Indians Eager for Visit From US Rights Group

Prelates Hoping for Justice for Persecuted Christians

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PHULBANI, India, MAY 4, 2009 ( The prelates of India are hoping that a visit from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom will bring justice more quickly to persecuted Christians in Orissa.

Archbishop Stanislaus Fernandez of Gandhinagar, secretary of the India episcopal conference, spoke with AsiaNews about the visit next month, saying he hopes it will «speed up the path to justice for the Christians of Kandhamal.»

The commission prepares an annual report on the status of religious freedom in nations around the world. While in India, they plan to focus on the state of Orissa in the east, the site of heightened persecution against Christians, and the state of Gujarat in the west, where Muslim faithful were persecuted in 2002. Both situations involved Hindu extremists.

In Orissa, ongoing Hindu-Christian tensions flared into a wave of violence at the end of last August, after extremists blamed the slaying of a Hindu leader on Christians. Dozens of Christians, including a priest, were killed and thousands fled their homes. Thousands of them are still living in displacement camps.

Archbishop Fernandez told AsiaNews, «Anyone who endeavors to protect human rights and religious liberty is welcome.»

«We hope,» he added, «that the visit of the commission will help the various human rights groups, the social activists and the Church in India to speed up the path to justice for the Christians of Kandhamal and the victims of chauvinistic violence in this nation.»

«The Church does not seek revenge,» the archbishop clarified. «As Christians, we are forgiving and seek peace. The Church desires justice, which is essential for peace and reconciliation, which is the base on which to build the process of a lasting peace and a stable coexistence among communities.»

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