12/21/2004, 00.00
INDIA
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Gujarat Christians want a Christmas without violence

Hindu fundamentalists organise festivals to disrupt Christmas celebrations.

Ahmedabad (AsiaNews/CBCI) – Hindu fundamentalists have planned rallies and festivals for December 25 whilst Christians fear for their safety.

It is in this atmosphere that Gujarat Christians are preparing to observe Christmas. In recent years, this eastern Indian state has seen been the scene of Hindu fundamentalist violence against religious minorities.

On Christmas Night 1998, stick-wielding militants from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council or VHP) beat up Christians, destroyed Bibles and thrashed churches in Dangs district, some 1,500 km south of Delhi. For locals, Christmas Eve has become a time of fear ever since.

This year one of the alleged instigators of the 1998 riots is planning a Hindu festival—"Dutt Jayanti Pran Pratishtha Mahosatsav"—in Naldadev during Christmas celebrations. A similar event—"Vishal Hindu Mela"—is scheduled for December 23 in a village along the Gujarat-Maharashtra border. Some local Christians are convinced that even the "Akhand Harinam Saptah", a festival planned for December 25 and 26, is designed to disrupt Christmas events.

In a letter to Gujarat's Chief Secretary, the All India Christian Council (an umbrella organisation for all Christian denominations) voiced its concerns. 

"We would like, for once, to be able to celebrate the Nativity of Our Lord without the watchful eyes of gun-totting policemen because our lives as Christians are in danger". (MA)

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