Sunday, August 31, 2008

INDIA: Government “aided” attacks on India’s Christians

CHRISTIANS in India have demanded the immediate dismissal of the Orissa state government following the second spate of attacks on Christians in eight months. In a strongly-worded statement sent to the President of India, the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) went on to demand a public investigation into possible acts of violence against Christians orchestrated by regional governments, which they accuse of being infiltrated by Hindu extremists. The council singled out for criticism the local government of Chhattisgarh, the state neighbouring Orissa, accusing it of having “aided and abetted in sending militants to carry out attacks against Christians”. The violence erupted on Monday (25th August) in Orissa, where at least a dozen people were killed amid widespread violence. People fled for their lives amid attacks on churches and other Christian buildings. The riots were sparked by the death two days earlier of Laxmanananda Saraswati, a senior member of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad party (VHP), and four others. In response to the violence, the GCIC appealed for the introduction of ‘President’s rule’ whereby the local authorities in Orissa would be swept aside to enable central Government to take direct control of the state, a measure applicable in times of emergency. The GCIC, an ecumenical body established to address the concerns of Christians, said the drastic measure was necessary “to ensure the security and safety of the minority community”. In the GCIC’s statement, a copy of which was sent to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, the council’s president, Dr Sajan K George states: “Global Council of Indian Christians is deeply anguished and tormented by the mindless and macabre events taking place against Christians in Orissa and elsewhere in India.” The council go on to catalogue a total of 92 incidents of violence towards Christians which have taken place over the past week. They include:
• Four Christians were chased down and killed with daggers and swords wielded by up to 1,000 members of Hindu nationalist movement Sangh Parivar who descended on Tiangia village in Kandhamal district. The Christians had been attempting to protect their church which the radicals were trying to set ablaze.
• Handicapped Christian Rasananda Pradhan was burnt alive in the village of Rupa gaon. He was trying to escape to the nearby forest when he was caught. The whole village was attacked and people’s homes were torched.
• Two Sisters were publicly gang-raped in separate incidents. One was Sister Mina Barua, from a pastoral centre in Kanjamindi and the other was working at the Social Service Centre in Kandhamal.
• Also at the Kanjamindi, the pastoral centre’s director, Father Thomas, was seriously beaten before being stripped naked and publicly paraded. Petrol was poured over him, but his captors could not set him ablaze because it was raining heavily and the matches would not light.
• Countless numbers of houses, churches, convents schools, and shops have been attacked and/or burnt down. In Mandakia and Batingia villages, the Christian communities were bombed, destroying them completely. Meantime, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India has written to the President and government of India, appealing for the protection for victims of the violence, and demanding a full enquiry. Hindu extremists have targeted Christians in Orissa before. In Christmas 2007, 70 churches and other Christian institutions were attacked and 600 Christian homes were destroyed. Aid to the Church in Need provided help for the Church in India following the riots last December, and is standing by to offer assistance as the present emergency unfolds.
By John Pontifex and John Newton
As in the days of Noah...

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