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  Fact Finding Teams Tell of Unprecedented Anti-Christian Violence in Orissa  
 

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HYDERABAD – Dec. 30, 2007

The district of Kandhamal in the eastern state of Orissa continues to see massive violence against Christians. The All India Christian Council (aicc) has collected reports of 65 churches burned down, 600 Christian homes destroyed, hundreds of Christians forced to flee into forests to save their lives, and thousands homeless. Despite promises by state and central government leaders during meetings with aicc leaders, the violence which began on Christmas Eve is continuing.

Roads continue to be blocked by Hindutva fundamentalists and police curfews prevent fact finding teams from traveling. Confirmed reports from one village give a sense of the carnage which is likely being under-reported. In Barkhama, a village near Baliguda in Kandhamal district, three pastors emerged after hiding in the jungle for five days and reported:

 

  • over 100 Christian homes destroyed
  • two Christians killed and burnt in front of the local church and another murdered in a market on Christmas Eve
  • at least fifteen Christians missing and suspected to be killed and buried in the nearby forest

An aicc fact finding team headed by John Dayal, aicc Secretary-General and Member of the National Integration Council, has been unable to reach the hardest hit areas due to police curfews. On Dec. 29, 2007 , Inspector General of Police Pradeep Kapur forced the team to leave the affected areas due to safety concerns. Efforts by a Christian delegation to visit Baminigaon, called the epicenter of the trouble, were unsuccessful as well.

“We continue to plead with leaders of the world's largest democracy to uphold the rule of law and protect Christians in rural Orissa. The government's actions seem to be too little, too late. We are distressed that radical Hindutva groups justify their violent attacks on innocent victims – especially children – by saying they are protesting ‘forced or fraudulent conversions'. Similar claims over the past decade have always been proven false. But the bottom line is that religious differences are never an excuse for violence,” said Dr. Joseph D'souza, aicc President.

“We are deeply worried by media reports that police and other local authorities in Orissa stood by and watched attacks on Christians. Some media commentators have said the violence is a combination of politics, caste-based discrimination, and religious vendettas. Whatever the motivation, we must not forget that innocent people – mostly Dalits and tribals – are suffering right now,” said Sam Paul, aicc Secretary, Public Affairs.

Source: All India Christian Council, for Dalits

 
     
 
 

Six Christian Dead Bodies Recovered 400 Christian Homes and 60 Churches Torched.

National Level Fact Finding Team Reached Balliguda.

All Political Party prevented from entering the affected Area.

 
     
 

NEW DELHI – Dec. 29, 2007  

National Fact Finding Team of six led by Dr. John Dayal, Secretary General of All India Christian Council, Member of National Integration Council and President of All India Catholic Union reached Balliguda. All Party leaders prevented from entering the violence affected area.

The instant report of the fact finding team in Balliguda reaching to All India Christian Council says that six dead bodies recovered, 400 Christian homes and 60 churches burnt down. Young and healthy Christians have left their villages to flee for their lives, children, women, old and sick who could not flee for their lives are in great danger of their lives, says Dr. Dayal.

Remnants are starving for last four days; sick are suffering without medical attention. They are forced to convert to Hinduism if they are to get food, medical attention and shelter and their heads are shelved off, says a victim.

Assurance given by state government and Union Home minister has not affected to the victims and villages from the violence caused by the Hindutva Fundamentalists.

The fundamental rights provided by Indian Constitution to provide security protection has failed to reach the minority Christians in the state of Orissa. State security forces have been at the hands of guns and fundamentalists. No complaints from victims and Christian communities have filed in none of the police, says, Dr. Dayal.

A Memorandum is also submitted to Justice Shri. Rajendra Babu, Chairman of National Human Rights Commission and Christian delegation will meet him on December 31, 2007 at 12:30 noon , to setup a special enquiry into the violence.

Earlier today, a delegation representing millions of Indian Christians met Mr. Mohanmad Hamid Ansari, Vice President of India to act immediately to protect the Christians in the state and villagers to return back to their homes and villages.

Source: All India Christian Council, for Dalits

 
     
 

Indian Christians appeal to Vice President of India to stop continuing attacks on Orissa Christians

Christians remain frustrated with lack of action by Central Government

 
     
  NEW DELHI – Dec. 29, 2007  
     
 

Today a delegation representing millions of Christians in India met with the Vice President and appealed for action by the Central Government. Reports coming from rural Orissa indicate that radical Hindutva groups continue to destroy churches and attack Christians. Large rallies across India on Dec. 27, 2007 , and meetings with central and state authorities have produced little if any actions to protect Christians in the eastern state.

The delegation met with Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari and submitted a memorandum of confirmed attacks and proposed government actions to re-establish the rule of law and justice in Orissa. Ansari became Vice President of India in August 2007 and was previously the Chairman of India's National Commission for Minorities.

The delegation included representatives from India 's largest Christian Organisations including the All India Christian Council (aicc), Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) and Christian Legal Association (CLA).

“We told his Excellency that, in spite of assurances from the Orissa state government and the Union Home Minister, the situation remains very tense, especially for Christians in rural Orissa,” said Rev. Abraham Sahu, aicc Delhi Chapter President. “Many are tribals or Dalits and are not only poor, but unaware of their freedom of religion and legal rights under our Constitution.”

The delegation also included relatives of the victims. Their parents and other family have been missing in the effected areas of Orissa for several days. “Reports from Orissa indicate that sick people aren't getting medical attention. Many rural Christians have run away from villages into the forests and don't have enough food. Radical Hindutva activists continue to freely roam the countryside and are forcing people to embrace Hinduism if they want food and shelter. Many Christians are being forced to shave their heads and then bow down in Hindu temples,” said Madhu Chandra, aicc Regional Secretary.

Christian Delegation is meeting with the National Human Rights Commission of India Justice Shri Rajendra Babu as soon as possible and, in cooperation with other groups, is arranging a candle-light vigil on Dec. 30, 2007 at 3pm at the Catholic cathedral, Gol Dakhana, New Delhi .

On Dec. 27, 2007 , a delegation of Christians met with the National Commission for Minorities and Union Home Minister. Also, on the same day, an Orissa Christian delegation met with the Orissa Chief Minister. Officials continue to promise protection of Christians and compensation for victims.

According to media reports, NGO press statements, and calls from aicc leaders on the ground in Orissa, dozens of churches, Christian schools, and convents have been damaged or destroyed since December 24th, Christmas Eve. Four Christians were reported killed and many roads are blocked by radical Hindutva activists which prevents both police and fact finding teams from reaching victims.

The violence allegedly began when Christians in a village 150 kms from the district headquarters of Phulbani began to celebrate Christmas Eve. Local Hindu fundamentalists opposed the event and a fight ensued. Also, a Hindutva leader, Swami Saraswati, was attacked by unknown assailants -- allegedly Christians -- near Daringbadi while he was traveling. The next day the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) called for a strike and its members began attacking Christians across the state.

Source: All India Christian Council, for Dalits

 
     
 

Indian Christians unite with Civil Society and demand end of Orissa violence against rural Christians

 
     
     
 

NEW DELHI – Dec. 27, 2007

About 1,000 Christians from churches across Delhi rallied today to demand that the Central Government halt escalating anti-Christian violence in Orissa. A memo presented to the Prime Minister resulted in a meeting with the Union Home Minister this evening. Earlier in the day, Christian leaders met with the head of the National Commission for Minorities.

The rally, held in front of the gates of Orissa Bhavan in Delhi from 4–6pm , Dec. 27, 2007 , revealed support from across the political and religious spectrum. Protestors were united in their call for an end to the communal violence against Christians in Orissa. The All India Christian Council (aicc) was a key organizer of the rally.

Speakers included: V.P. Singh, former Prime Minister; Binda Karat, CPI (M) spokesperson; Shabnam Hashmi, Director of ANHAD; Swami Agnivesh; and more. India 's largest Christian groups were represented including the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), All India Catholic Union (AICU), Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) and more. Church members from many denominations across Delhi participated in the rally.

A memo was presented to the office of Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. The PM's office instructed the Union Home Minister, Shivraj V. Patil, to schedule a meeting with a delegation of Christians immediately. The delegation met Shri Patil at 6pm , Dec. 27, 2007 , and was told that roadblocks and communication breakdowns are making it difficult to restore security in the villages of Orissa. Shri Patil said he will likely visit Orissa and promised he is doing everything possible to stop the attacks, culprits will be booked, and compensation will be provided to victims.

“Sadly, the delegation was not satisfied with the promises of the Union Home Minister since most violence continues in rural villages and the government didn't give specific plans to halt the violence in villages nor a planned amount for compensation of victims,” said  Rev. Abraham Sahu, aicc Delhi Chapter President.

Earlier in the day a delegation of Christians met with and received assurances from the head of the National Commission for Minorities, Mohamed Shafi Qureshi, that Christians will be protected in Orissa. He said he plans to visit the state.

“It is clear that the local police and Orissa state government have not been able to protect the Christian minority. While Orissa's leader claim they were prepared and are fully committed to stopping communal violence, we have doubts. For example, why does Orissa not have a state minorities commission? The Central Government must act now.” said John Dayal, aicc Secretary-General.

“The VHP and other groups clearly don't believe in freedom of religion nor freedom of speech. They use accusations of forced and fraudulent conversions as an excuse for violence. Has there been a proven case in the courts of a missionary forcing someone to become a Christian recently? No! We are requesting immediate action to protect peaceful Christians and the arrest of miscreants from radical Hindutva groups,” said Sam Paul, aicc Secretary of Public Affairs.

Orissa chapter of All India Christian Council met Chief Minister Neevan Patnaik this evening and gave lame assurance to the delegation to ensure protection to the Christian minorities. Yet, his inability to stop the violence against Christians is seen in Sangh Parivar's organized attacks from the tim

 
     
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