PM offers financial aid to rebuild demolished Orissa churches, homes

October 18th, 2008 - 8:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew Delhi, Oct 18 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has offered financial help to reconstruct the churches and homes demolished during the anti-Christian attacks in Orissa, said Samuel Kobiya, general secretary of the Geneva-based World Council of Churches (WCC), after a meeting with him here Saturday.”The churches and houses burnt down would be assisted to be rebuilt,” the prime minister told a delegation of WCC leaders.

Singh also told the Christian leaders that a three-member central delegation, led by a cabinet minister, would be sent to Orissa soon to prepare a rehabilitation plan with the state government.

The central team would also assess the situation prevailing in the state, the prime minister told the leaders of the WCC, which consists of 350 denominations of churches across the world.

“Manmohan Singh assured us that the government is committed to protect the religious minorities in the country,” Kobiya said.

The prime minister said that Christianity is part of India’s national heritage. “It is not a foreign religion.”

The delegation invited Singh’s attention towards the alleged harassment by security forces of the Christians, who are living in refugee camps.

The police allegedly prevented Christians from offering prayers, saying it would lead to problems.

“No one will be denied worship in schools and shelters and no harassment will be allowed,” the prime minister assured the team.

Singh also explained the steps taken by the government to protect Christians in Orissa. “The government has sent extra military forces and protecting Christians is the duty of the government,” he told the delegation.

The WCC members expressed keenness in holding an inter-faith dialogue in the country to resolve the issues, to which the prime minister assured all help of his government.

Kobiya said the WCC was totally against forceful religious conversion. “Different Christian denominations belonging to our group are totally against forceful religious conversion,” he told the media.

Kobiya also said the WCC would deliberate on the caste system prevailing in different denominations of Christianity in India. He admitted that Dalits who embrace Christianity were treated as second class Christians by most of the dominating church groups in India and Christianity is against casteism and discrimination.

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