The child you are looking at is Namrata Nayak. Her face was disfigured when when Hindu extremists bombed her home last August, looking to kill Christians.
I am struck by her power and beauty, which is transmitted through her eyes. One does not see the scars for the steadiness and fullness of Namrata Nayak’s eyes.
Her eyes are fearless. She is unintimidated. She looks directly at you, with a collectedness and assurance that only comes from deep interior knowledge. Namrata Nayak knows who she is. At 10 years of age, she understands the world in ways many of us never will, no matter how long we tread the stony paths.
I look at her picture and I see the same transcendent beauty, the same instruction, the same heaven-directed messages that I glean from the written Icons of orthodoxy.
But I will let her speak for herself, because Namrata Nayak does not need anyone to speak for her. Observe her astonishing and heroic witness.
“The world has seen my face destroyed by the fire, now it must come to know my smile full of love and peace…I want to dedicate my life to spreading the Gospel.”
“[W]e forgive the Hindu radicals who attacked us, who burned our homes…They were out of their minds, they do not know the love of Jesus. For this reason, I now want to study so that when I am older I can tell everyone how much Jesus loves us. This is my future.”
“Christmas is a time to thank the baby Jesus who saved me from the fire and saved my face which was disfigured and wounded…There is so much pain and suffering, and I don’t know how long the special forces will protect us,” she told Asia News. “But Christmas is a time of gratitude. I am afraid that my people will still be attacked, but this is our life. If God has saved me, he can save other Christians too.”
Namrata…told UCA News she wants to become a missioner to preach Jesus to her enemies, not just her friends. “It was our enemies who made me courageous and committed.”
Asked if she is afraid of being a Christian, the girl said she not only will remain a Christian but also wants to become a pracharak (preacher). “I want to sing and dance during Christmas, distribute cakes and sweets to everyone, and wish happy birthday to my Jesus.”
Namrata comes by her faith honestly. Here is her mother, Sudhamani: If we leave, we will be wanderers. Christmas brings hope, hope is our only treasure now: we were poor, and now even the little we had has been destroyed. But Christmas means that Christ is born, and every birth means a new life. Jesus came down from heaven to save us from this misery, from the pain, from abandonment, from our homelessness. His power fills us with hope, love, and forgiveness.”
And think of Namrata’s words, too: “It was our enemies who made me courageous and committed.” How clearly do they illustrate the paradox for the Christian, that “when I am weak, then I am strong…” and the other mystery, contained in Jesus’ admonishment to “do good to those who hate you…”
Namrata Nayak understands that the gift and strength of her faith was only enhanced by the actions of those who hate her, and that is the mysterious theme we have touched on all throughout Advent: that sometimes things happen that we do not want, and cannot understand, yet those hard realities end up being vehicles of power, strength and knowledge, all used to speed the glory of God – which is the ultimate reality.
Talk about, giving thanks in all circumstances!
What a lot of things Namrata Nayak is going to teach us, and much of it she will do through the silent testimony of her unblinking, far-seeing eyes. She has already started. And look at her, now.
She reminds me a little of this Muslim Iraqi woman, who asked for Baptism after watching American troops serve her people. Faced with ostracism or worse, her priest asked her if she was sure she wanted to risk all of that – to which she replied, “Do you give up so easily on Jesus?”
Saints and mysteries all around us – let us not forget Immaculée Ilibagiza, who Julie is currently listening to and learning from, and who can be seen on youtube here and here. In a season where we remember a young Jewish girl trusting and saying “yes” to something unimaginable, we get the heroic witness of these women. What an Advent this has been.
Amy Welborn provides a rather dispiriting contrast to Namrata Nayak’s brilliance. Light bulbs? In the liturgy? The bishop may mean well, but he is preaching the age throughout the faith, instead of preaching the faith throughout the age. Why should young people find a God who talks about lightbulbs and tea kettles compelling; they can get that anywhere.