05/04/2009, 00.00
INDIA

US Commission for Religious Freedom to visit Orissa and Gujarat

by Nirmala Carvalho
Secretary General of the Indian Bishops Conference hopes the visit will contribute to “accelerating the path of justice for the Christians of Kandhamal”. “The Church does not want revenge”, but peace and reconciliation.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The United States Commission for Religious Freedom has announced a delegation will visit India next month.  Marking the release of their annual report on the state of religious freedom throughout the world, the organism explains that at the heart of their visit will be the violence which has marred two states in particular: Orissa, the stage for anti-Christian violence and Gujarat, which in 2002 registered clashes between the local Hindu and Muslim communities resulting in over a thousand deaths among the Muslim faithful.

 

Msgr. Stanislaus Fernandes, Secretary General of the Indian Bishops Conference (CBCI), in an interview with AsiaNews, commented on the announced visit by the US delegation affirming that “anyone who is committed to human rights and religious freedom is welcome”.

 

“We hope – says Msgr. Fernandes - that this visit of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom helps the various Rights groups, social activists and the Indian Church in speeding up the processes of Justice for our Kandhamal Christians and others victims of communal violence”.

 

The violence in Orissa and the condition of the refugees, who have yet to return to their villages, are live concerns for the CBCI, but Msgr. Fernandes states that “the Indian Church trusts and hopes in the national Justice system”.  Confirming these expectations the bishop points to the recent Supreme Court decision to institute a commission to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for the violence against the Muslim community in Gujarat. “We pray, in other cases such as Kandhamal, that the Supreme Court may intervene, particularly where the bureaucracy and administration is not taking a pro-active stand”.

 

To today the Orissa government has still not issued the promised compensation to the Christians of Kandhamal, worst effected by the violence which broke out in August last year.  Remarking on the grave negligence of the local authorities, Sajan George, president of the Global Council of India Christians (GCIC), explains that “only 16 families have been compensated  [300 thousand Rupees the equivalent of 4500 Euros, ed], while other families have yet to receive it”.  A small sign of hope comes from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) which has paid great attention to the plight of the thousands of Christian refugees who have lost their homes.  The GCIC has urged the NHRC to play an active role in getting the compensation for the victims at the earliest. 

 

“The Church is not seeking vengeance – affirms Msgr. Fernandes - as Christians we are forgiving, however, as agents of peace, the Church seeks justice which is essential for peace, and reconciliation which is essential in the process of rebuilding and building sustainable peace and stability among communities”.

 

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