Security Beefed Up for Peaceful Christmas in India

( [email protected] ) Dec 23, 2009 01:08 PM EST

NEW DELHI – Authorities in communally sensitive Kandhamal district, Orissa state, have beefed up security for vulnerable Christians.

Thousands of police have been deployed in the district to prevent any attacks or violence during Christmas.

"All hot spot areas in Kandhamal have been secured. We have also intensified checking in all entry and exit points," said Superintendent of Police S. Praveen Kumar.

He told media that police patrolling will be enhanced to ensure a trouble-free Christmas.

Major violence against Christians began during the Yuletide celebration in 2007. Dozens of churches were razed down and many were beaten on concocted allegations.

Following this, the murder of a Hindu leader in August 2008 triggered one of the worst incidents of anti-Christian violence in the country. Hundreds were killed, thousands of homes were burned and looted, and churches were attacked by anti-social elements.

Many have called for adequate security for Christians this Christmas.

Several civil and religious groups have submitted memorandums and written letters to authorities pleading that prayers and Christmas celebrations be made accessible and peaceful to the Christian community in the tribal district.

Last year, Hindutva groups declared a bandh on Christmas Eve, placing Christians and church leaders at unease with fears of violence. Fortunately, the state government intervened and annulled the statewide shutdown

This year, about 20,000 Christians in Kandhamal district will face Christmas as refugees, according to a Christian persecution watchdog,

Release International warned that many displaced by the 2008 violence are still unable to return to their villages for fear of death or forcible conversion to Hinduism.

"Please pray for Christians in India this Christmas, especially those in Orissa who still face the high risk of attack and marginalization from the Hindu fundamentalists," said Andy Dipper, CEO of Release International.

The group has urged churches around the world to remember at Christmas the Indian Christians who were victims of the riots.