The government of the Indian state of Orissa has decided to close its refugee camps, resulting in most of the resident returning to their towns. However, Aid to the Church in Need warns that Christians still cannot return to their homes over fears of a new outbreak of violence, one year after the violent attacks by Hindu fundamentalists in the region.
Reporter Anto Akkara told ACN that many of the Christians who have not yet been able to return are living in the slums of Bhubaneswar in Orissa, fearing that the government will not guarantee their security.
Marie-Ange Siebrecht, ACN’s expert on India, said, “The government is dissolving the camps now, but this does not solve the problems of the refugees, because the Christians dare not venture back into their villages because of threats of fundamentalist Hindus.” She also said that displaced Christians usually lack the means to support themselves, since compensation payments promised by the government have often “gone missing.”
Siebrecht also joined in calls for state government of Orissa to create safe areas, so that all Christians can return to their villages without fear of attack.
The aid organization has also been supporting peace-building efforts, especially among the young, to help Christians to return to the region. ACN workers have worked to provide emergency assistance at the camps, such as temporary tent chapels where Mass could be said, and has promised help to Archbishop Cheenath to rebuild churches and other buildings destroyed in the violence.
During last August’s attacks against Christians, more than 70 people were killed, 5,031 homes were attacked and 171 churches were targeted.