Graham Staines : biography
Dr. Graham Stuart Staines (1941 – 22 January 1999) was an Australian Christian missionary who along with his two sons Philip (aged 10) and Timothy (aged 6) were burnt to death by a gang while sleeping in his station wagon at Manoharpur village in Keonjhar district in Odisha, India on January 22, 1999. In 2003, the Bajrang Dal activist Dara Singh was convicted of leading the gang that murdered Staines and Singh is now serving life in prison.
He had been working in Odisha among the tribal poor and especially with leprosy patients since 1965. Hindu groups allege that he (on his own) forcibly converted or lured many Hindus into Christianity, but Staines' widow Gladys Staines denied these allegations.http://www.rediff.com/news/1999/feb/08vir.htm She continued to live in India caring for leprosy patients until 2004 before going back to Australia. In 2005 she was awarded the fourth highest civilian honor in India, Padma Shree, in recognition for her work with leprosy patients in Odisha.http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4555355.stm Missionary widow's emotional return
He met Gladys June in 1981 while working for leprosy patients, and they married in 1983, and had worked together since then. They had three children, a daughter (Esther) and two sons (Philip and Timothy). Staines assisted in translating a part of the Bible into the Ho language of India, including proofreading the entire New Testament manuscript, though his focus was on a ministry to lepers.
He spoke fluent Oriya and was very popular among the patients whom he used to help after they were cured. He used to teach how to make mats out of rope and basket from Saboigrass and trees leaves.
Death and reaction
On the night of 22 January 1999, Staines had attended a jungle camp in Manoharpur, an annual gathering of Christians of the area for religious and social discourse. The village is situated on the border of the tribal-dominated Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar districts of Odisha. He was on his way to Keonjhar with his sons, who had come back on holiday from their school at Ooty. They broke the journey for the camp, and spend the night in Manoharpur, sleeping in the vehicle because of the severe cold. His wife had stayed back in Baripada.
According to reports, a mob of about 50 people, armed with axes and other implements, attacked the vehicle while Staines and the children were fast asleep and his station wagon where he was sleeping was set alight by the mob. Graham, Philip and Timothy Staines were burnt alive. Some villagers tried to rescue Staines and his sons, but were unsuccessful.http://www.rediff.com/news/1999/jan/23oris.htm Australia-born missionary, children, burnt alive in Orissa They tried to escape, but the mob allegedly prevented it.http://www.indianexpress.com/news/staines-murder-case-dara-seeks-review-of-sc/760057/
The murders were widely condemned by religious and civic leaders, politicians, and journalists. The US-based Human Rights Watch accused the then Indian Government of failing to prevent violence against Christians, and of exploiting sectarian tensions for political ends. The organisation said attacks against Christians increased "significantly" since the "Hindu Nationalist" BJP came to power.http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/626979.stm Missionary 'killer' arrested in India The then Prime Minister of India, Atal Behari Vajpayee, who was a leader of BJP, condemned the "ghastly attack" and called for swift action to catch the killers.http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/261391.stm Thousands mourn missionary's death Published reports state that church leaders alleged the attacks were carried out at the behest of hardline Hindu organisations while the Hindu hardliners accused Christian missionaries of forcibly converting poor and low-caste Hindus and tribals. The convicted killer Dara Singh was treated as a hero and reportedly was protected by some of the villagers. In an interview with Hindustan Times, one of the accused killers, Mahendra Hembram, told that "they were provoked by the "corruption of tribal culture" by the missionaries, who they claimed fed villagers beef and gave women brassieres and sanitary towels."
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