Nine years ago, Christians in the Kandhamal district of Odisha, India suffered the worst attacks against Christians in modern times in the country.
Around 100 people lost their lives and more than 56,000 lost their homes and places of worship in a series of violent riots by Hindu militants that lasted for several months.
But since the devastation, the local area has seen an “unprecedented” increase in religious vocations, including Sr Alanza Nayak, who became the first woman from her area to join the order of the Sisters of the Destitute.
Sr Nayak told Matters India that she decided to dedicate her life to God through the poor and needy after she heard “how a herd of elephants meted out justice to the victims of Kandhamal anti-Christian violence.”
A tenth-grader at the time of the attacks, Sr Nayak said she remembers escaping to the nearby forest so she wouldn’t be killed.
A year after the attacks, a herd of elephants came back to the village and destroyed the farms and houses of those who had persecuted the Christians.
“I was convinced it was the powerful hand of God toward helpless Christians,” Sister Nayak told Matters India. The animals were later referred to as “Christian elephants,” she added.
After completing her candidacy, postulancy and novitiate with the order, Sr Nayak took her first profession on October 5, 2016, at Jagadhri, a village in Haryana. She is now a member in the Provincial House, Delhi.
On January 26, more than 3,000 people from Sr Nayak’s village of Mandubadi, honored her with a special Mass and festivities.