Amid the increasing religious commotion in India's Orissa state, Christians in the country commemorated the 98th birth anniversary of Nobel Peace Prize winner Mother Teresa with prayers and petition for peace and harmony between the communities.
A special mass was held on Aug. 26 at the headquarters of Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity (MC) in Kolkata, India, during which an appeal was made for prayers for suffering Christians in Orissa.
The Calcutta archdiocese's Father Michael Bhaju, who led the Mass, appealed to people to pray for peace in Orissa, where thousands have been forced to flee from their homes. He urged the nuns to keep their founder's memory alive by following her steps in love, reconciliation, truth and gentleness.
The occasion was attended by hundreds of people, many of them drawn from some of the city's poorest communities, were the Roman Catholic nun had dedicated her life's work.
A Catholic source noted that the chapel was filled with nuns, co-workers, volunteers, friends, reporters and television crews as usual, but elaborate decorations, gaiety and rejoicing were absent.
MC Sister Maria told the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) that children from the nuns' Shishu Bhavan (home for children), who usually come all dressed in their best to sing and dance at Mother Teresa's tomb, did not come this year because of "all the terrible trouble in Orissa."
Since the violence began late last month with the killing of a Hindu leader – which police blamed on Maoist rebels but Hindu activists blamed on Christian militants – at least 558 houses and 17 places of worship have been burned down, leaving nearly 40,000 people homeless as of Monday, according to the Catholic Bishops Conference of India.
At least one MC house was destroyed in the Orissa violence, a source at the headquarters confirmed.
Sister Nirmala Joshi, who heads the congregation, told UCA News on Aug. 26 that the congregation has "many sisters" in Orissa, but "so far they are all safe."
Mother Teresa, an Albanian Roman Catholic nun with Indian citizenship, was born on Aug. 26, 1910 and in 1950 founded the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata, which today consists of over 450 brothers and 5,000 nuns and operates 600 missions, schools and shelters in over 120 countries.
She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and India's highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna, in 1980 for her humanitarian work.
The Christian nun internationally famed as a humanitarian and advocate for the poor and helpless, was beatified by Pope John Paul II and given the title "Blessed Teresa of Calcutta."