06/16/2008, 00.00
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Date set for the first audience into anti-Christian violence in Orissa

by Nirmala Carvalho
The first audience will be on 14 July to hear the victims of last Christmas assaults. Getting people to testify is difficult because of ongoing intimidation and the psychological effects of the traumatic experience. The tireless work by the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity continues in order to “rebuild hope” among survivors.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The first audience by a judicial commission set up to look into last year’s anti-Christian Christmas violence in Kandhamal District (Orissa state) and its instigators was delayed till 14 July. It had originally been set for 5 July. Justice Basudev Panigrahi, the one member in the one-man commission, decided to give victims more time to file their affidavits, whose initial deadline was 30 June.

“We are relieved by the judge’s decision,’ said Fr Dibyasingh Parichha, director of the Justice, Peace, Development and Communication Commission of the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, as he spoke to AsiaNews.

“So far only 174 affidavits had been filed. We are relieved the deadline was extended by three weeks, given the enormity of the task ahead of us (involving 61 villages),” said the priest who is also in charge of social communication for the archdiocese. “Victims are trying to rebuild their lives and are under pressure and being intimidated not to testify.”

“These people have had a very traumatic experience” with women and children experiencing harassment and sexual abuse, “that only time can heal,” Father Parichha noted.

Sisters from the Missionaries of Charity are providing spiritual and psychological help. In spite of problems travelling because of bad roads and long stretches on foot, they are going from village to village.

Sister Suma, regional superior for the Missionaries of Charity, is convinced that “Mother Teresa will help us rebuild not only the homes of these poor people but also their spirit.”

Just last week the sisters visited the Baliguda area where they handed out 550 bags full of clothes, food and other relief material as well as a bit of hope.

As usual locals residents reacted by showing their “immense gratitude which encourages us to go on.”

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