Christians in Orissa reeling from violence

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Sometimes there are things going on in the world that I don't want to know about, because I'd feel I should do something about them. This is one.

Orissa is a state in southeast India, and Kandhamal is a rural district there.


TIKABALI, India (Reuters) - On a starry night last week, as Lal Mohan Digal prepared to go to bed, a mob of raging, machete-wielding Hindu zealots appeared above the hills of his mud house and swarmed over this bucolic hamlet in Orissa.

By dawn, Christian homes in the village were smoking heaps of burnt mud and concrete shells. Churches were razed, their wooden doors and windows stripped off.

"We could hear them come shouting 'Jai Shri Ram'," Digal said, referring to the rallying cry of Hindus hailing their warrior-god.

The mob poured kerosene on the thatched rooftops of the village homes, then threw matches. Church spires were hacked down.

The Hindu part of the village was untouched. For four days Digal and his stricken Christian neighbours hid in the teak forests, before being herded to a government-run relief camp.

The violence replicated itself in village after village, as the rural Kandhamal district of Orissa convulsed from some of the worst anti-Christian attacks in India.

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The Church there is doing what it can:

Church petitions Indian Supreme Court to protect Christians in Orissa

NEW DELHI (CNS) -- The Catholic Church in India has petitioned the country's Supreme Court to protect Christian lives and property in Orissa state.

Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar told the Asian church news agency UCA News Sept. 2 that the church decided to approach the highest court "as we are not getting sufficient response" from the Orissa government.

The archbishop, whose archdiocese is in Orissa, said the church wants the court to order federal authorities to protect Christians in the eastern state.

"We want some clear help and response" from the government, added the archbishop, who has stayed in New Delhi since the violence broke out in Orissa Aug. 24.

The church petition seeks the deployment of sufficient riot police in villages where Hindu extremists continue to destroy churches and Christian buildings. It also demands that the Central Bureau of Investigation, the country's criminal investigative agency, probe the violence.

In addition to its regular judicial duties, the Supreme Court of India can take action if individuals file a petition with a question of public importance that needs the court's involvement.

Archbishop Cheenath said the attacks have now decreased, since "there are no more targets to attack." But in several villages Christians reportedly have been forced to sign documents declaring they are Hindus and have been asked to destroy their churches and other Christians' houses afterward.

The archbishop told UCA News all Christian institutions have been destroyed in the Kandhamal district, the worst-hit area of Orissa. The violence began there after suspected Maoists gunned down an 85-year-old Hindu religious leader and five associates Aug. 23. Hindu radicals targeted Christians, claiming they had masterminded the killings.

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On life and living in communion with the Catholic Church.

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This page contains a single entry by Richard Chonak published on September 17, 2008 11:12 AM.

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