12/12/2008, 00.00
INDIA

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.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Fr Joseph Babu, spokesman for the Bishops’ Conference of India, expressed “great apprehension” in a meeting Wednesday between a Catholic Church delegation and Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram over a possible repeat this year of last year’s anti-Christian violence during Christmas celebrations. In response Union Home Affairs minister reassured the delegation that the state would ensure protection for Christians and their property in Orissa.

Attacks against churches and the murder of Christians is not a problem limited to Orissa. Case in point: on Tuesday the All Indian Christian Council (AICC) released a report on anti-Christian violence in the state of Karnataka.

The organisation, which is involved in protecting religious freedom and promoting the emancipation of Dalits, recorded 48 serious violent incidents from August to October. Over the same period 39 churches and Christian-owned houses were vandalised and 53 people injured in 14 of the state’s 29 districts, in particular the district Dakshina Kannada where some 30 places of worship or prayer were attacked.

According to the AICC report, 11 Catholic churches and 19 meeting halls belonging to other Christian denominations were affected (pictured, police removing Hindu demonstrators after storming St Sebastian Church in Thokuttu, Mangalore).

The highest incidence of violence was recorded on 14 September with 12 attacks in just a few hours in Mangalore and another six in neighbouring areas.

Despite appeals to the authorities 16 of the 39 attacks against churches were recorded in the following days and weeks.

A sore point highlighted in the AICC report on violence in Karnataka was the lack of responsiveness and effectiveness in government agencies.

In presenting it, the council’s president, Joseph D’souza, also referred to the ‘Deendar Church bombers’ trial.

On 29 November 23 people were found guilty for their involvement in a series of bomb attacks in 2000 against churches in the states of Karnataka, Andra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Goa.

After eight years, justice was awarded to those who targeted Christian places of worship. We sincerely hope the Karnataka judgment will encourage state authorities to expedite investigations and arraignments of those guilty of violence against Christian property, pastors, lay persons, and, especially, women. Sadly, in many cases, policemen themselves are accused such as the assaults on peaceful female Christian protestors in Mangalore in September 2008. Delays in the administration of justice only encourage extremists who have increasingly targeted the Christian community,” AICC President Joseph D’souza said.

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