07/09/2008, 00.00
INDIA
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New attack against Christians in Orissa, an orphanage is destroyed and a parish church attacked

by Nirmala Carvalho
The reaction by the Sangh Parivar Hindu fundamentalist group is caused by the butchery of a cow. Last Christmas the same area saw the destruction of 13 churches and the killing of three people. Local bishop accuses the government of collusion with the attackers.
Kandhamal (AsiaNews) – “The fanatical forces of Hindutva want to eliminate Christians from Orissa, especially those in Kandhamal district,” said Raphael Cheenath, archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar, without mincing words, in response to reports that the Jesuit home and church as well as the Protestant orphanage in Tumudiband (Kandhamal district) were looted and destroyed.

About six months, at Christmas times, the same district was violently attacked by Hindu nationalist groups. And police so far has not found any culprit even though everyone knows the name of the group involved in the attack.

“The new attack by the Sangh Parivar (a radical Hindu umbrella group) against Christians is the direct consequence of the impunity they have enjoyed since December 2007.

“There is collusion between the government and the fanatical groups to create chaos against Christians, as they go unpunished,” said Archbishop Cheenath.

The area has been isolated since yesterday and the population is scared. The attack itself began around midday. Some Christians from the village of Tumudiband (Malikpada) butchered a cow and were taking the meat home. A group of Hindu radicals stopped them in the road and took photos with a cellphone.

Fearful that they might be the object of reprisals, residents demanded the photos be erased. After a scuffle the leader of the Hindu group went back to his ashram where he organised an assembly with students, their families and militants from the Sangh Parivar.

With the help of the local guru, Swami Lakhananda Swaraswati, they went on a rampage, cutting down trees to burn to block streets, attacked a Jesuit home and destroyed the local church and the statue of Our Lady. The Protestant orphanage, the Bhagban Ashram, was also completely destroyed.

Villagers told AsiaNews that police arrived some time later, interrogated a lot of people but did not arrest anyone.

Swami Lakhananda Swaraswati was behind last December’s anti-Christian attacks. Hindus did not want Christians to celebrate Christmas and so provoked incidents that left three people dead, 13 churches burnt, two parochial homes destroyed, a Christian orphanage vandalised and tens of people injured.

Swami Lakhananda Swaraswati has been at war with Christians in Orissa for at least the past ten years.

“What irks Swami is the development work of the Catholic Church among Dalits and Tribals,” Monsignor Cheenath said. “Our free services unshackle them from ostracism and give them dignity so that they are no longer oppressed.”

“There are about a million Christians in Orissa and the Cross of Christ is firmly planted in the state; no persecution can eliminate it,” the prelate said. “But the government should at least ensure an end to the violence.”

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