Monday, February 2, 2009
Archbishop Raphael Cheenath -- Indian Court Decision Re Persecuted Christians
Archbishop disappointed with Indian court decision about presecuted Christians
Archbishop Raphael Cheenath
Orissa, Jan 14, 2009 / 03:12 am (CNA).- Following an examination of anti-Christian atrocities in Orissa, a recent Indian Supreme Court ruling has scaled back police protection and has given no clear guidelines concerning victim compensation. The decision prompted Catholic Archbishop Raphael Cheenath to express his “deep disappointment.”
Since 2007, Hindu extremists have engaged in anti-Christian persecution by killing many, destroying houses and churches, and driving thousands from their homes. The violence has concentrated in India’s Orissa state, whose Catholic bishops have warned of a “master plan” to wipe out Christianity.
Archbishop Cheenath’s report contradicts Indian newspaper stories that claimed the Court had set out clear demands for improved security and compensation for victims. He reported that newspapers had mistaken the court’s “unspecific” rulings for arguments made during the hearing outlining the Church’s case, Aid to the Church in Need News says.
“When I read through the court papers, I was terribly disappointed. What the newspapers had reported just wasn't there,” Archbishop Cheenath told ACN News on Monday.
The archbishop had argued for an increase and an extension of high-level police protection and better compensation for Christians who lost homes in the violence of Christmas 2007 and August 2008.
According to the archbishop, the court agreed to continue the central government-sponsored “rapid police protection” but scaled back its extent.
Archbishop Cheenath said Christians in Orissa’s Kandhamal District were still too afraid to go home and were struggling to secure basic necessities with existing government compensation. He had toured the district over the weekend, which until recently had been too unsafe for such a visit.
Families made homeless in the attack had received 10,000 rupees ($205) in government aid to rebuild their homes, with 40,000 rupees ($818) promised to follow. The archbishop reported that people were spending all their aid money on basic provisions lost in the violence.
“There is still great fear among the people, including the local administrators [government officials] who realize that it's still difficult and that the people should not be forced to leave the refugee camps and return to their villages,” Archbishop Cheenath said.
The archbishop said he will continue his legal efforts and has begun to collect evidence to be submitted in a month to underline the grave security and financial needs of the affected people.
According to the archbishop, fixed plans about rebuilding homes, churches, and other destroyed buildings cannot be expected until after the next round of elections this coming March.