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Ethnic Cleansing Of Christians in India

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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

Archbishop Vincent Concessao

Bishop Dr. Taranath S. Sagar

Rev. Halli Likha

CBCI, President NUCF

President NCCI, Vice President NUCF

Chairman, EFI, Vice Chairman NUCF

Rev. Fr. Thomas Sequira

Bishop Dr. D.K. Sahu

Rev. Dr. Richard Howell

Deputy Secretary General, CBCI

General Secretary, NCCI

General Secretary, EFI

The prevailing ethnic cleansing of Christians in India and in particular in Orissa and Karnataka was the point of deliberation in a meeting of the National United Christian Forum held in Delhi on 7th October 2008.

The various Churches in India condemn the unprecedented deliberate and systematic ethnic cleansing of Christians motivated by the Hindutva extremist groups like Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad. From 25th August 2008 onwards, the Hindu extremist groups are burning, killing, beating, raping and forcing conversion of Christian believers to Hinduism. They are systematically destroying homes, churches, orphanages, Bible Schools, even burning entire villages throughout the State of Orissa, particularly in the district of Kandhamal. Though not widely, but this has also spread in other parts of India.

At least 48 Christians are reported to be killed - mostly burned alive or hacked to death. More than 4300 homes are burnt, 50,000 are rendered homeless. More than 400 Churches and prayer halls destroyed. There is no protection even in the camps run by the Orissa government where there is no proper water supply and the camps are repeatedly attacked, sometimes even bombed. The police are seen to be just standing and watching. In Karnataka over 40 churches and prayer halls have been destroyed. Sacred objects are desecrated, vandalized.

The August 23rd killing of Hindu religio-political leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his disciples in the Kandhamal district of the eastern state of Orissa has been condemned by the Church. Although the local Maoist have claimed responsibility for killing him; the Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad groups continue to blame local Christians for it.

The Sangh Parivar continues to fabricate stories to justify their project of ethnic cleansing and killing of innocent Christians. On the day of the killing the media reports blamed the Maoists for the killing of Swami but the very next day Christians were blamed, then Christian Maoist were blamed and now fabricated documents with forged signatures are surfacing that the Church pre planned the killing of Swami. Christians neither believe nor practice religious conversions using coercive, fraudulent or allurement or by denigrating other faiths. There is not a single case of conviction, in any court of India, against any Christian, for converting by force or allurements. However, the media continues to report stories of Christians being forcefully converted to Hinduism in Orissa.

The Church in India has never engaged in violent activities. It has served the nation through its educational, health and social services both in cities and in poor remote areas. It has rendered sacrificial services to empower the poor and the marginalized. However a section of the Sangh Parivar mocks even the sacrificial service of Mother Teresa. Attempts are made by some sections of the Sangh Parivar to divide the Church body by blaming certain sections within the Christian community. The Church speaks with one voice that attacks against Christians must be dealt in accordance with the law of the land. The state has failed to protect its minorities and should bear the responsibility for dereliction of its duty.

Ultimately, Christian response to communal violence and ethnic cleansing is best expressed in the Biblical understanding of forgiveness. Jesus Christ taught his followers, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” We certainly follow this but we seek the rights of all citizens safeguarded and justice done. The Church in India has always promoted inter-religious harmony and inter-religious dialogue. It is with determination to live in harmony and in meaningful collaboration for peace, justice; truthfulness and reconciliation with everyone around us that we seek to serve God and our Nation.

We are encouraged by the civil society of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and people of various ideologies who have come forward to condemn the evil deeds of a section of Sangh Parivar and to help the victims of violence in many ways. We are thankful that the majority of the people of our country recognize the Christian minority as a peace-loving community, ever eager to render service to people of all social strata and religious affiliations, especially those who are poor and marginalized.

Recommendations

For Central Government:

  • A warning under Article 355 is not sufficient; the Central government should issue precise directions under Articles 256 and 257 asking the Orissa state government to take necessary action to curb violence expeditiously.
  • A probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) should be ordered to investigate both the killing of the Saraswati and the violence perpetrated on Christians after that.

For State Government:

  • The state government should take all necessary steps to bring normalcy to the district of Kandhamal.
  • Investigations into cases filed in police stations must be completed under a time bound programme and charge sheets filed in the court. Since the number of cases is very large, special court(s) could be established.
  • Families that have lost in arson, documents like land records, identification papers, ration cards, certificates etc., be offered State assistance by declaring such documents as valid when affidavits are given by the community or panchayat or gram sabha.
  • The government officials should be booked for the dereliction of their duty and the willful negligence in protecting the victims and stopping the violence.
  • The state government should allow entry of civil society and human rights organisations into the Kandhamal district for assessment of the situation and to help the victims.
  • 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 extra care in the camps. Sanitation and medical facilities should be improved in the camps. Free medical treatment should be provided to those who got injured during the attacks. Special schools and classes should be conducted for children.
  • Confidence building measures should be chalked out by the government before the victims return to their homes.
  • Extensive and proper damage assessment should be done by the government with the help of civil society organisations and full compensation ensured.
  • The damaged and burned houses and institutions should be rebuilt by the government.
  • The government should ban the entry of the VHP, the Bajrang Dal and the RSS into the Kandhamal district.
  • A long-term strategy should be worked out to render justice to the victims and to promote peace and secularism in Orissa.

Rev. Dr. Richard Howell
Secretary, NUCF