Christian leaders meet Orissa CM, discuss Kandhamal riots fallout

November 10th, 2008 - 5:54 pm ICT by ANI  

Bhubaneswar (Orissa), Nov.10 (ANI): A team of Christian leaders, including the Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Raphael Cheenath, met Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in Bhubaneswar on Monday, and reportedly discussed the fallout from the anti-Christian attacks in the state’’s Kandhamal District.
Urging Patnaik to take additional measures to restore normalcy in the riot-affected district, the Christian leaders said that they wanted those who have fled to be brought back to their homes.
“We are very much interested in the restoration of the whole situation there specially to bring back the refugees back to their homes and back to their villages. And for this we have requested a number of things to be done by the administration. They are already doing but we want that to be made more efficient and more practical so that the people can go back as early as possible,” said Archbishop Raphael Cheenath.
At least 35 people were killed in a string of religious attacks in Orissa sparked by fears of forced conversion that have also sent more than 20,000 mainly poor, lower caste villagers into refugee camps and shelters.
The killing in Kandhamal district sparked off some of the worst anti-Christian riots in India in decades.
Controversy over conversion, which spans many parts of India, also reflects a tit-for-tat religious battle for hearts and minds. While Orissa’’s victims were mostly Christians, fear of conversion is the same on both sides of the communal divide.
For years, many Hindus feared missionaries enticed the poor to Christianity with promises of schools, hospitals, and money. But in the past few decades, tales like these sparked a backlash from a Hindu group which “converted” many people back to Hinduism through a purification ritual.
Archbishop Raphael Cheenath had earlier this month described forced conversions back to Hinduism as “systematic”.
Meanwhile, Patnaik has assured the christian leaders of all help and support from his government.
“I met the delegation they put forward certain requirements of theirs, all of those will be examined and we will see what can be done,” said Patnaik.
Violence in Kandhamal erupted after armed men killed a Hindu leader linked to the main opposition Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and four others, an attack Hindus blamed on Christians.
The leader had been heading a local campaign to reconvert Hindus and tribal people from Christianity.
Most of India’’s billion-plus citizens are Hindu and about 2.5 percent are Christians. In the Kandhamal area, more than 20 percent of the 650,000 people are mainly tribal inhabitants who converted to Christianity. (ANI)

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