India: thousands of Christians in refugee camps

Refugee camps have been set up to offer shelter to a stream of people arriving each day.

The violence began after a Hindu leader, Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, was shot dead ten days ago. Hindu mobs blamed the killing on Christians and burnt down monasteries, churches and an orphanage. Hundreds have been injured and The death toll has risen to 20.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the violence as a "national disgrace". Pope Benedict condemned the viollence, saying he was "profoundly saddened" and calling for communities to try to restore "peaceful coexistence "I firmly condemn any attack on human life," Pope Benedict told a crowd of pilgrims on Wednesday. "I express spiritual closeness and solidarity to the brothers and sisters in faith who are being so harshly tested." He labelled the death of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati as "deplorable".
"People actually are in a very wretched condition," news agency Reuters quoted Bijoy Sarangi, who is in-charge of a relief camp in Kandhamal, as saying.

"They are coming from neighbouring villages and the local administration has taken all steps to bring them from their villages to this place." he said.

The Archbishop of Bhubaneswar, the Orissa capital, Rapheal Cheenath, says the state government must do more to help out those affected by the violence. he said: "They are refugees now because they have left their homes. They are living in the forests and they should be brought back," he said.
"It is the responsibility of the government that these refugees should be brought back. And also to send for force if necessary to stop this killing, to stop this burning, to stop this looting."

Thousands of Catholic schools, and some other Christian schools, shut across India on Friday, in protest against continuing anti-Christian violence.
Christian organisations also held peaceful protest rallies.

In an open letter to the Governor of Orissa, Murlidhar Chandrakant Bhandare, the Christian Community of Delhi and the National Capital Region
appealed for the government to do more to stop what it termed the 'ethnic cleansing' of Christians in Orissa. They appealed to the governor to "restore
sanity, peace, and the Rule of Law in the State, protect the life, liberty and property of the Christian community, specially in Kandhamal and other affected districts.

Source: MISNA/Indian Bishops Conference/Victor Edwin SJ

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