involved with sick and disabled children, performing works of charity towards the poor, the needy and the oppressed.

Sr Deepika took her vows together with Sisters Delsi Debis and Jini Thomas, both from Kerala.

On 15 September, the three nuns paid tribute to the Christian victims and prayed at the memorial dedicated to the martyrs.

“The executioners may kill my body, but not my soul,” said Sr Deepika. “Death is not the end but the beginning of eternal life.”

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