India: Church leaders urge Prime Minister to ensure safety of Christians in Orissa

General December 27, 2007

EFI NEWS

Church leaders urge Prime Minister to ensure safety of Christians in Orissa; Shri V P Singh, other national leaders stand in support at Prayer for Peace Meeting in New Delhi

Over 40 churches, Institutions destroyed in Christmas violence as extremists go on the rampage, fire on people in four days of continuing violence


Former Prime Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh and many other senior national leaders, Human Rights and Civil Society activists and religious leaders joined the Christian community in a peaceful Prayer for Peace Dharna at Orissa Niwas, Chanakyapuri in New Delhi. The meeting ended with a Candle Light vigil. The slogans at the meeting were “Christ is the Prince of Peace – Don’t Kill Christians” and “We pray for Orissa, We pray for India”. Earlier, a memorandum had been submitted to the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister seeking urgent Central Government intervention to end the four days of continuing violence in Orissa. The following is the text of the memorandum submitted by Delhi Archbishop Most Rev Vincent Concessao on behalf of the United Christian Forum, Bishop Karam Masih, CNI, Rev. Dr. Richard Howell, EFI, Rev. Thomas Aquinas; Dr. John Dayal, [Member, National Integration Council, Government of India], the All India Catholic Union and the All India Christian Council.

Christmas 2007, 25-26-27

Dr Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister of India
New Delhi

Re: Appeal for immediate action to prevent armed attack on Christians in the Tribal Phulbani region of Orissa, and desecration of Churches in the state. The violence has continued for four days, beginning from 24th December to 27th December, despite claims of peace by the State government. There must be no repeat of Gujarat’s Dangs area violence on Christmas 1998.


Dear Prime Minister,


We bring to you and your government Greetings of Christmas from 2.5 crore Christian community in India.

It is, however, with a heavy heart that we also bring to you our apprehension and fear that the current atrocities against Christians in the tribal area of Phulbani in the State of Orissa is fast exploding into the type of violence we saw in the Dangs district of Gujarat during Christmas 1998. The official apathy, the police indifference and the freedom allowed to marauding bands of fanatics and armed thugs in Gujarat has been repeated in Orissa in what is a planned conspiracy against the Church and our faith.

Spokesman of communal groups are coming on television and in the Print media to announce they will not tolerate the presence of Christians in the trial areas of Orissa. The threat of continuing and escalating violence, the targeting of Church leaders and the concerted attack on institution prove that the conspiracy has been planned over a period of time, with meticulous mobilisation. This would not have been possible without the complicity of the official machinery, and the backing of powerful political groups.

Unless immediate and urgent action is taken, we fear that the situation in Orissa will deteriorate and will lead to much suffering for our people, as also for the common men, women and children of the tribal areas, the poorest of the poor.

The main aggression is from the Kui Janakalyan Samiti. This organization had declared bandh on 25th and 26th December 2007 in order to press for their demands. But Christians feel that it was only ploy used against Christians in order to:

a) Disturb their Christmas celebration, the important feast of Christians; it is even a National holiday.

b) Instead of conducting bandh they have unleashed a reign of terror, destroying institutions, intimidating Christians and forcing them to go out of their homes.

c) Their entire attention is on driving away Christians from the region.

We narrate for you, in brief, the course of events and the volume of violence:

INSTITUTIONS ATTACKED SO FAR

PARISH CHURCH VILLAGE CHURCHES
Balliguda Bodagan-Balliguda
Balliguda town
Kamapada – Balliuda
Pobingia

Mandipanka- Godapur

Baminigam Jhinjirguda- Bamunigam
Ulipadaro – Bamunigam
Goborkutty-Kattingia
Kulpakia- Nuagam
3 more village church
CONVENTS

PRESBYTERY

Balliguda Balliguda
Pobingia Pobingia
Phulbani

Bamunigam

Bamunigam

HOSTELS

Pobingia 2

Balliguda 2

Bamunigam 2

Minor Seminary (Balliguda)

Vocational Training Centre (Balliguda)

In addition, offices such as those of World Vision have also been destroyed.

The course of violence so far is:

24/12/07: Trouble began at Bamunigaon village when a Christmas pandal was attacked with guns, injuring three persons. On 25th December, church building at Bamunigaon has been attacked and damaged. The Catholic Church at Baliguda a sub-divisional headquarters town, was suddenly attacked by mob and vandalised, ransacked and damaged very badly. The Computer Institute was attacked and completely destroyed. Ambulance Van set on fire.

25/12/07: CNI Church attacked and damaged at Baliguda...

World Vision ADP Office at Daringbadi was attacked and vandalised. Two Jeep and motor bikes set on fire.

Police Station at Tikabali a Block headquarters was surrounded by the mob and two police jeeps set on fire.

Two churches in Chakapadu area were attacked while church service was going on and people chased out and beaten up. Meals prepared for Christmas feast was trampled.

No church service was allowed to conduct in Phulbani the District headquarters of Kondhmal district, despite the presence of District Collector and Superintendent of Police. The district administration said they could go ahead to conduct church service at their own risk.

Chandballi Baptist Church in Balasore district was attacked while Christmas Service was going on and people were chased out and beaten up.

Towards evening heavy fighting between Christians and Hindu fundamentalist group erupted in Barakhama area, near Baliguda town.

Our efforts to get the government of Orissa to expeditiously contain the violence, arrest the culprits and restore the confidence of the poor tribal and Dalit Christian community in the have met with a phlegmatic bureaucratic response.

While the Christian leadership has been appealing for peace and harmony, aggressive religious fundamentalist elements or local ashrams and political organisations have a run of field, and are openly threatening the Church.

We appeal to the Central government to impress on the Government of Orissa to ensure that there is ample police protection given to the Christian community, its personnel, and insitutions in the state.

God Bless you
And God Bless India

Released to the Media by Dr. John Dayal

Rev. Dr. Richard Howell

General Secretary
Evangelical Fellowship of India
New Delhi, India

Evangelical Fellowship of India (established 1951) is a charter member of World Evangelical Alliance, an accredited NGO with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations