Orissa: no peace for Christians even in refugee camps
by Nirmala Carvalho
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)

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