After violence, India set for low-key Christmas

December 5th, 2008 - 3:00 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 5 (IANS) Across India, Christmas never fails to stir a tingle of joy. But this time celebrations may be low-key among Christians as a top church body wants ostentation to be avoided in the wake of attacks on the community in several parts of the country.”Because of the atrocities on the Christian community, the church has decided to celebrate Christmas this year in a very subdued manner,” Father Babu Joseph, spokesperson of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI), said.

“The Christian community in the country has been asked to avoid elaborate and ostentatious Christmas celebrations, which mark the day all over the world,” Babu Joseph told IANS.

Dec 25 is celebrated with much merriment in India, not only by its 24 million Christians but also by people of other faiths. However, violence against the community, which was triggered in Orissa in August and spread to other areas, is likely to play the spoiler this time.

“The decision to celebrate Christmas in a low key manner was taken due to the adverse experience of the community in different parts of the country, particularly in Orissa, where thousands of people have been rendered homeless and hundreds of places of worship destroyed,” he said.

CBCI secretary general Archbishop Stanislaus Fernandes issued a letter Tuesday to urge the community to avoid elaborate and ostentatious celebrations to express the church’s solidarity with the Christians of Orissa.

“The money that will be saved from cutting down on celebrations will be collected from parishes across the country and it will be utilised to help violence-hit people in Orissa,” Babu Joseph said.

At least 38 Christians were killed and thousands were forced to flee their homes in Orissa after their houses were attacked by rampaging Hindu mobs who accused members of the minority community of killing Hindu leader Laxmanananda Saraswati. More than 10,000 are still living in government-run relief camps in Kandhamal district.

“Through a low key Christmas celebration, the church in India wants to give a very clear message that it denounces all forms of violence in the name of religions and eventually wants to establish a society founded on values of mutual respect, tolerance and mutual respect,” Babu Joseph added.

Archbishop Vincent M. Concessao of Delhi Wednesday released a special Christmas card here highlighting the theme of the festival against the backdrop of atrocities on the community in Orissa.

Reading “…Peace to People of Good Will!”, on the front side, the card depicts pictures of Christian and other victims of violence in Orissa and Karnataka interspersed with the traditional crib, depicting the photo of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, which is placed on the right hand side.

“This unique Christmas card is intended to be sent to public servants, political leaders, members of civil society and Christians to draw attention to the plight of the Christian community under persecution,” said a Church official.

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