India: Church appeals to government for peaceful Christmas in Orissa

 Catholic bishops in India have appealed to the Prime Minister of Orissa to help Christians driven from their homes to return soon; to reconstruct their churches destroyed by rioters and: " to celebrate Christmas in peace."

The Bishops of Orissa have sent a list of requests to Prime Minister Shri Naveen Patnaij, who is currently governing the eastern Indian state.

In a recent meeting, the Bishops presented him their petitions, and several "words of truth" on the situation in the area of Kandhamal, where the majority of the anti-Christians attacks in Orissa have been reported. The letter is signed by Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, Bishop Thomas Thiruthalil of Balasore, and Bishop Sarat Nayak of Berhapur.

The first consideration in the text makes reference to the many refugees in Kandhamal, and that the considerable drop (they are now 11,000) in the number does not imply that they have returned to their houses or towns. Many of them have gone to other refugee camps in Cuttack, Bhubaneswar, and other cities: at least 15,000 of them are living outside the district. Furthermore, a large number of them have left the state and gone towards Andra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka.

The Bishops explain the reason for this flight: many are afraid of more attacks from Hindu extremists. They threaten them to convert to Hinduism and destroy their property or take their lives if they don't. There are many armed criminals who walk free, terrorizing Christians, the Bishops say.
They also addressed the serious situation of injustice and discrimination that the Christian communities experience. For example, it is forbidden to bury a Christian in the land of his origin. There is an intimidation campaign being carried out, which violates human rights and one which the government should stop. Furthermore, the government in Orissa promised to award new lands to the farmers who do not have any, however this has not yet taken place.

The third point the Bishops mention is the destruction and looting of Churches, convents, and Christian schools and buildings, which continues to occur without any intervention on the part of authorities. Some of the police stations, like that of Sarangoda, have even refused to take claims for new acts of violence, with no regard for their role in upholding respect for the law.

The Bishops ask that rebuilding of destroyed and damaged buildings begin December 1, in order to guarantee the Christian communities the celebration of Christmas, thanks to the position of the Federal Police Forces, which the Bishops say would help enforce order and allow for Christians to return to a normal life.

The Bishops also note that what is occurring is not an ethnic conflict between tribes, as some have tried to portray it, in order to hide the real intentions of Hindu fundamentalists, which is to eliminate all presence and trace of Christianity in the state of Orissa.

Source: Fides

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