08/24/2009, 00.00
INDIA
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Cardinal Gracias: A year from the pogroms in Orissa, hope "for a new beginning"

by Card. Oswald Gracias
According to the Archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Catholic Bishops, the anti-Christian violence in Orissa was "one of the saddest moments in the history of India." The country "needs to restore its glorious multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-linguistic tradition”.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - It was a terrible year marked by so many serious incidents of religious intolerance and the killings that took place in Kandhamal (Orissa) are one of the saddest moments in the history of India. Now, a year later, we ask God to bless our nation with peace and harmony and to take care of the painful memories and wounds caused by this horrific anti-Christian violence.

Our prayers are also for those who perpetrated these crimes, those who instigated and those who carried them out, that they may realize the evil they have done.

Today we ask God to give our people the grace of a new beginning because so they can live in peaceful coexistence, mutual acceptance, tolerance and peace

Inter Religious meetings between peoples of different religions will be one of the ways of seeking harmony, dialogue at all levels, in communities, societies, in schools and institutes of higher learning.  India has to regain its pristine glory of being a  multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-lingual nation with values of peace and harmony,  understanding and tolerance.

I was very saddened by the image that India offered of itself and I still am. What happened in Kandhamal is a disgrace to the nation. The anniversary of the violence against Christians [24 August, ed] is a day of prayer in all the churches in India. We pray for our country, so everyone can live as brothers and sisters in our beloved homeland and so the anti-Christian violence no longer offend the rich heritage of culture and tradition in India.

In Kandhamal our Christian community, which is a minority, was not protected. Religious freedom was completely trampled on. I myself have criticized the government for not having ensured the safety of a minority: our people were left at the mercy of the fundamentalists, law and order were altogether demolished.

Now I am still worried for our minorities and also for religious freedom. I realize that in Kandhamal and in many other places, our people have suffered threats and often do not have the freedom to pray together. Many of our churches have yet to be restored and fear still lurks in the hearts of Christian communities. Our government must have religious freedom and the security of minorities as its priority. There are many situations of concern that must be monitored and addressed appropriately.

I see that the new government in Orissa really wants to help the minorities and the federal government also intends to guarantee their safety. I hope that both are much more aware and responsive compared to a year ago when they proved themselves to be completely unresponsive. Our pleas fell on deaf ears then and killings, kidnappings, burnings and violence against Christians went on for a long time.

My hope for a future of freedom and security for religious minorities does not erase my concerns, but I base my confidence on the signs I see in reality and I hope that my trust in the future of the country is well founded.  

(With the collaboration of Nirmala Carvalho)

 
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