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Widowed by murder, Australian continues husband’s work in India

MANOHARPUR, India (BP)–A year after her husband and sons were murdered, Gladys Staines continues to serve in India, according to a report on the Crosswalk.com Internet site quoting the Indian news magazine The Week.

Staines’ husband, Graham, and two sons, Philip and Timothy, died Jan. 23, 1999, when a mob stirred up by Hindu radicals set fire to the car in which they were sleeping near the village of Manoharpur in Orissa state. The Australian Baptist family’s work in India was with the Evangelical Missionary Society.

The deaths touched off protests against nationalist Hindu groups and started a nationwide debate on religious conversions, The Week recounted.

Staines, 49, told the Indian magazine she had forgiven her husband’s killers and assumed his duties at the Mayurbhanj Leprosy Home, 100 miles from Manoharpur, overseeing the facility where about 60 patients receive medical treatment and vocational training. Patients who are rejected by their families even after they are cured live at the ministry’s “rehabilitation farm,” where they work at dairy and vegetable farming; their children receive free education at a local school.

“I was a housewife, virtually not involved in Graham’s work,” she told The Week. “Now that he’s gone I’ve taken on all the responsibility.” She visits the home several times a week to check on patients’ progress and take care of the facility. She said she also is working to fulfill her husband’s dream of building a 40-bed hospital on nearby land.

Gladys met Graham in 1981 on a mission trip to India. They married two years later and spent the next 16 years raising their family and ministering to people in Orissa state.

Their three children were born in India and considered the country “their home,” she said. “When they visited their grandparents in Australia, they would ask Graham, ‘When are we going home?'”

She and her surviving child, Esther, 14, never seriously considered leaving India, she told The Week.

“I thought about [leaving] but then I think, ‘What do I gain by going back?’ I believe that God brought me here. He will give me the strength to continue.”

Staines said she misses her family and “sometimes the pain is very deep,” but “I believe my husband and sons have gone to heaven. There is hope that this is not the end. I am going to see them again.”

She gets many encouraging letters from Hindus saying “that what happened has nothing to do with Hinduism,” she said.

She bears no ill will toward Dara Singh, the man police accuse of orchestrating the murders. “All of us deserve forgiveness. Christ forgave us — did any of us deserve forgiveness? He expects us to forgive others,” she said.

Police are offering rewards for information leading to the capture of Singh, who also is suspected in the murders of a Muslim merchant and Catholic priest Arul Doss, The Week reported.

Crosswalk.com, a Christian-oriented site for news, sports and other services at www.crosswalk.com, carried its report on the Indian magazine article Jan. 25.

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