09/02/2010, 00.00
INDIA
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Christian leaders: Orissa government still ignores pogrom victims

by Nirmala Carvalho
Archbishop Cheenath and the president of Orissa Minority Forum demand sentences for perpetrators, compensation for the victims and peace initiatives. The movement creates a youth wing to address community needs. To date there are still 3500 houses to rebuild.

Kandhamal (AsiaNews) - The Orissa government has failed to "wipe away the tears" and "heal the wounds" of the Christian community in Kandhamal, the victim of violence unleashed by Hindu fundamentalists who, between August and October 2008, caused hundreds of deaths. This is denounced in a joint statement by Mgr. Raphael Cheenath, SVD, Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar and Swarupananda Patra, president of Orissa Minority Forum. The Christian leaders also presented a 10 point document demanding to the sentencing of perpetrators of the anti-Christian pogrom, compensation for victims and peace initiatives to ensure harmonious coexistence among believers of different religions.

Civil society is still shaken by recently published reports by a leading NGO, in which they reported on human trafficking and violence of various kinds. The Christian minority is the most fragile and still after two years, people are forced to flee Kandhamal. Archbishop Cheenath and the President of OMF also denounce "inadequate compensation" offered to victims of the attacks, whose homes have been "completely or partially" destroyed. The amount given is much lower than market prices and they add: "Church-related institutions have contributed to the reconstruction of 2,500 homes, even with limited resources, but  3500 homes are only half built or still need to be started."

The Christian leaders called on the government of Orissa to follow the example of other governments and ensure an accurate investigation to bring those guilty to justice. The Forum of minorities in Orissa has launched a youth wing, called the Orissa Minority Youth Development Forum to address Kandhamal community needs and makes a number of requests of the Government to respond to emergencies and ensure justice. These include: the reopening of investigations against the perpetrators, protection for victims and witnesses; adequate compensation for those who lost homes or businesses so that they can rebuild their lives, provision of land for the building of a church, a place of prayer for the displaced.

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