Christians in India's Orissa state campaign for protection

By Ecumenical News International
January 7, 2008

Christian groups and churches in Indian's eastern state of Orissa are demanding urgent protection, saying they have been hounded by Hindu extremists, with reports of nine people being killed in attacks since Christmas - writes Anto Akkara.

"Christians are brutally attacked by the fundamentalists and law and order is [wholly] missing especially in Kandhamal where the fundamentalists have taken charge of the whole district," said Christian groups and churches in an appeal to India's National Human Rights Commission a few days ago.

The Roman Catholic Church, the ecumenical All India Christian Council and other church groups submitted a joint memorandum to the human rights body.

In it they pointed out that more than 60 churches have been torched, 600 Christians’ houses burnt down and more over 5000 Christians have been displaced due to the orchestrated anti-Christian violence in and around Kandhmal in Orissa state.

The Christians were killed in violence that was sparked by Hindu groups destroying Christmas decorations on 24 December in the Kandhamal district.

"The plight of the Christians is really pitiable," John Dayal, AICC secretary general who has been visiting troubled-torn villages in recent days, told Ecumenical News International.

Dayal said following assaults on Christians by armed Hindu extremists, pastors as well as members of congregations fled to the jungles. Police officials offered assistance to the harassed Christians, but advised pastors not to go near their churches as they said they were are not in a position to provide protection for the Christians.

"A series of well planned attacks on innocent Christians and their leaders have completely shocked us," noted Catholic Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cattuck-Bhubaneshwar, which is the capital of Orissa, in the memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

"What is more worrying and disheartening to note is the manner in which the unruly mob went on rampaging in villages," the archbishop said in document he presented to the prime minister on 31 December after making a special trip to New Delhi.

Later addressing a press conference after calling on the Indian prime minister and other top government officials, Cheenath said the state administration did virtually nothing to curb the violence over four days in which extremists attacked at will.

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]

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