03/08/2010, 00.00
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Orissa: "To avoid being killed, we went days without food in the forest"

One victim tells his story of the violence last June in Orissa. His father, a Christian pastor Biswanath Digal was beaten to death.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - "During the last wave of anti-Christian violence, Hindu fanatics first destroyed the church in our village, then burned the houses of Christians and completely destroyed  by fire whatever was inside. Then they started to look for us Christians to kill us. To save ourselves and we had to flee to the forest and the hills and remain hidden". Lazara Digal, the only son of a Christian pastor Biswanath Digal from the village Ladapadar (in Kandhamal district in Orissa), assassinated in those days, recalls the horror of recent anti-Christian violence and points his finger at absent authorities.  

95 persecuted Christians attended the 5th Meeting on National Persecution, in Bangalore on March 4 and 5, organized by the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) in the presence of over 250 groups Christian and non-Christians. A special mention was made of Kaunri Digal, widow of the slain pastor.  

"We stayed in hiding for 10 days - continued Lazara Digal-without food beneath pouring rain. There were about 20 families, we could only cry and pray to God After 10 days we learned that the police had arrived. Then we came back. The police assured us that they would protect us if we returned to the village. In the houses in the village there was nothing left, not even enough rice to eat, we could not resume our normal work. So many we decided to go to Bhunaneswar or Cuttack, to find work and earn a living. But our parents stayed behind in the village. "  

"On June 4, 2009 my father, the pastor Biswanath Digal, along with the Christian Prasanth Digal, went by motorcycle  to Phulbani, about 14 kilometers from Ladapadar. Having done their work and some shopping, at 7 pm they were returning home. But some Hindu extremists had noticed them and a group of 40 or 50 was waiting for them, armed with sticks and axes. When the two Christians were in Minia, near the forest of Pidiakali, the group jumped out and stopped them. They were drunk, they insulted them and started to hit them with sticks, shouting Jai Sri Ram and Jai Bajrang Bali ki Jai! 'Kill the shepherd, so other Ladapadar Christians will become Hindus '. They were beaten unconscious. Thinking they   were dead, they left them there. They remained there for 2-3 hours before a traveller saw them and informed the police of Bisipadar”.  

"The police took them to hospital in the district of Phulbani. After two days of treatment, my father still had not regained consciousness. Since we had no money to pay, on the advice of doctors we took him to the hospital in Cuttack, on June 7. For days I tooke care of him, without any result. In the end the doctors said to take him home. But we had no house, because it was destroyed by Hindu fanatics".  

"On 19 June we brought him to a relative low in districts of Bhubaneswar. He died June 23, without ever having regained consciousness. We returned to our village and buried him there. My mother suffered a stroke from the loss.  She can not walk. "  

"Fretello Asit Mohanty, GCIC regional coordinator, has visited the hospital, prayed with her and left her money for medical care, because now I'm unemployed and I have no income. My mother was in hospital but made no improvement and so was discharged. She now lives in relative’s house, is paralyzed and forced to stay in bed. " "Shri Prashant Digal, attacked with my father was in hospital for 7 days, his wounds were not serious." Sajan K. George, GCIC president in greeting the participants at the meeting in Bangalore recalled how "our country is founded on the recognition that every human being has inalienable rights by right of birth. But the Christian minorities face discrimination in every sphere. The Indian Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Nevertheless, in 2009 there were 177 brutal attacks against Christians. "  

The meeting was to have concluded with a protest march to City Hall in Bangalore, but it was not authorized. (NC)  

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