India Leader Assures Christians of Safe Christmas

( [email protected] ) Dec 13, 2008 12:42 PM EST

Unlike 2007, Christians in Orissa, India, might be fortunate to celebrate Christmas this year, after Home Minister P. Chidambaram assured them that the Center would ensure their safety.

Chidambaram assured this on Wednesday when a delegation led by Delhi Archbishop Vincent M. Concessao met him to inform him about Christians fearing attacks during Christmas.

"We apprised the Home Minister of our very strong apprehension that the celebrations will be targeted by unruly elements as it happened last time," Babu Joseph, spokesperson for Catholic Bishop Conference of India (CBCI), told Press Trust of India.

Concerns were raised after Hindu extremists called for a statewide bandh, a form of protest or strike that shuts down the entire society, on Dec. 25, which could trigger more attacks against the Christian community.

The Home Minister, according to Joseph, has detailed and ordered the Orissa government to ensure safety to the Christian community.

The recently appointed politician reminded the state authorities of their duty to protect the people, recalling that advisories in the past have also been sent to Orissa.

Orissa has been in turmoil after violence broke out with the assassination of Swami Laxmananda Saraswati, a local Hindu leader, on August 23. Following the murder, Hindu mobs ignored Maoists' claim of responsibility and accused Christians, killing over 110 – as some reports have indicated – and forcing thousands to flee to forests.

Christian leaders and rights groups have accused the state of government of inaction.