01/02/2008, 00.00
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Indian bishops on the “authentic Calvary” of Christians in Orissa

by Nirmala Carvalho
The Bishops Conference announce 8 days of prayer following the Christmas attacks. Numerous fugitives still seek refuge in the forests living without food and shelter. A memorandum from the National Commission for Human Rights sent to the State Governor lists the loss and damage done to Christians and demands action against police who stood by and watched.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) –India’s Christian community “continues to live in anxiety and fear”, while the Church in Orissa is undergoing an “authentic Calvary”.  These are the words used by Indian bishops to describe the situation in their country in the aftermath of the anti-Christian violence organised by fundamentalists from Vishva Hindu Parishad (Vhp) between December 24 and 27.  The Archbishop of Bhubaneswar-Cuttack, msgr. Raphael Cheenath, referred the episode to the Bishop’s Conference (CBCI), which has announced 8 days of prayer (from December 30 to January 8th) for the Christians in Orissa.

Minority rights activists and diverse leaders of the Catholic Church denounce that there are still many Christians, mainly from tribes, who remain hidden in the forest for fear of further attacks, living without food or shelter, surviving on water from nearby streams.  There is still no official death toll and the police is not allowing Christian personal to carry out investigations.

A memorandum regarding the Christmas attacks has be presented to the National Comission for Human Rights.  The document has been signed by among others, the Archbishop of Delhi, msgr. Vincent Concessao; Joseph D’souza, President, All India Christian Council; Rev. Karam MasihChurch of North India and Lansinglu Rongmei, co-secretary of the  Christian Legal Association.

The text include san updated list of the areas affected in the attack and of the damage done to the communities, and was also presented to the governor of Orissa.: 6 dead; 70 Churches attacked, broken, and torched; 600 Christian houses broken and torched; 5 thousand people affected by this attack; 15 vehicles of Christian people  Either broken/burnt; 25 motorcycles. The worse affected are Kandhamal and Gajatati districts.The former was subjected to the main vent of fundamentalist fury.There the villages affected are: Barakhama, Pobingia, Balliguda, Bamunigam, Sankharkhole, Sirtiguda, Dalagam, Irpiguda, Tikabali, Godapur and Daringibadi. Many other villagers are living in conditions of anxiety and tension as well as continued threats from Hindu extremists.

The memorandum demands authorities guarantee: immediate protection of the affected villages of Kandhamal, Gajati and other affected districts; compensation of 500,000 rupees to dead victims families, 200,000 rupees to the injured victims; compensation to the homes, churches, institutions, and property damaged caused by the violence; an enquiry and action against the Superintendent of Police and other authorities for not protecting citizens.

So far the government has only decided on an 100 thousand rupee compensation for close relatives of the victims. Those who lost their homes during the violence will be given shelter at the Indira Aawas Yojana. Chief Minister of Orissa, Naveen Patniak, has promised over 100thousand rupees to those whose homes were partially damaged.  In the meantime in the areas were the violence in Brahmanigaon, the police has confiscated 12 unlicensed fire arms and arrested 20 people.


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