01/04/2005, 00.00
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Hindu fundamentalists praise the work of Christian missionaries

by Nirmala Carvalho

In Tamil Nadu, a Catholic priest is sheltering 300 Hindu tsunami survivors in his church.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - Hindu fundamentalists have praised the work being by Christian missionary organisations in providing succor to victims of December 26's tsunami in India. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), armed branch of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the nationalist Hindu party hostile to religious minorities, defined efforts on the part of Christian organizations in disaster areas as "commendable".

"The Sangh and its affiliates, like Sewa Bharati and Vivekananda Kendra, were not the only organizations to take action, but others like the Ramakrishna Mission, Christian and Muslims missionary organisations and educational institutions also rose to the occasion and did commendable human service," said an editorial in the latest issue of the RSS English-language mouthpiece, The Organiser.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) was one of the first to respond by activating rescue measures in favour of the victims of the tsunami, which in this country alone killed more than 15,000 people. CBCI Secretary General Bishop Percival Fernandez said, "The Church is at the service of everyone, irrespective of religion and community". He also said that "all organizations and public bodies carrying out relief operations are most welcome to collaborate with the Church and their institutions to mobilize further resources and make them available to the people."

Speaking to AsiaNews, Monsignor S. Michael Augustine, Archbishop of Pondicherry-Cuddalore, confirmed the "extraordinary" solidarity that is being expressed among Hindus, Christian, and Muslims, who have been living in the same shelters "without any sort of discrimination". "This period of crisis has made people united in their intense personal suffering", he added.

Fr. Anthony Sampathkumar a priest who is sheltering 300 Hindus in his church in Puthukuppam, a village 20 kilometres outside the former French colony of Pondicherry, said "There is blind trust in each other; the people are helping each other through their own tragedy. Each and every one here in our shelter," he went on to say, "has lost two or more family members to the tidal wave. The entire fishing village has been ravaged by the tsunami."

Meantime, relief work is complicated by continuous false alarms of further sea surges. Speaking to Asia News, some relief workers say that such rumours are fueling "panic" and "a sense of insecurity" among the people so badly shocked by the catastrophe.
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