Reported by Santosh Jagdev
Bhubaneswar, Oct 1:
The All India Christian Council (AICC) members today urged Odisha’s Governor SC Jamir and chief minister Naveen Patnaik to ensure protection to the Christian community and help build peace and communal harmony in the Kanadhamal district as well as the state.
The AICC also called upon the Christian religious leaders not to side with any political party in the October 15 bypoll to Kandhamal Lok Sabha seat,
“Christians are free to vote for just any candidate in the by-election. The religious leaders must not combine with any specific political party,” AICC national president moderator bishop Dr Joseph D’Souza told newsmen here while responding to a question over some Christian leaders joining the ruling BJD recently.
He, however, denied that any Christian religious leader had joined the BJD.
Dr D’Souza appealed to chief minister Patnaik to take steps against possible communalisation efforts by certain groups during the polls. It was communalisation and religious hate campaigns that had led to the gruesome killing of Graham Staines and his two children as well as the 2008 Kandhamal violence, he said.
Dr D’Souza said religious extremism, hate speech and the violence that ensues is one of the biggest threats to global peace. Those who terrorize in the name of religion do not do any service to the religion they adopt. India has a great constitutional democracy and the citizens’ right to religious freedom needs to be preserved at all costs, he added.
“We should be watchful about whatever is happening around us. Though, thankfully, nothing has happened in Odisha in recent months, there is nothing wrong in remaining alert,” he pointed out.
Thanking chief minister Naveen Patnaik for his support and help to the Christian community in Kandhamal post 2008 riots, Dr D’Souza said the Council wanted to continue its work with the state government to prevent the recurrence of any form of violence in the district.
The Council also thanked the state government for providing the Christians in Kandhamal with a sense of security that allowed them to celebrate the Christmas last year despite threats from certain forces.
Rev. Dr Pran Ranjan Parichha, AICC, Odisha chapter said the Christian Council has also worked with the state government to address the problems of the victims of religious violence. It has also supported and worked for the cause of justice for the victims of the Kandhamal violence, he said.
The AICC leaders said all forms of religious communalization and extremism pose a huge danger to societies everywhere in our country and elsewhere.