The widow of an Australian missionary who was burned alive in India has pledged to remain in the country "to continue my husband's work."
Graham Stuart Staines and the couple's two sons, Philip, aged 10, and eight-year-old Timothy were burned to death January 23 as they slept in a jeep in a remote village in Orissa state. The vehicle was reportedly parked outside a small makeshift church in the village of Manaharpur, about 1000 kilometers southeast of New Delhi.
An official report rejected claims that Staines and his sons were murdered by members of a Hindu fundamentalist organization. But many people here disagree with the official report. Staines, a 57 year-old Australian Baptist missionary, had been working among lepers in Baripada, Orissa since he first came to India in 1965.
In an exclusive interview on November 20, 48-year-old Gladys Staines told Ecumenical News International (ENI): "Baripada is my home. I just cannot walk away from the leprosy patients."
Mrs. Staines was in Delhi last week to discuss with officials of the Leprosy Mission (TLM) plans to establish a 40-bed referral hospital for leprosy patients at Baripada as a memorial to her husband.
She told ENI that many people in Australia, including her relatives, had urged her "to return home" with her 13-year-old daughter Esther who is studying in a boarding school in southern India.
"But, I told them: 'Why should I'?" Mrs. Staines said. "Graham would not have wanted me to pack up and walk away from the leprosy home."
She said the 60 patients at the leprosy home run formerly by her husband, and now by herself, included some who had arrived "even before" Graham Staines came to the center, 34 years ago. Established in 1897, the leprosy home in Baripada had been managed ...1
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