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Tuesday, 26 August 2008

For more information, contact:
Dr. Sam Paul, aicc Secretary Public Affairs

For immediate release



Government authorities unable to stop Hindu nationalists from wreaking havoc

HYDERABAD – August 26, 2008 – In the aftermath of the murder of a Hindu swami by unknown assailants, mobs attacked the Christian community across the eastern state of Orissa. On Monday, a 12 hour strike called by hardliner Hindu nationalist organizations resulted in spreading violence. Media reports and eye witness accounts indicate several Christians were killed and hundreds of Christian properties burnt.

“Local leaders of the All India Christian Council have lost count of the churches damaged, Christian homes vandalized, and pastors or priests beaten. On August 26, 1910, Mother Teresa was born. Today, exactly 98 years later, we are deeply saddened that her legacy of peace and compassion are being ignored by society in the state of Orissa,” said Dr. Joseph D’souza, President of the All India Christian Council (aicc).

Large numbers of police and Rapid Action Force troops were deployed over the weekend, yet twelve of thirty districts were reportedly affected by the violence. According to reports collected by the aicc, at least five people have died, one nun was raped, and hundreds of churches, Christian homes, Christian non-profit organizations’ offices, and Christian schools were heavily damaged or destroyed. See list at: http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/2325/45/

Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or World Hindu Council) leader Lakshmanananda Saraswati was killed during an attack at an ashram in the hills of Kandhamal District, Orissa, on August 23, 2008, Saturday night. The elderly swami spent several decades in the district. He routinely criticized missionaries for conversion activities and sought to “re-convert” tribals and Dalits. Aicc leaders as well as major networks of churches in India, including the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India and the Evangelical Fellowship of India, condemned the killing of the swami and called for his attackers to be arrested and punished.

D’souza said, “The Orissa state government must restore order and prevent VHP activists from carrying out attacks and violating the rule of law. Then they must file cases against the perpetrators and push for rapid convictions. Lastly, we need fair and just compensation to victims, and we appeal to the Prime Minister to visit the victims as soon as possible.”
 
“Today hardliner Hindu nationalists say they cannot control their followers who are simply unleashing their frustration with unethical missionaries. Police say they cannot put officers in every village to protect Christians. Behind all the excuses, the reality is that there is a complete collapse of governance in Orissa,” said John Dayal, aicc Secretary General and Member of the National Integration Council. “It is the duty of the President and Prime Minister of India – as well as state governments – to protect the life, liberty, and property of every citizen. We hope and pray they will act before more innocent people are killed.”

Yesterday, on Aug. 25, 2008, the aicc appealed in writing to various authorities including the Prime Minister, President, Minister of Home Affairs, and various Orissa state government officials such as the Chief Minister and Home Secretary. A delegation of both Protestant and Catholic Christians met the Minister of Home Affairs, Shivraj V. Patil, yesterday, Monday, evening. He offered federal resources but said he was awaiting the required request from the state government.

Orissa is ruled by a coalition government which includes the Bharatiya Janata Party, widely known as a party which embraces the creation of a Hindu homeland. Unlike many other states, Orissa has not set up a state commission for minorities which would investigate discrimination and violence against non-Hindu religious adherents.

From Dec. 24, 2007-Jan. 2, 2008, attacks in Kandhamal district killed at least four Christians and destroyed over 100 churches and 730 Christian homes. Several dozen women were sexually harassed and assaulted, and more than 40 shops belonging to Christians were looted and destroyed. Most of the victims were Dalits, formerly known as untouchables.

India’s National Commission for Minorities issued a report after visiting Orissa on January 6-8, 2008 and again on April 21-24, 2008. They noted that caste-based discrimination played a role as well as an anti-conversion campaign conducted by Hindu extremists which “has aimed to prevent the conversion of tribals and Dalits to Christianity.” They faulted state government officials for not preventing the violence. Aicc leaders issued two reports. For these reports and other resources, please visit: http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/1947/45

The All India Christian Council (www.aiccindia.org), birthed in 1998, exists to protect and serve the Christian community, minorities, and the oppressed castes. The aicc is a coalition of thousands of Indian denominations, organizations, and lay leaders.

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