Graham Staines and his two sons, Timothy and Phillip, were burned alive inside their own station wagon where they were sleeping, in Manoharpur village of Orissa’s Keonjhar district of India, before dawn, on 23 January, 1999. A politically motivated mob belonging to a radical Hindu organisation, the Bajrang Dal, perpetrated the heinous crime. Hearing the news of the gruesome murder, the nation went numb with horror. The then President K.R. Narayanan spoke for everyone when he described the murder as “a monumental aberration of time-tested tolerance and harmony…” – Widowed Gladys Staines sang the song “Because He Lives” at the funeral of her husband and two sons. What surprised the nation the most was that she announced her forgiveness of those who had murdered her family. – Only the very highest form of spiritual devotion can get a woman to forgive the murder of her husband and two little children. Forgiveness is something all religions subscribe to. Gladys followed her religion and in a rare display of compassion forgave Dara Singh, the perpetrator. – Gladys became the new face of living compassion. It was only fitting that she was conferred the prestigious Padmashree award by the Government of India in 2005. She said she would continue to serve the needy as desired by Graham.
Reported by Antony Arulraj, Justice, Peace and Development Office of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, Member Organisation of Pax Christi International.
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