» 09/09/2008, 00.00
Orissa: no peace for Christians even in refugee camps
Even in the camps, the faithful find fundamentalists who coerce them to convert to Hinduism. Priests also threatened and abused.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) - There is no end to the tension in Orissa, where for two weeks a pogrom has been underway against Christians. Many of the faithful who have taken shelter in the refugee camps after their homes were destroyed and burned have found themselves threatened in the camps as well, where they should be protected by the police. The threats come from the Hindu radicals of the VHP (Viswa Hindu Parishad) and of the RSS (Rastriya Swyamsevak Sangh), who force the tribals to convert back to Hinduism, or suffer new violence. Some of the priests and their relatives have also been threatened, and as a sign of their "reconversion", they are shaved bald like sadhus (Hindu ascetics).
According to accounts sent to AsiaNews from Bhubaneshwar, the fundamentalist groups are also spreading through the villages and forcing the Christians to sign papers saying that they are "freely" returning to Hinduism. Those who refuse are beaten, and their homes are burned.
Sometimes - sources tell AsiaNews - as a sign of their "new life", they are forced to burn the churches and homes of other Christians.
And the destruction itself is becoming more "intelligent". Sometimes, instead of burning homes, the fundamentalists content themselves with taking all of the furniture and objects out of it, and destroying them. In this way, they say, they make the families poor and exclude them from reimbursement by the government, which has promised money for those who have had their homes burned. This method is also useful in case the fundamentalists are arrested by the police: arson is punishable with years in prison, but the distraction of objects with only a few months.
In the area of Kandhamal, a list has been drawn up of Catholic priests and pastors accused of being the killers of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, the radical Hindu leader killed last August 23 by Maoist guerrillas, whose death the Hindus continue to blame on the Christians.
(In the photo: Christians going to a refugee camp in Orissa)
Lalji Nayak, martyr for the faith in Orissa
With a knife pressed to his throat, threatened with death, he did not renounce his Christian faith. But there are others who, under threat, have been forced to convert to Hinduism. Injured Christians attacked even in the hospital. Three more villages attacked in the district of Kandhamal. The missionaries of Mother Teresa want to return to take care of leprosy and tuberculosis patients.
Christians of Orissa appeal to UN as "stateless citizens"
The government of Orissa is even closing the refugee camps, and thousands of people have nowhere to go. An appeal to the UN, that it grant Indian Christians the status of refugees, protect them, and send them the food and shelter that India is denying them.
In Orissa, a peaceful Christmas, but "armored"
Under heavy security measures, Christmas celebrations were carried out with no incidents, after months of anti-Christian violence. In 2007, there was a true Christmas of martyrdom. But thousands of Christians have celebrated Christ in the refugee camps.
Orissa: Christian villages burned, 12,000 people missing from refugee camps
Christians feel unsafe even under government protection, and are leaving the refugee camps to escape to other areas of India. In Kandhamal, the destruction has continued for more than a month.
Orissa, the drama of the refugees: forced conversion to Hinduism or more violence
According to the government, the situation is "under control", but it has delayed the elections, and has barred entry to the district of Kandhamal. A Christian activist denounces new violence against the refugees, while Hindu fundamentalists have drawn up a list of 140 Christians "guilty" of the murder of the Swami.
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