Williams expresses concern about communal violence in Orissa

By staff writers
September 7, 2008

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Willams has expressed great distress at the extreme violence being used between Hindus and Christians in Orissa, India, following the murder of Hindu leader, Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati, recently.

In a letter sent at the end of last week to the Moderator of the Church of North India (CNI), the Most Rev Joel Mal, Dr Williams called for an end to the violence and for intense prayer for the suffering churches.

CNI is an ecumenical Protestant church that Anglicans joined some 38 years ago.

The Anglican leader said of the situation: "I hope that Christians and people of faith around the world will make known their horror at this violence, their support for the rebuilding of lives and the churches, orphanages and schools destroyed, and for work towards future reconciliation".

The Hindu Council UK has also condemned the violence and called for peace. It has urged fundamentalist Christians to stop inflaming the situation by trying to convert their Hindu neighbours. Churches point out that forced conversions to Hinduism have also been happening, sometimes on a village wide scale.

Civic and religious leaders are appealing for calm and for practical interventions by the Indian government.

The killing that sparked off the violence, which has been particularly harsh on minority Christian communities, was first blamed on Christians by hardline Hindu nationalists.

But it has since emerged that it was much more likely to have been committed by a Maoist activist.

The Indian government has said that it will seek to protect people and families from the violence and to stop its spread.

In December 2007 the independent Human Rights Watch (HRW) organisation said that a good deal of the blame for communal violence in Orissa and elsewhere should go to extreme Hindu nationalists who want a state where their religion has official dominance.

Peace workers say it is important to recognise that cycles of violence always involve actions on both sides.

The Church of North India was formed in 1970 (38 years ago) from a union of 5 separate denominations, including the then Anglican Church of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon. This process of church union began in 1929, culminating in the Church of North India in 1970.

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