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Historic rally in Orissa demands gov't to tell the truth

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  • SOCM News Bureau
    All India Christian Council P. O. Box 2174, Secunderabad – 500003, Andhra Pradesh, India www.indianchristians.in For more information, contact: Dr. Joseph
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 11, 2008
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      All India Christian Council

      P. O. Box 2174, Secunderabad � 500003,
      Andhra Pradesh, India
      www.indianchristians.in

      For more information, contact:
      Dr. Joseph D'souza, aicc President

      Sam Paul, aicc Secretary Public Affairs

      For immediate release

      Speakers at Historic Rally Demand Orissa Government Tell Truth about
      Christmas Attacks on Christians

      About 10,000 protestors from all religious backgrounds; speakers
      slam Orissa government for blaming Naxalites involvement and
      limiting Christian NGOs relief efforts

      BHUBANESWAR � Jan. 10, 2008 �

      Today about 9,000-10,000 people marched to the Orissa State Assembly building in Bhubaneswar to protest Christmas attacks on Christians and demand justice for victims. Rally speakers demanded the Orissa state government stop making allegations about Christian association with an outlawed Maoist rebel movement and allow Christian churches and groups to provide direct relief to victims.

      "Some people have characterized the violence as a Hindu-Christian
      clash. This is wrong. Dalit Christians were clearly the targets and
      innocent victims. The state government has also made baseless
      accusations that some Christian NGOs are aligned with Naxalites. The
      authorities must write a white paper or give proof about these
      sensitive issues instead of spreading rumors," said Dr. Udit Raj,
      National Chairman, All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations.
      Naxalites are Maoist rebels who often attack government installations throughout central India. Most are disenfranchised
      Dalits or Tribals.

      Christian leaders expressed concern about relief efforts for the
      devastated Christians in Kandhamal District. "Orissa's government
      should allow direct relief projects by churches and Christian NGOs.
      Currently, we are being told we can only distribute blankets, food
      and other supplies through the District Collectors. We are deeply
      concerned this will delay needed assistance and could create
      opportunities for discrimination or corruption," said Dr. Joseph
      D'souza, President, All India Christian Council (aicc). "There is no
      logical reason to ban the direct involvement of established,
      peaceful Christian organisations that are already registered with
      the government."

      Bishop Joab Lohara of the Free Methodist Church said, "We are
      worried about reports that aid to the homeless Christians still in
      relief camps is not being fairly distributed. We appeal to
      authorities to be even-handed in their compensation to victims of
      this horrific violence. They have suffered enough already."

      The "Stop Violence Against Christians Rally" was sponsored by the
      All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations and the aicc.
      Protestors met at Master Canteen Chowk and marched to the Orissa
      State Assembly. Speakers included Raj, D'souza, Lohara, as well as
      Muslims, progressive Hindus, and Buddhists.

      Rally organisers also announced they would set up a "Communal
      Harmony Monitoring Group" which will closely watch relief and
      compensation for victims and report progress to the national offices
      of the aicc and SC/ST Confederation. Dr. Udit Raj also demanded that
      any enquiry commissions set up by the Orissa government include
      representatives from both the aicc and SC/ST Confederation since
      they represent Christians and Dalits, respectively.

      In the last few days, aicc leaders released two fact finding reports
      on the anti-Christian violence after visits to rural Orissa. Newly
      confirmed cases of arson, murder, and assault make this violence
      qualify as the largest attack on the Christian community in the
      history of democratic India. Both reports show that the Dalits �
      formerly known as untouchables � were the main group affected by the
      violence. Reports are at:

      http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/1826/45/
      and

      http://groups.google.com/group/JohnDayal/browse_thread/thread/17aef1a
      ebe4f1e70

      According to media reports, three investigators appointed by India's
      National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) are currently in Orissa. A
      Christian delegation, including an aicc leader, met with the NHRC
      chairman on Dec. 31, 2007 in New Delhi to request the visit.

      The violence allegedly began when Christians in Bamunigaon village
      in Kandhamal district of Orissa began to celebrate Christmas Eve on
      Dec. 24, 2007. Local Hindu fundamentalists opposed the event and a
      quarrel ensued. Also, a Hindutva leader, Swami Saraswati, was
      attacked by unknown assailants -- he alleged they were Christians.
      The next day a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)-affiliated group called
      for a strike and VHP members began attacking Christians across the
      state.
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