Tuesday, 08 January 2008 19:00 Dr. John Dayal Editorial Dept - Asia
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In the last few days, All India Christian Council (aicc) leaders released two reports on the anti-Christian violence in Orissa (India) which began on Christmas Eve. 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.

Four leaders from aicc chapters in Orissa visited the affected villages from January 3-5 and released their report on Jan. 7, 2008. The report says 95 churches were vandalised or destroyed, 730 Christian homes burnt, and four Christians killed with many still missing and presumed dead. To view the entire Fact Finding Report,
see: http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/1826/45/

On Jan. 5, 2008, aicc Secretary-General John Dayal released a white paper after visiting the area. Advocate Nicholas Barla, a lawyer and human rights expert, and Mr. Hemant Nayak, a social scientist and human rights and development activist, were also part of the fact finding team. They concluded that the attacks on Christians included simultaneous, planned violence by extremist Hindutva supporters and complicity and consistent incompetence by police and local authorities. To view the entire white paper, see: http://groups.google.com/group/JohnDayal/browse_thread/thread/17aef1aebe4f1e70

According to media reports, two members from India's National Commission for Minorities (NCM), Dileep Padgaonkar and Zoya Hasan, are currently in Orissa to investigate the violence. Aicc leaders met with the NCM chairman on Dec. 27, 2007 in New Delhi. "We are saddened to acknowledge the violence in Orissa will go into the history books as an unprecedented attack on Christians in India. The tragedy is deepened by proof that the violence was avoidable if the authorities had enforced the rule of law," said Dr. Joseph D'souza, aicc President.
 

Together with the All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations led by Dr. Udit Raj, the aicc will hold a "Stop Violence Against Christians Rally" in Bhubaneswar, Orissa, on January 10, 2008. Protestors will meet at 10am at Master Canteen Chowk and march to the Orissa State Assembly for a public meeting. Confirmed speakers include Dr. Udit Raj, Dr. Joseph D'souza, Bishop Joab Lohara of the Free Methodist Church, and victims from Orissa.

"Many have expressed outrage with the authorities and Hindutva extremists whose actions hurt innocent people during Christmas - a season of peace across the world. But we must express our anger and frustration in a peaceful manner. I invite all Indian citizens of good will to join the "Stop Violence Against Christians Rally" on
Thursday," said D'souza.

The violence allegedly began when Christians in Bamunigaon village in Kandhamal district of Orissa began to celebrate Christmas Eve. 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.

Image Courtesy of Dalit Freedom Network
Article C/O Dr. Stephen Gill, NFP Columnist



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