FIACONA appeals to international community to withhold support to radical Hindu groups in US and Europe after attacks on Christians in Orissa, India.

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Washington: January 3, 2008. The Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations (FIACONA) is deeply disturbed

by the level of escalating violence against the defenseless Christians in the state of Orissa, India since the Christmas day. FIACONA lately realized that the state government of Orissa, headed by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and supported by radical Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been involved in a massive cover up in the news media about the extent of violence against the local Christian population. These attacks are taking place in the same state where the Australian Missionary Graham Stains and his two children were burnt alive by a Hindu mob during BJP`s rule. Last week, on the morning of December 24th a group of rightwing Hindu extremists belonging to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) went around destroying the Christmas decorations, demanding the Christians not to celebrate Christmas, intimidating and disturbing the peace in a village called Bamunigam in Daringibadi block of Kandhamal District in the state of Orissa. Christian families, which objected to the actions of the Hindu activists, were physically attacked and were shot at. Many were badly injured. Scores of Priests, nuns and Christian families fled the villages and are still hiding in jungles fearing their lives if returned. On the second day, 25th December, the crowd came back and destroyed the churches in Bamunigam area. Then they entered the Christian villages and burnt their houses and property. Lives of Christians are under threat while the state government of Mr. Naveen Patnaik supported by the Hindu BJP party failed to protect the lives and property of their citizens who happen to be Christians. Reports reaching our Washington DC office confirmed that on the same day, about 2.00 p.m. much larger crowds of about 400 to 500 people marched into Balliguda town parish and ransacked the church building, residence of priest, convents and institutions and looted the property. By 10.00 p.m. the large parish church, presbytery, convent, computer room, clinic, high school student`s hostel, were all destroyed and burned (some fully, others partly). Then the same crowd moved into the town and completely burned down the church belonging to the Baptist mission along with another independent Pentecostal church. As per a fact finding team lead by an independent journalist John Dayal, the leaders of Hindu rightwing groups such as RSS, BJP, Bajrangdal and VHP were moving around menacingly threatening the priests and Christians preventing them from even filing a police complaint. (The fact-finding team was expelled from the state since then by the Orissa states Inspector General of Police on January 2nd). Instead of making security arrangements, two police officers asked the priests of Phulbani parish to have no Christmas celebration on the 25th saying that if they celebrated Christmas there will be more violence. Predictably on Christmas day RSS supporters attacked the convent in Phulbani. The fact finding team further reports that, on Christmas day, priests and nuns in Pobingia parish were asked to move out while a group of RSS and Bajrangdal activists attacked the church of Pobingia parish destroying it. Later they destroyed the priest`s residence also. All these were happening with impunity, in the presence of police. More than half of 24 parishes in Kandhamal District could not celebrate Christmas mass because of fear of attack by RSS groups. During the midnight Mass on 24th December, supporters of RSS, BJP, VHP threw a crude bomb on Archbishop`s House, in the city of Bhubaneswar. The bomb apparently caused not much damage. In the meanwhile, situation in the state has forced priests, nuns and Christian families to leave their homes and take refuge in the jungles now for several days. The state government of Mr. Naveen Patnaik supported by the Bharatiya Janata Party and other Hindu radical groups have been involved in a massive media blackout to keep the news from spreading. Another fact finding team reports that the process of allocating relief and rehabilitation to affected peoples in Kandhamal is seriously impaired, inadequate, and arbitrary, as is the process of determining damages. Containing VHP and RSS mobs in Kandhamal and their political influence in the state Capital is daunting. A lot of time has been taken up trying to convince the state government to send requisite forces to contain the violence. In the midst of this, RSS groups continue to act with impunity, trying to terrorize affected Christian families into converting to Hinduism, and, in a few places, impose economic boycotts. INSTITUTIONS SO FAR REPORTED ATTACKED AND DESTROYED: PARISH CHURCHES Balliguda Bamunigam Sankharakhole Pobingia Padangi VILLAGE CHURCHES Bodagan-Balliguda Balliguda town Kamapada - Balliguda Mandipanka- Godapur Jhinjirguda- Bamunigam Ulipadaro - Bamunigam Goborkutty-Kattingia Kulpakia- Nuagam Dohapanga-Balliguda 7 churches, Sirtiguda, Balliguda 4 churches in Phiringia 7 churches in Phulbani 4 churches in Ruthungia 4 churches in Kalingia 2 churches in Tikabali 4 village Churches - Nuagam Village churches in Boriguda (Padangi ), Village church in Bakingia (Raikia), Village churches in Dalagam and Iripiguda The fact finding team on the ground in Orissa reports that a good number of other village churches, Christian homes and Christian owned businesses have been destroyed of which we do not yet have details. Confidential reports reaching our Washington office also say that in Barakhama area 400 houses belonging to Christians were looted and gutted and five people were murdered. A list of institutions belonging to Christians destroyed in Barakhama area are: CONVENTS PRESBYTERY Balliguda Pobingia Phulbani Bamunigam Sankharakhole Balliguda Pobingia Bamunigam Padangi HOSTELS Pobingia 2 Balliguda 2 Bamunigam 2 Minor Seminary (Balliguda) Vocational Training Centre (Balliguda) Sarshnanda, leprosy centre (Pobingia) FIACONA is asking the international governments, institutions and agencies to stop interacting in any way or form with Hindu radical groups such as the radical Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party, The Overseas Friends of BJP, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), its US wing VHP of America Inc. and all their sister organizations which are actively promoting Hindutva – the idea that a Hindu India is for Hindus only. (There are over 40 million Indian Christians some of them dating back to the advent of Christianity itself, besides 160 million Muslims, 2 million Buddhists, 1.5 million Sikhs and over 300 million non caste tribal populations which are not a part of the Hindu caste system). In the wake of such large scale violence against defenseless Christian population in India by the members of RSS-VHP-Bajrangdal last week, FIACONA supports the demand by number of other international organizations that the US, UK and European governments classify these groups as terrorist organizations supporting a sectarian agenda against the larger interest of a pluralist democracy in India. FIACONA also supports the demand by number of human rights groups asking the US and UK governments to ban members of Orissa state government and the leaders of BJP and RSS in Orissa from entering either country. FIACONA urges UPA government in New Delhi under the leadership of Dr. Manmohan Singh to use his full constitutional authority to restore the confidence of the people and the sense of security among helpless local Christian population in the state of Orissa, bring justice to the victims, institute an impartial CBI inquiry by the Central Government, prosecute the perpetrators of violence against the Christians in a swift manner, and take measures to ensure such violence against Christians is not repeated by the Hindu extremist groups affiliated to the RSS-VHP and BJP.

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