Persecution in India Yields Letter to Governor of Orissa Dec 28

Darrell L. Bock's picture

India continues to be a difficult place for Chrsitians. Most RTecently there have been a series of incidents in Orissa Province. The situation is so serious that a letter was sent by several Christian leaders to the governor. I have appended that letter to this post. Such incidents are a reminder that freedom of religious expression is something we often take for granted. We shoudl keep these believersin India in mind. Here is the letter:Shri Naveen PatnaikHon’ble Chief Minister of OrissaBhubaneswar Dear Sir, We, the leaders and representatives of different Churches of Orissa would like to bring to your kind notice, the atrocities committed against the Christians in Kandhamal District and other places of the state of Orissa. The trouble began on 24th December at 8.00 a.m. at Bamunigam village, close to the police station under Daringibadi Block of Kandhamal District. Some Hindu Fundamentalists forcefully removed the Christmas decoration, which the Ambedkar Baniko Sangho comprising the local Christian entrepreneurs, had put up as a preparation for Christmas, with the due permission of the administration. This was followed by exchange of hot words between two groups, as the Fundamentalists insisted to stop Christmas celebrations. Within a few minutes a group of people who were stationed close by pounced on the members of Ambedkar Baniko Sangho with sticks, knives and other lethal weapons like guns. Seeing the crowd coming to attack the people dispersed out of fear. The Fundamentalists began to destroy the shops of Christians. About fifteen shops have been destroyed and looted. They also shot at by guns Christian community badly injuring two of them. They also destroyed about fifteen shops belonging to the Christians and looted the property available. Six seven members of Ambedkar Boniko Sango were beaten up by the mob. On the second day, 25th December, the crowd came back and destroyed the Churches in Bamunigam area. Then they entered the Christian villages and burnt their houses and property. They were also threatened to leave their places. The parish church and the Christians are under threat without any police security. Attack on Balliguda ParishOn the same day, 24th December evening much larger crowd (400to 500) marched into Balliguda town parish and damaged and ransacked the Church building, residence of priest, convents and institutions and looted the property. By 10.00 p.m. the following institutions were destroyed and burned (some fully, others partly). The large parish church, presbytery, convent, computer room, dispensary plus +2 student’s hostel, etc. The same crowd moved into the town and completely burned down the church belonged to the Baptist Christians. They also attacked another church belonging to the Pentecostal Christians. On 25th December they were moving around menacingly threatening the priests and Christians so that they were not even able to file an FIR. The situation is desperate and there is total fear and anxiety among Christians. Two constables asked the priests of Phulbani parish to have no celebration otherwise there will be more troubles. On 25th December, the convent in Phulbani was also attacked by a group of Fundamentalists. They destroyed everything possible from outside of the convent (door, window glasses, etc.) They also destroyed a new school bus. On 25th December the priests and sisters in Pobingia parish were advised to move out to a safer place which they did. And thereafter at 12.00 noon a group of Bajrandal people attacked the church of Pobingia parish and destroyed it. There after they destroyed the priest’s residence in the afternoon. All these happened in the presence of police with impunity. More than half of 24 parishes in Kandhamal District could not celebrate Christmas mass because of fear of attack In Bhubaneswar During midnight Mass on 24th December, someone threw a bomb on Archbishop’s House, Bhubaneswar. Though it exploded fortunately no damage took place. Our Fears 1. Even though the Government have been assuring us all protection the fundamentalists are moving about with lethal weapons threatening the Christians. 2. The fundamentalists go on their destructive activities even in the presence of the police force who often say that they are not enough to face such a crowd. The destruction goes on unabated. 3. The Christians who are already attacked and those who are in great fear of being attacked feel with sufficient reason that they are left to the mercy of the fundamentalists. 4. We don’t see any where sufficient number of police force, the senior police officers who deputed to the Kandhamal District for maintenance of law and order have expressed their inability to contain the situation in absence of adequate force. 5. The Fundamentalists are forcing the Christians to leave their homes and take refuge in the forest.INSTITUTIONS ATTACKED SO FARPARISH CHURCH     VILLAGE CHURCHESBalliguda    Bodagan-Balliguda     Balliguda town     Kamapada – Balliuda Pobingia    Mandipanka- Godapur Baminigam    Jhinjirguda- Bamunigam     Ulipadaro – Bamunigam     Goborkutty-Kattingia     Kulpakia- Nuagam      Dohapanga-Balliguda     4 village Churches - Nuagam     3 more village church      Bakingia ( Raikia )      Boriguda ( Padangi )CONVENTS    PRESBYTERYBalliguda      Balliguda Pobingia     PobingiaPhulbani      BamunigamSankharkhole     PadangiBamunigamHOSTELSPobingia 2Balliguda 2Bamunigam 2Minor Seminary (Balliguda)Vocational Training Centre (Balliguda)Sarshnanda (Pobingia)Barakhama, 400 houses are gutted, five people murdered, property looted, one tractor burnt. Sirtiguda ( Balliguda) 7 Churches, 4 Churches in Phiringia, Phulbani Block 7 Churches, Ruthungia 4 Churches, Kallingia 3 chruches, Dalagam one church, Irpiguda one, Tikabali two IA Churches.Kui Janakalyan Samiti This organization had declared bandh on 25th and 26th December 2007 in order to press for their alleged demands. But it was only a ploy to prevent the celebration and attack the Christians and their churches and institutions. But their real purpose was 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. It is evident from the slogan they are shouting at Christians.Most of the priests, pastors and religious sisters in Kandhamal District have taken shelter in the forest. In fact the fundamentalists are in search of finding their hide-outs.All these happened during last three days. We are in receipt of information from various churches and institutions that the miscreants are still active and the destruction of property is still going on and Christians are under attack. On the other hand the innocent Christians are apprehended and Christian officials are victimized in order to appease the Fundamentalists.In view of the facts stated above we demand the followings: 1. That a CBI inquiry may be ordered for proper and impartial investigation for justice. 2. That Central Para Military forces be deployed in adequate strength at all the affected and sensitive places to prevent any further recurrences as the local police has not been able to control the situation. 3. That impartial and proper assessment of the property damaged, caused to various Churches, Christian institutions and other establishments may be made and adequate compensation be provided as early as possible to restore confidence of the people in the administration. 4. That proper compensation be given to the deceased family and injured persons. 5. That the culprits responsible for creating communal disharmony and caused damage to people and properties should be severely dealt with and the Govt. officials be given exemplary punishments for their gross negligence, inaction, apathy amounting to connivance with the perpetrators 6. A Fact Finding Committee consisting of various Church leaders and representatives proposed to visit various affected sites and personnel of the Kandhamal District and other affected places of the state to take stock of the situation and to console the victims and families. Therefore, we request to provide police protection to the team during their visit. Yours sincerely, Archbishop Raphael Cheenath,SVD Bishop Sarat Chandra NayakBishop Samsan Das Rev. Dr. Richard HowellGeneral SecretaryEvangelical Fellowship of IndiaNew Delhi, India

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