Hindu Extremists Ask Boycott of Christian Aid in India

Despite Tragedy, Solidarity Suffers

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NEW DELHI, India, FEB. 7, 2001 (Zenit.org).- In the wake of the Jan. 26 earthquake, Vishnu Hindu Parishad, the World Hindu Council, has appealed to the population to boycott aid from Christian organizations.

A few days ago, news leaked that some Hindu groups were rejecting aid from priests and Christian volunteers. Archbishop Cyril Mar Baselios of Trivandrum, president of the Indian bishops´ conference, confirmed the reports in today´s edition of the Italian newspaper Avvenire ( http://www.avvenire.it/).

Likewise, the Vatican agency Fides (http://www.fides.org) reported that tensions between Christians and Hindus are hampering solidarity with the victims. According to Father Cedric Prakash, coordinator of Earthquake Affected Relief and Rehabilitation Services, a forum of 40 Catholic nongovernmental organizations, «some Hindu groups try to monopolize the aid.»

The priest said that he himself was expelled from a hospital in Ahmedaban, where he had gone to take aid. «In a situation such as this one, there should be room for everyone in solidarity, but it is not like this,» he said.

Now that the search for survivors has ended, attention is being concentrated on the displaced and on the need to avoid epidemics. The government has entrusted the coordination of aid to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, the National Volunteer Corps), an Indian organization made up of Hindu fundamentalists.

«Over the last few years, RSS members have been accused of violence against Christians in Gujarat,» Fides reported.

Father Prakash stressed that aid has not reached areas inhabited by poor Muslims and Hindus. Latest estimates put the death toll at more than 39,000, with 700,000 displaced. UNICEF said that more than 2.5 million children are injured or traumatized, orphaned, homeless, or without schools.

The Indian government is negotiating with the World Bank and the Bank for Asian Development to obtain loans of $1 billion and $500 million, respectively, for the reconstruction of Gujarat.

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