12/27/2008, 00.00
INDIA

In Orissa, a peaceful Christmas, but "armored"

Under heavy security measures, Christmas celebrations were carried out with no incidents, after months of anti-Christian violence. In 2007, there was a true Christmas of martyrdom. But thousands of Christians have celebrated Christ in the refugee camps.

Bhubaneswar (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Under strict security measures, Christians have celebrated midnight Mass "without problems" in the district of Kandhamal and in all of Orissa, after the serious anti-Christian violence by Hindu extremists which, since August, has caused at least 38 deaths, and forced thousands to flee.

For days, tight police control has been in force in the area, including the use of helicopters to prevent any sort of incident after the genuine hunt for Christians unleashed by Hindu extremists at Christmas of 2007, when the police did not act quickly enough. In many areas, Hindu groups joined the Christians for their religious ceremonies.

But the biggest celebrations were held in the 10 government camps where, for months, at least 10,000 refugees have been living, too afraid of further violence to return to their homes. In Kandhamal, about 80% of the Christians have fled, and many churches have remained almost empty. Life is difficult in the camps, and even the necessities are often lacking. A special meal was served after midnight Mass, to represent joy at the birth of Christ.

The president of India, Patibha Devisingh Patil, "on the occasion of the happy event of Christmas," wanted to "recall the teachings of Jesus" and "invite all to spread his universal message of love and compassion," with particular concern "for the less fortunate part of the population."

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