10/09/2008, 00.00
INDIA

Orissa: Christian villages burned, 12,000 people missing from refugee camps

Nirmala Carvalho
Christians feel unsafe even under government protection, and are leaving the refugee camps to escape to other areas of India. In Kandhamal, the destruction has continued for more than a month.

Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) - About 12,000 people have disappeared from the refugee camps set up by the government of Orissa to accommodate the Christians fleeing from the violence of Hindu radicals and from their destroyed villages. Meanwhile, a dozen more houses have been burned, while the government of the state assures that it is doing everything possible to maintain security.

Since August 24, a campaign of attacks against Christians and their institutions has been underway in the district of Kandhamal, killing 60 people and forcing 50,000 more to flee. Of these, at least 15,000 have been accommodated in refugee camps overseen by the government. But the Christians do not feel safe; in recent days, attacks have been conducted by Hindu fundamentalist groups against Christians in the camps, with threats and attempts to reconvert them to Hinduism. No Christians from the outside are permitted to enter the camps, and even volunteers and medical personnel from nongovernmental organizations are closely monitored, under the suspicion of wanting to favor conversions to Christianity.

Meanwhile, news of more burned villages is coming from the diocese of Bhubaneshwar. Yesterday, in the village of Balligada, 25 homes belonging to Christians were first ransacked and then set on fire. On October 7 in Phiringia and Sujeli (G. Udayagiri), six homes were attacked and destroyed.

The increasingly tense situation is in contrast with the assurances from the government of Orissa, which claims it is able to maintain security. According to the government, the Christians who leave the refugee camps are returning to their villages. In reality, according to sources in the diocese, Christians are leaving Orissa in search of more secure areas.

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Orissa: no peace for Christians even in refugee camps
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Orissa, the drama of the refugees: forced conversion to Hinduism or more violence
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