ASIA/INDIA - Central government takes up defence of Christians attacked by Hindu extremists in Orissa state

Thursday, 23 September 2004

New Delhi (Fides Service) - Following protests to the central government of India after recent attacks on the Christians in Orissa, the central government of India sent a team of investigators to Raikia, where Hindu extremists destroyed a Catholic church on 26 August. The investigators will have meetings religious leaders, the media, local intellectuals in order to find and punish those responsible and ascertain reasons for the violence.
On 8 September the episode was discussed by the parliament of Orissa state ruled by the Hindu nationalist party Baratiya Janata Party BJP. In the discussion members of the Opposition said nothing had been done to prevent such attacks and that the perpetrators had not been pursued and they called for an intervention by the National Minorities Commission. Christians in parliament asked “How could a crowd of 500 extremists attack a church without being noticed by police”.
The local Christian community has also asked for an investigation into the recent re-conversion of 75 Tribal Christians to Hinduism. The Global Christian Council of India denounced Hindu extremists for organising illegal “ceremonies of re-conversion”. The Council reported the incident to the National Minorities Council saying that this was against Orissa law, which demands that the authorities must be informed before a person can change religion. The law was passed by the BJP to stop Tribals from becoming Christians. Now it works against Hindus, local observers say. The Council said there appears to be a plan to chase Christians away from Orissa, and it asked for national government protection. Most of the people in Orissa are poor Tribals easily persuaded to act against their will with promises of money and other benefits.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 23/9/2004 lines 31 words 335)