MUMBAI, India – India’s Catholic Church has remembered the “heroic sacrifice” of Chandrakant Pradhan, one of 20 Indian soldiers killed in a border clash with China on June 15.

Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, located in the state of Odisha, said the Christian community was proud of the deceased soldier.

“The heroic sacrifice has sown the seeds of sacrifice and courage among the youth of poor Tribals and Dalits of Odisha. The courageous sacrifice will instill the spirit of love for the country among the youth,” the archbishop said in a June 19 statement.

The remains of Pradhan – along with another killed Odisha soldier, Nanduram Soren – arrived at Biju Patnaik International Airport in Bhubaneswar on Thursday.

The clashes on Monday night were the worst between China and India in 45 years. The fighting took place in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh, which is claimed by both countries.

Pradham joined the Bihar Regiment in February 2014 and was posted to Ladakh in 2019.

“After joining the Army, he was very happy. He had told me that he had flown thrice in a chopper and was one among 14 of his mates selected for flying in those difficult regions,” his father Karunakar Pradhan told reporters.

Ladakh is in the Himalayas, and the high altitude makes military maneuvers difficult.

The soldier’s mother Bilasini told the press her son had called last month and told the family to be careful during the coronavirus outbreak.

“Now, he has left us. I lost my son but am proud of his sacrifice,” she said.

Father Dibya Paricha Singh, the Secretary for Justice and Peace at the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, told Crux he knows the family well.

“Chandrakant Pradhan sacrificed his life for the nation. I know his parents personally; they made many sacrifices to raise their children with a good education and strong faith. His family was a very devout family from the Catholic Church of Raikia. They regularly came to church and were very involved in the local Catholic community activities in Raikia,” he said.

The priest also noted that Raikia was the epicenter of the 2008 anti-Christian violence in the Kandhamal area that left over 100 Christians dead after being attacked by Hindu mobs.

Barwa was full of praise for the fallen soldier.

“Kandhamal’s son died a martyr for India. We are deeply saddened, and we pray that God consoles his parents and his family and the entire Catholic community of Kandhamal, especially Raikia,” the archbishop told Crux.

“On the other hand, Kandhamal’s son sacrificed his life for the nation. A Tribal Catholic Kandhamal soldier died for our tomorrow. We salute our Chandrakant Pradhan. In 2008, Kandhamal Christians had shed their blood for faith and now our Kandhamal Christian shed his blood for the nation. Jai Hind [Victory to India],” Barwa said.