Global churches act on communal violence in India

By agency reporter
5 Sep 2008

The World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) have jointly called on the Prime Minister of India requesting his intervention to end the violence in the state of Orissa.

The WCC is also inviting its member churches and all Christians to join a call from Christians in India to hold a Day of Prayer and Fasting for peace and goodwill on Sunday 7 September 2008.

In a joint letter issued today, the WCC and LWF general secretaries, Samuel Kobia and Ishmael Noko, called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to intervene and "ensure an immediate cessation of violence, the restoration of law and justice, and sanctuary for the displaced" in Orissa.

The Indian state has seen "indiscriminate killing, burning of church buildings and destruction of institutions" over the last ten days. "We are aware that it is the most vulnerable sections of the population who are worst affected by the violence," the ecumenical leaders say.

In a separate letter to WCC member churches in India, Kobia welcomed the initiative by the National United Christian Forum in India to observe Sunday, 7 September as a Day of Prayer and Fasting for peace and goodwill.

The WCC is urging member churches and partners "to join in this initiative by praying for the families of those who have lost their dear ones, for those who are displaced, for all others who suffer the consequences of this violence and for all those who are striving to restore trust and goodwill among people and communities," Kobia wrote.

As "religious fanaticism has once again broken the lives of the poor, who are largely Dalits and Adivasis," the WCC general secretary wrote, "let us pray for harmony among religious communities and let us work together to build trust and mutual respect".

The National United Christian Forum groups the National Council of Churches in India, the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, and the Evangelical Federation of India.

Some 20 people have been killed, 50,000 displaced and 4,000 homes have been destroyed over the last ten days, as a result of the "worst ever communal riots against Christians," according to a report by the Forum. Of those who have fled their villages, some 13,000 are living in nine relief camps run by the government. Some 200 villages were affected, with hundreds of churches burnt down.

The violence started after the killing of a prominent radical Hindu leader on 23 August. The killing of Lakshmanananda Saraswati was immediately condemned by the National Council of Churches in India. Although a Maoist rebel group has claimed responsibility for it, radical Hindu militants blame Christians for it.

The National United Christian Forum has asked that letters of support be sent to local churches in Orissa as well as to the Indian government requesting its immediate intervention. On Friday, 29 August, several thousands church-run educational institutions were closed and demonstrations held across the country as a sign of solidarity and protest.

Further information

Full text of WCC-LWF letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh: http://www.oikoumene.org/?id=6267

Full text of WCC letter to member churches and NCCI: http://www.oikoumene.org/?id=6266

National Council of Churches in India: http://www.nccindia.in

WCC member churches in India: http://www.oikoumene.org/?id=4670

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