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Churches say they can’t get access to Orissa violence victims

ICC Note:

Despite efforts to offer aid to their brothers and sisters in Christ affected by the violence in Orissa, the national churches in India are being denied any access.

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1/9/2007 India (EpiscopalLife/Ecumenical News International, India) National church bodies in India have demanded access to the troubled Kandhamal region of Orissa state to distribute relief and visit the families affected by a recent outbreak of violence said to be aimed at Christians.

“We are established and credible national bodies and have every right to distribute relief to the victims of violence,” Church of North India Bishop Dinesh Kumar Sahu, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), told journalists in Bhubaneswar, the Orissa capital.

“Why is the government not allowing NGOs to carry out relief work when hundreds of people are suffering?” asked Sahu, who said that churches are ready to distribute relief to affected people irrespective of creed, in the presence of government officials.

“We never discriminate when we distribute relief to affected people,” said the Rev. Babu Joseph, spokesperson for the Roman Catholic bishops at the press conference. He noted that more than 90 percent of the 14,000 houses that the Catholic Church had built for victims of the massive tsunami in 2004 were given to Hindus.

A report distributed at the conference said that more than 50 churches had been damaged or destroyed, and several hundred Christian families displaced in anti-Christian violence.

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