01/10/2019, 17.05
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Bishop Barwa to attend public hearing on Kandhamal violence on Saturday

by Nirmala Carvalho

The hearing will take place at Vijay High School in Raikia, one of the villages hit by the anti-Christian pogrom. Persecution by Hindu radicals forced 56,000 people to flee. Meanwhile, seven innocent Christians “are still languishing in prison”.

Chennai (AsiaNews) – Mgr John Barwa, archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, told AsiaNews that on Saturday he will attend a public hearing on the violence that struck Kandhamal district in 2007-2008.

The event is being held at he Vijay High School in Raikia and offers “an opportunity to know the current status of the cases.” The prelate feels “the need to share, together with many activists, with the victims and the families of the seven Christians unfairly accused who are still languishing in prison."

In August 2008, in Kandhamal district, Odisha (Orissa), Hindu radicals engaged in the most vicious acts of persecution against Christians in India. At the end of the pogrom, 56,000 people had been forced to flee, 5,600 houses had been torched or looted in 415 villages, 38 people were dead (according to government figures), two women raped, and scores suffered mutilations and serious wounds.

For the Church and social activists, the tally includes nearly 300 churches destroyed, as well as convents, schools, hostels, and the offices of welfare organisations. At least 91 victims: 38 killed right away, 41 from injuries sustained, and 12 in police actions.

Although evidence shows that the attacks were premeditated, only seven Christians of humble origins have ended up in jail, and they are still there.

"In all these years, there were sporadic hearings, and none ended positively,” Mgr Barwa explained. No one involved in the destruction has been jailed. Assassins, rapists, looters and vandals remain unpunished.

According to the National Solidarity Forum, the attacks led to more than 3,300 complaints, but only 820 were registered: All the others were rejected. Only 518 contained the details of the attackers; of these, at least 247 were shelved.

At present, the archbishop is in Chennai for the Plenary Assembly of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India - Latin Rite (CCBI), one of the three branches of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI).

The meeting began on Monday and will last a week (7-14 January). Its focus is Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium"(The joy of the Gospel).

The prelates are discussing how to revitalise the Catholic Church’s ministry of love and compassion at the diocesan and parish level. In all, 189 bishops representing 132 dioceses are present.

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