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Christians Still Feeling Vulnerable in India

Thousands of Christians in India’s Orissa state are still too afraid to return home for fear of more violence, according to the general secretary of the All India Christian Council.
AICC General Secretary John Dayal said Christians in Orissa were still facing threats from Hindu militants after violent attacks in December 2007 and August last year. AP

Thousands of Christians in India’s Orissa state are still too afraid to return home for fear of more violence, according to the general secretary of the All India Christian Council.

John Dayal said that although there had been much work by religious groups to distribute Bibles and clothes, and to counsel victims, not much had been done to make Christians feel any safer.

“The result is that complainants and witnesses to violence feel very insecure and are susceptible to coercion, blackmail and perhaps allurement,” he said. “Not much progress has been in getting convictions especially in the murder cases involving BJP political leaders.”

He said Christians were still facing threats and coercion to convert to Hinduism following violent attacks by Hindu militants in December 2007 and August last year.

Out of the more than 5,000 houses destroyed in the violence, Dayal said most had not been rebuilt and that the church was more focused on rebuilding the houses instead of using the law to force the government to complete the houses.

“As a result, the Catholic Church says it will help complete 1,200 houses, Believers Church 900 Houses, Eficor about 300 houses, and CNI a similar number, another 2,500 houses remain without help,” he said.

He added: “A belated effort is now being made to revive civil society and the process of justice and reconciliation towards a lasting peace in Kandhamal, which remains the worst single case of persecution of Christians in South Asia.”

Envoys from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Finland travelled to Orissa last month where they met victims and heard their stories.

The envoys were met by Archbishop of Orissa Raphael Cheenath, who estimated that as many as half of the 50,000 who fled Kandhamal district were still in need of housing.

Joseph Nayak from Kritangia village told the envoys that although the violence had stopped, last year's attacks had left a deep scar on the psyche of Christians.

Archbishop Cheenath later told media that "the envoys were concerned and listened to the victims".

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