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Indo-American Christians protest against Orissa violence at UN

Suman Guha Mozumder in New York | August 30, 2008

The Federation of Indian American Christian Organisations of North America on Friday staged a protest outside the United Nations headquarters and urged Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to look into the 'naked violation' of human rights of Christians in Orissa.

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Holding placards with slogans that read 'Ban VHP,' 'Stop Burning Christians alive in Orissa,' and 'Deploy Army to Orissa to Christians,' the FIACONA activists staged  a three-hour protest outside the UN.

"By conducting a prayer vigil and writing to Ban, we seek to highlight the issue in the international arena. If India seeks to become a major player in the global arena, since it is a signatory to the human rights declaration, it should respect these sensibilities," Bernard Malik, chief of FIACONA, told rediff.com.

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"UN is not a foreign body and India is very much part of it. Whether Mr Ban reads the letter or makes a statement on it not, it is not going to resurrect the dead Christians. India needs to own up to its responsibility in protecting its own citizens," he said.

"By giving the memorandum to Mr Ban, we would like to call the attention of the world body to the plight of Christians in India. Because India is constitutionally a secular state, we would like to see all communities, irrespective of their religions, to live in peace and harmony. India should uphold its constitutions and so this memorandum," the Reverend Wilson, of Grace International Assembly, and also a coordinator for Indian American Christians, told rediff.com.

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"We are concerned about the atrocities committed on the minorities in our mother land. We condemn every murder, including that of Swami Saraswati, whose murder was perpetrated by Communist Maoists. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad blamed the Christians for the killing, using it as a ruse to attack and kill Christians, who also are peaceful citizens of India," the Reverend Wilson said.

In the memorandum to Ban, FIACONA urged him to look into the 'crumbling of the very basis of the civilised society and the absolute degradation of the morals and values of co-existence and cooperation. All the Christians in India and the world look up to you for your valuable support to end the macabre and horrendous carnage of the Christians in Orissa'.

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Abraham George, a senior UN Official and general secretary of the Indian National Overseas Congress, said that the latest news reports suggest that over 30 people have been killed, schools, orphanages and churches vandalised, nuns raped and a woman set ablaze.

"What we are witnessing here is a complete failure of the government machinery headed by the Biju Janata Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party combine, in protecting the innocent citizens of the state, where extremists are wreaking havoc by killing people and challenging the pluralistic character of the nation," Abraham said.

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The INOC has also released a statement condemning the killings.

Malik blamed the Orissa government for its inaction in protecting Swamiji even after he received death threats.

"Then, after the murder, the government should have been proactive in preventing riots and protecting Christians. The VHP is also to be blamed for the negative propaganda about the myth of conversion and Central government for its failure to intervene in a timely manner," he said.

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Malik said there have been as many as 123 incidents in Orissa in the last two weeks and 143 incidents of violence against Christians in Karnataka. 

"Being a forever peace-loving and religious tolerant community, Christians are remaining mute spectators to these intensely inhuman and barbaric acts," Malik said.

Orissa: VHP men damage churches, prayer hall

In response to another question, Malik said that it is matter of changing the mindset of common masses that gets exploited by the ruling party.

"Indians till today are not driven by principles but by political affiliations. Therefore, the principle of plural India is not an objective principle that has been consistently supported.  Indians have a short memory in learning lessons," he said.

Image: Members of the Federation of Indian American Christian Organisations of North America stage a protest outside the United Nations headquarters.

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