11/26/2008, 00.00
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Orissa, tally following 3 months of violence against Christians

118 deaths have been certified, but it is feared that there have been at least 500, with many bodies being hidden or cremated. More than 54,000 have been displaced. The violence continues, although with less frequency, in part because of the impunity enjoyed by the attackers.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - At least 118 Christians have been assassinated, and more than 10,000 (especially Dalits and tribals) have been forced to live in refugee camps without being able to return to their homes - in many cases destroyed - out of fear of the Hindu extremists, although sources say that at least 500 people have been killed, with many bodies being hidden or cremated. The All India Christian Council (AICC) is presenting the data from three months of martyrdom of Christians in Orissa.

The Hindu extremists are "justifying" the massacre of Christians by accusing them of the killing of their leader, Swami Lakshamanananda Saraswati, on August 23, although responsibility for this has been claimed by the Maoists. Two days afterward, the worst anti-Christian violence in recent Indian history broke out, in 14 of the 30 districts in the state.

The AICC says that there has been serious violence and destruction in 315 villages, 4,640 homes belonging to Christians have been burned, 54,000 people have been displaced, 6 pastors and one Catholic priest have been killed, another 10 have been seriously injured, 18,000 Christians have been injured, 2 women have been raped, including a sister, 149 churches have been destroyed, and 13 schools and institutes have been damaged. The police have frequently failed to intervene, and stemmed the violence only in the middle of October, although it has never stopped completely. On November 12, a crowd of 200 people attacked a Catholic church in G. Udayagiri.

Fr. P.R. Parichha, president of the AICC for Orissa, says that there were still 24,000 people in the refugee camps when the state closed many of them, telling the people to return to their villages: for many, this is impossible, "because of the fear of violence or forced conversion. Many will never be able to return home."

Everything is in short supply in the refugee camps, the refugees are unable to find work, and the children are missing school.

The national president of the AICC, Joseph D'Souza, denounces the lack of swift and effective justice in Orissa and Karnataka. According to the Christian Legal Association of India, in three months more than 1,800 lawsuits have been filed for murder, aggression, damage, and arson. There have been hundreds of arrests, but almost all of the suspects have been released immediately on bond. The government of Orissa has promised speedy justice, but investigations are proceeding slowly, even in clear-cut cases. Above all - insists D'Sousa - the organizers and instigators of the violence have so far enjoyed a sort of impunity.

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