11/22/2008, 00.00
INDIA
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Orissa, Hindu fundamentalists offer rewards for killing Christians

Rewards are given in money, clothing, liquor, and other goods, to those who kill a Christian or destroy Christian property. The interior minister calls for the creation of a special police division to protect the victims of violence. Women are also being recruited for the pogrom launched by the fundamentalists, being trained in secret locations to use swords and clubs.

Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Hindu fundamentalists are offering compensation in money, clothing, or basic necessities for those who succeed in killing Christian leaders, destroying their property, or burning down churches. The escalation of the situation has prompted the Indian government to create a special branch in the security forces, to stop the wave of violence that has overwhelmed the country. This morning, interior minister Shivraj Patil, during a summit with police leaders, recalled the violence against Christians in Orissa, Karnataka, and Kerala, adding that only a special security division can guarantee adequate protection for the victims and the displaced.

A source at the All India Christian Council (AICC) says that the rewards vary according to the importance of the target: the "going rate" for the death of a priest or a pastor is 250 U.S. dollars, but food, gasoline, or imported liquors are also offered. In order to complete the project of wiping out Christians in Orissa, the fundamentalists are also enlisting women, who receive specific training in centers set up by the Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the nationalist Hindu party Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

"Different objectives have different prices," reports the British NGO Release International, relating the words of the AICC spokesman, and these can range "from murder to the destruction of churches or of Christian property." "The killing of a pastor or priest," confirms Faiz Rahman, president of Good News India, "is worth 250 U.S. dollars." Rahman says that he has helped 25 priests to leave the refugee camps, but there are still "about 250 religious leaders still in the centers set up by the government." He maintains that "they are top-tier targets" for the Hindu fundamentalists, so they must be helped to leave the refugee camps for more secure locations.

Sources in the AICC affirm that in addition to the rewards, the Bajrang Jal has begun training programs specifically for female soldiers to be used to exterminate Christians in rural areas. "They meet in secret," says the spokesman of the Christian movement, "and they are trained to use swords and clubs to fight and kill."

In addition to persecution, the displaced Christians in the refugee centers must now also confront the arrival of winter: "Thousands of Christians now face the hardship of winter in camps for the displaced," says Andy Dipper, head of Release International. "Relief aid is needed now, and India must take urgent action to contain the violence, which has spread to other states. The authorities must safeguard the lives and homes of Christians under threat from ultra-nationalist Hindus."

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