New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Thousands of Catholic schools were shut down across India today as teachers and students took to the streets in protest against anti-Christian violence in the state of Orissa.
Urged by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) almost 25,000 Catholic schools, colleges and universities set up by the Church in its centuries-old presence in India interrupted normal activities as Catholics organised peaceful demonstrations. In a sign of solidarity various non-Christian schools and organisations joined them.
In the meantime whilst violence continues in Orissa, the deployment of more than 3,000 police agents improved the situation somewhat.
Yesterday the CBIC released an updated list of devastations in the eastern Indian state. According to its data 12 people are dead in the district of Kandhamal with two more seriously injured. At least 41 churches (Catholic and Protestant) were destroyed; hundreds of homes were damaged; four convents, five hostels and youth residences, six Catholic volunteer institutes were devastated; plus hundreds of cars and other personal objects were set on fire during raids carried out by Hindu fundamentalists.
“The protest is meant to highlight the slaughter of Christians in Orissa which has been made worst by the incapacity of the central government to stop violence at a time when anti-Christian sentiment is growing and the faithful are tortured and killed,’ said CBCI Chairman Osvaldo Cardinal Gracias.
The prelate said that he wanted to send “a clear signal” not only to India but to the entire world about the importance of the presence of the Christian community, which has always been in the forefront of “social issues, education and assistance to the needy.”
Its contribution is the more significant in India because “it does not take into consideration caste differences” and embraces the “entire population.”
Shutting down almost 25,000 schools is a strong “symbolic” act that is designed to “reawaken the conscience of people in India and around the world.”