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Orissa Christians treated worse than animals: Fr Bernard
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Orissa Christians treated worse than animals: Fr Bernard

Posted on Wed, Sep 17, 2008

Recent anti-Christian violence has been very appalling and Christians have been treated worser than animals says a Christian prelate from the state of Orissa.

Bhubaneshwar (AFP) - Recent anti-Christian violence has been very appalling and Christians have been treated worser than animals says a Christian prelate from the state of Orissa.

 
“The attack on Christians in Orissa was an attack against the sacredness and dignity of human life. The world must know this,” Fr Bernard Digal told AsiaNews.

Fr Bernard, who is the treasurer of the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar, was a victim of the rioting by Hindu fanatics who beat him for hours, left for a whole night unconscious and half naked in the forest.

The violence which sparked a communal clash against Christians following the murder of VHP Hindu leader Swami Laxmananda Saraswati became very intense forcing over 70,000 people to live in the forests or relief camps. At least 400 Churches have been burnt.

Expressing gratitude to God for saving his life, Fr Digal said, "But whilst I am being treated here my people are hiding in the forest and even there, there is no security."

"There are mothers breast-feeding their infants, children, young and old people, all hanging on a precarious thread, in terror. Even refugee camps are not free of dangers,” he added.

“I was visiting the parishes in Kandhamal district exactly on 23 August when Swami Laxamananda Saraswati and four of his followers were killed by Maoists. On 25 August, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and other radical Sangh Parivar groups decided to go on a dawn-to-dusk strike, bringing thousands of people together.”

On the 25 Father Bernard went to visit Father Alexander Chandi in Sankrakhol Parish when a Hindu mob attacked the latter’s church.

“On the night of 25 August the parish church and the priest’s house were sacked and set on fire. From far away we could hear the crowd shouting hate-filled slogans, levelling accusations against Christianity. . . . Fearing for our lives we fled into the forest.”

“The extremists also set my car on fire,” Father Bernard said. “Whilst Father Alexander stayed in the forest I went looking for some relatives who were in the area. I walked at least 15 kilometres. At one point the extremists caught me and beat be with iron rods, lances, axes and big stones. I don’t know for how long they beat me because I lost consciousness. My driver found me the next day, after ten hours, and I was taken to hospital. It is only there that I regained consciousness.”

Without any embitterment, Fr Digal continued: “I was beaten and left naked in the forest for ten hours. Others were cut to pieces or burnt alive. Is all this human? Or is it an attack against life itself?”

“In Kandhamal the lives of Christians are under attack from Hindutva radicals,” the priest said. “The police and the government are incapable of doing anything about it. Sometimes they are not even willing to take preventive measures to contain these forces that are destroying our life and dignity.”

According to the Catholic Bishop's Conference of India (CBCI), even though normalcy is slowly returning in the violence-hit state, relief camps are lacking of everything and need more facilities.

“There is a dire need for better medical assistance, counseling services in the camps and those living outside the camps to come to terms with their loss and to begin again their life and activities,” CBCI release said.

The Church release reiterated the “great urgency” for restoration of property, distribution of compensation and revival of livelihood to the victims of violence.
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