Indian Christians Petition PM for Peace in Orissa at Christmas

General December 14, 2008

National United Christian Forum
(CBCI, NCCI and EFI Churches)

Archbishop’s House, 1 Ashok Place, New Delhi – 110001
+91 11 23343457/ 23362058 Fax: +91 11 23746575

President

Co-President

Co-President

Archbishop Vincent Concessao

Bishop Dr. Taranath S. Sagar

Rev. Halli Likha

Catholic Bishop Conference of India

National Council of Churches in India

Evangelical Fellowship of India



Indian Christians Petition PM for Peace in Orissa at Christmas

December 13, 2008

To: Hon’ble Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India
cc: Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, Home Minister of India
cc: Hon’ble Shri L.K. Advani Leader of the Opposition
cc: Hon’ble Shri Naveen Patnaik, Chief Minister of Orissa

More than three months since the violence first broke out against the minority Christian community in Kandhamal district of Orissa, fear continues to loom large among members of the hapless community even as those rendered homeless by the mayhem are living in appalling conditions in relief camps.

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas with heavy hearts we are deeply concerned about the abysmal condition of our brothers and sisters in Orissa. As if the Christmas 2007 attacks on Christians, followed by six weeks of non-stop violence after the killing of Swami Laxmananda against Christians were not enough, threat of peaceful Christmas this year weighs heavy on everyone’s mind.

Sangh Parivar elements have given Orissa government an ultimatum that if by 15 December the murderers of the slain Swami and his colleagues are not arrested the whole of Orissa will remain Bandh on Christmas Day. The call for a Bandh date betrays the mischievous design of the Parivar against the minority community. Victims in the relief camps fear that the shutdown, like previous ones, in Kandhamal will result in another spate of anti-Christian attacks.

Ever since the death of the Swami, we have been demanding immediate arrest of murderers of the Swami as well as of those responsible for the widespread arson, violence and killing of Christians there. We appeal to both the government of India and of Orissa to take immediate action so that communal forces do not succeed in their designs to disrupt the most important festival of Christians.

In the wake of the worst ever communal riots against Christians in India, over 50,000 people have been displaced, over 4000 homes destroyed, and over 60 Christians killed in Orissa since August 2008. Thousands of Christians have fled their villages and about 13,000 people are now living in nine relief camps. About 300 villages have been affected by the organized attacks and hundreds of church buildings, including house churches, have been destroyed.

Even as the government fights a good fight against terrorism from abroad as well as from within, please do not fail your Christian citizens, especially in Orissa. With a new Home Minister in place we expect pro-active, even pre-emptive action, like banning the Bajrang Dal, to preserve and promote peace in Orissa and across India. Only then can you sincerely wish us all a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

National United Christian Forum, appeals to the central and state government to take all necessary measures to ensure peace and communal harmony. NUCF recommends that:

  1. The proposed Bandh on December 25 be called off and immediate steps taken to bring normalcy in Kandhamal. The impunity being enjoyed by members of the Hindu nationalist groups should be cracked by proceeding legally against them.
  2. The relief camps should be kept going and improved in terms of providing adequate and nutritious meals to those who are housed there. Pregnant mothers and children in the camps should be given special care in the camps. Sanitation and medical facilities should be improved in the camps.
  3. The state government should allow entry of civil society and human rights organisations into the Kandhamal for assessment of the situation and help the victims.
  4. Confidence-building measures should be chalked out by the government before the victims return to their homes.
  5. An immediate legal action be initiated against those threatening Christians to embrace Hinduism if they want to remain alive and return to their homes.
  6. Orissa must constitute the state chapter of the Minority Commission as soon as possible.

Archbishop Vincent Concessao

Bishop Dr. Taranath S. Sagar

Rev. Halli Likha

Rev. Dr. Richard Howell
Secretary, NUCF