For immediate release
A Christmas in Orissa state under close scrutiny
NEW DELHI � December 23, 2008: Despite the cancelation of a state-wide bandh (strike) by ultra-nationalist Hindu groups, Christians in Orissa state are worried about possible anti-Christian violence over Christmas.
Indian media reports on Dec. 20, 2008 said Orissa's Chief Minister met with the rightwing Hindu group, the Swami Laxmananand Saraswati Shraddhanjali Samiti, and the group agreed to call off a state-wide shut-down planned for Dec. 25. However, aicc Orissa state leaders said the group was planning prayers from 5:10-5:40pm on Dec. 25th in temples across the state. There are fears the people gathered at each temple could be incited to attack Christians. The Samiti, which has been involved with a temples campaign, was set up by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal, the two groups responsible for the December 2007 and August-October 2008 violence in the state.
The 12 hour bandh was announced in mid-November if authorities failed to arrest the killers of VHP leader Lakshmanananda Saraswati by December 15, 2008. The murder of the religio-political leader on Aug. 23, 2008 triggered widespread anti-Christian violence despite claims of responsibility from Maoist militants.
John Dayal, aicc Secretary General, said, "We appreciate Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for doing the right thing and successfully urging Hindutva groups to call off their planned bandh. However, the government in Orissa � for that matter, in all states across India � must now ensure mischief makers do not sabotage the peace of the Christmas holidays."
Aicc is making plans to have teams of observers in Orissa to alert authorities should any violence begin. Plans called for teams to include both Christians and non-Christians � especially non-sectarian minded Hindus.
Dayal said, "We encourage Indian Christians to celebrate the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to earth in a peaceful and harmonious manner. Christians across our great land must pray for the approximately 50,000 Dalit and Tribal Christians who will spend Christmas away from their damaged and destroyed homes. For many, this will be their second Christmas as refugees inside their own country."
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.
Dr. Joseph D'souza � President
Dr. John Dayal � Secretary General
For more information, contact:
Dr. John Dayal, aicc Secretary General
Sam Paul, aicc National Secretary of Public Affairs