» 08/29/2008, 00.00
Some 25,000 Catholic schools shut down in India to protest against Orissa massacres
The Bishops’ Conference of India suspends all activities in the country’s Catholic institutions. Cardinal Gracias highlights the attempt to reawaken the conscience of people in India and around the world over the fate of Indian Christians. Non-Christian schools join peaceful protest.
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.”
Anti-Christian violence like “man-made tsunami,” says Cardinal Toppo
The chairman of the Indian Bishops’ Conference visits an area in the state of Orissa where Hindu fundamentalists went on a rampage in late December. Local authorities tried however to prevent him from talking to victims. During his meeting with Prime Minister Singh he slammed the attacks. Two weeks after the event, the National Commission on Minorities sends a delegation to look at the tormented district of Kandhamal.
In Orissa Christians treated worse than animals, says Father Bernard
As the situation gets back to normal amid fears and tensions, what happened is slowly emerging. Victims talk about the violence inflicted upon them, a true “attack against the sacredness and dignity of human life”. Beaten repeatedly and left unconscious for hours in the forest, Fr Bernard Digal tells his story.
Orissa bishops call on government to rebuild churches by Christmas
The request is made in a letter addressed to the state’s chief minister, Naveen Patnaik, to help things get back to normal. However, violence and forced re-conversion to Hinduism are still taking place in the state, generating fear and terror. The bishops call on the central government to continue the deployment of special forces in the state until after the upcoming election which is scheduled for 9 April next year.
Risk of anti-Christian violence in Orissa but also in Karnataka during Christmas
A delegation from the Bishops’ Conference meets the Home Affairs minister to express “great apprehension” over the risk of anti-Christian attacks during the Christmas holidays. The All Indian Christian Council releases a report on violence that took place in Karnataka between August and October, resulting in 48 incidents, 53 injured and more than 30 places of worship attacked.
Orissa, tally following 3 months of violence against Christians
118 deaths have been certified, but it is feared that there have been at least 500, with many bodies being hidden or cremated. More than 54,000 have been displaced. The violence continues, although with less frequency, in part because of the impunity enjoyed by the attackers.
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