Orissa Bishops Warn of ‘Master Plan’ to Wipe-Out Christianity

Catholic bishops from the persecution ravaged state of Orissa warned this week that Hindu extremists have a “master plan” to wipe out Christianity in the remote eastern Indian state.

In a letter to the state’s chief minister, Naveen Patnaik, the
Indian bishops conveyed their concerns about the mass “exodus of
Christians” from Kandhamal District and addressed the “considerable
reduction” of refugees in relief camps, according to Catholic News
Agency.

The bishops denied that the Christian refugees were leaving
the camps to safely return to their homes. Most, they reported, are
moving to relief camps in other areas such as in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack,
Jhanla, Berhampur, or have moved into rented houses, homes of
relatives, friends or acquaintances.

“It is estimated that 10,000 to 15,000 Christians of Kandhamal
district are living outside the district,” the bishops wrote in the
letter to the minister.

And while displaced Indian Christians want to return to their
villages, they still fear being attacked on their way back or in the
village themselves, the bishops added.

Another factor hindering the people’s return are reports of
forced conversions. The bishops noted that details of forced
conversions are taking place where Christians are pressured to choose
to “accept Hindu Samskaras under oath and under pain of divine
punishment.”

They are also forced to convert to Hinduism or forfeit the
harvesting of their field. One man was even denied burial in his
village because he was not a Hindu, the letter highlighted.

Another issue troubling the bishops is the fact that most of
those who brutally attacked the Christians have not been brought to
justice.

The state government have not arrested or brought the
criminals to court, the bishops complained. Also, the government has
not fulfilled their promises to allot land and money to the now
homeless Christians.

Some 50,000 Christians have been displaced during the more
than two months-long anti-Christian violence in Orissa. About 30,000 of
the people are said to be living in refugee camps where the living
condition is poor.

Christians and human rights activists in India and abroad have
condemned the government for turning a blind eye to the violence that
has gone on unabated since August and has even spread to several other
Indian states.

Indian bishops in the letter contested allegations that the attacks are an ethnic conflict.

“Hindu Fundamentalist groups have been trying to name the
communal violence as an Ethnic Conflict between the Tribals and the
Pano Christians. A cursory look at facts reveals that this conflict is
a calculated and pre-planned master plan to wipe out Christianity from
Kandhamal district, Orissa, in order to realize the hidden agenda of
Sangh Parivar of establishing a Hindu Nation,” they argued.

The bishop did, however, applaud the Orissa government’s
decision to establish a Fast Track Court at Kandhamal to accelerate the
trials of cases involving attacks against Christians.

The bishops requested to the Orissa minister that the judge of
the court be of a religion other than Hindu or Christian to ensure
fairness.

In addition to the request, the clergy also asked for the
national police to remain in Kandhamal until after the parliamentary
and assembly in Orissa, and for churches to be rebuilt or repaired by
the first week of December in time for Christmas. “This will also help
confidence building among the congregations and bury the past quietly
as they approach Christmas 2008,” their letter concluded.

The letter was signed by Raphael Cheenath, Archbishop of
Cuttack-Bhubaneswar; Bishop of Balasore Thomas Thiruthalil; and Bishop
of Berhampur Sarat Nayak.

Similarly, an ecumenical group of U.S. Christian leaders wrote
a letter this week to President Bush appealing for a stronger American
response to the attacks on Indian Christians.

“You should insist, in the strongest terms, that these
reprehensible groups and the assenting local government agencies be
brought into conformity with India’s rule of law,” the letter signed by
24 Catholic, Orthodox, mainline Protestant and evangelical leaders
read.

The American Christian leaders also used a similar description
to the Indian Catholic bishops to describe what is taking place in
India – calling it “religious cleansing.”

Source: Christian Post

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