Christian Association in Orissa demand protection against persecution

"The government should ban those organisations engaged in religious fanaticism and violence"
( [email protected] ) Dec 25, 2003 11:33 AM EST

Bhubaneswar, Orissa, India., Dec. 25 - In response to the recent attacks perpetrated on the Christians in Orissa, a major association of Christians urged the state government to ban the organisations responsible for the attacks on the Christian community in the state including the attack on a Catholic church in Deogarh town in western Orissa's Deogarh district.

The All Orissa United Christian Forum (AOUCF) also demanded adequate protection for religious places of worship in the entire state.

"The government should ban those organisations engaged in religious fanaticism and violence," B.K.Muduli, general secretary of AOUCF told a news conference here. He however did not name the organizations. "It is the government's job to find them," he said.

Mr Muduli expressed concern over last week's attack on the Deogarh Catholic church and criticised the authorities for their failure to nab the culprits.

"It is unfortunate that even after a week of the incident, the police have not been able to arrest the culprits," he lamented.

Stating that violence against Christians is on the rise in the state, the AOUCF leader said that in 2002 alone more than two hundred cases of attacks against the Christian community had been recorded in different districts. "The government has completely failed in protecting the minorities," he said.

According to Mr Muduli, in most of these cases the culprits had managed to go scot-free as district officials had not initiated stringent action against them. "We had sent several letters in this regard to the state home secretary but in vain," he said.

He said the Orissa government three years back had formed a State Coordination Committee on Communal Harmony but it had failed to function effectively.

"The coordination committee was nothing but an eyewash," he said, adding that in place of the coordination committee the state government should constitute an Orissa Minority Commission with statutory powers to deal with communal-related problems.

He strongly rejected the VHP and Bajrang Dal's allegation that Christians and churches in the state were involved in forced conversion, which had been leading to tension in different districts.

"Christians do not convert. They only exercise their religious as well as constitutional right of preaching, practicing and propagating their faith with others," the AOUCF leader said.