12/27/2007, 00.00
INDIA

Orissa: fundamentalists attack Mother Teresa’s missionaries over night

Nirmala Carvalho
Sisters and their priest have to flee into the forest. Curfew remains in place. VHP celebrates the return to Hinduism of 187 people. A rally against the violence is set for today in New Delhi.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Anti-Christian violence in Orissa continues. A house belonging to the Missionaries of Charity, the male branch of Mother Teresa’s order, was attacked by Hindu fundamentalists in Kandhamal. Violence was visited upon Brother Sadasananda and a local Mother Teresa Shanti Niwas (peaceful abode). The same happened to the Saint Joseph of Annecy convent of Sisters. Despite a curfew the attack took place in the middle of the night. The sisters and the priest living at the mission fled and are hiding in the forest that surrounds the area. In India’s capital Christians of every denomination have organised a big protest march against the violence in Orissa.

Since Christmas Eve, a “strike” called by the Viśva Hindū Pariad (VHP), a Hindu fundamentalist organisation known for its violence, has caused death and destruction, including churches, convents, homes and Christian-owned stores.

In a press release the Global Council of Indian Churches (GCIC), an advocacy group operating in Orissa, reported that “300 houses belonging to Christians were burnt down in Barakamal and three believers were burnt alive.”

A curfew remains in place in four locations affected by violence. They are Baliguda, Daringibadi, Brahmanigaon and Phulbani. But Home Secretary T K Mishra said that the situation was under control despite some sporadic violence during the day and overnight.

GCIC National President Sajan George told AsiaNews that “the Sangh Parivar radicals tried to kill Pastor Bikay Charan Sethi in Bamunigam. He sustained 50 per cent burns after they threw a petrol bomb at him.”

Meanwhile violence is spreading to other districts in the area, including Boudh, Gajapati, Koraput and Kalahandi.

The VHP launched its violent onslaught claiming it wants to stop conversions to Christianity, accusing Churches of proselytising. On Christmas Day it celebrated for instance the “return” (barbaratan or ‘coming home’) to Hinduism of 82 families or 187 Christians, 103 men and 84 women, at a ceremony in the village of Chikita in Sundergarth District (Orissa) that included receiving images of Hindu divinities. Some elected state officials attended the ceremony.

Since December 24 VHP groups have attacked at least 20 Christian institutions in the state. Its wave of violence has led to the destruction of 18 churches and chapels, four convents, eight hostels, and 15 Christian-owned stores.

A rally open to all to protest against the anti-Christian violence has been called for today between 4 and 6 pm in New Delhi. Former Indian Prime Minister VP Singh, the Archbishop of Delhi Mgr Vincent Concessao and the Chairman of the All India Catholic Council John Dayal will be present as will be representatives from many more human rights organisations.

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