Home Christian News Indian Temple Hype Overshadows 25th Anniversary of Missionary Murders

Indian Temple Hype Overshadows 25th Anniversary of Missionary Murders

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Prime Minister's Office (GODL-India), GODL-India, via Wikimedia Commons

On January 22, millions of Hindus around the world were glued to the live broadcast of the consecration of a grand new temple dedicated to Lord Ram, one of the religion’s most prominent deities. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was shown performing rituals at the religious site, calling it a “historic day.”

Hindu nationalists were ecstatic over the dedication of the temple located in northern Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, as many claim it was the birthplace of Lord Ram. In 1992, a mosque on the site dating back to the 16th century was torn down, and construction on the new Hindu temple began after the Supreme Court of India granted the disputed land to Hindu groups in 2019.

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Many Indian Christians were not as thrilled however; not because of the dedication itself, but because of the date chosen for the temple consecration—January 22. That day marked the 25th anniversary of the murders of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his young sons at the hands of a mob of Hindu fundamentalists who killed them while they slept in their van in a remote village.

The triple murder stunned the world, as Staines had been running a leprosy care center for decades, treating and giving refuge to hundreds of lepers who had been ostracized by society. His death came as a particular shock to Indian Christians who felt vulnerable because of the religious motivation of the killings.

Graham’s widow, Gladys Staines, served in the leprosy center alongside her husband as a nurse. After her husband’s death, she returned to India to resume her work in the center, which drew much media attention. In 2005, was awarded the “Padma Shri,” or National Civilian Award by the Indian government. Many Hindu nationalists were outraged. One official at the World Hindu Council stated the government was “encouraging religious conversion” by naming Gladys for the award, but no evidence was produced.

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“We cannot say conclusively that the date has been chosen deliberately,” said Babu Varghese in an interview with Global Christian Relief. Varghese is the author of the book “Burnt Alive,” which described the story of the triple murder. “But sadly, our remembrance of this shocking incident was washed out in media hype over the temple dedication. When Varghese’s book was published in 1999, Indian president KR Narayanan publicly decried the Staines murder as a “black day in Indian history.”

It is not known whether the temple dedication date was planned for the anniversary of the Staines’ murder—one that Christians honor annually—but several Christians vented their concern on social media asking, “how could it be a coincidence”?

This article originally appeared here