04/14/2009, 00.00
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Bishop of Orissa: fear surrounds Easter because of tension over elections

by Nirmala Carvalho
For the bishop of Bhubaneshwar, "while a few political parties give a notion that they seek the good of our people, sadly the facts prove the contrary." The police arrest a BJP candidate after a rally during which he incited the crowd to violence, and accused the Church of converting the population by force. Easter celebrations held under armed guard in refugee camps.

Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) - "The secularism of India is in danger, every political party is acting for its own advantage, no party seem to be interested in the poor people, the marginalised and those who have suffered such inhuman atrocities and still continue to suffer not only injustice, but terror and intimidation and displacement from the roots of their ancestors. While a few political parties give a notion that they seek the good of our people, sadly the facts prove the contrary." Raphael Cheenath, archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar, tells AsiaNews about the situation in Kandhamal, a few days before the elections for the renewal of the parliament of New Delhi and of the individual state governments, scheduled to begin on April 16.

Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), asserts that the climate in Kandhamal is very tense, and "most of the homes in the district are flying the saffron flag [editor's note: saffron is the color of the Hindus] in order to express their allegiance." George cites in this regard the incident involving Ashok Sahu, a candidate for parliament who last week held a campaign rally during which he incited the crowd to defend Hinduism with force, and accused the Church of forcing conversions among the population.

Archbishop Cheenath says that "the only certainty here in Kandhamal is the Resurrection of Christ." Archbishop Cheenath is awaiting the results of the elections with preoccupation, and is not taking it for granted that the new government will do justice to Christians, but nonetheless states that "without any shred of doubt, the Church will rise stronger."

There are more than 3,000 refugees still living in the government camps, plus the refugees scattered in the non-governmental camps and those who have left Orissa for other states.

Those who experienced the Easter Triduum in the refugee camps in Orissa say that seeing "the strength of faith of our persecuted Christians is most heartening." The president of the GCIC says that in the refugee camps, the Holy Week celebrations were held "like inside a prison camp, surrounded by the rifles [of the security forces, editor's note]." But in spite of this situation, sources for AsiaNews say that the refugees "entered deeply into the Pascal mystery, and the vigil was an exultation of joy. It was unbelievable to see these traumatised people who live in such terrible conditions without proper food or proper sanitation and a total lack of privacy participate with such fervour in the Triduum."

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See also
Radical Hindu leader killed. Tension in Orissa
Pressures on Indian president to stop anti-Christian violence in Orissa
For 150 years, the Via Crucis of Ja-ela at the Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows
Orissa, the drama of the refugees: forced conversion to Hinduism or more violence
Orissa bishop calls for postponement of election