08/25/2008, 00.00
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Orissa: violence and destruction against Christians accused of killing radical Hindu leader

Churches, chapels, a social centre and a pastoral centre as well as vans belonging to nuns have been destroyed. A new wave of violence has followed the assassination of Swami Laxanananda, the man behind the war against Christians that left three people dead and saw 13 churches burnt last December in Orissa.
Bubaneshwar (AsiaNews) – Shouting “Kill Christians and destroy their institutions,” thousands of Hindus from the militant Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) stormed the Pastoral Centre of the diocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar, laying it waste. The same fate was visited upon a social centre in K. Nuagam, a church and parish residence in Kandhamal, and a chapel in Sundergarh. A van owned by the Sisters of Mother Teresa was attacked as it made its way to Bhavanipatni whilst another that belonged to the Daughters of the most Precious Blood was burnt in Udayagir.

The district of Kandhamal in the diocese of Cuttack-Bubaneshwar (Orissa) is at the centre of this violence, the same one that in the recent past witnessed anti-Christian violence that left three people dead and saw 13 churches torched.

The new wave of destruction began yesterday morning and is still going on after Hindu leaders harangued crowds against the Christian community, urging them to destroy, accusing Christians of being behind the assassination of Hindu fundamentalist leader Swami Laxanananda Saraspati and five of his followers.

Laxanananda, who was behind last December’s anti-Christian violence, was killed between 9 and 10 pm last Saturday (23 August) in his ashram, in the district of Kandhamal. About 20 armed gunmen entered the place during yoga session and shot indiscriminately at those present, throwing grenades.

A few days before the Swami had been threatened by a Maoist group that wanted him out of the area, accusing him of fomenting ethno-religious conflict. His response was to call for a protest against Muslims in Jammu-Kashmir. However, radical Hindus took advantage of the situation in order to blame Christians.

Laxanananda’s organisation is well known for its opposition to Christian social activism in favour of Tribals and outcasts and for its accusations against bishops, priests and nuns for allegedly proselytising.

Tensions are running high throughout the diocese. Police forces have been deployed in several sensitive areas, albeit with little success. This morning in fact the bishop’s residence was attacked by stone throwers and news has just come in that another, recently built church was destroyed.

In the meantime the VHP has called for a day of strike, blocking roads and transportation throughout the state of Orissa. (NC)

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