The Christmas message of God’s reconciling love for His creation seems to have captured the imagination of Shri L.K. Advani, a senior BJP leader. For him to state that the solution for the communal clash should be only through reconciliation and dialogue (as reported by PTI) supports this assumption. Shri Advani’s intervention led the Sangh Parivar outfits to call off the bandh on Christmas day in protest against the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmananda Saraswathi. The Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had requested him to intervene.
Christmas speaks of God’s intervention in history calling us also to intervene and to be in solidarity with the weak and vulnerable who suffer many forms of oppression and violence.
Continue to Pray and Appeal to the Government to Perform its Duty
The Church responded to the Bandh call by massive prayer movements all over India and around the world concerned Christians prayed for peace to prevail. The civil society also held peace rallies and meetings. The Church also appealed to the institutions of state to perform its duty of protecting the life of its citizens and upholding the rule of law. This we must continue to do.
Memorandum to Orissa Chief Minister
December 20, 2008, Bhubaneshwar: Dr Raphael Cheenath, Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, led a delegation which submitted a memorandum to the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Orissa Shri Naveen Patnaik. It appealed for the government to ensure the protection of every citizen of Orissa, particularly the affected people of Kandhamal and other districts, to celebrate Christmas. “The Christians fear further attacks by the criminals who are still roaming around freely and threatening the Christians.” The memorandum also stressed “due vigilance and intelligence on the influx of non-state players from entering into Orissa with a motive of creating communal violence.” A special concern was raised regarding “the Gayatri Aswamedha Yagan being organised in Sambalpur district of Orissa with the participation of several lakhs of people on 25th, 26th and 27th December 2008. The insistence to begin the Yagan on 25th December smacks of evil.” An appeal is made “To all sections of society to express solidarity as ‘One Odisha, One People’ and reject the vicious plans of the trouble mongers.”
In his Christmas message on 22nd December the Archbishop said, “It is time we stand united determined to dismiss all that divides us and say in one voice, enough is enough.”
Citizens for Peace Delhi Rally
December 22, 2008, New Delhi: On this winter afternoon several hundred citizens of various faiths and communities gathered on the lawns of V. P. House, near the Indian Parliament, to listen to music and leaders speak up for peace at Christmas and through the new year. The event was organized by EFI’s Reconciliation Commission under the banner of Citizens for Peace to demonstrate inter-faith solidarity with the Christians suffering in Orissa and those all those who have suffered from terrorism right up to Mumbai’s 26/11 attacks.
Rev. Dr. Valson Thampu, Principal of St. Stephen’s College, opened the gathering with an emotive prayer. Sharad Yadav, JD(U) MP and the new Convenor of the NDA, spoke of the impact of Christians from his early life and affirmed his solidarity with Christians in India especially those suffering persecution. He was followed by speakers from various political, social and spiritual backgrounds including Shrikant Jenna, OBC leader from Orissa and former central government minister; Dr. Yogendra Mackwana, another former central minister; Ramdas Athawale, MP, Leader of Republican Party of India and Working President of All India Dalit Front; Dr. B.L. Mungekar, Member, Planning Commission; Sardar Darshan Singh, a Delhi Sikh community leader; Indraj Saini, a leader of the Saini, Mali community in Delhi; Dr. Lakkho Mal, former director of the State Corporation of India; Dr. S.P. Singh, Senior Fellow at Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla; Ram Narayan Chauvan, Editor of Phule Darshan magazine, Bhopal.
Among the Christians who spoke were two who had just returned from visiting Orissa: Dr. John Dayal, Gen. Secretary, All India Christian Council and member of India’s National Integration Council, and Rev. Ivan Raskino from Mumbai. The latter and Fr. Dominic Emmanuel, spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Delhi, brought timely messages from God’s word. Rev. Dr. Richard Howell highlighted the need to unite against the terror within as well as the need to accelerate inter-religious dialogue for peace. Bishop Karam Masih, CNI Bishop-emeritus, closed with prayer. Thaan Singh Josh proposed a vote of thanks.
Through the afternoon there was music and singing by Punam Bharti and the Kabirites from Aligarh, a local Sikh sangat, and the Truth Seekers International group led by Earnest McCuen. Sunil Sardar, Secretary of the EFI Reconciliation Commission presided.
Rev. Dr. Richard Howell
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