12/14/2012, 00.00
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Christmas tea to reconcile tribal Bodo and Assam's Muslims

A diocesan NGO in Bongaigaon is behind the initiative. In July residents were hit by floods and sectarian violence. Church and Caritas are working together to bring peace to the two communities.

Bongaigaon (AsiaNews) - The Bongaigaon Gana Seva Society (BGSS), a diocesan NGO that works with Caritas, has organised a Christmas tea to bridge the gap between the Bodo community and Muslims in Assam. In recent months, violent sectarian conflict has claimed 90 lives, and forced another 400,000 from their homes. Devastating floods in July displaced a million.

"In the past few months, the Church and local government have helped people with food, mosquito nets and medical drugs, BGSS director Fr David Napoleon told AsiaNews. "The central government has provided some housing. We in the diocese have helped almost 2,200 families. In general, life is back to normal. Children are going to school and people have gone back to work."

However, the sectarian problem between tribal Bodo and Muslim settlers remains, especially "in refugee camps, where people from both communities can be found."

In order to reconcile the two groups, the BGSS has launched a number of initiatives to bring together Muslim and tribal leaders.

"So far, we have held eight meetings and four peace missions to raise awareness among people about the issue," Fr Napoleon added. "We visited all 42 schools in the area, and have talked to children about the importance of peace."

Next Sunday, the NGO will organise two Christmas meetings at its headquarters, one with Bodo leaders and one with Muslim leaders.

At the end, participants are invited to a tea to discuss together the situation of the two communities and the possibilities of living together peacefully.

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