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India's Civil Society Defends Christians in New Delhi Rally PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 03 October 2008

ImageFor more information, contact:
Madhu Chandra, aicc Regional Secretary, New Delhi

For Immediate Release



About 15,000 people joined Peace & Solidarity Rally on International Day of Non-Violence
“Killers of Mahatma Gandhi are the same killers of Christians in India,” said Swami Agnivesh
Union Minister Lalu Prasad promised to bring up the anti-Christian violence in Parliament
Over 50,000 homeless Dalit & Tribal Christians in Orissa demanded refugee status from UNHCR


NEW DELHI – October 2, 2008 – About 15,000 Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and Buddhists including politicians and civil society leaders joined the Peace & Solidarity Rally on the International Day of Non-Violence which falls on the 139th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, India’s ‘Father of the Nation’. The protest highlighted recent anti-Christian violence in India.

Addressing the rally, Swami Agnivesh said, “The very killers of Mahatma Gandhi are the same killers and abusers of Christians in Orissa, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and other parts of the country. The killers – the Hindutva fascists – do not represent the peace loving Hindu society. Rather they are damaging the Sanatam Dharma [Hindu way of life].”

India’s Union Minister of Railways, Mr. Lalu Prasad Yadav, broke his silence over anti-Christian violence across India. Addressing the rally, he said, “I will personally meet the Prime Minister and discuss the implementation of Article 355. I will also bring up the anti-Christian violence in Parliament and debate the hatred of Hindutva forces.” Article 355 of India’s Constitution allows the central government to warn a state government to stop internal disturbances or face federal action and possible dismissal.

In the morning, the Chief Minister of Delhi, Mrs. Sheila Dixit, showed her solidarity and expressed concern and pain over the anti-Christian violence. She condemned the Hindu fanatics who are responsible for widespread crimes and causing damage to properties owned by the Christian minority.

Other dignitaries who participated in the rally included Mr. Oscar Fernandez, Union Minister of Labor; Mrs. Teesta Setalvad, General Secretary of Mumbai-based Citizens For Justice & Peace; Dr. Udit Raj, Chairman, All India Confederation of Scheduled Caste / Scheduled Tribe Organisations; Dr. Valson Thampu, Principal of the prestigious St. Stephen’s College of New Delhi; Mr. Sitaram Yechury, senior leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist); Ms. Shabnam Hashmi, senior leader of ANHAD (Act Now for Harmony and Democracy). There were additional speakers from Sikh, Muslim, and Hindu communities.

The rally concluded seven days of a “Sit-in Protest” organized by the Christians of Delhi and the NCR (National Capital Region). Major contributors included the Delhi Federation of Catholics and the All India Christian Council (aicc). Beginning on Sept. 26, 2008 at 10 a.m and ending today at 6 p.m., there was 152 hours of constant prayer and protest at Jantar Mantar – a park in the center of New Delhi – to express solidarity with victims. Most of the victims are Dalits, formerly called untouchables and officially categorized as Scheduled Castes by India’s government.

Rally participants shouted “Ban Terrorists, Ban Bajrang Dal,” “Ban Vishwa Hindu Parishad,” and “Ban Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh” as they marched along a 5 km route from Jantar Mantar to Raj Ghat, a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. Since the surge in violence beginning in rural Orissa on Aug. 23, 2008 after the murder of a controversial Hindu swami by unknown assailants, civil society groups, human rights activists, and various religious leaders have increasingly called for these Hindutva fundamentalist groups to be banned as terrorists.

Yesterday, a delegation led by noted film maker Mahesh Bhatt along with Christian victims from Orissa met the United Nations High Commission on Refugees in New Delhi and demanded refugee status for over 50,000 homeless Christians. The delegation included Dr. Abraham Mathai from the Indian Christian Voice and Dr. John Dayal, aicc Secretary General.

The toll of violence against Christians from Aug. 23 to Oct. 2, 2008:
BIHAR: 1 Church damaged; CHHATTISGARH: 4 Nuns assaulted; JHARKHAND: 1 Church attacked; KARNATAKA:  4 (of 29) Districts affected, 35 Churches damaged or destroyed, 20 Nuns and women injured by police; KERALA: 4 Churches damaged; MADHYA PRADESH: 4 Churches destroyed or damaged and 4 schools vandalized; NEW DELHI: 2 Churches damaged; ORISSA: 14 (of 30) Districts affected,  315 Villages damaged, 4,640 Houses burnt, 53,000 Homeless, 57 People killed including at least 2 pastors, 10 Priests/Pastors/Nuns injured, 18,000 Men, women, children injured, 2 Women gang-raped, 149 Churches destroyed, 13 Schools and colleges damaged; PUNJAB: 3 Christians harassed and imprisoned by police on false charges; TAMIL NADU: 4 Churches damaged; UTTAR PRADESH: 3 Pastors and a pastor’s wife beaten; and UTTARAKHAND: 2 Christians murdered.

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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Last Updated ( Friday, 03 October 2008 )
 
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