12/15/2008, 00.00
INDIA
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Indian Christians appeal to Prime Minister Singh for protection

Catholics and Protestants call on central government to provide protection and guarantees for a peaceful Christians. European diplomats meet Orissa’s home affairs secretary for reassurances that Christians will be able to celebrate Christmas in security.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Indian Christians want New Delhi to protect their co-religionists in the State of Orissa and guarantee they can enjoy peaceful Christmas celebrations, this according to a petition promoted by the National United Christian Forum (NUCF) signed by Mgr Vincent Concessao archbishop of Delhi, and Methodist Bishop Taranath S. Sagar, president of the National Council of Churches of India.

In its address to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh the NUCF wants a stop to the anti-Christian violence. In the petition the signatories express hope that the new Home Affairs Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, appointed on 30 November after the Mumbai attacks, will take new initiatives to prevent more violence.

More concretely the Forum would like to see the authorities take actions like banning the Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the radical Hindu movement Viśhwa Hindū Parishad (VHP).

The petition coincides with the deadline of the ultimatum set by the VHP with regards to the murder of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati. Hindu nationalists said that they would organise demonstrations and strikes if the murderers of the swami had not been apprehended by 15 December.

The VHP leader was assassinated on 23 August, and his death sparked an anti-Christian pogrom that sowed death and destruction across Orissa.

So far the authorities have five people in custody on suspicion of involvement in the murder but according to investigators more than 20 people are wanted in the affair.

In recent days representatives of the Embassies of Italy, Great Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands and Finland have met Orissa Home Affairs Secretary AP Padhi.

The state official reassured the European diplomats about steps that are being taken to ensure peaceful Christmas celebrations, saying that the state has a security plan that should cope with every eventuality.

(Nirmala Carvalho contributed to the article)

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