Mumbai (AsiaNews) – An appeal “to learn to forgive each other” and an invitation to political leaders to “restore harmony” among communities, has come from one of the greatest victims of anti-Christian violence in the state of Orissa, the Australian Gladys Staines. Gladys, now in Australia, lost her husband, a missionary, and her two sons who were burned alive in their car on January 22nd 1999 in Manoharpur. Expressing her “anguish and deep concern” over the wave of anti-Christian violence in Orissa where Christians were targeted by activists from the Vishva Hindu Parishad (Vhp), Staines sent a letter to Indian premier Manmohan Singh and Chief Minister of Orissa, Naveen Patniak. In her letter Gladys said, "I am praying for you and other leaders of the country and the state to have strength and wisdom to guide you in restoring harmony and bringing peace in troubled areas. I pray too for normalcy to return as quickly as possible with everyone living together in harmony”.
The Prime Minister’s letter of response, assures that the Indian government will take steps to guarantee religious freedom for all without distinction. “We will take all necessary steps – writes Singh who discussed the matter with Patniak - be assured that we will not tolerate any efforts aimed at disturbing the communal harmony or secular fabric of our country”. “I assure you that the Government of India will safeguard the fundamental rights and liberties of all sections of our society and protect their religious freedoms as enshrined in the constitution”. Hindu fundamental nationalism is strong in the state of Orissa. Since 1968 an anti conversion la has been in place which effectively stops all Christian missions there. (NC)