11/25/2008, 00.00
INDIA
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Sisters of Mother Teresa collect aid for children of Orissa

by Nirmala Carvalho
There is a health emergency in the refugee camps: measles and chickenpox are rampant among the youngest children. The nuns have begun a fund-raising campaign in institutes all over the country. Hindu fundamentalists confirm that they will oppose the observance of Christmas, and threaten new violence.

Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) - The situation in the district of Kandhamal, in Orissa, is still critical, and Christians are facing the threat of new attacks. The sisters of Mother Teresa are seeking to collect aid for the children in the refugee camps.

Three months after the beginning of the violence against Christians, there appears to be no change. In the village of Tiangia, six people have been assassinated - including Fr. Bernard Digal - but the security forces have not carried out any arrests, and the crimes are going unpunished. The inhabitants remain in the refugee camps set up by the government, and are asking how it will be possible for them to go back home if "a climate of fear and insecurity" remains.

Last week, Sharad Pawar, the federal agriculture minister, on an official visit with two other ministers, asked the government of the state of Orissa to form "peace committees," and expressed the hope that village leaders and local administrators will participate.

The groups most active in bringing aid to the Christians include the Missionaries of Charity, the religious order founded by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. "We must be instruments of peace," says Sister Suma, regional superior of the Missionaries of Charity, "in a land in which hatred and tensions still reign." The sister is distributing food and basic necessities to the refugees, collected by Sister Nirmala, the superior general of the MC, with special attention to children. "All of the convents in India wanted to give something for the children in the refugee camps in Kandhamal."

The sister denounces the health emergency in the refugee camps: "Measles and chickenpox are spreading rapidly. The administration of the camp has provided for quarantine areas where sick people can be kept, but this has not been enough to contain the spread of disease."

The arrival of winter could aggravate a situation that is already precarious, and the fear of new violence is prompting Christians to remain in the camps. "The people are terrorized," Sister Suma denounces, "and they have no reason to go back to their homes, because there's nothing left for them there."

The Hindu fundamentalists of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) are continuing their campaign of hatred against Christians, and confirm their intention to block the observance of Christmas. The government of the state, the fundamentalists warn, has until December 15 to find the assassins of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati. At the end of the deadline, they will resume their violence, and Christians will not be permitted to celebrate the holiday.

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