Precinct 333

Thursday, January 27, 2005

India Honors Christian Missionary

Gladys Staines, who for three decades toiled as a missionary in India working with leprosy patients, was awarded the Padma Shri award by the Indian government.

When contacted in Australia, Staines, 54, told the Press Trust of India news agency she was “absolutely overwhelmed and stunned by the news. “But I am feeling very humbled at the same time. It’s a rare honour and a humbling experience.”

Staines and her husband Graham had spent more than 30 years working with leprosy patients in Baripada district in the eastern state of Orissa.

In January 1999 Graham and his two sons Philip, 10, and Timothy, eight, were burnt to death by a mob of Hindu fanatics who accused him of forcibly converting poor Hindus to Christianity. The three were asleep in their jeep when the attack took place. They tried to escape the flames but the mob - led by principal suspect Ravindra Pal, alias Dara Singh, and armed with axes - prevented them.

Despite the tragedy Staines stayed on in India with her daughter, overseeing the completion of a hospital for leprosy patients in Orissa. She left for Australia only last year. In September 2003 Singh and 17 others were sentenced to death by a local court. Immediately after the verdict Staines said she had forgiven the killers.

A kind gesture for one who has given so much, including her family, for love of the Gospel and the Indian people.

But the true reward is yet to come, having already been received by her husband and sons.


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