AICC Press Statement on Orissa violence against rural Christians
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Indian Christians unite with Civil Society and demand end of Orissa violence against rural Christians
Today's rally in Delhi results in promises from National Commissionfor Minorities and Union Home Minister, but Christian delegation not satisfied
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 from4�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 organiser 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 wererepresented including the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), AllIndia 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 theUnion Home Minister since most violence continues in rural villagesand the government didn't give specific plans to halt the violencein 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 receivedassurances 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 havenot been able to protect the Christian minority. While Orissa'sleader 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 ofreligion 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 Cheif MinisterNeevan Patnaik this evening and gave lame assurance to thedelegation to ensure protection to the Christian minorities. Yet,his inability to stop the violence against Christians is seen inSangh Parivar's organised attacks from the time violence broke out on December 23.
According to media reports, NGO press statements, and calls fromaicc leaders on the ground in Orissa, at least 30 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.
Despite a supposed helicopter tour of the affected districts by the Orissa Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik, and his repeated statements in various media channels that everything is under control, reports of attacks on Christians and churches continue to reach aicc and similar groups.
The violence allegedly began when Christians in a village 150 kmsfrom the district headquarters of Phulbani began to celebrateChristmas 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 travelling. The next day the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) called for a strike and its members began attacking Christians across the state.
The All India Christian Council (www.aiccindia.org), birthed in1998, exists to protect and serve the Christian community,minorities, and the oppressed castes. The aicc is a coalition ofthousands of Indian denominations, organizations, and lay leaders.
Mr. Madhu Chandra,
All India Christian Council,