Friday, August 29, 2008

Vijayawada Christians Protest Orissa Violence, Submit Memorandum

In Solidarity with the Orissa Christians...

Sr. Benigna Menezes, Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, India

Christians took to the streets in protest against the spiralling violence, demanding protection for Christians in Orissa after closing down all the Church run institutions in Vijayawada, Krishna District of Andhra Pradesh on Friday, August 29, 2008

Over 3000 people marched with banners in their hands, shouting slogans and demanding justice to the Christians in the country as they submitted a memorandum to the sub-collector of the Krishna District who resides in Vijayawada city in the wake of the Orissa violence.

"We condemn in unequivocal terms the incidents of burning people alive and vandalizing the property of Christian community in Orissa by Vishwa Hindu Parishad activists, and armed attacks on Churches in Orissa," Vicar General Monsignor Chinnappa said in his speech on the PWD grounds where the rally assembled after a two hour walk in the main streets of the city.

The priest also stated that these attacks are against the human rights and human freedom and compromises the climate of mutual understanding and peaceful co-existence of the citizens.

A delegation of Christian leaders lead by the local Bishop Prakash Mallavarapu had submitted a memorandum a few days ago to the collector demanding CBI inquiry into the killings of Christians.

The Bishop had also issued an appeal to all the Parishes and Catholic organisms to join the Friday rally in protest of the violence meted to the local Christian community in Orissa.

Fr. John, SJ director of the Kaladarshini unit of the Andhra Loyola College read out the memorandum which listed the atrocities in Orissa against Christians and demanded that immediate efforts be made to rehabilitate the victims of vandalism and that the families of the victims may be compensated adequately.

Sources from Kandhamal district said hundreds of Christians along with their families have fled to the nearby forests to save their lives in the rainy climate and are without shelter, food and clothing

The memorandum sought CBI inquiry in the entire incidents and punishments to the culprits who masterminded the mayhem and terrorized the tribals and poor of the area.

The priest also sought immediate restoration of peace and harmony and law enforcement in the life of the districts.

Hundreds of nuns and priests, teachers and professionals along with the city youth from various colleges and institutions carrying slogans seeking justice, and religious freedom marched out from the two Cathedrals of the city of Vijayawada.

The Parishioners from the 12 city Parishes too joined the march quitting the jobs on this black Friday supporting the cause of the Church and demanding justice to the Christian minority.

"We should have more rallies like this so that we can make our presence felt in this city" said Mr. Prasad, a Catholic who works as a driver.

The peace loving and law abiding Christian citizens are not recognized in this country in–spite of their great contribution to health, education, and social service, lamented Sr. Rosy, MSI a city school counselor.

What crime have we committed to receive so much neglect and persecution? Why there is so much hatred?, asked another speaker of the rally.

CSI Bishop of the Protestant Church and other heads and members of the Christian denominations too closed their institutions and joined the rally and voiced their concerns on the stage.

Fr. Emmanuel,SSP, the President of the Conference of the Religious of the diocese who helped to organiz the rally along with Ecclesiastical diocesan authorities said that he was impressed about the number who participated in the march.

"This is going to make an impression which will last for a long time in the memory of the city", he said.

"A collection would be made towards the victims of the Orissa violence soon after the rally and the money would be sent through the CRI to the affected", said Fr. Emmanuel to the Press persons.

He had called an emergency meeting of the heads of the Catholic institutions, CRI officials and other Church leaders to discuss the CBCI call of solidarity to the Christians in Orissa on August 28.

Sr. Theresa, FMM Principal of Maris Stella College was too willing to co-operate and show solidarity to the cause though it cost the institution heavy losses to close down the college for a day, she stated.

Fr. Emmanuel, SJ participated in the preliminary meeting called by the local CRI had readily agreed to the proposal to down the shutters on the college and offered all possible support and assistance in making the rally a success.

"There were many reports of Christians being pulled from their homes and killed or beaten, with many homes of Christians torched. It makes me feel very much worried", said a CSI Pastor who participated in the rally on Friday.

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