10/12/2009, 00.00
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Hindus and Christians for Peace in Orissa

by Nirmala Carvalho
In one of the major theatres of violence (Kandhamal), a mixed group, including Muslims, teaches coexistence. The violence also undermines economic development. The Bishop of Guwahati invites priests to resume relations with neighbours. Hindu radicals threaten nuns in a hospital.

Phulbani (AsiaNews) - Young Hindus and Christians, of different castes and ethnic groups gathered for a few days at Phulbani (Orissa) to give "a new chance for peace." For three days they lived together participating in a seminar entitled "Celebrating Diversity", ordered and structured by an ecumenical group headed by Msgr. Thomas Menamparampil, Archbishop of Guwahati (Assam).

The site of the rally was marked by the violence of radical Hindus against Christians that erupted in August 2008. Phulbani in Kandhamal district, saw burned homes and parishes, people killed and forced to flee.  

Visiting Kandhamal in recent months along with other Christian leaders, the Bishop of Guwahati proposed to the district authorities to conduct a residential seminar for reconciliation and peace.

Among the organizers there are Fr. V.M. Thomas of the Don Bosco Youth Services of Guwahati and Sr Suma, regional superior of the Missionaries of Charity. The meeting, held October 7 to 9, was attended by over 160 young people, as well as the heads of government of the district and 60 representatives of local government.   

The group that held the lessons and heard testimonies, helping young people to interact together, is a mixed group, with Christians, Muslims and Hindus. The lessons emphasized the importance of acceptance, forgiveness and seeing diversity as mutually enriching. On another level it was noted that a lack of peace and coexistence also undermines the foundations of development and the wellbeing of all. Thus the violence falls on those who committed it. To date, Orissa is suffering because of the pogroms caused by extremists. Many health and education facilities were destroyed; development projects are blocked, trade has been slow to recover.

The district authorities are happy with the initiatives success so they decided to repeat the seminar in other places in Kandhamal.  

During the two day seminar, Msgr. Menamparampil met with priests and religious of the area to urge them to rebuild relations with their neighbours. "Anger must be calmed and love and respect fostered," he said. 

In Kandhamal and Orissa the situation is slow to return to normalcy after the violence of recent months. Yesterday, 10 young people - perhaps Hindu extremists – entered St Mary's Hospital in Jharsuguda, shouting and threatening the nuns who run the hospital. The police, alerted, took the young men into custody.




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