Orissa’s Christians still hiding in forest*

Sushmita, 21, an Indian Christian from Orissa, listens to a speaker as she participates in a protest march in Mumbai, India, Sunday, Oct. 5, 2008. Christians marched in protest demanding protection.
As cold weather grips Orissa state, Christian leaders in India have expressed their shock at the revelation that there are still Christians hiding in forests to escape violence.
In spite of the presence of thousands of paramilitary forces in the state, hundreds of people, including many Christians and Hindus, are believed to be hiding in forests. They are fearful of a repurcussion of the violence that swept through the north-eastern state late last year after the murder of a radical Hindu leader.
“Hundreds of tribals haven’t returned home after the riots,´ district collector Krishan Kumar told Indo-Asian News Service.
“The tribals had recently visited their villages but fled to the forest again. We are trying to reach them.”
Although there have been no reports of violence in the last couple of months, there are reportedly more than 8,000 Christians living in state-run relief camps, many reluctant to return home after the attacks.
Says Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, Some 15,000 Christians are living outside Kandhamal and are scared of returning home because many of the rioters are still at large and the police are not arresting them.”
Bishop DK Sahu, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in India told Christian Today, “During this time of winter, the fact that Christians are still hiding in forests is really shocking to us. We urge the government and church relief agencies to do everything possible to provide them with shelter, and protection.”
Meanwhile, Kumar said Hindus were hiding in forests “due to fear of police action”.
Ashok Sahu, a Hindu leader said some 12,000 Hindus were hiding in forests for fear of police action against them after many residents in Kandhamal, the district at the heart of the violence, were charged with rioting.
According to official reports, 10,000 people have been named in 746 cases lodged during the August violence in Kandhamal. More than 250 prayer halls were damaged and some 4,200 homes burned down. More than a hundred were killed and thousands fled to surrounding forests and makeshift government camps.
* by Dibin Samuel and Anne Thomas, Monday, January 5, 2009
Source: http://www.christiantoday.com/article/orissas.christians.still.hiding.in.forest/22244.htm

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