For more information, contact:
Dr. Sam Paul, aicc Secretary Public Affairs
For immediate release
Massive violence against Christians continues unabated in Orissa
Christian organizations call for national shut-down of educational institutions on Friday
HYDERABAD – August 27, 2008
Violent attacks against Christians in the eastern state of Orissa continued 5th day. The Christian leaders across denominations are calling for Christian educational institutions to peacefully protest by closing schools on Friday. In positive news, a key appeal was won in the Orissa High Court this afternoon to protect victims and restore order.
“Some people have called the violence ‘Hindu-Christian clashes’. But this is not accurate. Innocent Christians – mostly of Dalit origin – continue to be attacked by communal organizations which are mocking the rule of law. Governance in Orissa state appears to have disintegrated,” said Dr. Joseph D’souza, President of the All India Christian Council (aicc).
“We call for all church and Christian educational institutions of Catholic, Protestant, Independent, and unaffiliated Christian denominations in the service of society to close for one day,” said Sam Paul, aicc National Secretary of Public Affairs. The aicc is supporting the call from church networks -- including the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, the Evangelical Fellowship of India, and the National Council of Churches in India -- to close Christian schools on Friday, Aug. 29, 2008. A letter sent by these groups said in part:
“Communal organizations have taken the law into their hands in 12 districts of Orissa and are going about targeting not only institutions but also persons. What is at stake is not only the freedom of conscience of a minority community but India’s secular democracy, its commitment to human rights and constitutional guarantees. The destructive and divisive communal forces have to be stopped. We want this message to go across to our fellow countrymen and that is why we are closing our educational institutions on Friday, 29th August 2008 in deep sorrow and anguish. We hope parents become aware of the implications of the incidents in Orissa. We also request all our people to pray for the victims of violence in Orissa and other places and their near and dear ones. We also pray for the misguided perpetrators of violence that they may mend their ways and become responsible citizens.”
A non-sectarian group of lawyers won an important appeal in the Orissa High Court this morning. Lawyers from the Human Rights Law Network filed “Sangram Mallick vs. Union of India”, Writ Petition Civil, No. 12318 of 2008. The petitioner and his organization, Ambedkar Lohia Vichar Manch, sought rehabilitation of all victims, provision of relief, and increased protection -- including deployment of more security forces such as Central Reserve Police Forces. A division bench of the High Court in Cuttack, Orissa, including Chief Justice B.S. Chauhan and Justice B.N. Mahapatra, specifically directed the state’s District Collectors to help victims return safely from hiding in the forests to their homes.
In the aftermath of the murder of a Hindu swami by unknown assailants on Aug. 23, 2008, mobs attacked the Christian community across the eastern state of Orissa. On Monday, a 12 hour strike called by hardliner Hindu nationalist organizations resulted in spreading violence. Media reports and eye witness accounts indicate about a dozen Christians were killed and thousands of Christian properties burnt. See dedicated webpage at: http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/2332/45/
From Dec. 24, 2007-Jan. 2, 2008, attacks in Kandhamal district killed at least four Christians and destroyed over 100 churches and 730 Christian homes. Several dozen women were sexually harassed and assaulted, and more than 40 shops belonging to Christians were looted and destroyed. Most of the victims were Dalits, formerly known as untouchables.
The All India Christian Council (www.aiccindia.org), birthed in 1998, exists to protect and serve the Christian community, minorities, and the oppressed castes. The aicc is a coalition of thousands of Indian denominations, organizations, and lay leaders.
Regional Secretary, New Delhi